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Samapti-Suprabhatam (Reflections on South Indian Bhakti Tradition in Literature and Art)

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Item Code: NAO932
Author: R.K.K. Rajarajan, R.K. Parthiban and Raju Kalidos
Publisher: Sharada Publishing House
Language: English
Edition: 2017
ISBN: 9789383221158
Pages: 428 (140 B/W and 14 Color Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 11.5 inch X 9.0 inch
Weight 1.60 kg
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Book Description
About the Book

The book is in two parts dealing with the sacred hymns of the Alvars and Nayanmar; rooted in the Vedas, the Itihasas, the Gita and the Sahasranamas of Visnu and Siva. The first part presents the Roman transcription and English translation of the holiest of the hymns, the Tiruppavai and Tiruvempavai. The second part is on "Morphological Riddles and Mythological Setting" of the Alvars hymns, and historical reflections on the 'Divyadesas" (Sacred Geography) of Visnuism in the Kaviri delta.

The book includes an historical introduction on the bhakti cult. Rooted in the 'Bhagavata' or Vrsni-vira worship, the bhakti adumbrated by the Alvars and the Nayanmar (6th-9th century CE) had a tremendous impact over the course liturgical literature, temple building and the temple arts, sculpture and painting through the ages in South and Southeast Asia.

Fourth and fifth chapters elaborately deal with the Tamil Veda, the 'Nalayiram' in the context of the ideas aired in second and third chapters. The annexures on Visnusahasranama and Sivasahasranama pinpoint their art historical relevance.

About the Author

Dr R.K.K. Rajarajan is on the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. The author's publication in international journals is prolific (from Rome, Naples, Berlin, Reinbeck, Oslo, London). A chip has recently now come out, published by the Sapienza University of Rome; including the Acta Orientalia (Oslo) and Religions of South Asia (Sheffield, UK).

Prof. R.K. Parthiban [Parthiban Rajukalidos] completed bachelor of architecture (B. Arch.), in the Regional Engineering College, Tiruccirappalli (now NIT Trichy). He is a registered architect with the Council of Architecture, New Delhi. His master's degree is from the UNESCO Chair of Heritage Studies, Faculty of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Urban Planning, Brandenburg University of Technology, Cottbus, Germany. He is currently working in the Department of Design, Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad (IITH) for his doctoral degree. Apart from regular academic teaching and research, he has published in Cottbus and Oslo.

Prof. Raju Kalidos needs no introduction to scholars in the realm of South Asian art. Heading toward seventy, the present volume is a fitting memento to his scholastic dedication.


The present volume is by RKK Rajarajan, RK Parthiban and Raju Kalidos. The contributing authors are from various academic disciplines related to Indian Art History, Architecture, Historical Traditions, Tamil Literature, and Computer Science. The book is in seven chapters, two annexure, and includes a succinct glossary, and exhaustive bibliography, mostly collected from the Freie Universitat Berlin in its Institut fur Indische Philologie und Kunsgechichte. Dr. Rajarajan (Freie Universitat Berlin) and Prof. Parthiban (Brandenburg Technical University, Cottbus; UNESCO Centre for World Heritage Studies) had their higher education in Germany under the eminent scholars (Prof. AJ. Gail, Helmut Nespital, Peter Burman, Maria Theresa and Simona Cadar). Prof. Raju Kalidos was a visiting Fellow at the Free University of Berlin. The authors have richly contributed for the study of the literary and art heritage of India with a focus on the Tamil socio-cultural milieu.

Prof. Raju Kalidos, who was my colleague at the Master's level in the Annamalai University (exactly 1970), was a brilliant student of two noted Vaisnava and Saiva scholars, viz., Professor B.V. Ramanujam and Professor A. Krishnasvami Pillai. His contributions to the present work include the Roman transcription, word-to-word English translation and English summary of the Tamil bhakti hymns, the Tiruppavai and the Tiruvempavai. Translated by several scholars, these Tamil original hymns are brought in an audible form through their rendering in Roman script that any non-Tamil scholar could read and recite with his own lips. Besides, Dr. Kalidos has also contributed to chapter VI and added an annexure on Visnusahasranama and its bearing on Indian art history. Formerly Dean of the Faculty of Arts in the Tamil University of Thanjavur and Chairman of the Department of Art History and Sculpture for more than two decades, Dr. Kalidos has come out with an iota of contribution in the present book.

