Periya Puranam
   The Tamil Periya Puranam of SEKKILAR forms the 12th and final book of the TIRUMURAI, the Tamil Shaivite sacred canon. Periya Puranam means “Great Purana,” or great ancient story. It com-prises over 4,200 stanzas.
   Composed in the 12th century, the book tells the stories of the 63 NAYANMARS or Shaivite saints. These stories were originally recorded by the eighth-century poet SUNDARAR in the Tondartokai, or “compendium of the lives of the saints.” At royal order the list of saints was expanded in the 10th century by Nambi Andar Nambi. Sekkilar, a minister of the Chola empire, provides the most complete compendium in his Periya Puranam. It is said that he was inspired to create the work to wean the Chola king Anapaya Chola away from reading the highly erotic but heretical Jain text Jivaka Cintamani. Sekkilar is said to have recited this work at the Shaivite sacred shrine of CHID-AMBARAM.
   The book has 13 chapters. The longest story is about Sambanthar (1256 quatrains), followed by the account of Appar (429 verses). The writing fol-lows a simple lively style and was probably designed to be sung. It contains beautiful descriptions of each saint’s village or town; the longer stories dwell on the spiritual development of the saints.
   Further reading: G. Vanmikinathan, Periya Puranam, a Tamil Classic on the Great Saiva Saints of South India (Madras: Ramakrishna Math, 1985); Kamil V. Zvelibil, “Tamil Literature,” in Jan Gonda, ed., The History of Indian Literature, Vol. 10, Fascicle 1 (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1974).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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