Tamil Nadu has a lot of poets, siddhars, sages and many wise men who have left behind their experiences as the great wealth that future generations to learn and follow. However, Pattinathaar is unique to list of great people that Tamil has as its pride.
Siddhar Pattinathaar was born in a wealthy family and yet he turned to be a Sanyasi. His birth name was Swetharanyar after as epithet of Lord Siva of Swetharanyeswarar Temple. He was also called as Thiruvenkadar by the people. It was said that even when he was a youth, Lord Siva appeared in his dream and directed him to go to Thiruvengadu, where he would meet his Guru. Pattinathaar has given us his experience and wisdom in the form of hymns. His works include Koyinaan Manimaalai, Thirukazhumala Mummanikkovai, Thiruvidai Marudhur Mummanikkovai, Thiruvegambamudaiyar Thiruvandhaadhi and Thiruvottriyur Orupa Orupadhu.
Pattinathaar was born in Kaveripumpattinam in a very wealthy family. His parents were Sivanesan Chettiar and Gnanakalai Aachi. His father was a trader in Thiruvidaimarudur, Thanjavur district. They were so wealthy, that in those days it was a customary that kings of the various dynasties and empires who rose to the throne will be crowned by the wealthiest in the country. And for three generations or more, Pattinathaar’s ancestors have crowned the kings in the Chera, Chola, Pandya and the Pallava Kingdoms. That would give us an understanding of how wealthy their family should have been. They had a lot of ships that sailed across to various countries in the globe for trade purposes.
As a kid, he spent most of his time playing and studies was a far distant thing to him. Pattinathaar’s father was worried that his son does not study well, but his mother convinced him that they had wealth that would feed more than 10 generations, so why worry about their son not studying. A few years later, Pattinathaar’s father died and his mother had to take care of business. Though she was able to manage that, her brother – Pattinathaar’s maternal uncle – gave her a helping hand and looked after the business. Like his father Pattinathaar spent money on Siva devotees, and fed them daily.
Being born in the lineage of traders, he had the skills for trade. He wanted to venture into the seas to get more hands-on experience about trade across the oceans. He became well-versed and later he was married to a girl named Sivakalai at the age of 16. In those days, marrying at a young age was practiced. Over the years, he grew to be a man who can handle businesses himself and became the wealthiest trader in Kaveripoompattinam. Thereafter he was referred to as Pattinathu Chetty or Pattinathaar.
For a long time, the couple did not have a child as the heir to their wealth. They went to a lot of temples but still God did not bless them with a child. They were worried. It is said that once Lord Siva appeared to them in their dream and promised a child. In the dream an elderly couple showed them the way. He woke up from his dream and the next day Pattinathaar and Sivakalai headed to Thiruvidai Marudhur. And when he reached Thiruvidai Marudhur, he saw the same elderly couple that he saw his in dreams. He inquired about them, and they said that they were poor and the child was born at a very later age, and now they are weak to feed for themselves. So they both decided to go and meet Pattinathu Chetty and ask him to adopt the child for which, the elderly couple told, that Pattinathaar would give them gold equal to the weight of the infant with which they could manage the rest of their life. Pattinathaar and Sivakalai eyes were in tears and they thought that Lord Shiva and Parvathi themselves came as the elderly couple and blessed them with the child.
Then Pattinathaar and Sivakalai, took the elderly couple to Kaveripoompattinam and said that they will adopt the child and gave the elderly couple a good amount of wealth for them to survive through their age. Then they planned for the adoption ceremony of the child. Now, Pattinathaar’s sister, who thought that the wealth of Pattinathaar will automatically be for her family as Pattinathaar had no heir, had her dreams shattered by the adoption of this child. She argued and quarreled with his brother. But Pattinathaar made a firm decision that he is going to adopt that child and that child will be his heir. The adoption ceremony went very well in all its grandeur and they name the baby boy – Marudhavanan. They considered Marudhavanan as their own child and showed him a great love and affection.
Marudhavanan grew like a prince and enjoyed his life like a calf capering in the lush green fields. As Pattinathaar, Marudhavanan did not show interest in his studies. Pattinathaar was worried that education is his lineage seems to be a curse. As far as he can remember, nobody fared well in education in his ancestral lineage. however, he consoled that his son will get to learn the nuances of the business and will learn to manage the property over time, as he gets older. Time went on, and one day Marudhavanan expressed his interest to set sails across the oceans to where Pattinathaar’s business ships traveled.
