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15. Murthi Nayanar

To adore Lord Siva with sandalwood paste, smearing it all over the Lingam is regarded as a great form of His worship. This kind of worship was done by Murthi Nayanar. He was born in Madura in Pandya kingdom. He was a Vaisya by caste. He was a great devotee of Lord Siva. Daily he used to offer sandalwood paste to the Lord.

At that time, the city was invaded by a Karnataka king. In the battle the Pandya king was defeated. The Karnataka ruler became the Pandya king. He was a follower of Jainism. He wanted to exterminate Saivism and to spread his religion. He began to persecute Saivas. ‘Murthi Nayanar also had to bear a lot of sufferings. But, he was undaunted. He continued his worship of the Lord, with sandalwood.

The king, with a view to convert Murthi Nayanar forcibly to Jainism, made it impossible for anyone in Madura to obtain sandalwood. This greatly upset the Nayanar. He prayed to the Lord: ‘Oh Ocean of Mercy, this country is ruled by a tyrant and he is bent upon exterminating Your devotees. When will we be fortunate enough to get a king who will be devoted to You?’ He knew that the people would follow the king, out of fear and in an effort to win his favour. He, therefore, wanted a Saivite king!

He searched throughout the day for a little sandalwood to offer his worship. He could not get any. With a broken heart, he went to the temple: and he had a wonderful idea. He began to rub his own elbow (in the place of sandalwood!). The hand was bleeding profusely. Lord Siva was highly pleased with his devotion. A heavenly voice said: ‘Oh noble soul, I am immensely pleased with your devotion. Kindly stop rubbing your elbow. All your grievances will be redressed. Kindly take up the reins of the kingdom. After ruling the country justly and wisely for a long time, you will come to My Abode.’ Nayanar was amazed to hear this and to see that his elbow regained its original shape.

Murthi Nayanar did not aspire for kingship, but it was the Lord’s will. That night the cruel king died. The next day, the Ministers sent the palace elephant to choose their king, in accordance with an ancient custom. The elephant proceeded towards the temple. Murthi Nayanar had come there for his worship. The elephant bowed to him and placed him on his back and returned to the palace.

The Ministers begged of Nayanar to become their king. Nayanar stipulated this condition: ‘If I become king, I will not have any luxury bath, but will bathe only with the sacred ashes. My jewel will be only Rudraksham and my crown will only be matted locks. I shall strive to let the love of Lord Siva be enthroned in the hearts of all.’ The Ministers accepted these conditions with great joy and satisfaction.

Nayanar ruled the country justly and wisely for a long time, and eventually attained Siva’s Abode.

16. Muruga Nayanar

To do Archana with flowers mentioned in Siva Agamas, to offer flower garlands to the Lord, and to repeat the Panchakshara Mantra is the ideal form of worship. Panchakshara Mantra is considered a very great Mantra because it occurs in the centre of the Sri Rudradhyayi, which occurs in the middle of the middle Khanda of the Yajur Veda. He who does Japa of this Mantra is at once relieved from the disease of birth and death.

Muruga Nayanar excelled in this worship. He was born in Tirupukalur, made famous by many other Nayanars also. Daily he would wake up well before sunrise, take bath, wear the sacred ash on his forehead, do his Nitya Karmas, and go to the garden with a basket. Repeating the Panchakshara he would collect flowers, and as mentioned in the Siva Agamas, make colourful garlands and offer to the Lord.

One day the great Jnana Sambandar came to his place. Muruga Nayanar invited him and worshipped him and won his favour. Sambandar took him as his dearest friend. Muruga Nayanar got the great good fortune of attending Sambandar’s wedding when he, the bride and all others (induding Muruga Nayanar) got merged in the Divine Effulgence of the Lord. Hence, the Kural says: ‘Rarest of all rare things is to win the great to one’s side by courting it.‘ Muruga Nayanar’s devotion won for him Sambandar’s friendship, and, through that, God-realisation.

17. Rudra Pasupathi Nayanar

There are seven Khandas in the Yajur Veda regarded as the Head of the Lord. Sri Rudram is in the centre of the middle Khanda of the Yajur Veda. Its recitation is a great purifier. It describes the Lord’s wonderful manifestations. Standing in the river and reciting this sacred scripture is regarded as specially efficacious, and bestows Moksha on the devotee.

Rudra Pasupathi Nayanar was a great devotee of Lord Siva and he resorted to this Sadhana. He used to recite Sri Rudram standing in water, neck deep and was, therefore, blessed by the Lord with Moksha.

18. Tiru Nalai Povar Nayanar

Nandanar was a Paraiah (untouchable) by caste. He was born in Adanoor in the Chola kingdom. He was an embodiment of humility and devotion. Lord Siva was his sole refuge. He would often visit the holy places of pilgrimage, and supply leather drums and such other musical instruments for the temples. When he went near the temples, he always remained outside and worshipped the Lord mentally.

Once he had a desire to have Darshan of the Lord at Tirupunkur. He was also eager to do some service to the Lord there. He went to Tirupunkur and stood in front of the temple. He was grieved because Nandi which is always right in front of the Lord was hiding Him. Nandanar prayed to the Lord fervently. The Lord was highly pleased with his devotion and asked Nandi to move a little so that Nandanar might have His Darshan. Even today, at Tirupunkur, Nandi is leaning to one side! Nandanar had a delightful Darshan of the Lord. After digging a tank near the temple he returned to Adanoor.

The desire now arose in him that he should go to Chidambaram and have Darshan of Lord Nataraja. The love of the Lord had grown so intense that he would shed tears of love and tell his companions: ‘I will surely go to Chidambaram tomorrow.‘ This expression earned for him the name Tiru Nalai Povar (one who would go tomorrow). One day he actually left his place and went to Chidambaram. He went round the village and, thinking of his low birth, did not want to enter it. He prayed: ‘Oh Lord, I want to see your Cosmic Dance in Your Nritya Sabha. But, how can I? On account of my low birth they will not allow me to enter the temple.’ For days he went on praying like this. The Lord, pleased with his devotion, appeared in his dream and said: ‘Oh noble soul, do not grieve. You will come to Me. Take a fire bath. Then come to My Kanaka Sabha along with the Brahmins.’ Nandanar woke up and was highly pleased. At the same time, the Lord appeared before the Brahmins of Tillai, in their dream, and said: ‘O Brahmins, My dearest devotee, Tiru Nalai Povar, has come to Tillai. Prepare a sacred fire. Nandanar will take bath in it and then come to Me.’

