Pattinatthar

  • Pattinatthar is a significant personality in Tamil Siddhars hierarchy. His verses reflect the philosophy of life in simple language, that shattered the convention that philosophy is not for all to understand. He made spirituality more inclusive by making it more understandable. Upon reading his verses, one will understand that spirituality is not locked up in scriptures.
  • We do not have much historical information on Pattinatthar as such. With whatever evidence we have till date, we can conclude that there were 2 Pattinatthars. One may have lived a very religious life and he may have lived around the 10th century. The second Pattinatthar lived around the 14th century and he’s the one we’re going to learn about. But what’s in a name? A person is defined by his deeds and not by his or her name. By such philosophy, Pattinatthar continues and will continue to live in his verses.
  • Which category of posts does he belong to? Some verses dictates him as a person of high penance, while some reflect the mentality of a lunatic sitting by a grave. Some verses show his struggle to control his senses and emotions while some declare him a social reformer. With so many facets, he was truly an enlightened soul.
  • If one were to condense spirituality in one line, it would be ‘Nothing is Permanent’. Scholars, Monks and Philosophers since the start of time, have been pondering on this particular aspect of life. This complex thought has also been penned by Pattinatthar. The verse gives us the example of a water-surrounded Rameswaram in the south and a fire-fraught Varanasi in the north – Both exemplify the temporary nature of things. Upon reading these verses, you’re sure to rethink your priorities.
  • Pattinatthar gains his fandom not by praising kings but by highlighting philosophies in ordinary everyday instances. His second Arutpulambal is a text where a woman yearns for her lover. This text equals Silappadhikaaram in volume. But the content doesn’t glorify a woman’s unconditional acceptance of her lover. Instead, it conveys her rage for him. Her harsh words for him gradually sink into a phase where she consoles herself and prepares herself to live alone.
  • It is said that to those who have knowledge and wisdom as their wealth, gold and money are no different from a log of wood. It was the same with Pattinatthar. Despite receiving offers from various kings, he pushed them all away. The translation of his reply to such offers – “Money is the biggest punishment. It is hell in the disguise of heaven.” Till his end, he ate with whatever alms he received and never gave in to the comfort and convenience of money.
  • Yin-Yang is a famous concept in Buddhism. It simply means that nothing is entirely good or bad. Both turn up cyclically. Pattinatthar emphasised this through a few verses which translate as follows.
  • That which is born will die,
    That which dies will be reborn.
    That which increases will decrease,
    That which decreases will increase.
    That which is learnt will be forgotten,
    That which is forgotten will reoccur.
    That which is united will divide,
    That which is divided will be united.
  • Generally, Pattinatthar’s asceticism is considered similar to that of Buddha’s. It is only fair to agree that he was also Buddha’s equal in wisdom.
  • His songs emphasise that death is the only constant. None can escape it. Man’s desire has no end and only death can put an end to one’s ability to desire. But for those who have renounced everything, death is just a phase. With the light burning in the mind’s eye directing the soul, an ascetic walk-through death. Such enlightened souls know enough to detach themselves from the mortal remains, for they are temporary too. When a person does the mortal relationship ends at the funeral. After that it’s a lonesome journey for the freed soul – a journey toward a flame. No God, no Goddess, only a flame.
  • Spirituality is usually manifested in three forms – devotion, worship, and philosophy. Pattinatthar’s songs take a sarcastic dig at those who blindly resort to worship without knowing the philosophy. He describes such people as those who construe the day as the night.
  • The common image of Pattinatthar is the one where he stands with a sugarcane in his hand. But his fans will know that the sugarcane was not the only sweet he held – his words were much sweeter than a sugarcane to his fans. May his fame live on till the end of time!