5. Maiporul Nayanar
Maiporul Nayanar was a pious king. He ruled over the hill tribes of Sethi. He was chivalrous and brave. He fought many battles and was always victorious. There was peace and plenty in his kingdom. People worshipped him as the living God.
He was well versed in the Agamas. He was an ardent devotee of the Lord. To him Siva and His devotees, adorned with matted locks, Rudraksham and sacred ashes represented the only truth, Absolute Truth: and all the rest of the world was straw. He saw everything as Sivamayam. Siva Bhaktas enjoyed absolute freedom in his country: they were honoured by the king and the people alike. Though he ruled the kingdom as the king, his mind was always at the Lord’s Feet. Daily, special prayers and festivals were conducted in the temples in his realm.
Nayanar’s fame soon spread far and wide. This evoked the jealousy of Muthanathan, the king of the neighbouring state. He collected a big army and attacked Nayanar several times; but he was repeatedly defeated. So, Muthanathan resorted to foul-play. One day, he disguised himself as a Siva Yogi (for he knew that Nayanar had supreme devotion to Siva Bhaktas) and entered the palace at night. The gate-keepers did not question him, but allowed him to proceed. Dathan, the faithful and intelligent servant of Nayanar, was guarding the bedroom in which the king was sleeping. When the Siva Yogi approached the bedroom, Dathan tried to dissuade him from disturbing the king’s sleep; but the Yogi refused to listen, saying: ‘I have some secret Shastra to teach the king. I cannot wait.’ So, Dathan had to allow the Yogi to enter the bedroom of the king, though he was a little suspicious. Nayanar’s wife got up and, finding a Siva Yogi in the room, quickly awakened her husband. The Siva Yogi told the king that the Shastra was a great secret, revealed by the Lord Himself, and that only the king was entitled to hear it. At once the king sent even the queen away and prostrated before the Yogi, ready to receive the secret. At that moment, the Siva Yogi, who was none else than the jealous king Muthanathan, quickly stabbed Nayanar on his back, with a knife he had kept hidden. At that time, the shrewd Dathan, as he entered the room, found the king on the floor in a pool of blood and Muthanathan with a knife in his hand. He was ready to strike down Muthanathan, when the dying Nayanar said: ‘Datha, he is our man. He has the appearance of a Siva Yogi and so must be honoured as one. Do not harm him. Kindly escort him to the borders of our kingdom, and see that he is unharmed.’ Dathan obeyed the commands of his master. As he was escorting Muthanathan, the people who had heard what happened went to attack Muthanathan, but, as soon as Dathan told them of the king’s commands, they withdrew, admiring the supreme devotion of their king. Thus, Muthanathan was safely escorted out of the kingdom. And, Dathan hastened back to the palace to convey this news to the dying king who was eagerly waiting for it.
As soon as Dathan conveyed the news to the king, the Nayanar called all his Ministers and relatives to his bedside, and spoke to them as follows: ‘It is our duty to serve the Bhaktas. They must be honoured and worshipped at all times and under all circumstances. Let our people walk in the footsteps of the Siva Bhaktas. Let the country be flooded with Siva Bhaktas. By their blessings, let peace and prosperity reign in our land.’ With these words, he closed his eyes and meditated on Lord Siva.
Lord Siva at once appeared before him and blessed him as follows: ‘I am immensely pleased with your devotion to My Bhaktas. I am immensely pleased with your cosmic love and your unquestioning devotion to My devotees. Even in a murderer you saw Me. You are, therefore, fit to reach the Highest Abode which even the Devas cannot hope to reach. You will soon come to My Abode.’ With these words the Lord disappeared: and Maiporul Nayanar (whose very name meant ‘one for whom God was the sole reality’) also attained His Abode.
6. Viralminda Nayanar
Viralminda Nayanar was born in Sengunru, a hilly place. He was a Vellala by caste.
He was a staunch devotee of Lord Siva. Through His grace, he was free from ‘I’-ness and ‘mine’-ness. He had equal vision. He served His devotees and attained purity of mind. To him worship of Siva Bhaktas was equal, if not even superior to the worship of Lord Siva Himself. He felt that no one could get Siva’s grace without first worshipping Siva Bhaktas, and that he who worships even the Siva Lingam with all faith and devotion, would not attain salvation if he insults Siva Bhaktas. Daily he used to visit the temple. Before worshipping the Lord, he used to worship the Siva Bhaktas who might be found there.
