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The twelve volumes of Tamil Śaiva hymns of the sixty-three Nayanars
Parts Name Author
1,2,3 Tirukadaikkappu Sambandar
4,5,6 Tevaram Tirunavukkarasar
7 Tirupaatu Sundarar
8 Tiruvacakam &
9 Tiruvisaippa &
10 Tirumandhiram Tirumular
11 Various
12 Periya Puranam Sekkizhar
Paadal Petra Sthalam
Paadal Petra Sthalam
Raja Raja Chola I
Nambiyandar Nambi

Thiruvasagam (Tamil: திருவாசகம், lit. "sacred utterance") is a volume of Tamil hymns composed by the ninth century Shaivite bhakti poet Manikkavasakar. It contains 51 compositions and constitutes the eighth volume of the Tirumurai, the sacred anthology of Tamil Shaiva Siddhanta.

Legend has it that Manikkavasakar was appointed as minister by king Arimarttanar and sent to purchase 10,000 horses from Arab traders[1] but spent the money building a temple in Tirupperunturai.


Manikkavasagar's Thiruvasagam and Thirukovayar are compiled as the eighth Thirumurai and is full of visionary experience, divine love and urgent striving for truth.[2] Though he is not counted as one of the 63 Saiva nayanars, he is counted as Nalvars consisting of the first three nayanars namely Appar, Sambandhar and sundharar.[3] He was born in an orthodox brahmin family in Tiruvatavur near Madurai. His father was an adivsor to the Pandya king and he followed his father's footsteps in becoming the king's minister.[3] He is believed to be in the 10th or 11th century, but Dr. Pope places him in 7th or 8th century. Manickavasgar was the king's prime minister and renounced his post in search of divinity.[2] The king bestowed his minister to buy horses, but he was taken to divinity by the vision of Siva with his saints.[4] The minister spent his entire sum of money in building the temple at Thiruperunturai, considered an architectural marvel among Hindu temples. From the time, the saint poet wandered to various temples and devoted hymns on Siva. His conversion is attributed to Sivagnana bodham, an saivite work by Meykandar.[4] He was an orthodox saivite and represents bhakti at its highest form in his age.[5]

Thirupperunthurai (Tamil: திருபெருந்துறை), known as Avudayar Koil), a Shiva temple where Thiruvasagam is believed to have been originated. Manikkavasagar is said to have converted the king to the cult of Shiva and built the temple with money that had been intended for war-horses.[6]

Avudayar Koil temple


Most of the portions in Thiruvasagam is first sung in Thillai Nataraja Temple at Chidambaram.[3] It is considered one of the profound works of Tamil literature and it discusses every phase of spiritual path from doubt and anguish to perfect faith in Shiva, from earthly experience to teacher-disciple relationship and ultimately freedom from rebirth.[7] There are 658 poems in the work and along with 400 poems in Tirukovayar by the same author make it the 8th volume of Tirumarai - the 12 volume Saiva canon.[7] The author finds both theistic and pantheistic ideas corresponding to medieval India, but identifies God with the universe. Manickavasagar often finds himself unworthy of lord shiva being his saviour. "கடையவனேனைக் கருணையினால் கலந்து, ஆண்டுகொண்ட விடையவனே ". It is said that this made lord shiva feel sorry for vasagar and bless him.[8] As a devotional literature, it finds alternatives between joy and sorrow.[9]


Raja Raja Chola I (985-1013 CE) embarked on a mission to recover the hymns after hearing short excerpts of Tevaram in his court.[10] He sought the help of Nambi Andar Nambi, who was a priest in a temple.[11] It is believed that by divine intervention Nambi found the presence of scripts, in the form of cadijam leaves half eaten by white ants in a chamber inside the second precinct in Thillai Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram.[10][11] The brahmanas (Dikshitars) in the temple opposed the mission, but Rajaraja intervened by consecrating the images of the saint-poets through the streets of Chidambaram.[10][12] Rajaraja thus became to be known as Tirumurai Kanda Cholan meaning one who saved the Tirumurai.[12] Thus far Shiva temples only had images of god forms, but after the advent of Rajaraja, the images of the Nayanar saints were also placed inside the temple.[12] Nambi arranged the hymns of three saint poets Sambandhar, Appar and Sundarar as the first seven books, Manickavasagar's Tirukovayar Thiruvasagam as the 8th book, the 28 hymns of nine other saints as the 9th book, the Tirumandiram of Tirumular as the 10th book, 40 hymns by 12 other poets as the 10th book, Tirutotanar Tiruvanthathi - the sacred anthathi of the labours of the 63 nayanar saints and added his own hymns as the 11th book.[13] The first seven books were later called as Tevaram, and the whole Saiva canon, to which was added, as the 12th book, Sekkizhar's Periya Puranam (1135 CE) is wholly known as Tirumurai, the holy book.

Other works on Thiruvasagam[edit]

There is a famous saying

translating to "He whose heart is not melted by Thiruvasagam cannot be melted by any vasagam(saying)".[8] George Uglow Pope was born on 24 April 1820 on Prince Edward Island in Canada. He became interested in Tamil and learned the language during a six-month ship voyage to India. His magnum opus, an English translation of Thiruvasagam, appeared in 1900. Dr. Pope found a close affinity to the utterances of sincere devotion in such verses as 'Longing for devotion alone', 'Without thy presence I pine', 'Deadness of soul', 'God all in all', 'I am thine, save me', 'His love demands my all'.[14] He also compared Manickavasgar to the likes of St. Paul and St. Francis of Assisi.[8]

In 1921, an English translation of the hymns by Sambandhar, Apparswami, Sundaramurthi was done by Francis Kingsbury and GE Phillips, both of United Theological College, Bangalore (Edited by Fred Goodwill) and published in a book as Hymns of the Tamil Śaivite Saints, by the Oxford University Press [15]

Noted Tamil film music composer Ilayaraja had composed Thiruvasagam in Symphony from the verses of Manikkavasagar's Thiruvasakam as a tribute to the saint and the Tamil itself. All songs are orchestral renditions of the verses of Thiruvasagam.

In culture[edit]

Ramalinga Swamigal (1823-1874 CE) is believed to have taken inspiration from Thiruvasagam for his devotional work.[9]


  1. ^ Thiruvasagam proves existence of horse trade with West Asia in 9th century
  2. ^ a b Subramaniyaswami 2003, p. 494
  3. ^ a b c Jones 2007, p. 276
  4. ^ a b Macnicol 1915, pp. 171-172
  5. ^ Macnicol 1915, p. 176
  6. ^ Das 1991, p. 574
  7. ^ a b Subramuniyaswami 2003, p. 840
  8. ^ a b c Macdonell 1994, p. 219
  9. ^ a b K.R. 2003, pp. 261-262
  10. ^ a b c Culter 1987, p. 50
  11. ^ a b Cort 1998, p. 178
  12. ^ a b c Vasudevan 2003, pp. 109-110
  13. ^ Zvelebil 1974, p. 191
  14. ^ Macnicol 1915, pp. 173
  15. ^ Kingsbury, F (1921). Hymns of the Tamil Saivite Saints (1921). Oxford University Press. p. 132. Retrieved 8 July 2014. 


External links[edit]