Worship of Siva is a great antiquity. It seems to be pre Vedic period is presumed from the evidence revealed from the excavations at Mohenjadaro and Harappa. In the worship of its development spread far and wide, Worship of Siva is seen from the Himalayas to Kannyakumari and Somanath to Dakshineshwar in India. The present paper deals with Basava and Tamil Tradition.

According to Tamil literary sources, Saivism can be traced back to the earliest Tamil grammar, the old composition – Tholkappiam,

“Kodinilai kandali valli entra
Vadu neengu sirappin mudalana moontrum
Kadavul vaalthodu Kanniya varume”


This Stanza refers,

Kodinilai (Sun), Kandali (a thing that is unfettered or bound (Siva), and Valli (moon). In ancient time there was no specific name for Siva. So, Kandali is might referred Lord Shiva in Tholkappiam, Tholkappiar classified the lands under five regions and also fixed the Gods for them.

“Mayon meya kaadurai ulagam
Maintan meya maivarai ulagam
Vendan meya theempunal ulagam
Varunan meya perumanal ulagam”[2]

The forest tract which Mayon (Vishnu) tends,
The hilly tract which Ceyon (Subramanya swamy) tends,
The fertile cultivable tract which Varunan (Varuna) tends,
Are known to be
Mullai, Kurinchi, marutam and Neytal respectively’

In this stanza, Lord Siva’s youngest son Subrahmanya swamy is mentioned as the God of hilly region. According to these, Saiva religion was in practice from Tholkappiam period.

Later Tamil works known as Sangam Literature contains the basic ideas of Siva and Saiva siddanta. Siva was called “Kootru” in Purananure.[3] His neck was in dark blue-colour “Mani midatron”[4] Then his hair style was like a crown, he wore crescent moon in his head and he had three eyes.[5]

“Mikkolir taalsadai mevaru pirai nodal
Mukkanna nureve pol”[6]

Lord Siva had Ganga river in his head; bull is his vehicle and he has a flag wigh the symbol of bull.

“Aanetruk kodiyon”[7]

This first epic “Cilapatikaram,” The Anklet refers Siva and names him as “Periyon” (the great),” Himayon” (the king of Himalayas) and he rides on bull.

The very next period form 100 to 600 AD was called Post Sangam Period. From 3rd century Ad onwards the Tamil region went to under the control of inhuman rulers of Kalabiras. They captured Chola and Pandya Kingdom and Pallavas occupied Nadunaadu and Thondai naadu. Their mother tongue was not Tamil. Kalabiras enriched Paali language and Pallavas shown much interest on Prakrit language. The eminent scholars of Tamil langage called this period as “Dark period”. According to historians, the Kalabiras were a great hindrance to develop Tamil literature. They entered into the Tamil land through Mysore and Sathyamangalam and captured the east and south zones of the Tamil Land. Sekkilar sings,

“Kaanak kadi sul vadugak karunaadar”[8]

Kalabriras lived in the border areas of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

The Sangam age onwards the Jains and Buddhists dwelt in Tamilnadu. There were no disputes between Saivism, Vaishnavism and Jainism. After arrival of Kalabiras they called themselves as Jains and made disputes with other religions. Here we understand that the followers of Jainism by the native people are not against of Saivaism, but the Kalabiras who followed Jaina religion had created many problems now and then.

Thirumular and Karaikkal Ammaiyar. two Saiva saints were seem at the end of sixth century. Thirumular was a Saiva hermit and he composed 3000 poems is under 232 chapters and classified it under nine major divisions. The work Thirumantiram is a treasure of philosophical ideas. While discussing the concept of devotional love he says,

“Anbum sivamum yirandu enbaar arivilaar
Anbe sivamaavadu aarum arigilaar
Anbe sivamaavadu aarum arindappin
Anbe sivamaay amarndirundore”[9]

“Love and God are different say the ignorant
None know that Love itself is God
When these know that Love itself is God
The rest in Love itself as God”.

The four Saiva saints developed Saiva literature and philosophy. They were Thirugnana Sambandar, Thirunavukkarasar, Sundaramoorthy, and Manickavasagar. The entire Tamil Saiva literature was called Thirumuraigal. In this, Nandi or Basava referred as vehicle and flag of Lord Siva. Many poems describe the importance of Nandi flag.

