(Last Updated on : 24-01-2013)
Tirunavukkaracar, which means Lord of Language or King of the Tongue, was a Tamil
poet saint and a follower of Shaivism
from the 7th Century. He was one of the most prominent of the sixty three Nayanars and an older contemporary of Campantar. Tirunavukkaracar was born as Marulneekkiyar; he was called Appar, meaning Father, by Campantar
. According to Tiruttondartokai by Sundarar, Tirunavukkaracar composed almost 4900 hymns of 10 verses each, which is repeated by Nambi Andar Nambi and Cekkilar, but only 3130 hymns are extant now. These are compiled into the Tirumurai with the compositions of Cuntarar and Campantar, Tirunavukkaracar containing his own volumes, known as Tevaram.
Early Life of Tirunavukkaracar
Tirunavukkaracar was born as Marulneekiar, during the mid 7th century in Tiruvamur, Tamil Nadu
. Thilagavathiar, his sister, was engaged to a military commander who died in battle. Appar was very much fascinated with Jainism and began studying Jain scriptures. Tirunavukkaracar went away from home and travelled to Pataliputra
to reside in a Jain monastery. There he was named Dharmasena.
Later Life of Tirunavukkaracar
Information about the life of Tirunavukkaracar can be sourced from the hymns composed by him and also from the last book of the Tirumurai known as Periya Puranam by Cekkilar. During his stay in the monastery, he became afflicted by severe illness and eventually went back to his home. He prayed for liberation at the temple of Lord Shiva where his sister Thilagavathiar served. Soon he was cured and he sang his first song Kootrayinavaru Vilakkaghileer. His re-conversion provoked Mahendravarman I
, the Pallava
king, to involve him in numerous torments and punishments. Tirunavukkaracar overcame every chastisement and converted the king himself.
Tirunavukkaracar is believed to have lived with his sister in Atikai for many years before traveling other temples of Lord Shiva to sing his praise. He heard of Campantar and met him at Sirkali. Campantar reverently addressed him as Appar (father) and they travelled together singing hymns of Shiva. It is widely believed that Tirunavukkaracar
travelled to around a hundred and twenty five temples in various towns and villages in the Tamil country. At the age of 81, He accomplished union with Lord Shiva
(Mukti) at Tiru Pukalur Siva temple in the Tamil month of Chithirai.
Tevaram of Tirunavukkaracar
The hymns of Tirunavukkaracar in Tevaram are compiled into 3 books, which forms the fourth, fifth and sixth volumes of the Tirumurai, the canon Tamil poetry of Shaiva Siddhanta. The collection of these books is normally attributed to Nambi Andar Nambi (10th Century CE). Few of his songs are set to various Panns, the melodic modes of Ancient Tamil music. The other hymns are set in Tirunerisai and Viruttam metres. Tirunavukkaracar was the only one among the 4 kuravars to visit the Tirukokarnam shrine at the Indian western coast. He sang 312 hymns comprising 3056 stanzas of devotion. He was a great scholar both in Tamil and Sanskrit
. Appar was much adept in Tiruttantakam poems and so he was praised as Tantakaventar, meaning the king amongst the composers of Tiruttantakam.
The devotional songs of Tirunavukkaracar portray his devotion, self-effacement and profound humility. Tirunavukkaracar's Tevaram does not contain any emphatic or insistent words. It is believed that he sung many thousand hymns, but only 3066 of them are available at present.