Swami Sivananda -
A Divine Life Society Publication
© The Divine Life Trust Society
The Saiva Siddhanta Philosophy
Introduction: In the books which treat of Saivism,
there is a reference to four schools, viz., the
Nakulisa-pasupata, the Saiva, the Pratyabhijna and the
Saiva Siddhanta is the philosophy of southern Saivism. It
owes its origin to no single author. It is midway between
Sankara’s Adwaita and Ramanuja’s Visishtadwaita. Its
literature consists chiefly of: (1) the twenty-eight Saivite
Agamas, (2) the collection of Saivite hymns known as
Tirumurai compiled by Nambi Andar Nambi, (it contains
Tirumanthiram of Tirumular; the Thevaram of Appar, Sundarar,
and Sambandar, and the Tiruvachagam of Manickavachagar), (3)
the collection of the lives of Saivite saints, known as the
Periyapuranam, (4) Meykandar’s Siva-jnanabodham, (5)
Arulnandi’s Sivajnanasiddhiar, and the works of Umapati.
Tirumular’s work Tirumanthiram is the foundation upon which
the later structure of Saiva Siddhanta philosophy was built.
The central doctrine of the Saiva Siddhanta philosophy is
that Siva is the Supreme Reality, and that the Jiva or the
individual soul is of the same essence as Siva, but not
identical. Pati (God), Pasu (soul), and Pasa (the bonds) and
the thirty-six Tattvas or principles which constitute the
world, are all real.
The Saiva Siddhanta system is the distilled essence of
Vedanta. It prevailed in Southern India even before the
Christian era. Tirunelvely and Madura are the centres of the
Saiva Siddhanta school. Even now, Saivism is a very popular
creed in South India. It is a rival school of Vaishnavism.
Characteristics of the Supreme Reality: The
Supreme Reality is called Siva. He is infinite
consciousness. He is eternal, changeless, formless,
independent, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, one
without a second, beginningless, causeless, taintless,
self-existent, ever free, ever pure, and perfect. He is not
limited by time. He is infinite bliss and infinite
intelligence. He is free from defects, the all-doer, the
Lord Siva is the God of Love. His grace is infinite. His
love is infinite. He is the saviour and Guru. He is engaged
in freeing the souls from the thraldom of matter. He assumes
the form of a Guru out of His intense love for mankind. He
wishes that all should know Him and attain the blissful
Siva-Padam (the state of Siva). He watches the activities of
the individual souls, and helps them in their onward march.
He liberates the individual souls from their fetters or
The Five Activities of the Lord: The five
activities of the Lord are: Creation, Preservation,
Destruction, Veiling and Grace. These, separately
considered, are the activities of Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra,
Maheshwara, and Sadasiva.
Siva, Shakti and Maya: Lord Siva pervades the
whole world by His Shakti. He works through Shakti. Shakti
is the conscious energy of the Lord Siva. She is the very
body of Lord Siva. The potter is the first cause for the
pot. The stick and the wheel are the instrumental causes.
The clay is the material cause of the pot. Similarly, Lord
Siva is the first cause of the world. Shakti is the
instrumental cause. Maya is the material cause.
Shakti is not the material cause of the universe, because
She is of the nature of consciousness (Chaitanya). Siva is
pure consciousness, but matter is pure unconsciousness.
Shakti is the intermediate link between the two.
Shakti is the reflex of Siva. It has no independent
existence. Siva assumes this form out of His great love for
mankind. Siva wishes that all should know Him.
Evolution of the Tattvas from Suddha Maya: The
world undergoes evolution for the benefit of the souls. The
whole process of creation is for the sake of the salvation
of the souls. The world is real and eternal. The world of
matter and souls forms the body of the Lord.
The Saiva Siddhanta analyses the universe into 36 Tattvas
or principles, as against the 25 of the Sankhya. The 36
Tattvas arise from Maya, the material cause of the world.
Suddha Maya is Maya in its primal state. From it arise the
five pure principles called Siva Tattva, Shakti Tattva,
Sadasiva Tattva, Iswara Tattva, and Suddhavidya Tattva. Siva
functions through these five pure principles.
Maya evolves into the subtle principles, and then into
the gross. Siva Tattva is the basis of all consciousness and
action. It is undifferentiated (Nishkala Suddha Maya). The
Shakti of Siva starts her activity. Then Siva becomes the
experiencer. Then He is called Sadasiva, known also by the
name Sadakhya, Who is not really separate from Siva. The
Suddha Maya becomes active. Then Siva, the experiencer,
becomes the ruler. He is then Iswara, Who is not really
separate from Sadasiva. Suddhavidya is the cause of true
The bonds that bind the soul (Anava, Karma,
Maya): Souls (Pasu) are by nature infinite,
all-pervading, eternal, and all-knowing like Lord Siva
(Pati). Yet they think that they are finite, limited and
little-knowing, ignorant, and temporary. This is due to the
bonds (Pasa), viz., Anava, Karma, and Maya, which are called
the three Malas or impurities. Anava is the impurity which
makes the all-pervading Jiva think itself to be atomic
(Anu). It produces the erroneous notion of finiteness. The
second impurity or bond is Karma. The soul acts in certain
ways on account of its limitation, and does good and evil
actions. Karma brings about the conjunction of the soul with
its body. The results of the Karma have to be worked out in
the world. There should be worlds and bodies, in order to
experience the fruits of actions and acquire knowledge.
These are provided by Maya, the third Mala or bond. Maya is
the material cause of the world. The soul gets experience
and limited knowledge through Maya.
The soul learns, by long experience, that this Samsara is
full of pains and is transitory, and that he can attain
eternal bliss and immortality only by attaining Sivatva or
the nature of Siva or God-realisation. He develops Vairagya
(dispassion), and Viveka (discrimination between the Real
and the unreal, the Permanent and the impermanent).
Discipline and grace culminate in Jnana. Jnana is the
supreme means of salvation or the attainment of the final
beatitude. Karma and other means are only subsidiary to it.
They are auxiliaries.
The attainment of Sivatva or Siva-nature does not mean
complete merging of the soul in Siva. The liberated soul
does not lose its individuality. It continues to exist as a
soul in God. Sivatva is the realisation of an identity of
essence in spite of difference. The soul attains the nature
of Siva or God, but it is not itself Siva or God.
Three orders of Jivas: The Siddhantins divide
Jivas or Pasus into three orders, viz., Vijnanakalas,
Pralayakalas and Sakalas. Vijnanakalas have only the Anava
Mala (egoism). Maya and Karma have been resolved.
Pralayakalas have been freed from Maya alone, in the stage
of Pralaya. Sakalas have all the three Malas.
The Malas affect only the Jivas, and not Siva. Those who
are freed from the Malas or impurities attain Sivatva or the
nature of Siva. They are the Siddhas or perfected beings.
The way to the attainment of Sivatva or
God-realisation: You must free yourself from the three
bonds, if you want to attain salvation. You must annihilate
Maya, which is the root of all sins. You must destroy all
Karmas which produce rebirth. You must remove the erroneous
notion of a finite self.
The three bonds can be removed only through rigorous
Tapas and proper discipline, the help of a Guru, and, above
all, the grace of Lord Siva. Charya (observance), Kriya
(rites), and Yoga (Yama-Niyama) constitute the discipline.
When the aspirant practises in right earnest Charya, Kriya
and Yoga he obtains the grace of Lord Siva. Then the Lord
instructs the soul, reveals Himself and illumines him. Then
the soul realises its nature as Siva.
It is customary to observe the day on which these saints
attained the Lord’s Feet, as a holy day. Given below are
such days in respect of the Four Great Saivite teachers,
with their respective holy days, according to the Tamil
Calendar. Pray, fast and study their lives in these days.
The Nayanars’ Message
How shall we evaluate this work by a saint on the lives
of saints? A wise saying in Sanskrit echoes what we mean by
‘Only a Shakespeare can understand Shakespeare.’ Gurudev’s
secondless devotion to God is amply reflected in the
inspiring presentation of these great lives, simple, lucid
and touching. We could have had none better qualified for
it. Gurudev’s handling of it adds lustre to the illustrious
There have been many ‘intellectuals’ even in India who
have looked down upon the path of Bhakti (devotion) as
something inferior to Jnana (wisdom). Their
short-sightedness becomes at once apparent when we study the
lives of the great Four Teachers (Appar, Sundarar,
Manickavachagar and Sambandar) and realise that these great
Jnanis, too, were great Bhaktas who loved to visit the
temples and sing the glories of the Lord. Look at the
humility of Appar who carried Sambandar’s palanquin: this
reminds us of Gurudev’s own inimitable humility. It is not
born of the weakness of the ignorant: but it is the
culmination of true knowledge!
How shall we understand the wonderful spirit of
renunciation that characterised the lives of many royal
Nayanars, if we regard them as weaklings? They had
understood the true nature of the world, and wanted only
God. Can we not draw a parallel in our own divine Master
who, similarly, renounced a royal life of a doctor in
Malaya, in exchange for poverty and the begging bowl? Love
of the Lord cuts at the very root of our attachment to this
world, and snaps all worldly ties, to father, mother, son,
wife or relatives. As the stories of the Nayanars
illustrate, the devotee is ever ready to renounce all,
in favour of devotion to Lord Siva. Chandesvara Nayanar,
in his complete absorption in His worship, could inflict a
mortal blow on his own father: but, that was because he saw
not his father, but an obstacle to Siva Puja. When
Arivattaya Nayanar found, for instance, that his weak body
was getting unfit to carry on His worship, he was ready to
cut his own throat. If Murkha Nayanar chose to gamble and
even resort to violence to carry out his vow, Kannappa
Nayanar would pull out his own eyes to serve the Lord! This
great truth has been beautifully brought out again and again
in these lives—love of God completely removes the devotee’s
attachment to his own body. Who could even approach
Siruthondar’s breath-taking devotion to the Lord and His
Let us also never forget that in the case of all the
Nayanars devotion invariably meant expansion of the heart,
and, therefore, service and charity.
It is essential that, in our study of these great lives,
we take them as a whole: the sixty-three blending
into one marvellous scripture on devotion. Else, it might
lead to perversion. Perversion in spiritual path can be
quite disastrous. Gurudev would often narrate, for example,
the case of a wicked man who would catch fish in the Ganges,
cut it and eat it, quoting (as a devil would) from the Gita:
‘Weapon cannot cut the Atma, which is immortal.’ The
perverse intellect reads in the Gita, a sanction for the use
of violence. Stories in which there is seeming use of
violence by the Nayanars have to be read with this caution:
we have to take them as allegories exhorting us to rout out
the inner obstacles to our Sadhana, ruthlessly. The story of
Eripatha Nayanar, for instance, should be taken as an
exhortation for us to kill lust, anger and greed, the
powerful impediments on our spiritual path which, in the
twinkling of an eye wreck our worship of the Lord.
