yAzhpanam Arumuga nAvalar

யாழ்ப்பாணம் ஆறுமுக நாவலர்

Yazhpanam Arumuga Navalar kindled the renaissance spirit in the Tamil Shaivites in Yazhpanam (Jaffna) and the rest of ilangai (Srilanka). This biography of this great devotee is based on the work by Sri. S.Shivapadasundaram.


The name of Arumukha Navalar is held in high esteem all over the Shaiva world of today. Men holding opposing views on Shaiva observances are seen vying with one another in attempting to quote his words, however irrelevant they may be, in support of their respective opinions. But, most people know next to nothing of his glorious life. This little book is a humble attempt to give the English-knowing public a very brief account of his noble life. My nephew, Pandit Sambandhan, proposes to issue a Thamil version of this, as the Thamil biographies already in the field are too voluminous to the ordinary reader.

This book is based on the writings of Navalar and on the biography written by his illustrious nephew, the late Sri T. Kailasa Pillai of Nallur. I am conscious of my incompetency to undertake this work. But, I consider that even a meager and slipshod account of Navalar has a value, and that this may impel some accomplished biographer to write a book worthy of that great saint.

S. Shivapadasundaram
July 19th, 1950.


Srila Sri Arumukha Navalar was born at a propitious hour. The shaiva Religion was panting for him. The Thamil language was thirsting for him. Jaffna was longing for him. The Shaiva Religion had been in the strangle-hold of alien forces for two centuries. Thamil Literature and Grammar were gaoled in Palmyra leaves. Jaffna had no leader and was groping in the dark. Navalar came, saw and gave them all relief.

The Portuguese came to Jaffna at a time when persecution was the order of the day in Europe. In England, it began with Queen Mary, who conducted it with such fury as gave her the name of Bloody Mary, and went on for nearly a century with unabated callousness. France witnessed the massacre of thousands of Protestants on a single day, St. Bartholomews’ day. So, when the Portuguese conquered Jaffna, they pursued the policy of their motherland, and persecuted the people, who were all Shaivites. Several of these fled to India and settled at Vedharanyam and Chidambaram. The most distinguished of these was Gnanaprakasa Munivar, to whose honoured family belongs our great Navalar. The vast majority of those who remained in Jaffna adopted the via media of professing the Catholic religion and following the Saiva religion. The rest were genuine Catholics.

Those who adopted the via media were actually unable to follow their religion in its essential details. Their inability to attend to their religious observances such as temple worship, fasting and initiation, left them very little Shaivaism to follow, thus, they became as much nominal Shaivites inwardly as they were Christians outwardly.

When the Portuguese were compelled to bid good-bye to Jaffna, these nominal Christians threw off their Roman Catholic cloak and began to profess Shaivaism. But, as I said just now, they had little Shaivaism left. The Dutch, who followed the Portuguese, were less severe but were none the less anxious to impose their faith on the people. This they did more by insidious methods than by direct action. The birth of Protestantism in Jaffna was due to them.

The advent of British rule gave the Shaivites of Jaffna some respite. The Shaivites felt that they were fairly freed. Shaiva Priests came from Vedharanyam and revived Shaivaism in a few centre’s. But, priests of other religions also came, not merely to look after the people of their own faith, but with the avowed object of winning Shaivites to their religion and of undermining Shaivaism. They came, not as individuals, but as mission bodies. No other part of Ceylon was subject to missionary domination so much as Jaffna. The Shaivites had lost their backbone, in consequence of two centuries of foreign aggression. The missionary offered food, clothing, cash, service and English Education, in return for apostasy. A large number of Shaivites were lured by these baits, forsook their religion and became Christians. Several of them were made pastors to draw their brethren to the Christian fold. These men were more sincere than those who professed Christianity through fear of persecution in the time of the Dutch and the Portuguese. The missionary told them that Shaivaism was the religion of an ignorant, superstitious, barbarous people, whereas Christianity was the religion of the most enlightened peoples of the world. But, most of them did not completely give up their faith in the religion in which they were born. The Shaivites who remained steadfast in their own religion took no action to counteract missionary aggression. Shaivaism was then at its lowest ebb.

It was then that the land gave birth to the Avatara Purusha. He rejuvenated Shaivaism, brought out its latent powers, and fully armed it for defense, and even for offence.

