Early Life of Campantar
Periya Puranam, the Tamil book on the Nayanars from the eleventh century, serves as the primary source about the life of Campantar. Periya Puranam is the last volume of the Tirumurai. Campantar was born to the parents Sivapada Hrudiyar and Bhagavathiar, in Sirkazhi, located in present day Tamil Nadu. His family was Shaivite Brahmins. Sankaracharya, one of the celebrated poets in the subsequent century mentions Campantar in one of his verses of Saundarya Lahari, as Dravida Shishu, a talented Tamil child, who was fed with divine milk of the goddess Uma.
According to legends, at the age of 3, Campantar was taken to a temple of Lord Shiva by his parents, where the Lord and his wife Parvati appeared in front of him. When his father noticed the drops of milk on Campantar's mouth, he asked who fed him. To reply this, the child pointed to the sky and answered with the song Todudaya Seviyan, which was the first hymn of the Tevaram. During his inauguration with the sacred thread at the age of 7, Campantar is believed to have explained the Vedas with immense intelligibility. Campantar achieved Mukti or liberation in Visaka Nakshtara in the month of Visakam. This happened at the age of 16, after his marriage.
Campantar traveled to the great city of Madurai during the reign of Koon Pandiyan, the Pandyan King. During the period, Buddhism and Jainism were the most popular faiths in south India. Campantar sang hymns, as a traveling minstrel, which opposed to the Buddhist and Jain principles. He is also believed to have deeply influenced the PandyaKing with the conversion from Jainism.
Poetic works of Campantar
Campantar began composing devotional hymns on Lord Shiva from a very early age. He recognized music and dance as admirable art forms that could be effectively used in worship in temples. While praising the magnitude of a temple, Campantar described its natural setting. Thus his poems incorporate various facets of nature which occupy a prime position in the verses. The natural scenic beauty is skillfully woven into the consistency of metrical compositions of Campantar.
The devotional hymns of Nayanmars are categorised into patikams or chapters that contain 10 songs each. But Campantar's patikams comprises of 11 songs each. The 8th poem in every patikam, it consistently states about the efforts of Ravanan to raise mount Kailash, the anguish suffered by him due to this reckless behaviour and his final surrender to Lord Shiva. The 9th poem praises the greatness of Shiva as the Supreme Being who is aloof even from Lord Brahma and Tirumal. The 10th verse is a bitter mockery disparaging the aberrant life led by Buddhist and Jain monks. During this epoch, followers of Buddhism and Jainism gave excessive importance to abandonment.
To reinforce this fervour amongst the devotees, Campantar focuses on the Arttanaricuvara image of Shiva where Umadevi is the left portion of the Lord. Thus, it preaches life assertion. Most of Campantar's devotional hymns provide enormous support and confidence to live a standard worldly life. The followers of Shaiva tradition considered themselves as the incarnation of Lord Kartikeya (Murugan), and not as an ordinary people. In Campantar's Tevaram, metrical compositions such as matakku and yamakam can be found.
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