Thirumurais are the collection of twelve sets of hymns and life histories of Saiva saints who dedicated their lives serving Lord Siva in various ways, from constantly chanting rudram, playing Panchaksharam on the flute to giving up their own lives in the service of Sivaperuman. The first three thirumurais were composed by Tirugnana sambandar, thirumurais 4 to 6 are the works of Thirunavukkaarasar ( Appar ), Thirumurai 7 was by Sundaramurthy swamigal, Thirumurai 8 which comprises of Tiruvachakam and Tirukovaiyar was the outcome of Manikkavachakar’s devotion. These four saints are known as NALVAR or samaya kuravar.
Thirumurai 9 was the result of hymns from nine saints, Thirumurai 10 ( Tirumandhiram ) was composed by Tirumoolar, Thirumurai 11 was the result of 12 authors and the last Thirumurai is known as Periyapuranam and was written by Sekkizhar. ( A detailed explanation of these has been curtailed for want of space ). Thus there are 27 authors.
By tradition the people who propagate these hymns are the oduvamurthis ( oduvars ). They were employed by the Siva temples to sing thirumurais during the daily poojas. Unfortunately most temples have become penurious due to a variety of reasons…. a ) local people have left their villages and towns for greener pastures, discontinuing their regular contributions b ) the tillers who have been employed to look after temple lands have either usurped the lands or ceased to honour commitment to the temples ( A story goes that in a certain temple, all the lessees have become Christians and the temple lands went with them ) c ) In some cases there is no documentary evidence of land endowment and repossession has become difficult if not impossible d ) our dear HRCE ( Hindu Religious and Charity Endowments ) has just enough personnel to look after the existing properties of the temples and current pooja arrangements. ( I am deliberately trying to be polite ). This has resulted in the disappearance of oduvars and adhyana bhattars from the temples. Most of the oduvars who are still employed work for a pittance. So desikars have become an indigent community.
Fortunately, like a breath of fresh air, there are people in the community who care for service to Siva and also to extend their help to the oduvars. These tirumurai mandrams and uzhavaarap pani mandrams are doing a yeoman service to keep our Hindu traditions alive, against the onslaught from other religions, in our secular system.
In East Tambaram, Thirumurai festival has been celebrated from 1986, usually on the last Sunday of January. Accordingly this was celebrated on 25 January 2015, by Karpaka Vinayakar Thiruneri mandram.
The venue was ‘Tiruvachakam illam’ in Karpaka Vinayakar koil st, East Tambaram. The front of the house sported maavilai thoranams. In the hall, statues of Nalvars and the tirumurai books were decorated amid pleasing kolams. 12 oduvars arrived at 8.30 AM and were duly given morning refreshment. Each of the visitors was garlanded as per tradition. The oduvars and devotees proceeded to the nearby Karpaka vinayakar temple and rendered hymns from the thirumurais. The twelve thirumurai volumes of the temple were decorated by the gurukkal and taken in a kedayam along the streets surrounding the temple. Devotees offered archanai thattus along the route. After reaching the temple, the thirumurai books were placed back in their niche and the oduvars returned to ‘Tiruvachakam illam’.
Hymns from each of the 12 thirumurais were recited both by the oduvars and the devotees. There was lot of devotion in the atmosphere. The singers had varying degrees of knowledge -- that of Tirumurai and of music. Refreshing drinks were available throughout. At the end of singing of Thirumurai and prayers on Muruga and Devi, a pooja was performed to the Nalvars and the tirumurais and neivedyams were offered to the nalvars.
This led to lunch… This procedure is known as Maheswara Pooja. On banana leaves various food items were served… pachadi, vadai, sweet, vegetables, payasam etc. in a certain order and in the appropriate places.The yajaman (householder ) treats each of the oduvars as Siva Himself. A flower is placed on the head of each of the singers, vibhoothi is given to each and a light is shown to each of them. A booklet called Maheswara pooja contains all the hymns which pertain to food items ( ponakam, curry, koorai, ney, thayir, milk etc) and these hymns are read out. The final hymns were the asirvatha padalkal. The family of the yajaman then prostrated before the oduvars and they were then requested to take food. (“ ADIYARKAL AMUDU UNNA THODANGUKA”)
At the end, the oduvars were offered tamboolam. Each of the oduvars was given veshti, towel and money. The oduvars departed soon after. The function concluded at about 1.30 PM. Another year has passed devotionally.