“Vidaiyavan vinnu mannum tola nintravan venmalu vaat
padaiyavan pay pulitol vudai kovanam pal karandai
sadaiyavan saamadevan sasitangiya sangaven tho
dudaiyavan nunamilli yurai vummidam ottriyure”[10]
“Vidaiyaanai vinnavargal ennath thaanai
Vediyanai ventingal sudum senni
Sadaiyaanaich chamampor kandath thaanai
Thathuvanait thanoppaa rillaa thaanai”[11]
“Vidaiyin mel varuvaanai
vedathin porulaana”[12]

In the 9th century. Sundaramoorthy Nayanar wrote eleven verses on sixty-three nayanmars in Thiruthondar thogai. Nambiyandar nimbi also wrote a brief life sketch of saiva saints in Thiruthondar Thiruvantati.

The Peria puranam, written in medieval period that was an original work of Tamil country by Sekkilar who was the Prime Minister of the Chola monarch Kulotunga-2. The North side of Bihar to Kannyakumari, Karnataka and Kerala also under the Chola ruling. At that time Sekkilar had visited many important places and watched many saiva saints life and recorded them in his epic in more than 4000 verses.

[a]. In Sekkilar period, the smaller level of caste discrepancy was seen in the society. For solving this problem, Thirugnana sambandar had taken help from Thiru neelakanta yaalpaanar, the great musician who belongs to dalit community and also wherever the Gnanasambandar goes Thiru neelakanta yalpaanar and his wife also accompany with him.

[b]. Sekkilar had used a word “lyyer” in five times only. The word used in three times by Gnanasambandar, an orthodox saiva Brahmin for calling Thiru neelkantar as lyyer.

“Iyyer neer vula magila yinganainatha vurudhi vudaiyom”[13]
“Iyyer neer avadaithida yippadhi yalavil maadhavan
Munbu seidha vaarena”[14]

“Iyyere vutra yisai alavinaal neer aakkiya yikkruvi”[15]
Nandanar was called by the Brahmins of Chidambaram

“Iyyere ambalavar arulaal yippoludu anaindhom”[16]

And the word used for Kannappa nayanar[17] also. So, the noble word “Iyyer” used for other than Brahmin and dalit community persons.

[c]. An another important concept “Kaluvetram” was introduced by Sekkilar. This incident was happened in Basava’s Period. A.S. Gnansambandan[18] says, Kuluventram was happened in Mysore region in Basava period. Jains punished Veera saivas and Veera saivas punished Jains reciprocally. Some inscriptions and sculpture are available in Banavasi temple. They belonged to 11 century. A few sculptures of 63 nayanmars, are depicted the life of saivas. Many inscriptions denote that the religious disputes happened between the Jains and Veerasaivas. So, the defeated people were exported into Kalumaram.

Basava (b. 1131.d. 1167) lived in Karnataka and achieved many in this world life. He brought social reformation, progressive thinking etc., Sekkilar was a Prime minister in Chola country and he might have visited the Karnataka State in the capacity of minister and collected many Saiva elements.

We observe that the Basava tradition is seen in Tamil literature within three books namely Pirabhu Linga Leelai by Sivapprakasa swamigal, the second one Basava purana written by an unknown poet and the final one Vasava Puranam alias Nandidevar Kadhaigal by Durgadas S.K.Swamy.

PIRABHU LINGA LEELAI : Sivavapprakasar, and eminent poet, wrote it. He belonged to the Veerasaiva sect of Hinduism and he dwelt at Thurai mangalam mutt.

In Thondai country, Kancheepuram was a famous town. Kurmaraswamy Desigar was a great saint and guide and philosopher to the farmers of the town. Regularly he used to visit Arunachalam every year and to beget the blessings of Lord Siva. By the God’s grace he blessed four offsprings i.e. Sivapprakasar, Velaiyar, Karunai prakasar were-sons and Gnanambika was a daughter. When they were under schooling their father reached the abode of Lord Siva.

The elder son Sivapprakasar and his brothers went to Arunachalam and learnt all essential religious literature. He composed his very first book entitled SONA SAILA MALAI that consists of one hundred poems. Then Sivapprakasar wished to learn more literature and grammer of Tamil language. He and his brothers reached to Turai mangalam and he met Annamalai Reddiar who built a beautiful mutt for Sivapprakasar that was quit opposite of his won teacher’s mutt called ChennaVasavaiar mutt.

