It was sometime in the early 60s. Among the multitude of devotees who assembled at the holy town of Palani on the occasion of Thaipoosam, Sri Subramania Iyer, my father was also one. Being an ardent devotee of Lord Muruga, my father regularly went on a pilgrimage to Palani to worship his most favourite God, Lord Muruga. While camping at the residence of his friend, Muthu Iyer, he happened to hear a bhajan. While the face of the singer displayed a unique mark of divinity, the song he rendered was very soul-stirring. There was some power in those lyrics that captivated my father. When the singer completed his rendering, my father went near him and conveyed his appreciation. As they got acquainted, the singer enquired whether everything was going well at home. “No” replied, my father. “After the marriage with my daughter, my son-in-law had left promising that he would come back, but he never came back. It is two years now and we keep on praying to Lord Muruga”, my father said. “Don’t worry. Recite Thiruppugazh; all your problems would be over”, Sri Mani Iyer said. My father who had settled down in Kerala and was not well versed with even Tamil alphabets wanted to know more about Thiruppugazh. “Why don’t you come down to Kerala with me and teach us some basics of Thiruppugazh”, he enquired. The singer, known as Calcutta Thiruppugazh Mani Iyer who was leading a saintly life, readily agreed despite having many prior engagements. He came to our house and then within few days of stay had created a history of sort. Now looking back in retrospect, what he has done was a miracle. He has transformed the life style of not just Subramania Iyer but his entire family members and relatives. Every member of our family started singing Thiruppugazh songs flawlessly and fluently. They could recite any song, whether ‘Arumugham or “Athala Seda Narada”, easily from memory. My mother could recite Kandar Anubhuti and Alamgaram without referring to book. Soon, as suggested by Sri Mani Iyer, we have programmed a 41-day Thiruppugazh recital in the nearby Ganesa temple. Every evening, we promptly reached the temple and all together rendered Thiruppugazh with great devotion. On the concluding day, a large audience turned up to listen to the unique Thiruppugazh bhajan that was unheard of in Kerala.
We have heard of miracles happening elsewhere but that day, we actually witnessed miracle happening right in front of our eyes. Just as the Deepa Aradhana (camphour light offering) was over and the devotees were dispersing, we saw what we could not believe. The son-in-law whose return and reunion with my sister, Janaki, was the central point of our prayer was sitting just in a corner. When enquired, he said that for no particular reason he selected this day to come and take back Janaki to Madras. We were delighted and thanked Muruga for answering our prayer.
In Kandar Anuboothi, Arunagirinathar prayed that Muruga should appear before him as a Guru and guide him. (Guruvai Varuvai Arulvai Guhane). We experienced that Muruga appeared in the form of Sri Mani Iyer, acted as our Guru and initiated us to Thiruppugazh form of worship. Thanks to Guru Sri Mani Iyer, the light of devotion he kindled in our heart has grown like a flame of knowledge and continues to guide us. We still remember the words Mani Iyer uttered when he was departing from our house: “Thiruppugazh is not a mere set of songs. It is a form of worship, a culture, a way of life, a doctrine and above all a path that would elevate one to the state of liberation. Nourish this culture and pass it on to future generations.”
With the passage of time, our family members had settled down at different places but wherever they went they carried the book of Thiruppugazh. They seldom needed the book as they knew most of the songs by heart. It was not the Thiruppugazh book that went with them. It was the Thiruppugazh culture, the devotion and utter humility that went with them and guided them in every stage of life. Though I went to distant places like Patna in an effort to build my career, I never lost touch with Thiruppugazh. I was driven by a desire to know more about Thiruppugazh. I studed the detailed research work of Sri V.S. Chengalvaraya Pillai, “Arunagirinathar Varalarum Nool Araichiyum”. Though I knew the songs, I never knew their meaning. I went through the works of Sri Krupananda Variyar where he had given translation and interpretation to all songs. It was the time when Guruji Sri A.S. Raghavan was creating a powerful Thiruppugazh movement across the country. The group was called, Thiruppugazh Anbargal and all members were united with the bond of love and devotion. Soon, it was evident that Thiruppugazh is an ocean from where many precious treasures can be obtained. I found glimpses of Ramayana and Mahabharata in it. I found traces of Vedas and Upanishad in it. It was more than a prayer. It was a gate-way to jnana (knowledge). It revealed the truth as highlighted in our scriptures. At Coimbatore where I settled, the learning process of Thiruppugazh continues under the guidance of Sri N.V. Vaidyanathan.
First, I found Thiruppugazh as a means for the fulfillment of my various earthly desires. Soon, I realised that my aim is not ensuring material prosperity here. My aim is to secure liberation from the repeated process of life and death. “You may even be able to count the sand particles from the shore of seven seas but you cannot count the number of life and death that you may have to take”, says Arunagirinathar (Ezhukadal Manalai Alavidil..).