He left Sengunru on a pilgrimage and came to Tiruvarur. One day when he was worshipping the Lord, Sundaramurthi Nayanar came to the temple. Sundarar by-passed the Bhaktas who were in temple and went into the sanctum sanctorum to worship the Lord. This upset Viralmindar, who was observing this. He could not tolerate this insult to His Bhaktas. He said to Sundarar: ‘You have insulted the Siva Bhaktas. By this act you have rendered yourself unfit to remain in the holy circle of Siva Bhaktas. Hence, you are excommunicated from this circle.’ He added further: ‘And, Siva, for having so thoughtlessly accepted such improper worship at your hands, He, too, shall be regarded as an outcaste from the divine fold.’ So firm was he in his conviction that he could thus ‘reprimand’ God Himself! In fact, it was Siva Himself Who spoke through him to instruct His Bhaktas in the proper attitude they should have towards His Bhaktas.
Sundarar immediately understood Viralmindar’s inner Bhav towards the Bhaktas as well as towards Lord Siva, and prostrated before him. He then sang a Padigam praising him. The Padigam melted Viralmindar’s heart so much that he greeted Sundarar and said: ‘Your mind is well established in the service of Siva Bhaktas. You have got sincere devotion to them.’ Lord Siva was greatly pleased with Viralmindar’s great steadfastness in his devotion to Siva Bhaktas. Thus had the Lord revealed the great glory of the Bhakta. He was then elevated to the blessed plane of the Siva Ganas where the Lord made him leader of the Ganas. Glory to such Bhaktas!
7. Amaraneedi Nayanar
Amaraneedi Nayanar was a Vaisya by caste. He belonged to Pazhaiyaarai in the Chola Kingdom. Pazhaiyaarai was a very fertile place, surrounded on all sides by gardens and green fields. In those days this place was very famous.
Amaraneedi Nayanar was a trader in gold, diamonds, silks and cotton goods. He used to import these goods from foreign countries and was selling them at reasonable prices. He earned money honestly and became rich. Though he was engaged in worldly activities, his mind was fixed on Lord Siva. He was an ardent Siva Bhakta. He would invite Siva Bhaktas to his house and worship them. He would give the Kowpeenam, cloth, etc., and feed them nicely and send them away happy, with other gifts.
He used to visit the sacred temple of Tirunallur during festivals and worship Lord Siva with intense faith and repeat Panchakshara Mantra daily with Bhava. Not being satisfied with this visit during festivals only, he wanted to settle down there once for all, always enjoying the Lord’s Darshan, and feeding Siva Bhaktas. So he left Pazhaiyaarai and migrated with his family and relatives, to Tirunallur. He built a beautiful Mutt there to accommodate Siva Bhaktas who visited the temple. Daily he used to invite Siva Bhaktas and offer Kowpeenam, etc.
Lord Siva was highly pleased with Amaraneedi Nayanar’s Kowpeena charity and extreme kindness to Siva Bhaktas. He wanted to show to the world His Bhakta’s greatness and also shower His blessings on him.
So, one day Lord Siva in the guise of a Brahmachari, with beautiful matted locks on his head, sacred ashes on his forehead, with a staff on his shoulder, appeared before Amaraneediar’s Mutt. Two Kowpeenams and a small ash-bag were tied to one end of the staff. He had a charming face. His eyes were glittering. He walked gracefully into the Mutt. Amaraneediar, with extreme joy, welcomed him and worshipped him. The Brahmachari said: ‘Oh friend, you are a noble soul. People are highly praising your Kowpeena charity. I have come to you for Darshan.’ Amaraneediar begged of him to take Bhiksha. He readily agreed and said: ‘I shall go to the river and return after finishing my bath and Nitya Karmas. Rain may drench my Kowpeenams. So, please keep this dry Kowpeenam safely with you, and I shall come back for it. The Kowpeenam is very precious, as you already know. So, please keep it safe.’
