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Thiruvaroor - The Divine City
(ThiruvArUr-nagarachiRappu - Periyapuranam as English poetry)
1. The city hailed by us is the most ancient;
It is the one adored by Goddess Lakshmi;
The city divine is Tiruvaroor, presided over
By the Lord who sports on His matted hair
Vanni, Ganga and crescent-moon. (86)
2. Chant of Vedas, sweet music of Vinas,
Hymnal words of bright celestials,
Rhythmic beat of muzhavus as danseuses dance
And melodic notes mingle here in this city. (87)
3. With the manifold melodies of musical instruments
The noise of chariot wheels as they pass
Through the opulent streets,
The trumpeting of tuskers strong
And the neighing of many a steed
Commingle and resound everywhere. (88)
4. In lofty mansions and man-made monticles,
In mantapams, exedras and theatres
In towered buildings an d spacious pials
In windowed courts and platforms too
Anklets of danseuses resonate tinkling. (89)
5. Many are the mansions of Rudra-Ghanikas;
In one of them, Paravaiyar the divine servingmaid
Of Her who shares the form of Sambhu, made her avatar.
Can words ever measure the greatness of this city? (90)
6. As the Lord unknowable to the Hog and the Swan,
As a messenger of Van-tondar plied his steps
In that street where is situate her gemmy mansion bright,
It is still fragrant with the touch of His lotus-feet. (91)
7. Over the kumkum-paste sprinkled on the streets
By the red-eyed damsels, pollen falls from fresh flowers
Worn by them on their abundant locks,
And thus is dried the fragrant mire. (92)
8. Whose heart will not melt? In all the streets of Tiruvaroor
Where is enshrined the Lord who rides the Bull,
The divine Padikams are rendered by the green parakeets;
The starlings listen to them in rapture. (93)
9. As they are full of bright jewels,
As dinsome noise resounds there
And as goods a good many are there stored and sold,
The traders’ streets are like unto the sea. (94)
10. Apart from the chanting of the Vedas, is also heard
In the streets, the trumpeting of the serried tuskers;
Not only are seen in the city the celestials who come
To witness Ananku-Aadal, but also festoons and wreaths. (95)
11. The hoary and divine city is the habitat of them
Whose matted hair is huge and long,
Saivites, tapaswis, saints who are renunciants,
Brahmins and also those who are willingly
Immersed in the sweets of love. (96)
12. This city of the Cholas is like the tilaka
On the broad and beauteous forehead of the Lady-Earth;
It is also like the rich and blooming lotus
On which is enthroned Lakshmi;
Infinite is its glory. (97)
13. The monarch of this hoary city
Hails from the hallowed solar race;
Glorious Anapaya is his name, the descendant of Manu,
The jeweled king, himself a jewel bright. (98)
14. This great Ruler was like the eye and soul
Of all the lives that throve on this earth;
He nobly performed a good many sacrifices
That the celestials felt immensely pleased. (99)
15. With the royal disc cincturing the earth,
With vassal-kings holding tributes, surrounding his court,
With righteousness totally freed from wrath,
He reigned in the realm, and his reign came to be called
Manu-Niti, stablished by the Grand Manu. (100)
16. The Lord of the Gospels -- Vanmika Natha --,
Is ever present everywhere; unto His worship
In union with holy Aagamic commandments
The king duly ordained everything. (101)
17. He held fast to the Way of Righteousness,
Wealth and Joy, and did not from it swerve;
He quelled Sin, and ruled, hailed by monarchs;
Unto his pious queen who was quick with child,
Was born a son as a guerdon for his great tapas;
He grew gloriously hailed by the earth as a lion-cub. (102)
18. The peerless son, the guerdon of tapas rare,
Daily cultivated flawlessly all the divine scriptures
That would lead him to Siva; he also came by
The mastery of cavalry, elephantry,
And the art of leading armed chariots.
Thus did he demonstrate to the world
That even birth on earth can indeed be a beatitude. (103)
19. He mastered the innumerable hoary arts, and grew
As a paragon of virtues, greatly gladdening
The heart of his peerless father.
