Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Saint Kumaraguruparar


Hello readers


Am glad to present the 5th article under the “Endaro Mahanubavulu” series. This article dwells about the 17th Century Tamil Poet “Kumaraguruparar”. I was surprised to find that a Tamil Saivite scholar hailing from the banks of Tampiraparani succeeded in opening a Mutt in North India. His achievement is a monumental example of religious and linguistic harmony inherent in the Indian culture.


Pamban Swamigal who earned the title Kumaraguruparadasar for his laudable composition of intricate verses while staying in the Mutt established by Kumaguruparar in Kasi, was blessed with sacred cloths in a mysterious way by a devotee of Saint Kumaraguruparar. Mahatma Gandhi who began to learn Tamil when he was in South Africa seemed to have read Kumaraguruparar’s ‘Neethi Neri Vilakkam’. In the course of his visit to Tamilnadu when a young volunteer asked for an autograph he wrote from the very opening verse of ‘Neethi Neri Vilakkam’ that ‘Human body is similar to writing on the water’ (Neeril Ezhuthaagum Yaakai). ‘Neethi Neri Vilakkam’ was also hailed by G.U. Pope the Christian Missionary from Europe who translated ‘Thirukural’ and ‘Thiruvasagam’ into English as one of best work which disseminates ethical values to the society. Kumaragurupar was also hailed by Tamil Poets like Subramania Bharati, Bharatidasan and Puthumaipithan. Kumaraguruparar’s ‘Sakalakalavalli Malai’ sung on Goddess Sarasvati will give wisdom to those who recites with devotion. His ‘Kandar Kali Venba’ is a popular recitation among the devotees of Lord Muruga.


I was excited to know about the Moghul Emperor Dara Shikoh who lived during Kumaragurupar’s time was a patron of all religions. In seeking to find a common mystical lanugage between Islam and Hinduism, Dara Shikoh commissioned the translation of many Upanaishads from Sanskrit into Persian. However I was shocked to find that he was later killed by his own brother Aurangzeb.


I would like to thank personally my friend Sri Ramanarayanan, who kept telling me to write an article about Saint Kumaraguruparar which is now in your hands.


Please readon to know more about the divine life history of Sri Kumaraguruparar.


Happy Reading!


A.V. Devan
Chennai – 14/09/2010

PS – For the benefit of the readers the devotional poems by Kumaraguruparar i.e. Kandar Kali Venba, Sakalakala Valli Maalai and Neethi Neri Villakam is attached for recitation. [Thanks to Project Madurai e-Literature]

Sri Kumaraguruparar

Divine Grace of Tiruchendur Murugan

In the 17th Century there lived a devout couple Shanmuga Sikamani Kavirayar and Sivakama Sundari Ammayar in a small village called Srivaikuntam which is situated on the northern bank of River Thamirabarani. Srivaikuntam is sacred as it hosts both ‘Nava Kailasam’ and ‘Nava Tirupathi’ temples. River Thamirabarani is very sacred as in its banks are situated both the Nava Kailasam and Nava Tirupathi temples. The town is situated about 30 KM east of Thirunelveli and 30 KM west of Tiruchendur located in the Tuticorin District of Tamilnadu. They belong to Saiva Vellalar Community. Kavirayar means one who is capable of writing poems and hymns and hence we can presume that Shanmuga Kavirayar must be the person who should be capable of composing devotional poems. [We will come to know through his Son later!] The Couple did not have child for long. This made them to go near by Tiruchendur to worship Lord Muruga. As a result of their sincere devotion to Lord Muruga they were blessed with a Son in the year 1625 who was named “Kumaraguruparar”. Even though they were relieved of sorrow they were to face yet another problem. They child with no signs of sound coming from the child the parents suspected whether the child was dumb and hence they reached Tiruchendur again in front of Lord Muruga to relieve their pain. By the divine miracle the child started uttering ‘Kandar Kali Venba’ which became a popular recitation among the devotees of Lord Muruga. He also composed Kailai Kalambagam on the Srikailasanathar temple situated in Srivaikuntam. His parents were later blessed with one more child who was known as Kumarasami Kavirayar.