Pattinathaar got excited that Marudhavanan is growing up to become a tycoon like him. And that, he can slowly educate him on the nuances of the trade, made preparations for his travel. He gave instructions to the sailors of the boat that Marudhavanan went aboard. And Marudhavanan set sails on the ocean to far off countries where his father had business contacts. Before leaving he promised his father that he will bring the most valuable wealth that his father has ever seen. In all the places Marudhavanan went, he was invited with a lot of respect and grandeur.
Days went on and one fine day, the ship that Marudhavanan went, returned back to Kaveripoompattinam. Pattinathaar was excited to hear the news that his son is back. He went to receive his son back home. Marudhavanan hugged Pattinathaar and happily exclaimed that he has brought all the treasures he promised. He asked his father to order the workers to unload the treasures he brought with him and ran out saying that he is going to meet Grandmother. Pattinathaar ordered his men to unload the treasure. The men unloaded many sacks that arose a doubt in Pattinathaar mind, because, usually precious gems and gold will never be tied up in sacks rather they will be safely kept in boxes. Then, he opened one of the sacks and all he found was dried cow dung and husks.
Pattinathaar grew furious and asked one of his men to carry a sack, went home angrily and shouted where Marudhavanan was. His mother came out and was surprised to see her son angry, asked why he was angry. Pattinathaar told irritatedly “See what you grandson has got?” and kicked the sack down. The sack fell open and to his surprise the dried cow dung shattered into precious gems and the husk was nothing but golden husk. Pattinathaar’s joy knew no bounds and was very happy that a his son Marudhavanan has brought in an enormous amount of wealth.
By then, his mother came near him, gave him a box and told that Marudhavanan asked her to give Pattinathaar this box. She also told Marudhavanan is a very playful kid that he gave this box and ran away saying not to search for him. Pattinathaar opened the box and found an eyeless needle and a small palm leaf with something written on it. It read,
“காதற்ற ஊசியும் வாராது காண் கடைவழிக்கே”
“Kaadhatra Oosiyum Vaaraadhu Kaan Kadaivazhikkae”
meaning, This eyeless needle is useless and will not go to the market. And, even this useless needle will never accompany you in your final destiny (after death).
Pattinathaar felt dizzy and the world going around him. He found everything to be an illusion before him. He realized that he went in search of wealth that is unstable in life. His mother appeared to him as Goddess Shakti (Lord Shiva’s consort) and Marudhavanan as Lord Kandhan (Lord Murugan). He realized that everything in life is just a hoax or an illusion and that we all are trapped in such an inescapable illusion. Now, he had his first wisdom realized.
நாபிளக்க பொய்யுரைத்து நவநிதியம் தேடி
நலனொன்றும் அறியாத நாரியரைக் கூடி
பூப்பிளக்க வருகின்ற புற்றீசல் போல
புலபுலென கலகலெனப் புதல்வர்களை பெறுவீர்
காப்பதற்கும் வகையறியீர் கைவிடவு மாட்டீர்
கவர்பிளந்த மரத்துளையிற் கால்நுழைத்துக் கொண்டே
ஆப்பதனை அசைத்துவிட்ட குரங்கதனை போல
அகப்பட்டீரே கிடந்துழல அகப்பட்டீரே
Naapilakka Poiuraiththu Navanidhiyam Thaedi
Nalanondrum Ariyadha Naariyarai Koodi
Poopilakka Varugindra Puttreesal Pola
Pulapulena Kalakalavena Pudhalvargalai Peruveer
Kaapadharkkum Vagai Ariyeer Kaividavum Maateer
Kavarpilandha Maraththulaiyil Kaalnuzhaithu Kondae
Aapadhanai Asaithuvitta Kurangadhanai Pola
Agappatteerae Kidanthuzhala Agapatteerae
meaning, You gather all the nine kinds of wealth by uttering lies until your tongue gets split. You get together with women who don’t even know what is good and what is bad. And like the termites that fly out cracking up the earth, you beget a lot of children. You don’t know how to save them, you won’t leave them and go away. This act is like the monkey that inserts its leg in the gap of a tree branch split up by a wedge and trying to shake that wedge.
