There are two main stages in life; the first one is where the individual establishes himself and sets a base from which he could grow further. This is the stage where some basic requirements are to be met, like a home, a happy family, a life free from diseases and a life of peace and prosperity. It is believed that a devotee who prays through Thiruppugazh is blessed with whatever that he aspires for. (Adiyavar ichayil evai evai utrana..). Then Thiruppugazh gradually takes the devotee to the second stage, which elevates him to the higher state of Jnana. The first stage is one where the devotee seeks certain things and the second stage is one where he discards them. The first stage is one where he becomes the possessor and the second stage is one where the possessor himself ceases to exist. The first stage is one where he is attached to his dear and near ones and the second stage is one where he is totally detached from the world. It is his devotion that marked the first stage which paves for the dawn of Jnana. Thus, Thiruppugazh is the unique form of worship which guides the individual from the simple level of devotion to the high state of knowledge, stage by stage. As he progresses in his devotion, the Guru appears, enlightens him and guides him to attain liberation (Mukti). Sri Arunagirinathar sets this twin-objective in his Swamimalai song, “Sarana kamalalayathai”. Just after praying for a life of prosperity (Sakala selva yoga mikka peruvazhvu) he prays for Jnana that liberates him from that life (Thakamai Siva Jnana mukti paragathiyum nee koduthu).
It is the grace of the Guru that makes this possible. Guru may teach us either through songs or through discourse or through silence but just by being with Guru or remaining in the company of Guru, the grace starts flowing. The word ‘grace’ (Arul or Kripai) means the experience of having received the divine blessing. When the devotee establishes his link with the God in his own way, he experiences the grace. One may act in many ways by his knowledge or by his will-power or strength, but what he needs for the ultimate success of his venture is the grace. Almost all songs of Arunagirinathar pray for the grace of Muruga. The songs invariably end with the word “Arulvaye”. The grace which the saint seeks in most of his songs does wonders without even the devotee being aware of it. In the song ‘Ainkaranai yothamanam” every line of the song ends with the word “Arulvaye”. Grace me with a mind by which I worship you with love”, he sings. (Unai anbodu thudikka manam arulvaye” . Manikkavasagar says: “It is only by your grace that I will be able to seek your Lotus Feet.” (‘Avan arulal avan thaal vanangi’). In the song ‘Sivanar Manam Kulira’, Arunagirinathar asks for grace coupled with Jnana. (Arul Jnana Inbamathu purivaye). How to obtain the grace with Jnana? It is only the Guru who can grace us and enlighten us. Just the presence of Guru is enough and the grace comes naturally. Seek the Satsang with a heart full of love and devotion and seek the Lotus Feet of Guru and you attain fulfilment. “Guruvai Varuvai Arulvai Guhane”
There are Gurus and disciples who sing Thiruppugazh melodiously in harmony with Raga and Tala. There are also those who sing Thiruppugazh with full knowledge of the meaning. They are all blessed. There are also others who merely listen to Thiruppugazh without knowledge of music or knowledge of the meaning. But the mere act of listening is enough to be blessed. The moment he lends his ears to Thiruppugazh, he will be able to experience the presence of Muruga within. Just as one establishes a communion with God by singing, the other may attain the same end by listening because there is an-explainable link between the ears and heart. When the devotee is absorbed in listening, he is not far from the state of Dhyana. Prahlada, the embodiment of devotion ranks ‘Sravanam’ (listening), among the first nine ways of attaining liberation (Srimad Bhagavatam).
Another redeeming feature of Thiruppugazh is the way it deals with the question of death, the question which is bothering humanity for long; “what death is all about?”. The impending arrival of Yama, the Lord of Death causes fear because the individual thinks that death deprives him the continuity of the life to which he is used to. Even though the life has not been a bed full of roses, he does not like to leave it and go. The death brings fear because of the uncertainty surrounding it; like when it will come and how it will come. If he fears death because it takes him away from the world, the fear is unfounded because he would only come back to this world in another birth. It is the birth that he should fear about more than death. In his ‘Piravi Alai’ song, Arunagirinathar said: “Like the waves in the ocean that keep rising and subsiding, I have been taking repeated births and deaths. Oh Muruga, lift me up from this swirling waters where I come in circle, from death to life again”. “The life and death seem to be like the waves in the ocean, never ending”, says Arunagirinathar. “Oh! Lord, help me to cross this ocean of Samsara and provide lasting refuge at your Lotus Feet” (Mudiya piravi kadalil pukar… Kandar Alamgaram 33). In his Kandhar Alamgaram, Arunagirinathar says: “Let me go beyond this state of ‘departure and arrival’ and ever remain in the peace of infinite space.” (Pokkum varavum….Alamgaram 73). He who identifies himself with the body takes birth and faces death and he who is conscious of his existence beyond body and mind never dies and never takes birth. The Jnani does not fear death because he has the experience of being separated from the body even while living in the body.
In his song rendered at Thiruvanaikaval, Arunagirinathar says: “Oh Muruga, give me the realization that I am a distinct and divine entity, separate from my body and the world around me” (Jnana achara siraddai yagi, yan veru en udal veru, jaggathi yavum veraka……Anithamana…Thiruvanaikaval song). “Being ignorant of the fact that this body, full of stains, the source of all blemishes, would not survive for ever, I have been trying to boost it up by methods like breathe control, yogic exercise, Sidha practices etc.” said Arunagirinathar in another song (karai padum udambi raadhenak). Yet, in another song, Arunagirinathar says: “I remained under the illusion that this body which is inert and perishable would last forever. Oh Lord, have pity on this ignorant one, who wanders like a dog, elevate him and accord him your graceful Jnana”. (Vanjaka kapata moodi udal vinaithaanE…. Surudhimudi). In the song: “Tholal Suvar Vaithu”, Arunagiri says that this body is a house made of flesh and veins, skin and bones and solicits the grace of Muruga so that he can free himself from the domain of body and reach the Lotus Feet of Muruga. There are many such songs where Arunagirinathar condemns the body and asks the devotees to transcend from the illusion of “I am the body.
Thiruppugazh is the ideal path-way which fulfils his aspirations and also takes him to the right destination, the Lotus Feet of Muruga where he can rest peacefully forever. Through this website, we have made a humble attempt to share what little we know about Thiruppugazh, about its author, Sri Arunagirinathar, about Muruga, the Lord of infinite grace, whose appears from time to time and guides us as Guru and about the devotees in general. May the blessings of Muruga reach all the devotees and disciples.