Arunagirinathar has composed Thiruppugazh in such a way that it fulfills the aspirations of devotees in different levels of understanding. Apart from being a work that describes the glory of Muruga, Thiruppugazh is also a good expression of devotion, a set of prayer for the fulfillment of different aspirations of devotees and a store-house of knowledge.
Whatever little gems and pearls that I collected from this vast ocean of Thiruppugazh, I decided to share them with other devotees by way of a book. With the grace of Lord Muruga, my humble work “Thiruppugazh, Glory to Lord Muruga” was launched in 2005. The book received overwhelming response from devotees in general and is getting ready for the release of second edition.
Normally, a flight runs through the tarmac for some time and then gradually takes off the ground and goes higher and higher. Thiruppugazh often reminds me of a flight that initially passes through the earthly aspirations of the devotees and then lift them up to higher and higher state of knowledge where the devotee forgets his individual aspirations and seeks unity with the eternal reality which the vast space symbolises. In Kandar Anubhuti, Arunagirinathar gives expression to this experience: “Having liberated myself from worldly affiliations, I have reached an exalted state where my individuality has been over-powered and I remained conscious of my supreme Self” (Yanakiya Ennai Vizhungi ….Anubhuti 60). This is the state of enlightenment that leads to salvation of the soul at the Lotus Feet of Muruga. Kandar Anubhuti is the true reflection of the aspiration of the individual soul eager to merge with the Supreme.
“Thiruppugazh is a musical mantra, powerful enough to transform a life into one of enlightenment and bliss.” said Sri Seshadri Swamigal. “Oh Arunagiri, who else can compose a word of truth as beautifully as you”, said saint Thayumanavar. “Oh Thiru Perur Kumara, as your enchanting body is adorned with garlands weaved by Arunagiri, I feel the aroma of fragrance from you”, said Chidambara Swamigal. “The songs of Thiruppugazh are so powerful that they would reverberate all over the world and kindle the light of devotion in one‘s heart”, said Arunachala Reddiyar. It is a great privilege and blessings to be able to author book on a subject such as Thiruppugazh which has been hailed by great saints and seers, which, as a prayer is believed to have the divine sanction of Lord Muruga Himself and described by pundits as an outstanding work of devotion. But for the grace of Muruga, the task such as this would never have been possible.
This website, which was first created to coincide with the release of my book “Thiruppugazh; Glory to Lord Muruga”, has passed through many stages. It was at Tiruvannamalai, the abode of Arunachala, where, at the northern side of the tower Arunagirinathar got darshan of Lord Muruga (Adalarunai Thiru Gopurathe Antha Vayilukku Vada Arukil Senru Kandu Konden). While from the northern side of the temple, Lord Muruga blessed his devotee Arunagiri the power and jnana to compose Thiruppugazh, Arunachala, the presiding deity beckoned another devotee at Madurai who heard the call and came down to Tiruvannamalai, embraced the Lord and became one with Him.
Thiruppugazh which is considered as the quaint-essence of all ancient scriptures cannot be the work of any human and it is believed that Lord Siva himself manifested as Arunagirinathar to sing the praises of his son Muruga. Similarly, there is a view that Lord Muruga has manifested as Sri Ramana Maharshi; a view fully subscribed by disciples like Sri Muruganar and Sri T.K. Sundaresa Iyer. Sundaresa Iyer cited a Sanskrit Sloka in praise of Muruga where he substituted the word Ramana wherever the word Muruga appeared. The song originally addressed to adore Muruga as the Destroyer of Ignorance, the Cave Dweller, resident in the cave of heart and as one who brought pure awareness applied ideally to Sri Ramana Maharshi as well. Sri Sachidananda Swamigal who pioneered the Thiruppugazh movement explained his experience at Ramanasramam thus: “I was sitting in the corner of the Ashram hall with eyes closed, engrossed in reciting Thiruppugazh songs. When I opened my eyes, I could not believe my eyes. Maharshi was standing before me with his Dhanda in his hand. For a moment, I experienced Palani Dhandayuthapani was standing right in front of me.”
“Oh Lord Muruga, grant me the bliss of knowledge that would lead me to your Lotus Feet” (Arul Jnana Inbam Athu Purivaye) so sang Arunagirinathar. Let us seek Jnana wherever it comes from. This website which was started to introduce my book, ‘Thiruppugazh, Glory to Lord Muruga” has got many contents added over the years. I hope apart from the main manu of Thiruppugazh, this website would serve the spiritual aspirations of readers in different levels of perception. However, you lose nothing by skipping because ultimately you get the right vision from within. As Carl Jung said “He who looks outside dreams and he who looks inside awakens.”