Pavlova M. B. The Legend of the Child Poet. Sambandar: Myth and Reality

Maria B. Pavlova
Institute of Oriental and Classical Studies under Higher School of Economics
Moscow, Russia



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ABSTRACT. This article presents an analysis of the hagiography and legacy of the Tamil medieval saint Sambandar (seventh century). According to the legend, he lived only 16 years and, being an extremely gifted child, created and sang a multiplicity of hymns dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. The poetic skill displayed in his hymns is in no way inferior to the poetry of his grown up contemporaries. Comparing Sambandar’s hymns with those of other poets, the author attempts to fi nd evidence proving the infant age of Sambandar, such as naming himself ‘a child’, absence of penitential motives, and lack of love motifs and elements of ‘personal life experience’ in his poetry. Although some puzzles concerning the real life story and poetry of the miraculous ‘boy saint’ remain unsolved, the article demonstrates that the poetic image of Sambandar presents a quite elaborately constructed myth, which became part of the Shaivic mythology in South India and the ‘keystone’ of the state religious ideology of the time.


KEYWORDS: South India, Nayanar, Shiva, Tamil bhakti, child poet


УДК 2-291(540)
DOI 10.31250/2618-8619-2020-3(9)-43-54



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