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Arutpa Marutpa Debate

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இந்தப் பக்கத்தை தமிழில் வாசிக்க: அருட்பா மருட்பா விவாதம்

Thiruvarutpa First Edition

Arutpa Marutpa debate (1867 - 1904) is a debate initiated by Arumuka Navalar of Jaffna against giveng the title Arutpa[1] for the compilation poems of Ramalinga Vallalar . Navalar argued that only the Saiva Thirumuraigal[2] can be called Arutpa and Ramalinga Vallalar's songs would have to be categorized as Marutpa[3]. Various scholars joined the debate by taking either sides and each side published criticisms on the opposite side. Even defamation suits were filed by both sides.

Naveena Nokkil Vallalar

Basis of the Debate

When the songs of Ramalinga Vallalar were compiled and published as a text by his principal student Ubayakalanidhi Thozhuvur Velayutha Mudhaliar, he named the text as Thiru Arutpa. Ramalinga Vallalar did not dispute this. Thozhuvur Velayutha Mudaliar has mentioned this in his poem titled Thiruvarutpa Varalaaru. The word Thiru indicates wealth, respect or auspicious nature.

Thozhuvur Velayutha Mudaliar split the songs of Ramalinga Vallalar into 6 Thirumurai. The word Murai indicates arrangement, order, structure or assemblage. The categories were named as Thirumurai since the complete text was called Thiruvarutpa.

The publication work of Thiruvarutpa started in 1860 and ended in 1867. The letters written by Ramalinga Vallalar show that the first 4 Thirumurai were published with his consent and supervision. Thozhuvur Velayitha Mudaliar mentions that Ramalinga Vallalar was furious on seeing the author's name as Thiruvarutprakaasa Vallalar, as he had asked the author's name to be published as Chidambaram Ramalingam Pillai only. Later Ramalinga Vallalar conciliated himself by splitting the author name as Thiruvarutprakasa + Vallal + R and justifying that only the last part of "R" referred to himself and the "Vallal" referred to the God addressed in the poems.


Arutpa Marutpa Kandanathirattu

In 1864, Arumuka Navalar from Nallur, Jaffna district had established a school , Saivaprakasa Vidyasaalai, at Chidambaram. He published books from the school and was also giving discourses on Saivism[4] from there. During that time, Ramalinga Vallalar's Arutpa was being recited in various temples in addition to Saiva Thirumuraigal. The key reasons for this were that, Arutpa was easy to understand, was widely published and the traditional Saiva Thirumuraigal were unavailable to the general public other than Othuvars, people who chant devotional hymns in Saivite temples. There was an unwritten restriction on the chanting of Saiva Thirumuraigal by people who were not Othuvars or upper caste Saivites. Arumuka Navalar was furious on seeing Vallalar's songs being chanted in temples on par with Saiva Thirumuraigal. He felt that the reason for such chanting was because these songs were published with the name of Arutpa and Thirumuraigal. He was also of the opinion that Thondaimandalam Mudaliar caste people were considering these songs as belonging to their caste. There was some truth in this assumption also.

Arumuka Navalar insisted on all Saivite temples to follow the Agama [5]based worship. He considered all other forms of worship as incorrect. Arumuka Navalar tried to strongly establish the traditional customs across the temples. Hence he thought that the practice of chanting Vallalar's songs in temples is a big violation and a disgrace for Saivam. He strongly kept condemning this practice in all the places where he was making religious discourses. He called Ramalinga Vallalar's songs as Marutpa[3] and not Arutpa[1].


Vallalar & Navalar

There were three reasons behind the Arutpa - Marutpa confict. Arumuka Navalar had been strongly criticizing the Dikshitars[6] who had the rights for performing pujas at the Chidambaram temple. He complained that they were not following the Agama norms. The Dikshitars were defending themselves mentioning that they follow the tradition of worship that is part of their legacy and what they follow has been traditionally accepted. Saiva Adheenams[7] opposed the Dikshitars. Arumuka Navalar argued against the Dikshitars, on behalf of the Adheenams, proposing that Dikshitars must come under the control of Adheenams. A Dikshitar - Karkartha Vellalar caste conflict was also underlying this issue.

Arumuka Navalar's opposition to Ramalinga Vallalar was considered to be a part of the traditional caste conflict between Vellalars and Thondaimandala Mudaliars by both sides.

