Abhiram Anthathi -  The Descent of Divine Grace


The set of articles posted under the category of “Abirāmi Anthathi”, a Tamil Śākta masterpiece of Siddhar (saint) Abirāmi Bhattar, translated and presented on this website, are from the pen of Shri Arun, a very close disciple and admirer of Shri Ravi Guruji, the creator and owner of this website. Manblunder Team (Santosh, Sriram, and Krishna Vallapareddy) considers it a great privilege to post these articles for the benefit of all readers. The endeavour to publish the Abirāmi Anthathi series for the benefit of all readers was taken up strongly by Sriram, without whose persuasion we would not have moved forward.

The entire gamut of Abirāmi Anthathi falls in the cauldron of Bhakti Yoga, dedicated to the Divine Mother Śakti, which by extension also encompasses tantra, as they’re inseparable. Delving through the articles gives me the impression that the blessings of the Divine Mother are fully upon Shri Arun and I sincerely thank him for translating the verses for the benefit of all.

We hope that these articles will quench the spiritual thirst of all sincere sādhakas to obtain the grace of the Divine Mother. The extensive commentary of the poems also doubles up as a guide and takes us on a spiritual tour of the magnificent historic temples of the state of Tamil Nadu in India.

Side Note: The IAST rendering of the verses has been added for those of us who are used to this notation. The poems themselves are in Tamil and an IAST rendering is unnecessary, but I took the liberty to add them anyways, for the benefit of the readers.


Among various sects and religions, the worship of the divine feminine is endowed with many secrets, miracles, and devotional literature compared to all other parallel sects. Varied is the worship of Śakti or the divine feminine, followed by a vast majority in the Indian subcontinent in one way or the other. The worship of the divine mother had spread across the country with different methodologies of which, the tantra doctrines had categorized ten forms of the divine mother. Apart from the existence of a methodical worship, the Śrīvidyā dictum extols her in various rituals eventually leading to self-realization and merger with the ultimate Parabrahman.

Every sect has a scripture, a holy book, poems and hymns sung by great saints to extol the virtues of the deities. Many a time, the poems become scriptures of a particular sect when they get acknowledged by the deity and also perpetually help the sādhakas with the same grace, as bestowed prior by the divine on the saints who had written it in the past. For instance, in the Śaiva sect, the works of Sambandar, Sundarar, Appar, and Manikavasagar, to name a few Tamil saints, have attained the status of sacred scriptures as their works have been acknowledged by Lord Śiva and have therefore become a part of the Śaiva sect. Similarly, the 4,000 Divya prabandhams are sacred to the Śrī Vaiṣṇava sect and the poems are sung in front of the lord in the temples, during rituals and other ceremonies.

A poem, an extempore composed with devotion that brought down the grace personified, to walk on earth is always special and sacred to the heart of the believers of divinity. Though composed by mere mortals, once God acknowledges and accepts the poem and graces the saint pleased with their devotion and composition, the poem becomes a scripture. From then on, the scripture by itself, starts acting as a bridge between the sādhaka and the lord, thus enabling the sādhaka to go closer to the divinity. One such divine scripture in the Tamil language is known by the name Abirāmi Anthathi, composed by a devotee of Goddess Abirāmi, residing in the temple of Thirukadaiyur in the Kumbakonam district of Tamil Nadu, India.

The author of the script is widely known as Abirāmi Bhattar, where the word “Bhattar” refers to a priestly class of people, who are by profession, in charge of the worship rituals associated with a deity of a temple, specifically towards the forms of the divine feminine. Abirāmi Bhattar used to work in the temple of Thirukadaiyur and used to help the chief priest in rituals. His name given at birth was “Subrahmanya Iyer''. As he was always intoxicated with devotion to the goddess, his behaviour used to resemble that of a mad person. He recounts his states of devotion in verse number 94, stating that the path towards Abirāmi the great goddess, is well paved when the following conditions prove true - if the devotees of her cry due to the pangs of separation from her, get goosebumps intoxicated with nothing but bliss, cannot think straight and if they are in complete bliss and whatever they speak turns out into a blabber to common folks of the world, then that is the path towards the great goddess Abirāmi and it is the best one to follow!

