Chandra Bose
Research Scholar, Centre for History,
Bharathidasan University, Tiruchirapalli

Sadāśiva Brahmendra lived during the first half of the 18th century A.D. and was a great sage thoroughly conversant with Hindu philosophy. He was a contemporary of Vijaya Raghunatha Raya Tondaiman (1730-1769 A.D.) of Pudukkottai and Serfoji I (1712-1728 A.D.), the Maratha king of Thanjavur. He served as a spiritual teacher of Tondaiman.

He was born (1700 A.D.) to Somasundara Avadhāni and Pārvati, nearly three hundred years ago at Tiruvisanallur, a village near Kumbakonam. His proper name was Śivarāmakriṣṇan and nick name was Piccukkuppan. Śivarāmakriṣṇan, the name of Sadaśiva prior to renunciation, studied under local scholars and Tiruvisanallur Rāmasubba Śāstrigal, and later came under the tutelage of Śrī Paramaśivendra Saraswati, the Pontiff of the Kāñchi Kāmakoti Śaṅkarāchārya Pīṭham.



Sadāśiva  had studied not only Tamil but also Sanskrit. He received his early education in Madurai. Under the guidance of Rāma Subba Śāstri, he had learned the Vedas, Śāstras and Epics. He studied Vedānta and Yoga and further acquired some knowledge of music. He acquired the knowledge of Śastras from his teacher Paramaśivendrar. After learning the elements of literature and grammar under the famous Rāmabhadra Dīkṣhitar, the author of the Sanskrit play Jānakīpariṇaya, he is said to have forsaken worldly life to go in search of more spiritual exercise.

He composed 23 kīrtanas in Sanskrit lyrics. They form an important section of the bhajana canon of South India. His works are great and include Brahma tatva-prakāśika, Brahmayoga Sūtravṛtti, Navamaṇimālai, Ātmānubhūti­-prakāśkai, Viyailasam, Svapnoditam, Ashmanu Candanam, Sittanta­kalpavalli, Karuratnamālikai, Palakīrtanangal, Brahmsacirya, and Upani­shattukkalin Viruti. He was held to be the greatest rāja yogin of South India.

Sri Paramaśivendra Sarasvati desired to appoint Sadāśiva Brahmendra as pīṭhadhipati of Kāñchi math after his time. The latter was advised to conduct the Śrī Candra moulīśvaramānasika pūja stotra, but he refused to accept the post of Pontiff.

When Sadāśiva Brahmendra became the spiritual guru of Vijaya Raghunatha Raya Tondaiman, an impetus was given to the development of music. His kīrtanas or devotional songs, which are still very popular, must have found many admirers who would have learned music to sing them properly. When the Tondaiman king did not have a child, the saint wrote a mantram on the bed of the Kaveri river in front of the king. Later, a child was born to him. Those songs are preserved in the Tondaiman’s aranmanai at Pudukottai. For the same purpose, the saint sent his book Ātmavidyāvilāsam to Shahaji of Thanjavur.

Tondaiman, the king of Pudukkottai state, had undertaken yoga at Tiruvarankulam forest near Śivananapuram which is located south-east of the Pudukkottai. As the ruler often stayed and spent his life in meditation, he earned the title Śivananapuram-Durai.

 The king met the saint Sadāśiva Brahmendra while he was going through a forest. There are two views about the place where he met. Some assert that he met him in the woods of Pudukkottai, while others say that he met him on the banks of Kaveri near Tiruchirappalli. The saint imparted certain mantras and taught philosophy to the king by way of writing the alphabet on the sand. On seeing the yogi, the king made his obeisance to him, requesting his spiritual instruction. The sage thereupon wrote on the sand by his side the Dakṣiṇāmūrti­mantram. He directed the king to meet the spiritual savant Mahābhāṣya Gopālakṛiṣṇa Śāstri, a classmate of the yogi himself, for the interpretation and study of Patañjali’s Yogaśāstra.