Pattinathaar sang the above song, as he realized that he too was in the same position, got caught in the whirl of bonding and affection. There he decided to become a sanyasi.
Pattinathaar made his decision to become a sanyasi and expressed his decision to his wife Sivakalai. She cried like anything on her husband leaving her alone and becoming a sanyasi. But later she consoled herself and she too decided that she will live the life of a sanyasi by being at home. Then Pattinathaar got from Sivakalai, a box that had the dress of his ancestor, who became a sanyasi. Pattinathaar’s family had been worshiping that box considering that dress to be divine.
Pattinathaar first renounced his wife and then renounced his chariot, so he walked across the streets to meet his mother. When he informed his decision about becoming a sanyasi to his mother. His mother said that she was not surprised, but she expected this. Pattinathaar said to his mother that he is going to wear the saffron cloth of his ancestor. His mother insisted that he opens up that box and sees that.
When Pattinathaar opened the box, all he found was six loin cloths. Now, Pattinathaar’s mother told that this was the property of her father-in-law and that he would say that full clothing is itself a big burden for a sanyasi. Pattinathaar went inside one of the rooms in the house and came out dressed in the loin cloth. Then his mother instructed that he should get the blessings and word from the guru from whom his grandfather got sanyasam. Before he left, his mother tied some small cloth packet to his hip and told that he should meet her if the pack unties, because that will happen when it is the end of her life.
Pattinathaar went to the Gurukulam for the first time in his life, though it was the Gurukulam started off by one of his ancestors and their family were the patrons of that Gurukulam, yet Pattinathaar never ventured into the Gurukulam before. He went in and got the blessings and word from the Guru. When he came out of the Gurukulam, he was given the beggar’s shell (Thiruvodu). He got the thiruvodu. As sanyasi’s are expected to beg and eat their daily meal as they have renounced everything in life and nothing belongs to them. Hence even the food for their living has to be given by others, symbolizing that everything in this world, including one’s soul is the alms given by God.
Pattinathaar, with his Thiruvodu, went to meet his mother as the first alms for a sanyasi should be from his mother. That’s when he thought
வீடிருக்க தாயிருக்க வேண்டுமனை யாளிருக்க
பீடிருக்க ஊணிருக்க பிள்ளைகளுந் தாமிருக்க
மாடிருக்க கன்றிருக்க வைத்த பொருளிருக்க
கூடிருக்க நீ போன கோலமென்ன கோலமே
Veedirukka Thaayirukka Vendu Manayaal Irukka
Peedu Irukka Oon Irukka Pillaigalum Thaanirukka
Maadirukka Kandrirukka Vaitha Porulirukka
Koodirukka Nee Pona Kolamenna Kolamae
meaning Pattinathaar thinks to himself “You have your home, You have your mother, You have a wife. You have the fame, You have good healthy body, You even have children. You have the cow, And the cow has its calf, you even have the wealth for generations. While body is still alive, look what you have been – a Sanyasi”
Then he walks straight to his home to get the first alms from his mother. He called his mother from the gates. His mother came out with an empty hand and asked “My dear son, are you still rich?”. Pattinathaar was puzzled at his mother’s question. He thought he had renounced everything and is begging for alms before his mother and his mother is asking such a question. He asked his mother in a puzzled tone “Why do you ask that way mother?”. His mother replied
“வீடு உனக்கு அந்நியம் ஆகிவிட்டது ஆனால் ஓடு உனக்கு சொந்தம் ஆகிவிட்டதே அப்பா”
meaning “The home is now alien to you, but now you own a thiruvodu that makes you richer than other sanyasis”.
Pattinathaar had a much better realization now, he was about to throw away his thiruvodu, but his mother stopped him and said. “Use it my son, but if you lose it don’t search as if you have lost your property”. Then she gave the first alms to Pattinathaar, he moved on. Then he came across his elder sister’s house, she saw him and invited him into her home and provided him a feast. When Pattinathaar obliged and sat for the meal, his sister asked about transferring the right to Pattinathaar’s property in writing. Pattinathaar immediately left the house without eating and made up his mind never to come to that house.
