Kolaru Pathigam – A Hymn of Divine Assurance
Kolaru Pathigam is much more than a Prayer or Praise. It is an assurance of Lord Siva’s blessing which is always there, waiting for us to open up our hearts for Him. It assures us that His presence in our hearts will ward off any evil effects of the planets and other forces impacting our lives. It also assures us that the contemplation of His Divine form will enrich our lives with goodness that prevails all the time. In fact, each verse of the Pathigam concludes with this note of assurance.
The last verse of the Pathigam goes one step further and makes this assurance a Divine ordinance by ending with the phrase – ‘Aanai Namathey’, meaning ‘It is our order’. Hence, this Divine Assurance, addressed to the AdiyArs (Devotees) of Lord Siva, is a proclamation of the fact that nothing evil will harm a devotee in whose heart the Lord dwells.
Kolaru Pathigam – A Historical background
Thirugnana Sambandar and ThirunAvukkarasar (Appar) were contemporary Saivite Saints (NayanmArs) who lived during 7th century in Tamil Nadu. During that time, the Pandya Kingdom was ruled by the king Koon Pandyan who embraced Jainism.
The Pandya queen Mangaiyarkkarasiyar, and the chief minister, Kulachiraiyar wanted to show the King the right path and revive Saivism in the Pandya land. Having learnt about the greatness of Sambandar, they sent a message requesting him to visit Madurai so that he could help them bring back the lost glory of Saivism in the Pandya Kingdom.
Sambandar was with ThirunAvukkarasar in the temple-town of ThirumaRaikkAdu (VedAranyam) when the request reached him. Sambandar, who was only seven years old at that time, immediately agreed to go to Madurai. But ThirunAvukkarasar, who himself had been persecuted by the Jains in the past, feared that young Sambandar would be harmed. Further asserting that astrologically it was not an auspicious time for the travel, he tried to dissuade Sambandar from going.
Thirugnana Sambandar responded saying that “If we are devoted to Lord Siva’s Lotus feet, then no harm will come”. He then sang the verses of Kolaru Pathikam, which literally means: “Ten songs that bring deliverance from evil’s hold”.
How the Pathigam is structured
Each verse of Kolaru Pathigam (except the ‘Thirukkadai KAppu’) is structured in such a way that the first line dwells on the Divine attributes and Heroic actions (called Veera CheyalkaL) of Lord Siva. While the first line is all about the general form of the Lord, the second line begins by specifically describing the beauty and sanctity of the Divine Crown. This pattern of describing the Lord’s Murti is found across all the verses of this Pathigam. Having described the crown, the second line concludes with the phrase ‘Ulame Puguntha Athanaal’ meaning ‘With the Lord (in such a glorious form) entering the devotee’s heart’.
The third line of each verse describes in detail about the evil forces and obstacles that will try to impact the well-being of the devotees. The last line is the assurance line: it reminds the devotees of the Lord’s presence in the heart and assures them that, because of His Grace, the forces of evil (mentioned in the third line of the verse) always turn benign and bring nothing but prosperity into their lives.
In most of the Pathigams composed by Sambandar, the last four verses are arranged in a certain order as per their subject and content. Kolaru Pathigam also follows the same pattern in the arrangement of the verses. As per this pattern, the eighth verse of Kolaru Pathigam praises how Lord Siva destroyed Ravana’s ego by crushing him under His Feet. The ninth verse, as in all other Pathigams, talks about the dispute between Brahma and Vishnu to reach the top and base of the luminous pillar that was Lord Siva. The tenth verse talks against non-Vedic religions like Jainism and Buddhism. The eleventh and last verse, known as ‘Thirukkadai KAppu’,which literally means ‘The last verse (of the Pathigam) that gives ultimate protection (to the devotees)’, begins with the first two lines mentioning about Sambandar and his birth-place SeerkAzi and the rest of the lines providing assurance about the benefits of reciting the Pathigam.
Kolaru Pathigam – Verse 1 – Veyuru Tholipangan
miga nalla vInai thadavi
MAsaRu thingaL gangai mudimEl aNinthu
en uLamE puguntha athanAl
NjAyiRu thingaL sevvAy budhan viyAzam veLLi Sani
pAmbu iraNdum udanE
AsaRu nalla nalla avai nalla nalla
adiyAr avarkku migavE.
