Thevarams are devotional hymns sung in praise of Shiva by the 3 Nayanmars: Sambandar, Thirunavukkarasar and Sundarar. Rendered in an ancient musical style that precedes most Indian classical music systems, these songs give us an insight into the wave of bhakti that swept across southern India during the 7th Century. The Isha Thevaram album is an effort to make these outpourings of immense devotion available to the modern era. The Nayanmars travelled the length and breadth of South India, predominantly in current day Tamil Nadu, and the temples in this region find a place in their songs. The 275 temples mentioned in Thevaram are referred to as “Paadal Petra Thalam,” which literally means “the temples that were sung in the verses”. The singing of Thevaram is still an active process in many Shiva temples in Tamil Nadu.
Here, students of Isha Samskriti have rendered selections of Thevaram, as an offering to today’s world.
1. Invocation (An Introduction to Thevaram)
Tamil culture has been deeply influenced by bhakti or devotion – by hearts that beat for the wellbeing of all life around them. Blessed by Beings who lived in beautiful states of bhakti, the Tamil land has a rich heritage of literary work that was an outpouring of deep spiritual experience. The celebrated Nayanmars are 63 mystics and sages, who inspired many by constantly living in a state of abandon and ecstasy. Living as an offering to life around them, the Nayanmars have left behind Thevaram – an eternal treasure that gives us a taste of absolute dissolution and a profound insight into life.
Sadhguru here speaks about the essence of bhakti, the celebrated Nayanmars, and many more sages, who shone amongst the millions that have walked this land. He speaks about how it is possible for every one of us to access such states of abandon and ecstasy.
2. Thillai Vazh Andhanar
In a humble offering to the 63 Nayanmars, Sundaramurthy Nayanar acknowledges each one of them by referring to their unique qualities. Going beyond themselves in simple yet profounds acts of devotion, these Nayanmars have been etched in people’s hearts and minds for over a millennium.
3. Manthiram Avadhu Neeru
Vibhuti – or sacred ash – is a significant element of the spiritual ethos of Southern India. In a profound expression of his reverence for Vibhuti, Thiru Gnana Sambandar extols its qualities in glorious ways. He says that those who are touched by this sacred ash, are truly blessed.
4. Pitha Pirai Soodi
Out of his compassion for Sundaramurthy Nayanar, Lord Shiva sets a ploy and reminds him of his true self. Overwhelmed, he pours out an immense expression of his devotion describing the many ways in which Shiva has absolutely taken him over. He says, “O shiva! How can I say I am not yours? I am blissfully enslaved to you!
5. Thodudaiya Seviyan
Thiru Gnana Sabandhar was recognised as a holy being at the tender age of 3. One day at the Sattainathar temple, when he cried out in search of his father, it is said that Shiva and Parvathi themselves came down to console him. When he was asked about it, he sang profound verses describing the many glorious ways in which Shiva stole his heart.
6. Vaananai Madhi Soodiya
Thirunavukkarasar, fondly referred to as Appar, was elemental in reaching the essence of devotion to the royal patronage of his time, hence allowing the larger masses access to it. Travelling to various temples, he sang heart rending hymns about shiva, touching people deeply. In awe of Shiva’s form in Thiruvannamalai, he sang this song in devotion, expressing how his existence would mean nothing devoid of Shiva.
7. Madar Pirai Kanni Yanai
When he was more than 80 years of age, Thirunavukkarasar had a strong desire to see Shiva. He started the immense journey to Kailash on foot. His body soon gave away, but his longing kept him going. Touched by his devotion, Shiva played in his favor and gave him a glorious darshan. Overwhelmed with joy, he sang this song – Madar Pirai.