If we study the lives as a whole, we will not fail to
note that Anaya Nayanar, and Pusalar Nayanar hold before us
the ideal Para Bhakta, supreme exemplars of the highest form
If we approach these saints with faith and devotion in
our hearts, we shall grasp the message they have for us. We
shall also understand why they gave such a great place to
externals like the sacred ash, Rudraksha, etc. These symbols
remind one constantly of God: and, when they are said to
remove our sins, they remove our sinful tendencies, too, by
constantly reminding us of God, and keeping evil out of our
May we all walk the path of devotion and attain the Lord
in this very birth is my humble prayer at the divine feet of
our master. That is the only way in which we can repay the
debt we owe him for what he has done for us.
Dust of Gurudev’s Feet
1. Sundaramurthi Nayanar
Sundaramurthi Nayanar flourished in the 8th century. He
was a great devotee of Lord Siva. He is one of the Tamil
Samaya Acharyas (four Tamil religious Teachers).
Sundaramurthi Nayanar sang the glories of Lord Siva at
all the sacred places that he visited. These hymns are
called Thevaram. They have been collected into a book-form.
All devotees sing the Thevaram even today. The hymns sung by
Sundarar, Appar or Tirunavakkarasu, and Tirujnana Sambandar
are called Thevaram. The hymns of Manickavachagar are called
Sundarar had the Sakhya Bhava or the attitude of a friend
towards the Lord. He freely demanded of the Lord whatever he
wanted. He did not do so with selfish desire, however.
Whatever he asked for was for the sake of those who were
dependent on him. He lived only eighteen years.
Sundaramurthi Nayanar was born in Thiru Navalur where the
entire atmosphere was full of spiritual vibrations and
Saivism was well established. In this place, there lived a
pious, devout and respected Brahmin by name Sadaiyanar whose
ancestors were all ardent devotees of Lord Siva. Isaignaniar
was his dutiful wife. She gave birth to a divine child whom
the parents named ‘Nambi Arurar’ after its grandfather.
In his previous incarnation Arurar was Alala Sundarar,
who was an ardent devotee of Lord Siva. When the Milky Ocean
was being churned by Devas and Asuras, a deadly poison began
to spread on the surface of the ocean threatening the
existence of all beings. Then Alala Sundarar collected that
poison in his hand and gave it to Lord Siva Who drank it for
the protection of the world. Hence, Sundarar got the word
Alala (for Halahala, the poison) prefixed to his name.
Once when Alala Sundarar was living by the side of Lord
Siva in the Mount Kailas, serving the Lord and bringing
flowers from the garden for His worship, he cast a lustful
look at Aninditi and Kamalini, the attendants of Goddess
Parvathi who had also gone to the garden to collect flowers
for the divine Mother’s worship. They, too, fell in love
with him. Lord Siva, through His divine vision, understood
all that had happened in the garden. He called Alala
Sundarar and said: ‘Sundarar, since you fell in love with
these girls, you and they, too, will go down to the earth
and take a human birth. You will marry them and enjoy the
pleasures of the world.’ Sundarar wept bitterly, regretting
his folly which had resulted in his separation from the
Lord. He prayed to the Lord: ‘Oh Lord! It is due to my evil
thought that I have to undergo this separation from Thee. I
am afraid lest I should be steeped in ignorance and forget
Thee. Oh Lord of mercy! Let this not happen to me. Oh Lord
of compassion! Dispel my ignorance soon and take me back to
Your lotus feet.’ Lord Siva granted this wish.
There was another cause for Sundarar’s human birth. To an
ordinary man it may appear that Sundarar was a victim to
lust, even in the divine realm of Kailasa. It was not so.
Sundarar was only an instrument in the hands of God. It was
Lord Siva’s wish that Sundarar should sing Tiru Thonda
Thogai for the benefit of mankind. So, Lord Siva entered
his mind and created a desire for these two girls. Also, the
Lord wanted to teach mankind a great lesson. Lust is
extremely powerful. It can delude even a great devotee of
the Lord like Sundarar, if he is not ever vigilant. Maya’s
charms are powerful. Unless this evil quality is burnt, the
Jiva cannot reach Siva. Yet another lesson. The lustful eye
was the cause of Sundarar’s downfall. But, when it is used
in the service of the Lord (for looking at the holy shrines,
holy images of God, saints, and study of scriptures) the
very same organ will help towards our emancipation.
Sundarar was, therefore, born as Arurar. The king of that
place, Narasinga Munaiyar, happened to see the beautiful
child. He liked him. He wanted to bring him up himself and
asked for the parents’ permission, Sadaiyanar, whose mind
was full of dispassion and who was not attached to anything
in this world, immediately complied with the king’s wish. As
we shall see later, he and his devout wife are also regarded
The boy grew up under royal care. At the proper age, the
parents wanted to get their son married. Sadaiyanar sought
Sandakavi Sivachariar’s consent to obtain his daughter’s
hand for his son, Arurar. Sivachariar gladly agreed. But,
the wedding was not to take place.
Just when the ceremony was to begin, an old Brahmin, with
sacred ashes on his body, Rudraksha around his neck and
matted locks on his head appeared and said: ‘This man,
Arurar, is my bond-slave. I have a document to that effect
executed by his grandfather. He cannot marry.’ This put an
end to the ceremony. Sundarar and the Brahmin left the
place. The young bride fixed her mind on the holy feet of
Sundarar, shed her mortal coil and attained the immortal
abode of Lord Siva.
Sundarar and the old man had a heated argument. Sundarar
asked him: ‘Who are you and from where have you come?’ To
which the Brahmin replied: ‘I belong to Tiruvennai Nellur.’
Sundarar called him a liar and said: ‘Come, let us go to
Tiruvennai Nellur and get this dispute settled by the wise
At Tiruvennai Nellur, before an assembly of wise men the
old Brahmin produced the document which read as follows:
I, Aruran, the Adi Saivite of Tirunavalur, execute
this bond of slavery with heart and soul. I and my progeny
for all time to come are bond-slaves to Pithan of Tiruvennai
Nellur, and we are bound to serve him by all means.
Pithan means Lord Siva who delights to be called a
‘mad man’, to exemplify the state of the highest Yogi whose
behaviour resembles that of a mad man but who teaches us
that there is nothing in this world worth taking any notice
of and the worldly ‘wise men’ are all mad people in truth.
After examining the witnesses cited in the document and
verifying the grandfather’s signature, the assembly
confirmed the old man’s claim. Sundarar had to accept it as
God’s will. Followed by all of them the Brahmin entered the
temple of Tiru Arul Turai on the pretext of showing them his
house, and promptly vanished. Arurar understood that it was
the Lord Himself who had appeared as the old man to save him
from the shackles of Samsara. He was afflicted very much at
heart that he had not recognised Him earlier. He cried
aloud. The Lord appeared before him and blessed him: ‘Oh
noble soul. You are already My Bhakta. You were in My Abode
in Kailasa before this birth as a man. A wrong thought made
you take this birth. Now I have Myself come to save you.’
Because Sundarar had quarrelled with Him, the Lord
Himself called him Vanthondan (the devotee who used
harsh words) and asked him to sing His glories. ‘My clear
child, you called Me Pithan (madman) during your
quarrel. So, begin with this word and compose a poem.’
Sundarar did so: the result was that inspiring poem Pitha
Pirai Soodi. The Lord Himself came to be known as
Taduthatkonda Iswar (the Lord prevented and saved him
Sundarar later visited a number of holy places and sang
the praise of the Lord in all of them. He came to Adigai
Virattanam, the sacred place where Appar served the Lord
Viratteswarar and was blessed. Sundarar did not like to
place his foot on the sacred ground and so stayed on the
outskirts of the village.
That night when Sundarar was asleep, the Lord in the
guise of an old man entered the Mutt. He lay down close to
where Sundarar was sleeping and pretended to sleep. He then
placed His feet on the head of Sundarar. When Sundarar
objected to this, the old man apologised. Sundarar went over
to another corner of the room. There, too, the old man
repeated the same action. Sundarar did not lose his temper.
He calmly asked him for his identity and explanation for the
abnormal behaviour. ‘Oh friend, don’t you know me?’ asked
the Lord and disappeared. Sundarar realised that it was
again the Lord Himself. Since he had not gone into the place
for His Darshan, the Lord Himself had come out to where the
devotee was! Sundarar prayed: ‘Oh Lord! How kind and
merciful You are! Even devotees who are well versed in Vedas
and Agamas cannot touch Your feet. Out of love towards this
poor creature, You left Your abode and came here to bless me
with Your Holy Feet.’
Sundarar again continued his pilgrimage. At Tillai
(Chidambaram), he went into a trance even as he saw the
temple tower. In his ecstasy he rolled on the ground and
shed profuse tears of love. He had the Darshan of Lord
Nataraja. A heavenly voice commanded him to go to Tiruvarur.
He then visited many other shrines and came to Tiruvarur.
The Lord appeared to the Brahmins of Tiruvarur and asked
them to receive Sundarar with due honours. They did so. As
Sundarar was worshipping the Lord in the temple, he heard a
heavenly voice: ‘Sundarar! I have made you My friend. I
prevented you from getting married. Hereafter you will
appear for ever as a bridegroom and sport on earth.’
Immediately, Sundarar became a handsome bridegroom. People
called him Tambiran Thozhar (friend of God).
In Tiruvarur, there was a chaste woman by name Paravayar
who was none other than Kamalini, the attendant of Parvathi
in Kailasa. Daily she would go to the temple and worship the
Lord with faith and devotion and sing His glories. One day,
she came to the temple, as usual, with her friends, to
worship the Lord. At the same time, Sundarar, with his
devotees entered the temple. Prompted by past Karma,
Sundarar was attracted by Paravayar’s beauty. He wanted to
marry her, and entered the shrine of the Lord with this
thought. The Lord was his friend, and so, he expressed his
desire to Him!
Paravayar who had seen Sundarar in the temple also fell
in love with him and wanted to marry him.
The marriage was pre-ordained by Lord Siva Himself and it
was now His duty to bring it about. He appeared to both of
them in their dreams and told them that they would get
married. He also commanded His devotees in dream to arrange
for the wedding of Paravayar and Sundarar the very next day.
This was done accordingly, to the joy of both Paravayar and
One day, Arurar went into the temple and found a number
of devotees of the Lord there. He wanted to sing their
glories. The Lord Himself sang the first line of the famous
poem Tiruthonda Thogai and by His grace, Sundarar
During his stay at Tiruvarur, a Vellala by name Kundaiyur
Kizhar who was very highly devoted to him, was regularly
supplying Paravayar with enough grains and groceries for the
maintenance of Sundarar and the devotees. Suddenly there was
famine in the district and people suffered for want of food.
