Sree Narayana Guru's

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The concept of ‘snake-charmer’ and ‘snake’ introduced by Guru in his composition ‘Kundalinippattu’ is one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted works of the author. Most commentators had come to the conclusion or belief that the word ‘snake’ refers to Kundalini. But Dr.T.Bhaskaran goes on record for his opinion that the ‘snake’ here does not refer to Kundalini, i.e. the coiled snake at the base of the spine or the Sushumnanadi.


Treating God’s creations as Pasu (creatures) and God as Pasupati (Lord of the creatures) is a well-known concept. But such works which treat the creations as ‘snake’ and the Creator as the snake charmer are rather rare, though such songs do exist in Tamil literature. Guru has adopted that thinking while composing the Kundalinippattu (Song of the Kundalini). The original name given to this work was Pampattichinth (Song of the Snake-charmer) and not Kundalinippattu. Just as the snake charmer charms with his snake, the Creator charms and plays with His creations. This is called as Thruvilayadal or Leela (Divine Play). This concept has also been employed in another work of Guru, Janani-navaratna-manjari- whre he says ‘Oh Lord! everything is a drama (divine play ).


The concept of the ‘snake’ and snake charmer is more appropriate to describe the Divine Play rather than Pasu and Pasupati. Pasupati is the one who can remove Pasa (rope) that binds all Pasu (creations). The Pasu (animal) is controlled or grazed by its owner. Here the concept of ‘play (Leela)’ is ambiguous. But in the concept of ‘snake’ and ‘snake charmer’ the meaning is quite clear.


Every move or act of a creation, is a dance, where the creation (like man) takes part in the divine play by swaying to the will of the Creator. Guru, in his wisdom, advises that one should play his role in the Divine Leela, knowing the principle behind creation (the purpose of one’s birth in this world). This is also what Upasanamarga exhorts us to follow.


aadu pampe, punam thedu pampe yru-

lananthakkoothu kandadu pampe.


Dance, snake dance!

Seek your pit.

Seeing the graceful divine dance of the Bliss

Dance, snake, dance!


Here the word ‘snake’ is used to refer to the devotee (who is also a creation). The devotee is urged to take part in the divine play. ‘Punam thedu pampe’- here ‘punam’ refers to the snake pit (hole), which is the house of the snake. Similarly the Supreme Lord is the house (or final resting place) of all creations. This means one should discover one’s soul (Atma) by introspection and controlling the external senses of distraction. Here the word ‘Adal’ has the same connotation as Vazhal (living) and Punam thedal means Azhal (in the ocean of Satchidananda) as mentioned in Daivadasakam.





In the Punam (Awareness), the graceful divine dance of Siva (who is the embodiment of Bliss) is taking place. O! Snake (devotee), realize this, and take part in the cosmic dance of Lord Siva (Sivathandavam). Siva is also known as Nataraja (The King of dancers).


All creatures originate from the womb of Truth (Paramatma). This has been clarified by Guru in his main work Atmopadesa-satakam:


Innumerable sparks arise, though unreal as real, from Awareness, causing the appearance of world. . So apart from Awareness there is no other thing. Thus one should know. This knowledge brings the state of oneness’. (Stanza-89.)


The one rati alone is expanding into the ego, the senses, the mind, the body and all that is’. (Stanza-70.)


thinkalum konnayum choodumeesanpada-

pankajam chernnu ninnadu pampe.


Along with the lotus feet of the Lord,


Who has the crescent moon and yellow flowers on his crest,


Dance, O! Snake, dance!


Siva is the God who has the crescent moon and the yellow flowers (cassia flower) in his crest. The devotee is advised to dance along with the lotus feet of the Lord, the lord of dancers (Nataraja).



venneraninju vilangum thirumeni

kannerozhukakkandadu pampe.


Seeing with tears of joy,


The divine body of Siva,


Which shines with sacred ash smeared all over,


Dance, snake, dance!




Sacred ash that Siva dons is the ash of Trigunas i.e. Satva, Reja and Tama.


aayiram kodiyananthan neeyanana-

mayiravum thurannadu pampe.


You have the power of


Thousand crores of Anantan.


With your thousand hoods opened out,


Dance, snake, dance!


Here all creations are considered as one having the power of thousand crores (infinite) of Ananta and with thousand mouths (the cosmic serpent-Sesha with thousand hoods). Open your thousand mouths and dance with ecstasy.


