Appar


Appar
(Tirunavukkaracar)
(seventh century)
   With CAMPATAR and the later CUNTARAR, Appar is one of the three major poet-saints of the Saivist (devotees of ´Siva) bhakti sect of the Tamil language region of southern India. The bhaktis emphasized a personal relationship with ´ Siva, one of the three chief gods of Hinduism. Appar’s poems, like those of the other two saints, are in the traditional lyrical form called patikam, which consisted generally of 10 verses, though sometimes of 11. Appar’s poems, glorifying ´Siva and the shrines sacred to him, form books IV to VI of the sacred bhakti text Tevarum (Garland of God).
   Tradition says that Appar was raised in a Saivist family, but that he lost his parents early in life and, as a young man, converted to Jainism and became an ascetic monk in that religious movement. Later in life he rejoined his Saivist faith. He says in his poetry that he was suffering from a severe illness that Jain medicine could not cure. But it is said that through the prayers and urging of his sister, Tilagavati, he turned to ´Siva for help, and his disease was cured.
   Once reconverted, Appar became an ardent bhakti activist.He is reputed to have lived well into his 80s despite suffering religious persecution under the Jainist king Mahendravarman of the Pallava dynasty (reigned 600–630). Appar is reputed to have converted the king to Saivism. He spent the rest of his life establishing monasteries and combating Jainism, Buddhism, and the ritualistic Brahmanism as well, stressing the individual spirituality of Saivism.
   Known also as Thirunavukkaracar (“Lord of divine speech”),Appar writes ecstatic poetry that expresses regret for his former Jainist life, praise of ´Siva’s temples and holy places, and a close, loving relationship with his God, whom he calls “Lord sweet as honey.”
   Bibliography
   ■ Peterson, Indira Viswanathan. Poems to ´Siva: The Hymns of the Tamil Saints. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1989.

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

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