Such was his attainment, that ere long,
He could be, crowned as the Prince;
He was like the young sun growing gloriously bright. (104)
20. Decked with fragrant wreaths and sandal-paste
One day the strong-shouldered prince,
Surrounded by princelings
Fare forth on the royal street
Dight with cloud-crested mansions;
Armed warriors too marched encircling him;
Thus on the chariot bright he rode
From the royal palace of the parasolled king. (105)
21. The minstrels followed singing eulogies, on one side,
Sootas and Magatas on another;
Melting in love, chank-bangled lasses moved on another;
Drummers and blowers of shells, on yet another;
Thus the victorious prince moved through the street
That dazzled beauteous with gems and jewels. (106)
22. Like the merciless coming down
Of the peerless God of Dharma
To put to the test the unwavering mind
Of the king ever-poised in truth, invisible to mortal eyes,
Though many were there surrounding the prince,
A cow’s calf, young and beauteous, darted into the street. (107)
23. The tender calf leapt across dangerously
And run over by the powerful wheel of the golden car
Breathed its last; this witnessing, its mother
Wilted, cried aloud, trembled and fell down on earth. (108)
24. The prince eyed this and cried: “Woe is me!”
His words became incoherent; sore was his heart
As he stood utterly bewildered; he cried aloud;
“The cow and its calf have this day, undone
My glorious life! O poor helpless me!”
Down he tumbled from the car and fell on earth. (109)
25. Looking at the great cow that cried in agony,
He too trembled and his life seemed to ebb away;
He stared contrite for long at the calf, and gasped
For breath; he then gave vent to his feeling thus;
“Unto Manu, the protector of this wide earth -- my sovereign --,
I am born as son alas, to involve him in this sin.” (110)
26. If expiation of the sin that had come into being,
By the means prescribed by the Brahmins well-versed
In the Vedas, would be righteous and proper,
I would do it even ere my father comes to know of this.”
To cure himself of the sin he approached the Brahmins. (111)
27. As the calf dear as its life, passed away,
Unable to bear that grief any longer
The cow sighed deep -- its each breath a flame of agony --,
And sobbed with tear-bedewed eyes;
Then, unto the golden palace of Manu, the wielder
Of the righteous scepter and protector of lives,
It proceeded, and there moved and tolled
The bell (of justice) with its twin horns. (112)
28. Was it the drumming of Reproach?
Or the din of fettering Sin?
Or the tinkling of bells worn on the neck
Of the Buffalo of Yama who comes to snatch
The life of the only scion of the King?
Thus rang the bell -- hitherto untolled --,
On the ears of the sovereign, wordlessly. (113)
29. He rose from the throne, and down came he,
-- The King --, to the threshold of the palace;
The ostiaries came to him and bowing said:
“O Lord, a cow hath to your victorious threshold
Come and moved the dangling bell with its horns. (114)
30. He heard them and eyed the grief-stricken cow;
He longed to know what had happened to it;
He with contempt, looked at his minister,
And he, a man of mature wisdom, who knew
All that happened, bowing spake thus: (115)
31. “Chola great! As your son mounted the huge gem-inlaid car
And fare forth surrounded by numberless footmen
Through the royal street, the tender calf of this cow
Darted into its wheel and perished; the mother-cow
Sore languishing, hath done this deed.” (116)
32. As the king heard this, his grief equaled the very cow’s;
He felt as though some cruel venom coursed in him
And smote his skull; he suffered exceedingly;
He was pained as to how it could so happen cruelly;
He inculpated himself of mis-rule;
He grew bewildered, and though he recovered a little
He felt utterly undone. (117)
33. “Long have I ruled the world protecting its lives,
Poised in piety; oh noble is my present reign!”
Thus lamenting, he said! “How can this be expiated?”
Looking at the cow that had lost its calf,
He would again languish; limitless was his sorrow. (118)
34. Beholding him thus, the ministers
Bowed at his feet and said:
“Wilting of mind is no cure for this;
You may be pleased to do that to your son, as is ordained
Of yore, by the Brahmins for the act of cow-slaughter.” (119)
35. “If you suggest that the remedy lies in doing that
Which is by the Brahmins ordained, will that be
A cure for the agony of the cow that bellows aloud,
Having lost its tender calf by murder vile?
