All devotional works hail the glory (Pugazh) of the Lord and come under the category of Thiru Pugazh but only Arunagirinathar’s works got that title because he alone described the Glory of the Lord truly and completely and rightly deserved the name “Thiru Pugazh”.
Arunagirinatha Swamigal, the author of Thiruppugazh was born around 16th century at Tiruvannamalai, the abode of Lord Arunachaleswara. Feeling guilty for having led a life of sin, Arunagiri decided to end his life by falling from the tower of Tiruvannamalai. It is believed that Lord Muruga Himself appeared as a savior, rescued him and graced him to compose Thiruppugazh. Since Thiruppugazh was composed with the direct blessings of Lord it is considered as the powerful form of prayer. Though Arunagirinathar composed over 16000 songs, only 1400 songs have been retrieved. Thiruppugazh, Kandhar Alamgaram and Kandhar Anuboothi did not hail glory of Muruga alone. It hailed the glory of Shiva, Vishnu, Rama and Krishna.
Arunagirinathar has related Muruga to Rama in two ways. Muruga’s consort, Valli, was the daughter of Maha Vishnu in her previous birth and known as Sundara Valli. So, Arunagirinathar addresses Muruga as Malon Marugan (son-in-law of Thirumal). On another count, Parvathi being the sister of Maha Vishnu, Muruga becomes the nephew of Vishnu, (Maruman). These expressions ‘Malon Marugan’ and ‘Maruman’ frequently appear in his songs.
Most devotional literatures exclusively described either the Glory of Shiva (Periyapuranam, Thevaram etc.) or of Vishnu (Divya Prabhandam, Thiruppavai, Thiruvembavai etc.) but Thiruppugazh is unique because it described the glory of Vishnu and also of Shiva. Most Thiruppugazh songs ended by addressing Muruga as ‘Perumale’, the term generally used for Lord Vishnu. Arunagirinathar composed songs on various aspects of Ramayana. The song “Udukka Thukil” vividly describes events from Sundara Kandam in which Lord Rama, directing messengers in search of Sita, deputes Sri Anjaneya to South. The song describes how Anjaneya reaches Lanka, kills Akshaya Kumaran, spots Sita, consoles her, offers her the Kanayazhi ring, gets Choodamani in return and gives a piece of advice to Ravana at his Darbar. By giving Kanayazhi, the ring worn in the finger of the hand, Lord Ramachandra gives the message that His Abaya Hastha, (the Helping Hand) would always be there for devotees. By giving the Choodamani, the ornament worn in the head, Lordess Sita, gives out the message that her head would always bow down in surrender to the Lord of Ayodhya, the quality required of any devotee.
Arunaginathar brilliantly narrates the events of Yudha Kandam. He says it is Kadirkamam, the abode of Muruga, around which all these events take place and prays for the grace of Malon Marugan. The song ‘Niramaya’ is noted for its poetic beauty and brilliance. The song concludes by relating Muruga with a noble and powerful personality like Rama who has manifested in human form to destroy the evil forces and protect His devotees. Yet another song describes how Lord Surya, Lord Indira and other Devas join the forces led by Sri Ramachandra in his crusade against evil forces led by Ravana.
“Glimpses of Ramayana are so widespread in Thiruppugazh that there is even scope for rendering discourse on “Arunagiri Ramayana”, said the late Rugmani Mami, who was acknowledged as an authority on Thiruppugazh. When this writer met her at Vanaprastham, Coimbatore, she said that Arunagirinathar has composed over 100 songs covering all the Kandams of Ramayana. “Ramayana is not a mere historical event. It is a sacred text which gives the message, loud and clear that truth triumphs ultimately”, she had said. Ramayana is relevant for all of us and at all times”, she added.
Note: This article was published in the July 2008 issue of Sruthivani, the monthly magazine brought out by the Kerala Brahmana Sabha, Thrissur.