Arunagirinathar – The Sage who authored Tiruppugazh

Hari Om

This famous devotee of Lord Muruga lived in Tiruvannamalai about 500 years ago and belonged to Devadasi caste. There is indeed something unique in this case. For, Sri Shanmukha’s blessings had to blossom here not merely in a barren soil but one in which we find worst conditions, inimical to any divine prospect. In such cases, none but lazy scholars can find any difficulty of compromise and would say that Bhagavan’s grace bestowed on such people as Arunagiri would mean a license as it were (if not a wanton sanction) for people behaving in worst manners and getting the grace of God completely. This biography illustrates that howsoever a man’s life be dissipated in early years, if there is a small nucleus of divine love serving as substratum, there can occur a sudden outburst of divine passion and sacrifice, which sages could envy and yet not get by years of Tapas! (Image👇from

So, the early life of Arunagiriar was one of reckless debauchery and vile corruption so that even his flesh soon became corroded and diseased with venereal affections. By the wish of her mother who died in his early life, his sister would not say anything against the wishes of her brother and would give everything and anything for him and his ways. Having spent all that she possessed, she (as her caste permitted it) would sell her flesh to those who sought with her the pleasures of sex for the sake of earning the wherewithal for her brother. Even this resource was exhausted; for she became uninteresting to her paramours. She was utterly helpless.

But Arunagiriar took no lesson either from his own physical decline and disease or from the privations of his sister, whom he always worried. Lo, one day, he beseeched her once again and said, “You must send me today with so much. Else I shall sink at your very gates.” No persuasions could prevail; he must have his way. Poor woman, what could she do! She grew desperate, and yet would not displease him. She rushed into saying, “Brother, all this does not convince you; your love for woman’s pleasures is so keen and intense that you think you must have them still. Look here! our caste is intended for affording pleasures of this sort to men of privileged classes, who cannot obtain them otherwise legitimately. Though we are born of the same mother, our fathers are different. So, as I am unable to give you anything at all now, I who was helping you all these years without seeing the means we have got, with me, you can find the pleasures you seek! Brother, I find no other solution for the difficulty!” She would add; but her grief choked her voice. All this terrible speech poured through Arunagiri’s ears like molten lead and shook the very foundations of his being; and in a moment he came to the sense of his life’s iliad of mistakes. So moved and fundamentally shaken he became that he suddenly rushed away from her side, climbed the top of the temple tower, and dropped himself down to dash his mortal life to end, as a sacrifice for all his misdeeds!

Attempt is half-deed. Here it is more than attempt. Arunagiri verily fell from the tower top, and topsy-turvy his body was hurling down. Behold! Lord Subrahmanya, Whom he loved more than he loved other gods and more than others loved Him, and Whom he preferred before all gods as a young “Yogi,” bore him in His hands from below! The Lord spoke, “Arunagiri, how can’st thou do like this, which is not meet for thee! The good of thy past Karma has saved thee now. Take this Kaumara Shadakshara (a Mantra dedicated to Sri Subrahmanya). Go and sing the glory of Lord God, and spread My fame throughout the world, far and wide.” Until that figure which saved him and delivered the message melted away before his very eyes, he took him to be a mere human “Yogi”.

The great soul,—great now because of the privilege described above,—soon began to do the sacred commission of the Lord. He visited many places and sang many songs. But it is worth noticing that while all other saints devoted songs to many gods, Arunagiriar knew none but Lord Sri Shanmukha, and all his wealth of inspiration was utilised for His glorification alone.

Once, when Arunagirinathar manifested Lord Skanda and the king had Darshana, it is said that the king lost his eye-sight due to the divine brilliance which human sight cannot endure. At once, Arunagirinathar gave Bhasma (vibhuthi/holy ash) and brought back the king’s eyesight. This is one version; while the other is that Arunagirinathar fetched the Paarijaatha flowers from heaven and restored the king’s vision. It is thus:

Having defeated in the contest, Sambandandan disappeared from the assembly in utter shame and left the kingdom. But his enmity to Arunagirinathar did not subside. He somehow wanted to do away with Arunagirinathar and so, after sometime, he approached the king again. Knowing that the king who had lost his eye-sight would be eager to get it back somehow, Sambandandan said to the king: “O mighty king! There is only one way of getting back your eye-sight. If the heavenly Paarijaatha flowers are brought and placed over your eyes, they will regain vision. And this super-human act, only Arunagirinathar and myself are capable of doing. But I wish that Arunagirinathar do it, as my bringing the flowers will affect his fame and glory. Please, therefore, request Arunagirinathar to fetch the flowers and in case he declines to do so, I shall at once bring them for you.”

The king, not knowing Sambandandan’s evil intentions but desirous of regaining his vision requested Arunagirinathar accordingly, to which the latter readily agreed. Arunagirinathar climbed the temple gopuram (tower) left his physical body there, entered the body of a parrot that was just dead then, and flew to the heavenly region. It is said that he did this as one cannot go to heaven with this Panchabhuta-Sarira (or body made of five elements). [But, strangely, the parrot’s body, too, is made up of the same five elements!] Sambandandan took this opportunity and informed the king that Arunagirinathar is dead, that his body lies in the Arunachala-Gopuram and that it should be burnt soon. The king, too, without due investigation or thought, ordered it to be cremated, which the evil-minded Sambandandan got done without the least delay, lest Arunagirinathar should come back.

The Arunagirinathar-parrot returned from heaven with the Paarijaatha flowers only to find his body missing from the Gopuram. Taking it to be the will of God, the parrot went to the king, offered the flowers to him and, to his great joy, restored the king’s eye-sight. The king felt extremely sorry for his hasty and unconsidered action in getting Arunagirinathar’s body burnt. He wept bitterly and begged the Saint’s pardon. The Arunagirinathar-parrot, his divine mission being over, flew away and seated itself on the arms of the Lord, for eternity. (From

The famous verses of Arunagiri are the Tiruppugazh songs. He has given 16,000 Tiruppugazh songs, though about 1,300 only are now available. His other works are Kandar Anubhuti, Kandar Alankaram, etc., which are all sung with great devotion and fervour throughout South India even today.

GF’ Blessings.