The Brahmachari went away, and Amaraneediar kept the Kowpeenam safely inside the house. But, the Lord willed that it should disappear! Soon after the Brahmachari came back after his bath, etc., and asked for the dry Kowpeenam as rain had drenched the Kowpeenam he had on the staff. Amaraneediar could not find it. He prayed hard to the Lord. Yet, he could not find it. He approached the Brahmachari, trembling, with another Kowpeenam, and explained his predicament to him. But, the Brahmachari was in no mood to take any explanation. Amaraneediar offered much wealth, etc., in compensation. But, the Brahmachari said: ‘What have I to do with all this wealth? All these are of no use to me. I only need a Kowpeenam.’ And, in saying so, the Lord in the guise of the Brahmachari, uttered a very great truth. He continued: ‘I have got another Kowpeenam: you can give me another of the same weight.’ Amaraneediar was greatly relieved when he heard this. He brought a balance. He put the Kowpeenam on one side and another piece on the other. The Brahmachari’s scale went down. Whatever Amaraneediar put on his side, the Brahmachari’s scale was heavier. Amaraneediar was amazed: and he understood that it was God’s own Lila. All his wealth could not equal the Brahmachari’s Kowpeenam! How could it? Lord Siva’s Kowpeenam represents the Vedas. The fibres of His Kowpeenam represent the Shastras.
Amaraneediar was on the horns of a dilemma. He fell at the Brahmachari’s feet and asked him to allow himself, his wife, and his child to be weighed against the Brahmachari’s Kowpeenam. The Brahmachari agreed. Amaraneediar got on the scale with his wife and his child, saying: ‘If I have truly served the Siva Bhaktas, with faith and sincerity, let this sca1e be equal in weight to the other one.’ Immediately the two scales were equal. The merit of Amaraneediar’s selfless service of the Siva Bhaktas was equal to the merit of Lord Siva’s Kowpeenam. The people who witnessed this were wonderstruck. They prostrated before Amaraneediar and praised him. Devas from the heaven showered Parijatha flowers. The Brahmachari disappeared and Lord Parameswara and Mother Parvathi appeared on Their Rishabha before Amaraneediar, his wife and child. He blessed them: ‘I am immensely pleased with your whole-hearted and sincere service of My Bhaktas. I am immensely pleased with your Kowpeena charity. You three will come to My Abode and live there happily for ever.’ On account of the Lord’s grace, the balance itself turned into a celestial car in which Amaraneediar, his wife and his child attained Siva’s Abode.
8. Eripatha Nayanar
Eripatha Nayanar was born in Karuvur, one of the main cities of the Chola Kingdom. It was a very sacred place, situated on the bank of the river Ambiravati. On both the banks of this river saints and sages were doing Tapas and were radiating spiritual vibrations. A famous temple was there, too, dedicated to Lord Pasupatheesvarar Who was showering His grace on the king and the people alike. They were all happy. Eripatha Nayanar was daily worshipping Lord Pasupatheesvarar with great faith and devotion. His one aim in life was to serve Siva Bhaktas and to offer them every kind of protection. He always carried a weapon, an axe, for this purpose. With the axe he would punish anyone trying to harm Siva Bhaktas. He was doing by this the Lord’s own work!
In that city, there lived a Siva Bhakta by name Sivakami Andar. He was very regular in his daily worship of Lord Siva. Early morning would find him in the garden after bath, collecting flowers, making garlands for taking to the temple and offering to the Lord. This was his routine.
On a Maha Navami day when all the people were jubilant, Sivakami Andar was rushing to the temple, as usual, with a basket of flowers. At the same time, the king’s pet elephant was returning from the river, after its bath. On its back were two Mahouts, and three others were escorting it. Suddenly, it went mad and was chasing the people. They were running here and there. It ran towards Sivakami Andar. It caught hold of him, wrenched the basket of flowers from him, threw it on the ground and ran away. The flowers were all scattered on the ground. Sivakami Andar was greatly upset. The elephant had destroyed the flowers he had kept for the worship of the Lord. He chased the elephant. He was very aged and soon fell down exhausted. He was weeping bitterly, crying aloud: ‘Sivada, Sivada’ (a cry expressing agony). Eripatha Nayanar happened to pass that way. He heard Sivakami Andar’s pitiable cry and the cause of it. ‘Where is that elephant?’ asked Eripathar and began to run in the direction indicated by Sivakami Andar. Soon he overtook the elephant and hurled his powerful axe, killing it with one stroke. Then he pounced on the Mahouts and killed them, too.
