- The Tirumurai is the Tamil Shaivite (see SHAIVISM) canon. This set of sacred texts, written in Tamil, holds a place in that tradition at least equal to the SANSKRIT texts about SHIVA. It is a collection of devotional hymns and stories of holy men and women, written over the course of 600 years by the 63 Tamil Shaivite poet-saints.The entire 12-volume canon was assembled between 1080 and 1100 by Nambi Antar Nambi. Nambi began with the seven-volume TEVARAM, his collection of hymns by the three great saints SAM-BANTHAR, APPAR, and SUNDARAR. Nambi then added MANIKKAVACAKAR’s poems, the Tirukkovaiyar and TIRUVACAKAM, as the eighth book, and collected 28 hymns by nine other saints into the ninth book. He made the Tirumanthiram of TIRUMULAR the 10th book. The 11th book has two parts; the first contains 40 hymns by 12 other poets, and the second contains his own contribution, the Tirutontar Tiruvantathi. This work recounts the lives and achievements of the 63 saints, offers the story of his own life and work, and records some of his own hymns. Finally, Nambi made SEKKILAR’s PERIYA PURANAM, a larger summary of the lives and works of the Shaivite saints, the 12th book.Thus, the Tirumurai is a vast heterogeneous collection. It spans the centuries from the first Shaivite saint, the woman Karakkal Ammaiyar (c. 500 C.E.), to Sekkilar in the 12th century. For a fuller list of the Shaivite saints see NAYANMARS.Further reading: T. N. Ramachandran, trans., Tirumurai the Sixth: St. Appar’s Thaandaka Hymns (Dharmapuram: Dharmapuram Aadheenam, 1995); V. C. Sasivalli, Mys-ticism of Love in Saiva Tirumurais (Madras: International Institute of Tamil Studies, 1995); Kamil V. Zvelebil, Tamil Literature (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1975).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.