The Thamil language did not suffer in consequence of foreign rule. It had several great scholars. But, it was laboring under two disadvantages, the less serious of which was the malicious jealousy of its custodians. The Pandit was not prepared to reveal to others the results of his own work. He taught only what the Pandit class knew. With him perished the fruits of his labour. The handicap of the student of Thamil was that Thamil books were not in print. Every pupil had to write on palmyra leaves every book that he wished to study. Arumuga Navalar printed the more important Thamil works in a press of his own. He wiped out literary monopolies by becoming a teacher himself, and spread knowledge far and wide by writing and preaching. He is said to have been the first preacher in the Shaiva world, and to have introduced the word ‘prasangam’ (Sorppolivu) to denote preaching.


Navalar was born at Nallur on the 18th of December, 1822. He belonged to the clan of Karkattavellalas and his family had long been well known for Thamil scholarship. One of the most distinguished members of his family was Gnanaprakasa Muniver, who was a great Agamic scholar and who wrote eight Sanskrit works and a commentary on Sivagnanasiddhiar in Thamil. Navalar’s great grandfather, Ilankai Kavala Mudaliyar, his grandfather Paramanander, and his father, Kandar, were all employed under Government, and were also eminent Thamil scholars. His father was also a play-Wright, physician and author of several Thamil medical works. Navalar had four elder brothers, all of whom entered Government service. He had three sisters, one of whom was the mother of Vidva Siromani Ponnambalapillai.

He received his early education in a small school, conducted by Subramaniapillai. Till his ninth year, his extra ordinary intelligence had not attracted the attention even of his teacher. When he was nine years old, his father died. He saw that his father had been composing a Thamil play and had left it incomplete. He completed it. His brothers were struck by this wonderful performance, and sent him for higher studies, first to Saravanamuttu Pulavar, and then to his teacher, Senathiraja Mudaliar. His teachers taught him at the usual rate, but soon found that their ration only kept him in starvation. They, therefore, gave him everyday what they would give others for a month. He always got up at 4 o’ clock in the morning and began his studies immediately after his religious observances. The only break in his study during the day was the meal time. He had a delicate constitution and he never took any kind of bodily exercise. He was a perfect stranger to sports and games. His head alone was massive. He completed his Thamil studies in his twelfth year. He was then sent to the Methodist English School in Jaffna to study English. He soon gained proficiency in the language, and the head teacher of the school, Rev. Peter Percival, asked him to teach English in the lower classes and Thamil in the upper classes. Navalar spent his spare time in the study of Sanskrit and religious philosophy.

In his nineteenth year he was offered the work of translating the Bible into Thamil. He proposed to accept the offer on condition that he was free to follow his religious observances, to preach Shaivaism and to criticize other religions. The Rev. Gentleman had to accept him on his terms, as he could not get another like him to do the work. He also availed himself of this opportunity to study Thamil Literature and Grammar under Navalar. He was so much benefited by his teachings that he often referred to him as his Guru.

Navalar had to study commentaries on the Bible and other biblical works so that his translation might be true to the original and carry with it the spirit of the work. When the translation was completed, Rev. Percival took him to Madra, where the Bible had been translated by a body of Pandits. The two translations were compared, and several points of disagreement were found in them. They were, therefore, submitted for choice to great scholar in Madras, who, not only recommended the Jaffna translation, but also admired the scholarship of the translator. The mission accepted this translation and published it. The translation of the Bible gave Navalar a mastery of the Christian religion, which proved to be of great value to him in his work as religious teacher.

While Navalar was engaged in this work, he studied the methods adopted by missionaries to spread their religion. He also saw how his own religion was languishing, partly by the neglect of its followers and partly by missionary aggression. He, therefore, took to the study of the Saiva Religion, soon mastered the Shaiva Sidhanta works in Thamil and studied Devaram and Tiruvachakam. Concurrently with these, he studied Sanskrit grammar and literature. He then proceeded to the study of the Shivagamas, which form the ultimate authoritative works of Shaivaism. He had to be content with the study of the few Agamas which were then available. He studied Upanishads and Puranas also. Besides these, he studied the Upagamas, Paddathies and several miscellaneous works. Pandit S. Ganapathipillai has, in his introduction to Arunachala Kavirayer’s Life of Navalar, given a list of over eighty books quoted by Navalar in his works.

He was thus master of Thamil literature and grammar, of the Kriya Kandam and the Gnanakandam of Shaivaism, possessing good scholarship in Sanskrit and a fair knowledge of English. He was an acute thinker, an able versifier, a facile writer, eloquent speaker, and brilliant controversialist. But all this means no more than that he was a painstaking and mighty genius. There must have been several such geniuses both in Jaffna and in South India. These did not however become Arumuka Navalars. Along with knowledge, grew his love of God and Love of truth. There was in him a close co-ordination between knowing and doing. What he knew to be good and right he always did. His love of God elevated his spirit, and his love of truth created in him a burning passion to spread the truth. These are what made him the great Navalar that he was.


