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The Philosophy of The Tamil Siddhas

The Philosophy of The Tamil Siddhas
Item Code: IDE009
Publisher: Indian Council of Philosophical Research (ICPR)
Language: English
Edition: 2009
ISBN: 8185636036
Pages: 248
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 8.8" X 5.8"
weight of the book: 470 gms

From the Jacket:

The philosophy of the Tamil Siddhas, by virtue of its mystical and enigmatic nature, has not attracted the attention of many scholars in the field of philosophy. As such, there is a marked paucity of reliable works on the Tamil Siddhas. The present work of Professor Ganapathy fulfills the need for a comprehensive and faithful presentation of the philosophy of the Siddhas. Drawing upon a wide range of sources, the author has sought to give a philosophical foundation for the conception of the human body, the method mysticism and the twilight language of the Siddhas. Unlike other works on the Siddhas, the present work has highlighted the social concern of the Siddhas too.

About the Author:

T.N. Ganapathy, formerly Post-Graduate Professor and Head of the Department of Philosophy, Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda College, Madras, is at present Director, Tamil Yoga Siddha Research Project and a visiting Professor and member of the Academic Council, Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning (Deemed University), Prasanthi Nilayam, Andhra Pradesh. Professor Ganapathy has participated and presented papers in a number of seminars in India and abroad. He has published many research articles, which have appeared in the important philosophical journals in India and in Kant Studien. Acknowledged as a specialist in Kant, he has also published An Invitation to Logic, Mahavakyas and Bertrand Russell's Philosophy of Sense-data. Professor Ganapathy is currently engaged in research on the philosophy of the Siddhas and Ramana's philosophy.




There are not many books on the philosophy and/or mysticism of the Tamil Siddhas. Even the books available on the theme are neither comprehensive nor systematic. Dr T.N. Ganapathy’s book, The Philosophy of the Tamil Siddhas, is an excellent introduction to the philosophy and mysticism of the Tamil Siddhas,

It is well known that the Tamil mystics of the Saiva and Vaisnava tradition composed their hymns in the vernacular, which is a medium convenient to both the speaker/writer and listener/reader: the former who is interested in conveying the spiritual experience can do it with ease and efficacy and the latter can assimilate the message with profit and pleasure. This does not mean that the language of the mystics is easy of comprehension, especially in the case of the Tamil Siddhas whose language is suggestive and sym— bolic, paradoxical and esoteric. The language of the Siddhas is called ‘sandhya-bhasa’ (twilight language) since it combines two dimensions-the common and the uncommon, the explicit and the implicit. It is also called ‘sunya-sambhasanai’ (the conversation about the Void) since it is talk about the supreme reality, referred to as ‘Vettaveli (the empty space), which is void of all qualities and specifications. Dr Ganapathy points out that ‘the essential characteristic of the Siddha language is its polysemantic nature, its multivalence, its capacity to express at the same time a number of meanings both at the level of ordinary experience and at the level of transcendence’.

There is no English equivalent which can bring out the full significance of the term ‘siddha’. A Siddha is a yogin who has attained various supernatural powers, one who has realized Siva in himself, one who has transformed himself into Siva. In the context of the Tamil tradition, a `Siddha is a revolutionary and a non-conformist in his beliefs and practices. The Indian tradition classifies the Siddhas into several categories. The Siddhas of the South, known as ‘Mahesvara Siddhas’, follow the ‘pure method’ of the Tantra tradition. Very little is known about the biographical details of the Siddhas. Tirumular, Sivavakkiyar, and Pattinattar are the well-known Siddhas of Tamil Nadu.

The Siddhas take note of the fact of duality operating in our day-to-day life and suggest the method of yoga coupled with jnana for achieving the goal of oneness. There is, for example, the duality of male and female, of Siva and Sakti, in the Hindu Tantra tradition, The aim of the yogin is to transcend this duality and attain oneness with Siva. Also, their writings show an insight into the fact that what is in the universe, the macrocosm, is in the human body, the microcosm. It is not, therefore, surprising that the human body l is assigned great importance by the Siddhas. The negative attitude towards the body shown by some Tamil Siddhas should be understood and interpreted in the context of the value of the human body as a medium through which one has to attain the supreme goal of unity; and the medium, however valuable it may be, has its own limitations and can never be an end in itself. To a Siddha, the human body is comparable to a temple.

Though the Siddhas are non-conformists in their theory and practice, they are not anti-social. They never thought that the pursuit of spirituality requires withdrawal from the world. On the contrary, they maintained that, remaining in the world, one could practise spirituality and attain unity. They were concerned with the upliftment of the human beings, and so their teachings are intended for the people. The concept of "arruppadai’, as pointed out by Dr Ganapathy, highlights the social dimension of the philosophy of the Siddhas.

Dr Ganapathy’s book is commendable for several reasons. It is comprehensive covering the essentials of the philosophy and mysticism of the Siddhas. The heritage of the Tamil Siddhas, their philosophical ideas and methods, the systematically misleading language employed by them, and their social concern—all these have been dealt with systematically in this book. The presentation of` ideas as well as the formulation of arguments is lucid. The analysis of the methodology of the Siddhas is scholarly. I am sure that both scholars and laymen interested in the philosophy and mysticism of the Siddhas will welcome this volume.