Based on the above inference, it is very much proven that Abirāmi Bhattar was perpetually in constant bliss, as a result of worshipping his beloved goddess and was totally lost in Her contemplation at all times. However, others around him could not understand his stature and took him to be a mad person and some others took him to be a person blown with ego as he was a helper to the chief priest and would hardly respond to anyone including the chief priest. This had gradually incurred the wrath of people around him, who had been waiting for an opportune moment to pull him down and cause trouble. Little do anyone know the greater plan of the goddess and Her mysterious ways!

One day, Serfoji the ruling Maratha king of the region, happens to visit the temple on a new moon day after completing his regular rituals at the beach of Poompuhar, a few kilometers away from the temple. When the king arrived at the temple, all the workers of the temple saluted and paid their respects to the king and the chief priest honoured him as dictated by the temple rituals accorded to a king and led him to the sanctum santorum. As all these events were happening, Bhattar was lost in his contemplation of goddess Abirāmi, least bothered with the goings on and did not notice the arrival of the king and neither did the king notice Abirāmi Bhattar’s state of silence or pay any heed to his insubordination in not offering respects. After finishing the darśana of the lord and the goddess of the temple, the king suddenly took notice of Abirāmi Bhattar and enquired with others in the temple about him. As the team was already waiting for their chance to bring down Bhattar, they made good of the opportunity to complain to the king about Bhattar’s general behaviour and added their own fabricated stories to paint him in bad light.

The king, after hearing all the tales of deceit, incompetence and insubordination wanted to test and see for himself whether there was any truth in this matter. The king made his way towards Abirāmi Bhattar, who was still lost in the contemplation of the goddess and had completely aligned his consciousness with that of the goddess Herself, unaware of the surroundings and completely bereft of ego within. Little did anyone know what was happening inside him and the king was no exception. The king after approaching him tried to strike up a conversation with Bhattar by asking him a question - “What is the Tithi today?” (Tithi - calculation of lunar days in the bright and dark fortnight based on the distance between the sun and the moon). Bhattar lost in contemplation of visualizing the goddess, nonchalantly replied that the tithi is the full moon, unaware that it was actually a new moon day. The king became convinced that Bhattar was incompetent and unfit, validating the accusations of others and wanted to punish him. However, as is the will of the goddess, before heading back from the temple, the king ordained Bhattar to show him the full moon after sunset later that day or face severe punishment.

After some time when Bhattar regained his original state of mind, he was informed about what had transpired earlier in the day. Having fully surrendered to the great goddess, he meditated upon her for guidance on the next course of action. Bhattar then decided to perform a penance called “Śata sūtra pramāṇam'' which ordains that the person intending to obtain the grace of divinity, must sing 100 songs in an extempore fashion, sitting on a loft tied with 100 ropes. The loft would be hung above a huge pit of fire that can consume an entire person in no time. As each song is composed, the one performing the penance has to sing it, write the song on a palm leaf, and must drop it into the fire after which, one of the hundred ropes will be severed. Likewise, as the person finishes all 100 songs, all the 100 ropes will be cut down. If the deity that the person worships does not bestow his or her grace, the sādhaka who performing the penance will perish in the fire. One more condition to this penance, is that the palm leaves dropped into the fire should not burn but remain intact - all the hundred without any exception. If either the palm leaves burn or if the deity does not appear and grant the request of the sādhaka, the penance becomes a failure. Such a high ordeal, which puts the life of oneself as bait and can also result in a horrifying death was undertaken by Bhattar. The only reason being, he was completely sure that he did not utter the answer to the king, but it was the goddess Herself and it is the goddess who is guiding him to undertake the penance. One who has not completely surrendered to the Divine, cannot undertake this practice and this very action of accepting this penance, proves how close Bhattar was to the Divine Mother Abirāmi.

