Philosophical Concepts of Myth


Mrs S. Chandaran Phd. Tamil Naadu, India



The various Puranas are even now green in the minds of the Hindus, and the image forms are in the representations of these Puranic stories. It is necessary for us to turn our attention to Tirumular’s Philosophical conceptions of mythology which is also the language of mysticism and religion.

Man from the earliest times must have felt the inexpressible divine presence and mythology which is sometimes called the singing of the unconscious state, has developed all over the world. "Myth form, according to modern criticism, is a complex of images or a story whether factual or fanciful of life or simply regarded as specially significant for no clearly realized reason and represents of man’s nature and destiny. 1 The language of mythology, well-known to the common man and exciting in him sublime emotions and great thoughts, lies before the saints and poets as very raw material to be given a shape and form and significance by them.

Sacred Books of Saivism

The sacred books of the Saivites in Tamil consist of the two series; the one, the sacred literature calles Tirumurais, and the other, the exposition of the saivite philosophy called the fourteen sastras. Begin poetry of a very high order, they are naturally more popular and authoritative than the other collection which attempts but to systematize the philosophical thought, running through this sacred literature of the hymns.

These Thimura is are twelve in number. The first seven Tirumurais are the hymns of the three great saivite saints Tirugnana Sambantar, Tirunavukkarasar and Sundarar. The eighth one is Manikkavasakar’s Thiruvasakam and Tirukkovaiyar. The ninth and eleventh Tirumurais are the collection of some saint’s works. Tirumular’s Tirumandiram is the tenth Tirumurai. The twelth one is Chekkilar’s Periyapuranam.


Tirumular gives Philosophical conceptions on several myths in his work, but his life history has also some mythical elements. One interpretation that he was a Siddha and the other that he comes from Kilaya to South, on his way he has pitied for one shepherd and has given his life to him. Some critics expressed that Tirumular’s period is a earliest one. In literary and religious field Tirumandiram which is the work of Tirumular is the great achievement.

Thirumandiram has tenth place in the Tirumurai series which is the sacred books of saivism. But it attains first place in periodical and semantical view. It is not only Tothram (hymns of Prayer) but also the Sasthrram. It gives way to some of the fourteen which contains three thousand songs.

In general, Tirumandiram contains hymns to Siva but shows some ways to people for practice, and mythical conceptions, yoga and tantric rituals and major principles of Saiva Siddhanda are also seen in this work. Here and there we find medicinal information in this songs.

Studies of Mythology in Tirumandiram

The study of the puranic stories as referre to in Tirumandiram cannot be studied of their origin. It is however possible to refer the particular version of the story, he mentioned, as compared to other, so as to point a particular stage, the story had reached in its philosophical march. Tirumular refereed these myths to give the philosophical conceptions which is the main division in religion.

Now-a-days, myths are criticized for its anthropological, sociological, historical, philosophical and archetypal approaches. But in this paper, I have tried to establish, that myth are originated under some rituals and rose with religion and illustrate philosophical conceptions of Tirumular in his tremendous work. In this view, giving some more references from other Tirumurais for the myths in TIRUMANDIRAM.

Myth and Philosophy

Myths were primeval philosophy of nature and deals the traditional ideas also Marchschorer, wrote that a myth is large controlling image ....... .......... which gives philosophical meaning to the facts of ordinary life. 2 How the great minds of the age looked upon these stories should also be known. Therefore the saivite saints utililized several myths about the forms of Siva in their works and Thirumular gave philosophical conceptions of several myths. What M.A.Dorai Arangasamy says of the religion and philosophy applies to Tevaram as well. Myths are not idols but representations of ideals. From this point of view, certain myths have to be studied in Tirumandiram. They are :

1. Myth of the Fiery Linga

2. Myth of the Destruction of the tree Cities

3. Myth of the Rescue of Markandeya

4. Myth of the Destruction of Daksa’s Sacrifice.


1. Myth of Fiery Linga

In Tirumular Tirumandiram, we see such reference relating religious ceremony to the story of Vishnu and Brahma searching for the head and of Siva. This form of Siva is known as Lingodhbhavamurthi in the Agamas.

The story as told in Lingapura is shortly as follows:

"There was a deluge after destruction and before creation. Vishnu was sleeping on the ocean and thereafter Brahma appeared. Both of them claimed to be a creators of the universe. A pillar of fire a luminious Linga rose in their presence. They agreed, that one who found out the crown or the root of the pillar at first, should be hailed the creator. The two divinities assumed the animal forms, Vishnu the bear, Brahma the gender. The bird winged into the heavens, the boar dove into the deep. In opposite direction, they raced but could not its attain to limit. The Lingam grew and grew. They could measure neither its height nor its depth. Then the two divinities Vishnu and Brahma bowed before him in adoration, he solemnly proclaimed himself to be the orogin of them both. He announced his superiority.

This myth was not found in Sangam age which is the earliest work of Tamil. 5 But in Tevaram the saints denoted this myth. Tirumular says in nine songs "ADI-MUDI-THEDAL"

[ [~[ ‡

[ › ~€€ [~

[˿ ̹ 

 ~ Ž [~.

In the same way, Manikkavasgar, the author of Thiruvasagam, quotes this reference,

 [ [~ [

ð ݯ 鳰[ }~

ƒ ð ݯ ~ ƒϴ

œ[ ‚›̹ [[ œ[~[



In this lines, stamba stands to diminish the fierceness of the two divots. These interpretations quotes the diminishing of "Angara" (I-ness) and the merciness of god then Tirumular gave the philosophical conceptions in another hymn which follows:

[ € [ ұ

[ҹ œ } [̫

[}[ [~ [Ѱ€

[ҹ [€™ [ [~

(Tirumandiram 2425)

In this piece, Tirumular, gave the symbolic illustrations which was very suitable. The leg of, the God-the feet of stamba is the symbol of the Grace of Siva, and the Crest denotes the knowledge of Siva. So, Tirumular has taken this myth is the origin of Linga and emphasized that Siva coming to the fore to enact independently and above all there of the great world roles of the creation, preservation and destruction.