But his sister went behind him always, she sent spies to look where he was going. Finally one day, she sent her children to meet their maternal uncle. She asked the children to give their uncle the Appam (pancake) she had prepared. The children sprang up in love on Pattinathaar when they saw him. He had a lot of affection for those kids, so he picked them up in his arms and talked to them. They gave him the Appam that their mother had asked to give it to him and they left. When Pattinathaar was about to eat to he saw that the appam had some phosphoric poison in it. He realized that it was his sister who tried to kill him. He went straight to his sister’s house and threw the appam on roof top and went away singing these two lines
தன் வினை தன்னை சுடும்
ஓட்டப்பம் வீட்டை சுடும்
meaning, like one’s sins burns them up, the appam in the roof top will burn the house. The next day the entire house was engulfed in flames.
From then on Pattinathaar went on to the temples in the nearby towns and sang in praise of Lord Shiva in those temples. One day when he was in Thiruvidaimarudhur, the small pack that his mother tied to his hips untied itself indicating the his mother was her deathbed. He rushed to see his mother and as he was praying while he rushed, his mother held her life in her hands until Pattinathaar reached. Then his mother passed away in his hands. Pattinathaar wept like anything remembering how his mother had brought him up from a baby to a man. And after that, the in the funeral he set fire to his mother’s body. He then sang the following song
முன்னை யிட்டதீ முப்பு ரத்திலே
பின்னை யிட்டதீ தென்னி லங்கையிலே
அன்னை யிட்டதீ அடிவ யிற்றிலே
யானு மிட்டதீ மூள்க மூள்கவே
Munnai Itta Thee Muppurathilae
Pinnai Itta Thee Then Ilangaiyilae
Annai Itta Thee Adi Vayitrilae
Yaanum Itta Thee Moolga Moolgavae
meaning that the Fire in the front from the third eye of Lord Shiva, charred the country of Thirupura Asuras. The fire that was behind in the tail of Lord Hanuman set fire to Srilanka. The fire that the mother holds is the womb. And let the fire that I hold shall grow and grow to char the mother’s body”
Then he thought that being born is a big sin and that is what puts everybody in the inescapable loop of affection and bonding. So he sang an another song after that realizing that he grew tired going from one womb to another in every birth.
மாதா வுடல் சலித்தால் வல்வினையேன் கால்சலித்தேன்
வேதாவும் கைசலித்து விட்டானே நாதா
இருப்பையூர் வாழ்சிவனே இன்னுமோ ரன்னை
கருப்பையூர் வாராமல் கா
Maadha Udal Salithaal, Vall Vinaiyaen Kaal Salithaen
Vedhavum Kaisalithu Vittaanae Naadha
Iruppaiyur Vaazh Sivanae Innumore Annai
Karuppaiyur Vaaramal Kaa
meaning, Mother got tired by giving birth in every life taken, My legs grew tired by going from one womb to another in every birth. Lord Bramha’s hands got tired by creating life again and again. Oh! Lord Shiva of Iruppaiyur, bless me that I shall not go into the womb of another mother”
Then he wandered in the same place for sometime, when again his sister started to give troubles in connection with the property. Pattinathaar transferred all the rights to the property to the temple. And he decided to go to Ujjain to worship the Goddess Kali and left his hometown for good.
Pattinathaar reached Ujjain and worshiped the Kali and decided to stay there for a while. He was getting acquainted with the place and walked along the streets of Ujjain. There was a sudden excitement in the crowd and the reason was that the King of Ujjain Badhragiri (Bharudhahiri) visited that place with his soldiers escorting him. The people there respectfully bowed to the King when he went past them. But Pattinathaar did not bow to the King. The King grew a bit disturbed and asked Pattinathaar why he did not bow. Pattinathaar said he does not bow to anyone other than Lord Shiva himself.
The king roared, “It is the King who is talking to you”. Pattinathaar replied “So is the One replying to you”. He referred to Lord Shiva as “the One” who is talking from within him. The King was surprised by that answer and went quietly ahead. The town settled down for the day at dusk and Pattinathaar along with a few sanyasis settled down in the nearby Sathiram
When Pattinathaar was telling about his life history to the other sanyasis, a stranger who claimed that he was a merchant joined the group of people in the sathiram. The merchant was listening to the conversation between Pattinathaar and other sanyasis. Pattinathaar was explaining about the realization he had in his life and that the meaning of life is to get rid of the materialistic pleasures of this world and realizing the Supreme Being. The merchant interrupted, telling his views. He argued explaining that the purpose of life is to enjoy every moment of it. To get rid of materialistic pleasures are the words of the weak and the impotent. The merchant added, “In addition to the pleasures of wealth, the company of a woman you marry adds more value to your life. You should not miss the comfort, love and compassion. The wife has only one mind and that mind thinks only about you.”
