Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Professor K. Sivaraman
In this thesis l intend to investigate the theme of Vedānta Siddhānta samarasam in the writings of Tāyumānavar. Tāyumānavar was a philosopher-poet, mystic and scholar of the Seventeenth century and represents a true landmark in the religious history of Tamil India. One dimension of his religious poetry is his creative response to the contesting creeds of his days, interpreting them in terms of his own intimate religious and mystical experience of God, Siva (śivānubhava). I will use his deeply reflective and philosophical hymns as the main basis for re-constructing an overall picture of his religious vision. Much of my discussion of that vision will be in terms of his understanding and appropriation of the term "advaita". Both the terms "advaita" and "vedānta", which Tāyumānavar often uses, are not to be understood in the first instance as signifying monism or absolutism as developed in the school of scholastic Advaita Vedānta. These terms, in the poet's understanding, refer primarily to the unique and intimate mystical bond among God, man and the world (Pati, Paśu and Pāśa) which he explains in many places is an "inseparable union".
The existing editions of Tāyumānavar's hymns, and the commentaries and works on him produced by the Saiva tradition and other scholars are slanted toward an interpretation of Tāyumānavar as an orthodox advocate of Saiva Siddhanta. In this tradition the problem for scholars has been how to interpret the meaning of samarasam within the framework of Śaiva Siddhānta. Writers like Muttiah Pillai, Nallaswami Pillai, K. Subramanya Pillai, Isaac Tambyah and others have not focused their attention on what appears to be the most significant theme in the whole of Tāyumānavar's writings, namely Vedānta Siddhānta samarasam. My study will underline how Tāyumānavar's work was intended to liberalize the Śaiva Siddhānta tradition. It will attempt to reopen the question of Vedānta Siddhānta samarasam and show that it has a different and deeper meaning than the one suggested by the above writers. My research thus will be an attempt to understand how Tāyumānavar intended Vedānta Siddhānta samarasam to serve as part of an ecumenical and liberal approach towards the religious pluralism of Seventeenth century India.
This study might prove useful in several ways: It can stimulate new interest in the hymns of Tāyumānavar. The investigation hopes to provide new insights into the understanding of Vedānta Siddhānta samarasam in the theological history of Śaiva Siddhānta; it will show how Tāyumānavar sough to bring about an encounter between two opposed traditions through a re-reading of his own tradition and a re-interpretation of scholastic Advaita in favour of a more religiously defined popular Advaita. Finally, this research will illustrate how a concern which is today identified with concepts such as ecumenism and religious dialogue was also a concern within the "household" of Hinduism as early as the Seventeenth century. If my interpretation of the spirit of samarasam is accepted, Hinduism will be seen as having offered as early as the Seventeenth century a basis for affirming its claim of tolerance in the context of a plurality of religions.
Manninezhath, Thomas, "The Ecumenical Theme in the Religious Poetry of Tāyumānavar: Vedānta Siddhānta Samarasam" (1989). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 2021.