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There is a famous Tamil saying “திருவாசகத்துக்கு உருகார் ஒரு வாசகத்திற்கும் உருகார்”. Translating into English this would mean : “He whose heart is not melted by Thiruvasagam cannot be melted by any Vasagam (saying)
Thiruvasagam meaning sacred utterance is a volume of Tamil hymns composed by the ninth century Shaivite bhakti poet Manikkavasagar. It contains 51 compositions and constitutes the eighth volume of the Tirumurai, the sacred anthology of the Tamil Shaiva Siddhanta.
As the legend goes, Thiruvasagam is the only work which is signed as well as written by Lord Shiva in guise of a Tamil man when narrated by Manikkavasagar. The poet chased the writer but without success. But the palm leaf manuscript had been seen inside the locked sanctum sanctorum of Thillai Nataraja temple with the Lord’s signature.
Manikavasagar‘s Thiruvasagam and Thirukovayar are compiled as the eighth Thirumurai and is full of visionary experience, divine love and intense striving for truth. Though he is not counted as one of the 63 Saiva Nayanars, he is counted as one of the Nalvars (The Four ) consisting of himself and the first three Nayanars namely Appar, Sambandhar and Sundarar.
He was born in an orthodox Brahmin family in Tiruvatavur near Madurai. His father was an adivsor to the Pandya king and he followed his father’s footsteps in becoming the king’s minister. He is believed to be in the 10th or 11th century.
Manickavasgar was the king’s prime minister and renounced his post in search of divinity. The king bestowed his minister to buy horses, but he was taken to divinity by the vision of Siva with his saints. The minister spent his entire sum of money in building the temple at Thiruperunturai, considered an architectural marvel among Hindu temples. From the time, the saint poet wandered to various temples and wrote many devotional hymns on Siva. He was an orthodox Shaivite and represents Bhakti at its highest form in his age.
Tirupperunturai also known as Avudayar Koil, is a Shiva temple where Thiruvasagam is believed to have been originated. Manikkavasagar is said to have converted the king to Shaivism and built the temple with money that had been intended for war-horses.
Work of Manikkavasagar :
Most of the portions in Thiruvasagam is first sung in Thillai Nataraja Temple at Chidambaram. It is considered one of the profound works of Tamil literature and it discusses every phase of spiritual path from doubt and anguish to perfect understanding in Shiva, from earthly experience to teacher-disciple relationship and ultimately freedom from rebirth.
There are 658 poems in the work and along with 400 poems in Tirukovayar by the same author make it the 8th volume of Tirumarai – the 12 volume Tamil Saiva canon. The author finds both theistic and pantheistic ideas corresponding to medieval India, but identifies God with the universe.
Manickavasagar often finds himself unworthy of lord Shiva being his saviour. “கடையவனேனைக் கருணையினால் கலந்து, ஆண்டுகொண்ட விடையவனே” . It is said that this made Lord Shiva feel sorry for Vasagar and immediately bless him. Like any devotional literature, it alternates between joy and sorrow.
List of temples revered in Thiruvasagam :
Annamalaiyar Temple Tiruvannamalai
Vedagiriswarar temple Chengalpattu
Mangalanathaswamy temple Ramanathapuram