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  • No man holds sway o’er us,
  • Nor death nor hell fear we;
  • No tremblings, griefs of mind,
  • No pains nor cringings see.
  • Joy, day by day, unchanged
  • Is ours, for we are His,
  • His ever, who doth reign,
  • Our Sankara [Shiva], in bliss.
  • Here to His feet we’ve come,
  • Feet as plucked flow’rets fair;
  • See how His ears divine
  • Ring and white conch-shell wear.

— “Presence of God” by Appar (trans. F. Kingsbury and G.E. Phillips).

Appar (“Father”) was a Saivite Tamil poet and saint who became one of the best known of the 63 Nayanars, a group of Tamil poets renowned for their spiritual purity. Also known as Tirunavukkarasar (“King of the Tongue” or “Lord of Language”), Appar composed 4900 hymns of ten or eleven verses each — including “Presence of God” — although only 3100 of these verses are still extant. The verses were collected into volumes called Tevaram — and all the hymns were set to music and remain a part of the canon of Tamil music and contemporary Hindu temple liturgy.

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