periya purANAm is the twelfth thirumuRai that describes the life and deeds of the 63 shiva devotees. The name that was originally given to this book by its author chEkkizAr was thiruththoNdar purANam (lives of servants (of Lord)). Since this is the collection of information about great people it was called periyar purANam. It became periya purANam later.
The arangkERRam (publication) of this work according to historians, was held during the period 4-4-1139 to 22-4-1140. This was during the regime of kulOththuN^ga chOzan II.
This book is based on
As chEkkizAr was the prime minister in chOzA king's court, he had access to many historical evidences such as writings on stones, copper plates etc. which would have given information on the lives of the great devotees. But above all he was able to know the histories through his knowledge due to the grace of the God.
chEkkizAr has divided the entire book as two major parts (kANdam) and thirteen chapters (charukkam). First is the thirumalaich charukam which talks about life of chaun^dharar before he sang the thiruththoNdath thokai apart from the fame of holy places. The eleven chapters that follow this describe the deeds of 63 devotees and 9 general devotees. These chapters have the same name as the first one or two words of the corresponding eleven songs in thiruththoNdath thokai. At the end of each chapter the fame of chun^dharar is praised. The last chapter is the veLLAnaich charukkam which is the kailAsa going of chun^dharar and kazaRiRRaRivAr. Totally there were 4253 songs of the type viruththam. But now 33 songs have been inserted in between by some people of later periods.
The life of chun^dhara mUrthi n^AyanAr is spread in many of the places in the purANam, mainly in thirumalaich chiRappu, thaduththAtkoNda purANam, EyarkOn kalikkAma n^AyanAr purANam, kazaRiRRaRivAr purANam, and veLLAnaich charukkam.
Out of the three tamiz purANams which are praised as three eyes of the Lord, periya purANam which drives away the darkness of ignorance from our mind like the sun is considered the right eye of the Lord (The other two being kan^dha purANam and thiruviLaiyAdal purANam).
A sanskrit book written by the sage upamanyu called upamanyu bhakta vilAsam is also the description of life and deeds of the 63 saints.