But Pattinathaar differed saying that woman are like men do have multiple minds, you can never say that their minds are set on only one man – the husband. Before marriage they could have admired other men too. The merchant grew a bit disturbed by the answer asked if it was true for noble women. Pattinathaar replied that it was true for all women in this world. The merchant who was none other than the King himself in disguise, came out of his disguise, grew more vicious and told Pattinathaar “My Queen is more noble and she has only one mind thinking about me”
Pattinathaar laughed and told “She has many minds!”. This made the King very angry and he shouted at Pattinathaar to get his word back. Pattinathaar was determined that he told that he spoke only the truth. The King intimidated Pattinathaar that he would be killed if did not apologize and take his word back. Pattinathaar did not budge. The King went out of the Sathiram asking Pattinathaar to be ready for his sentence in the morning. Pattinathaar told he is a sanyasi who sacrificed everything in life and life itself is no matter to him. The King ordered his men to put Pattinathaar in the prison.
The next day the King issued an order to his men to put Pattinathaar to sentence in a Kazhumaram. (Kazhumaram, a conical shaped mast made of tree or iron fully lubricated with oil, where criminals are mounted on it on the sitting position with their hands tied to their back. The criminals will have painful death). Pattinathaar was brought before the Kazhumaram where he was about to be sentenced. He realized that it is the will of Lord Shiva and sang the following Aram (Truth) song
“என்செய லாவதியாதொன்று மில்லை இனித்தெய்வமே
உன்செய லேயென் றுணரப் பெற்றேன் இந்த ஊன் எடுத்து
பின்செய்த தீவினையாதொன்று மில்லை பிறப்பதற்கு
முன்செய்த தீவினை யோலிங்ங னேவந்து மூண்டதுவே”
“Enn Seyal Aavadhu Yaadhondrum Illa Ini Dheivamae
Unn Seyal Endru Unarappetraen Indha Oon Eduthu
Pin Seidha Theevinai Yaadhondrum Illai Pirappadharkku
Munn Seidha Theevinaiyo Innaganae Vandhu Moondadhuvae”
meaning, There is nothing I did or can do to this. I now realize that it is your will my God. I haven’t committed any sin after being born into this body. But the sins that accumulated over my previous births is now standing before me to end this life
As soon as he finished singing this Aram, he fainted and fell to the ground. The Kazhumaram started burning in flames. This incident was reported to the King; the King was amazed and went to meet his queen. She thought the King was disturbed by the incident and requested him to relax, gave him wine and ordered her servants to keep the King this way. The King enjoyed the wine and literally forgot his kingdom and the world. In the meanwhile, the queen went to meet Pattinathaar herself and ordered him to apologize and tell the world that she was noble to get himself released from prison. Pattinathaar said that he would rather die. She went away saying that she will make sure that the miracle like the one that happened before does not happen the next time.
The King was inebriated and never cared about his kingdom for a few days. After he came to his senses, he went in search of his queen. Suddenly, he heard her talking to someone and discovered that she was intimate with one his horse chariots drivers. He also heard her telling the plans to execute the sanyasi (Pattinathaar) and once that is done, then the King. As a result, her secret lover would become the next King.
The King was shocked to hear that from the woman who he believed to be noble. He was very disoriented to see the queen betraying him and having an affair with an ugly servant of his. Now he remembered Pattinathaar, and the truth he said. King Badhragiri, then went running to Pattinathaar, fell at his feel and apologized to Pattinathaar for ordering his men to execute him. Now, King Badhragiri decided to become a sanyasi and a disciple of Pattinathaar. He handed over his kingdom to his chief minister and requested Pattinathaar to accept him as a disciple.