2. Myth of the Destruction of the Three Cities

The story of the buring down the three castles of the air hascaptivated the imagination of the Tamilian. The conception of flyinf in the air has dreamt by generations of man.

The Story of Tiripuradhahanam is shortly as follows:6

"Tarakasa, Kamalaksha and Vidyunmalin, the three sons of the demon Taraka, once practiced austerities (tapas) and won the gift of immense power from Brahma. According to this boon, the three demons would live for a thousand years in three invisible - moving cities or castles (Tiripuras). Causing destruction in the universe and the castels could be destroyed only by cosmic arrow that would merge them into one and set fire to them. Siva - Mahadeva alone could accomplish the task. At the end of the thousand years the gods elements, the other cosmic forces became the various parts of such as the bow, the arrow and Siva’s chariot. With Brahma as his character, Siva went forth, shot a single arrow of fire, and destroyed the three cities."

Let us see the philosophical representation of this myth. The Tamilian have been believing tha the eight great heroic of God Siva including that of the Tiripuradahanam were performed with the sacred precincts of Tamil land...

 }œœ€ ‚ [

ÿ̤ }œ ‡ ĥ

ÿ [׳ [

 ‡˰€ [ [~.

(Tirumandiram - 343)

In this piece, Tirumular, is the first bold spirit who calls them idiots, those who interpret the stories literally. And he gives the mystic sginificance of Tiripura as the resultant of the three malas such as Aanavam, Maya, Kanmam (Egotism, Karma & Maya). Tirumular feels that this story have an esoteric meaning and they utilize to advise us the path to release from our bondage (Pasam).

3. Myth of the Rescue of Markandeya

The myth of the rescue of Markandeya from death deals about the fear of death for people. This myth also including the eight great heroic acts of God Siva.

The story of Markandeya as follows:7

"The childless sage appealed to Siva and won from him the boon of a son. However, Markandeya, the gifted son who was born to the sage, was given a life span of only sixteen years. Markandeya grew up as a great devotee of Siva. As Markandeya was worshipping a Linga of Siva on the day his life was destined to end, the God of Death, Yama himself came to take the boy’s soul away, but Markandeya clung to the linga and cried out to Sica. Lord Siva emerged from the linga, and kicked and killed death. Siva revive Yama on the condition that the devout boy should receive the gift of immortality".

The motive of this myth is the gain from death, and also insist the eternal life one who prays homage to God.8 Sundarar, refers this nore in his song. There is one sample as follows:

׹ [ [ ̰€

[™  € ~

‡€ }€ [

ƒ } [} ™

This myth trust the people that Lord Siva will rescue from death. Tirumular bestowed the philosophy of this myth Tirumandiram as follows:-

Ҵ [̴ Š€

~€Ҵ [̴ ~ ~[™Ž

[ [€™ [˹›Ž ~[[

[™  [ ƒϹ~

In this song, Tirumular furnished the philosophical conception which was very suitable. In this myth, God rescue not only Markandeya but also Yama for his ignorance and Anava (I-ness). Tirumular’s illustration assured the motive of people which is to explain easier way to understand the thought provoking ideals through known face. So he has taken this myth and emphasized that God forgive our sins and product from death to give external life.

4.Myth of the Destruction of Daksa’s Sacrifice

The myth of the Daksa also yiled the merciness fo God. This myth as follows:9 "The Prajapati (Progenier) Daksa, father of Siva’s wife Sati, performed a great sacrifice to which he invited all the gods expect his son-in-law Siva. When Sati went to the sacrifice, Daksa insulted Siva to her face. Unable to bear the insult, Sati immolated herself. Crazed with grief and anger, Siva as Virabhadra, or through the agency of Virabhadra - destroyed Daksa’s sacrifice and mutilated the various gods who had come to sacrifice. Ge cut off Daksa’s head and replaced its with that of a goat..."

Tirumular says the myth of Daksa in nine songs. In these songs, he illustrate the myth as well as philosophical interpretations.

}买[ ›Ž › [~

买[› €} ‚ [€

买[ ™ ~€ Ƣ

Ÿ买[› }œ˰ |}[ [~.

(Tirumandiram - 361)


In the same way, Tirunaukkarasar quotes this reference

™ ~ }[

œ} ޴™}[ }œ˰[.

(Tirunaukkarasar - 6:310:9)

This myth illustrate the eradication of bad elements and graceness of the Almighty concurrently.



1. Myths are used in order to prove the philosophical truths which from a part of the religion;

2. The saints were aware that myths were special vehicle for mystic thought;

3. Tirumular illustrate the philosophical conceptions of the myth in lucid way in tirumandiram.



1. Dorai Arangaswamy, M.A. The Religion and Philosophy of Tevaram, Madra, P.182.

2. Chase. Rochard, "Notes on the study of Myth, 20th Century Criticism, New Delhi, P.244.

3. Dorai Arangaswamy, M.A. , Ibid, P.183.

4. Indra Viswanathan, Poems of Siva, New Delhi, P.343

5. Dorai Arangaswamy, M.A. , Ibid, P.197

6. Indra Viswanathan, Ibid., P.344

7. Ibid., P.347

8. Jawaherlal. S., Mythical Elements in Tevaram, (Ph.D. Thesis). Madurai Kamaraj

University, Madurai, P.113.

9. Indra Viswanathan, Ibid., P.345.


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