If I lend my ears to you all who are out
To save my son from my punishing him with death,
Will not Dharma itself shudder and quake? (120)
36. “Is not the ruler of a realm that guards its lives
Duty-bound to rid his subjects
Of hindrance-breeding fear fivefold
Stemming from himself, his men in power,
Harmful hostility of foes, thieves and wild animals,
And thus protect Dharma? (121)
37. “If I resort to expiation for the grave sin
By my son committed, and punish another with death
When he does away with a life, will not words of blame
Proclaiming the destruction of Manu’s hoary code
By one who comes in his very line, cling to me?
O ye ministers that will have me stigmatised,
Strange indeed is your sense of law and justice!” (122)
38. When the king thus spake in contempt, to his ministers,
The wise ones said: “Protector of hoary earth!
What we expressed is founded on precedents;
It will not be in keeping with the righteous tradition
To kill the prince; is not performance of expiation
As ordained by the Vedas, the honoured hoary way?” (123)
39. Hearing the ministers who bowing spoke to him,
Manu the heroic king, the knower, in sooth, of Truth,
Said: “Your words are fraught with flaw.”
His face turned ruddy as a red-lotus on fire,
And he spake these words in soaring wrath: (124)
40. “Let your exposition of law be, what it is;
You speak, not knowing the truth of the great nature
Of righteousness; now pray, answer me:
In which country, did ever a cow,
Besieged by such grief, come distressed,
Heaving deep sighs of agony, to the bell-tower,
And tolled the bell, and fell down on earth undone? (125)
41. “He killed a being that took birth in Tiruvaroor
Where abides peerlessly enshrined the Lord-God,
Hailed gloriously by Indra, Vishnu, Brahma and others;
So, death is the punishment meet for him;
Know this to be my well-considered verdict irrevocable.” (126)
42. Having spoken thus, he added: “This indeed is that
Which suits the deed; I canst not cure the distress
Of this cow whose mind is being eaten away by grief;
It is but meet that I suffer too in a similar way.”
Thus resolved the blamless sovereign; his ministers
Were struck with fear, and away they moved. (127)
43. The king sent for his son and bade a minister
Ply in that street a chariot that would run over the prince;
He did not do as bidden, but chose to put an end
To his dear life by his own hand; the king
Then took his son with him and repaired to that street. (128)
44. He would not consider that the prince
Was his only son to perpetuate his race;
His sole duty lay in treading the path of Dharma;
He laid his son on the street and he -- King Manu --,
Drove the car whose wheels ran over the chest of his son.
Is kingship aught that is easy or common?
Is it not a rarity of rarities? (129)
45. Taken aback by the act of the king,
The merciful, white-parasolled monarch,
Men on earth rained tears and the celestials, flowers;
The Lord Veeti-Vitangka appeared on his young Bull
On the very street, adored by the celestials,
And gave darshan to the great and glorious soul. (130)
46. A young crescent decked His locks;
The third eye unique was on His forehead beauteous;
His frame on the left bore Mother Uma’s form;
Bhootas, thronging gloriously, encircled Him;
Thus the Lord appeared before the adoring kings;
The Lord enthroned on the Bull
Showered on the valiant king grace infinite. (131)
47. That very moment, the dead calf, the prince peerless
And the minister too were brought back to life;
The King by no means could reckon his joy;
Is there aught impossible for the Primal Lord
If He means to be the Implementer? (132)
48. The King embraced in delight his son divine
Who fell at his feet in adoration;
He was freed clean of his great grief.
Gone was the sorrow of the cow whose udder swelled
As the calf sucked in joy its sweet milk
Which overflowed and drenched the earth. (133)
49. Beholding the gracious mercy of the Lord, -- the One
Enshrined in the Poongkoyil at Tiruvaroor
From Whose forted walls issues golden lustre --,
Conferred on Manu -- the victorious king --,
So openly and in a street, (to this very day),
All the seven words hail the glory of His grace
Which is for ever easy of access to His devotees. (134)
50. Such grace was meted out to innumerable men
Poised in Dharma, and thus was the hoary city
Blessed by the Lord in blissful grace;
Can ever our words match its glory?
The Lord’s Flower-Temple was very like its corolla! (135)
1 5 Vanni : Prosopis spicigera. Its leaves are sacred.
