This is an ongoing series on the Siddhar Parambarai of India. Siddha refers to perfected masters who have achieved a high degree of physical as well as spiritual perfection or enlightenment. We look at various Siddhas who have graced upon this earth with their Presence – their life and the wisdom they shared in the form of poems, couplets that are referred to as Siddhar Padalgal. To begin with, we are looking at Siddhas from the tradition of “Pathinen Siddhargal“. In the previous issues, we saw about Kudhambai Siddhar, Pambatti Siddhar, Idaikkaattu Siddhar, Sattaimuni Siddhar, Sundaraanandar Siddhar, Karuvoorar Siddhar, Goraknatha Siddhar, Matsyendranatha Siddhar, Ramadevar Siddhar, Dhanvantari Siddhar and Patanjali Siddhar. In the Guru Poornima special edition of series we were blessed to also write about the great Siddha Avvai. We also saw how the Siddhargal poetry is presented in Sandhya Bhasha. In this article, we will see the glory of Siddha Thirumoolar.
Both the life and works of Thirumoolar Siddhar are extremely important for the Tamil Shaivism and Siddha tradition. It is our absolute blessing that we have access to these texts. Siddha Thirumoolar’s Thirumanthiram unfolds the most profound and subtle realizations of a phenomenal Siddha. It is revered as Siddhantha – “the end of ends”. Sekkizhar’s Periya Puranam is a revered Tamil literature that documents the charithiram (life-account) of sixty three Nayanmars (loosely meaning saints) of Shaivism (the tradition devoted to Lord Shiva). Siddha Thirumoolar’s life-account is documented in Periya Puranam, as he is also revered as one among the sixty three Nayanmars.
Having been initiated by Nandinathar and by His instructions, a himalayan siddha from Mount Kailas travelled south. In his pilgrimage, the siddhar is blessed to have the darshan at Kedarnath, Pashupatinath, Kasi, Vindhya and Parvata sacred spaces. He then further proceeded to Sri Kalahasthi, Tiruvalangadu, Kanchipuram, Thiruvadigai and then to Chidambaram. After being blessed with the “kan-kolla-katchi” (a vision that is overwhelming for the eyes to behold) of Lord Nataraja’s ananda–tandava dance at Chidambaram, the great siddhar he crossed the Kaveri River and reached Tiruvavaduthurai, heading southwards to Podhigai hills.
Walking one day on the banks of the Kaveri, he happened to witness a herd of cows mooing in distress near the dead body of their cowherd – Moolan. The siddha was overwhelmed with compassion, at this sight. His soul reached out to bring solace to the cows. Being a great adept of siddha yoga, the siddha performed transmigration (one among the renowned ashta siddhis or eight siddhis). The siddha now entered herdsman Moolan’s body. He hid his original body in a hollow tree trunk. Seeing the herdsman Moolan come alive, the cows were overjoyed, shed tears of joy and licked him with love. And soon the cows went back to grazing.
In the evening, the herd of cows automatically started and led the new Moolan behind them. The herdsman’s wife met Moolan and just could not relate with him. Shocked by Moolan’s odd demeanor, Moolan’s wife sought help from the village elders. The village elders saw a transformed, glowing Moolan and ascribed to him as a great Saiva Yogi whose greatness they could not fathom. The villagers began to call the cowherd Thirumoolar, meaning “holy Moolar.”
Thirumoolar went back to the grazing field in search of his precious body. He searched extensively everywhere, but it was nowhere to be found. Sitting down in deep meditation, the great Siddhar realized that it was Lord Shiva’s will and his Master’s blessings that these events had happened and the siddha had now a new body with the ability to speak fluent Tamil. The great Siddhar who came to be called Thirumoolar, realized that he could effectively give out to the Tamil-speaking world the truths of the Saiva Agamas and the precious Vedas, uniting Siddhanta with Vedanta for all time.
Thirumoolar Siddhar’s Thirumanthiram
In the previous edition we saw an overview of Thirumanthiram and some poems from the First Thanthiram (first part or chapter) which begins with a synopsis of all that is to follow in this great mystical work of Siddha Thirumoolar. In this edition we will see some poems from the Second, Third and the Fourth Thanthiram.
