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The Nenju Vidu Thoothu in Translation

Mariasusai Dhavamony

[The only book which can be called a true compendium of Tamil Saivism appeared in 1971. It is Mariasusai Dhavamony’s “Love of God according to Saiva Siddhanta.” It is a study in the Mysticism and Technology of Saivsim. The work was initially written as a dissertation for the degree of D.Phil. in the University of Oxford.

The auther has endeavoured to give a proper explication of all the fourteen Tamil Sastras in this work. Here is printed his article on The Nenjuvidu Thoothu. Ed.]


UMAPATI is the author of the poem-treatise1 entitled Nencuvitu-ttu, The Message Sent by the Heart, in which the heart as personified is sent as a messenger to its beloved2. The work narrates the greatness of God’s love, explains the symbolism of the ten insignia of God as Mzster and King, and, more strikingly, brings out the marvels of God’s grace and love in helping souls who wander away from him. It also shows the way of attaining blissful union with God.

	Astavatanam Puvai Kaliyanacuntaram wrote a Tamil Commentary on this treatise.3
1.  Composed c.A D. 1311 Calivahana (Chahaptam 1233).
2.  Or ‘the heart as personified sends a message to its beloved’.
3.  See Meykanta Cattiram, pp. 745-62.


(a) The nature of God.

The true nature of God Siva is unknowable (enrum ariya iyalpinan, 2) even by the gods Vishnu and Brahma, who seek to know him. The former is said to assume the form of a boar (panri) to bring back the earth from the waters’ for the good of all creatures’ (Mbh. Narayaniya section, 340. 74), and eventually to seek to know the secret of Siva’s nature; the latter is said to assume the form of a bird (annam) which fliesin the sky in search of true knowledge of Siva (1-2). Other gods of the Hindu pantheon, beginning with Indra, and all human beings also cannot by themselves know the reatl nature of Siva (3). He is inaccessible even through the Vedas, mantras, Vedanta (the Upanishads), and cutta maya1 like vintu and natam (3-4). For he is infinitely great and transcendent (alavirantu ninra periyan, 5.) He possesses the female part which symbolizes his Sakti. He is formless (aruvan)2 as Civan, Catti, Natam, and Vintu. He has …………….. pg 145…………………….

1. See Tamil Commentary in Meykanta Cattiram p. 745.

2. In the Saiva Siddhanta literature God is described as aruvan, uruvan, aru uruvan, meaning: ‘formless’ ‘with form’ ‘both formless and with form’ respectively. That is to say, God is formless in the sense that he does not possess forms such as the unaided human minds can think of. He has form in the sense that he manifests himself to the bhaktas in many human forms. He is formless and with form when he manifests himself as redeemer within the human soul itself. More philosophical analysis of this is given in Ch III on the Sivananapotam. …pg 146………………….. form (uruvan) as Mahesvaran, Uruttiran, Vishnu, and Brahma; he is also formless form as Catacivan (6).

Such an unknowable God is accessible only to his bhaktas (eliyan, 5) whether they be gods or men, because (bhakti) alone can win the necessary grace by which they can see God as he is in himself (3). To those who are his genuine loving devotees (parivana1 meyyarkku) he reveals his nature as Truth (meyya) (6-7). He is the father (aiyan, 7) of souls, the Lord (iraivan) who resides in his flock (pacu) and becomes their fullness (nirainta) (8).

(b) The symbolism of the ten insignia of God as King

The idea of God as the Lord (Pati) and Master of souls has inspired many a Saivite writer to describe him as the Supreme King and attribute to him qualities that are proper to earthly kings. Umapati, apparently following the example of Manikkavacakar, explains the symbolism of the lordship and sovereignty of God and of his reign of love and grace by means of the ten insignia (tacankam)2 of an earthly king. Manikkavacakar’s Tiruttacankam from the Tiruvacakam3 is of great help to us to understand better the texts of the Nencuvitututu. ……………. Pg 145………

1. Note the expression parivana, which signifies’loving’.

2. Tacankam = taca + ankam, lite. ‘ten attributes or adjuncts (of the King)’. The real meaning is ‘ten royal insignia’.

3. K. Cuppiramaniyam Pillai, Tiruvacakam, Madras, 1963, pp. 332-7

……………pg 147…………… (1) The King’s mountain. Siva, the Supreme King, possesses the mountain of auspicious qualities (kunakkunron, 39) which, being of the nature (panpu) of love (parivu) and grace (arul), shine in the minds of the bhaktas (39). According to the Tiruvacakam, the King’s mountain symbolizes the most gracious of his qualities, namely the redemptive action1 by which he shines in the hearts of his bhaktas (nencattu, irulakala, valvici) and grants the Supreme bliss of mutti (inpamaru mutti arulum).2