Composing of Meenakshi Amman Pillai Thamizh

Kumaraguruparar studied Tamil at the feet of his father Shanmuka Sikhamani Kavirayar and attained great proficiency by the divine grace. He was invited to adorn the Chair of Court Poet by Thirumalai Nayakar, the then ruler of Madurai. He composed ‘Meenakshi Amman Pillai Thamizh’ describing childhood stages of Goddess Meenakshi one stage a day. While Singing ‘Muthhap-Paruvam’ Goddess Meenakshi herself came as a young girl and bestowed Her grace by presenting a pearl garland to him. Kumaraguruparar also sang Madhurai Kalambakam, It is said on the request of Thirumalai Nayakkar he also composed a song book of ethics called as “Neethi Neri Vilakkam”.

In Search of Guru

Kumaraguruparar took to an austere way of life, left home and wandered throughout the tamil country visiting famous places of pilgrimage and composing poems on presiding deities. When in Tiruchendur he heard a divine voice that his guru would be the one in whose presence he will be unable to speak. From Tiruchendur he went ahead to Thiruvarur, where he sang Thiruvarur Nanmani Malai praising the grace of Lord Thyagarajar. From Thiruvaur he moved to Dharmapuram which is seat of renowned Adheenam (Mutt) of the Saiva Siddantha “Thirukkayilaya Paramparai Dharmapuram Adheenam”.


The mutt was headed by Srilasri Masilamani Desigar. Arriving at the mutt Kumaraguruparar paid his obeisance to the sanit. Desigar asked Kumaraguruparar to explain the significance of the song Ainthu Perarivum Kankale Kolla from Periyapuranam. This is the song which describes the state of Sundaramurthi Nayanar as he saw the dance of Lord Shiva at Thillai Chidambaram. The song which narrates the ecstasy of Sundarar upon seeing the blissful dance of the Lord which is very difficult to describe and Kumaraguruparar was stunned and his words stammered and realized that he is standing in front of his Guru and fell at the feet of Desigar and pleaded him to initiate him in the renounced life.

Desikar agreed to be his Guru but with a condition that he goes on a pilgrimage to Kasi and returns. During that period the north India was invaded by Muslim rulers and Hinduism was getting crushed under the Mogul empire. Desikar realized the need for a spiritually high, well skilled and devoted caliber like Kumaraguruparar to strengthen the Saivite wisdom in the troubled lands. Kumaraguruparar pleaded to Desikar that it would take long time for him to complete the pilgrimage to Kasi given the lack of facilities at that point in time to commute. Hence Desikar agreed with Kumaraguruparar however asked him to stay at Thillai Chidambaram for a period of one Mandalam i.e. 48 days. Kumaragurupar happily agreed for this and proceeded to Thillai Chidambaram. On the way divinity called him to Vaitheeswaran Kovil where he sang ‘Muthukumaraswami Pillai Tamizh’. Kumaraguruparar enjoyed the stay at Thillai worshipping the dancing Lord. At Chidambaram He composed Chidambara Mummani Kovai, Chidambara Cheyyut Kovai, Sivakami Ammai Irratai Mani Malai. On his return Desikar initiated him to the renounced order of life by offering Sanyasa at Dharmapuram. He later composed ‘Pandara Mummani Kovai’ in praise of his Guru. Having given the initiation Desikar stressed him the importance of strengthening Shaivism in the northern part of the country where it was suffering from the oppression by the Muslim rulers and now Kumaraguruparar agreed to go to Varanasi.