Ananta indicates infinite power or strength dormant in creation. The ignorant does not have any idea of this power.


omennu thottoru kodi manthraporul

 namennarinjukondadu pampe.


The meaning of crores of manthras,


Beginning with AUM, we are.


Dance, snake, dance!


Crore’ is used for ‘infinite’. O! Snake, recognize that we are the Truth behind the infinite number of mantras (power laden sound or syllables which are chanted).


The Truth or essence behind all mantras starting from AUM is the Paramatma (Siva). Visualize this Supreme Being in all creations, and dance.


pullippulithol puthakyum poomeniye-

nnullil kalikkumennadu pampe.


Covered with spotted leopard skin,


The tender body of Siva dance within me.


Visualizing that dance with ecstasy,


Dance, snake, dance!



peyum pinavum pirakkum chudukadu

meyum paramporuladu pampe.


Seeing the Lord Siva,


Who haunts the cemetery


Full of ghosts and goblins,


O snake, Dance!


poomanakkumkuzhalalakom pookuma

komalameni kandadu pampe.


O snake, dance!


Looking at the beautiful body of Siva


Which his consort Parvathy-(from whose hair emanates the fragrance of flowers)-keeps in her heart.


nadhathilundam namassivayapporu-

 ladiyayullathennadu pampe.




Which has its origin from AUM


Is the primal cosmic sound,


Know this, O! Snake, and dance.


The mantra AUM NAMA SIVAYAH (I bow to the worship of Siva),


originated from AUM (Nada Brahmam). It is the primal cosmic sound from which the universe has emerged.


Mandukya Upanishad says: ‘Harih Aum. Aum, the word, is all this. A clear explanation of it (is the following). All that is past, present and future is verily Aum. That which is beyond the triple conception of time, is also truly Aum’.


poomlaronum thirumalumarum pon-

poomeni kandillennadu pampe.


With the knowledge that,


Both Brahma and Vishnu,


Have not seen the tender body of Siva,


O! Snake, dance.


Vishnu (the Lord of sustenance) and Brahma (the Lord of creation) once tried to find out the beginning and end of Siva. But they could not find Him.


kamanechuttakannulla kalarithan-

namam nukarnnu ninnadu pampe.


Enjoy the essence of the name ‘Siva’


Who is the enemy of Kala,


Whose third eye destroyed Kama,


And dance, O, snake.




Kala is the God of death (Yama). Siva is also known as Kalakala (One who can kill Yama). Kama (Kamadeva) is the God of love. Opening His third eye Siva killed Kamadeva.


vellimalayil vilangum vedapporu-

lullil kalikkumennadu pampe.


O, snake, visualize that Siva


Who is the essence of Vedas,


Who shines in the silver hills of Kailas,


And dance.


In mythology, Kailas is the abode of Siva. It is a mountain in Himalaya and is covered with snow, so has the appearance of silver.



natayvarum namennadu pampe.


Knowing that we are the field


For the Lord to dance,


Who has dancing snake as adornment


And dance, snake, dance!


Devotee should attain to the plane of SIVOHAM (I am Siva). The human mind and body is treated as a field or Kshetra and the one who knows everything that takes place in the field (body and mind- actions and thoughts) is called Kshetrajna. (Gita- XIII.i)


ellamirakkiyedukkumekan pada-

 pallavam pattininnadu pampe.


Clinging to the leaf-tender feet of Lord Siva,


Who is the ONE that creates,


And later dissolves all creations,


And dance, O snake!


Dance with the rhythm of Siva’s dance, who is responsible for Srishti (creation), Sthithi (maintenance) and Samhara (dissolution) of the universe.



ellayarivum vizhungi verum veli-

 yellayilerininnadu pampe.


After absorbing all the knowledge


And reaching the realm of


All pervading Awareness,


Dance, snake, dance.


Here knowledge means the knowledge of names and forms (manifestations). It includes the knower (subject), the known (object) and knowledge (the act of knowing). After absorbing all these manifestations and reaching the realm of the all pervading Awareness (Chidakasa), O! snake, dance.


ellam vizhungiyethirattezhunnoru

chollengumunduninnadu pampe.


Realizing that there is a ‘word’


And nothing equal to that.


Who has absorbed within Him all the worldly manifestations,


And dance, snake, dance!