The next day, the Brahmins prepared the sacred fire. They went to Nandanar, prostrated before him and related their dream. Nandanar went round the fire, and with His Name on his lips and his mind fixed on the lotus feet of the Lord, he jumped into the fire. He emerged from the fire with a new holy body, with sacred ashes smeared all over, the holy thread and matted locks. He was then taken inside the temple. In the Kanaka Sabha, he worshipped the Lord. He went into a divine ecstasy and was completely absorbed in the dance of the Lord. A dazzling light was seen in the room, and Nandanar had disappeared. He had become one with Lord Nataraja.

19. Tiru Kurippu Thonda Nayanar

Thondamandalam was a prosperous land. Its capital was Kanchipuram. Here, Parvathi worshipped the Lord, according to the Agamas. The Lord here is called Ekambaranathar.

Tiruthondar was born here. He was a washerman. He was a staunch devotee of Lord Siva. He served Siva Bhaktas, understanding their need by watching for the signs on their face, and hence he had earned the name Tiru Kurippu Thonda Nayanar. His service consisted mainly of washing the clothes of Siva Bhaktas. Lord Siva wanted to bless this devotee: and, as usual, it had to be preceded by a severe test.

The Lord disguised Himself as a poor man, with Rudraksham on his neck and sacred ashes over the body, and appeared before Tiruthondar wearing a dirty rag. The very sight of the Siva Bhakta put Nayanar in a trance. He worshipped him. Thondar then asked him: ‘You have purified my house by your visit. How is it you are so emaciated? And, your rag needs washing. Kindly allow me to do this service for you.’ The Siva Bhakta agreed to let him do so on one condition: the rag should be washed, dried and returned to him before sunset, otherwise his emaciated body would perish in the cold.

When Thondar accepted the work, there was brilliant sunlight. He had washed the rag and immediately, it began to rain heavily. It was nearing sunset time. There was no hope of getting the rag dried. Thondar was greatly upset. Instead of serving the Siva Bhakta, he was going to put him to great hardship. Thinking of this sin, Thondar, dashed his head, prayerfully, on the washing stone, and began to weep.

Lord Siva appeared before him, held his hand and said: ‘Oh noble soul, I am highly pleased with your sincere devotion. You will soon come to My Abode and live happily there forever.’

Tiru Kurippu Thondar fell at the Lord’s Feet and sang His glory.

20. Chandesvara Nayanar

Vichara Sarman (who was later known as Chandesvara Nayanar) was born in Tiruchaijnanallur, which was famous for Vedic recitations, Tapas, and Siva Bhakti. He was a prodigy. At the age of five he had learnt the Vedas, and all the Agamas, by himself, on account of previous Samskaras. After his Upanayanam (sacred thread ceremony), he learnt the Vedas, under a Guru: but the Gurus were wonder-struck at the intelligence of the disciple. He wanted to attain Final Emancipation in that birth.

One day Vichara Sarman, with his friends, was walking along a road. He noticed a cowherd severely beating a cow because it had slightly pushed him with its horn. Vichara Sarman could not endure this. He was greatly moved and spoke to the cowherd: ‘Oh ignorant man? Do you not know that the cow is worshipful and divine. All the Devas dwell in her. She is indispensable for all religious activities. It is our sacred duty to tend and protect the cows. Whoever harms the cow is hurled into the Naraka. Whoever worships the cow wins a place in heaven or in Siva’s Abode. You have committed a great sin today. Hereafter, you need not tend to the cows: I will do that myself.’ Vichara Sarman took the work upon himself from that day.

The cows grew healthier. They liked Vichara Sarman very much. The Brahmins who got more milk thereafter were able to fulfil their religious duties very well, and they were pleased with Vichara Sarman. There was so much of surplus milk now, that Vichara Sarman, who loved Lord Siva and His worship, decided to perform Abhishekam for Lord Siva. He used to sit under an Atti tree on the bank of the river, construct a temple from the mud, and also make a mud-image of Siva Lingam and offer the milk, to bathe the Lingam. Then he would perform Archana with the Atti flowers. The cows were giving plenty of milk both to Vichara Sarman and to the Brahmins.

One day, when Vichara Sarman was doing this Puja, a villager happened to pass by, and he watched all this. He reported the matter to the owners of the cows, and complained that Vichara Sarman was pouring precious milk on mud and river sand. These Brahmins summoned Vichara Sarman’s father, Echhadattan, and passed the complaint on to him in rather strong terms. The father was naturally shocked. He came home, but did not speak to Vichara Sarman. He wanted to find out for himself. So, the next day, he followed Vichara Sarman at a distance without his knowledge. When Vichara Sarman began pouring milk on the improvised Siva Lingam, the father, without understanding the son’s wonderful devotion, hit him with a stick. The boy was so much absorbed in his Puja that he did not even feel pain. Then, the father, getting still more angry, knocked the milk-pot down. It was then that Vichara Sarman realised that his father was interfering with his worship and had committed an unpardonable offence against Lord Siva (Siva Aparadham). He at once took a stick and hit his father’s leg: by the will of the Lord, the stick was transformed into an axe. Again, by His will, it killed the father. It was to test the depth of Vichara Sarman’s devotion. He was so engrossed in the worship, that he did not mind what had happened and continued the worship.

Lord Siva was immensely pleased with the intensity of Vichara Sarman’s devotion and appeared before him, with Parvathi. Vichara Sarman prostrated before the Lord. The Lord embraced Vichara Sarman and fondled him. That very instant, Vichara Sarman attained the divine Form of Lord Siva. The Lord removed a garland from His own neck and put it around Vichara Sarman’s. He had attained Saroopya Mukthi (liberation, with the attainment of the form of the Lord). The Lord said: ‘My child, you cut your own father’s leg for My sake. Now, I am Your Father. You will soon attain Chandikesvarar’s Abode. You worshipped Me with food, clothes and flower garlands. In the same manner, you will also be worshipped.’ The Lord disappeared. Vichara Sarman also went to the Abode of Chandesvarar. No sin attached to him, for having killed his own father, because of his supreme devotion to the Lord. His father, too, because he was killed by such a great devotee of the Lord, was purged of the sin of interfering with His worship, and reached the Abode of Lord Siva.

