Dec 3, 2012

Thirugnana Sambandar, the Impaler?

7th century Tamil Nadu, India. A little boy is born to pious Brahmin parents in the quaint little town of Sirkazhi. As the boy attains the age of three, he is taken to a nearby Shiva temple. While the father takes a dip in the temple’s pond, Lord Shiva and his consort Parvathi appear in front of the boy. Before the father comes back to the son, they disappear and the little boy is left with drops of milk on his lips. When asked who fed him, the little finger points up towards the sky and the soft lips start singing a hymn praising the lord. Over the following years, the boy goes up to sing the most amazing hymns in Tamil that forms the Holy Book of Saivism (religion of the Shiva devotees). The little boy was none else than - one of the most renowned of the 63 Nayanmars - Thirugnana Sambandar. The lad who was fed by the Goddess herself!

15th Century Eastern Europe. The cruel of the cruelest King reigns over the country. The Ottoman Empire is being eroded away by this ruthless warrior. As tens of thousands of enemies' bodies get cruelly impaled in long and sharp arrows, the horrific image of this King spreads throughout Europe as a forest fire. He was none else than King Vlad III Dracula - the demonic warrior whose very thought and the bloody cruel punishments bring shrills and shivers to people up to this day!

Now, why are these two different people being juxtaposed? Do they share anything in common? What if they do? 

To understand the link here, readers should first clearly understand what "Impalement" is, and how it made Vlad Dracula stand out in history as the most horrific ruler. For the movie-buffs out there, impalement ("Kazhuvettram") is what Kamal Haasan (“Rangaraja Nambi”) gets as punishment for not practicing Saivism (worshipping Lord Shiva) in “Dasavatharam” movie. It's a kind of punishment where the body of a human is pierced from his bottom and pushed up through the body, to reach out through the head. (This being such a gory punishment is precisely the reason why the movie didn't show the way the punishment exactly works, but toned it down a bit). It was such a torturous execution method used in the early and medieval ages.

Now to the story that links everything up. It was the 6th century in ancient Tamil Nadu when the saint Thirugnana Sambandhar lived. It was a time when Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism coexisted in the land. However, oftentimes there were quarrels among these different groups, usually followed by persecution of the losing religious group. (Note that the Hindus were divided into Saivites and Vaishnavites, and the quarrels between them is yet another story!) The Pandya King called Koonpandiyan who ruled around the region of Madurai, was coaxed to convert to Jainism by the Jain monks in his country. This displeased the Queen and his ministers to a great extent, who were ardent worshippers of Shiva. After knowing about the young Saivite saint called Sambandar, they solicit his help to cure the king's recent illness and also to convert him back to Hinduism (Saivism). Sambandhar travels to Madurai and successfully cures the king's illness (that the Jains couldn’t) by singing a hymn and smearing holy ash on the king's arm. Unable to accept the defeat, the Jains set up a second test wherein the Jain literature palm leaves and the Saivaite palm leaves (of Sambandhar’s) are to be fed to fire, and whichever group defies the test of fire, wins. As the leaves are fed to fire, the Jain leaves are burnt to ashes, Sambandhar’s leaves are untouched. Unable to accept the defeat again, the Jains challenge Sambandhar for a final test - this time, a test of water. 

In the final test of water, palm leaves containing religious hymns from each side are dropped into the Vaigai River. While the Jain leaves drown and get washed away, Sambandhar’s leaves swim against the water currents. Sambandhar wins over the Jains in all the three tests. Amazed at Sambandhar’s feat, the king accepts to convert to Hinduism. What is more worthy to be highlighted here is that all the defeated Jains were impaled one by one, headed by the saint Thirugnana Sambandhar himself. A grand total of 8000 Jains were cruelly impaled on that gory day!

When the novelist Bram Stoker embarked on creating the world-famous horror novel, Dracula in 1897, he aptly named the protagonist with the name of the cruel warrior Dracula. King Dracula’s thousands of impalements speak of his horror. The same kinds of impalements have happened in the name of religion in our Sambandhar story as well! 

Now when I step into a Hindu temple and touch the feet of the 63 Nayanmar saints one by one - and when I reach Thirugnana Sambandhar - I would stop for a moment. To think.



  1. Note:
    History teaches us great lessons, but sometimes things need to be taken with a grain of salt. An historical event that is subjectively tweaked around a writer's views and beliefs is merely a story, not history. Emphasizing certain things and covering up certain things can tell a totally different story, especially when viewed from several centuries away.

    It should be noted that, in this case, Sekkizhar has clearly recorded the impaling event in his Thiruthondarpuraanam (Periyapuraanam). But it has been recorded as an act of valor! However, it should also be noted that Jains in ancient Tamil Nadu are said to have looted and engaged in other crimes in certain other ancient texts.

  2. yes this is history and you coining it well as crime... :)

  3. Hope you have read properly Periya puranam. All you said are based on Periya puranam. but you willingly wanted to leave some part of it to put guilt on Thiru janasambanthar. Here is the part that you "forgot" !!!

    these Jain people had set the fire to the ashramam, where Thiru janasambanthar stayed with a lot of siva's devotees of more than 10,000, to burn all of them. But Due to the Thevaram(Holy song) that Janasambanthar had sung, they were protected and the fire went to the king as a burning illness on his stomach and made him suffering.

    So these jain tried to do a massive killing that can be called as genocide. when King realized this truth, He was in the position to carry out the punishment for that. It was the duty of king!!!

    So will you please let me know the part of thiru janasambanthar in this punishment"Kazhuvettram" in which you put guilt on him!

    you may say he would better to have pleased the king to not carry out this punishment. But Saints should not involve in politics. More over, There is no excuse for the attempt to carry out the Massive Genocide.

    Jain had strong enough power to set fire to the ashramam where more than of 10,000 devotees of saivism stayed. so just consider how terrible life normal saivites had during that period in which Jains were majority.

    "Kandu muttu, Kettu muttu, Poojandee" read about this words. then only you would understand how much horribly saivites were ruled by those majority Jains.

    So, They got the punishment that you would give to the one who involve in Genocide.

    I think you have born with brain!

    1. Yes that is the real history.

    2. And another thing, if they burnt the ashram, the king alone was enough to punish them. The Shaivites didn't hv to use tactics and fraud to destroy the Jains. The ugly reason for impallment of the Jains is that the Shaivites & Vaishnavites, the then Brahmins feared their livelihood & religion will come to an end the way Jainism was spreading. No killing of animals means, no food nor animal sacrifices available to Brahmins. Non violence meant no killings, hence no wars. This is the truth & rest made-up stories to convince & justify their crimes against Jains.

  4. This is how India lost the best religious 'outstanding knowledge' propagated by Jainism & embraced nonsense called Shaivism & Vaishnavism. Teachings of Jainism can alone make the world eco-friendly & peaceful! It is imagination that Jains would ever undertake genocide; but false propaganda has no answers.


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