The four foremost Nayanars with Manikkavaasakar - collectively called the நால்வர்: (from left) Sambandar, Appar, Sundarar, Manikkavachakar.
The twelve volumes of Tamil Śaiva hymns of the sixty-three Nayanars
8Tiruvacakam &
9Tiruvisaippa &
12Periya PuranamSekkizhar
Paadal Petra Sthalam
Paadal Petra Sthalam
Rajaraja I
Nambiyandar Nambi

Thirumurai (Tamil: திரு முறை, meaning holy division) is a twelve volume compendium of songs or hymns in praise of Shiva in the Tamil language from the 6th to the 11th century by various poets in South India. Nambi Andar Nambi compiled the first seven volumes by Appar, Sampandhar and Sundarar as Tevaram during the 12th century. During the course of time, a strong necessity was felt by scholars to compile Saiva literature to accommodate other works.[1] Tiruvacakam and Tirukovayar by Manickavasagar are included as the eighth, nine parts are compiled as the ninth Tirumurai out of which most are unknown, and the tenth as Tirumandiram by Tirumular, the famous Siddhar.[1] The eleventh is compiled by Karaikal Ammaiyar, Cheraman Perumal and others. The contemporary Chola king was impressed by the work of Nampi and included Nampi's work in the eleventh Tirumurai.[1] Sekkizhar's Periya Puranam, composed a century later, contains the life depiction of all the 63 Nayanmars.[1] The response for the work was so tremendous among Saiva scholars and Kulothunga Chola II that it was included as the 12th Tirumurai.[1] Tirumurai along with Vedas and Saiva agamas form the basis of Saiva Siddantha philosophy in Tamil Nadu.[2]

History and background

The Pallava period in the history of the Tamil land is a period of religious revival of Shaivism by the Shaivite Nayanars who by their Bhakti hymns captured the hearts of the people. They made a tremendous impression on the people by singing the praise of Shiva in soul-stirring devotional hymns.[3] Tirumurai in anthology supersedes Sangam literature, which is predominantly secular in nature.[4] The entire Tirumurai is in viruttam meter or lines of four. The principal characteristics of the head-rhyming is influenced both by syllabic and moric prosody.[4]