The news of the elephant’s fate reached the king who immediately reached the spot on his horse, surrounded by his soldiers. He could not see who had killed the elephant, for, he could not associate the Siva Yogi Eripathar with such an act. He began to shout: ‘Who killed my elephant?’ When someone pointed to Eripathar, immediately the king’s wrath vanished, for he knew that if the Siva Yogi had done so, there should have been a very valid reason for it. ‘He must have killed it in self-defence,’ thought the king and felt happy that the elephant had done no harm to the Siva Yogi. He addressed Eripathar: ‘Oh Swamin, I did not know that you killed the elephant. Definitely, the elephant and the Mahouts must have done some harm to you and you rightly punished them.’ Eripathar narrated to the king all that had happened, and said: ‘Since the elephant and the Mahouts were guilty of Siva-Aparadham, I killed them.’ The moment the king heard the expression Siva-Aparadhara (sin against Lord Siva) he suffered terrible mental agony. He fell at the feet of Eripathar and said: ‘O Swamin, for what they have done, the punishment awarded by you is not enough. I have committed a great crime by keeping such an elephant and such Mahouts. Now, I do not deserve a death through your holy weapon, the axe. Here is my own sword. Please be gracious enough to cut off my head with it.’
Eripathar was stunned to hear these words. He himself was struck with remorse. ‘What a great pain have I inflicted on the king! What a noble king he is!’ he thought; and, lest the king should execute the punishment on himself, he took the sword from the king. Eripathar felt that he was the cause for the king’s affliction, and in self-punishment, he began to cut his own throat. The king was alarmed. He thought that he would now be guilty of another offence and at once gripped the sword and stopped Eripathar from cutting his own throat.
The Lord’s Lila was over. A voice was heard in the sky: ‘Oh noble souls! This is Lord Pasupatheesvarar’s Lila. It is His wish that His Bhakta’s sincere and faithful service to Him must be recognised by the world.’ Immediately, the elephants and the Mahouts got up, as from sleep. Sivakami Andar’s flower basket was full. All were amazed and began to sing Lord Pasupatheesvarar’s glory. Eripathar placed the sword at the king’s feet and prostrated to him. The king also fell at Eripathar’s feet. Both embraced each other and were in great joy. Eripathar wished that the king should mount his pet elephant. The king did so. Eripathar returned to his place. Sivakami Andar went to the temple with the flowers.
Eripathar continued to serve Siva Bhaktas. Finally he cast off his mortal coil and reached the Abode of Lord Siva.
9. Enadinatha Nayanar
Enadinatha Nayanar was a Shanar (toddy tapper). He was born in Eyinanur in Chola Kingdom. It was situated to the south-east of Kumbakonam on the bank of the river Arisol. It was very fertile and rich.
Enadinathar was an ardent devotee of Lord Siva. Like Maiporul Nayanar, however, he was devoted even to the external marks of Siva Bhakti. To Enadiar, the three white lines of Vibhuti or sacred ash on one’s forehead were sufficient to evoke his own reverence.
It would not be out of place here to say a word about this mark on the forehead of devotees of Siva. Through this mark Lord Siva teaches silently that the spiritual aspirant should destroy the three types of impurities, viz., Anavam (I-ness), Karma (selfish activity), and Maya (illusion): the three desires or Eshanas, viz., desire for worldly goods, for son and for wife: the three Vasanas or subtle tendencies, viz., Lokavasana (worldliness), Dehavasana (attachment to the body) and Shastravasana (blind faith in the scriptures and polemics), and that he should transcend the three bodies (physical, astral and causal), and the three states, viz., waking, dreaming and deep sleep,—and eventually attain union with Lord. The Shastras assure us that the Bhasma or sacred ash is a divine healer. It cures all diseases, including the disease of birth and death, and bestows on the devotee who wears it, the highest wealth, viz., Moksha.
Such is the glory of the sacred ash: and, no wonder Enadiar worshipped whoever came to him with the ash on his forehead. Enadiar saw Lord Siva in him. He was ready to give even his own life at the feet of the devotee who wore the ash.
Enadinatha Nayanar was a very good swordsman. He was a tutor to the princes in fencing. He earned a good income from his profession. He spent all his income in the service of the Siva Bhaktas. He became very popular, too. This evoked the jealousy of another man belonging to the same profession, by name Atisuran. Contrary to his name (which means a great hero), he was not at all skilful and not strong either, because he was full of vices. Yet, he wanted to fight with Enadinathar and defeat him.
One day Atisuran marched towards Enadinathar’s house, with all his relatives, fully armed: he hoped to defeat Enadinathar, with the help of his relatives. He stood in front of Enadinathar’s house and challenged him to a fight—jackal coming to fight the lion. Enadinathar accepted the challenge and came forward to fight. Atisuran got frightened. He asked Enadinathar to come to the nearby grove to fight with him. The relatives of Atisuran were waiting in the grove. In the mean time, the friends of Enadinathar had also gathered around him. The two parties fell on each other, and in the terrible fight that ensued many lives were lost. Atisuran ran away from the grove. He wanted to kill Enadinathar, not in open fight (which was impossible), but by strategem.