(2) The King’s river. From this mountain of supreme dharma (tarumac celun kiri) descends the King’s river, and, winding its course to the delight of the people, removes all doubt (aiyam), theft (kalavu), fear (payam), lust (kamam), murder (kolai), and anger (kopam) from the bhaktas (40-1). Destroying all the effects of Ikarma vinaiy ellam alittu, 41) with the sound of the sacred formulae, it runs through the Sruti and the Agamas, uprooting the three malam; and passing beyond the shore of instruction and initiation into the Saivite way of life, it wipes out empirical experience (atattu unarv alittu, 43), the desires of the five senses aivaya vetkaiyava, 44), and the functions of the organs (45); it also breaks the cord of bondage (pantam parittu, 46) produced by the action of the inner organs. In order to increase the power of grace (arul) to destroy the three gunas, the illusion of the five senses, and earthly desires, especially the intoxication lust of women (matar…………….. pg 147 ………..

1. Or the mutti itself, mutti arulu malai, as Dr. G.U. Pope takes it.

2. Tiruvacakam, 19.5.

……………. Pg 148………… mayakkam, 49), the river spreads all over the universe and transcends all tattuvam. Finally it reaches the inner essence of each soul (evv uyirkkum ul pukuntu 55) and grants it mutti (vitalittu, 56).

Manikkavacakar explains briefly the meaning of this symbol: ‘the King’s river is the rapture sent from above (heaven), come down into the hearts of men in order to remover impurity’.1

(3) The King’s land. God, the Supreme King’s country, is where one can see (parttu) and grasp (unarntu) the truths of the Sruti and Agamas, which are the source of immense bliss (58).

Manikkavacakar says that the Southern Pandya realm is the land of him who rules over his loving ones (katal avar) through love (anpu) and bestows the grace of never returning (mila aru) to the samsaric existence.2 The Pandya realm of the Tamil country ……………….pg 148……………..

	1.  Tiruvacakam, 19.4:
	Van vanta cintai malank kaluva vant iliyum
	Anantan kan utaiyan aru.

The text is rather obscure. Dr. G.U. Pope translates it as follows: …… the Master river is the rapture sent from heaven, come down, the foulness of our mind to cleanse’. Cf. his Tiruvacakam, p. 204. A better translation would be what we have given in the text, paraphrasing thus: malan kaluva van vanta cintai. See K. Cuppriamaniyam Pillai, Tiruvacakam. P.334.

2. Tiruvacakam, 19.2. Mila arul can also be taken as ‘infailing grace’,asDr. G.U. Pope translates. ………pg 149…………… is supposed to be the sacred place of Siva. The Tiruvilaiyatal Puranam contains the history of the sixty-four sacred sports (tiruvilaiyatal) of Siva at Maturai, in order to show that he dances the creation into existence. Some would say that Cola kingdom is the holy place of Siva, where Citamparam and Arur are situated.

(4) The King’s city. Siva’s city is where souls, trained in sixty-four arts, detached from all desires and pleasures (kama nilayanat ellamum nittu, 59), and having put aside all wandering of the mind, remain fixed in Civamonam (60). Civamonam or civayokam is the discipline by which the soul, losing all distinction, intuitively realizes Siva as he is in himself and becomes most intimately united with him. Most native commentators represent this union as being effected by civananam, which in this case is arulcatti.

Manikkavacakar says that Uttarakoca mankai is lauded by the bhaktas as the earthly city of Siuva (pattar ellam parmer civapurampor kontatum).1According to the Saivite traition, Uttarakoca mankai is called Civapuri because it is there that Siva is supposed to have revealed the Agamas to the sixty-four bhaktas2

(5) The King’s garland. God wears the garland, esplendent with grace, that attracts the heart of the true bhaktas, whose eyes shed tears oflove, whose enlightened minds are fixed on God, and whose hearts…………….. pg 149………………

1. Thiruvacakam, 19.3.

2. K. Cuppiramaniam Pillai, Tiruvacakam, p.35.

………….pg 150…………. Melt and overflow with unlimited love, trembling in the enjoyment of union with God (61-3)