Second Thandhiram deals with the mythology of the Deities, with the cosmology of Hinduism, how the world was created, is sustained and will be destroyed, and of the categories of soul. The poems contain allegorical meanings to some of the important Dharmic Ithihasas, giving us some hint to some of subtler mystical concepts such as the five powers of Shiva and the three classifications of souls. One such allegorical story from the Hindu Puranas state that Sage Agastya was ordered by Lord Shiva to proceed to the South to rectify the balance of the Earth as it tilted down in the south because of the congregation of Devas and people of the earth in the North, Himalayas to attend His (Shiva’s) marriage with Parvati. Accordingly Sage Agasthya traveled down from the North to the South and had the Earth’s balance restored. This is also mentioned in the Second Thandhiram of Thirumandhiram, under the title Agathyiam:
நடுவு நில்லாது இவ் உலகம் சரிந்து
கெடு கின்றது எம் பெருமான் என்ன ஈசன்
நடு உள அங்கி அகத்திய நீ போய்
முடுகிய வையத்து முன்னிர் என்றானே.
அங்கி உதயம் வளர்க்கும் அகத்தியன்
அங்கி உதயம் செய் மேல் பால் அவனொடு
மங்கி உதயம் செய் வடபால் தவமுனி
எங்கும் வளம் கொள் இலங்கு ஒளிதானே.
Hail! Our Lord Supreme
This earthly orb from its epicenter sways,
And dangerous on its side swerves
Thus they bewailed the Celestial Beings
And the Lord spoke;
Agastya! You that sit in tapas hard
Amidst the blazing sacrificial fire
Hasten to the globe’s swerving side
And be seated there, to redress its balance
Unfailing at dawn with the sun that doth in high heavens
Agastya lights the Fire divine;
He is the holy Muni of North
Whence the primal Fire was born;
And the radiant light pervasive-all
With the Sandhya Bhasha, and our Siddha Thirumoolar’s mystical insights and the nature of literature from our Puranas, we can only guess that the meaning to these verses are deeper than they appear to be. For example, it is interesting to note that in our ancient tradition of Astronomy called Jyothisha the star named Agastya can be seen towards the south pole whereas the Sapta Rishi mandala is seen towards the north. Moreover the tilt of earth is an important factor for the changing seasons that is experienced in the earth.
The Third tantra explores the mystical science of yoga, yama, niyama, pranayama, asana, etc., which is similar to what Sage Patanjali expounded in his Yoga Sutra’s. And Thirumandhiram includes some mystic insights into each aspect of this ancient system drawn from his own experiences. It is thus an exposition of yoga that our Siddhar Thirumoolar conceived and lived by. It is interesting to note that these two sages were contemporaries and are said to have lived at Chidambaram at the same time. It is not surprising then, that they have similar approach to yoga. In one of the stanzas from the Third Tanthiram, our Siddhar advises us on how to do Dhyana (meditation) after gaining mastery over the previous steps
மனத்து விளக்கினை மாண்பட ஏற்றிச்
சினத்து விளக்கினைச் செல்ல நெருக்கி
அனைத்து விளக்கும் திரி ஒக்கத் தூண்ட
மனத்து விளக்கது மாயா விளக்கே.
Light the Lamp of Mind
And dispel the Darkness of Egoity;
Extinguish the Fire of Wrath
And brighten all lamps within
The Mind’s Lamp is an undying Lamp indeed
And our Siddhar emphasis on the importance of mastering the eight steps of Yoga which ends in the attainment of Samadhi.
சமாதி யமாதியில் தான் செல்லக் கூடும்
சமாதி யமாதியில் தான் எட்டுச் சித்தி
சமாதி யமாதியில் தங்கினோர்க்கு அன்றே
சமாதி யமாதி தலைப்படும் தானே.
Samadhi is end of Yama and the rest
Samadhi is consummation of Siddhis eight
Who preserve in the path from yama to the end
Will alone attain the end, Samadhi
Thus continues the Thirumanthiram of Siddhar Thirumoolar with detailed exposition of various aspects of Universe as well as our Self. The elixirs offered by Siddha Thirumoolar are so many. We wish to continue bringing gems from Thirumanthiram in a series of multiple parts. We invite you to contemplate more on these lines and share with us your insights. We also invite you to share with us lines from Siddhar Padalgal that have deeply touched you. You could write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In absorbing this, may our abhyasa continue, may our shraddha in the Siddha Parampara strengthen and may revelations awaken as we grow within!