He reached to Velli Ambalavan Swamigal of Dharmapura Adheena mutt in Tirunel veli and requested him to teach Tamil grammar. Swamigal ordered him to compare a verse, which starts and ends with the letter “ku” and “udaiyan” in the middle.

“Kudakkodu vaaneyiru kondarkuk kelal
Mudakkodu munnamani vaarku-vadakkodu
Therudaiyaan thevvukkuth thillaithol merkollal
Voorudaiyan yennum vulagu”[19]

Once Annamalai Reddiar ased him to marry a suitable girl. He refused his desire and sang this song.

“Sei kondaa rungamalach chemaluda neyaravap
Paay kondaa num paniyum pattichurathane
Noi kondaa lung kolalaam nooruvaya dhalavirundhu
Pei kondaa lung kolalaam pen kollal agadhe”[20]

He composed many verses and written nearly 25 books. At the age of 32 he reached the foot of Lord Siva.



1 Thiruvengovai On Palamalai nathan, Thruvengai Manager
2 Sivapprakasa vilasam Tharukka pari bashai Satamani maalai Naalvar mani maalai When he was in Chidambaram, he wrote four books.
3 Thaalattu Nenju vidu thoodu. On Sivagnana Desiga swamigal Language
4 Vedanta Chudamani Viveka chudamani-Nisa guna yogi Siddanta sigamaniP Pirabhu linga leelai Translated from Kannada
5 Thiru palli eluchi pillai Tamil On his teacher
6 Thiru kuva puranam On Kuvam town
7 Palamalai Andhati Bhikshadana navamani maalai Kochagak kalippa Periya nayagi ammai aasiriya viruthan Periya nayagi ammai aasiriya Kattalai Kali thurai On Palamalai Temple
8 Kalambagam
9 Nanneri
10 Yesu madha niraakaranam For C.J.Beschi
11 Sivagama mahimai, Abhisheka maalai Nedungali nedil, Kurungali viruttham, Niranjana maalai, Kaitala maalai, Sri Kaalathi puranam.

Sivapprakasa Adigal wrote Pirabhu linga leelai in Tamil in the form of epic. It is a three-word combination of epic that suggests the holy-leelas of Siva and spiritual life of Saiva Siddanta. Its main purpose is to describe the life of Allama pirabhu.

Once Lord Siva and his betterhalf Parvathi were in the mountain of Kailas. The Gods like Vishnu, Brahma and others were waiting for his darshan. After a long discussion between Siva and Parvathi, Siva said that he would born in the name of Allama pirabhu and would achieve too many good things in the society. Parvathi sent Maya to the earth to findout Allama pirabhu. Finally Parvathi was defeated. Then Lord Siva sent his beloved Basava and his Siva ganas to the earth to establish Veera saiva dharma.

The book consists of 25 Chapters. The word “Gati” is used as suffix in every chapter. It was used only in Pirabhu linga leelai. The narration of the book is straightforward and there are no sub plots. All the characters are related to the central figure of Allama pirabhu. It runs in three stages Allama’s conquest of Maya, the journey of Kalyana and his wanderings and return to Kalyana. Allama meets many people in his wanderings like Maya, who tries to lure him Animesha, who becomes his guru, Maktayakka, to whom Allama propounds the nature of a guru, siddharamma, to whom Allama preaches the futility of mere action and the importance of introspection, and Basavanna, Mahadevi, Goraksha etc. who are at different levels of spiritual development.

The book mainly discusses about Basava, Akka Mahadevi, Kokkidevar, Muddaayi, Siddaramaiar, Marula sankara devar, Gorakkar and Munivarar. The 8th and 14th chapters related mostly with Basavanna’s life. After disappearing of Allama pirahu. Paarvathi’s obedient woman Maya, feels about Allama pirabhu. Her mom and dad are also unhappy of their daughter. Lord Siva promises to send Basava and other sivaganas to the earth to find out Allama pirabhu.

“Theengu kaanum siruvilai naatkadan
Vaangum or porul pokkum variyavarpol
Neenga gnana nedunthogai maayai nin
Rengum aavi yiyakkamum yinriye” [21]

When Maya suffers without Allama pirbhu, like the poor can not buy a small thing in the famine period.