Manikkavacakar observes that the Lord, who dwells in hearts where love-springs abound (allurum anaparpal), owns him (Manikkavacakar), a worthless cur, in order that the ‘evil’ deed may not approach him; and he says that God wears as wreath the tali aruku.1

(6) The King’s courser (horse). God owns the horse that symbolizes civananam, which knows all the tattuvam, all human souls and their thought, and which stands in a relation to all beings (ellamay) like that between body and soul, though still different from them (allavumay), because of the difference in their own proper essence; it is the difference between the eye (kan) and the sun (arukkan). This nanam is hidden in everyone’s thought (ennam), both as different (nillamal) and not different (nirkum) from it (65-6).

Manikkavacakar notes that God joyously rides upon the courser of the sky (van puravi uru makilntu).2

(7) The King’s army (elephant). The Etneral King possesses the elephant which symbolizes the power of …….. pg 150………….

1. Tiruvacakam, 19.9, ‘Tali aruku’ is a garland made out of the red water-;o;u,. worn by Siva (see ibid, 2.113-14). The cassia fistula (konari) has beautiful, long, yellow, and grant leaves; it is supposed to be Siva’s adornment.

2. Tiruvacakam, 19.6 Van=sky=cutta mayai or citakayam,

……………..Pg151..…………… divine wisdom (nana anaiyan, 73). This divine wisdom penetrates the lower worlds, supports the seven worlds of the earth and the seven worlds of the sky; it pervades the invisible worlds (akantam1 niraintu) (66). It is not definable, but he bhaktas can easily realize it; it takes the shape of the Vedas and Agamas (marai) and of six Vedanka (67).2 United with the soul as its inner soul (uyiray) and inner knowledge (unarvay), nanam destroys impurity (pacam) and dries up the sea of birth (7-8); it attacks the evil powers of desire, anger, pride, and jealously (69), refutes false alien religious systems, and does away with fear and murder (70). It dispels the concupiscence of the world of impurity (pacam), of sexual desire (*kamam) 70-1). With the quickness of love (necattal ana vekam) it enters the garden of the tattuvam drinks in the honey of bliss, and shines with four horns (71-3).

Manikkavacakar does not make use of the symbolism o! the elephant, but instead brings in Siva’s weapon, the trindent (kalukatai), and remarks that it tansfixes the threefold impurity (mummalankal payum)………………pg 151………….

1. Akantam, lit. ‘invisible’; in Saivism it refers to cutta maya lokam. See the Tamil Commentary in Meykanta Cattiram p. 754.

2. The Vetankam, which are subordinate and supplementary to the Vedas, are six: citcai (the science of pronunciation and articulation) karpam (a ritual for religious service), viyakaranam (grammar), cantacu (prsody), niruttam (a glossary explanatory of the obscure words and phrases that occur in the Vedas) cotitam (astronomy and astrology). ………………..Pg 152………………

In order to make the stainless hearts of the bhaktas melt (alukk ataiya nenc uruka).1

(8) The King’s banner. The Eternal King has the banner that wipes out the burden of mistery (cumaitunpam nikkum, 74). Manikkavacakar says that Siva’s banner of the bull gleams resplendent while enemies run away.2

(9) The King’s martial drum. The Divine King possesses the material drum (muracu) that responds with the sweet grace (inpaarul) which enables a man to forget himself (tammai marantu), grants the divine light to souls (oliy ulley irutti) and helps it to practise yoga (75-7).

Manikkavacakar comments3 on this symbol by saying that this drum dispels the foe ofbirth piravip pakai kalanka) and causes supreme bliss (per inpam)

(10) The King’s command. The Supreme King commands the whole creation to exist, last, and be active through the minor gods Brahma (ayan) and Vishnu (mal) (78-9). Manikkavacakar does not include this symbol in his exposition; instead he points out the King’s name, the Lord of Arur (aruran) the gracious4. Lord (cemperuman); both Brahman, the god of the white flower (ven malaran), and Vishnu, the god of ……………. Pg 152….