Kundaiyur Kizhar was also affected. He was afflicted at
heart because he could not supply the needs of Sundarar.
Lord Siva appeared in his dream and promised enough grain!
Kubera, the God of wealth, did the needful, as commanded by
the Lord. The next morning, Kundaiyur Kizhar found huge
heaps of grain. At the same time the Lord appeared before
Sundarar and informed him of the incident. At once Sundarar
left for Kundaiyur to meet Kizhar. They met half-way.
Sundarar saw the heaps of grain at Kundaiyur and knew that
it was His Lila. He went to a nearby Koili and sang the
praise of the Lord, and entreated Him to have the grain
removed to Tiruvarur. A celestial voice immediately assured
him of this. Sundarar returned to Tiruvarur and informed
Paravayar of all that happened. That night the Bhuta Ganas,
the servants of Lord Siva, removed the heaps of grain and
filled the entire town of Tiruvarur with it! Paravayar
offered repeated prostrations to the Lord and sang His
glory. She asked the people to take the grain to appease
their hunger. Thus the famine came to an end. All the people
glorified the Lord and Paravayar.
Kotpuli Nayanar of Tirunattiyattankudi, the
Commander-in-chief of a Chola King, and an ardent devotee of
Lord Siva came to Sundarar and entreated him to grace his
house with his presence. Sundarar agreed to this and went.
After worshipping Sundarar, Kotpuli Nayanar prostrated
himself at Sundarar’s feet along with his two daughters,
Singadiyar and Vanappahaiyar, and pleaded that Sundarar
should marry the two daughters. Sundarar, however, placed
them on his lap and fondled them, treating them as his own
daughters. Then Sundarar went to the temple and sang in
praise of the Lord, a song in which he called himself
Singadiappan, since he took Singadiyar as his daughter.
Sundarar then returned to Tiruvarur. It was Paravayar’s
custom to distribute plenty of money and other articles in
charity on Panguni Uttaram, a festival day. Sundarar went to
Tirupugalur and prayed to the Lord to give him gold for the
sake of Paravayar. That night he slept there with a few
bricks as his pillow. The next morning, he woke up to find
that all the bricks had been converted into gold. Sundarar
was surprised at this miracle of Lord Siva and sang His
glory and returned to Tiruvarur. On the way he had a vision
of the Lord at Tiru Panaiyur.
After visiting many holy places again and singing hymns
in praise of the Lord, Sundarar came to Tiru Pachilasramam.
There he worshipped the Lord and asked for a gold coin. He
did not get it immediately. He sang a Padigam (song) and the
Lord at once gave him a heap of gold. The Lord was so fond
of hearing Sundarar sing.
Then, Sundarar left for Vridhachalam, visiting a number
of holy places on the way. He had omitted Tiru
Koodalaiyarrur. So, the Lord came to him as a Brahmin of
whom Sundarar enquired the way to Vridhachalam. The Brahmin
led the way up to a certain distance, and then suddenly
disappeared. It was close to Tiru Koodalaiyarrur which
Sundarar now visited and sang a song in praise of the Lord
Then Sundarar came to Vridhachalam. He worshipped the
Lord, and sang a Padigam expressing his desire for gold
coins. The Lord gave him 12,000 pieces of gold. Sundarar
prayed to the Lord to remove these gold pieces to Tiruvarur.
The Lord asked him to throw them into the river Manimukta
and to receive them back at Tiruvarur. Sundarar did so,
keeping a piece for identification. On return to
Tiruvarur, Sundarar and Paravayar went to the tank to get
back the gold pieces. Sundarar dived into the eastern side
of the tank and searched for the gold, as though he had put
them there. He could not find them. Sorely afflicted at
heart, he sang a song. That was what the Lord wanted.
Sundarar got the gold. All were amazed. But, on
identification, it was found that the gold was inferior in
value to the piece that Sundarar had kept back with him. He
sang a song: and the Lord restored to them their original
value. So fond was He of hearing Sundarar sing a song.
Sundarar went out on another pilgrimage again. On the
way, he was afflicted with hunger and thirst. The Lord Who
is the Indweller of our hearts, erected a water-shed and was
waiting for Sundarar there in the guise of a Brahmin.
Sundarar and the devotees entered the shed, singing the
Panchakshara. The Brahmin offered him food and water and
asked him to rest awhile. All of them appeased their hunger,
but the quantity of the food remained the same. When they
were resting, after food, the Lord disappeared. They knew
that it was none other than the Lord Himself. Sundarar sang
a song alluding to this incident.
On another occasion, soon after this, while on a visit to
Tirukachur, Sundarar went to the temple, worshipped the Lord
and was resting outside the temple, feeling hungry. The Lord
understood it: and so, in the guise of a Brahmin came to
Sundarar and said: ‘It appears that you are hungry. Please
wait here. I will give you food.’ The Lord at once went out
in the scorching sun, begged from each and every house, and
offered the food so obtained, to Sundarar. As Sundarar and
the devotees were eating, the Brahmin disappeared: and they
understood that it was the Lord Himself. Sundarar sang a
song alluding to this incident, revealing the Lord’s supreme
Later on, he went to Tiruvotriyur and stayed there for
some time, worshipping the Lord there. Aninditiyar, the
other maid-servant of Parvathi in Kailasa, who had also
taken a human birth, was now Sangilyar in Jnayiru in Thondai
Nadu. Her father was Jnayiru Kizhar, a Vellala by caste. He
was also a staunch devotee of Lord Siva. Sangiliyar was
devoted to Parvati from her very childhood. Once her parents
mentioned that she should get married, but the very word
‘marriage’ made her faint. Later, a respectable Vellala
wanted to marry her. He sent some people to approach the
girl’s father. Jnayiru Kizhar did not like even to speak to
his daughter about it. He sent them away with an evasive
reply. Soon after, the boy who wanted to marry Sangiliyar,
and the party that went to negotiate,—all of them died. When
Jnayiru Kizhar heard this, he understood the greatness of
his daughter. He took her to Tiruvotriyur and built a small
Ashram for her there.
It was part of Sangiliyar’s Sadhana to make garlands for
the Lord in the temple. She regularly visited the temple and
worshipped the Lord. One day Sundarar and the devotees went
to the temple. After the worship, they came to the place
where some devotees were making garlands for the Lord.
Sangiliyar was also there. Sundarar was attracted by her
beauty, due to past Samskaras. He wanted to marry her, and
expressed this wish to the Lord. The Lord promised to fulfil
The Lord appeared in Sangiliyar’s dream and said: ‘Oh
noble soul, I am highly pleased with your devotion. Now I
tell this for your own good. Sundarar wants to marry you. He
is My friend. He asked Me to arrange the marriage. So, marry
him. You will be happy.’ Sangiliyar prostrated before the
Lord and said: ‘Oh Lord, I will obey Your command and marry
him. But, he may desert me since he is already married.’ The
Lord asked her to get a promise from Sundarar that he would
not part from her under any circumstance.
Then the Lord appeared before Sundarar and said that
Sangiliyar had agreed to marry him on condition that he
would not part from her. Sundarar said: ‘Oh Lord, how can I
agree to this condition since I am constantly moving about
visiting many holy shrines? But, if You so desire, then
assure me that You will withdraw Your presence from the
Lingam in the temple and will take Your abode in the nearby
tree, when I take the oath before Your image.’ The Lord
granted him this wish and disappeared.
He again appeared before Sangiliyar and said: ‘Oh noble
soul, Sundarar has agreed to your condition. But, ask him to
make this promise, not before the Lingam in the temple, but
in front of the nearby tree.’
The next morning Sangiliyar came to the temple. Sundarar
was waiting there for her. Sangiliyar’s friends told him
that she wished the promise to be given in front of the
nearby tree. He was taken aback, but accepted the proposal.
The promise was given. The marriage was immediately
In Tiruvarur, Vasanta Utsavam was being celebrated on a
grand scale. Sundarar remembered the festival and longed to
go there. He also recollected that Paravayar would sing and
dance there in front of the Lord. At the same time, he could
not part from Sangiliyar. For a long time, he struggled
between the two conflicting duties. Finally, he decided to
When he crossed the border of Tiruvotriyur, he suddenly
lost his eye-sight and fell down on the ground. The Lord is
impartial. None can escape the operation of the Law of
Divine Justice. Sundarar slowly regained his consciousness.
Immediately he realised his fault and prayed to the Lord for
forgiveness, asking for the grant of the eye-sight. ‘Oh
Lord, I take complete refuge in You. I always repeat Your
Name. Even when I fell down losing my eye-sight, I
remembered You only. Oh Lord of Mercy, even if I commit a
crime, is it not Your duty to forgive me? Oh Lord of
Compassion, save me.’ In spite of the blindness, however,
his thirst for the Darshan of the Lord at Tiruvarur did not
abate. With the help of some people on the way he came to
Tiru Mullaivayil. Here, again, he prayed to the Lord to give
him eye-sight. At Tiruvembakkam he again prayed to the Lord
in a similar strain. In the temple, he prayed and asked: ‘Oh
Lord Who accepted me into His fold, prostrations unto Thee.
Oh Lord Who cleverly played a trick on me, are You inside
the temple?’ The Lord gave a stern reply: ‘I am here; you
can go.’ and gave him a blind-man’s stick. This attitude of
indifference on the part of the Lord pained Sundarar and he
pleaded for mercy. ‘Oh Lord of Mercy, have I not taken You
as my sole refuge and support? I committed a mistake
thinking that You will pardon me. You are even indifferent
to public criticism. Will they not accuse You for turning a
deaf ear to a devotee who is sincerely weeping at Your feet,
accepting his fault and craving for pardon? Oh Lord, can You
not understand suffering? Like a loving child that has been
separated from its mother for a long time and wants to hug
her, I have come to You: but, instead, You treat me like a
stranger. Oh Lord, You deceived me, who asked You to remain
for a while near the tree, by cleverly informing Sangiliyar
of the same and asking her to get the promise from me near
the tree. Oh Lord, You gave me Sangiliyar and all the
pleasures. But, now You give me the blind-man’s staff and
say ‘You can go’. Oh Lord, am I unfit to receive Your mercy?
Pardon me and relieve me of my sufferings.’
Then, completely resigning himself to God, Sundarar came
to Conjeevaram, after visiting many holy places on the way.
He worshipped Mother Kamakshi and expressed his sufferings
to her and pleaded to her to relieve him of his sufferings.
Sundarar then worshipped Lord Ekambareswarar. Mother Who is
seated on His left side, had already been moved by
Sundarar’s prayers and wanted to shower Her grace on him.
Lord Siva understood this. He at once restored vision to
Sundarar’s left eye. In ecstasy he rolled on the ground,
shedding profuse tears of love.
