One of the most fascinating and exquisite works in Tamil Literature, that I had been searching for long and found in my recent trip to Kumbakonam is the Chithira Thaer, meaning Artistic Car/Chariot. The literary eloquence really is awe-inspiring and is in a different dimension, that I have not seen/heard such a work in any other language. I found the Chithira Thaer at two places in Kumbakonam, one at the Saarangapani Temple (in praise of Lord Rama) and the other at the Kumbeshwarar Temple (in praise of Lord Shiva). The Chithira Thaer at Saarangapani Temple is a work by Thirumangai Azhwar, and this form of poetry is called the Thiru Ezhu Kootru Arikkai. The Chithira Thaer at Kumbeshwarar Temple is by Thiru Gnana Sambandhar.

The Chithira Thaer consists of many boxes in the form of a Chariot and each box containing a short verse. The speciality is that you can read the contents from the boxes from any line but in order, will give you a meaningful verse. For e.g. take the content from box 1 in line 1 and then box 2 in line 3 and then box 3 in line 2 and so on – will give you a complete meaning. So the order of reading should be of the form.

1,2,…n,…,2,1

Only the numbers need to be in that order, the content can be from any row. It is such a literary beauty that has to be treasured and to be felt proud of.

Take a look at the wonderful masterpiece.


Chithira Thaer at The Saarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam


A high resolution picture is available here

More to come, until then…