The following two cycles are from the Periya Tirumoḻi (The Great Work). of Tirumaṅkai, a poet and mystic who likely lived in the mid to late 9th century. They are excerpted here from my article, “Speared through the Heart: The Sound of God in the Worlds of Tirumaṅkai” published in the Oxford Journal of HIndu Studies (November 2017).

The Opening Decad of Tirumaṅkai Āḻvār’s Periya Tirumoḻi I.1


I withered. My mind withered, I despaired
Born into this world of pain and suffering
Wedded to the seductions of young women
I pursued them. And then, even as I ran
That singular one turned my mind
to the singular goal
I sought, in seeking found
Nārāyaṇa’s name


‘My life’ ‘My nectar’ I cried out, dissolved
Wanting only the breasts of countless women
What a fool, I was. Understanding nothing
How many years did I while away; how many days wasted
Now in Kuṭantai where pairs of geese mate
In Kuṭantai surrounded by its cool pools
I’ll recite what I found
Nārāyaṇa’s name


I wanted only good fortune, accrued misfortune instead
Enticed by the comely form of young women
My days slipped away, like dreams unspoken by the mute
Those long-gone days wasted
Kāma’s father, our lord lives in the hearts
of devotees who seek him alone
I’ve found that name
Nārāyaṇa’s name


I craved success, longed for ephemeral things
Single-minded in my lust for women with eyes sharp as spears
My fickle heart was never still. What can I do?
A glorious boar wide as the sky lifted up the earth
That great one with his disc
His grace alone turned me towards good
I’ve found it
Nārāyaṇa’s name


I was a rogue, unprincipled and unscrupulous
I wandered aimlessly. Now I’ve found clarity
I’ve found a new path received the full measure of his grace
I dissolve. My body grows wet with tears
My voice falters, I stutter
Into the long night and the bright day
I call out
Nārāyaṇa’s name


My lord, my father, every kind of kin
My king, he is all my living days
Demons quivered in fear as arrows flew from his bow
He ended their lives. He is my master
Fragrant groves and mighty forts encircle Tañcai
I am in his great, glittering temple there, seeking a higher good
I’ve found it
Nārāyaṇa’s name


You don’t know their kin, don’t grasp their stupidity
You offer praise thinking little of their qualities
“Creeper of Wishes, Men of Wisdom, Refuge of All”
You sing indiscriminately, slaves to mortal masters
Listen, worship at Kuṭantai encircled by swirling waters
See the highest goal
Sing, find
Nārāyaṇa’s name


I have no learning. Ruled by the five senses
My heart wandered, I gained nothing
Only stupidity. To the creatures of this wide world
I brought pain and death
Now I’ve turned from this life
I seek the right path
my perfect companion
Nārāyaṇa’s name


It gifts you a good life, grants you great wealth
It grinds to dust the suffering of the faithful
It graces you with a place high in the ethers
It gives you the whole wide world, such grace
It strengthens you, bestows bounty
Nourishes more than a mother
I’ve found that word, a world of goodness
Nārāyaṇa’s name


Cool clouds move gently, ponds thick with flowers
Invite honey bees, this is the land of Tirumaṅkai
Kalikaṉṟi who wields a shining sword
His lovely words are a divine garland. Hold them firmly
At death call the name
In trouble think the name
Even in times of ease say the name
Nārāyaṇa’s name

On Indalūr: Tirumaṅkai Āḻvār’s Periya Tirumoḻi IV.9


I worship you, bow before your feet
As your devotee, I find joy O father, lord of Indalūr
If only you would listen to all that binds me
If only you would be kind
If only you would take a few steps toward us
How my spirits would lift.


You are my heart’s eternal goodness
Sweet prince, Māl of cool Tiruvāli
wild elephant roaming cool groves
brilliant flame, lord of Naṟaiyūr
My father, lord of Indalūr
Take pity on me.


In two strides you measured the worlds
Such is your legend,
lord who wears a crown of fragrant tulasī
I drown in an ocean of longing, ache to see you
So many others cry out, lord of Indalūr,
They want to see you too.


My love is steadfast, but it’s useless
I am bound to you alone, even the world knows this
But you my lord, won’t show yourself
Won’t reveal your body brilliant as gold
Live well, lord of Indalūr
May you prosper.


My lord is fire, my lord is water
Even when he becomes the directions, the worlds
I can’t see him
lord to my mother, lord to my father’s father
lord of Indalūr
Aren’t you mine as well?


I cannot not say this, so I’ll just tell you what I feel,
You seem to think of me as just one of your many devotees
You can discern the virtuous from the wicked
You may know everything about this world
But you don’t know how to give me grace
lord of Indalūr.


You refuse us, won’t accept our service
Won’t allow us that pleasure—we say all this openly
lord of Indalūr
You refuse to reveal your feet, if you did
Won’t your devotees who fill this wide world
Find release?


In primordial time you are white as milk
In end times you are dark as rain clouds
Perhaps your beautiful body
Shines like gold, glitters like gems
How will I know if you won’t show yourself to me
lord of Indalūr?


My father, his father, seven generations of fathers
Before him have served you
But you won’t stay in our thoughts
You won’t show us your lovely form
for even a moment
lord of Indalūr.


Kaliyaṉ king of Maṅkai sang of his father
The lord of Indalūr, city of lush groves
Those who learn this fine garland of sweet words
Will reign as a god among gods.