Navalar’s heart was filled with the woes of his country. The thought of marriage could not enter his head. His brothers tried in vain to get him married. But he was determined to be a bachelor all his life.

He began his public work in his twenty-third year. He got together a number of young men who had attained scholarship in Thamil, and taught them Thamil Literature and Shaiva Religion in the morning and in the evening. The most brilliant among these were Sadasivapillai, Nataraja Aiyar and Arumukhapillai. Sadasivapillai followed the footsteps of his Master, made a vow of celibacy, and became Navalar’s lieutenant. Later, he took full charge of Navalar’s Printing Press in Madras. After the passing away of the Master, he conducted not only the press but also Navalar’s school at Chidambaram. Nataraja Aiyar specialized in religious study and devoted himself to the teaching of Shaiva Philosophy. Arumukhapillai chose to remain a bachelor, joined the Adhinam of Tiruvannamalai as a Tambiran, and wrote a commentary on Periapuranam.

Among those who formed the second batch of Navalar’s students were his nephew, Ponnambalapillai, Vaidyalingapillai and Sentinatha Ayer. Ponnambalapillai was as great a Thamil Scholar as Navalar himself became a teacher and produced a large number of Thamil Scholars, chief of whom were Sabapathy Navalar and commentator Veluppillai. Vaidyalingapillai became the head teacher of his Master’s school at Vannarponnai, and served in that capacity for several years. Sentinatha Aiyer devoted himself to the study of Religion, and wrote several works, the most remarkable of which was his admirable translation of Nilakanta Bhashyam.

Navalar’s work as teacher thus fully justified his purpose and expectations. He produced a number of Navalars.

Two years later (1847) he turned to preaching. He selected the Vasanta Mandapam of the Shivan Temple at Vannarponnai for this work, and delivered lectures on Friday evenings. Karthikeya Aiyer, who had been his classmate and had caught his religious spirit, became his co-worker. The subjects of the lectures included the existence of God, worship of God, love of God, love of religion, Shiva pooja, Shiva Deeksha, Temple festivals, the purpose of life, the termination of life, abstinence from meat and abstinence from drinks. It happened once that Kartikeya Aiyer was unable to be present on a day fixed for him. The audience requested Navalar to take his place. He said that he was unprepared. The assembly insisted that he ought to lecture to them. He chose unpreparedness (to death) as the subject of his discourse and seemed to have done much better than on days when he had prepared the subject.

His words were not words carrying mere sense. They carried conviction and compulsion. They compelled the hearers to practice what they had heard. A good number of them received Shiva Deeksha, gave up meat eating, became regular temple-goers, and adopted Shaiva acharam. He soon extended his sphere of activity and preached in the villages also. In some of these villages, he established schools and provided them with funds. His Kopay school is even today in a flourishing condition. But, the Puloly School was badly managed by those who were in charge of it, and was ultimately closed. He got others to establish schools at Kandarmadam, Colombogam, Inuvil and Matagal.

While building up Shaivaism he took care also to fortify it against the inroads of Christian Missionaries. He saved two of his classmates from the snares of the missionary. These were M. Tillainathapillai and S. Chinnappapillai, who had promised the missionary to receive baptism and to become Christians on a certain day. He pointed out to them the excellences of Shaivaism and the flaws in Christianity so clearly and effectively, that they gave up the idea of being baptized. The former became a devoted follower of Navalar and joined his school as a teacher. The latter qualified himself as a Proctor of the Supreme Court, and rendered valuable service to Shaivaism.

He also wrote books such as Subra Bodham and Shaiva Dooshana Parikaram, with which he repelled the attacks made by Christians on our religion. Of the latter book, the Wesleyan Methodist report for 1855, printed in England, says, “The amount of scripture brought to the defense… is most surprising, and the adroitness with which every possible objection is anticipated and repelled belongs only to a first rate mind. The book is doing much mischief."

In Subra Bodham, Navalar says that those who interpret the Puranas do not know even the fundamentals of Shaivaism and speak of Shaiva and Subramanya as actually marrying their Saktis. Those who know anything of religion know that God is formless and omnipresent and “that it is absurd to speak of God marrying anyone.” Navalar also condemns in this book the hellish practice of nautch dance in temples, and exhorts temple managers to replace it by the recital of Devaram and by religious lectures.