21. Tiru-Navukkarasar Nayanar

Appar or Tiru Navukkarasar flourished in the 7th century A. D. He is one of the four Saiva Samaya Acharyas (Saivite spiritual teachers). He was born in Tiruvamoor in Tirumunaipadi Nadu. Pukalanar was his father; Mathiniyar, his mother. Mathiniyar gave birth to a daughter whom they named Tilakavathi. After some years, Mathiniyar had a son whom they called Marulneekiar, the dispeller of darkness or ignorance. Early in life he mastered all the Shastras.

When Tilakavatiar reached her twelfth year, she was betrothed to Kalaipahayar, a military commander in the Pallava army. Before the wedding, however, he was sent by the king to fight another, and he died in battle.

Pukalanar fell seriously ill and died. Mathiniyar committed Sati (died on the husband’s funeral pyre). As the children were recovering from this shock, the news of Kalipahayar’s death reached Tilakavathiar: and as she, since her betrothal, had regarded him as her husband, she decided to commit Sati, too. But, Marulneekiar pleaded with her reminding her that now she was his mother, and also threatened to die if she would not change her mind and live. Tilakavathiar changed her mind for the young brother’s sake. Even though she was young, she led the life of an ascetic. She was highly devoted to Lord Siva. Her glorious ascetic life has been sung by Sekizar, the author of Tirumurai. She was mother to Appar.

Marulneekiar, even while young, had realised the unreality of the world. He engaged himself in all kinds of charitable works. He was eager to find out the best religion and to follow it. He had heard much about Jainism and its wonderful practice of Ahimsa. He believed that Jainism would give him emancipation and so became a convert. He even went to Pataliputra (in South Arcot district) and joined the Jain school. He attained mastery over all their scriptures.

Tilakavathiar was heart-broken over this change in her brother. She abandoned her native place and settled in Tiruvadigai Virattanam, in a Mutt she built there. She prayed fervently to Lord Virattaneswarar to save her brother and shower His grace upon him. The Lord appeared in her dream one day and said: ‘My child, your brother has already done severe Tapas in order to attain Me. I will surely turn his mind, by making him suffer from severe colic, and then take him to My fold.’

Marulneekiar fell a victim to severe colic. He could not bear the pain. The Jains tried their best but could not relieve the pain. He felt intuitively that it was an eye-opening experience. He lost faith in Jainism. He thought of his sister. He threw away the Jain garb and without informing anybody, returned to his sister. He fell at her feet and prayed to her to protect him. She understood it was His Lila, and said that by the grace of Lord Siva, he would be all right. She smeared the holy ashes on his forehead and repeated the Panchakshara Mantra. His ignorance vanished. She took him to the temple of Virattanesvarar. He worshipped the Lord and sang a hymn: ‘Oh Lord, I have insulted You and Your religion. I have committed many evil acts. Once on the bank of Godavari, I argued with the saints and established the superiority of Jainism. For all this evil, Lord Yama himself has come to me in the form of this excruciating pain. Oh Lord, You are my sole prop and refuge. Save me. I will ever keep Your Lotus Feet in my heart.’ When he concluded the song, the pain disappeared. A celestial voice said: ‘From now on you will be known as Tiru Navukkarasar, ‘Lord of Speech’. Your glory will spread everywhere.’ Thus Lord Siva’s grace restored his faith in Saivism.

Tilakavathiar was immensely happy, too. Tirunavukkarasar became a staunch devotee of Lord Siva and lived in Him repeating the Panchakshara Mantra.

The Jains at Pataliputra were afraid that, if the king came to know that because of their inability to treat Tirunavukkarasar (to whom they had given the name Dharmasenar) he had left them and gone back to Saivism, he would take them to task. So they concocted a new story and showed Tirunavukkarasar as a traitor against the king and the royal religion, viz., Jainism. The king ordered his ministers to produce Tirunavukkarasar before him. They went to Tiruvathikai, with an army. When Tirunavukkarasar heard of the charge against him, he said: ‘Oh Ministers! I am no longer your king’s subject. I am the subject of Lord Siva, the protector of all beings, the destroyer of all sins, the Lord of all gods, the bestower of immortality and eternal bliss. Disobedience to the king may amount to treason in the case of other people, not mine, because I am under His protection. Fear cannot approach me, because I am under the protection of one who once kicked Lord Yama, to save His (Siva’s) Bhakta.’ The Ministers recognised his greatness: but were afraid to return without him. They, therefore, begged of him to come with them out of his supreme compassion, and to establish the glory of Saivism. Tirunavukkarasar went with them.

The very sight of Tirunavukkarasar enraged the king who asked the Jain heads to decide upon the proper punishment to be meted out to him. They suggested that he be thrown into a burning lime kiln. Accordingly, he was shut up in a kiln for seven days. He remained there, fixing his mind on the Lord and repeating His Name. By His grace, the heat of the kiln was transformed into a cool breeze. At the end of seven days, the Jains, to their surprise, found Tirunavukkarasar alive, and absorbed in deep meditation. They attributed this to the power acquired by him when he was a Jain: and advised the king to poison him. Again, by the grace of Lord Siva the poison was transformed into nectar. Again, the Jains attributed this to the efficacy of the Jain Mantras which Tirunavukkarasar had learnt from them, and advised the king to have him trampled by the elephant. Tirunavukkarasar, boldly facing the elephant sang a hymn in praise of the Lord. Tirunavukkarasar’s loving look transformed the elephant’s nature and it went round him and prostrated to him. The Mahouts goaded it: but it got wild and attacked the Mahouts and the Jains and killed some of them. Those who escaped ran to the king and fell at his feet. This was a great disgrace.

The king was greatly worried. The Jains finally advised the king to have Tirunavukkarasar tied to a stone and thrown into the sea. In accordance with the king’s orders, this was done. Tirunavukkarasar fixed his mind on Lord Siva and was continually repeating the Panchakshara. He sang hymns in praise of the Panchakshara. As soon as he finished the song the stone began to float. Tirunavukkarasar sat on the stone and was happily borne on the waves and safely taken to the shores of Tiruppapuliyur. Thus did the Lord save His Bhakta.

