Close on the heels of Sivarathri last week, here is the musical side of Siva worship that is exclusive to Tamilnadu state as the songs are composed in the Tamil language.
We learnt just one Thevaram (hymn on Siva) per year as part of our Tamil language class in elementary (Junior High) school then it vanished from rest of our lives. Now, the status of Thevaram or Thirumurai (a compilation of 12 works by 27 saints/devotees of which Thevaram is a part, the time period spanning 600CE-1200CE) is no different in Tamilnadu. During the time of the greatest Chola king Rajarajan (985CE-1014CE), it is said there were 50 Oduvars at the Big-temple in Tanjavur alone and being a Siva devotee himself, he made sure that every Siva temple had Oduvars in their roster. I was told that at the Darasuram temple, another Chola architectural marvel, the names of 108 Oduvars are inscribed. From such apogee, the tradition has fallen down to ‘endangered art’ category.
A few years back, I had a serendipitous experience of locating a few basic books on these works at home and discovering an Oduvar of talent in parallel. As I was scratching the surface of this art form, speaking of timing, an American run Hindu monastery based in Hawaii asked me to write a piece on this dwindling tradition for their international publication. Using Sri Satgurunatha Oduvar as the voice for the subject, the following unfolded –
note: the published piece has few typos; also, ’27 saints’ has been erroneously replaced as 64 by the editors as I assume they got such number mixed up with the 63 Nayanmars (fame Siva devotees)
Please click below to listen Satgurunatha Oduvar –