R.KK Rajarajan of the Gandhigram Rural University (habilitated in Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi) is the chief editor of the book and the driving-force behind chapter VI. His work on Sivasahasranama is a landmark that sheds light on an aroma from the Mahabharata and its reflections on the art of South and South-east Asia. Widely travelled in Europe and the eastern countries, Dr. Rajarajan is a field-based scholar who has done commendable work in Prambanan and Borobudur. Few of his photographic collections from Europe and Indonesia have been included in this book. His publications in international journals include several articles from Oslo, Rome, Naples, Oxford, London, Sheffield, Berlin and Reinbek. He has examined the Tamil parallels of Sanskriticnamavalis found in the 'Nalayiram', which is indeed a new contribution to the study of Tamil Vaisnavite canonical texts. It is proved with authentic evidence that several epithets are merely transcriptions with no intelligible or scientific overtone (e.g. Trivikrama and Tirivikkiraman, Ciritaran and Sridhara).

RK Parthiban is a student of Prof. Peter Burman (York University). He is interested in working on the Tamil bhakti hymns. He has contributed the introductory part of the book. Besides, his share for chapter VI, he has actively collaborated in the editorial work. He has published papers from Cottbus and Oslo. He has travelled widely in Europe and the Middle East upto Egypt.

The introduction to this book outlines the scope of the study and explains how the Tamil hymns are not merely devotional but intended to promote cosmic harmony and global peace through literature. The aim of Indian literature whether it is the Bhagavat Gita in Sanskrit or Tiruppavai in Tamil is to bestow harmony in human soul by advocating ahimsa, dharma, and santi "the diapason closing full in man".

Chapter I of the book traces the roots of the devotional cult drawing rich data from Tamil and Sanskritic sources. Chapters II and III examine the Tamil bhakti literature of the Alvars and Nayanmars and demonstrate how the "invocations" to Cosmic Reality found in these works show the way to harmony in the Milky Way. The hymns offer solace not only to the individual devotees of their sect, but to the broader humanity at large. The Tamil hymns are infinite riches in little rooms as the authors emphatically point out.

Chapters IV and V are viewed in the context of Tamil literature and the roots of these ideas are said to be in the Vedas, the Gita and other sources (e.g. the sahasranamas, and the vrsni-vira Bhagavata cult). The Tamil hymns are presented in Roman script that a non-Tamil reader could enjoy the aesthetics of the Tamil original. It is heartening to note that Raju Kalidos, RKK Rajarajan and R.K Parthiban have completed a Roman transcription, and English translation of the 4,000 Divyaprabandham and an encyclopaedic 'Dictionary of Vaisnuism' mustering the active collaboration of others with the help of computer scientists, Gayatri Vijayaraghavan and Viravisodhana. I am told these two mega-projects are self-financed and reaching fruition.

Chapter VI and VII bring out the excellence of the poems of the Alms in a nutshell shedding light on the following aspects :

Comparison of the Sanskritic iconographical terminologies in Tamil format as viewed by the Alvars.

How the Sanskritic mythologies are narrated in Tamil and how some of the Tami thoughts had crept into Sanskrit; e.g. Bull Fight and Nappinnai. Wrestling with the bull is not non-Indian but an ancient martial sport of the Tamils. The bulls are neither injured nor killed; on the other hand the heroes are victims to the heroic bulls. In Tamil tradition these injuries are not wounds or scars but medals of chivalry.

A detailed examination of the concept of divyadesa with special reference to the individualities of the Kaviri delta.

Two important annexure on Visnusahasranama and Sivasahasranama have been added pointing out their reflections on the Paripatal, Cilappatikaram and the hymns of the Alvars and Nayanmar. It is demonstrated how these ideas had an impact over the arts of South and Southeast Asia during a vast span of time since the 7th to the 17th century CE, i.e. Pallava to the Nayaka period. Research on Nayaka art is a .progressive phenomenon. Lot of works yet remains to be done from the Eastern or Indian perspective.

It is worth mentioning the authors are prolific contributors to international journals, including the Journal of the Institute of Asian Studies. What I find unique in their approach to Indian art is that they consider Tamil sources rigorously which are ignored by indologists. Most scholars working on Indian Art viewed from Sanskrit perspective. Prof. Kalidos claims Indian heritage should be viewed with two eyes, Sanskrit and Tamil, the two eyes of Indian culture; Ariyamkantay Tamilkantay.

The bibliography is rich and it mostly consists of the collections from the Institut fur Indische Philologie und Kunsgeschechte der Freien Universitat Berlin. Another important dimension of the book is that it is intelligibly illustrated (with more than 150 photos) with samples from South, Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern and European art, which powerfully suggests that art is a medium for the understanding of human mind, and not to propagate terrorism. Races may differ, languages may differ, and nationalities may differ but human blood is crimson that appears on top of the Indian national flag to convey the message of peace and prosperity for humanity. Indian art and literature are mirrors of cosmic harmony if viewed in the righteous perspective.

