Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Thirunavukkarasar (Appar) and the revival of Hinduism


Appar swamigal was a spiritual giant of ancient Tamilnadu.( 4 th century AD) Here is the story of his life. He lived in an extraordinarily troubled phase of Hindu religion and let us see how he toppled the politically motivated religious aggression of the Jains and Buddhists.

Appar was born in a Tamil Vellalar family of farmers. His birthplace was Tiruvamur, in central Tamilnadu. Originally named ‘Marul neekkiyar’, he lost his parents at an early age. His sister, Thilakavathiyar, was betrothed to Kalippagaiyar. Before the marriage took place, Kalippagaiyar was killed in battle. Thilakavathiyar refused to marry any other stating that once she thought of someone as life companion , it was final and no other had a place in her life.

Unable to see his sister in sorrow, young Marul neekiyar, drifted away and joined the Jains in Pataliputram (present Kadalur).

He excelled in the study of the scriptures of the Jains and soon was one of their leading scholars. He also got a name from them as ‘Dharmasena’.

His sister, Thilakavathiyar, an astute Shiva devotee, could not bear to see her brother thus gone abandoning the age old Shaiva tradition. She incessantly prayed Lord Shiva for returning her brother to her.

Dharma Sena developed a terrible stomach ache after that. He tried various ways available at that time. His Jain community also tried to cure him by various prayer and healing methods but to no avail. The pains worsened. At this time, he thought his days were numbered and remembered his sister . He went to see her immediately.

His pious sister, knowing her brother's ailment to be Shiva's leela, thanked the Lord in her heart, prayed and took vibhooti ( holy ash) in her hand and applied on her brother's forehead. Instantly, the pains left and Marul Neekkiyar fell on his sister's feet. He realised his mistake and was changed forever.

The Jains could not stomach his leaving their religion.. They had become politically powerful by converting Kings and the nobles. Their complaint to the Pallava King, Mahendra Varma, resulted in Marul Neekkiyar being put into lime kilns. Not only did the ordeal could harm him , but it was like " a faultless Veena, an evening moon, a flowing breeze, the beginning spring, a pond with bee surrounded flowers" as he sang the immortal ' Masil Veenaiyum....'

The Jains now induced the King to order him to be tied to a rock and thrown into the sea. The stone floated and on it sat Thirunavukkarasar ( a name he got later due to his command over the tongue), singing the pathigam ( ten quadruplets) ' Chotrunai Vediyan..'

The King soon realised his grave mistakes and it was Thirunavukkarasar's turn to advise him to take to Shaiva Dharma as his ancestors did.

It was the first blow the Atheistic jains received. Though Thirunavukkarasar was over 50 years when he converted back to Saivism, he went by foot to many Shiva temples in Tamilnadu and sang pathigams on the residing deities. He was joined by the child extraordinaire , Gnana Sambandar to deal deathly blows to Jainism and Buddhism wherever they went. It was Gnana Sambandar who called him as 'Appar' which name stuck.

Appar was a colossus who was a original thinker and was divinity personified. He was arguably the first to start the Bhakthi movement in India that later caught the imagination of the rest of India. His mode of tackling on the alien religions was in fact , very simple. He identified himself with the people, cared for them and helped them.

His life itself was spent in cleaning temples ( called Uzhavarappani in Tamil). But this simple act got him so many followers and his songs ignited the devotional fires among Tamils after many centuries of confusing religious thoughts. Appar advocated simple living, being pious and relying on God Shiva as an ideal supreme God. The miracles he performed on his countrymen was also a factor that steered Tamilnadu away from Jainism.

Appar's songs along with those of Gnana Sambandar and Sundarar form the famous 'Thevaram' , a sacred treasure for Tamil Saivism which are sung to this day by devotees.


Appar's life is a lesson for all those working for a revival of Hinduism towards releasing it from the clutches of self defeating, false secularism . Devotion has to be cultivated in every person and self pride in his beliefs has to be encouraged. Every Bharat builder must be a sadhak himself, trying to realise God. He must seek God before he can ask others to do so. To show the bluff in the fake healing of Christians, he himself must try to become a healer.

Every temple, be it in a dalit colony or be it the richest , must evoke the same devotional spirit in every one of us. We all must become Loud Hindus. By loud I mean, we should overcome shyness to sing His fame aloud in the temples. We must become visible Hindus. By visible , I mean proudly adorning our religious symbols like Vibhhoti, Namam, Thiruman, Kumkum etc. and also by rejecting lungi and western dress in temples. Be a Bold Himdu. By bold I mean , never hesitate to question anything that affects our Hindu society.

Do this and see our Sanatana Dharma engulf not only Bharat but the entire earth.

Jai Bharat


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