In 1868, when C.W. Thamotharampillai published the Sollathigaram of Tholkappiyam along with the commentary by Senavarayar, Arumuka Navalar had helped in reviewing the publication. When the advertisement for this publication appeared in Dinavardhamani magazine, C.W. Thamotharampillai had referenced Arumuka Navalar as "...the mighty powerful person in all grammer literature and a scholar with no equals in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka...". This description incited the Tamil scholars in Tamilnadu. The debate escalated with the supporting sides splitting into Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka.


Supporters of Vallalar, who were incited by Arumuka Navalar's opposition to Vallalar's Thiruvarutpa, published a text titled Thiruvarutpa Thooshana Parikaram (Remedy for the abuse of Thiruvarutpa). Due to criticisms against this book, another condemnation book titled Vinjabana Pathirikkai was published through Narasingapuram Veerasamy Mudaliar who was a student of Vallalar. This book strongly ridiculed Arumuka Navalar's Tamil scholarship and in general all Srilankan scholars. In response, Sivapathanesa Pillai from Madras published a book as a refutation. It is said that this book was written with the approval of Arumuka Navalar. There is also another background version which mentions that it was written by Arumuka Navalar himself. In response, the Vallalar faction published a rebuttal of this through a book titled Agankara Thimir Baanu. Researchers opine that this was written by Thozhuvur Velayutha Mudaliar. Arumuka Navalar responded by publishing a book Poliyarutpa Maruppu. 12 more books in repudiation were published in response. Thus condemnation books were published by both sides back to back.

Defamation suit

on June 7, 1869, Dikshitars convened a meeting at Chidambaram temple to condemn Arumuka Navalar. Ramalinga Vallalar participated in this meeting. In the meeting , Vallalar split the word "Navalar" ( in Arumuka Navalar's name ) as "Na" + "Alar" and criticized him as a person who gossips a lot. It is said that there was a question raised to Vallalar by Sabha Natesa Dikshitar (who was head of the Thillai group) on whether the "Na" in Navalar's name can be interpreted to mean "Nai" (dog) for which Vallalar had apparently remained silent. In addition, Sabha Natesa Dikshitar is supposed to have mentioned that Navalar should be be dragged to the meeting and be given a beating.

Condemnation book by Kathiraiver Pillai

Based on this event, Arumuka Navalar filed a suit in the Manjakuppam court. Sabha Natesa Dhikshitar was the first defendant and Vallalar, the second defendant. The case came for hearing under the bench of joint judge Roberts on November 18, 1869. Arumuka Navalar retained G.P. Soundaranayagam Pillai as his lawyer while Vallalar was represented by Shri Show. Vallalar denied that he had mentioned any statement of abusive nature. On his denial, the responsibility of proving that Vallalar did say statements of abusive nature went to Arumuka Navalar. However, Navalar withdrew his complaint mentioning that Vallalar's denial was enough for him. Sabha Natesa Dikshitar was punished and Ramalinga Vallalar was acquitted.

Stories about the Lawsuit

Imaginary stories around the lawsuits are widely prevalent in the stages of Tamil Nadu. There is a story which says the lawsuit was filed by Arumuka Navalar to enforce that only Saiva Thirumurai should be referred as Thiruvarutpa and Vallalar's songs must not be called so and the suit was set aside by the court. Researcher P. Saravanan opines that this story was started by S. Vaiyapuri Pillai. Another version mentions that when Ramalinga Vallalar entered the court, Arumuka Navalar stood up in respect automatically and on seeing this, the judge set aside the case. This story is written by writer named Thumilan. M. Po. Sivanjanam mentions this in his book.

Second Level Debate

N. Kathiraiver Pillai of Jaffna is the son of Nagapillai, the priest at the Puthu Sannathi Kandasamy temple. His given name is Velupillai. It is said that he came to Tamil Nadu and changed his name to Kathiraiver Pillai after being involved in some financial frauds in Jaffna. He worked as a proof reader at the Ribbon printing press in Muthialpet, Chennai. He worked as a Tamil teacher for sometime in the Wesley college, Chennai. He learnt Saiva Siddhanta [8]from Choolai Somasundara Nayakar, known as the Saiva Siddhanta Sandamaarutham. Kathiraiver Pillai was publishing strong condemnations against and discoursed strongly criticizing the religions of Advaitam, Buddhism and Vaishnavisam. He was also publishing caste related condemnations. He was carrying on these activities as his regular occupation. In 1903, Kathiraiver Pillai published two books titled Poliyarutpa Maruppu and Merpadi Vazhuthirattu. The text mainly consisted of slanders , blasphemy and ridicules. He came out with more strong condemnation when there were few objections to the initial two books.

