Tiruvasagam is the composition of Saint Manickavasagar. Its unique feature is the blending of Jnana and Bhakti. That is why it is known as Tiruvasagam. Manickavasagar’s songs are outpourings from a heart overflowing with devotion. It is through his Tiruvembavai and through Sri Andal’s Tiruppavai that children are deriving the spirit of devotion.
Temples dedicated to Siva and Vishnu are to be found dotted all over South India. There are also such temples in North India; but they are neither as numerous or as big as in South India. These temples are intended to remind us of the tatva or principle of Parabrahmasvaroopa, the Ultimate Truth. There are also such temples in countries like Cambodia and Siam, where some of our ancestors had carried our culture and civilization. The special feature of South Indian temples is that they are constructed according to certain accepted principles of architecture and the worship therein is conducted according to aagama sastra. The knowledge of temple architecture and aagama sastra is slowly disappearing. Steps should be taken to preserve this knowledge. It is also highly desirable to make officers in the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department to pass a test in these two branches of knowledge to qualify themselves for their posts. This would be useful to them, particularly executive officers of temples. If this knowledge becomes widespread, the fountain of bhakti will not get dried up.
Another special feature of South India is that a place is assigned to Siva in most of the Vishnu temples and vice versa. The shrine of Vishnu in the Siva temple at Kancheepuram is among the places described as holy to Vaishnavites. There is thus a sincere effort at identification of the two manifestations of God with Paramatma, the Ultimate Truth. That is why in the sayings of Avvaiyar, Tirumalukku adimai sey, திருமாலுக்கு அடிமை
(serve Vishnu) occurs immediately after Aranai maravel (அரனை மறவேல் do not forget Siva).
In the Tamil language the prefix “Tiru” is added to the names of two out of the 27 stars. The stars are Tiruvatirai and Tiruvonam. In Sanskrit these two stars are called merely Aardra and Sravana. The deity of Tiruvatirai is Siva and hence the conjunction of that star with the full moon in the month of Maargazhi is important for Siva and is observed as Aardraa Darsanam. Similarly the deity of Tiruvonam is Vishnu and Onam is an important festival associated with Vishnu in Kerala.
While Andal’s Tiruppavai makes one’s heart melt in devotion to Vishnu, Saint Manickavasagar’s Tiruvembavai fills the hearts of people with Siva Bhakti. Gems of devotion are strung together to make this garland of Tiruvembavai. The thought of Siva never left the heart of Manickavasagar, however trying the situation was or however hard his suffering. There are instances of people undergoing hardships and suffering imprisonment for the country or for a party; but Manickavasagar bore sufferings and imprisonment for Siva, the God of his heart. He realized and proclaimed the truth, “God is in all and all is in Him”. That is also the truth taught by the story of Sri Sundareswarar assuming the form of a laborer for the sake of an old woman devotee of Madurai. According to this story, the blow struck by the Pandyan king on this laborer with a cane was felt by all created beings, including the king himself.
Those who lived in the time of the great saints like Manickavasagar and Andal were really blessed. These devotees are like perennial springs providing the water of Jnana and bhakti to all seekers. Their service in the form of devotional songs have kept the flame of bhakti burning in the hearts of succeeding generations. Let their memory remain green in our hearts and let their blessed words help us to turn our thoughts to God so that we may find peace and, through peace happiness.
April 7, 1958.