At Tiruppapuliyur, there was a huge congregation of Siva Bhaktas to welcome him. He worshipped the Lord and sang hymns in praise of the Lord. ‘Oh Lord, the unseen Protector: You are my guide and saviour. You are my father, mother, sister and everything. Oh Lord of Mercy, You saved me from all dangers. Due to Your grace and love alone I am alive.’ Addressing the mind, he says: ‘Oh mind, when you have totally surrendered yourself to Him, why do you fear any danger? None can harm you. Fear not.’ Again, turning to the Lord, he says: ‘Oh Lord of Mercy, I want no more birth. If I take birth at all, owing to past Karma, let me remember Your Name always. Even if I take birth as a worm, let me not forget Your Name. Let me find delight in uttering Your Name.’ Then Tirunavakkarasar returned to Tiruvathikai, after visiting many holy places on the way. When Pallava king who persecuted him came to know this, and when he recalled the many miracles he had witnessed, he was convinced of the superiority of Saivism. He went to Tiruvathikai, fell at Tirunavukkarasar’s feet, and begged his pardon. Tirunavukkarasar embraced the king with all love and affection, and the king embraced Saivism and built the magnificient temple of Siva called Gunabharaveechuram at Tiruvathikai.

Tirunavukkarasar then spent his days in worshipping and serving the Lord in various ways, to set an example even to saints that they should not relax their eternal spiritual vigilance, lest they should fall a prey to Maya and to exhort them to lead the ideal life of a humble devotee for the guidance of others. He also visited many sacred shrines, thus emphasising the glory of pilgrimage.

The thought that he had lived for some time with the Jains, eating their food and mixing with them made Tirunavukkarasar feel that his body was still impure, for the worship of Lord Siva. He prayed to Lord Siva: ‘I do not want to live any more in this impure body. Let me have the stamp of Your Trident and Nandi on my body, and then I shall regard it as fit for Your worship.’ At once a divine servant of Lord Siva approached Tirunavukkarasar and put the stamp of the Trident and Nandi (one of the Saivite rituals of initiation, according to the Agamas) on Tirunavakkarasar’s shoulders. He experienced supreme bliss immediately.

Tirunavukkarasar then went to Chidambaram. The very sight of the temple tower sent him into a trance. He sang thrilling hymns here and prayed: ‘Let me serve You. Your Bhaktas know no want nor fear. Even Lord Yama cannot dare to approach them. I have come to Your Abode where no sin can approach. I have surrendered myself to You. I have enshrined Your Lotus Feet in my heart.’

At Chidambaram, he heard of the glory of Tiru Jnanasambandar and how he was blessed by Parvathy. He was eager to meet the great saint who was at Shiyali. As Tirunavukkarasar was proceeding towards Shiyali, Sambandar also was happy and was eagerly looking forward to this meeting. When Tirunavukkarasar reached the outskirts of Shiyali, Sambandar went forward to receive him. They fell at each other’s feet, and set an example in saintly conduct. They went to the temple and worshipped the Lord. At Sambandar’s request, Tirunavukkarasar sang a hymn here: ‘When the whole world was submerged during Pralaya, Lord Thoniappar was seated with His Consort in the boat of Pranava (OM) surrounded on all sides by Devas in the form of birds.’ Even now the temple of Lord Thoniappar is in the form of a boat. They who cling to His feet are protected.

Along with Sambandar Tirunavukkarasar visited the temple at Tirukkolaka. He then took leave of Sambandar and left the latter’s Ashram and after visiting many shrines, reached Tiruvavaduthurai. He sang a hymn here expressing intense Vairagya: ‘Oh Lord, I am caught in the wheel of births and deaths. I am tired of this. Show me a way to get out of it.’

Then he came to Sattimutham. He prayed to the Lord: ‘Oh Lord, place Thy Lotus Feet on my head before I leave this body.’ The Lord said: ‘Come to Tirunallur. I will fulfil your wish.’ Tirunavukkarasar accordingly went to Tirunallur and worshipped the Lord Who placed His Feet on the head of Appar. He sang: ‘Oh Lord, Thy Holy Feet are adored by men on earth and the gods in heaven. Even great Tapaswins cannot touch Your Feet, if their devotion to You is tainted. But They are easily accessible to the real devotees who serve with faith and devotion. The sacredness of Your divine Feet cannot be understood by ordinary men. They are the bestowers of all prosperity and immortal bliss.’

After visiting some more places of pilgrimage, Tirunavukkarasar went to Tingalur, where he formed a miracle and brought saint Appudi Adigal’s son back to life—we shall read this in Appudi Adigal’s life.

At Tiruvarur, he was given a rousing welcome by the Siva Bhaktas. He had the Lord’s Darshan there. His heart was overflowing with love. He shed tears of love. He danced in joy. He was immersed in divine bliss. He sang hymns expressing regret for his mistake in joining Jainism. He felt that he would have been blessed with the Lord’s Darshan earlier had he remained a Saivite and carried on His worship, with devotion. He also sang a hymn praising the sincere devotion and greatness of Nami Nandi Adigal who lighted the lamp with water in this sacred shrine when he could not get oil anywhere.

Then Tirunavukkarasar went to Tirupukalur, after visiting other shrines on the way. Tiru Jnana Sambandar was there, too, and the two saints met each other for the second time. At Appar’s instance, Sambandar went to Tiruvarur and had the Lord’s Darshan there. Both the saints remained at Tirupukalur for some time: and many other saints took this golden opportunity of having the Darshan of these two great Acharyas (spiritual preceptors) together. Tiru Neelakantha Nayanar, Siruthondar, Muruga Nayanar and many others came to Tirupukalur, and the place was converted into a divine realm during the stay of the two Acharyas.

The two saints then moved on to Tiruveezhimalai. Famine raged there at that time. Appar (another name for Tirunavukkarasar) and Sambandar were greatly moved by the suffering of the people and prayed to the Lord for relief. The Lord promised to give them a golden coin each every day, with which they could feed the people. Lord Siva placed two coins, one at the western entrance and the other at the eastern entrance to the temple: the Nayanars collected the coins and relieved the suffering of the people. The famine soon came to an end. Both the saints praised the glory of the Lord and left.