Whose neck contains the poison consumed from the Sea,
Playing a harp of exquisite beauty,
His head adorned with the flawless moon And the clear waters of the Ganges,
He entered my heart.
(With Him dwelling in the heart,)
All the nine planets that influence the mind:
The Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn
And the two snakes : Rahu and Ketu,
Would always shower benign grace to His devotees
And endow them with bounteous blessings.
Explanation of the first verse ‘VEyuru thOli pangan’ :
All the verses of Kolaru Pathigam begin by describing Lord Siva as One who is always inseparable from Sakthi, as Goodness and Grace together.
In the first verse also, the Lord is mentioned as ‘VEy Uru ThOli Pangan’ which means ‘the Lord whose one Half is Uma, of bamboo-like shoulders’. Here, Bamboo(‘VEy’), which is considered auspicious, becomes a simile for the graceful shoulders of Sakthi.
After describing Lord Siva in His Auspicious form of Ardha-Nareeswara, He is next depicted as ‘Vidam UNda KaNdan’ meaning ‘He whose neck held the poison consumed (from the Ocean)’. This refers to the legend when the Halahala poison rose from the churning of the ocean of milk. Lord Siva, as Sankara, the Graceful One, drank the poison in an act to save the Devas. When the poison reached His throat, Goddess Shakti stopped it from reaching His whole body thereby causing the poison to be held in His neck. Hence Lord Siva got the name “Vidam UNda KaNdan”.
By mentioning this name, the Poet-Saint reminds the devotees that, just as He saved the Devas from the poison, the Lord will eradicate the problems arising as a result of their deeds, thereby helping them reap only the positive fruits of their actions.
Sambandar then goes on to describe the Lord as One who plays the Veena of exquisite beauty. Lord Siva, apart from letting Himself bound by the melodious music arising from the Hymns of His Devotees, is Himself delighted in playing the Makara Veena held in His hand. In this verse, the poet mentions that the Lord, in His blissful state, pleased with the prayers of the devotees, plays the beautiful Veena as He enters the heart of the faithful.
In the second line of the verse, the Saint proceeds to contemplate on the Crescent-crested Crown in which flows the waters of the Ganga. Again, by mentioning the crescent moon and the Ganga, Sambandar implies that, just as the Lord gave refuge to the waning moon and restless Ganga, He will never forsake the devotees who surrender to Him in times of their distress and suffering.
Having described the Crown, the second line concludes with the phrase ‘Ulame Puguntha Athanaal’ meaning ‘When the Lord (with such a glorious form) enters my heart’. This is the anchor phrase that occurs as a mantra in every verse of Kolaru Pathigam. This is the phrase that forms the answer given by Sambandar in response to ThirunAvukkarasar’s concerns regarding his travel to Madurai. This is the phrase that emphasizes the faith that nothing evil will befall when the Lord is present in the heart. This is the phrase that contains the very essence of the Pathigam’s meaning and purpose.
“Mind is the abode of the Lord” – Thus spoke Thirumoolar. In Sri Rudram also, Lord Siva is mentioned as ‘The Chief of all thieves’ – “तस्क॑राणां॒ पतये॒ नमो॒”. Sambandar himself mentions in his first Pathigam as ‘ULLam kavar kaLvan’ – meaning the ‘The thief who captures the hearts (of devotees)’. So, this implies that Lord Siva captures and occupies the hearts of those who contemplate His Divine Form and chant His glory. The presence of the Lord acts as a deterrent against the evil forces that may try to infiltrate the heart.
The third line describes the effects of the Nine Celestial forces starting with Sun and Moon and including the two snakes (nodes) namely Rahu and Ketu. The line concludes with the significant word ‘udanE’ meaning ‘immediately’. This means that, immediately after Lord Siva enters the heart of the devotee, the planetary forces will turn beneficent. This also means that as soon as we think of the Lord, all evil will cease to be. The transformation from bad to good will be instantaneous.