Meeting Dhara Sikhoh, the Mughal Emperor


It was in 1658 AD and Dara Shikoh was the ruler of the Varanasi province of the Moghul empire. Dhara Sikhoh was the eldest son of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. He was an exceptional one in the Mughals. He studied all the religions, learnt the yogic practices and sufi methods of meditation and wrote the immortal work “Majmua-Ul-Bahrain” meaning the Mingling of the two oceans. In seeking to find a common mystical lanugage between Islam and Hinduism, Dara Shikoh commissioned the translation of many Upanaishads from Sanskrit into Persian and even personally participated in some of these renderings. He was favoured as a successor by his father and his sister Jahanara Begum, but was defeated by his younger brother Aurangzeb in a bitter struggle for the Mughal throne. If the conspiracies had not succeeded in defeating and murdering him, Indian history would have taken a different turn. He was tolerant enough to seek what the other religions have to say and encouraged among the religions. He dealt with respect the scholars of Hindu religion . He is said to have translated some of the Upanishads into Persian Language. Before Dara Shikoh the Holy city of Kashi was ruined by the Muslim invaders and demolished the abode of Lord Vishvanath.


Kumaragurupar reached Varanasi or Kashi at this period and sung Sakalaklavalli Malai in praise of Goddess Sarasvati praying her to bestow the skill of words. The blessings of Vani came as the boon when he had to convince the opponents about the glory of the Shaivism. He got to know Hindustani language by Vani’s grace. Kumaraguruparar wanted to meet with the Badusha in order to establish a Mutt in Kashi. Though Dara Sikoh was fair with other religions Kumaraguruparar had to cross many obstacles to meet Dara.


The blessed saint who had the valiance of the spirituality rode over a lion and went majestically into the court of Dara with all obstacle creators frightened. Dara realized the spiritual power of Saint Kumaraguruparar. He showed his respect to the saint. Dara had organized an inter religious conference. He requested the saint to address the same. Kumaraguruparar accepted the invitation and he spoke fluently in Hindustani language explaining the greatness of the philosophy of Saiva Siddantha. The audience were thrilled to know the glory of Shaivism. Dara Sikoh bowed down to the Saint and venerated him.

Services to Shaivism


Dara Sikoh asked Kumaraguruparar what he could do for him. He asked the king to provide him with the land in Kashi where he can build a Mutt and serve Saivism. The King gave the option of the place to Saint himself. The Saint wanted to renovate the Kedarishvara Swamy temple at the Kedhar Ghat. Kumaraguruparar said there would be a Kite that would fly above the spot whatever be the area that it circuits in the sky that should be given to him to build the Mutt. The Kite appeared in the sky and marked the area that included the Kedarishvarar Temple and the land for building a Mutt. Dara happily gave that land. Kumaraguruparar renovated the abode of Kedareshvar which was earlier ruined due to the religious intolerants.

He also established the Kumaraswamy Mutt and guided the people in the glory of Saivite philosophy. His inspiring teachings paved way for the restoration of the highly adored Lord Vishvanath and Lord Panduranga temples subsequently. The devotees offered lots of valuables to the saint. He took them to his guru at Dharmapuram. But Desikar denied to accept them and directed him to spend those for the spiritual development of the people of Kashi. He visited Dharmapuram four times to pay respect to his Guru. In Tamil Nadu he paved the way to build another Kasi Mutt at Thirupanandhal in Kumbakonam District. Kumaraguruparar while in Kasi also had sung ‘Kasi Thundi Vinayagar Pathigam’ and ‘Kasi Kalambakam’. It is said Kumaraguruparar also gave discourses on Kamba Ramayanam and among those who got inspired by that were the famous Hindi Poet Tulasi Das who wrote Ramcharitamanas. Kumaraguruparar stayed in Kasi for thirty years from 1658 to 1688 spreading the glory of Saivism giving the vital support to the Hinduism that needed support during those troubled periods.


He attained Samadhi at Kasi on the third day after fullmoon day in May 1688. His vital services for the sustenance of Hinduism will be remembered along with his beautiful compositions by the generations of devotees.



Bibliography/Reference

Kumaraguruparar – Smt. Kamala Murthy - AIR Recording
Kumaraguruparar – http://www.shaivam.org/
Life history of Kumaraguruparar – Published by Thirupananthal Kasi Madam – http://www.tamilhindu.com/
Nava Kailayam Temples – http://www.navakailayam.com/
Nava Tirupathi Temples – ptraveller.blogspot.com
Kumaraguruparar by Sri S. Murugesan – http://www.oocities.com/



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