Then they came to Tirumaraikadu or the present Vedranyam. Once upon a time, the Vedas themselves used to worship the Lord here. When people neglected the study of the Vedas, this was discontinued. From that time, the door by which the Vedas used to enter, remained closed. There was another door by which people would go in and worship. Appar and Sambandar heard of this when they came there. Sambandar desired to enter through the door which remained closed. He requested Appar to sing a song. The doors opened by themselves, by the Will of God. They went in and worshipped the Lord. When they returned to that entrance, Appar requested Sambandar to sing a song, so that the door could close again. Sambandar sang and the door closed again. At night one day, Lord Siva appeared and commanded Appar to come to Tiruvaimoore. The Lord appeared before him and walked in front of him. Appar followed Him, but could not approach Him. Suddenly the Lord entered the local temple and disappeared. Appar went inside the temple but could not find the Lord. In the meantime, Sambandar, learning of Appar’s departure, followed him and came to the temple. Appar entreated the Lord to bless Sambandar with His Darshan. The Lord fulfilled Appar’s wish. Then, they went to Tiruvaimoore and from there returned to Tirumaraikadu.

Mangayarkarasiar and Kulachirai Nayanar, the queen and the minister of the Pandyan king, sent messengers from Madurai to Sambandar, reporting the evil influences of the Jains and urging for his immediate presence in Madurai. Sambandar wanted to go there immediately. Appar, in the meantime, told him of all that happened to him and tried to stop him from going. But, so great was Sambandar’s eagerness to serve the Lord, that he went.

Tirunavukkarasar then visited Tiruvavaduthurai, and came to Pazhaiyarai. Here he came to the Vadathalai temple and worshipped the Lord from outside. He came to know that the Jains had converted this into a Jain temple, and that they had removed the Siva Lingam to an unknown place. He prayed to the Lord: ‘Oh Lord, I will not proceed an inch from here till I have the Darshan of Your image which has been removed by the Jains to an unknown place.’ The Lord appeared before the king in his dream and said: ‘Oh king, My Bhakta Tirunavukkarasar is fasting, to have My Darshan. Go at once and drive out the Jains, so that Tirunavukkarasar could enter the temple and have My Darshan.’ He also told the king where the Lingam lay hidden.

The king woke up and immediately summoned his ministers. He went to the temple, drove away the Jains and fell at the feet of Tirunavukkarasar. The temple was immediately reconverted into a Siva temple and the Lingam installed once again. Tirunavukkarasar worshipped the Lord and was happy.

During another pilgrimage, Tirunavukkarasar felt the pangs of hunger as he was approaching Tirupainjeeli. Lord Siva wanted to appease his hunger and thirst. He created a tank and a garden on the way, so that Tirunavukkarasar could quench his thirst and rest in the garden. The Lord Himself waited there in the guise of a Brahmin, with food in hand and gave it to Tirunavukkarasar as soon as he arrived there. Appar took the food, drank the water and was resting when the Brahmin enquired where he was going.

He said that he was going to Tirupainjeeli. They both started to walk. When they were near the place, the Brahmin suddenly disappeared, and Appar understood that it was none other than the Lord Himself. He wept bitterly for not recognising Him earlier and rolled on the ground on account of His separation.

After visiting Tiruvannamalai, Kancheepuram, and Kalahasthi, where he sang the glories of Kannappar, Appar felt a desire to go to Kailasa. He went to Banaras, and worshipped Lord Viswanath. He turned northwards and crossed many thick forests infested by wild animals. By his mere look, the wild animals became tame! He walked night and day. His feet were sore. Then he crawled with his hands. His elbows began to bleed now. Then he used his chest and crawled on. His chest also began to bleed and the ribs began to break. Still, Appar, undaunted, continued his journey to Kailasa, rolling on the ground. Appar wanted to go to Kailasa: but the Lord wanted that he should live in the world for many more years singing His glories. The Lord created a tank nearby and appeared before Appar in the form of a saint, with matted locks, Rudraksham and holy ashes. The saint found out from Appar that he was proceeding to Kailasa, and said: ‘Oh friend, the Lord of Kailasa cannot be seen by human beings. So, turn back.’ Appar said: ‘So long as I have this body, I will not turn back, without going to Kailasa,’ and turned towards the saint again after bowing to him: but the saint was not there. Appar understood it was the Lord Himself. The Lord afterwards kept Appar invisible company, giving him encouraging words now and then. Appar mentally prayed to the Lord: ‘Oh Lord, give me a fresh body, so that I may continue the journey.’ The Lord directed him to take bath in a near-by tank and said: ‘You will see Me and My Abode, Kailasa in Tiruvayar.’ Appar, repeating the Panchakshara, took a dip in the tank. He came out of the tank, and found himself in the tank at Tiruvayar, hundreds of miles away, to the south! He came outside and saw everywhere Siva and Sakti. He entered the temple and saw Mount Kailasa there. He saw Lord Siva seated with Mother Parvathy, surrounded by gods, and celestial servants praising His glory. He went into a trance and sang His glories and danced.

Then, Appar had a Mutt built for him at Tirupoonthurai and remained there. Sambandar had, in the meantime, defeated the Jains at Madurai and was coming to Tirupoondurai. Appar went forward to receive him. Without Sambandar’s knowledge, Appar quietly joined those who were carrying his palanquin. On reaching Tirupoonthurai, Sambandar cried out: ‘Where is Appar?’ and Appar, from below the palanquin coolly announced himself. At once Sambandar jumped out of the palanquin and fell at the feet of Appar who had, by his example, demonstrated the humility of a true saint. They embraced each other and shed tears of love. (Incidentally, it is interesting to note that Appar was advanced in age and Sambandar was only seven years old at the time.)

Then, Tirunavukkarasar wanted to see the state of Saivism in the Pandyan kingdom, for himself and left for Madurai. The king, Ninra Sheer Nedumara Nayanar, the queen Mangayarkarasiar, and the minister Kulachirai Nayanar welcomed him with devotion. Appar remained there for some days, worshipping the Lord. Then he went to Rameswaram and other sacred places before returning to Tirupukalur.

Lord Siva wanted to test him here. When Appar was doing his services in the temple, the Lord made the entire floor appear as though it was strewn with gold and diamonds. To Appar, gold and diamonds were worthless ‘straw’. He collected all of them and threw them in a near-by tank. Again, the Lord made celestial damsels appear before him and tempt him with their charms. Appar remained undisturbed. His entire heart and soul was centred on the Lotus Feet of the Lord.

Appar spent the rest of his life there and at the age of 81 merged himself in Lord Siva.

22. Kulacchirai Nayanar

In devotion to Siva Bhaktas, Kulacchirai Nayanar excelled. He was born in Manamerkudi, in the Pandyan kingdom. This place was frequently graced by Siva Bhaktas. Kulacchirai Nayanar was the leader as well as the supporter of the people. To him adoration of Siva Bhaktas was equal to adoration of Lord Siva Himself. He saw no difference between Siva Bhaktas and Siva.

