Lord Skanda-Murugan

Synopsis: "Cevvel (Murukan) as depicted in the Paripatal"

Dr. Arumugam Kandiah

The following aspects will be examined critically in this research paper:

The present study of Cevvel will cover as depicted in the eight poems in praise of Cevvel in the Paripatal, the fifth anthology under the 'Eight Collections'. The significance of this work is highlighted by the reference, onku Paripatal - 'Paripatal of ever-increasing fame' in a venpa, which is of unknown date and authorship, and enumerates the eight collections of the earliest works of Tamil literature.

The most notable phenomenon in the anthology of Paripatal is that each poem is accompanied by colophons stating the subject of the poem, the name of its author, the name of the composer of the music to which it was sung, and the name of the pan to which this music was set.

Among the extant 22 poems in the Paripatal there are only eight in praise of Cevvel which are exclusively religious. The study of the eight poems clearly demonstrates three facts: one is that the poets who composed poems in praise of Cevvel were devoted bhaktas of Cevvel; the second is that the two poets, Kecavanar and Nallaccutanar were not only great poets but also eminent musicians and the third is that Nallaccutanar is not only a religious poet but also a poet of love themes and a lover of nature.

The term katimaram, 'guardian tree' is employed a few times in the early Tamil literature. In all these instances, it is either implied or described as a symbol of sovereignty or dominion of the king. This term katimaram appears in the Paripatal too, but is employed there with a religious connotation. From this, it may be concluded that the martial elements in early Tamil puram poetry were used with a religious connotation in the later period.

Tirupparankunram, one of the abodes of Cevvel, is the most important and is elaborately described in the Paripatal. Five of the eight poems in the Paripatal describe Parankunram and its presiding Lord. It is surprising to note the absence of the other shrines, Tiruvavinankuti, Tirucciralaivai and Tiruverakam from the poems in Paripatal.

The next picture presented in the Paripatal is that of Cevvel with his consorts, Teyvayanai and Valli. Five such instances have been noted in the Paripatal. It is employed largely to illustrate secular love against a religious background. Teyvayanai and Valli, whom the later Tamil literature speaks of as the consorts of Skanda and Subramaniya respectively, were regarded as wives of Cevvel during the period of Paripatal.

There are occasional descriptions and incidental references in the Paripatal which enable us to visualise Cevvel as worshipped by the people during the period of this work. Although there is no elaborate description of Cevvel with six faces and twelve arms appears in any of the poems in praise of Cevel in the Paripatal, there is a passage in poem No.5 portraying him as the leader of the army of the devas, holding a weapon in each hand. These weapons are the lamb, peacock, cock, bow, war-drum. sword, spear, axe, battle-axe, fire, garland and bell. Many of these weapons portray him as the war-god of the Dravidians.

Of the various aspects of religious significance seen in the earliest work, Paripatal, the modes of worship of the Tamils, and the role of the brahmans as officiating priests in some of the shrines of Cevvel , deserve detailed analysis. We have conclusive evidence in our source on Cevvel worship then, as of now, consisting of going to different abodes, worshipping or taking part in congregational worship, offering various oblations, worshipping the deity with songs and dances, conducting religious festivals and so on.

The Paripatal is perhaps the earliest work in which the devotee's love or bhakti of Cevvel is quite explicitly expressed, conveying not merely 'love of God' but also a deeper, mystical union with the Almighty. The language and the expression bear ample evidence to the personal experience of the poets of Paripatal ; the outpouring of their hearts gives us a true picture of their spiritual elevation. The poets of Paripatal display bhakti as the means of salvation, portraying his holy feet as the refuge of devotees, and representing his holy faces and holy arms as granting spiritual boons. The study of this early work has clearly proved how bhakti originated and developed gradually into its full form as the means of liberation, illumination and bliss for the devotee. The Paripatal advocates love, divine grace and virtue but not gold, wealth or luxury.

The Paripatal is also perhaps the earliest religious work in which the akam themes are introduced. Out of a total of eight poems in praise of Cevvel, the akam themes figures prominently in four poems. These poems are essentially religious. The analysis shows that there is a tendency to depart from the rigid conventions of akam poetry, and a further tendency for love themes to be dealt with in religious poems. Though akam themes are incorporated in these poems, they are not mingled with religious significance as in the case of Tevaram.

Contact the author, Dr. Arumugam Kandiah: akandiah@one.net.au