After spending some days there, singing the glories of
the Lord, Sundarar proceeded to go to Tiruvarur. At
Tiruvavaduthurai, he again prayed to the Lord to forgive him
and restore sight to the other eye, too. Sundarar then came
to Thiruthurithi. The Lord asked him to take a dip in the
northern tank there. Sundarar did so, and came out of it. To
the surprise of all, his body had become as bright as
polished gold. People were amazed at this change. Sundarar
went into the temple and prayed.
Sundarar reached the outskirts of Tiruvarur. He grieved
that, due to his partial sight, he could not get a complete
Darshan of the Lord. The very sight of the temple tower
entranced him. Sundarar wanted to feast both his eyes on the
beauty of the Lord and so prayed to Him to restore vision to
his other eye also. Sundarar’s supreme devotion and
lamentation moved the Lord’s heart. He at once cured the
other eye also. Sundarar was extremely happy. He worshipped
the Lord and remained completely absorbed in divine bliss.
In the mean time, people whom Paravayar had sent to greet
Sundarar and inform him of her eagerness to meet him, found
out that he had married Sangiliyar. They went back and told
Paravayar about this. Paravayar was sunk in grief. She was
annoyed, too. Paravayar’s people refused to allow Sundarar’s
devotees to enter the house. When Sundarar heard of this, he
was afflicted at heart. He sent some elderly devotees to
Paravayar, to bring about a reunion. They failed. At
midnight when all the devotees were asleep, he prayed to the
Lord for His help in pacifying Paravayar. The Lord appeared
before him and assured him of His help. The Lord disguised
Himself as Sundarar’s messenger, a Brahmin priest, and went
to Paravayar’s house. The Brahmin pleaded Sundarar’s cause
and asked her to accept him back. She refused, though she
herself was grief-stricken at the separation from Sundarar.
Her annoyance at his second marriage was so great! The Lord
coolly returned to Sundarar, who was anxiously awaiting His
return. When the Lord informed Sundarar of all that had
happened, Sundarar fell down on the ground, in grief. ‘If
You do not help me, Oh Lord, I will give up my life.’ The
Lord seeing Sundarar’s pitiable condition, assured him of
help and again set out to go to Paravayar’s house.
In the mean time, the devout Paravayar had understood
that the Brahmin was no other than the Lord Himself and was
suffering from terrible anguish for not recognising Him. The
Lord again went to her house: and this time He appeared
before her in His real form. Paravayar at once prostrated
before Him. The Lord said: ‘O Paravayar, I have again been
sent by Sundarar to plead his case. Do not refuse this time.
He is undergoing terrible agony on account of separation
from you. Accept him and allow him to come to your house.’
Paravayar prostrated to the Lord again, with folded palms
and said: ‘Oh Lord, first You came in the guise of a Brahmin
but I did not recognise You. Again You have come and have
shown me Your real form. Oh Lord, how kind You are! You have
graced my hut and showered Your grace on me. You have taken
so much trouble this midnight, for the sake of Your friend.
How can I go against Your wish? I will accept and obey Your
command.’ The Lord was immensely pleased with her. He
blessed her and returned to Sundarar. The Lord informed him
that he had pacified Paravayar and that he could now return
to her. He then disappeared. Sundarar was overwhelmed with
joy and sang the Lord’s glories.
In the mean time, Paravayar had decorated her house
beautifully and was eagerly waiting for her Lord. Sundarar,
with his devotees, entered the house. Paravayar fell at his
feet. Thus they were re-united after a long separation.
Yet, this was not all. The news that Sundarar had sent
Lord Siva Himself as his messenger, had reached the ears of
Eyarkon Kalikama Nayanar of Tiru Perumangalam in Ponni Nadu.
He was a great devotee of Lord Siva. He was terribly angry
with Sundarar for treating the Lord as a messenger to settle
a domestic quarrel. How, in a wonderful and mysterious
manner Lord Siva brings about a reconciliation between the
two Nayanars, both of them greatly devoted to Him, we shall
see, when we describe the life of Kalikama Nayanar.
Equally interesting is the way in which the Lord unites
in friendship Sundarar and Cheraman Perumal Nayanar, another
royal devotee of the Lord. We shall describe it in detail
when we come to the life of Cheraman Perumal Nayanar.
When, along with Cheraman Perumal, Sundarar was
proceeding to Madurai, they arrived at Tirunagaikkoronam.
Here Sundarar sang a song in which he asked the Lord to give
him a pearl garland, precious stones, musk, spectacles,
fragrance, clothes, jewelry, one-third of the wealth of
Tiruvarur, horses which ran as fast as the wind, golden
flowers, palanquin, etc. How wonderful is the relation
between the devotee and the Lord! Sundarar regarded God as
his friend, because God Himself had wanted it to be so. He
adopted towards God the Sakhya Bhava (attitude of a dear
In the company of Cheraman Perumal, Sundarar went on
several pilgrimages, and met many of the kings of South
India. Once, when they were at Tiru Kandiyur, they saw
Tiruvaiyar on the opposite bank of the river. Cheraman
desired to visit that place also. The river was in flood,
and it was impossible to cross it. Sundarar sincerely prayed
to the Lord to help them. He sang one of his songs which
easily pleased the Lord. At once the river gave way, leaving
a sandy tract through which they could walk across to the
other bank. As soon as they reached the other bank, the
river resumed its former form. They were delighted at this
miracle of the Lord. Even the five elements are ever ready
to serve the devotees of the Lord, at His command.
Cheraman then took Sundarar to his own place, with great
honour and pomp. Sundarar stayed with Cheraman for some
time. He suddenly remembered the Lord of Tiruvarur and
wanted to go there. Cheraman could not accompany him and was
therefore grief-stricken. Sundarar consoled him and asked
him to stay behind and rule the country wisely and justly.
Cheraman prostrated himself before him and gave him rich
presents. He sent his own people to carry these presents,
and to accompany Sundarar. It was the Lord’s wish that
Sundarar should receive gifts only from Him! How could
His friend receive from others? Hence, He desired to
deprive Sundarar of what Cheraman had given him. When
Sundarar and his retinue were passing through
Tirumuruganpondi, the Lord sent His Servants to rob Sundarar
of all the riches that he had received from Cheraman. The
Lord’s Servants disguised themselves as hunters and attacked
the party that was carrying the presents. The party dropped
all and fled. They went to Sundarar and reported to him what
had happened. Sundarar went to the local temple and sang a
Padigam. He came out of the temple and to his surprise he
saw there all that they had been robbed of. Now, it was a
gift from the Lord Himself, and so Sundarar, God’s friend,
could have it. Wonderful are the Lilas of the Lord.
After some time, Sundarar again desired to see Cheraman
Perumal. On the way to Kundakolur, he went to Tiru
Pukkoliyur Avinasi. As he entered this place, he heard
simultaneously auspicious as well wailing sounds emerging
from different houses.
On enquiry, he learnt how two Brahmin boys of the same
age, from these two houses went to tank for a bath; and how
one of them was caught by a crocodile, and the other
escaped, providentially. The latter was being invested with
the sacred thread that day, and hence the auspicious sound
from that house. The people in the deceased boy’s house were
bemoaning the loss of the boy, sore at the feeling that, had
he been alive, he would also be celebrating the sacred
thread ceremony that day. Sundarar wanted to console the
bereaved family. As he stood in front of the house, the
people stopped wailing and came out to receive Sundarar.
They were eager for a long time to get his Darshan, and so,
forgetting their sorrow, they came to welcome him. Their
devotion moved Sundarar’s heart. He was prompted by the Lord
to bring the dead boy back to life. So, he went to the same
tank and sang a song on the Lord of Avinasi to give the
child back to the parents. The Creator, pleased with
Sundarar, entered the stomach of the crocodile and
re-constituted the body of the boy, though it had already
been digested. Lord Yama, too, for his part, released from
his custody, the life he had once removed and the crocodile
vomitted the boy! To the wonder of all, the boy was much
more handsome than when he met with the accident, and he
showed signs of growth, appropriate to the lapse of time.
All were amazed at this miracle of Sundarar. The parents of
the boy were immensely pleased and embraced Sundarar’s feet.
Sundarar took the boy to the temple and worshipped Lord
Avinasiappar. He himself performed the sacred thread
ceremony for him.
At Kodunkolur, Cheraman, who had already come to know of
the crocodile miracle, received Sundarar with still greater
love and veneration than before. Sundarar stayed with the
king for some time. One day Sundarar visited the temple
alone and worshipped the Lord. The very sight of the Lord
sent him into trance. He rolled on the ground shedding tears
of God-love. The hairs on his body stood on end and his mind
was filled with rapture. He regained consciousness after a
long time. He was tired of worldly existence and so
requested the Lord to take him back to Kailasa. He sang a
The Lord, desiring to take Sundarar back to His Abode,
commanded the celestials to bring him to Kailasa on a white
elephant. He also informed Sundarar of this. Sundarar came
out of the temple. The white elephant was waiting for him
there. He mentally wished to take Cheraman Perumal also with
him to Kailasa. Then he climbed the elephant and proceeded
In a Padigam he sang on this occasion, Sundarar himself
reveals that this departure for Kailasa was not in his
physical body, but in his spiritual body. The physical body
was discarded here in this world itself, and the elements of
which it was composed were returned to their sources.
Cheraman learnt by intuition of Sundarar’s departure for
Kailasa. At once, he mounted a horse and came to Tiru
Anchaikalam. There he saw Sundarar going along the sky on
the celestial elephant. At once Cheraman pronounced the
Panchakshara in the ears of the horse. The horse flew up and
reached Sundarar. Cheraman worshipped Sundarar there. Both
of them went to Kailasa in their spiritual body.
At the Gate of Kailasa, Sundarar was allowed to enter,
while Cheraman was not. Sundarar went into His presence and
praised His mercy: ‘Oh Ocean of Mercy, You have pardoned my
sins and released me from the quagmire of Samsara. You have
taken me back into Your fold, and bestowed on me the
Immortal Bliss. How kind and merciful You are!’ He then
informed the Lord that Cheraman was outside the Gate. To
please His friend, Lord Siva sent His Mount, Nandikesvarar
to bring Cheraman also in. The Lord asked Cheraman how he
could come to Kailasa without His permission. Cheraman
replied that when he saw Sundarar proceeding to Kailasa, he
could not bear separation from him and so accompanied him.
Now, by the good offices of Sundarar which earned for him
the Lord’s grace he had been admitted into the Lord’s Abode.
In these words, Cheraman expressed a very great truth: that
even if the devotee is undeserving, if he is devoted to a
saint (the Guru), he will also gain a place in the kingdom
of God, through the intercession of the Guru.
Sundarar, as before, engaged himself in His service with
all his heart and soul. Paravayar and Sangiliyar, being
purged of their Karmas, also reached Kailasa. They resumed
their original duty as the servants of Mother Parvathi.
