“Thirumurai” in Tamil means holy division. It is a compendium of songs or hymns praising of Lord Shiva that were compiled between the 6th and 11th century by various poets-saints in South India.
Panniru Thirumurai, consisting of 12 volumes, is a collection of songs, hymns, scriptures and literary texts by twenty-seven renowned poets-saints. These are highly regarded literary works in Hindu mythology.
King Raja Raja Chola-I (985-1013 CE), a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva, undertook a mission to recover these hymns after hearing a few renderings of these hymns in his court. He sought the help of Nambi Andar Nambi, who was a priest in a temple. It is believed that with God’s intervention Nambi found the presence of these hymns, in the form of palm leaves, half eaten by white ants in a chamber inside the second precinct in Thillai Natarajar Temple at Chidambaram.
Though the local Dikshithars from Chidambaram opposed this mission, the King intervened and helped Nambi procure these scripts and complete his task of compiling and arranging them. It is also believed that significance portion of these scripts were lost or destroyed by the lack of preservation in the Chidambaram temple.
Nambi Andar Nambi arranged the works of three famous poet-saints – Thirugnanasampandhar, Thirunavukkarasar (Appar) and Sundaramurthy Nayanar in the first seven volumes. These seven volumes came to be known as “Devaram”. Of these seven volumes, the works by Thirugnanasambanthar constitutes the first three volumes and is known as “Thirukkadaikappu”. Similarly, the works by Thirunavukkarasar constituting the next three volumes came to be known as Appar’s Devaram. Sundaramurthy Nayanar’s works constitute a single volume and is called “Thiruppattu”.
During the course of time, a strong need was felt to include the literary works of other scholars to the compilation that Nami Andar Nambi had done.
Adding on to the previous seven volumes, “Thiruvasakam and Thiruchitrambala Kovayar” by Manickavasagar was included as the 8th volume.
“Thiruvisaippa and Thiruppallandu” was included as the 9th volume. This consists of works by the following eight poets-saints - Thiru Maligaidevar, Senthanar, Karuvur Devar, Punthuruthi Kadanambi, Gandarathithar, Venattadigal, Thiruvaliamuthanar, Purushothama Nambi.
“Thirumandiram “by Thirumular, became the 10th volume.
“Prabantham” became the 11th volume and it included works by Thiruvalavayudaiyar, Karaikal Ammaiyar, Iyadigal Kadavarkon, Cheraman Perumal, Nakkerar, Kalladar, Kapilar, Paranar, Ilamperuman Adigal, Athiravadigal, Pattinathup Pillaiyar and Nambiyandar Nambi. It is significant to note that the ruling Chola King at that time was so impressed by Nambi’s songs that he requested his songs to be included in this volume.
Sekkizhar's Periya Puranam, composed a century later, contains the life depiction of all the 63 Nayanmars. Impressed by Sekkizhar’s work, King Kulothunga Chola-I rechristened this as “Thiruthondar Puranam” and made this the 12th volume.
Recent Additions to Devaram
In the works compiled by Nambi Andar Nambi the Devaram represents only songs about 274 Shiva temples. However, in 1918, 11 more songs rendered by Thirugnanasambanthar were found engraved on a stone in Thiruvidaivayil temple (near Nannillam). This became the first instance of when Devaram verses were found in stone inscriptions. Thiruvidaivayil became 275th Paadal Petra Sthalam.
Similarly, a few years ago, 11 more songs rendered by Thirugnanasambanthar about Kiliyannavur temple (near Pondicherry) were found. This became the 276th Sthalam.