The next day, he sent a message to Enadinathar: ‘Let us fight again, but without any assistance this time: otherwise, many innocent people die on our account. Let us go to a lonely place, without anyone’s knowledge and fight.’ Enadinathar accepted it. The next morning, Enadinathar went away secretly and was awaiting Atisuran’s arrival at the stipulated place. Atisuran, with the sacred ashes on his forehead (which was cleverly hidden by his shield) approached Enadinathar. Enadinathar pounced upon him, with a big roar. In a moment, Atisuran removed the shield, revealing the sacred ashes. Enadinathar quickly lowered his sword and thought: ‘What a sin I was about to commit! He has become a Siva Bhakta now. I must not harm him. Let him achieve his object of killing me.’ Endinathar wanted to throw the sword away, but kept it in his hand, else he would be compelling his opponent (a Siva Bhakta!) to incur the sin of killing an unarmed person. As he was mutely standing thus, Atisuran killed him.
Lord Siva was highly pleased with this self-sacrificing devotion that Enadinathar had for the ashes. He appeared before Enadinathar as he fell, and took him to His Abode.
10. Kannappa Nayanar
Nagan was the king of hunters at Uduppur in Pottapi Nadu. His wife was Tattai. They were great devotees of Lord Subramanya. By His grace, they had a child, after a long time. It was very heavy: so, they named him Tinnanar.
Tinnanar was Arjuna in the previous birth, according to Tiru Kalahasthi Puranam. When he went to worship Siva, to get Pasupatha Astra, and when the Lord came to him as a hunter, Arjuna did not recognise Him. So, he had to be born as a hunter again and adore the Lord, before attaining Final Liberation.
Tinnanar was educated according to the hunters’ customs. He became a good archer. Even when he was young, his father retired, and crowned him king. Though he was a hunter and carried on hunting as his Dharma, Tinnanar was full of love and would not kill young ones, females, diseased animals, etc. Spiritually, he had already killed the animals within himself, viz., lust, anger, greed, vanity, etc.
One day, Tinnanar went out hunting. A pig escaped from its net and was running away. Tinnanar pursued it accompanied by two others, Nanan and Kadan. The pig was tired and stood near a tree. It was quickly killed by Tinnanar. They were tired, too, and thirsty. They proceeded towards the Ponmukali. Tinnanar wanted to climb the nearby mountain. Nanan, too, volunteered to follow him, saying that on that, the Kalahasthi hill, there was Lord Kudumithevar (God with a Tuft). Kadan was busy cooking the pork.
Even when he began to climb the hill, there was a definite change coming over Tinnanar, owing to past Samskaras. He felt that a great burden was being lifted off his shoulders. He was losing body-consciousness. As he saw the Lord there, he felt supreme love surging in his heart. He embraced the Lingam and kissed It. He began to shed tears of joy. He felt that the Lord was lonely there, and that he should thenceforth remain with Him. Again, he thought that the Lord might be hungry. Though he was reluctant to leave the Lord alone, he quickly came down the hill to fetch some food for the Lord. He took the best pieces of the pork, tasted them and ear-marked the very best for Him. In the mean time, he gathered from Nanan that the Lord was worshipped daily with water, flowers, etc, before the food was offered to Him. So, he began to collect the other articles of worship. He filled his own mouth with water from the river. Flowers, he gathered and wore them on his head! He took the pork, bow and arrow and went up the hill again, alone this time.
At the temple, Tinnanar poured from his mouth, the water that he had brought for His worship. That was his ‘Abhishekam’. Then he decorated the Lingam with the flowers he had brought on his own head. This was his ‘Archana’. He then placed the pork before the Lord. He went out and stood guard for Him, at the entrance, lest some wild animals should hurt Him. In the morning again he went out to hunt and bring fresh food for the Lord.
In the mean time, Nanan and Kadan worried about the change that had come over Tinnanar (which they thought to be madness). They went and reported the matter to Tinnanar’s parents. They came and tried, in vain, to take him back. They, too, went away.