Bhattar performs the penance and starts composing the songs and goes on to describe the beauty of Abirāmi, eulogizing the numerous ways of worship and the expected results of worshipping Her. In short, he encodes and extols her rituals in a very condensed form of poetry in Tamil called “Kattalai Kalithurai”, which is nothing but a meter that is difficult to compose in and even more so in an extempore fashion. The meter demands a specific number of syllables on each line and adding to that, Bhattar introduces another complexity by composing the songs in a fashion called “Andhadhi” where the last word or the ending syllable of a stanza becomes the first word or syllable of the next stanza. Also, all these stanzas must make logical sense. As the songs were being composed and the palm leaves were getting dropped in the fire, the onlookers witnessing the event were in complete awe that the leaves were not getting burnt and also to their surprise, they were appearing greener and more fresh than before. The ropes were being cut as Bhattar kept composing the poems and when he reached the 79th verse and composed the “Vizhikke Arulundu” stanza, the great goddess Herself appears in front of him, takes out one of Her earrings called “Thadanka” and spins it across the sky which becomes the full moon for people to see, thereby turning the new moon day into a full moon day and everyone gathered there including the regent, could witness it the miraculous event proving Abirāmi Bhattar’s faith and unstinted devotion. The goddess then ordains and blesses him to complete the rest of the 100 stanzas. Bhattar completes the same and proves not only the living presence of the goddess but also Her grace in the age of Kali.

Bhattar leaves behind this legacy of hundred poems that bestow the grace of Goddess Abirāmi on devotees who sincerely contemplate upon Her through these poems. Thus goes the legend and the circumstances surrounding the origin of Abirāmi Anthathi. The entire work of Abirāmi anthathi has been given to the world in the backdrop of making impossible things possible (Asādhyam Sādhaya) by human effort. This story did not happen thousands of years ago in a remote corner of the world, but in the recent past of 300 years ago when Serfoji - I, a Maratha king, ruled the city of Tanjore.

The king after witnessing the grace of the Divine Mother Abirāmi, honored Bhattar appropriately and granted him the privilege of obtaining paddy from large tracts of land. The orders of the king’s grants, inscribed on a copper plate and handed to Bhattar at that time, are still present today with the lineage of Bhattar. The rituals to the Divine Mother Abirāmi, are still conducted to this day every year, in honour of the extraordinary event that took place three centuries ago. The ritual cermony is performed by priests of Bhattar’s lineage by obtaining paddy from the same land that was once given by the king to Bhattar.

The devotion, faith and deep contemplation upon the Divine Mother turned a humble “Subrahmanya Iyer”, a helper to the chief priest of the temple, into “Abirāmi Bhattar” as he became widely known thenceforth, by the grace of the Divine Mother Abirāmi.

The 100 songs of Bhattar’s composition, contain wide references to the ways associated with the worship of the goddess and the divine experiences that a sādhaka can expect. He also mentions on how to attain Her grace and merge into Her ultimately, sprinkled at many places in the poems. This work of Anthathi, acknowledged by the Divine Mother through Her miracles and grace, attains the status of a highly venerable scripture for all sincere devotees. This scripture has numerous commentaries in the Tamil language and great scholars have elaborated on its greatness on many occasions.

The following interpretations are a humble attempt as revealed to the author. The author requests the forgiveness for any mistakes in the interpretations and prays that the Divine Mother Abirāmi guides the readers and all spiritual aspirants to fulfil their desires and attain Her complete grace in all aspects. The author further dedicates the commentary to the great goddess of “Thirukadaiyur - Abirāmi” who is in the śilā rūpa (as an idol) and to the Guru maṇḍala (lineage of masters) who are none but the same Abirāmi, who walks and talks to the commentator in the form of his Guru (Master).                                                                                                    ..............to be continued

This article is wirtten by Shri Arun and can be contacted at arun.radhakrishnan25@gmail.com