He was the Prime Minister of the Pandyan king. Yet, he regarded himself as the slave of Siva Bhaktas. He was the richest man in the place: yet, to him wealth was only dust. Nothing belonged to him: it was the property of Siva Bhaktas. Even Sambandar extolled his virtuous qualities in a song.

Nayanar was an able soldier and administrator. Yet, his mind was ever absorbed in the Lord. He helped the queen in stemming the tide of the evil influence of Jainism. Nayanar invited Sambandar to Madurai to fight this evil influence. The Jains set fire to Sambandar’s camp. Sambandar sang a song. The fire was extinguished. The Pandyan king had high fever, which the Jains could not cure, but which was cured by the sacred ash which Sambandar applied on him. Sambandar argued with the Jains and defeated them. Kulacchirai sent the defeated Jains to the gallows. He served the Siva Bhaktas and finally attained Siva’s Abode.

23. Perumizhalai Kurumba Nayanar

Guru is God. The same Lord Who is never separate from us, Who is our sustainer and support appears to us as the visible form of the Guru. He who adores the Guru with faith and devotion will attain all Siddhis (psychic powers) and eternal bliss. Perumizhalai Kurumba Nayanar excelled in Guru Bhakti. He was an ardent devotee of Lord Siva and Siva Bhaktas, too. He heard of Sundaramurthi Nayanar’s greatness and mentally accepted him as his Guru. To him, Sundarar was the sole refuge. He adored the Guru in thought, word and deed. By the Guru’s grace, he attained all the Siddhis. He was immersed in Siva Bhakti and Guru Bhakti.

In the meantime, Sundarar came to Tiruvanchaikalam from where he was taken to the Lord’s Abode. Kurumba Nayanar, through his Yogic powers, came to know that this would happen. He did not like to remain in this world after the Guru: and, therefore, through the method of Siva Yoga, Nayanar cast off his mortal coil and reached the Abode of Siva, a day before Sundarar’s departure.

24. Karaikal Ammaiyar

Punithavathiar as Karaikal Ammaiyar was called, was born in a Vaisya family. Her father was Danadathan. He was a wealthy merchant. He was very virtuous, too. He and his dutiful wife prayed to the Lord for a child, and the child the Lord blessed them with they called Punithavathy. From her childhood, Punithavathy had an intense love for Lord Siva and His Bhaktas. She was married to Paramadattan, a wealthy Vaisya. Both of them were leading an ideal householder’s life.

One day Paramadattan sent two mangoes to his house. Punithavathy kept them safely so that she could serve her husband with them at meal-time. In the meantime, a Siva Yogi appeared before her. He was hungry and completely exhausted. Punithavathy worshipped him and offered him Bhiksha. She had nothing to give him, except the mangoes. She gave one to the guest. At midday Paramadattan came to the house. The wife served him with one mango. He liked it, and asked for the other. She was upset. She appealed to the Lord for help. When she finished her prayer, mysteriously a mango fell on the palm of her hand. She gave it her husband. He tasted it. It was exceptionally sweet. He asked her to tell him from where she got it, as he was quite sure it was not the mango he had sent. Punithavathy told him the whole truth. Paramadattan, however, would not believe this and challenged her to produce another. She prayed again to the Lord. Another mango appeared on her palm. She gave it to him. But, at once it disappeared from his hand. He was astounded. He understood the greatness of his wife. He felt that it was a great sin to live with her as her husband. On the pretext of going to a foreign country for trade, he sailed with a ship load of goods. On return, he established himself in a big city in the Pandyan kingdom. He married a Vaisya girl and lived happily. He had a daughter by her and he named her Punithavathy, after his first wife.

Punithavathiyar’s relatives came to know of her husband’s whereabouts and took her also there in a palanquin. When Paramadattan heard that Punithavathy was coming to him, he, with his second wife and child, went forward, and fell at Punithavathy’s feet. When the people demanded an explanation, he revealed that he regarded her, not as his wife, but as a Goddess. Punithavathy understood his mental condition, and prayed to the Lord: ‘In that case, Oh Lord, deprive me of the present physical charm and let me have a demonaical form.’ Her prayer was immediately granted and her charming body was transformed into a skeleton.

Then she went on a pilgrimage to the holy Kailasa. Feeling that it would be a great sin to place her foot on those sacred grounds, she made the last part of the journey on her head. Mother Parvathy was surprised to see Punithavathy’s strange form and her wonderful devotion. Lord Siva told her of Ammaiyar’s greatness. When she went near Him, Lord Siva welcomed her with extreme love and granted a boon to her. She fell at His Feet, and prayed: ‘Oh Lord of Mercy, give me sincere, pure, unalloyed, eternal and overflowing devotion unto You. I want no more birth. If, however, I have to take birth here, grant me that I should never forget You. Whenever You dance, I must be at Your feet singing Your praise. This is my only wish.’ Lord Siva granted the boon and asked her to proceed to Tiruvalangadu to witness His dance. She went to that place and spent her life singing the praise of Lord Siva.

25. Appuddi Nayanar

In devotion to the Guru, Appudi Nayanar excelled. He was an ardent Siva Bhakta. He was leading the ideal householder’s life. He belonged to a Brahmin family in Tingalur in the Chola kingdom.

Appudi had heard of the glories of Tirunavukkarasar or Appar. He had heard of how God’s grace made the stone float and how Appar rode on it and floated on the sea and went to a place of safety. Even though he had not seen Appar, he had taken him as his Guru, and literally worshipped Appar. He knew that Lord Siva Himself, out of compassion for the spiritual aspirants, appeared as the Guru. He meditated on the lotus feet of the Guru. He had named all his children ‘Tirunavukkarasu’: and all the household articles had also been named after the Guru. He had erected a number of water-sheds, for the service of pilgrims, and had named all of them after the Guru. Thus had he ensured that he would constantly remember the Guru, and experience his grace.

