(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Appar (AH-pahr), a Nāyanār poet-saint, lived during the seventh century c.e. in south India, site of the Śaivite Bhakti Movement. This movement produced numerous poet-saints who were instrumental in leaving a legacy of Śaivite hymns in praise of Śiva for the Tamil-speaking people of India. Of these saints, Appar, born in a wealthy Vellala agriculturist family, left the most endearing hymns that became the basis of Tamil Śaivism. He pursued Jainism, mastered its doctrines, and became head of a monastery at Tiruppādirippuliyūr (Pātālipuram). Disenchanted with Jainism, he turned to the veneration of Śiva, whom he believed cured him of a chronic pain. Brought before the Pallava king Mahendravarman I, Appar’s convictions converted the king to Śaivism.

Appar’s fame spread throughout south India as he composed and sang simple hymns of self-surrender to Śiva (311 of which are still extant), reflecting hope and courage in facing the future. From the boy-saint Sambandar, he received the name Appar (father), and they became lifelong friends. His hymns are referred to as Devāram (“private worship”), a term used to indicate hymns. His last poetical-hymns petitioned Śiva to relieve him of his earthly journey, a prayer answered circa 655 c.e.


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Appar’s hymns became the foundation of Tamil Śaivism. They reflect the quintessence of the Vedas and are sung during religious rituals.

Additional Resources

(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Berry, Thomas. Religions of India. Beverly Hills, Calif.: Benziger, 1971.

Pillai, S. Vaiyapuri. History of Tamil Language and Literature. Madras, India: New Century Book House, 1956.

Ramachandran, T. N. Tirumurai the Sixth. Tamil Nadu, India: Dharmapuram Aadheernam, 1995.