2. Tiru Neelakanta Nayanar
In Chidambaram, there once lived an ardent devotee of
Lord Siva. He was a potter by caste and profession. He had
the highest regard for the devotees of Lord Siva, too. He
was ever eager to serve them. He was leading an ideal
household life. He made beautiful begging bowls of clay and
offered them free to the devotees of Lord Siva, with great
Siva, in His aspect of Neelakanta was his sole refuge and
prop. Hence, he was called Tiru Neelakanta Nayanar. He would
always tell others how, for the protection of the world the
Lord drank the virulent poison, and he would assure his
friends that they who took refuge under His feet would be
purged of all sins and would finally be taken to His Abode.
In spite of his virtuous qualities, once he fell a victim
to lust. One day, he visited the house of a prostitute. When
he returned home, his dutiful and pious wife understood
this. This irritated her, though she did not show this and
continued to serve him, as before. But, she had decided not
to have any sexual relation with him. Nayanar could not
understand the reason. One day, as he approached her with
passion, she took an oath and said: ‘In the name of
Neelakanta, I ask you: do not touch us.’ Though she only
meant herself, she had used the word us. Since she
took the Name of the Lord and since she had used the word
us, Neelakanta Nayanar decided that from that day he
would not touch any woman in the world. Such was his sincere
devotion to the Lord. They continued to live together. They
did not want to make a fuss over their own resolve. No one
knew about it. Years rolled by and they had grown old.
Lord Siva wanted to reveal the greatness of His devotee
and thus to immortalise his name. So, in the guise of a Siva
Yogi (a Saivite mendicant) the Lord came to Tiru
Neelakantar’s house. Neelakantar welcomed him and worshipped
him. The Yogi gave him a begging bowl and said: ‘Oh noble
soul, kindly keep this in your safe custody, till I come
back for it. To me it is extremely precious. It has the
wonderful property of purifying anything that comes into
contact with it. So, please protect it with the greatest
care.’ Then the Siva Yogi left the place and Neelakantar
kept the bowl in a very safe place in the house.
After a long time, Lord Siva came to the house of
Neelakantar, as the same Siva Yogi and asked for the bowl.
The Lord Himself, by the power of His Maya, caused it to
disappear from the house! Neelakantar searched for it, but
could not find it. It was a mystery to him. He was ashamed
of himself. Trembling with fear, he fell at the Yogi’s feet
and said that he could not find it. At this, the Yogi got
very angry and accused Neelakantar, calling him a thief and
cheat. Neelakantar offered to replace the bowl with a
costlier one; but the Yogi would not accept.
Again and again Neelakantar pleaded that he had not
stolen the bowl and that by a divine mystery it was missing
from the house. The Yogi demanded that if that was the
truth, Neelakantar should say so on oath, holding his wife’s
hand. When Nayanar, who had resolved, in the name of the
Lord, not to touch anyone, declined this, the Yogi
attributed this unwillingness to the fact that Neelakantar
had in fact been guilty of theft. They went to the court.
The Brahmins heard the case. They asked Neelakantar to
promise, as desired by the Yogi. Neelakantar got into the
tank, along with his wife; they had a stick in their hand,
and each of them was holding one end of it. The Yogi
objected to this and wanted that Neelakantar should actually
hold his wife’s hand with his own. Neelakantar could not
hide the secret relationship that existed between him and
his wife any more, and so, related the whole story to the
court. After this narration, Neelakantar and his wife caught
hold of the two ends of the stick and took a dip in the
tank. A miracle happened. As they emerged from the water,
they shone with youth and beauty. The Siva Yogi disappeared
from their midst and Lord Siva and Mother Parvathy appeared
in the sky, blessing all of them. The Lord said: ‘Due to the
merit of having lived a life of self-control and devotion,
you will live in My Eternal Abode, forever youthful.’ The
Lord thus revealed the glory of supreme devotion to Him
(which alone made it possible for Neelakantar to refrain
from lustful thoughts or actions, after his wife had sworn
in the Name of the Lord) and a life of celibacy which
bestows eternal youthfulness on you, and the
unostentatiousness of a saint’s virtue.
3. Iyarpahai Nayanar
‘Charity, free from the mean utterance I have none
is found only among men of good birth’ says the Kural. Among
such noble souls Iyarpahai Nayanar ranked high. Charity was
ingrained in him. It was his practice to invite Siva Bhaktas
to his house, worship them with faith and devotion and give
them all they wanted. He had taken a vow never to say no to
what a Siva Bhakta wanted.
Iyarpahaiar was a native of Kaveripoompattinam. He was a
Vaisya by caste. To him Siva Bhaktas were the living
manifestations of Lord Siva.
Lord Siva was pleased with His devotee. He wanted to
reveal his true greatness to the world. So, the Lord, in the
disguise of a Brahmin, with sacred ashes smeared all over
his body, came to Nayanar’s house. He welcomed the Brahmin
with great joy, as the very sight of the holy man thrilled
the Nayanar. The Brahmin said: ‘Oh noble soul, you are far
famed for your charitable nature. Learning that none returns
empty-handed from your house, I have come to you for a gift.
I shall disclose it to you, if you promise to give what I
want.’ The Nayanar agreed readily ‘provided I have it with
me.’ The Brahmin at once revealed what he wanted: ‘It is the
gift of your wife.’ Nayanar had no difficulty at all in
granting this! The supreme devotee of the Lord that he was,
he did not stoop to doubt the credentials of the Brahmin
who, though he appeared to be a Siva Bhakta, had such an
undesirable desire: such is the unquestioning nature of
devotion. Nor would Nayanar hesitate to fulfil the Bhakta’s
wish, on the plea that it involved unrighteousness: for, to
him worship of the guest (Guest is God) was greater Law than
all the moral codes.
Nayanar went inside the house and informed his wife of
all that had happened. She was shocked at first, but quickly
regained her composure. To a chaste wife, the husband is
God, and whatever he commands is Law and Dharma. She readily
agreed to follow the Brahmin-guest as his wife. Nayanar came
out with his wife and asked the Brahmin to accept the gift.
The Brahmin, however, feared the wrath of the wife’s
relatives and asked Nayanar to accompany them till they were
safely out of the town and out of danger. Nayanar agreed to
do so and armed himself to protect the Brahmin. They then
proceeded to go.
In the meantime the relatives of Nayanar’s wife came to
know of the whole story and were furious. They followed the
Nayanar and party and threatened the Brahmin with death,
unless he abandoned his impious desire. The Brahmin
pretended to be scared. Nayanar’s wife, however, assured him
that Nayanar was capable of defeating them all. Nayanar was
ready to fight them. The relatives endeavoured to convince
Nayanar of the unrighteousness of the whole thing, and, when
they found that they could not, they preferred to die at his
hands, than submit to the shame. Nayanar at once pounced
upon them and chopped off their heads. All of them died and
Nayanar, happy at the thought, that through the grace of
Lord Siva, he had succeeded in keeping his vow of
worshipping His devotee, proceeded further with the Brahmin
and the wife. When they reached the temple of Tiruchaikadu,
the Brahmin asked Nayanar to leave them and return. Nayanar
prostrated to the Brahmin and turned his steps homeward.
As he had hardly proceeded a few yards on his homeward
journey, the Brahmin again called Nayanar aloud. Thinking
that there might have been another attack on the party,
Nayanar hastened to where the Brahmin was: but, to his
amazement, found that he had disappeared and that his wife
was standing alone there. He searched here and there for the
Brahmin, and was worried when he could not be found. Lo and
behold, Lord Siva and Mother Parvathy appeared in the sky
and blessed Nayanar and his wife: ‘Oh noble souls, I am
immensely pleased with your devotion to My Bhaktas. Both of
you will very soon reach My Abode.’
With these words, the Lord disappeared. The Nayanar and
his wife reached His Abode and rejoiced there. Nayanar’s
relatives who died at his hands also attained the lotus feet
of the Lord.
Thus had the Lord proved the nature of supreme devotion,
which does not question. And, the Lord also revealed the
truth that such unquestioning devotion does not result in
the violation of the Dharma. All glory to the Lord and His
4. Ilayankudi Mara Nayanar
Ilayankudi Mara Nayanar was a farmer. Maranar was his
name: he lived in a village called Ilayankudi. He was a
great devotee of Lord Siva and His devotees. He took the
greatest pleasure in serving them. This Sadhana was known as
Maaheswara Puja (or worship of the devotees of Mahesvara or
Lord Siva). It is described as follows:
‘On seeing a devotee of Lord Siva, with the external
marks of Vibhuti, Rudraksham, etc., taking him as Lord Siva
Himself, welcoming him, prostrating before him, washing his
hands and feet, drinking that water (Charanamrit), giving
him a seat, worshipping him with flowers, Doopa, Deepa, and
Naivedya, pleasing him with sweet words, thanking the Lord
for the opportunity, and accompanying the guest for some
distance while sending him away—these constitute Maaheswara
Puja. This is also included in Chariyai (one of the main
Offering food to the Lord’s devotees had purified his
heart and made him a fit receptacle for the grace of God. As
Tiruvalluvar has said in the Kural:
Fortune dwells with a delighted heart in
the house of the man who honours his
guest with a pleasant countenance.
Nayanar had been blessed with all the wealth of the
world. But, he considered that the wealth belonged to the
Lord, to be utilised for the benefit of His devotees.
Lord Siva was highly pleased with the Nayanar’s devotion.
He wanted to show to the world that His devotee would be
undaunted by the worst calamity and would remain unshaken in
his virtue. Nayanar’s wealth melted away. His wealth had
left him, but not his virtue. On the contrary, his devotion
to the Lord and His devotees grew more and more intense.
Nayanar sold all his property and had to sell even himself
in order to be able to serve the devotees of the Lord.
One day it was raining heavily. Nayanar and his wife were
starving. No one came forward to help them. Finally, he
bolted the door and was about to fall asleep. Just then he
heard a knock at the door, and, on opening it, found a Siva
Bhakta standing in front of the house, drenched with rain.
Nayanar at once took the guest inside, dried his body and
gave him fresh clothes to wear. ‘Rest awhile, Swami, while
we prepare some food for you to appease your hunger,’ said
Nayanar and told his wife of his predicament: there was
nothing to offer the devotee of the Lord. But, the devout
wife suggested that Nayanar could go into the backyard and
collect the grain-seeds that they had just sown that very
day. Nayanar accepted the suggestion. On account of the
heavy rain, the grains were floating and it was easy to
collect them in a basket. As soon as he brought the grains,
the wife fried and crushed them, and with the help of some
greens that grew in their own backyard, cooked a nice dinner
for the guest.