In his Yalpanasamayanilai, he exposes the frauds of the missionary and of the converts - The missionary tried at first to convert our people by means of preaching. He had no success. He then established schools expecting to win over the pupils and those who offered to serve under him as teachers. But, there were Government schools at that time, which most people preferred. The missionary was, however, able to persuade Government to close its schools. He thus became undisputed master of the educational field. Shaivites turned Christians to become teachers. The padre made priests of some of these and gave them the title of reverend. (Navalar says “as paddy and rice became dearer, the little of reverend became cheaper and cheaper”). Even these reverends were good Shaivites in their heart of hearts. They went to Shaiva temples and made contributions for pujas and festivals. The Christian teacher had to keep up appearance only during school time. The padre knew that most of his converts had no faith in Christianity. But, he kept them on for two reasons. He had to report a large number of conversions every year to the missionary society in England or America. Otherwise, he would lose his job. Secondly, though these men were nominal Christians, their descendants were likely to be true Christians. Navalar gives four instances of Christians cheating the missionary. They were of interest at that time as those men were then living. As they are now dead and gone, I am not disposed to give even a sample.

While Navalar stood mainly on the defensive, his friends, Sankara Pandithar of Neerveli and Damodarampillai B.A.B.L., made frontal attacks on Christianity. Visvanathapillai, who was one of the two who first graduated at the Madras University, (the other being Damodarampillai) was a Christian and attacked Shaivaism. Later, he repented, became a Shaivite, went to Chidambaram, atoned for his writings by cauterizing his tongue with a heated gold pin, and became a faithful follower of Navalar.

Whenever Navalar saw anywhere a glaring breach of Shaiva observance, he condemned it unsparingly in leaflets or lectures. He severely attacked the mercenary and heterodox life led by Shaiva priests. In one leaflet, he asks, “some men of the climber class have given up toddy-drinking, and some pulayas have given up beef eating, and have mended themselves; on the other hand, some bare-fore-headed velalas eat beef and drink arrack in the company of Christians, and there are Shaiva priests and Brahmin priests who perform funeral obsequies and wedding ceremonies for them; who are more respectable, the former or the latter?”

Having worked towards the removal of the abuses in Shaiva religious observances, he proceeded to do constructive work by writing books on Shaivaism. His first catechism and second catechism give in a nutshell what every Shaivite ought to know of his religion. He published them and sold them for a nominal price. It so happened that almost every Shaivite who could read, got a copy of his first catechism, studied it and tried to follow it. This little book, more than anything else shaped the life of the people and made them good Shaivites, Every Thamil teacher made it a point to teach it. It thus found its way into almost every Shaivite home. Children had also to commit to memory the stotrams included in it. There was no one in those days who did not know the Stotrams of Vinayaka (மண்ணுலகத்தினில் பிறவி...) and Subramanya (மூவிருமுகங்கள் போற்றி...). Exactly fifty years ago, I heard a grown-up man, a cholera attendant singing மூவிருமுகங்கள் போற்றி..., as he was going in the night to the cholera hospital, hoping to drive away cholera spirits by the repetition of this Stotram. His fourth reader is a mine of religious information. It contains the essence of the Shivagamas and may / will be used as a reference book. Whenever a doubt arises about religious observances, one has only to refer to it and clear the doubt.

He attempted to renovate two ancient temples. There had been a Shivan Temple at Keerimalai, but somehow it had disappeared. He wrote a pamphlet about it and exhorted the public to rebuild it. There was a good response. He went to Keerimalai, inspected the place, found out the old site, and made a ground plan of the temple. He interested some Brahmin priests in it, who undertook the work.

The other temple was Thiruketheeshvaram, the site of which he made out from the Devarams of Sambander and Sundarar. The temple had disappeared, and the site of the temple had lapsed to the crown. He applied to the Government for the sale of the site. But, Mr. Twynam, who was then Govt. Agent of the Northern Province, did not recommend the sale. He, therefore, made and appeal to the Shaiva public as follows:

“There are two Shivan Temples in Ceylon, which were sung by the Devaram Hymnists. Tirugnanasambanda moorti Nayanar has sung a Devaram in praise of Tirukonamalai. Thiruketeeshvaram was sung both by Sundaramoorthy Nayanar and by Thirugnanasambandha moorthy Nayanar. This temple is at Matottam, which is very near Mannar, in the Northern Province. This is now in ruins, overgrown with jungle. How many temples are being built anew in Ceylon! How is it that you have not given your thought to this great and Sacred Temple! If every Shaivite in Ceylon makes some contribution, however small, towards it, what a big sum it will amount to! If all of you will ponder over this and build this sacred temple, that great Ocean of Love, Shiva Peruman, will bestow His Grace on you.”