King Badhragiri decided to become a sanyasi, handed over his kingdom to his minister and went in search of Pattinathaar. He found Pattinathaar and requested Pattinathaar to accept him as his disciple. Pattinathaar denied saying that Badhragiri was a king, who has lived a posh life and being a Sanyasi means relinquishing everything in life as nothing belongs to a sanyasi, even the air he breathes does not belong to him. But Badhragiri was determined; he expressed his determination to be a disciple of Pattinathaar by turning to be sanyasi. Pattinathaar finally agreed to take Badhragiri as his disciple.
Then they started out on their journey south. They followed the rule of the Sanyasi, relinquishing everything. For food, they just get some alms from the homes that provided food. During some days they get food in plenty, well enough to feed thrice a day or even more, and on some days they don’t get food at all.
One day, Badhragiri found a Thiruvodu and he took it. Pattinathaar told him that a Sanyasi has no property, so he told Badhragiri to leave that Thiruvodu where he found. Badhragiri justified saying that they don’t get food quite often and the Thiruvodu is the vessel used by Sanyasis, even Lord Shiva used it. Pattinathaar said, “It’s your wish”. Then they proceeded, later Badhragiri found a small bag, he took and looked at Pattinathaar, again Pattinathaar told “See you are starting to gather your assets”. Badhragiri argued, “it’s of no use to others, why not we using it”. Pattinathaar said, “It’s your wish” and proceeded.
And on another day, he found a puppy stranded in the road. It was very weak and appeared as if it hadn’t eaten for a few days. Badhragiri took pity on the puppy, fed it well and took it with him. Pattinathaar reminded Badhragiri that he was a Sanyasi and he is going back into his family bonding by taking the puppy with him. Again, Badhragiri argued that being a sanyasi does not mean that we should ignore the poor and hapless creatures. As usual, Pattinathaar said, “It’s your wish” and proceeded.
A few days passed, then one day, both of them did not get any food for the day and they decided to rest for the night in the Thinnai – a small area in front of the house, usually where people sit. Pattinathaar lay down to rest in one end of the lobby and Badhragiri in the other end keeping all the possessions and the puppy nearby. Sometime later in the night, a beggar came near Pattinathaar and begged for food. Pattinathaar and Badhragiri woke up on hearing the beggar. Pattinathaar told the beggar that he is a Sanyasi however the man on the other end of the lobby is a family man and he might have something.
Badhragiri realized that Pattinathaar was mentioning about the the various things he had collected in due course has made him attached to those things. At the same time, he got angry because he renounced everything to become a Sanyasi, yet his own Guru told that he is still a family man. Immediately he threw away his possessions and threw the puppy against the wall that it died after having a last gaze at Badhragiri. Badhragiri could not understand the meaning of that gaze the puppy gave him. Then the beggar showed who He was, He was lord Shiva incarnate. Lord Shiva gave enlightenment to Badhragiri and vanished. It is said that Badhragiri attained enlightenment at Thiruvidaimarudhur.
However, Pattinathaar had to wait for some more time until he reached Thiruvotriyur. While he was playing with the cowherd boys at Thiruvotriyur, he disappeared from the spot and attained Siva Sayujyam, the final liberation of the soul and turned into a Shiva lingam. It is said that the relatives including his wife came to the spot where Pattinathaar attained mukthi and offered their devotion.
Karma and birth continue one after another. Here questions arise. Is there no end to this cycle? How can the soul get liberation? Saiva religion shows the way for liberation. We should develop positive qualities and attitudes in life. Our action or Karma should be in the way of Lord Siva whose inherent nature is wisdom and attribute is love. In every birth, we gain experience through karma, and knowledge through experience. In this process the grip of Anavam, which is the source ignorance, get loosened and ultimately we become liberated from it. This process is called malaparipaakam. Also we develop the mind to take pain and pleasure, the fruits of evil and good karmas, alike. This is called iruvinai oppu. God Siva’s Grace then descends on us. It is called Sakthy nippaatham. Then our actions will not be motivated by our senses which are prompted by Anava malam. They become His actions and karma will not follow us to come to experience
That was the life history of the legendary Pattinathaar who was born as a wealthy man, but renounced everything on realization that nothing in this world is permanent. He has left us his life experiences and his realizations as songs that will serve as a reminder that one should not be attached to the materialistic possessions in this world.
 “Teachings of Impermanence”. Daily News (SriLanka). 30 October 2009.