Second Defamation Suit

Vadivel Pillai, Ramalinga Vallalar's elder brother's son, filed a law suit against Kathiraiver Pillai in the Chennai Presidency magistrate court on May 28, 1904. The suit was filed against the book Ramalinga Pillai Paadal Aapaasa Dharpanam Allathu Marutpa Maruppu written and published by Kathiraiver Pillai. Case no 24533. Kathiraiver Pillai and his student Balasundara Naicker were the defendents. Kathiraiver Pillai was represented by V. Viswanatha Sastri and Samara. In the hearing, Kathiraiver Pillai refuted the case mentioning he had not written the book. Balasundara Naicker admitted that he had written the book. In the hearing, the pamphlets printed and distributed on behalf of Arumuka Navalar before this case were provided as evidence. The primary witness in the case was U.V. Swaminatha Iyer. He came to the court to speak in support of Kathiraiver Pillai. He gave evidence that it was incorrect to name Ramalinga Vallalar's songs as Thiruvarutpa and only the Saiva Thirumurai can be named as Thiruvarutpa. The Judge Adjudeen Saibu dismissed the case based on the statement by U. Ve. Swaminatha Iyer. He mentioned that "in defamation suits, the intention of the defendant to cause defamation must be established as proof for the suit". The court was of the opinion that in the current case, Kathiraiver Pillai issued the condemnations based on his religious belief only and there was no personal intention to slander Ramalinga Pillai and cause any losses. It highlighted that there was no impact to the petitioner due to the publication of the book (Court cases were conducted through a jury in those days and this was the view of the jury that heard this case). On April 9, 1895, Vadivelu Pillai appealed against this verdict in the high court. On November 21, 1905, the high court verdict also was given in favor of Kathiraiver Pillai. The petitioner did not suffer any personal losses due to the book and the book did not cause any harm to general public also. High court dismissed the case on the basis of these two facts.

Kathiraiver Pillai group conducted festivals under the name of Thiruvarutpa Mahotsavam at six places to celebrate their victory in the court. Publications written condemning Ramalinga Vallalar and Thiruvarutpa were freely distributed in the celebrations conducted in Chennai, Chidambaram, Devakottai and Kanjeevaram. It became a festival of traditional Saivites opposed to the reformist, equality views expressed by Ramalinga Vallalar.

Kathiraiver Pillai went around telling in Jaffna and other places that the court ordered not to call Ramalinga Vallalar's songs as Thiruvarutpa. One person M. T. Bhanukavi who was initially on the side of Kathiraiver Pillai, then moved to Vallalar's support and gave his strong dissent to Kathiraiver Pillai. He wrote a big book "Ramalingam Pillai Paadal Aapaasa Tharpana Kandana Niyaya Vachira Kudaaram" which did not get too much opposition.

Conclusion of Debate

Maraimalai Adigal brought an end to this debate. He defined Ramalinga Vallalar's songs as Arutpa only and challenged Kathiraiver Pillai for a public debate on the topic. In the debate that happened on September 3, 1903, Kathiraiver Pillai could not provide a fitting response to Maraimalai Adigal's exemplary oration. On September 27, 1903 and again on October 18, 1903 Maraimalai Adigal called Kathiraiver Pillai for repeat public debates. Kathiraiver Pillai did not attend any of the debates even though he accepted the challenges. In those occasions, Maraimalai Adigal gave long speeches, to the satisfaction of the audience, justifying that Ramalinga Vallalar's songs were Thiruvarutpa only. Nagarcoil Seikuthambi Pavalar also established that Ramalinga Vallalar's songs are Arutpa only in public debates. There were not many opposition to his debates.