When Tinnanar left the temple in the morning to get food for the Lord, Sivagochariar, the temple priest, came there for the usual orthodox worship. He was horrified at the desecration that some unknown person had done in the temple. He was well versed in the Agamas (rituals of Siva-worship). He performed the necessary purificatory rites and took bath again and began his formal worship. He brought water in a holy pot, with a bandage around his own mouth, lest the breath of his mouth should pollute it. He brought fresh flowers in a holy basket. He brought fruits and sweets, newly made and unpolluted by anyone tasting it, before the Lord for being offered to Him. He went home after the worship.
Tinnanar returned with fresh meat. He removed the priest’s decorations, and did the worship in his own way, and then as usual, stood guard at the entrance.
This went on for five days. The priest was greatly upset about the desecration of the holy place. He appealed to the Lord to stop it. Lord Siva wanted to show to Sivagochariar the nature of Tinnanar’s supreme devotion. He commanded him in a dream, to hide himself behind the Lingam, when Tinnanar went to the temple the next day, and watch what took place.
On the sixth day, Tinnanar went out as usual for getting the Lord’s food. While returning, he saw many ill omens, which made him feel that something had happened to the Lord: he was so unconscious of himself, that he did not think that something could happen to him. He ran towards the Lord. He was grieved to see blood issuing from the Lord’s right eye. The articles he had brought for the worship dropped from his hand. He wept bitterly. He could not find who had done this to the Lord. He treated the eye with herbs he knew of. Still the bleeding did not stop. A simple idea occurred to him: ‘flesh for flesh’. At once, with his own arrow, he took out his own right eye, and fixed it over the right eye of the Lord. The bleeding stopped. He was very happy. When he was dancing in ecstasy, he noticed that the Lord’s left eye had begun to bleed. But, he had already found out the remedy. There was only one problem: how to locate the eye of the Lord, when his own eye had been pulled out. So, Tinnanar planted his foot at the place where the Lord’s left eye was on the Lingam, and began to pull his left eye out, with his arrow.
At once, Lord Siva caught hold of his hand and said: ‘My dear child, Kannappa! Stop plucking your eye.’ The Lord repeated the word Kannappa thrice. Kannappar was thrice blessed. Tinnanar became Kannappar, because he gave his own eye to the Lord. Lord Siva took him with both Hands, and kept him on His right side. Kannappar regained his vision and lived as god himself. Sivagochariar understood the true nature of devotion.
This story has an esoteric meaning, too. Nayanar had conquered all other evils: but, Anava Malam or egoism had to be killed, too. The wild pig represents this. Supreme Bhakti dawned, the moment this was killed. In its chase, the seeker is accompanied by good and evil (the two hunters Nanan and Kadan). Nanan (good) described the glory of the Lord to him: Nanan represents good Samskaras. Kadan (the evil) had to be left behind. The aspirant with good Samskaras, goes to His Presence. But, when he has to attain God-realisation, even this has to be renounced. Hence, Nayanar, when he went to worship Him, went alone. Nayanar’s parents (the hidden good and evil tendencies and worldly desires) tried but failed to take him away from God. The Lord asked the priest to hide behind Him, while Tinnanar was in front: this means, true Bhakti is far superior to mere ritual. Tinnanar’s readiness to pluck out his own eyes for His sake is total self-surrender or Atma-Nivedan, the highest peak of devotion which immediately reveals the Lord in all His glory.
11. Kungiliya Kalaya Nayanar
Kungiliya Kalaya Nayanar was born in Tirukadavur in the Chola kingdom. The Lord of this place is called Amirda Ghateswarar. Once Devas and Asuras came to this place with nectar in a pot. They wanted to take bath. So, they left the pot on the ground and went to the river. When they came back to the place, they could not lift the pot. The pot itself had been transformed into a Lingam. Hence this Lingam is known as Amrita Lingam. Markandeya worshipped this Lingam and became an immortal boy of 16 years.
The Goddess in this place is called Abhirami Amman. Abhirami Pattar, a great devotee of Mother, sang beautiful songs in praise of Her: and the Mother Who was highly pleased with this, changed the new moon day into a full moon day, in order to save him from the king’s wrath.
Kungiliya Kalaya Nayanar was a Brahmin by caste He got the name because he was always holding a pot (an incense pot) in his hand. He considered burning of incense before the Lord was the best service to Him. Lord Siva was highly pleased with the Nayanar’s intense devotion and his wonderful service. He wanted to put it to test, so that the true glory of his supreme devotion to the Lord may be understood by all.