5 1 Rudra-Ghanika : A dancing girl who dedicated herself to the service
of Rudra Siva.
6 1 The Hog : Vishnu.
The Swan : Brahma.
4 cf. “..... Vaittha tiruth thunaivanotum
Senra vazhi inralavum thulavam narum
Sethu tharisanam Seythan thiral vallone.”
- Villipputhoor Azhwar.
8 3 Padikam : The hymns usually ten in number, of Saivite Saints.
9 The comparison is between the trader’s streets and the sea.
a) Jewels are displayed in the shops and they sparkle with splendour.
Even so the well-lit vessels on the sea shine with brilliance.
b) The streets are noisy. The roar of waves in the main is also noisy.
c) Even as the streets are filled with merchandise the sea-borne ships
are full of them.
10 3-4 The feet of the celestials never touch the ground. Even so, the wreaths
forming part of festoons dangling in the air touch not the ground.
Ananku-Adal : A festivity.
Cf. “Peranangu atal seythu peruvizha
- The Puranam of Kannappa Nayanar.
14 Part of the first line of the original can also be rendered thus: “For all
lives on earth he is indeed the Karpaka tree - vazh-taru --”.
This Ruler : Manu-Niti Chola.
The eye and soul : A typical example of the advaitic relationship
between the soul and God, in Saiva Siddhanta.
The eye is a mere lens. It can’t see by itself.
It must be animated by the soul. Even so, the human
soul is to be animated by God. See sutra 11, Siva
3-4 Vedic Saivism holds that the celestials gift us with seasonal rains. They
subsist on the offerings made in the sacrifices performed on earth. Cows
gift us with milk, ghee etc., which are the materials offered in the
sacrifices. The Brahmins perform the sacrifices. The king provides them
with the wherewithal. So St. Tirugnana Sambandhar hymned thus:
“Vazhka Antanar Vanavar Aninam
Veezhka thann punal Ventanum ongkuka
Azhka theeyathu; ellam Aran namame
Soozhka, vaiyakamum thuyar theerkave.”
15 1 Royal disc : Symbolic of sovereignty.
5 Grand Manu : The first Manu, the divine author of all laws in
general and the monarchic code in particular.
16 1 Vanmika Natha : The Lord who manifested from the Ant-hill. A
chthonic element is supposed by David Dean Shulman.
See page 110-131, Tamil Temple Myths. 1980.
21 Soota : A court minstrel; it is he who sings the aubade and
wakes the king at dawn.
Magata : A minstrel who hails the heroic deeds of the king.
33 2 Noble : It means “ignoble” in the present context.
44 6 cf. “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown”.
45 Potri-p-pahrodai praises the act of the king thus:
“ ...... even as the Monarch
Who ran his car o’er his son to purge him
Of his killing a calf caught in his ..... ”
- Tr. T.N.R.
47 4 cf. “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”
- Genesis, 18:14.
A paraphrase of line 4 will be as follows:
“Is there aught impossible of fulfillment
If the Primal Lord Himself wills it done?”
50 5 Its : The City’s
From the inscription dated 31.5.1123 found on the
northern wall of the second enclosure (prakaram)
of Tiruvaroor Thyagarajaswamy Temple. We learn
that the names of the prince, the minister and the
cow were respectively Priyavruthan, Ubayakulamalan
and Surabhi. This inscription was made during the
reign of Vikrama Chola (1118 A.D - 1135 A.D.) This
king was none other than the father of Anapaya
whose Chief-Minister was Arunmozhi Thevar
1. A stone-car, ikons of the cow and the calf
and also a bell are still kept in the
Tiruvaroor Temple precincts.
2. The piety as well as justness of King Manu
3. “Reverence for life” is the lesson we learn
from the life and reign of King Manu.
4. A just and impartial ruler can talk with God
and walk with Gad.
Sincere thanks to Sri. T N Ramachandran of thanjavur, for permitting his English rendering of the holy text periyapurANam be published here.
1. பெரிய புராணம் திருநகரச் சிறப்பு (தமிழ் மூலம்)
2. thiruththoNDar purANam main page
3. 12 shaivite thirumuRais
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