The last line of this verse, as in all other verses of the Pathigam, assures that Lord Siva’s presence in the heart always brings forth prosperity with abundance of wellness in every dimension of the devotee’s life. To allude to this overflow of goodness, the word ‘Nalla’ (good) occurs in this verse five times promising us that His blessings will always be generous and plentiful.
Kolaru Pathigam – Verse 2 – Enbodu kombodu Aamai
Erudhu ERi Ezhai udanEy
Ponpodhi maththa mAlai punal soodi vanthu
En uLamE puguntha athanAl
Onbadhodu onRodu Ezhu pathinettodu ARum
Udan Aya naaLkaL avaithAm
Anbodu nalla nalla avai nalla nalla
adiyAr avarkku migavE.
And His head adorned with the golden Unmatha garland and the waters (of the Ganga),
He entered my heart, seated upon the Bull along with Uma Devi.
With Him dwelling in the heart,
The days 9th, 10th, 16th, 18th and 6th,
Which are generally considered inauspicious (for travel),
Will be beneficent and graceful to His devotees,
And bring them bounteous blessings
And remove all the obstacles on their path to prosperity.
In the universe, all forms are evolved by contrasts or opposites. In the play between heat and cold, light and darkness, positive and negative, masculine and feminine, good and evil all progress is evolved. Lord Siva, the Supreme Lord who directs this progress of evolution and transforms the universe, is Himself paradoxical. With His contradictory and opposite qualities, the Lord symbolizes the cosmic balance achieved through this merging of opposites.
The first verse of the Pathigam depicts Lord Siva in His paradoxical form of ArdhaNareeswara – in which one half of His body is male and the other half is female. The female half is His consort PArvati. In symbolic terms, ArdhaNareeswara embodies both the masculine and feminine energies of the universe.
The second verse also depicts Him with many of these contradictory qualities. First, He is described as Rudra, the wearer of the bones(enbu), the tusk(kombu) and the shell(Amai). At the same time, He is also described as Sankara, seated upon the Bull with Devi by His side. The former depicts Him as One who induces fear and awe. The latter shows Him as the Beloved and Benevolent.
Also, Lord Siva is described as One whose head is adorned with the Unmatha garland and the river Ganga. The Unmatha garland symbolizes obscurity whereas the waters(punal) of Ganga indicate clarity. By wearing them both, the Lord is said to induce both confusion and clearness.
With these contradictory qualities of fierceness – love and confusion – clarity, Lord Siva displays a spectrum of powerful emotions, from unshakeable calm and peace to everlasting love to destructive anger. This paradoxical nature of Lord Siva is invoked in this Pathigam to assure us that, just as He balances out the opposite forces in the universe, the Lord will remove all contradictions in our lives thereby bringing prosperity and well-being.
Also, for the first time in the Pathigam, Nandi, the Sacred Bull (Erudhu) is being invoked. Nandi symbolizes strength, determination and devotion. By depicting Lord Siva as being seated upon the Bull along with Devi, the Poet-Saint assures us that Nandi, as the protector of Dharma, will always ensure that no distractions come between us and our worship of Lord Siva.
The first two verses of the Pathigam serve as the direct answer by Sambandar to two of Saint Appar’s concerns regarding Sambandar’s travel to Madurai. In the words of SekkhizAr, the author of Periya PurAnam, Appar’s first concern was ‘KOl Theeya’ meaning ‘the planetary positions are bad’. That concern was answered by the Pathigam’s first verse. Now, the second concern was ‘Ezhundu aruLa onnAdhu’ which means ‘(days) are not auspicious for travel’. Sambandar answers this concern in the second verse itself.
Just as he lists all the celestial forces in his first verse, Sambandar mentions in this second verse all the days of the month which are astrologically considered inauspicious for travel : 9th, 10th, 16th, 18th and 6th days. Then, almost exactly as the first verse, he assures that these dates, though normally bringing bad fortune to the travelers, will not impact the devotees in whose hearts Lord Siva enters. On the contrary, these days will always bring them bounteous blessings. To emphasize this further, he uses the phrase ‘anbodu nalla nalla’ meaning ‘(these days) will lovingly shower an abundance of goodness (to the devotees)’.