Lord Siva praises Basavanna as,

“Aliyavaru nidhiya vaippai anjanm Kondu kaanum
Viliyudai Yavanpol gnanamei kuravanaith thaan kanndu
Kalimayal anbar kaanak kaattuvon yivanen remmai
Vali vali adimai kollum vallal nandhiyai pugaindhu”[22]

The Basava is an eminent person who identifies the treasure of Allama pirabhu. He will find spiritual philosopher of Allama and show him to the cosmos.

Lord Siva sends Nandi to the earth to find out the Allama,

“Allaman ennum gnana aanaiyai agappaduttha
Valla von paarvai neeye”[23]

You are the suitable personality to seek Allama, the elephant of philosophy, the great philosopher.

In the fourteenth chapter when Allama and Siddarmaiah were at Sonnala puram, the Basavanna’s fame was spread over to the entire land. Allama wanted to introduce Siddaramaiah to Basava. So Allama came with him to Kaliyana pura. At last they reached to the Basava’s residence. He did not respond immediately to invite them. Allama became very angry and said “the hermits can not go before the politicians like Basava’. After hearing these firecy word, Basava realized and understand his mistake and then he invited them. Allama pirabhu excused his mistakes.

This information is available about Basava in Pirabhu lingal leelai.

BASAVA PURANAM (1931) : In Telugu Literature, the Basavapuranam was written by Palkuriki Somanatha in 1990 AD and Bhimakavi wrote Basava purana in Kannada in 1369 AD. An unknown poet Tamil Basava purana is 1677 AD. This script was published by Salem Nagi Reddiar, Guru Basava & Co. Ltd in the name of Basava Purana in 1931 AD. The book consists of Sariyai, Kiriyai, and Yogam and the life history of Saiva saints.

The book contains eight chapters in the name of “sarukkam”

  1. Paayiram
  2. Thiru kailaaya sarukkam
  3. Thiru avatara sarukkam
  4. Upadesa sarukkam
  5. Dhandanayaka sarukkam
  6. Thiru vilaiyadal sarukkam
  7. Thiruk kudach sarukkam
  8. Thiru vadha sarukkam

In Paayiram chapter, the poet expresses the reasons for writing the epic, prayer of primary Gods, a few words of Allama pirabhu and the four Tamil chief Salva saints.

The second chapter discusses about the beautification of masons, the nature of mahasaba etc., Lord Narayana, Narada, and others are assembled in the Mahasaba. The devas say about the Jainism and its cruel fast development in Karnataka. The Lord Siva decides to send Basava (Nandi Deva) as his, nominee to the earth to establish the Saiva dharma.

The third chapter narrates the birth and parentage of Basava. The fourth chapter discusses about Tirukkalyanam, Kudala sangama devas preach Basava etc.

The fifth chapter says that Basava accepts the duty of Dhanda nayaka, the history of Chenna Basava and Allama Pirabhu.

The sixth chapter entitled, Thiru vilaiyaada sarukkam describes life of fifteen saiva saints (from Kallar kathai (robers story) to Nami dhandi naayanar kathai).

  1. Kallargalai vubasarittha kathai
  2. Vaniga mallaiyar kathai
  3. Kaattak kottaiyar kathai
  4. Vanjana vadiva maadhar kathai
  5. Vangaiyar kathai
  6. Siddaraamaiar kathai
  7. Saaligai pettyai alaitha kathai
  8. Netrrikan ketta kathai
  9. Vuduthiya selai ketta kathai
  10. Muktha sankaiyar kathai
  11. Pasupathi naayanaar kathai
  12. Kotta koochavaiayar kathai

The Seventh chapter discusses the life of eighteen nayanmars life. (Sagalesha Madnirasaiar kathai to Metha kethaiayan kathai)

  1. Sagalesa madhiraasaiyyer kathai
  2. Chikka maadhaiar kathai
  3. Madi vaala maachaiar kathai
  4. Sankara dasaiar kathai
  5. Nimmavvai kathai
  6. Alayudhar kathai
  7. Sundara perumaal naayanaar kathai
  8. Kinnera brahmaraiar kathai
  9. Kalai kettha brahmaiar kathai
  10. Moligai maaraiar kathai
  11. Kanna bramaiar kathai
  12. Musiundi chaudaiar kathai
  13. Surigaich chaudaiar kathai
  14. Telungu Somaiar kathai
  15. Yekanta ramaiar kathai
  16. Sanganap piraaniyaana kathai
  17. Kinnaiar kathai
  18. Metha kethaiar kathai

