6. ‘Nadamadi Tirinda’ – ‘You used to get around quite well’

Song in the construction of tamil South Indian history and identity

6. ‘Nadamadi Tirinda’ - ‘You used to get around quite well’


We move now from consideration of Tamil songs with their primary focus on the god Murugan as a subject, to songs composed on the god Siva in his manifestation as Nataraja, literally king or lord of dance. Worship of Nataraja is centered at the temple of Cidambaram which is the heart of his cult. Rather than framing the relationship between devotee and deity as sensual and romantic as in the padams, many songs in Tamil on Siva Nataraja focus on praising various of Siva Nataraja’s attributes and legends 06he is associated with. But it’s not just praise; these songs are called ‘ninda stuti’, roughly, ‘praise-blame’ songs, as they take liberties with the pride of Siva. In ‘Nadamadi Tirinda’ the composer Papavinasa Mudaliar puts a twist on his declaration of devotion for Siva. Referencing Nataraja’s famous raised leg, instead of simply praising Nataraja’s cosmic dance skills, he bombards the dancing deity with questions broadly hinting that the lord may not be as invincible as it seems. The raised leg raises doubts in the devotee, suggesting weakness rather than omnipotence :

  You used to get around quite well, but your left leg has become useless - How did you become crippled? Please tell me, Lord Nataraja!

Statue of the god Siva Nataraja.


Ninda Stuti: The Devotee on Familiar Terms with the Deity

The caranam section moves from posing this question to suggesting possible answers. The composer wonders outloud if Nataraja incorrectly applied some cool ash to his hot body and caught rheumatism? Or perhaps, when he gave Yama the god of death a swift kick to save the life of his devotee Markandeyar, that gave him a sprain? The third line of the caranam references an incident involving Sundaramurti Nayanar, one of the 8th century A.D. Tamil bhakti poets and a great devotee of Siva. S.V. Seshadri tells the story :

The saint Sundaramurti had a funny relationship with Siva; he was almost a comrade, a friend – they were on a very familiar basis with each other. Siva liked him so much that hewould do anything Sundaramurti asked. In the town of Tiruvarur, Sundaramurti had a romantic liaison with a hereditary temple dancer (devadasi) named Paravai Nachiar. They were both wrapped up in each other. But all the time he was in love with Paravai, Sundaramurti was forgetting Siva. Siva became jealous; he didn’t want his disciple to forget him. So he caused him all kinds of troubles, to wean him away from Paravai. Then, when Sundaramurti wasn’t able to give sufficient attention to Paravai because of the troubles caused by Siva, she got angry with her lover. Sundaramurti decided to send Siva himself as his messenger to Paravai, to try to pacify her. Siva had to go as the messenger. So when he went, probably his leg hit upon the step of Paravai’s house. So was it because you stubbed your toe there on her doorstep? (Seshadri, 1990, in Allen 1992:D3:1).

 This passage is an excellent example of the way that a short sentence in a song text can be the trigger to open up for a listener the huge world of stories about the pantheon of Hindu deities, their often complex relationships with each other and with ordinary humans. One of the important things illustrated here is how that by the accumulated power of one’s acts of devotion, a devotee can compel the deity to act on his/her behalf. Finally, in the last line of the caranam the composer wonders if Siva’s lameness is his/her own fault: “Was it my sins that caused this lameness?”


Song 6. ‘Nadamadi Tirinda’ – ‘You Used to Get Around’
Composer: Papavinasa Mudaliar (first half 18th c.)
Raga: Kambhoji
Tala: Khanda Capu.
Sung by M.A. Sabapati Iyer, 1930s


Nadamadi tirinda umakku idadu kal udavamal
You used to move about quite well but now your left leg has become lame
Mudamanadu edu enru solluvir, Natarajane
How did you become crippled? Please tell me, Lord Nataraja!

Tadamevum tillai nagar maruvum per anandam
In the vast blissful expanse of the great hall at Tillai (Cidambaram)
Shadai virittu adiyava devar citsabhai ariya
All the gods used to witness you dance there, matted locks flying!
(you used to move about quite well…)

Tirunitrai sumandadu enna neruppana menidanil
Why did you apply so much holy (cold) ash right on your fiery hot body?
Citalattinal mihunda vada gunamo?
Was it due to that cold that you developed a rheumatic condition?
Orumaiyudan Markandar kutaviyay marali vizha
When in helping Markandeya you knocked over Yama
Udaikka sulukkeri unda gunamo?
Did the sudden kick you gave Yama give you a sprain?
Paravai aval teru vasal padi idaru itro
Was it from stumbling on the door step of that woman Paravai?
Endan papamo en Siva?
Or was it my sins, Oh Siva?

Ni muvarkkum mudalvan anro?
Didn’t you used to say you were first among the three great gods?
(you used to move about quite well…)



1. Maraintu Iruntu - What is the Secret?
2. Inimel Avarkkum - From Now On
3. Kaiyil Panam Illamal - Without Money in Hand
4. Ella Arumaigalum - My all-knowing all-seeing Lord
5. Pazham Ni Appa - You are the Fruit
6. Nadamadi Tirinda - You Used to Get About Quite Well
7. Ethukkittanai Modi Tan - Why This Love Quarrel?

8. En Palli Kondir - Why are You Stretched Out on the Ground?
9. Jagajjanani - Mother of the Universe

10. Taye Yasoda - Oh Mother Yasoda
11. Vazhi Maraittu - My View is Obstructed
Musical examples


By Matthew Allen

© Médiathèque Caraïbe / Conseil Départemental de la Guadeloupe,  2016-2020