Great men think alike. There is no much difference between "Love thy neighbour as thyself" of the Holy Bible and "Om Santih Santih Santih" of the Upanisads. Harmony and Peace are within the human mind. As John Milton said "The mind is its own self and in itself can make a hell of heaven or heaven of hell". Let us find a new world in 'Brdavana' and 'Garden of Eden' and not a crematorium; and even if a crematorium let that be the venue where Nataraja presents his ananda-tandava "Dance of Bliss" or samhara-tandaua with a view to resurrect and rejuvenate the cosmos. These ideas are meaningfully demonstrated in the present book.



"Sri is immersed in Thy divine loveliness,
She may not permit Thou to get up from bed;
Thou are steeped in delight of her bedroll breasts,
Thou may not get up on your own;
Do not falsify the best of your mental flavor (sattvaguna)".
Awake and arise to bless your devotees,
Come forward and offer your plentiful Grace!
Love All! Let Peace Embrace the Cosmos!
This Message is for Harmony in the Milky Way
The Soul of Harmony is masked in Terrorism
Fight for Peace following the noble Dharmayuddha.

In July, 2013 the sacred city of Bodh-Gaya and the temple for the Lord Buddha, the incarnation of ahimsa (non-violence) experienced a catastrophe due to bomb-blasts caused by himsakaras (terrorists) resulting in the death of bhikhus and mutilating a 2,000 year old monastic settlement and its prayer halls. Such terrorism was dropped on the Buddha-colossus in Bamiyan few years ago. The pious monks get up early in the morning before sun rise, complete the bodily ritual cleansing and go to the stupa to awaken the Buddha from his sacred chamber (Rajarajan 2010: fig. CP XII-I):

Buddham saranam... Dharmam saranam... Samgham saranam
Prostrate at feet of the Buddha ... Prostrate at Righteousness ... Prostrate at the Order.

Dharma "righteousness" and ahimsa "non-violence" are the aggregation of India's religious experience during the past 4,500 years. India's (classical Bharatavarsa or Jambudvipa) mission to the world is that it should live in harmony with the everlasting blessings of nature:

Dharmena palanam dharmena vidanam dharmena sukhikaranam

"Dharma Guards, Dharma is the Canopy, Dharma gives Solace".

The arousal-invocation to any Indian God or Godman is known as Suprabhatam. Su means "good", prabhata "dawn" ("guten Morgen to the slumbering Lord" (Figs. 2, 6, 29) and samapti "ending". The title is a paradox. It should have been Na-samapti suprabhatam "Not-ending Good Dawn". In this terror-monging world, the himsakaras (Monier-Williams 2005: 1297) commit atrocities to stop Suprabhatam; resulting in Samapti-Suprabhatam (Ending the Sacred Arousal)? And hence the title! When shall the east (Gandhara/ Afghanistan or India) or west (Empire State Building, New York) experience a day-end without himsa/terrorism? The suprabhatam; the ring of the Church bell and ulema's cry are the same tune in different notes. We do pray invoking the Upanisads:

Om Santih Santih Santih
(Let Harmony Embrace the Earth)
The 'Holy Bible' may absolve these terrorists in the words of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ:
"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing".

The present self-financed report is the result of a work commenced five years ago and reworked. The mastermind behind the project is Raju Kalidos, who was overwhelmed by the gospel peace packed in these hymns that are little rooms with infinite riches of message for human solidarity. Tiziana Lorenzetti of the University of Rome wanted to bring the hymns in Italiano. It is an on-going project. In the meantime we have brought these gospels of peace in common-place English couched in a language that the international community of non-Tamil knowing world could read and grasp the sacred messages in Tamil and English, profoundly supported by Sanskrit thoughts of the past 3,500 years. Matrsulabha Bhuvaneshvari subscribed her maternal inheritance to view how the hymns show the way to Cosmic Harmony. This is the nucleus of the thesis. Jeyapriya Rajarajan helped us to compile the glossary and consolidate the bibliography. RK Vijayaraghavan Viravisodhana saw to it the data was processed through the computer.

Our participation in the International Congress (April, 2011), organized by the Sapienza University of Rome and ISIAO, acted as a catalyst in this move. The name "Sapienza" captured our imagination because it does not merely stand for "knowledge". Its connotation is "peace and prosperity" for the global community of scholars that study the arts and sciences in the beautiful universita campus of Roma.