Nayanar was supremely happy. And, as he went to awaken
the guest, he discovered that he had disappeared. At the
same time, Nayanar saw in sky, Lord Siva Who had come in the
form of the devotee and Mother Parvathy showering Their
blessing on him and his wife. The Lord said: ‘Oh noble
souls, I am highly pleased with your devotion. You will soon
attain My Abode and live there for ever.’
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Tiru Kurippu Thondar fell at the Lord’s Feet and sang His
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 upon the girl. She
at once got up to the surprise of all. All were amazed at
At Senkunrur, during his pilgrimage, Sambandar found that
the cold was very severe and that many people suffered on
account of it. They entreated him to alleviate their
sufferings. Sambandar sang a song, and immediately, they
were relieved of their suffering.
After some more pilgrimages, Sambandar came to
Tiruvavaduthurai. His father wanted to perform a big Yajna.
He wanted a lot of money for that. Sambandar went to the
temple and sang a song. At once a Siva Gana appeared before
him, handed him a purse containing one thousand gold coins
and said. ‘This purse has been given to you by Lord Siva.’
Sambandar glorified the Lord’s grace, handed over the purse
to his father (who went away to Sirkali) with the assurance
that it would give inexhaustible wealth.
At Dharmapuram, which was the home of the Yazhpanar’s
mother, the people glorified Yazhpanar for his proficiency
in music. Yazhpanar felt that it was due to Sambandar’s
grace that he was allowed to accompany Sambandar and that he
could really not reproduce on the Yazh the divine melody of
the saint’s Padigams. To prove this Sambandar sang a song in
praise of Lord Ganesa which Yazhpanar was unable to play on
his instrument. He tried to break the instrument in
desperation. But, Sambandar prevented him from doing so, and
asked him to be content with what he could achieve with it,
assuring him that that was a lot.
Sambandar went to Sattamangai where he was received by
Tiruneelakanta Nayanar with great love and devotion.
Sambandar sang a Padigam in which he glorified the Nayanar.
At Tiru Keizhvelur, similarly, he met Siruthondar and
glorified him in a Padigam. Such is the nature of the truly
great ones: they adore even devotees of the Lord as the Lord
Himself and sing their glories, not regarding that as
worship or adoration of a human being, but of manifest
During his stay there, Sambandar would daily go to Tiru
Marugal to worship the Lord. One day a merchant had come
there with his wife. When they were asleep, a poisonous
snake bit the man and he died. Doctors failed to revive him.
The wife prayed to the Lord for His mercy. At that time
Sambandar entered the temple and heard the woman’s wailing.
Sambandar consoled her, and she narrated to him her story
and her pitiable condition. Sambandar sang a song, and the
merchant at once came back to life! All of them worshipped
the saint’s holy feet.
At the request of Siruthondar, Sambandar wanted to have
the Darshan of the Lord at Chenkattankudi. When he was
taking leave of the Lord, He gave him Darshan in the form as
He is in Chenkattankudi. On the way, Sambandar stayed at
Tiru Pukalur as the guest of Muruga Nayanar, and sang his
At the suggestion of Appar Swamigal, Sambandar visited
Tiruvarur and had Darshan of Lord Thiageesa. Then both the
saints stayed with Muruga Nayanar for some time. They then
went to Tiru Kadavur, met Kungiliya Kalaya Nayanar and sang
They then came to Tiruveezhimizhalai. During their stay
there, the Brahmins of Sirkali met Sambandar there, and
pleaded that he should go to Sirkali and have the Darshan of
Lord Thoniappar. The Lord Himself, however, did not want His
child to undertake this journey. The next morning, Sambandar
went to the local temple for worship. There he saw Lord
Thoniappar seated in front of him. He sang His glories. He
informed the Bhaktas of this and sent them back to Sirkali.
Appar and Sambandar stayed at Tiruveezhimizhalai for some
more time. There was a severe famine there. Appar and
Sambandar were moved by the sufferings of the Bhaktas. They
offered prayers to the Lord Who promised to give them some
gold coins daily, with the help of which they could serve
the people. Both of them found a gold coin, at different
entrances to the temple. Appar was immediately able to get
provisions for his gold coin, whereas Sambandar could not.
He had to exchange his coins for pure gold coins, before he
could obtain the provisions. Sambandar understood that it
was because of Appar’s sincere service to the Lord, and sang
a Padigam praising the Lord. The Lord then gave him also
pure gold coins and he had no difficulty in getting the
The miracle that they performed at Tirumaraikadu or
Vedaranyam, has already been described, while dealing with
the life of Appar Swamigal.
As has already been stated, Jain influence was growing in
Madura, and even the king had succumbed to it. There were
only two persons who were free from the influence, and they
were the queen Mangayarkarasiar and the minister Kulacchirai
Nayanar. They were Saivites by inner conviction, though they
did not wear the external Saivite marks, for fear of the
king’s wrath. They had heard the glory of Sambandar. So,
without the knowledge of the king they sent some wise men to
Tirumaraikadu to persuade Sambandar to rescue Saivism from
the Jain influence. Sambandar informed Appar of his desire
to leave for Madura immediately. Appar, out of sheer love
for the young Boy, pleaded that he should not go, but,
realising his divine nature, let him go!
The Jains living all over the Pandyan kingdom saw many
evil omens. They reported to the king. At the same time,
Mangayarkarasiar and Kulacchirai saw many good omens and
By this time, the news of the arrival of Sambandar
reached the queen who sent the minister to welcome him. She
herself went to the temple and offered special prayers to
the Lord. The minister who proceeded to the border, heard
the sound of trumpets and chanting of Vedas. He went towards
that direction. The very sight of the Bhaktas who were
coming in advance, thrilled him. He fell at their feet and
did not get up at all. The devotees carried this news to
Sambandar. Sambandar got down from his palanquin and went to
Kulacchirai. He lifted the minister up and embraced him.
Sambandar worshipped the Lord the moment he beheld the
temple tower from a great distance. He sang the glories of
the minister and the queen. They went to the temple. The
queen, standing on one side, offered mental prostrations to
Sambandar. Then, she fell at his feet. Sambandar blessed
The news of Sambandar’s arrival had reached the Jains.
The holy vibrations of the Panchakshara pierced their ears.
They decided to bring the wrath of the king on those who
welcomed the saint. They told him that they had all been
polluted by the sight of the Saivites who had entered the
city, following the arrival of ‘one young Brahmin alleged to
have been blessed with Divine Knowledge by Lord Siva
directly and who wants to defeat us in a religious debate’.
The king took counsel. The Jains sought his permission to
burn Sambandar’s camp with the help of black magic. He gave
them permission. But, it did not succeed. In the meantime,
seeing the king worried, the queen ascertained the cause,
and suggested that both the rival parties should be invited
to argue their case and prove the superiority of their own
religion. The king agreed.
The Jains failed to set fire to Sambandar’s camp. So,
they set fire to the camp in which the devotees were lodged.
They got up, ran to Sambandar and told him what had
happened. He sang a Padigam expressing the wish that (in
accordance of the law of Karma) the fire for which the king
was responsible should proceed towards him. Next morning,
the news reached the queen and the minister. They were
grieved. They wanted to put an end to their lives, but
changed their mind when they heard that nothing had happened
to Sambandar or the devotees. As soon as Sambandar sang the
Padigam, the fire in the camp died out and proceeded towards
the king, in the form of a dreadful disease. The king
experienced burning sensation all over the body. All the
endeavours of the doctors and the Jain priests to alleviate
the king’s suffering proved futile. The queen and the
ministers understood the real cause of the king’s ailment
and were worried. They informed the king of their feeling
and requested him to call Sambandar immediately so that his
grace might relieve him of the distress. The king acceeded
to their request and decided to embrace Sambandar’s faith,
if he could cure the disease.
The queen at once went out, surrounded by her
maid-servants, to invite Sambandar. Kulacchiraiar also went
ahead of her. They reached the Mutt in which Sambandar was
staying. They fell at his feet and informed him of the
king’s condition: ‘The atrocity of the Jains had recoiled on
the king who is suffering from intense agony which the Jains
have failed to relieve. With folded palms we entreat you to
relieve him of the distress, and then defeat the Jains in
argument and convince the king of the superiority of
Saivism.’ Sambandar assured them that he would fulfil their
wishes. He went to the temple to get the Lord’s blessings
for defeating the Jains in debate and establishing Saivism
in the land.
Followed by the queen and the minister, Sambandar went to
the palace. The king had him received with all the honours.
The Jains were worried and suggested knavishly that, even if
he was cured by Sambandar, he should give the credit to them
only, for the preservation of Jainism! The king refused to
be unjust and partial. Sambandar came into the king’s
apartments. The king had him seated on a nicely decorated
throne, which greatly annoyed the Jains. They challenged him
to a debate. The queen was afraid that they might behave in
an unruly manner towards Sambandar who was but a boy in age.
She suggested that the king’s disease should first be cured.
The king agreed to this. Sambandar also assured her that he
was not afraid of anything.
The king asked the two parties to demonstrate their
powers by curing his disease. The Jains volunteered to cure
the disease on the left side, leaving the right to be dealt
with by Sambandar. The king agreed. The Jains touched
various parts of the king’s body with peacock feathers,
chanting their Mantras. The pain only increased! The king
looked pleadingly at Sambandar. Sambandar sang a Padigam in
praise of the sacred Ash (Bhasma) and with his own hand
smeared the Ash on the right side of the king’s body. At
once the burning sensation stopped and the king experienced
a cooling sensation. The king told the Jains that they had
already been defeated and turned to Sambandar and entreated
him to cure the disease on the left side also. Sambandar
applied the holy Ash on the left side also and the disease
vanished completely. The queen and the minister fell at
Sambandar’s feet. The king followed suit and praised him.
The Jains, however, attributed the cure to Sambandar’s
poetical talents, and were quite sure that he could not
defeat them in philosophical arguments. They began to think
of some other means of defeating Sambandar. When Sambandar
invited them to open the debate, they said that they
preferred practical demonstration to theoretical
discussions. They wanted to challenge Sambandar to a fire
test. They said that both the parties should write the
essence of their respective religions on palm leaves and put
them into fire: that religion should be considered as the
real one whose inscriptions survived this test. Sambandar
agreed to the condition. The fire was lit. Sambandar,
offering his prayers to the Lord, opened the bundle of palm
leaves which contained his soul-stirring hymns on Lord Siva
and removed the Padigam which he had composed at Tiru
Nallaru. To Sambandar, Lord Siva was the Absolute Truth, and
so, the song sung in praise of Him, should also be eternal.
With the firm conviction that no harm would come to the palm
leaf, he put it into the fire. The Jains also put their
writings into the fire. The latter was at once burnt:
Sambandar’s leaf was quite safe. The Jains, ashamed to face
the king, dropped their gaze. The king declared that the
Jains had been defeated a second time.
