Old Tamil Poetry

Translations of Tamil Poetic works that span 2000 years

Thirumandhiram – 7.11.1

Heart a grand shrine, mortal body a temple,
mouth a gateway to reach the generous Lord,
to those clear of mind, soul is Shivam*;
fickle five senses are light that clears darkness.

உள்ளம் பெருங்கோயில், ஊன் உடம்பு ஆலயம்,
வள்ளல் பிரானார்க்கு வாய் கோபுர வாசல்,
தெள்ளத் தெளிந்தார்க்குச் சீவன் சிவலிங்கம்
கள்ளப் புலன் ஐந்தும் காளா மணிவிளக்கு.

* Shivam / Shivalingam – Lord Shiva, the Supreme being

This is a famous verse from Saivite saint Thirumoolar’s Thirumandhiram. Thirumoolar lived around 5th Century AD (though there’s lot of debate about the chronology). He penned over 3000 verses, collected together as Thirumandhiram. This forms the 10th Thirumurai of the Saivite canon.

“Physical body is a temple. Heart is the shrine in which Lord resides. Mouth is the gateway through which (by chanting his name) we can reach the generous Lord. To those who are clear of mind and don’t have any doubts, their Soul is Shivam (the supreme being). Our fickle five senses are lights that clear away the darkness in the temple”.

I understand this verse as “Look for the God within you. God resides in your soul. Don’t look for him outside, but chant his name. Once you lose your doubts, you will become one with Him”. I might be completely wrong too, as I am not a student of Saivite Theology.

Two important things to note in this verse.
1. He makes a difference between கோயில் & ஆலயம், which I have translated as ‘shrine’ and ‘temple’. Shrine is the inner sanctum where the God resides. Temple is the building built around it. In Tamil கோயில் – கோ + இல் (Lord’s residence). ஆலயம் – ஆன்மா+லயம் (Soul + union – where soul unites with God).

2.Another important phrase in this verse is கள்ளப் புலன் ஐந்தும்  – Fickle five senses. He doesn’t simply say five senses. Those senses are needed to drive away the darkness in your body (temple). But those are fickle / deceptive and may mislead you. So you have to keep them in control to light the way forward.

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