The Pavai and Empavai, added with the prefix T. tiru (Skt. Sri "reverend, blessed, excellent, sacred" Liebert 1986: 279), i.e., Tiruppavai and Tiruvempavai, are the holiest of Tamil hymnal works; both put together 'the Tamil Song of Songs', which maybe called the "Melody of Melodies" that shows the way to Divine Harmony; "From Serenus to Divinus-Serenus". The veiled harmonies are not exposed in the wide world-stage that form of a mega-corpus, the 'Nalayiram' and the 'Tirumurai' (sacred order). We desire to call it the "Veiled-soul of Harmony", not being revealed to the world of scholarship in the fitting way it deserves.

The Pavai consists of thirty hymns and was the work of the poetess and Vaisnava mystic, Antal alias Kotai (Skt. Coda). Empavai is in twenty hymns by the poet and Saiva mystic Manikkavacakar, popular in literary circle as Vatavurar after his nativity where he was born. It is not known why the work by Kotai was named Tiruppavai "Auspicious Maiden" by compilers because each verse ends with the phrase, Empavay "Our Maiden", heralding peace and harmony for "us" (universal) and not "me" (private capital). However, the thirtieth verse employs the phrase Cankattamilmalai "Garland of Tamil Congress", accepted in a court of peer-poets.

Kamil V. Zvelebil (1974: 98, 103) assigns Antal and Manikkavacakar to the ninth century CE and finds them contemporaries. Tamil scholars detect an astronomical clue in the hymns of Antal [vellieluntu viyalam urankirru (rise of Velli/Venus and fall of Viyalam/Jupiter) - Tiruppavai v. 13] that is supposed to give the date 731 CE and so she is assigned to the early half of the eighth century CE (cited in Kalidos 1976: 104). Few other dates are given for this astronomical event, e.g. 27 November, 850 (Cutler 1979: 16) that coincides with the date of Srimara Srivallabha Pandya (815-62 CE) under whom Periyalvar is said to have been a minister and composed the Tiruppallantu ["Sacred Several Thousands of Million Years for the Lord (to administer Peace)"] in the Kutal Alakar temple at Maturai, close to the Minaksi-Sundaresvara temple to its southwest (Rajarajan 1998: fig. 3). Tradition would say the mystic participated in a poetic competition arranged by Srivallabha and won a golden purse; a noble prize of those times. This is to suggest he was a distinguished poet of the age. Antal seems to have lived anterior to the time of Manikkavacakar. The impact of Antal’s poetics may be found in the verses of Manikkavacakar (Kalidos 2013: Essay 4).

Antal’s contribution is brought under the Tamil Vaisnava corpus, Nalayira-tivviyap pirapantam/Catussahasra-divya-prahandham (Four-thousand Melodious Ties), shortly Nalayiram (the 4,000). Her other work is called Nacciyar Tirumoli "Sacred Saying of the Mother" in 143 verses (Kalidos 2006: I, 3). Manikkavacakar is the author of a number of short lyrical compositions, all brought under Tiruvacakam "Sacred Saying" (see note 28 in chap. I). Another major work of the same mystic is Tirukkovaiyar "Sacred Interlace" in 400 quatrains, which due to the impact of tantric ideas is not usually brought under the bhakti corpus; not as sacrosanct as the Tiruvacakam is due to the impact of vamacara (left-hand) erotic ideas. It is considered a poem of the akam genre (dealing with domestic matters, love, separation, reunion and kamalila "sex-plays"). The works under Tiruvacakam "Sacred Saying (or verses)" are given various names such as Empavai (My/Our Maiden), Catakam (the One-Hundred), Venpa (Quatrain) and added with the prefix tiru; e.g. Tiruvempavai and Tiruccatakam (these works are profusely cited in this book without the prefix, tiru). The verses composed by him are 1,050+. The verses of Antal and Manikkavacakar are noted for their melody when sung to a musical rhythm. The aim of the mystics was to find the world in harmony; peace for humanity at large. When one steeped in devotion for Visnu or Siva mutters these hymns he finds solace or universal harmony bubbling in his heart. The Indian saints and seers never preached "war" and "terrorism".


  Foreword vii
  Preface xiii
  List of 'Abbreviations xxi
  List of Illustrations xxxii
Chapter I Devotional Cult: An Introduction 1
Chapter II Beckoning the Presence of Cosmic Peace: Invocations to Visnu 25
Chapter III At the Threshold of Cosmic Harmony: Invocations to Siva 51
Chapter IV Tiruppavai 77
Chapter IV Tiruvempavai 113
Chapter VI Morphological Riddles in 'Nalayiram': Tamil Sources of Vaisnava Iconography 137
Chapter VII Sacred Geography: 'Divyadesas'of the Kaviri Delta 219
  Conclusion 275
Annexure I Visnusahasranama in Art Historical Context 285
Annexure II Sivasahasranama in Art Historical Context 307
  Glossary 321
  Bibliography 329
  Index 353


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