The Jains, however, would not agree, and wanted a third
test. This time both the parties should throw their palm
leaves in the river Vaigai and the palm leaf which swam
against the current contained the Truth. Sambandar agreed to
this, too. This time
Kulacchiraiyar intervened and asked: ‘What should be the
punishment to be meted out to the party that fails in this
test?’ The Jains, in their anger, said that the party which
fails in the test should be hanged. The Jains threw their
palm leaf into the river: the current was swift and the leaf
was washed away. Sambandar threw his leaf which swam
beautifully against the current, without sinking or getting
lost. In the Padigam which won this test, Sambandar invoked
the Lord’s grace on the king. On account of this, the king’s
birth-deformity, viz., a hunchback was also cured. The leaf
reached the place known as Tiruvedagam. The minister wanted
to take possession of the leaf and followed it. Knowing
this, Sambandar sang another song, which stopped the leaf.
The minister took the leaf, went to the temple and
worshipped the Lord. Sambandar, accompanied by the royal
couple, went to the temple and worshipped the Lord. The king
was convinced of the superiority of Saivism. The Jains,
according to their own contract, were hanged. The people
followed the example of the king and became Saivites. Thus
was Saivism re-established in Madura.
In Sirkali, Sambandar’s father was waiting for the
illustrious son’s arrival. One day, the desire was strong
and Sivapada Hridayar came to Madura and was received by
Sambandar with great reverence.
After staying at Madura for some time, Sambandar
proceeded on a pilgrimage, accompanied by the royal couple
and the minister. From Rameswaram, they offered mental
prostrations at the Feet of the Lord of Tirukonamalai and
Tiruketheesvaram (in Ceylon). They also visited the
birthplace of the minister. Sambandar took leave of the
Pandyan king and went into the Chola kingdom.
He came to Mullivaikarai. There the river was in flood.
The boatmen had abandoned their boats and had left them tied
to the tree on the bank. Sambandar wanted to cross the river
and worship the Lord at Tiru Kollampoothur. Sambandar asked
the devotees to unfasten the boat and get into it. He sang a
Padigam. This itself proved to be the oar. They reached the
other side safely and worshipped the Lord.
The party then reached the place called Bodhimangai. It
was a Buddhist centre. Sambandar’s devotees were blowing the
trumpets and singing their Guru’s glories as they entered
the place. This annoyed the Buddhist who asked them to stop
blowing their trumpets. The devotees informed Sambandar. A
disciple of Sambandar, by name Samba Saranalayar, who used
to record all of Sambandar’s songs, himself sang a Padigam
and said that a thunder should fall on the head of
Buddhanandi, the leader of the Buddhists’ group. Buddhanandi
was at once destroyed by a thunder. The others fled. But,
soon they reappeared under the leadership of Sari Buddhan
and challenged the Saivites to a debate. With the blessings
of Sambandar, the disciple Samba Saranalayar himself
defeated the Buddhists in debate. Sari Buddhan himself
embraced Saivism and his followers followed suit. Sambandar
blessed them all. Sambandar then went to Tirukadavur. When
he heard that Appar Swamigal was at Tirupoonthurithi,
Sambandar went forward to meet him. At the same time, Appar
came half-way to welcome Sambandar. Quietly, he got mixed
with the crowd and joined the group of devotees who were
carrying Sambandar’s palanquin, without anybody’s knowledge.
When Sambandar enquired about Appar, Appar responded from
below: ‘Here I am, carrying the palanquin, due to the
virtuous deeds of many past lives.’ Sambandar was surprised.
He jumped down and embraced the great saint Appar.
After some more pilgrimage, Sambandar returned to
Sirkali. Tiruneelakanta Yazhpanar and his wife took leave of
Sambandar and returned home.
Sambandar wanted to visit Thondai Nadu. Taking leave of
Lord Thoniappar, he left Sirkali, and after visiting many
shrines on the way, reached Tiru Annamalai. The very sight
of the hill sent him into a trance. He rolled on the ground
and shed tears of God-love. Then he reached Thondai Nadu and
came to Tiruvothur. During his stay there, a Bhakta came to
him and said: ‘I have planted many palmirah trees in my
garden, but all of them are male trees and they do not yield
any fruits. The Jains are mocking at me for this. Please
protect me from their scorn.’ Sambandar went to the temple
and sang a song mentioning the devotee’s plight: and the
male trees were at once changed into female trees and they
yielded good fruits. Due to this miracle, some more Jains
embraced Saivism. Because Sambandar had specifically
mentioned the palmirah trees, they, too, were helped in
By stages, Sambandar reached Tiru Alankadu, the holy
place where Karaikkal Ammayar ‘walked’ on her head, not
wishing to pollute the place. He, too, did not enter the
place, but had the Darshan of the Lord in his dream.
Sambandar then went to Kalahasthi and had the vision of
Kannappa Nayanar and also of Kailasa, Ketharam, Gokarnam,
Tirupatham, Indraneela Parvatham, etc. Sambandar then came
In Mylapore there lived a merchant by name Sivanesar. He
was a staunch Siva Bhakta. He had all wealth but had no
children. In answer to his sincere prayer, Lord Siva blessed
him with a female child. They named her Poompavai. She was
very beautiful. Sivanesar heard of Sambandar’s greatness and
felt that he was the only suitable match for his daughter.
Mentally, he had offered her to Sambandar.
One day when Poompavai was gathering flowers in the
garden, she was bitten by a poisonous snake and she died.
Sivanesanar even announced that he would give any amount of
money to anyone who would revive her: but it was of no use.
Then he recollected that he had mentally offered her to
Sambandar: this put great courage into him. He at once
cremated the body of the girl, collected the ashes and
preserved them in a pot. Daily he would decorate the pot
with flowers, etc., and sit near it meditating on Sambandar.
The news that Sambandar was staying at Tiruvotriyur reached
the merchant. At once he erected a big pandal from
Mylapore to Tiruvotriyur and followed by Bhaktas began to
proceed towards Tiruvotriyur to meet Sambandar. The latter
also was coming towards Mylapore. They met on the way.
Sambandar had heard about Sivanesar and his worship of the
pot which contained the ashes of his daughter. He wanted to
please Sivanesar by bringing the girl back to life. They
reached Mylapore, worshipped the Lord, sang hymns and,
coming out of the temple, asked Sivanesanar to bring the pot
of ashes. Sambandar addressed the pot: ‘Oh Poompavai, the
very purpose of human birth in this world is to serve the
Lord and His devotees, and to feast the eyes by seeing the
festivals of Lord Siva. If this is true, arise in the
presence of all. Are you going away without seeing the
festival?’ Then he sang a Padigam. When he finished the
first stanza, Poompavai got her form. When he finished eight
stanzas, she got her life and became a twelve year old girl.
When he finished the tenth stanza, she came out of the pot,
even as Lakshmi came out of the Lotus. All were amazed at
this miracle. Sivanesanar and Poompavai worshipped
Sambandar’s feet. Sivanesanar entreated Sambandar to accept
the girl as his wife. Sambandar, however, explained that the
original Poompavai whom Sivanesanar had mentally offered to
Sambandar was dead and that the present girl had the
relationship of daughter to him. Sivanesanar had to bow to
the wishes of Sambandar: he built an Ashram for his daughter
where she spent her days in worship of the Lord and attained
After visting a number of shrines, Sambandar returned to
Sirkali. He had reached his sixteenth year. His father
wanted to get him married. He argued that it was necessary
for him to engage himself in the performance of Vedic rites.
Sivapada Hridayar selected the daughter of Nambandar Nambi
of Nallur Perumanam. He, too, welcomed the alliance. The
wedding was to take place at Nallur Perumanam. On the
appointed day, Sambandar took leave of Thoniappar and
reached Nallur Perumanam. Sambandar went to the temple,
worshipped the Lord and got His blessings. Then he went to a
Mutt nearby. The bride’s party came there to receive him.
Sambandar, in his wedding dress, took his seat in the pearl
palanquin. People accompanied him, singing ‘Long Live
Sambandar.’ Sambandar came to the place where the wedding
was to take place. Sambandar holding his wife’s hand, went
round the fire, the manifestation of the Lord. Accompanied
by the devotees, the couple went into the temple and
worshipped Him, with total self-surrender. Sambandar sang a
Padigam praying for Liberation. The Lord granted his wish
and said: ‘Oh Sambandar, you, your wife, and all those who
witnessed your marriage will merge in the Siva Jyoti and
come to Me.’ At once, an effulgent Light emerged from the
Lord. Before merging in that Light, Sambandar sang a Padigam
known as the Panchakshara Padigam. Then all those who were
there merged in the Light of Siva. Tiruneelakanta Nayanar,
Muruga Nayanar and Tiruneelakanta Yazhpanar were also there!
29. Eyarkon Kalikama Nayanar
In Tiruperumangalam in Ponni Nadu, there was a Vellala by
name Eyarkon Kalikama Nayanar. He belonged to the family
called ‘Eyarkudi’ which produced Commanders-in-Chief to
Chola kings. He was a great devotee of Lord Siva.
The news that Sundaramurthi Nayanar had used Lord Siva
Himself as a messenger to settle the domestic dispute
between him and his wife Paravayar, so greatly annoyed
devout Kalikamanar that he said to himself: ‘Is this man who
behaved like this a devotee? I am a great sinner, too,
otherwise my life-breath would have departed on hearing the
news.’ Sundarar came to know of Kalikamar’s attitude. He
realised his own fault and entreated the Lord to appease
Kalikamar’s anger. The Lord caused Kalikamar to suffer from
colic and told him in a dream that only Sundarar could cure
it. Kalikamar preferred death to being cured by Sundarar! In
the meantime, the Lord appeared in Sundarar’s dream and
asked him to go to Kalikamar and cure him of the colic.
Sundarar at once went to meet Kalikamar. As soon as he heard
that Sundarar was coming to cure him, Kalikamar gave up his
life by cutting his bowel open.
Sundarar was greeted by Kalikamar’s wife. When he asked
for Nayanar, she made her people say that there was nothing
wrong with him and that he was asleep. After much
persuasion, they showed him the Nayanar’s body. In
desperation, Sundarar also wanted to cut his throat. By the
grace of Lord Siva, Kalikamar at once came back to life.
They embraced each other. Kalikamar spent the rest of his
life in the service of the Lord and His devotees and finally
reached His Abode.
30. Tiru Mula Nayanar
Tirumula Nayanar was a Saiva Siddha. He was one of the
eight students of Tirunandi Devar Who showered His grace on
them. They were all Yogis. He was called Tirumular because
he entered into the mortal frame of Mulan.
Tirumular desired to see Agastya Rishi in Pothia hills.
