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Siddantha texts often refer to the term atthuva or atthuvakhel.

The
purpose of this essay is to try and explain in simple terms what these terms mean
and their practical importance.
The term atthuva means path or way. Athhuvakhel is the plural of atthuva meaning
paths or ways. Way to what? you may ask. The answer is the way to liberation or
veedu. It refers to the means given by the Lord, by which the soul frees itself from
the bondage of anava.
There are six advas. They are:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

Vannam : alphabet
Patham : word
Manthiram
: sentence
Tathuvam: the 36 tattvas
Bhuvanam
: worlds or universes
Kalai
: divisions

The first three advas are known as sol ulaham meaning speech world. Speech is
important for souls to gain knowledge. The Lord gives us speech to help us gain
knowledge, interact and gain experience and eventually overcome the bondage of
anava. For example the scriptures, our prayers, instructions from the sat guru and
even this essay is only possible through the gift of speech.
The existence of the advas are conveyed to us through the Siva Agamas which are
in the Sanskrit language. Therefore, the first three advas above speak of the
Sanskrit alphabets, words and sentences. They are:
1. Vannam :
The 51 alphabets of the Sanskrit language
2. Patham :
There are many words but 81 are considered most important. E.g.:
Omnamo. These are used in all Saivite rituals
3. Manthiram
:
Of the many sentences or manthirams 11 are considered most important.
They are the 5 Panca Brahma manthiras and the Sadanga manthirams.
They are used by those who have received samaya diksha and siva diksha
The next three advas are called porul ulaham or world of things because they
make up our body and the world that we live in. They are:
1. Tathuvam :
The 36 Tatvas are made up of the 5 Siva Tatva, 7 Vidya Tatvas and 24
Anma Tatvas. Essentially these make up the entire world and our body.
All these are instruments by which the Lord helps the soul to liberation.
(Refer attachment)
2. Bhuvanam :
The word bhuvanam means worlds or universes. These are made up of
the tatvas above but are mentioned separately as they represent the
world specifically. The Siva Agamas tell us that there are 274
bhuvanams and in each bhuvanam live countless different souls. A

bhuvanam is a large universe in which there are many smaller worlds


known as andams. For example, in the earth tatva that we live in there
1000 million andams The Kandhapuranam speaks of Surapadman
ruling 1008 andams.
3. Kalai
:
(the explanation below is derived solely from an explanation of the
kalais found in the Tamil booklet 36 Tattuvangel by Muru. Pala.
Rathinam Chettiar released in conjunction with the 2 nd International
Saiva Siddahanta Conference, Kuala Lumpur)
These are divisions of the 36 tatvas of the porul ulagam and the
manthiram, patham, vannam of the sol ulagam above according to the
degree of pervasiveness or consistency of Suddha Maya in each of them.
Suddha Maya is subtler than Asuddha Maya., therefore Suddha Maya
pervades Asuddha maya but in different degrees. This different degrees of
pervasiveness leads to division or kalai.
There are 5 different degrees of pervasiveness and therefore there 5
divisions or kalais. They are Nivirthi Kalai, Pirathitta Kalai, Vidya Kalai,
Santhi Kalai and Santhi Additha Kalai. The table below summarizes the
pervasiveness and content of each Kalai.

Kalai
1
.
2
.

Pervasive
ness

Nivrthi

Very
slight

3
.

Pirathit
ta

Slight

4
.
5
.

Vidya

Pervasive

Santhi

More
pervasive

1
.

Santhi
Atthita

Most
pervasive

Manthira
m
Hruydayam
Satyojathm

Sirasu
Vamaathev
am
Siha,
Ahoram
Tatpurusha
m
Kavasa
Isanam
Athiram

Path
am
Last
28
letter
s
Next
21

Content
Vann
Puvan
am
am
51st
108

Tatva
Earth

Next
26

56

Next
26
Tattvas

Anma

Next
20
Next
11

Next 7

27

7 Vidya tattvas

Next 3

18

OM

16
uyir
yeluth
u

15

SuthaVittai
,Isvaram,
Sadakiyam
Natham, Vinthu

The sastras tell us that when the Lord appears as guru, he will merge the
6 advas into the 5 kalais and perform adva suddhi or adva sothanei and

bestow jnana unto the soul. By this He releases the soul from the bondage
of the 36 tattvas.
The importance of Knowledge of the Advas
Of course in every field, the knowledge acquired should benefit the
person who studies it. As such, it is very relevant to ask about how the
knowledge of the advas benefits us.
Firstly, the advas comprise all the worlds and the instruments given by
the Lord, so that the soul can free itself from bondage. This helps us
realize the grace and unbounded mercy of the Lord in granting us the
advas as a means to liberation. Our sense of gratitude deepens further
when we realize that the Lord does all this out of pure grace without any
benefit to Himself, for there is nothing the soul can offer the Lord. Further
reflection and meditation on the advas will help us realize and appreciate
Gods unbounded grace.
Secondly, the complexity of the path to liberation as can be seen by
our discussion of the advas, tell us about how lowly the state of the soul
is. It requires so many instruments and so many worlds and experiences
to help it gain liberation. Thinking of the lowliness of the soul and
conversely the greatness of the Lord will again help create love and
appreciation of the Lord and his works. It is such reflection that moved St.
Manikavasagar to sing:
You, whose greatness is above everyone and everything else,
You have placed me, your slave, who is below everyone and everything
else,
In unattainable bliss,
O Lord I know not how to repay You
(8.47.8)
Thirdly, we should also realize that the advas are a means to an end.
The body, the world and even language are but instruments to attain
liberation. It is telling that in the Periya Puranam, St. Sekilar describes
Kannappe Nayanars journey up Kalahasti Hill as climbing the stairs of the
tatvas. St. Sekilar is telling us that just as Kalahasti hill is carrying
Kannappe Nayanar to Kudumbi Thevar, so also the tattvas are like stairs
which carry the soul to God.
Finally, while the advas are meant to liberate, they can also be a
cause of attachment and further bondage. We all know how attractive the
body and the world can be. Knowing and contemplating the advas as
instruments will help us fix our eyes on the Lord and not be distracted by
the instruments which guide us to him. We should not forget that the
sastras tell us that the advas which are essentially Maya are but a torch. A
kai vilakku, to light the way of the soul as it waits for the dawn of
knowledge and the arrival of the brilliance of the Lord.

Attachment 1

36 Tatvas
Suddha Mayai Siva Tatvam(5)
1. Apara Natham/2. Apara Vinthu
Vitthai
(Natham
/
Vinthu)

3. Sathakiyam

4. Iswaram

5. Suddha

Asuddha Mayai/Vidya Tatvam(7)


2. Kaalam

3. Niyathi

4. Kalai

5. Vitthai

6. Araham 7. Purudan

Prakrithi Mayai /Anma Tatvam(24)


1. 3 Gunas ( Sattvam,Rajasam,Tamasam)
2. Manam/Sittham
3. Buddhi
(Doubt/Desire/Memory) (Reasononig/Deciding)

4. Ahamkaram
(Motivation/Ego/I

5. Nose (Smell)
6. Mouth (Taste)
7. Eyes (Touch)
8. Skin( Touch)
9. Ears (Hearing)

10. Mouth(speech)

15. Earth

20. Smell

Organs of Action
11. Legs
12. Hands 13. Excretory organs
14. Reproductive organs

Pancha Boothas
16. Water 17. Fire
18. Wind

21. Taste

19. Space

Tanmathirai
22. Light
23. Uru/Sparisam/Touch 24. Sound