The word means ‘AUM’. Siva is the AUM with attributes. There is nothing equal to that, either in this world or in the world beyond.


chollellamundu chudarayezhum poru-

lellayilerininnadu pampe.


Ascending to that spiritual plane,


Where, that Truth having absorbed all the names within,


Shines, as Awareness.


Dance, snake, dance!


Names means names and forms (manifestations). Awareness is the Ultimate Principle (Tatva)


Deham nijamalla dehiyoruvanee

Dehathilundarinjeedu pampe.


The body that we see is not eternal.


In this body there is ‘One’


Known as Dehi (Jeevatma).


Realizing this, O snake, dance!


nadum nagaravumonnayi navil ni-


nnadu ninnamamotheedu pampe.


The name that plays


On the tongues of all devotees everywhere,


Both in the villages and towns,


Is Your name.


O snake! Chant that name.


dehavum dehiyumonnay vizhungidu-

mekanumundarinjeedu pampe.


There is ONE


Who absorbs, both the human body,


And, the individual soul.


Realize this, O snake, and dance!


When one realizes Awareness, the false notion of ‘my soul’ also ends. Where there is no ‘I’, there is no place for ‘my soul’. Thus the ‘Dehi’ (Jeevatma) also gets absorbed within the Awareness (Siva).


perinkalninnu peruveliyennalla

paradi thonniyennadu pampe.


Not only space,


Earth and others,


All have arisen just as names.


Realize this, O snake, and dance!


Earth and others means the five elements (Panchabhutas). i.e. earth, water, fire, air and space.


chernnu nilkkumporulellam chentharodu

nernnu pommaru ninnadu pampe!


O snake! dance,


With the realization that,


All other names and forms are,


Inseparable from Lord Siva- the Red Lotus.




The devotee should realize that ‘All this is but Brahman’ (Sarvam khalvidam Brahma). (Mundakopanishad. II. ii. 11.) and ‘All this is but the Self’ (Sarvam hi Satchitanandam). (Chandogyopanishad. VII. xxv. 2.)


This concept is also seen in stanza 4 of Atmopadesa-satakam:


Knowledge, the object known, and the knowledge of the knower, together make one primal glory. Within the radiance of that great omnipresent Awareness, one should merge and become that alone’.


At this juncture the cosmic dance of Siva and the dance of creations become one. i.e. the devotee reaches the level of nonduality (Advaita).


Spirituality is the pilgrimage from Dvaita (duality) to Advaita (nonduality). Dvaita is the starting point (where the distinction between Jeevatma and Paramatma is perceived) and Advaita is the destination (where the distinction disappears). The devotee and God exist as two entities in Dvaita philosophy. In Advaita, there are no ‘two’ but just ONE.


Liberation (mukti or moksha) is of two types. Sadyomukti (instant liberation) and Kramamukti (stage by stage liberation). Jnanamarga or Vicharamarga (the path of contemplation) leads to Sadyomukti. Upasanamarga (the path of worshipful action) requires a stage by stage process to attain liberation.


Upasanamarga is best suited for householders in their spiritual approach to liberation. Such Upasana consists of Prarthana (prayer), Bhajan (group singing) or chanting), Archana (offering of flowers, etc), Japa (chanting of mantras) and Dhyana (meditation). While the common man crosses the hurdles towards liberation in stages, the person who adopts the Jnana or Vicharamarga reaches his goal in one leap like a seasoned acrobat or a bird that can fly high above and reach its destination.


Many commentators have only added to the confusion amongst devotees by stating that Guru’s composition has to be understood on the basis of Yogasastra. The Guru’s view has place only for Jnanayoga and Karmayoga. This has been amply clarified by Guru in Yogadarsana (stanza 10):


jnanam karmeti loke asmin

dvidha yogah samasatah

 anayor yogavistarah

sarvah parisamapyate.


(‘In this world there are only two types of Yogas- Jnana and Karma. All other extensions of yoga are contained in these two.’)


Therefore, if we were to comment on Guru’s compositions, it must confine only to Jnana and Karmayoga. From this angle, it is more appropriate and desirable to describe this composition as ‘Pampattichintu (Song of the snake charmer)’ rather than Kundalinipattu (Song of the Kundalini)


It is not enough to lead a life in anyway, as you please. One must dance to the tune of the Lord. This is the message of Kundalinippattu or Pampattichintu. For participating in the divine play the devotee must be a Jnani (knower of Truth). This is the practical difficulty in it.