“I am your devotee; you are my refuge”
For the pious devotee for whom she is his personal deity, Tamiḻttāy is the source of everything in this world—of knowledge and happiness, of wealth and prosperity, of bliss and light, indeed of life itself. She is the destroyer of darkness and of false illusions. She cures her followers of anger and jealousy, and grants them true vision. She cures them of afflictions and weeds out their troubles. At her feet, even the worst sinners find salvation. By her very presence, she destroys the sins of her devotees. She is indeed their ultimate refuge. A. Kantasami Pillai (1885-1969), a professor of Tamil, declared:
O Tamiḻttāy, may you flourish blissfully as a sovereign queen! You gave birth to us, and embracing us, fed us nectar from your beautiful breasts; You taught us to speak as infants, and also the full meaning of numerous words; You caused our evil habits to flee, and firmly established in their stead good conduct that is dearer than life and fame. . . . You taught us to respect ourselves, and teaching us about the experiences of the past and the present, You have shown us the road to eternal release! (Velayutam Pillai 1971: 4)
Similarly, R. Raghava Aiyangar wrote eloquently that “with the help of [your] divine ladder of priceless books, we can climb straight up to the heavens” (Velayutam Pillai 1971: 41). Even more dramatically, for Somasundara Pulavar there was only one cure for the endless disease that is life, and it lay at the feet of his noble Tamiḻttāy (Velayutam Pillai 1971: 93). The pious devotee is indeed convinced that Tamiḻttāy may be the most omniscient of gods, and the most powerful of sovereigns, but she has the compassion and the tenderness of one’s own mother. She therefore never forsakes even the most humble and most lowly of her adherents. She is infinitely forgiving—even overlooking the faults of those who turned their backs on her, so benevolent and compassionate a being is she (Velayutam Pillai 1971: 12). There is little doubt, therefore, as A. Varadananjaiya Pillai (1877-1956), a member of the Karanthai Tamil Sangam and author of several praise works on Tamiḻttāy, insisted, that it was she who was going to abide with them for ever and ever, even accompanying them to the world beyond the present one (Velayutam Pillai 1971: 26-28).
Tamiḻttāy is thus both the means to their salvation and salvation itself. By constituting her in such terms, these pious devotees were only expressing in religious terms the foundational message of tamiḻppaṟṟu that Tamil is everything to its speakers—their body, their life, their spirit, and, ultimately, their soul itself.