He now directed his attention to the abuses in temples. He attacked nautch dance in temples with all the force he could command. He also violently criticized the mismanagement of some temples. Those who were concerned in these matters became his enemies. Once a band of hirelings went to his place to assault him, but were dispersed by an influential friend of his.

He strongly condemned the slaughter of goats on the car festival day. In this connection he writes, “Alas! They say that they will have to suffer in consequence of the Punyam of giving up the slaughter of a goat on the car wheel. People know how steamers of huge size travel long distances in the sea and return unscathed, though no goats are sacrificed when they start on their journey. Cars of massive size safely go round Tiruvarur and Tiruvidaimarutoor and other temples without any such sacrifice. Are we to believe that only this puny car in this temple of Jaffna would not be safe without the slaughter of a goat?”

He also pointed out the anomaly of Shaiva priests officiating in the temples of Kannaki, and of Shaivites worshipping in these temples and in Roman Catholic churches. He says of the former, “Even these monstrous sinners, who, without any pang of horror, placed the images of Vinayaka and Subrahmanya on either side of Kannaki, a Vaishya woman of the Jain religion, are regarded as priests of the Shaiva Religion!” The worship of Kannaki was imposed on the people of Ceylon by king Gajabahu, seventeen centuries ago. The worship would have ceased with his death but for the fact that shameless priests of the Shaiva Religion were and are officiating in these temples.

He is hard on the Shaiva priesthood of his time. He addresses the Shaivites and says, “You grudgingly pay your Government a tax of ninety cents a year. In return for this small sum, fine roads are constructed for you so that you may conveniently and comfortably travel wherever you please. On the other hand, you give your priests rice, dhal and ghee, clothes and rupees with your obeisance. What do you get from them in return? Do they teach you or your children either religion or morals? Do they preach in your temples? Do they establish schools and educate your children? When some Shaivite is inclined to become a Christian, does the priest ever approach him and convince him of the superiority of Shaivaism and save him from becoming a prey to the missionary. During his visits to you, does he ever tell you any rules of conduct, such as, do not kill; do not drink; do not eat meat… and so on? When the missionary attacks your religion, does he ever repel the attack and establish your religion? How many of your priests are ignorant of the correct pronunciation of anthyeshti? Do you ever employ a carpenter, blacksmith or washer man, who does not know his trade? Why, then do you engage a priest who does not know his business?”

He always upheld the spirit and not the letter of the Agamas. While he recommends the regular performance of Shraddha, he insists that the Brahmin who officiates or receives gifts must be learned, must be one who performs regularly his daily religious duties, and does the ceremony with earnestness and devotion. Gifts to men without these qualifications take the donor to hell. Speaking of the caste system, he says, “Among Brahmins, there are Brahmins, Kshatryas, Vaishyas and Sudras. Among Kshatryas there are Brahmins, Kshatryas, Vaishyas and Sudras. Among Vaishyas there are Brahmins, Kshatryas, Vaishyas and Sudras and so on.” He means that caste depends on birth and on the observance of caste dharma.

Devaram, Tiruvachakam and other works of Saints were regarded by him as the manifestation of God’s Grace and as the nearest approach in Thamil to the Vedas and the Shaiva Agamas. He, therefore, called them Arul-Pa. His indignation was, therefore, aroused when songs of a contemporary of his, not esteemed by him as a Saint, were styled Arul-Pa. He wrote a pamphlet condemning it and pointing out that, if his songs should be called Arul-Pa, the authors of Devaram and Tiruvachakam would be regarded as men of the same level as that of this versifier.


We saw that students of Thamil literature were obliged to copy out their books in palmyra leaves before they could study them. This was very laborious, and those who did not have the patience to copy them were unable to study. He, therefore, undertook to print them. Several mistakes had crept into these manuscripts. He collected manuscripts of each book, compared them and selected that best readings. He copied them on paper himself, and gave them to the press to be printed. He, thus, published Kanda Puranam, Peria Puranam and Bharatham. To Peria Puranam, he added a Soochanam, which explains the Philosophy and Psychology underlying the austere lives led by the Saints spoken of in the Puranam. It includes authorities from several Agamic Works and contains priceless information. He also published Nighantu (a dictionary in verse) with a prose version, and the Nannool with a commentary. The study of these two books was at that time regarded as an indispensable preliminary to the study of Thamil literature. Later, he published Nannool with an extensive commentary, Thirukkural with Parimelalagar’s commentary and Thirukkovaiar with Perasiriyar’s commentary.