An old Chinese proverb says that a journey across the world begins with one step. The present work—which is the result of my research project submitted to the Indian Council of Philosophical Research, New Delhi, in fulfilment of the Senior Fellowship—is the first step by me on an excursion into Siddha mysticism and philosophy and it is like a description of the sky’s immensity by a frog peering at the stars from the bottom of a well. This is not the first attempt at comprehending the philosophy of the Tamil Siddhas (Chittars in Tamil), yet it is different from other attempts in that it discusses in detail the method and certain basic tenets of the philosophy of the Tamil Siddhas in their proper philosophical perspective. The philosophy of the Tamil Siddhas is a poet’s philosophy and not a philosopher’s philosophy and as such the Siddhas have transcended the metaphysician’s categories. The Tamil Siddhas have expressed all their ideas only in the poetic form. In the Vedas, Upanisads and the Gita, yogins are constantly spoken of as poets. God Himself is called a poet in the Gita, (8.9) In the Paracelsus, Robert Browning also calls God the Perfect Poet. Poets are fond of inversions and involutions. Similarly the yagins are fond of the cryptic and dislike the evident. Only in the poetic form intense. Spiritual experiences can be verbalized and it is a sort of a religious pidgin to express what has been felt, because language other than poetry is inadequate. Poetry conveys a great deal more while saying less. More is meant in poetry than what meets the ear. What the mystics and the poets want to express is a world of meaning different from all given soberly observable facts. Apart from their esoteric terminology Siddha poems are often written with an entire disregard for grammatical or elegant expression. Siddhas ridicule those who are fastidious about grammatical accuracy. This is in line with the tantric writings in Sanskrit where they set aside ruler of grammar. They never pretend to be academic and declare that their object is to be accessible to all. As such they have not received much recognition as they fully deserve and the focus of the work is to provide such a recognition.

This work is an attempt at studying properly the Siddha philosophy in its genuine manifestations. The special problem that has been encountered is that of scarcity of material. The important feature of the work is that it is never intended to be anything more than a general introduction to the philosophy of the Tamil Siddhas and makes no claim to originality. I am aware that every attempt is a wholly new start and a different kind of failure, yet I take shelter under Goethe’s wise saying, ‘on1y the inadequate is productive’.

Pattinattar says that many owners share this body and on the same line I would like to say that many earlier thinkers and writers on tantra and the Siddhas share credit for the appearance of this work. I take this opportunity to acknowledge gladly my indebtedness to various scholars and their works.

I acknowledge my indebtedness and gratitude to the authorities of the ICPR for awarding me a Senior Fellowship for three years (from 1985 to 1988) to undertake and complete this project work. As a Senior Fellow of the ICPR I visited many libraries in Delhi, Calcutta, Madras, Bangalore, Mysore, Trivandrum and Tanjore for collection of materials and had met several tantric scholars for deciphering and delineating some of the intricacies in the Siddha doctrines.

Words are inadequate to express my sincere thanks to my friend and philosopher Professor R. Balasubramanian, formerly Director of the Dr Radhakrishnan Institute for Advanced Study in Philosophy, University of Madras, and currently Director, Sri Aurobindo School of Eastern and Western Thought, Pondicherry University and Chairman of the ICPR, New Delhi, for his constant encouragement and valuable advice.

My thanks are due, in no small measure, to Dr V.K.S.N. Raghavan, Reader in Vaisnavism, University of Madras, Professor C.V. Radhakrishnan, the late lamented Dr. K. Sundaresan, and Sri S. Subramaniam, all the three belonging to the Department of Philosophy, Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda College, Madras, for helping me through thick and thin in the proof- reading of the work. I am proud to mention that all the three collegues of mine at Vivekananda College represent the three generations of my old students respectively. I owe my thanks to Sri S. Mohanakrishnan, an old student of mine, for assisting me in the proof-reading. I also thank Sri Rajmohan, Suresh, Ananda Rao and Sriram, also my old students, for preparing the index. I will be failing in my duty if I do not acknowledge the help rendered by Dr R. Anan- than, Professor and Head of the Department of English, Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda College, Madras, in going through the various chapters of the typescript. My grateful thanks are due to my nephew Sri T.G. Natarajan, a Chartered Accountant by profession, for the computer typing of the MSS. My special thanks are due to my beloved wife Srimati Savithiri who freed me from my family encumbrances and I am happy to dedicate this work to her.

A genuine attempt has been made to achieve consistency in the matter of transliteration of the numerous Tamil and Sanskrit terms. I crave the indulgence of the readers if there are any inconsistencies in this regard.





Foreword ix
Preface xi
1. Introduction 1
2. The Siddhas: An Approximation 13
3. The Siddhas: Mystic Accomplishments 39
4. The Method of the Siddhas 57
5. The Siddha Concept of the Human Body 115
6. The Mysticism of the Tamil Siddhas 141
7. The Twilight Language of the Tamil Siddhas 167
8. The Social Concern of the Tamil Siddhas 189
9. Conclusion 203
Bibliography 207
Index 221

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