Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Periya Puranam - The Story of 63 Saivite Saints

Author:        Saint Sekkizhar
Translator:    R. Rangachari
Published:    2008
Publisher:    Sri Ramanasramam
Paperback: 358 Pages
Readers in India:

This book is a translation of the original Tamil compilation of the lives of sixty three Saivite Saints, written in 12th century by Saint Sekkizhar.

Like Alwars (Saints who worshipped  Lord Vishnu) these saints called Nayanars were deeply immersed in their devotion for Lord Shiva . The lives of more prominent among them - Sundarar, Kannappa, Appar, Sambandhar- are described at length.

Sometime in 1895 a 16 year old boy happened to read the original Tamil version of this book. This was one of the first religious books he read. It had a tremendous impact on him. A great sense of admiration, awe, reverence and a strong desire to emulate these saints engulfed him. Later this boy went on to become one of the most revered modern-day saints. He was Sri Ramana Maharshi.

This book is a masterpiece in Tamil literature, unfortunately I don't know enough Tamil to enjoy it in original. However in my view the translator R.Rangachari has done an excellent job. You don't get an impression that you are reading a translation. I liked the picturesque descriptions of the towns ( names of  most of them are tongue twisters !)  in this book. 
For e.g.
"The glorious town of Kadavoor, high walled, situated in the country of Ponni (Chozha region), famed for its plentiful waters and fertility. The fields abounded in crops of red rice; on the bunds were heaped pearls yielded by conches; in the neighborhood were sacrificial grounds; water lilies bloomed profusely in the water held by dams; forests of arecapalms rose to the clouds;....................She buffaloes with high and long horns wallowed in the water, and dripped sweet milk on the lotus flowers when their teats were hit by flashing fish; clouds which rested in a corner of the sky-kissing mansions poured their water on the sacrificial oblations, raising a fragrant smoke"

Highly recommended read for devout people, however it will be of great interest to others who are interested in good literature and vivid stories.

A different translation of Periya Puranam can be read online at

A Trivia: The Kannada film icon Dr. Rajkumar portrayed Kannappa Nayanar (one of the saints whose story appears in Periapuranam) in Bedara Kannappa . This marked his film debut in 1954. He also won the National Film Award for Best Actor.

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