‘Thanigaimani’ Dr V.S. Chengalvarayan who discovered Thiruppugazh


 Chengalvarayan (1)



The year was 1871. The venue was Cuddalore District Court. The case being heard was: ‘who qualifies to perform Puja at Chidambaram Temple”. The existing priests themselves were arguing their case. They said the practice was originally entrusted to the priest community (Dikshitars) whose only profession it was to carry out Puja at temples and who followed certain tradition, norms and principles. “On what authority you are claiming this right?” asked the Judge. They said that the practice was passed on to them through many generation and they were carrying on the tradition for many years with discipline. In order to substantiate their argument, they quoted the following line from Thiruppugazh which gave clear indication that only those Brahmins who have been following daily the norms prescribed in Vedas with devotion and dedication can carry out the Puja in the particular manner prescribed. (Veda noon murai vazhuvame dhinam, velviyal ezhil punai moovayira, menmai vediyar mikave poosanai purikove).

It is not known what impact the song made on the Judge and all others present in the court but it made an enormous impression or Subramanyan, the Writer in the Court. Subramanyan, who remained speel-bound for some time reflected on the song. “This song could not have been composed by a human. There is a divinity behind this song”, he said to himself. After the Court dispersed, he went up to the priests and asked them what this song was and who composed them. The priests explained that this song which begins as ‘Dathu mamalar mudiyale’ was rendered by Sri Arunagirinathar, the author of Thiruppugazh, when he visited the temple of Chidambaram. Subramaniam who was an ardent devotee of Tiruthani Muruga now found a medium to reach his Lord. He then decided to dedicate himself to Thiruppugazh form of worship.

Subramaniam was born to Thanikachalam-Lakshmi couple. ‘Devotion towards Muruga’; the tradition that was deeply rooted and cherished by every successive Vadakkupattu family and flourished over generations, has been passed on to Subramaniam. Subramanian considered himself blessed that he became the torch bearer of such a hoary tradition. He deemed it his duty to nourish this tradition. Brilliant, as he was, he came out in flying colours in his academic journey. Having observed his sincerity and talent, Cuddalore Magistrate, Mr Hudson appointed him as the Writer in the court. It was while performing his duties as Writer he happened to listen to Thiruppugazh, the incident that turned a new leaf in his life. V.T. Subramanyam Pillai, as he is identified, found Thiruppugazh as the ideal means to reach Muruga. Subramaaniam Pillai learnt that the sweet songs of Thiruppugazh are lying in manuscript forms in some dark corners, unrecognized and unsung. He then made it his mission to search the locations where they are lying and bring them to limelight. He met many personalities like Kanchipuram Annamalai Pillai, Pinnathur Srinivasa Pillai, Karunkuzhi Arumuga Iyer etc. and told them that Arunagirinathar composed Thiruppugazh for the benefit of the whole humanity and the message it contained should reach all. His reasoning did go well and he succeeded in convincing them to part with their possessions After getting all the songs, he compiled them and published them. The book received overwhelming response and soon a second volume was also published.

The process of bringing out the treasure of Thiruppugazh and sharing it with all devotees, initiated by Sri V.T. Subramaniam Pillai was carried on with equal zeal and enthusiasm by his son, Sri Chengalvarayan. Chengalvarayan started his career in the Registration Department of the Government. By virtue of his merit, dedication and involvement, he rose to the level of Personal Assistant to the Inspector General of Registration. Acknowledging the service he has rendered to the Administration, he was awarded the title “Rao Sahib”. Even while the spirit of service characterised his role as a Public Servant, it was the spirit of devotion that was conducting him throughout. His devotion only helped him to carry out his duties sincerely and truthfully.

Sri Chengalvarayan decided to carry on the work initiated by his father. He wrote research articles on Kandar Anubhuti and Kandar Alamagaram. He took the help of his brother, Shanmugam and collected additional Thiruppugazh songs. He then brought out the comprehensive third volume of Thiruppugazh. This thbird volume was well arranged in the order of Arupadai Veedu, Pancha Bootha Sthalas, common songs of different regions, Kandar Anubhuti, Kandar Alamgaram, Kandar Andhadi and Thiruvakuppu. A biographical note on Saint Arunagirinatha Swamigal, a research write-up on Chantam (rhythm), hymns in praise of the saint and analytical research notes on the saint’s works were also incorporated. It is this work that serves as the basic source for all the subsequent works on Arunagirinathar and his compositions. Chengalvarayan did extensive research on Thiruppugazh.and brought out an outstanding work, “Arunagirinathar Varalarum, Nool Araichiyum” (Life history of Sri Arunagirinathar and research study on his works). Thiruppugazh Anbargal Mumbai have made this splendid works accessible to all in their website. During the Thiruppugazh Festival held at Palani, in 1943, Sri Chengalvarayan was honoured with the title ‘Thanigaimani’ by the Head of Sooryanar templeSri Meenakshi Sundara Desikar. Muruga devotees are indebted to Sri Subramanyan Pillai and Sri Chengalvarayan for the invaluable service they have rendered in presenting Thiruppugazh to posterity. It was Sri Vallimalai Sachidananda Swamigal who took the glory ofThiruppugazh to greater height.

When Dr U. VaSwaminatha Iyer, the great Tamil Scholar, was laid up with ailment, Chengalvaraya Pillai came to see him and enquire his welfare. The delighted Swaminatha Iyer caught up Chengalvaraya Pillai’s hands, placed them reverentially against his eyes and said: “These are the precious hands that did extensive research on Thiruppugazh”.Moved by emotion, Chengalvaraya Pillai touched the feet of Swaminatha Iyer and remarked: “These are the precious feet that walked long distances seeking Thamizh literature of Sangam era.” Such was their mutual appreciation of the qualities of the other.