Manikavachagar ("One whose words are like gems"), who is venerated together with the sixty-three Saiva saints known as Nayanars, was a Tamil mystic and poet-composer. His best known work is the Tiruvachakam ("Sacred Utterances"), which contains 700 songs.

Tiruvachakam is sung in Mohanam raga (a pentatonic scale).

Here is the song Pal Ninaindu Uttum, from the "Piditta Pattu" section of Tiruvachakam. "Piditta Pattu" translates as ten (hymns) of the tenacious grasp, referring to the devotee Manikavachagar's unyielding grip on his Lord, Siva.

பால்நினைத் தூட்டும் தாயினுஞ்சாலப் பரிந்துநீ பாவியே னுடைய
ஊனினை உருக்கி உள்ளொளி பெருக்கி உலப்பிலா ஆனந்த மாய
தேனினைச் சொரிந்து புறம்புறந்திரிந்த செல்வமே சிவபெருமானே
யானுனைத் தொடர்ந்து சிக்கெனப் பிடித்தேன் எங்கெழுந் தருளுவ தினியே

pAln^inain^ thUTTum thAyinunychAlap parin^dhun^I pAviyE nuDaiya
Uninai urukki uLLoLi perukki ulappilA Anan^dha mAya
thEninaich chorin^dhu puRambuRan^dhirin^dha chelvamE chivaberumAnE
yAnunaith thoDarn^dhu chikkenap piDiththEn eN^gezun^ tharuLuva thiniyE.

A detailed explanation of the lyrics is accessible here (see pages 59-61). A summarised translation is vailable here (see pages 7-8). A full translation of the Tiruvachakam, by Rev GU Pope (1900) is accessible here.

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You took more pity on me, a sinner, than a mother who remembers her child’s hunger (even before it starts crying) and feeds milk to it.

You melted my body, increased the light of wisdom in my mind, poured the honey of eternal bliss, and roamed everywhere with me.

O my treasure! O Lord Siva! I am continuously and firmly holding on to you. Where can you go now? You have no way of leaving me now!

In 2005, Tamil musician and composer Ilayaraja released his highly ambitious Thiruvasagam in Symphony, a 64-minute CD, being the musical rendering of Manickavachagar's verses in ancient Tamil. The album has six songs, including a unique 20-minute composition, Polla Vinayen, that alternates between Tamil and English lyrics, sung in choral style, to the accompaniment of the Budapest Symphony Orchestra, Hungary. This is based on the “Shivapuranam”, the first section of Tiruvachakam (Tamil text available in two parts here & here), consisting of nineteen 5-line stanzas. Stephen Schwartz, the Oscar-winning playwright from USA had translated the “Shivapuranam” into English for the project.

Polla Vinayen begins with a solo vocal by Ilaiyaraja:

பொல்லா வினையேன் புகழுமாறு ஒன்று அறியேன்

pollA vinaiyEn pugazumARu onRu aRiyEn

This had been translated by Rev GU Pope as:

"I, man of evil 'deeds' know not the way to praise!"

Ilayaraja's solo is followed by Ray Harcourt's bass, "I'm just a man, imperfect lowly".

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Hear the other songs from Ilayaraja's Thiruvasagam in Symphony here.

Image: Shiva's Feet, print by Dave Alber.

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