The eight chapter deals with six debates,

  1. Siva naagammaiarin vaadhu
  2. Vachchaila vaadhu
  3. Madi vaala maachaiar vaadhu And also it narrates three puranas.
  4. Sagadeva dhanda naadha puranam
  5. Kaligana naadha puranam
  6. Allamar madhuvaiar puranam.
  7. Yekanta ramaiar vaadhu
  8. Vidamunda vaadhu
  9. Musunda chaudaiar vaadhu

VASAVA PURANAM (1974) : In 1974, Vasava puranam was published by Prema publishers, Chennai. The title of the book is VASAVA PURANAM ena valangum NANDI DEVAR KATHAIGAL.[24] It is in the prose form and writer Durgadas S.K. Swamy did not reveal about the original work. The book consists of forty-two chapters. The first four chapters narrate the beautiful seenes of Kailasa, Karnataka’s ferile lands, Basava’s birth and parentage, the wedlock of Basava and holding the position of Dhandanayaka. The remaining thirty eight chapters reveal the life history of saiva hermits.


  1. Saivism is ancient one that belonged to Pre Vedic Period.
  2. The basic elements of Lord Siva of Saivism can be traced in Tholkappian and Sangam literature.
  3. There are two types of Jains in Tamilnadu One sect belonged to Tamil region. They adopted Jainism and they were not against of Saivism. The created more disturbances to Saivism.
  4. Thriu. Vi. Kaliyana sundaranaar refers in his preface of Peria puranam “The scholars expresses different opinion about the Sekkilar period. Some say that Sekkilar belonged to 11c and a few say that he lived in the beginning of 12c and some scholars say that he might have lived in the middle of 12c. The kannada veerasaiva saint Basavanna’s period was between 1131 and 1167 AD. If Sekkilar lived in 12c AD, he might had seen or heard about Basavanna and Veera saiva philosophy.
  5. “Kaluvil Yetram” was not happened is Tamilnadu any where. It was happened in Karnataka only. So, Sekkilar included it in Gnanasambandan’s life.
  6. Actually Basava tradition was not taken in very high position in Tamil literature. Only four books were described Basavanna and his history that are Pirabhu Linga Leelai, Basava Puranam, Vasava Puranam Satakam (19c), and Vasava Puranam ennum Nandhi Devar Kathaigal. The first and last are available now.
  7. Sivapprakasar, the author of Pirabhu Linga Leelai met Bishop C.G. Beschi who is an Italian Chritian Father called as “Veera Maamuni” and an ardent Tamil reader. He made debate with Beschi and wrote a book on “Yesu Madha Niraakaranam”. Beschi came to Tamilnadu in 1711, so the book Pirabhu Linga Leelai was introduced to Tamils in the very beginning of 19 century.
  8. The veerasaiva mutts like “Sri Mailam mutt” “Sri Santhalingaswamigal mutt”, “Sri Gnaniyar mutt”, “Thirupporur Chidambara Swamigal mutt”, “Thiruvannamalai mutt” are there in Tamilnadu. They have been publising Saiva and Veerasaiva books.

[1] Tholkappiam, Porul, Noorpa. 85

[2] Tholkappiam, Agam, Noorpa. 15

[3] Purananuru p. 56

[4] Ibid

[5] Kalitogai p. 104.

[6] Kalitogai p. 29

[7] Cilapatikaram 30: 141.

[8] Periya puranam, Murthy Nayanar Puranam, Poem. 983

[9] Thirumantiram, Poem 270.

[10] Thirugnana. Devaram, Thiruvottriyur, Poem. 1

[11] Thiruna. Devaram, Thirupalliyin mukkudal, Poem.2

[12] Sundarar, Devaram, Panagaattur, Poem. 1

[13] Periya puranam, Poen: 2036

[14] Periya puranam, Poem. 2082

[15] Periya puranam, Poem. 2353

[16] Thirunalai povar puranam

[17] Kannappa nayanar puranam

[18] A.S. Gnanasambandhan, Peria puranam or Aaivu, Tamil University, Tanjore, 1987, p. 436

[19] Pirabhu linga leelai, p.8.

[20] Ibid, p.10

[21] Ibid, p. 160, Poem 1

[22] Ibid, p. 169, Poem 28.

[23] Ibid, p. 170, Poem 40.

[24] Durgadas S.K. Swamy, Vasava puranam ena valangum Nandi Devar Kathaigal, Prema prasuram, Chennai-24, first edition, 1974.