1. Tiruvacakam, 19.7.

2. Ibid. 19.10.

3. Ibid. 19.8

4. Cem Peruman can also be taken to mean ‘the ruddy one’, as Dr. G.U. Pope translates ………..pg 153……………. The milky sea (par katalan), praise him as the God of the gods (tevar piran).1

(c) The waywardness of the soul Umapati, in order to describe the situation of sin and rebirth in which human souls find themselves involved and to extol the workings of Siva’s grace to redeem them from such as situation, has recourse to his own personal experience both of sin and of grace and addresses the reader in the first person.

Although I am as eternal as God himself (enrum ulan anralavum yanum ulan, 9), yet without realizing the real state (or nature) of my being I underwent the cycle of various births. I was egg-born I underwent the cycle of various births. I was egg-born (antam), sweatborn (cuvetacam), soil-born (urpicam), and placentaborn (carayucam) (10)2. I was foolish to eat the evil fruits of karma (11; uninstructed, in false knowledge, I joined hands with the materialists (ulakaytan) (12); I committed injustice to my family (kutip pali),murder (kolai), theft (kavau), fornication (kamam) (13); without striving after true wisdom, I became a slave mind (manatu), to the judegment (putti) which follows this knowledge, and to self-will (akantai) (14-15); and I grew tired of the experiences of these and suffered a great deal from them (16)……………….pg 153………….

1. Tiruvacakam. 19.1

2. These are the four kinds of matrix from which one undergoes innumerable births; namely, egg. (antam), sweat (cuvetacam), seed (urpicam), and womb (carayucam). ……pg 154….. As a result of this waywardness, I was entangled in lust, anger, fornication, pride, and jealously (17). I came under the sway of the powerful ten faculties (Iintiriyam), of the corresponding sense(mattirai), of the endless five elemetns (putankal) (18), of the three faults (kunam) of desire, anger, and delusion which attract the will, and finally, of the three stands (kunam), three impurities (malam), three states (avattai) of the soul, and two kinds of karma (iruvinai) (19). I was deeply attached to riches, became cruel and fearful of losing them (20-1). Thus, instead of following Siva’s praiseworthy path ofbhakti,1 I sank ever deeper into the sea of birth and sin (21).

The grace of god and serious meditation led me to realize that those who hold on to the thruth the God is the only true kinsman (unnai oliya uravillai, 23) of the soul, and those who remain at one with the wisdom (arivu) that is contained in this realization, are the ones who truly renounce the world (23-4). Realize, my soul, that the path of the pleasures of the five senses, of sin (pavam), especially that of being entangled in the net of women’s eyes (puvaiyartam kan valai) and of learning the art of sexual intercourse (kalvikkalai payinru, 27, and the sin of speaking cruel and harsh words: all these implicate one in the cycle of rebirth (28).

1. Kace aravan ciril nilai: lit, ‘the praise-worthy state’ of the one who wears a snake around the waist’, i.e., Siva. Obviously the state referred to is the Saivite path of bhakti. The quotation is erroneous. Ed.


(a) The God of love

God’s omnipresence and omnipotence in creation have the sole purpose of granting grace out of love. He possesses the quality of bestowing grace with love (parint arul cer panpar kulavi vilanku kunak kunron 39). His grace hastens to indwell and operate in creatures with the speed that can be realized only thorugh love (necattal ana vekam konta arul) (71-2).

For the benefit of his bhaktas God Siva burnt the fortress of the rebellious asuras by his mere smile (30). He shines as light in the nata tattuvam (a form of the male energy of the Deity) which is the source of all the Vedas, Agamas, and arts (31). He is the source of kalai tattuvam (the principle that dispels malam) in the universe (33). He is also the light both tof wisdom(nanam) in cuttavittai1 and of the cukkumam;2 he is the supreme power (catti) beyond apara natam and para natam (33-4).

More especially does God show his love in his dealings with the bhaktas. He bestows grace (arul)…………pg 155……………

1. Cutta Vittai is the divine form in which action is less fully developed and nanam predominates.

2. The four vakku are the means through which the soul is made to experience the proper results of its karma; they are: cukkumia, paicanti, mattimai, vaikari. These constitute the organic bases of intelligent ideas and language, as laid in the human organism.

…….pg 156.. ……………… by which his bhaktas come to know him as their intellectual light (ariv oli) and wells in their hearts (32-ff). Only those who constantly meditate on him with love (anpar) does he favour with his visit (ninaippavarpal cenran, 35), and he is easily accessible to them. To the true bhaktas (paivana meyyarkku) he reveals himself as Truth (meyyan) (7). Living in their souls as inner light, he manifests his nature to the inner eye (ulak kan, 36) of bhakti.