He wrote a catechism of Thamil Grammar and a concise Thamil Grammar for the use of school children. He also wrote several prose works. He was one of the earliest writers of prose literature. Most of the prose works before his time were commentaries. His prose style has received universal praise. Peria Purana Vachanam. Thiruvilayadal Purana Vachanam and Kanda Purana Vachanam were his chief prose works. The last of these is really a paraphrase of Kandapuranam.

Kandapuranam is undoubtedly a work of unique merit. The style is simple and the verses are eminently musical. Its smiles far outdistance those of the works that can stand even second to it. It is encyclopaedic. Shaivaism, Vedantism, Vaishnavaism, Atheism, and even Materialism are there. It gives and account of the origin of the four Shiva Moorthams, Vinayaka, Bhairava, Veerabhadra, and Subrahmanya. Ethics is taught in a practical manner. It speaks of weapons of warfare unknown even to the makers of the atomic bomb. Its greatest value is its religiousness, with which it is saturated. As every major literary work (பெருங்காப்பியம்) is bound to give accounts of weddings, it relates the weddings of Shiva and Subrahmanya. God has neither form, nor desires, nor need. To speak of a real wedding to God is therefore utter nonsense.

In his Subrah Bodham, Navalar explains the meaning of these weddings. When God starts the creation of the Universe, His aspect of Activity manifests, He is then seen in conjunction with this Activity. This Activity is called Mother or Umadevi, and this apparent conjunction is what is called the wedding of Shiva. This Activity has three forms, called Ichcha, Kriya and Gnana, which respectively control, activate, and enlighten the universe. Of these three Kriya and Gnana are, according to Kandapuranam, Deyvayanai Ammai and Valli Ammai respectively, and it is the manifestation of these Shakthis that is represented as Subrahmanya’s wedding with them. Similarly, Periapuranam speaks of Sundarar’s wedding with Paravaiyar and Sankiliar. Sundarar was called the Friend of God (எம்பிரான் தோழர்) and he could never be overcome by the fascinations of the material body of a woman. The only relationship that Saints can have with other souls is that of a Guru. Sundarar saw that they were souls on the threshold of divinity, and took them on as his disciples. This act, the author of Peria Puranam represented as the wedding of Paravaiyar and Sankiliar, in order to fulfill the requirement of a major literary work.

Navalar wrote commentaries on Shaiva Samaya Neri. Tirumurukatrupadai, Koilpuranam, and Shiva Dharmottaram which is a portion of the Shivagama, called Sarvokta.

He corrected the manuscripts of several works on grammar and literature for publication by others, the most notable of which was Tolkappiyam with Senavarayar’s commentary.


The press he owned in Jaffna was too small for his needs. He, therefore, went to Madras to do his printing work there, as paper and labour were also cheap. He bought a press, housed it, left it in charge of his most loyal disciple, Sadasivapillai, and went to Chidambaram which was as dear to him as his own place. It is the capital of the Shaiva world. What Rome is to Catholicism, and Mecca to Islam, Chidambaram is to Shaivaism. Our saints have called it the Temple. The name ‘Koyil’ by itself always meant Chidambaram. He therefore, established a school there and endowed it. Distinguished scholars like Sabapathy Navalar and Acharya Vetpillai presided over the school, and produced a large number of Thamil scholars. The present annual income of the school from its endowments is Rs. 25000.

The temple at Chidambaram was not conducted according to the Shaivagamas. The priests themselves were not true shaivites, as they never had Shiva Deeksha. Navalar was unable to persuade them to follow the Agamas. He, therefore, delivered a lecture in his school, pointing out the indispensability of Shiva Deeksha to the priests and the impropriety of the un-Agamic form of Poojah performed by them. Instead of reforming them, this lecture roused their anger. They had been treated by others as demi-gods. This denunciation was far too much to be borne by them. A band or hirelings went to assault Navalar. But they were dispersed.

While in India. Navalar visited several sacred shrines and delivered religious lectures everywhere. When he was at Kumbakonam, the head of the Tiru-avaduturai Adheenam invited him to his Matam for the purpose of honoring him. The head of this Matam had all along been regarded as the spiritual head of the Shaiva world. He received Navalar with great regard and love. At his request, Navalar delivered a lecture, and the head of the Matam, in order to honour him or rather to honour it, gave him the title of Navalar. He stayed there a few days, spending his time in reading rare Agamic works, not available anywhere else. Though he accepted the title, he would not accept anything tangible.

When he went to Ramnad, he was invited by the Prime Minister of the Rajah of Ramnad to his palace. This invitation was very much similar to that of the head of Tiru-avaduthurai. The Minister wanted to honour him. But, he was only a temporal prince, and Navalar had no regard for temporal power. He declined to go to him. Then, the Minister, who was also a great scholar, composed a stanza begging him to accept his invitation, and sent it through one of the palace vidvans. He consented to go to him, on condition that neither he nor any of his companions should be required to show any kind of respect that he might expect from them.

