- The Tiruvacakam is the celebrated collection of hymns by the Tamil Shaivite poet-saint MANIK-KAVACAKAR. Together with the shorter poem Tiruk-kovaiyar, it forms the eighth book of the Tamil Shaivite canon TIRUMURAI. Tiruvacakam contains 51 hymns comprising a total of 3,414 lines. The hymns range in length from eight to 400 lines and show a significant variety of metrical forms, with 14 subvarieties of meter. The hymns are usually rhymically recited or sung rather than read.The work includes some unusual themes. Some have a woman in the role of devotee to the Lord, singing songs appropriate for playing games or doing village chores. One interesting poem is meant to be sung to awaken the divinity in the temple in the morning (a common part of Indian temple ritual). Because of its sacredness, Tiruva-cakam has no traditional commentaries attached to it.Manikkavacakar’s most important theme is the shadow of KARMA, which hovers over all as a specter. The poet calls to God to remove the bonds of karma and free him. He also speaks of impurity that takes him on the long road; when impurity has been removed, he becomes a slave to Lord SHIVA. (For both Shaivites and Vaishnavites, the truest devotee is often called a “slave to the feet” of the divinity.) Most importantly he asks for Shiva’s grace to escape the hold of the senses, which lead one to impurity and destruction. Man-ikkavacakar is not, in the end, antisensual, but is wary, as many renunciants are, of the pull of the unrestrained senses.Further reading: Ratna Navaratnam, A New Approach to Tiruvacagam, 2d ed. (Annamalainagar: Annamalai Uni-versity, 1971); Radha Thiagarajan, A Study of Mysticism in the Tiruvacakam (Madurai: Madurai Kamaraj Univer-sity, 1983); Glenn Yocum, Hymns to the Dancing Siva: A Study of Manikkavacakar’s Tiruvacakam (Columbia, Mo.: South Asia Books, 1982).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.