Arutpa faction
  • Thiruvarutpa Thooshana Parikaaram
  • Vinjabana Pathirikkai
  • Agankaara Thimir Baanu
  • Arumuka Navalar Parisodhana Thosha Prakaasikai
  • Nadanthavannam Arivitham
  • Praarthanai Pathirikkai
  • Poliyartpa Maruppin Kandanam Allathu Kudharkka Karaniya Nasa Magaparasu
  • Theevanthira Saiva Vinotham
  • Perambala Prasangam
  • Ramalinga Adigalai Thooshiporathu Panniru Poiyagatral Allathu Unmai Therivithal
  • Thiruvarutpa Vivathikalukoru Vilakkam
Marutpa faction
  • Poliyarutpa Maruppu
  • Kudharkka Karaniya Nasa Magaparasu Kandanam
  • Nallarivu Sudar Koluthal
  • Dravida Prakaasikai
  • Mukuna Vayathin Muraimaraintharaithal
  • Poliyarutpa Vazhuththirattu
  • Polivaathigalukku Puthi Pugattal
  • Poliyarutpa Kandana Mahavithva Kanakasabai
  • Marutpa Vivatha Mathyaksha Pathirikkai
  • Sivaninthai Guruninthai Thiruvarutpaninthayinaarukku Seviyarivuruthal
  • Kutharkikalin Poikol Vilakku
  • Ramalingappillai Angathapaattu
  • Ramalingappillai Paditrozhukkam
  • Thiruvarunaneri Thamizhvedha Prabaavam
  • Poliyarutpa Kandana Prasangam
  • Pasukarana Vibareethaartha Nikrakamum Poliyarutpa Kandana Parikaara Maruppum
  • Ramalingam Pillai Paadal Aapaasa Tharpanam Allathu Marutpa Maruppu
  • Marutpa Maruppu Arangetram
  • Marutpa Maruppu Vijaya Mahasarabam


Arutpa faction
  • Ramalinga Vallalar
  • Thozhuvur Velayutha Mudaliar
  • Attavathanam Veerasamy Chettiar
  • Irukkam Rathina Mudaliar
  • Poovai Kalyanasundara Mudaliar
  • Nagapattinam Vedhasalam Pillai
  • Thirumayilai Shanmugam Pillai
  • Kanjeepuram Sabapathi Mudaliar
  • Thiruthanikai Visaagapperumal Iyer
  • Semangalam Narayana Mudaliar
  • Theevikkottai Muthusamy Pillai
  • Narasingapuram Veerasamy Mudaliar
  • Shanmuga Mudaliar
  • Puthuvai Velu Mudaliar
  • Sivananthapuram Selvaraya Mudaliar
  • M.T. Bhanukavi
  • Koodalur Viswalinga Mudaliar
  • Maraimalaiyadigal
  • Paramahamsa Athmaram Swamy
  • Seikuthambi Pavalar
  • Thanjai Shanmugam Pillai
  • P. Murugesa Mudaliar
  • M. Pazhani Mudaliar
Marutpa faction
  • Arumuka Navalar
  • Thiruvavadu Thurai Atheenakartha Subramaniya Desikar
  • Vedharanyam Atheenam Udhayamurthy
  • Thiruvannamalai Atheenam Arumuga Thambiran
  • Mahavidhvan Madurai Ramasamy Pillai
  • Mahavidhvan Meenakshisundaram Pillai
  • Mahavidhvan K. Saminatha Desikar
  • U. Ve. Saminatha Iyer
  • Thiruvavadu Thurai Sababathi Navalar
  • Melaipuloli N. Kathiraiver Pillai
  • Thanikasala Mudaliar
  • Thiru V. Kalyanasundara Mudaliar
  • P. C. Murugesa Mudaliar
  • Kalkulam Kuppuswamy Mudaliar


This essay is written based on the information in two books on Arutpa Marutpa debate written by Researcher P. Saravanan.


  • Arutpa - Marutpa - P. Saravanan
  • Arutpa Marutpa Kandana Thirattu - P. Saravanan
  • Vallalarum Navalarum - P. Saravanan


  1. 1.0 1.1 'Songs of Grace' - Arul+Pa ; Arul means grace and Pa can mean sons or poems.
  2. Saivite canon
  3. 3.0 3.1 'Confused Poems' - Marul means to be confused Pa meand songs or poems
  4. Religious practices and school of thought centered around Lord Siva.
  5. Canon focusing on rituals and practices around temples
  6. Priests
  7. Heads of Saivite mutts
  8. Philosophy

✅Finalised Page

First published on: 21-Oct-2022, 11:56:32 IST