The minister treated him with very great regard and requested him to revise the manuscripts of several Thamil works for publication.


Navalar returned from India in 1870, and did a good deal of literary work. Meanwhile, the Methodist school in Jaffna made an order that pupils should not wear Sacred Ashes. Most of the Shaivite pupils disobeyed the order, and were, therefore, sent out of the school. These pupils went to Navalar and requested him to open an English school. He immediately started one and maintained it from the fees paid by the pupils. Government refused to register the school for grant. The public did not give him any pecuniary help. The Mission school relaxed the order requiring pupils not to wear Sacred Ashes. The pupils also saw the disadvantage of studying in a school which was not recognized by Government. The school had therefore to be closed after it had worked for four years.

In the year 1877 Jaffna was stricken by famine and cholera. He did some service in this connection. He saw that the Government officers who were sent to give relief to the people misappropriated the funds at their disposal and allowed the people to suffer. When the Governor visited Jaffna, he represented to him the wrongs done to the people by these officers, and the indifference of the Government Agent to the welfare of the people.

In July 1879, he delivered his last lecture in his school, on the Gurupooja day of St. Sundarar. At the close of his speech, he said that was his last lecture. On the second of December of the same year, he fell ill. He was not able to perform his Shiva Pooja on the three following days. He got a priest to perform the external poojah, and he himself performed the mental poojah. On the last day, at about 8 p.m. he requested those present to sing Devaram, wore Sacred Ashes and Rudraksha Mala, raised his hand to his head, and meditated on God. At about ten o’clock, he quitted his body. He was then 56 years and 11 months old.


Navalar was deeply religious. His activities proceeded from his religion. Service to man was service to God. He served the Shaiva Religion not because it was his religion or it was the true religion but because he loved Shiva. Even his service to the Thamil Language was regarded by him as service to his Religion, because he thought that the study of Thamil was not an end but a means to love and serve God. "கற்றதனால் ஆய பயன் என்கொல் வாலறிவன், நற்றாள் தொழாஅ ரெனின்"

He knew no fear, because he did not prize even his body. We have seen that attempts were made on his life both in Jaffna and in India. But these did not deviate him in any way from his course of action. He had a regard for religious men. But he never respected wealth or power. Though he received contributions for his school, he never accepted presents made to him personally. When the head of Thiruavaduthurai Adhinam visited his school at Chidambaram, he presented him with a shawl and two vestiges. Navalar sent the price of these presents to him, requesting him to make with that money the necessary repairs in Marai Gnana Sambandar’s temple near Chidambaram. The successor-elect of the Adheenam sent him eighty rupees. He returned the same to him by a bank draft. Just as he was free from fear, he was equally free from ordinary anger. One day, his cook, in a fit of madness, took a large quantity of rice and threw it on his face. Navalar was calm and unmoved. He sympathetically tried to find out why he did it. But Navalar was not free from righteous indignation. One day, his elder brother, Tyagaraja, wishing to know the extent of Navalar’s religious feeling, said to his hearing that the stories of Peria Puranam were all false. Navalar became mad with fury and chased his elder brother, who got into a room and locked himself in. Others in the house intervened, and Navalar withdrew. But, when an insult to his religion or to his country came in writing, there would be no one to intervene, and his ire had full sway. One Veerasamy Mudaliar of Narasinga Puram had somewhere written disparagingly of Jaffna. Navalar came to know of this. He collected materials not only of the writer but also of his superior, and wrote a counter attack, which showed no sign of mercy. The booklet that Navalar wrote was full of the glories of Jaffna and the glorious stupidities of the Mudaliar. From the list of glories I quote one. The temple of Ramesvaram, held in great veneration even by the people of Northern India, was built by a king of Jaffna, according to an inscription in the Holy of Holies of the temple. The temple of Vedaranyam was built by Tillainatha Tambiram of Jaffna, to which the Rajah of Tanjore gave extensive lands and other sources of income, as a reward for the cure of a disease of the Raja’s son, effected by the Tambiran with no medicine other than Sacred Ashes. Navalar also made a personal counter-attack on the Mudaliyar. The Mudaliyar was the third assistant to the Head Thamil Pandit of a school. Navalar, who had access to the subject matter of an answer paper written by the Head Pandit in a public examination, quotes enough from it to show that he did not know even the elements of Thamil Grammar. Of such an ignoramus, the Mudaliar was the third assistant, and was afterwards relieved even of this humble post, in consequence of his utter inefficiency. Those who can relish an unsparing merciless attack will do well to read this pamphlet.

