CHENNAI: The works of mystics are not just great, inspired literature but expression of their coming face to face with God. This is the reason why they have stood the test of time and will have perennial value to seekers of truth. It is not enough if one recites them; one must reflect on each verse and become one with the experience described. The Tirumantiram of Tirumular is one such hymn which has been codified as the 10th in the 12 Tirumurais of the Saiva canon.

Sekkhizhar, who has chronicled the lives of the 63 Nayanmars in his work Periya Puranam, hails the Tirumantiram as the “Tamizh Moovayiram” as it comprises over 3000 verses divided into nine sections (Tantras). The hymns of Tirumular, Tirujnanasambandar, Tirunavukkarasar and Sundaramurthy Swamigal account for half of the entire Tirumurai canon.

In his discourse, Sri T.V.Venkataraman said Tirumular was a great mystic and Yogi, which could be seen from his work. There are internal references to his life’s mission in his work and Sekkhizhar follows the traditional hagiographical account of Tirumular’s life of having come to the world as a Yogi (not born due to Karma). When he was going to meet Sage Agasthya near Sathanur he came across the dead body of a cowherd and the cows he tended wailing near the body. Moved by pity, adept that he was in Yoga, he abandoned his body and entered that of the cowherd and returned them all to their owners. When he returned to the spot his body was not there. Taking it as an act of Lord Siva’s grace he continued to live in the cowherd’s body and immersed himself in penance under a Peepul tree in Tiruvavaduthurai. Tradition recounts that he lived for 3000 years and he came out of meditation every year to compose one verse of the Tirumantiram. Historically he is placed in the 5th century A.D.

The verses of the Tirumantiram are pregnant with meaning and the opening verse in the first chapter of 50 verses in praise of God sums up the entire gamut of Saiva Siddhanta philosophy. In the third verse he describes how he has praised God: as the Lord Almighty who indwells in all equally, as the subtlest of the subtle, and as the one who makes everyone function.