Images of the Saint

 A saintly figure, beardless and wearing a small loin cloth around the hip was found on one of the pillars of śukravāramaṇḍapa of Gokarṇeṣvara temple at Tirugokarnam and this is ascribed by the local people to represent Sadāśiva Brahmendra. From this, evidence, the period of the construction of the maṇḍapa may be placed around the latter part of the 18th century A.D. He stands in añjali posture. He has long ears without ornaments. He has shaven face and tonsured head with a topknot (uṣṇīṣa). One rudrākṣamāla is seen around his neck. He has a stout belly and wears a loin cloth (antarīya), around the waist. He wears armlets and bracelets.

A portrait-sculpture ascribed to the king Tondaiman, as a devotee of saint, is represented on a pillar of the śukravāramaṇḍapa. He is standing in añjali pose in front of the same saint. He also has a tonsured head and moustache. He is ornamented with earrings ratnakuṇḍalas and beaded-studs in both ears. He wears a lower garment (antarīya) around the waist.

Another image of Sadāśiva Brahmendra is represented on a separate stone (over one foot high) which is placed near his burial site at Nerur. He is sitting with añjali pose in yogic padmāsana posture. He has a shaven face, tonsured head and long ear lobes. The rudrākṣhamāla is wound around the head. A temple was built by the Tondaiman over his tomb, which was endowed with two villages in the Tirumeyyam taluk of Pudukkottai state.

Muthu-Mariyarnman temple at Punnainallur near Thanjavur also has a stucco image of Sadāśiva Brahmendra on the left side of the gopura. The Maratha king Tuljaji is presented on the right side of the same gopura. Sadāśiva Brahmendra stands in the nude without ornamentations. Vibhūti is pasted on his forehead, chest, belly and arms. He has chinmudra and has completely shaven the face and head. The king is standing in the añjali pose. He has a sword, head-gear and more ornamentation in the style of the Marathas. The temple was built by the people of Thanjavur under the guidance of Saint Sadāsśva for their protection from the dangerous disease of amman (small pox).

A photo copy of the saint’s painting is in the Ayyaval math of Tiruvisanallur, the birth place of the saint. There are two categories of saints in Hindu religion: those called divine ṛṣis who are represented in the Vedas, Śāstras and other sacred lore, and those who expounded the philosophy, cosmic logic and godliness of the universe, the philosophical thinkers of the Hindu religion who form the second. The images of these priestly saints are found in sculptures from the early centuries of the Christian era down to the 20th century. There are umpteen numbers of saints in the Hindu religion and their images in the temples of Tamil Nadu exist from the Pallava to the colonial period, as consecrated images. A few images of Sadāśiva Brahmendra, in stone or sudai, are found in Tirugokarnam, Nerur and Punnainallur. The worship of the saint by the royal community of Thanjavur and Pudukkottai states was adopted by their subject people also.

However, his image was not canonised or popularised all over the country. He received encouragement from two minor states – Tondaiman of Pudukkottai and the Marattas of Thanjavur. His worship is not widely prevalent, but the people of Thanjavur and Pudukkottai hold him in high esteem. But his contribution to literature and music are immense and are widely popular throughout Tamil Nadu.


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  2. Śrī Sadāśiva Brahmendral Caritam-Nerur (Tamil), Madras.
  3. Rajagopalan, N. (1994) Yet Another Garland (Biographical Dictionary of Carnatic Composers & Musicians Book III),
  4. Paramahamsacharya-pp.XXV-XXVI and Journal of Thanjavur Maharaja Serfoii’s Saraswati Mahal Library (1986) A. Panchanathan, SML.Thanjavur.
  5. Chandra Bose, A. (1992), Art of Tirugokarnam Temple, (unpublished M.Phil. thesis) Tamil University, Thanjavur.
  6. Hemingway, F.R. (1907), Indian Civil Service, Madras District Gazetteer, Trichinopoly, Vol. 2.
  7. Paramahamsacarya of Sadasiva Brahmendra (1991) ed. P.M. Padmanabha Sarma Siromani, S.M.L., Thanjavur.
  8. C, (1981) Rishies in Indian Art and Literature, Konark Publications, New Delhi.


This article has been taken from the Journal of Indian History and Culture, September 1997, published by C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Institute of Indological Research, Chennai

Image Source

  1. Wikimapiaorg (CC BY-SA 3.0)
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