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The Hermeneutics of the Tirumantiram

  • Author(s): Mena, Carlos Ney
  • Advisor(s): hart, George L
  • et al.
Abstract

In Saiva Siddhanta, one of the main religious movements in Tamil Nadu, the Tirumantiram by Tirumular plays an important role. It is considered one of the main texts and though not read as much as some of the other more devotional texts or the more theological and philosophical texts, it nevertheless, stands out iconically as a key text for the movement and its followers. Saiva Siddhanta is seen by many in Tamil Nadu, as a local production which sometimes plays out in the discourse of the local Tamil culture as an indigenous production. However, what is also of interest in this movement is its long relationship to pan-Indian movements and how it participates in these trans-local discourses. Here, I look at the role that the Tirumantiram plays in the production of these pan-Indian discourses, especially as they become localized in Tamil Nadu and how the text helps to bridge these two spheres--the local and global, as it gets co-opted into the local Tamil Saiva Siddhanta;nta movement. I also touch upon how this same text is used by a counter-cultural movement--the Tamil Cittar movement which, in opposition to the orthodox, high-caste Saiva Siddhanta movement, uses this same very text but interprets it according to its own marginal discourse to make those same practices found in the text, available to a larger audience and set of practitioners.

I do this by first looking at the Tirumantiram in a historical and social context as has been studied by some scholars. I then, give a brief synopsis of its contents by looking at the different sections and their contents. I follow this with an analyses of the ideas and practices found within the Tirumantiram by looking at them through a mainly Foucaultian enterprise, especially by using some of the ideas and methodologies Foucault developed when looking at ancient Greek and Roman cultures of the self, to look at how technologies of the self were used in order to construct meanings of subjectivity and relationships to truth. I do this by first looking at some of the general ideas found in the Tirumantiram and how they have been analyzed and explained through a corpus of commentarial productions. I then look at some of the specific sections which deal with particular bodily and mental practices, in order to contextualize the discourses ofSaiva Siddhanta, especially the concepts of devotion and grace, and how they are embedded even within physical practices. I conclude that the Tirumantiram played and plays and important role in the formation of subjectivity and ethics in present day Tamil Nadu.

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