Appar himself passed through Tingalur one day. He went into one of the water-sheds. He was surprised to see his own name everywhere. He found out from some other pilgrims that the shed had been erected by Appudi and went to meet him. Appudi received the Siva Bhakta (though he did not know who it was) with great devotion. Appar said: ‘Oh noble soul, I have heard a lot about your greatness and glory. I wanted to pay my respects personally to you. Please tell me, why have you named the water-shed after somebody, and not yourself.’ Appudi was upset at this casual reference to the blessed name of his Guru. He said: ‘Oh friend, though you appear to be a Siva Bhakta, you do not seem to know Tirunavukkarasu Swamigal, who through the grace of the Lord withstood successfully all the persecutions of the Pallava king and re-established Saivism. Have you not heard how the king tied him to a stone and threw him into the sea, and how he floated back to the shore? Who are you?’

Appar was very much moved by Appudi’s devotion and replied: ‘I am that humble soul who fell a victim to severe colic and then took shelter under the Lord’s Feet. I am that humble soul who, due to the grace of Lord Siva, got cured of that disease and returned to Saivism.’ Look at the difference between the two descriptions! Appudi remembers the glory of Appar: whereas Appar chooses to recall his own failing (to preserve his humility) and the Lord’s supreme saving grace.

As soon as he heard this, Appudi understood that the Siva Bhakta was none other than Appar and was overjoyed. He worshipped Appar, along with his wife and prayed to Appar to accept his Bhiksha (food). While their son had gone to the garden to bring a banana leaf, for Appar to use as his plate, the boy was bitten by a cobra. The son of a Nayanar: he was also a great devotee of the Lord! He ran to the mother eager to fulfil his duty. He handed the leaf to his mother and immediately fell down dead. Appudi did not want to let this disturb his worship of Appar Swamigal: and, therefore, hid the corpse. He invited Appar to have his meal. Appar sat down and blessed Appudi and his wife with Bhasma, and then called for their son. Appudi tactfully replied: ‘He is not in a position to come.’ Appar sensed that there was something wrong and asked Appudi to tell him the truth. Appudi informed him what had happened. Immediately Appar got up and asked Appudi to lay the corpse in front of the temple: and he himself sang a song. A miracle took place. The boy got up, as if from sleep. All were happy, except the parents of the boy. They regretted that this incident had caused some delay in Appar having his meals! Such is the nature of true devotion. Appar immediately took his meals and blessed the family.

Appar lived in Appudi Adigal’s house for some time. Appudi gained the grace of the Lord, by his wonderful devotion to his Guru, Appar Swamigal.

26. Tiruneelanakka Nayanar

Tirusattamangai was an important city in the Chola kingdom. It was a place full of spiritual vibrations and Siva Bhakti. The Brahmins were devoted to the study and recitation of the Vedas and worship of the Lord. And, the women were devoted to their lord (the husband) and served them as they would serve God Himself. It is situated seven miles east of Nannilam. There is a temple in this place called Ayavanthi. The Lord presiding over this is Ayavanthi-Nathar. His Consort is Malarkanni Ammai.

In this city there lived the glorious Brahmin, Tiruneelanakka Nayanar. He was well versed in the Agamas and was regular in his ritualistic worship of the Lord. On a Tiruvathirai day he was devoutly worshipping the Lord in the temple. His wife was also with him. A spider fell upon the Siva Lingam, when the worship was in progress. The saint’s wife, without a moment’s hesitation, blew it away, and spat on the spot where it had fallen, on the Siva Lingam—this is what they do when a spider falls on the body of a child or other human being. But, the husband was enraged at the wife’s sacrilegious action: she had spoilt the worship and polluted the temple by spitting on the Lingam. Without a second thought, he abandoned her and returned home.

The lady appealed to Lord Ayavanthinathar for his mercy. He appeared in the saint’s dream that night and showed him His body—all the parts of His body except that on which his wife had spat, had been affected by the spider poison. He realised that Bhakti was superior to ritualistic worship. He recalled the glimpse of the Lord he had, in his dream and rejoiced, rolled on the ground, wept out of sheer joy and danced. The next morning he went to the temple and worshipped the Lord, and returned home with his wife, the noble devotee to whom the Siva Lingam was not a stone, but a Living Presence.

Once Tiru Jnana Sambandar visited his place with Tiruneelakanta Perumbanar and Virali. Tiruneelanakka Nayanar was very eager to meet the great saint Sambandar. He welcomed the saint with due honours. That night, Sambandar asked Tiruneelanakkar to give some accommodation to the other two who were with him. They were not of the ‘high’ (Brahmin) caste! Tiruneelanakka Nayanar hesitated to let them sleep inside the house. He asked them to sleep near the sacrificial pit. As soon as they went near the pit, the Nayanar was astounded to see that the sacrificial fire began to burn of its own accord. He understood that, through the fire of their devotion they had attained to a stage which was far higher than what mere ritual could lead to. The mist of caste distinction also vanished from the eyes of Nayanar. Next morning, Sambandar went to the temple and sang a song in which he glorified Tiruneelanakka Nayanar also. When Sambandar wanted to leave the place, Tiruneelanakkar also wanted to accompany him: but Sambandar instructed him to stay there itself and serve the Siva Bhaktas. He obeyed.

He was, however, longing to be always at the feet of Sambandar. Soon his wish was fulfilled. He heard of Sambandar’s marriage, and went to Nallur Perumanam to witness it. When Sambandar got merged in the Light of Lord Siva, Tiruneelanakka Nayanar also got merged in it.

27. Nami Nandi Adigal

In Emaperur in the Chola kingdom there lived a Brahmin called Nami Nandi Adigal. Daily he used to go to Tiruvarur and worship Lord Siva, his sole refuge. One day, he felt an intense desire to light many lamps in the temple, which is an act highly extolled in the Siva Agamas. So, Nandi Adigal went to a near-by house and asked for ghee to light the lamps with. It was a Jain’s house: and the Jain said scornfully: ‘I have no ghee: if you are so eager, you may as well use water, instead.’ Nandi Adigal was filled with anguish to hear this. He went to the temple and prayed to the Lord. He heard a voice: ‘Don’t grieve. Bring water from the near-by tank and light the lamps with it.’ With great joy Nandi Adigal did so. Through the supreme grace of the Lord, all the lamps burned brightly! All the Jains were amazed to witness this miracle. Nandi Adigal did so on several days continuously. By that time, people’s faith in Jainism was lost through the miracles of Nandi Adigal of Tiruvarur. People embraced Saivism.

