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Updated: March 22, 2012 16:03 IST

Its refreshing approach appeals

T.V. VENKATARAMAN
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Thiruvasagam Sila Sinthanigal. Author: A. S. Gnana Sambandan.
Thiruvasagam Sila Sinthanigal. Author: A. S. Gnana Sambandan.

Saint Manickavachagar's Thiruvaachagam is a veritable outpouring of the intense devotional feelings of surrender that he experienced. This great devotee was bestowed the grace to see and hear “what had not been seen or heard.”

When a minister of the Pandya King who is on his way to buy horses, meets a holy person in the company of disciples at Thiruperundurai he instantly knows him to be his guru and recognises Him as no less than Lord Siva Himself. He gives up everything, surrenders to his preceptor, and came to be known as Manickavachagam.

The memorable verses of Thiruvaachagam record the experiences of Manickavachagar in the course of his journey to ‘Sivahood'. The alternating currents of bliss and pain that the saint goes through find a poignant expression in words that are simple, but whose meaning is subtle and profound.

In his path-breaking two-volume tome, ‘Thiruvaachagam – Sila Sinthanaigal,' eminent scholar A. Sa. Gnanasambandan steers clear of traditional explanations on the ground that they fall short of the work's true import. He proceeds to explore the inner-most feelings of the saint in his attempt to get at the more profound meaning of the words and the very structure of the poems.

Comprehensive portrait

He avoids literal meanings, rearranges the words to plumb the depths of the ‘deeper mind' of the saint and proposes a new way of understanding the content. In the process, he arrives at a more comprehensive picture of the saint's mind and heart. This expansion of consciousness, according to the author, can help every reader bring himself closer to God.

In line with this approach, the author considers some of the titles and traditional headings as inappropriate. He also questions the accepted arrangement of the poems and suggests a different classification as being more purposeful and indicative of the steps in the spiritual journey of the saint.

The author also deals with the unresolved issue of the date (when the saint lived) and suggests 9 century CE as the period when the saint lived, in preference to Maraimalai Adigal's date of 3 century CE.

The author's lucid and honest study of Thiruvaachagam enables him to provide a profound insight into the mind of Saint Manickavachagar. From the blissful heights of instant revelation to the shadow of darkness, and from the pangs of separation to the quiet of surrender and acceptance, the saint completes an unparalleled spiritual journey.

The author's sympathetic understanding of the process heightens the value of the study of this great work. All credit goes to the author who blends his scholarship with devotion in offering his thoughts. Scholars and readers will welcome this work for its refreshingly original approach.

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