Navalar had good social instincts. One day, when he was teaching in his school, he heard the cry, “Fire”. He darted like an arrow, reached the house that was burning, and did all he could, along with others, to put out the fire. One of his pupils had an attack of small pox. He visited him every day, in spite of the insistence of his friends that he should not go there. He took part in politics too. When a successor had to be appointed in place of Sir Muttukumaraswamy as the Thamil member of the legislative council, he held several meetings in support of Mr. (later Sir) P. Ramanathan against the candidature of Advocate C. Brito, a personal friend of his, but not one so well qualified as the former.

Navalar was a scholar and author, teacher and preacher, exemplar and reformer, mighty genius and indefatigable worker, lover of Thamil, lover of Shaivaism and lover of God. Another like him the Thamil land has not seen for several centuries.

ஆறுமுக நாவலரவர்கள் பதிப்பித்த நூல்கள்

 1.    அகத்தியர் அருளிய தேவாரத் திரட்டு
 2.    அன்னம் பட்டியம் 
 3.     இலக்கணக் கொத்து
 4.     இலக்கணச் சுருக்கம்
 5.     இலக்கண விளக்கச் சூறாவளி
 6.     இலக்கண வினா விடை
 7.     இலங்கை பூமி சாஸ்த்திரம்
 8.     ஏரெழுபது
 9.     கந்த புராண வசனம் 
10.    கந்தபுராணம் பகுதி 1-2
11.    கொலை மறுத்தல்
12.     கோயிற்புராணம் ( புதிய உரை )
13.     சிதம்பர மான்மியம்
14.     சிவஞானபோதமும் வார்த்திகமென்னும் பொழிப்புரையும்
15.     சிவஞானபோத சிற்றுரை
16.     சிவராத்திரி புராணம்
17.     சிவசேத்திராலய மஹாத்ஸவ உண்மை விளக்கம் 
18.     சிவாலய தரிசன விதி
19.      சுப்பிரமணிய போதகம் 
20.      சூடாமணி நிகண்டு மூ. உரை
21.      சேதுபுராணம்
22.      சைவ சமய நெறி 
23.      சைவ தூஷண பரிகாரம்
24.     சைவ வினாவிடை
25.      சௌந்தர்ய லகரி உரை
26.      ஞான கும்மி
27.      தருக்க சங்கிரகம் 
28.      தருக்க சங்கிரக தீபிகை
29.      தனிப் பாமாலை
30.      தாயுமானசுவாமிகள் திருப்பாடல் திரட்டு
31.      திருக்குறள் மூலம் பரிமேலழகர் உரை
32.      திருக்கை வழக்கம்
33.      திருக்கோவையார் மூலம்
34.      திருக்கோவையார் நச்சினார்க்கினியர் உரை
35.      திருச்செந்தூர் நிரோட்ட யமக வந்தாதி
36.      திருஞான சம்பந்தமூர்த்தி நாயனார் புராணம்
37.      திருத்தொண்டர் புராணம் 
38.      திருமுருகாற்றுப்படை
39.      திருவாசகம் - மூலம்
40.      திருவிளையாடற்புராணம் - மூலம் 
41.      திருவிளையாடற்புராணம் - வசனம்
42.      தெய்வயாணையம்மை திருமணப் படலம் 
43.       தொல்காப்பியம் சூத்திர விருத்தி
44.       தொல்காப்பியம் சொல். சேனா. உரை
45.        நன்னூல் - காண்டிகை உரை 
46.        நன்னூல் - விருத்தி உரை
47.        நீதிநூல்திரட்டு மூலமும் உரையும்
48.        நைடத உரை 
49.         பதினோராம் திருமுறை
50.         பாலபாடம் - 4 தொகுதிகள்
51.        பிரபந்தத் திரட்டு
52.        பிரயோக விவேகம்
53.        புட்பவிதி
54.        பெரியபுராண வசனம்
55.        போலியருட்பா மறுப்பு
56.         மார்க்கண்டேயர்
57.         யாழ்ப்பாணச் சமயநிலை
58.         வக்கிர தண்டம் 
59.         வாக்குண்டாம் 
60.         விநாயக கவசம்

See Also:
1. thirukkEdhishwaram
2. thirukonamalai
3. Siva temples of Srilanka
4. kandha purANam

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You would be interested in:

1. thirukkEdhishwaram
2. thirukonamalai
3. Siva temples of Srilanka
4. kandha purANam