Redemptive love of Siva is strikingly portrayed by Umapati when he alludes to God’s manifestation in the form of his own guru. Siva appeared to me, he says, in the person of my guru, Marai nana campantar, as he came in procession. I bowed to him in adoration in company of other bhaktas (89). He looked at me and his graceful look purified me from the five1 kinds ………………..pg 156………….

1. Reference to the five malam instead of the usual three is quite new in this text. The Tamil commentator enumerates them as follows: Anavam, kanmam, tirotanam, mayi mayeyam (op. cit, p.757). Now mayeyam signifies the seven ntattuvam-kalam, niyati etc. (see Kalakat Tamil Akarati). Tirotanam (Lit. ‘curtain’, ‘screen’, that which hides’) means tirotana catti (according to the same dictionary), i.e., the catti that shields the soul from truth by making it experience wordly goods. Hence mayeyam, being the evolutes of mayai itself, and tirotanam, being the effect of mayai- both these could be reduced to mayai. Thus the usual doctrine of the three malam does not contradict this passage [Mayeyam is contained in Maya and Tirotanam in Aanava. Ed.]

………………..pg 157……………. Of impurity and transformed my thinking (ninaivu verakkinan) (90); cutting asunder the coil of delusion, his glance showered on me the nectar of civanantam (91). He instructed me that the besmearing of the sacred ashes (vennir),1 Saiva appearance (civa vetam)’2 and Sivapuja are what really matter in life;2 and Sivapuja are what really matter in life;3 whereas such things as riches and family are impermanent (92)4. He taught me the meaning of the five sacred syllables (namacivaya) and the way of meditating on their hidden meaning with ever increasing bhakti(neyem) (93-4). Lighting the lamp of grace (arulaik kolutti) he united me with its flame as theinner light (ull oli,96) union. He granted me this grace in order to possess my whole being (ullam mutalaka ullatellam vanka aru vellam alittu, 98).

(b) The love of the devotee

Umapati outlines the various paths of bhakti by which the soul has to get purified before entering the sphere of mystical love.

(i) Lower bhakti. Bhakti at the lowest level consists in an exterior form of worship, like taking to Saiva appearance (civa vetam) by wearing rudraksa berries, saffron robe, ash mark on the forehead, etc.

1. viputi (holy ashes).

2. Wearing rudraksa beads, tiger skin, etc.

3. Cattiya patarttam.

4. Poy, i.e. ‘untrue’.

Next comes the Siva – worship itself in which bhakti is itself interiorized and genuine love of mutti and of divine union takes possession of the aspirant (91-2). Then the bhakta mediates on the meaning of the sacred syllables and fixes God more intimately in his mind and heart (nencu); he increases his desire for union by more intse love (neya mayalakki)1 for God (93).

(ii) Higher bhakti First of all Umapati exhorts his own soul not to follow those who falsely assert that they have seen the Supreme Absolute (Brahman) by themselves (tam.pirmam kantavar pol), when in fact they only intuit into themselves (tammaikkantu) and affirm ‘I am Brahman’ (nan pirmam) (111). Advaitic experience of mutti is hereby explicitly rejected. So, too, is the experience of a passionless state, indifferent to pleasure of pain; the Buddhists consider the impersonal dharma itself as their God (arame teyvam, 112) and gain freedom in the practice of this dharma.

For the Saiva Siddhantin the state of real mutt lies only in a union of love (bhakti) with the personal God Siva. That this union is realized only in love is a constant teaching of Umapti in this world. Melting of the heart (ull uruki, 62), shedding tears of love …… pg 158….

1. Neyamayal is ‘passionate love’; but with respect to God, who is free of passion and desire, as affirmed in other contexts, this expression means simply ‘intense love.’ ……… pg 159….. nattattal 1tennir aruvi vila, (61) are expressions among many that denote love of God. It is in the supreme union of love that God Siva enters the inner essence of the soul (evvuyirkkum ul pukuntu, 55) and grants the bliss of mutti (vit2 alittu, 56). This is certainly a reminiscence of the Gita concept of the supreme bhakti; namely, of God penetrating the soul in love and giving himself as the supreme object of love.

1. Nattattal, lit. ‘by the eyes’; tennir li. ‘clear water’. The whole context signifies ‘tears of love’.

2. Vitu is the equivalent of the Sanskrit mukti.

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