By the will of Lord Siva, Nayanar became poor suddenly. He sold all his property. His family was starving. Still, he continued to burn incense before the Lord. One day his dutiful wife thought: ‘Everything has been sold. Only this Mangalyam (a sacred thread with a pendant, which every married woman must always have on her person, till the husband dies, when it is removed), is left. I will give it to my Lord: though it is inauspicious to do so. Let him sell it and obtain some rice, with which we could feed the children who may die of hunger otherwise.’ She removed the Mangalyam and gave it to her husband, who gladly received it. As he was proceeding to the market to sell it, Lord Siva Himself appeared before him, in the guise of a hawker and said that he had very good incense. The word incense at once made Nayanar forget himself and the mission! He quickly bought incense for the price of the Mangalyam, and went to the temple to burn it before the Lord.
His wife patiently waited for his return, and, not finding him even after nightfall, put the children to bed and remained praying. The Lord was immensely pleased with this noble couple. The faithful wife was prepared to part with even the most sacred ornament for the service of her lord, her husband. The Kural says: ‘Rain falls at the bidding of her who, on waking from sleep, worships no other God but her husband.’ That night Lord Siva appeared in her dream and blessed her with all wealth.
She woke up from her sleep and was amazed to find all types of wealth in the house. She sang His glories. Immediately she prepared a nice meal and was waiting for her lord’s return.
After blessing the Nayanar’s wife, thus, Lord Siva appeared before Nayanar in the temple and said: ‘Oh noble soul, I am immensely pleased with your devotion. Your dutiful wife is anxiously waiting for you in the house with milk and food. Kindly go to your house.’ It was only then that Nayanar became aware of this world! He returned to the house and found that it had been transformed into a heaven, by the grace of the Lord. Siva Bhaktas, too, had assembled in the house in large numbers. They all sang the glories of the Lord. The Nayanar treated the wealth that the Lord had bestowed upon him as the property of Siva Bhaktas and served them.
One day Nayanar wanted to visit the temple at Tiruppanandal. The Lord of this temple is Arunasatesar. Thatakai was the daughter of an Asura. For getting a son, she worshipped the Siva Lingam regularly. One day at the end of the worship, she wanted to garland the Lingam. As she lifted the garland with both her hands, her cloth began to slip from her waist. She held it with her elbows, and hence could not raise her hands (and the garland) high enough. To relieve her, the Lord leaned to one side and accepted the garland. Many people tried to pull the Lingam straight: but it could not be done. Nayanar heard that the king of the place was upset about it and wanted the Lingam to be straightened. Nayanar wanted to help the king. He tied the Lingam to his neck with a rope (the rope of God-love) and gently pulled it. The Lingam became upright! Devas rained flowers from heaven. All were amazed and recognised the glory of the Nayanar and his great devotion to the Lord.
After spending some more time in the service of Lord Siva and His Bhaktas, Nayanar reached His Abode.
12. Manakanchara Nayanar
Kancharur was a fertile place in the Chola kingdom. The people were all Siva Bhaktas. In this place there lived a staunch devotee of Lord Siva by name Manakancharanar. He was a Vellala by caste. He was a hereditary Senathipathi. People of the community had the highest regard for him. He was a contemporary of Sundaramurthi Nayanar. To him adoration of Siva Bhaktas was the highest form of worship of the Lord. He would read their minds from their look, and would serve them without their asking.
He had no children for a long time. He worshipped Siva with faith and devotion and obtained the boon of a daughter from Him. Nayanar celebrated the birth of this divine child, with a lot of charity. In due time, the girl attained the marriageable age. She was engaged to be married to Eyarkon Kalikamar who was also an earnest and sincere devotee of the Lord. The date of the wedding had been fixed and all arrangements made.
In the mean time, Lord Siva wanted to shower His supreme grace on the Nayanar. He took the form of a Maha-Vrathiar (man of great vow) who wears the sacred ash on his forehead, matted locks adorned with a garland of bones, and a sacred thread made of human hair on his chest. The Maha-Vrathiar appeared before Manakancharanar who received him with great delight. When the ascetic enquired about the cause of the festive appearance of the house, Nayanar explained that his daughter was to wed that clay. He asked the girl to bow to the ascetic and receive his blessings. The ascetic saw her flowing hair, and said: ‘Oh noble soul, I am delighted to see her hair. This can be conveniently made into a Panchavati (the thread that adorns my chest).’ At once, Nayanar took a knife and, without thinking for a moment, cut the hair on his daughter’s head and handed it to the ascetic. In his extreme devotion to the Siva Yogi, he did not even consider the fact that he was disfiguring his only daughter, and that the bridegroom might refuse to accept her. The Lord in the form of the ascetic immediately disappeared. He gave Nayanar and his family Darshanam along with Mother Parvathy and blessed them.