The Chola king, hearing of Nandi Adigal’s greatness, appointed him as the head of the temple. He used to celebrate the Panguni Uttaram festival on a grand scale. The Lord would be taken to a place called Tirumanali where people of all castes would flock around and worship Him. On one such occasion, after finishing his duties, Nandi returned home. Feeling that the touch of people of all castes had polluted him, he did not enter the house and do the usual worship before he went to bed. He asked his wife to bring some water so that he could bathe and then enter the house. But, before the water came, he was overpowered by sleep. In a dream, Lord Siva said: ‘Oh Nandi! All those who are born in Tiruvarur are my Ganas (servants). They cannot be regarded as impure. You yourself will see this with your own eyes.’ Nandi Adigal woke up from sleep and told all this to his wife. He repented for his wrong notion. He at once performed the worship. In the morning he went to Tiruvarur. There he saw that all the people who were born there had the same form as Lord Siva Himself. Nandi Adigal prostrated before them all. They resumed their original forms: Nandi Adigal understood it was the Lila of the Lord.

Then, Nandi Adigal settled down in Tiruvarur. He served the Lord and His Bhaktas so nicely that Appar praises him as ‘Anipon’ (pure gold). Ultimately he attained the glorious realm of the Lord.

28. Tiru Jnana Sambandar

In sacred Sirkali (which, according to a legend was the Noah’s Arc during a cosmic dissolution) there lived a pious Brahmin by name Sivapada Hridayar with his virtuous wife Bhagavathiar. Both of them were ardent devotees of Lord Siva. They refused to embrace Jainism and give up Saivism, even though the forces of Jainism were powerful and devastating. Sivapada Hridayar prayed to the Lord for the boon of a worthy son to him who would reestablish the glory of Saivism. The Lord granted this boon, and Bhagavathiar soon brought into this world a radiant male child. They brought up this child with great love and devotion, knowing fully well that it was a purposeful gift from the Lord. The child, too, would weep for his separation from his divine parents Lord Siva and Parvathy, though ordinary people mistook it for a baby’s crying habit.

One day Sivapada Hridayar and his wife took the child with them to the temple tank in which they wanted to bathe. The child had insisted on being taken with them. They left the child on the bank and went in to bathe. The child looked at the tower of the temple and began to cry for his parents. This outwardly appears to be a mere childish action, but the Lord knew its inner meaning. Lord Thoniappar wanted to bless the child. So, He appeared with Mother Parvathy and asked Her to feed the child with the milk of divine wisdom. To obtain His grace and divine knowledge, the grace of the Mother is necessary, Mother Parvathy fondled with the child and suckled him with the Milk of Wisdom. From that moment he was known as Aludaiya Pillayar or one who enjoys the protection of the Lord: and also as Tiru Jnana Sambandar as he attained divine wisdom through the grace of Lord Siva and Parvathy. From the moment he drank the Milk of Wisdom, he began to sing soul-stirring songs in praise of Lord Siva. The collection of these songs is called Thevaram.

After finishing their bath, the parents came to the child, and found a golden cup in his hands (the cup in which Parvathy gave him the milk) and milk overflowing from his mouth. Sivapada Hridayar thought that somebody had given milk to the child: he did not like that his child should accept milk from all sorts of people. So, he brandished a cane before the child and asked him who gave the milk. The child, shedding profuse tears, pointed to the Lord Who appeared in the sky along with Mother Parvathy. He also sang a song in praise of the Lord. Sivapada Hridayar could not see the Lord, but guessed from the child’s behaviour that he must have had a vision of the Lord. He followed the child into the temple, as he went towards it. Many devotees had also come to the temple. They had come to know of what had happened to Pillaiyar and glorified him. The parents were very happy. They took the child on their shoulders and went round the town in a procession. The people had decorated the town nicely and received Sambandar with great devotion.

The next day Pillaiyar went to Tirukkolakka and sang a song, clapping his hands to keep time. Lord Siva, pleased with this, presented him with a pair of golden cymbals. Sambandar began to sing, with the help of the golden cymbals. Even Narada and the celestials were charmed by this.

Sambandar then went on pilgrimages. Once Tiru Neelakanta Yazhpanar, an ardent devotee of the Lord and an expert musician on the Yazh (Veena) met Sambandar. They all went to the temple. Sambandar requested Yazhpanar to play the Yazh. The music melted the heart of Sambandar. Yazhpanar wanted to be always with Sambandar, to play on his instrument the songs that Sambandar sang in praise of the Lord. Sambandar granted this wish.

Sambandar went on a pilgrimage to Chidambaran. The very sight of the Lord entranced him. He had heard about the greatness of the Brahmins of Tillai (Chidambaram). To him, they actually appeared as Siva Ganas (celestial servants of Lord Siva). He showed this to Yazhpanar and they were thrilled. The Brahmins fell at his feet. Before they did so, Sambandar had fallen at their feet!

After visiting the birth-place of Yazhpanar, Sambandar wanted to go to Tiru Arathurai. He would sometimes walk and at other times sit on his father’s shoulders. In this manner they approached Maranpadi. They were all tired due to the heat of the sun and the arduousness of the journey. They rested at Maranpadi for the night.

The Lord wanted to alleviate His child’s suffering by presenting him with a palanquin. He appeared in the dream of the Brahmins of Tiru Arathurai and told them that they would find a pearl palanquin and a pearl umbrella, and asked them to take them to Sambandar who was then proceeding towards Tiru Arathurai. At the same time, the Lord appeared in Sambandar’s dream and informed him of the gift! The next morning, the Bhaktas handed over to Sambandar the Lord’s gifts to him. Sambandar worshipped the gifts and ascended the palanquin.

Sambandar returned to Sirkali, after visiting a number of shrines on the way, and singing Padigams in praise of the Lord everywhere. His parents performed the sacred thread ceremony. The Brahmins then began to teach him the Vedas. But, even before hearing the Vedas from the teacher, Sambandar could recite them, on account of previous Samskaras and divine grace. Then Sambandar taught them the essence of the Panchakshara and also sang a Padigam. It was at this time that Tirunavukkarasar also met Sambandar.

During the course of his pilgrimage, Sambandar came to Tiru Pachilasramam. The daughter of the Mazhava King there, who was a great devotee of Lord Siva, was suffering from an incurable disease. The king had, in despair, taken her to the temple and placed her in front of the Lord. At the same time, Sambandar had come into the temple. He saw the pitiable condition of the girl, who was lying unconscious. He sang a Padigam praying for His grace u

 
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