Eyarkon Kalikamar, the bridegroom, and his party arrived there soon after, and came to know of all that had happened. He was sorry that he had not come earlier and had the Lord’s Darshan. When he saw the disfigured bride and hesitated to accept her, Lord Siva, the Indweller, understood the cause, and restored the hair to her head. Nayanar and his family were very happy and proceeded with the wedding.
13. Arivattaya Nayanar
There once lived in Kannamangalam in the Chola kingdom a rich Vellala by name Thayanar. He was leading the life of an ideal Grihastha (householder) of whom the saint Tiruvalluvar has sung:
He will be placed among the gods in heaven who in this world follows the law of the householder’s life.
Thayanar was a great devotee of Lord Siva. His devotion took the form of a daily offering to the Lord of food prepared with red rice, a sauce made of red herb, and mango pickle. He considered this as an act of great devotion to the Lord. The Lord was highly pleased with Thayanar’s devotion. He wanted to put it to the test, in order to manifest it to the world in all its glory. By His Will, poverty struck Thayanar. Thayanar got himself employed and earned his wages in kind (red rice). He himself would not eat this red rice, but lived on the inferior khar rice. The Lord tested him further. All the fields in the place grew only red rice. But, Thayanar would not touch it. His wife cooked for him some green leaves from their garden. Thayanar was content and was intent on his usual offering to the Lord. The Lord put His devotee through more severe tests. Even the green leaves withered away and there was nothing left. Thayanar was not at all perturbed. He happily lived on mere water: his mind was full of the bliss of the worship of the Lord and he felt neither hunger nor thirst. One day, Thayanar, now emaciated and weak, was taking his usual offering to the Lord, followed by his wife. He stumbled on the way and fell down. The offering he had, was spilt on the ground. Thayanar was greatly upset. He began to weep bitterly: ‘Oh Lord, today the food intended for You has been spilt on the ground. What great sin have I committed to deserve this? Please forgive me. Have mercy on this poor creature. You are omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. If this is true, You must be present here also. Kindly come and accept the offering here. If You do not eat this, I will give up my life.’ With these words, he began to cut his throat with an Arival (sickle). Hence, the name Arivattaya Nayanar.
Lord Siva was highly pleased with his devotion. His Lila was over. He at once stretched His hand and caught hold of Nayanar’s, thus preventing him from cutting his own throat. Nayanar did not realise what was happening. At that time, he heard the sound of someone biting a mango pickle. He understood the Lord’s Lila, sang His glories and danced. The Lord and Mother Parvathi appeared before him and blessed him: ‘Oh noble soul, I am immensely pleased with your devotion. You and your chaste wife will soon come to My Abode and live happily there.’
14. Anaya Nayanar
Tirumangalam was an important place of pilgrimage in Mazhanad (Trichnopoly District). The Lord Who dwells in this place is called Samavedesvarar. It was He Who purified Parasurama of the sin of killing his mother and also gave him the axe.
In that enchanting place, there was a cowherd by name Anayar. Because he was tending cows, he was known by that name. He was a staunch devotee of the Lord. He was devoted to the Bhasma, and also to Siva Bhaktas, irrespective of their caste. His devotion to the Lord took the form of playing on his flute the holy Panchakshara Mantra of Siva. He aspired to realise the Lord, through this Mantra.
One day when he was playing the Mantra on his celestial instrument, under a Konrai tree (a favourite of Lord Siva), the music captivated all the cows and calves. Even the birds sat on trees and silently heard the enrapturing music of the flute. The peacocks danced in joy, keeping time with the music. Hearing the music, other animals stood motionless. The music captivated the hearts of the deer, snakes, lions, elephants, tigers, etc. The snake and the peacock, the lion and the elephant, shed their enmity and lived together happily. The rivers stopped in their course. The waves in the sea calmed, to hear the music of Ayanar. Even the celestials (Vidyadharas, Kinnaras and Devas,) came in their celestial cars to hear the music.
The Lord was immensely pleased with Ayanar’s sincere devotion. The sweetness of the music of the flute and the effect of the Panchakshara Mantra both melted His heart. He appeared before Nayanar, with Mother Parvathi, blessed him and took him to Kailas.