So he left Kailasa and went southwards. On the way, he
visited many Saivite shrines. When he came to
Tiruvavaduthurai, he took bath in the river Kaveri and went
to the temple. He went round the temple twice and offered
prayer to the Lord. When he was walking along the bank of
Kaveri, he saw a herd of cows shedding tears. He found out
the cause: the cow-herd lay dead. Tirumular wanted to pacify
the cows. He entered the body of the cowherd after safely
depositing his own body in the trunk of a tree. The cows
rejoiced again. This cowherd was known as Mulan, a resident
of Sattanur. In the evening, he drove the cows back into the
village. Mulan’s wife was eagerly expecting the return of
her husband. But, when she approached him that day, he would
not allow her to touch him, but said: ‘Oh lady, I am not
your husband. Adore Lord Siva and attain Liberation.’ He
left her and went away to a near-by Math.
The lady complained to the leaders of the place, about
the conduct of her husband. They examined him and came to
the conclusion that he had attained great spiritual
evolution. So, they asked her to leave him alone. The next
day, Tirumular followed the cows, but could not find his
body where he had left it. It was the Lord’s Lila. Lord Siva
wanted Tirumular to write a book on Saiva Philosophy,
containing the essence of all Siva Agamas, in Tamil.
Tirumular understood His wish and returned to
Tiruvavaduthurai. He worshipped the Lord and sat under the
near-by peepul tree in deep meditation. He was in Samadhi
for three thousand years. But, every year, he would come
down from Samadhi and compose a stanza: thus, in three
thousand years he wrote three thousand stanzas. This book is
The Lord’s mission had thus been fulfilled. Then,
Tirumular went back to Kailasa.
31. Dandi Adigal Nayanar
In Tiruvarur, in the Chola kingdom, there was a pious
Bhakta by name Dandi Adigal. He was born blind. But, he
always repeated the Panchaksharam and visualised the Lord
with his inner eyes. He would daily go to the temple, do
circumambulation, and worship the Lord.
There was a tank on the western side of the temple which
was surrounded by Jain dwellings. Dandi Adigal wanted to
extend the area of the tank. But, how could he, a man born
blind, do it? But, with a determination and complete faith
in the Lord, he decided to do it. He erected a post inside
the tank where it was to be dug and tied a rope to it. The
other end of the rope was tied to the other post which was
fixed on the bank. Then guided by the rope he would go to
where the digging had to be done. He would dig with a spade,
collect the earth in a basket and again with the help of the
rope, he would go to the bank and throw the earth away.
The Jains were watching the blind man’s miracle. They
were jealous of his achievement, too. So, they wanted to
disturb his faith. They put forward a cunning argument. ‘You
are blind and you cannot see. While digging, you are killing
many insects which is a great sin. So, give up this foolish
act.’ Nayanar explained to them the sacredness of the work,
which was highly pleasing to the Lord, and also that by His
grace, he was sure no insect would be injured. He went on
with work. The Jains were insulting in their behaviour now.
They said: ‘You were born blind: but now you are deaf, too.
Even though we are giving you good counsel, you are not
listening.’ Nayanar replied: ‘Oh ignorant people, what do
you know of the Lord’s glories? To me He is the sole refuge.
I live only to serve Him. Do not mock at His grace. By His
grace, if I regained my eye-sight and you lost yours, what
will you do?’ This reply greatly annoyed them: they snatched
the spade and the basket from his hands.
With a broken heart, Dandi Adigal went to the temple and
expressed his grievances to the Lord. The Lord appeared in
his dream that night and assured him of His help. He also
appeared before the king in his dream and asked him to
redress the grievances of Nayanar. The king summoned the
Jains. Dandi Adigal was also there. The king addressed
Dandi: ‘Oh devotee, you said that by God’s grace you could
get your eye-sight back and the Jains would lose theirs.
Prove this.’ Dandi Adigal said: ‘Lord Siva is the real God.
He is my sole refuge and prop. I am only His slave. If this
is true, let me regain my eye-sight and let the Jains lose
theirs.’ He then uttered the Panchaksharam and went into the
tank. When he came out, his eye-sight had been restored and
at the same time, the Jains lost their eye-sight. All were
amazed at this. The king banished the Jains from his kingdom
and restored people’s faith in the Lord. Dandi Adigal
32. Murkha Nayanar
This saint was a Vellala by caste and he belonged to
Tiruverkat in Thondai Nadu. He was a great devotee of Lord
Siva and was doing Maahesvara Puja by regularly feeding His
Bhaktas at any cost. He had spent all his wealth in such
So, he resorted to a strange way. He used to gamble and
use the money for feeding Siva Bhaktas. He went away from
his village in search of gamblers! He would not spare
anybody: if someone refused to gamble with him, he would
resort to violence! (So the name Murkha Nayanar which means
wicked Nayanar!) But, he would never utilise the money for
his own expenses. It was all for His Bhaktas. So, the Lord,
the Indweller, showered His blessings on him.
This is an extraordinary illustration of the nature of
supreme devotion or Para Bhakti. It is its own law. The
devotee knows nothing but God and is actually oblivious of
the world and its manners. He lives in God, for God and he
is of God. At such a stage, God Himself takes charge of him!
The completeness of the surrender is severely tested before
It is the extreme difficulty of this path that made Sage
Narada exclaim that even a saint should not violate the
canons of morality. Hence, so long as you are aware of your
own individuality, stick to the code of right conduct: do
not foolishly imitate the sages who dwell in a plane of
consciousness, to which you are a complete stranger.
33. Somasira Nayanar
Somasira Nayanar was a Brahmin by caste. He lived in
Tiruvambur. He was a great devotee of the Lord and served
His Bhaktas, irrespective of their caste. He did Yagas and
worshipped the Lord, without expecting any reward. He went
to Tiruvarur and lived with Sundaramurthi Nayanar to whom he
had totally surrendered himself. Thus he got His grace.
Here is a simple life of saintliness. On the face of it
there does not seem to be anything spectacular about this
Nayanar. But, we have to bear in mind the conditions that
prevailed in South India in the Nayanar’s days. It was
almost impossible for a Brahmin in those days to mix with
people of other castes, however devoted they might be to
God. For a Brahmin to serve them was unthinkably
difficult. It required very great will power, determination
and devotion to God and His Bhaktas.
Again, in those days no one would even think of
performing a Yaga without expectation of a reward. Yagas
were performed only with a specific selfish desire. That
Nayanar performed them selflessly and desirelessly, shows
that he had already reached a high stage of Jnana or
spiritual insight. He was a true Jnani and Karma Yogi.
Over and above all these, he was highly devoted to the
Guru, Sundaramurthi Nayanar. What cannot Guru Bhakti
achieve? And, yet, foolish and arrogant man speaks lightly
of it and ridicules Guru Bhakti!
34. Sakkiya Nayanar
This saint was a Vellala born in Tirucchangamangai. He
was totally disgusted with worldly life and wanted to attain
Liberation. He sought the best way to get this. Due to false
propaganda, he fell a victim to Buddhistic influence. He
became a Buddhist, but it did not satisfy him for long. He
was immediately attracted to Saivism and was convinced that,
whatever be the external appearance or conduct of one, if he
had intense devotion to the Lord, he would attain
Liberation. Though he did not give up his external
appearance of a Buddhist, he adored Lord Siva.
One day, as he was sitting in an open Siva temple and
meditating on the Lingam, completely absorbed in the divine
bliss, he self-forgetfully threw a stone at the Lingam. On
the next day, he went to the temple again and recollected
the previous day’s action. He felt that it was the Lord s
Will, to reveal the profound truth that He would accept
anything offered by His Bhakta in devotion. He threw a
stone that day too. That was his daily worship, without
which he would not take his food! One day, when he was about
to take his meal, he remembered that he had not done his
usual Puja: and unmindful of the hunger, went to the temple
and threw a stone with great devotion. The Lord appeared
before him, blessed him and took him to Kailasa.
35. Sirappuli Nayanar
Sirappuli Nayanar was a pious Brahmin. He lived in
Tiruvakur in the Chola kingdom. He was an ardent devotee of
Lord Siva and His Bhaktas. He used to worship them and serve
them sincerely. He would repeat the Panchakshara Mantra,
with Bhav and sincerity, throughout the day and night. He
also performed the Vedic sacrifices in honour of Lord Siva.
All these earned for him the supreme grace of Siva.
A special spiritual practice of this Nayanar seems to
have been the ceaseless repetition of the Panchakshara
Mantra (Om Namah Sivaya). This extremely simple practice is
capable of bestowing incalculable benefit on man: and yet,
ignorant man, full of delusion, refuses to resort to it. The
continuous repetition of the Mantra will change the very
mind-substance. It contains a divine vibration. Modern
science has reached a stage when it no longer believes in
mass and quantity. Even the gross and impure intellect of a
scientist has come to recognise the superior power in the
subtle atom or cell. Great indeed is the foolishness of man
if he still refuses to believe that the sound-vibrations
(even the subtler thought-vibrations) can bring about a
radical change within himself and heal him physically,
vitally, mentally, psychically and spiritually.
This is the highest Yoga: to remember God always and
constantly to repeat His Name.
36. Siruthonda Nayanar
In Tiruchenkattangudi in the Chola kingdom, there lived a
Siva Bhakta by name Paranjyoti. His was a family of army
commanders. He himself was the Commander-in-Chief of the
Chola king. He realised that devotion to the Feet of Lord
Siva was the best means of obtaining Liberation from Samsara
and so, he clung to Them.
Once, at the instance of his king, he waged war with a
North Indian king, defeated him and returned with a big
booty. The king was highly pleased. The minister informed
the king that Paranjyotiar was able to achieve the victory
because of his intense devotion to Lord Siva. This shocked
the king, who was a Siva Bhakta himself: he regretted having
compelled a Siva Bhakta to wage a bloody war. He called
Paranjyotiar, apologised for having sent him, a Siva Bhakta
to war, and, after giving him rich presents, sent him back
to his village, with the request that he should henceforth
engage himself in His Puja. Paranjyotiar returned to his
village and from that time was engaged in the worship of the
Lord and His Bhaktas. He would not eat without first feeding
a Siva Bhakta. He regarded himself as the lowly servant of
the Lord and His Bhaktas: hence the name Siruthondar (small
Lord Siva wanted to bring out the glory of this noble
saint. So, one day He appeared in front of Siruthondar’s
house, in the guise of a Vairavar (a special class of Siva
Yogis). He enquired of Siruthondar’s maid-servant, Sandana
Nangaiyar, whether her master was at home. She said: ‘No, he
has gone in search of a Siva Bhakta, without feeding whom he
would not take his food.’ But, afraid lest this Siva Yogi
should go away, she entreated him to come into the house.
The mendicant would not: ‘I shall not enter the house in
which a woman is alone.’ Siruthondar’s wife Tiruvengattu
Nangaiyar heard these words and came out hurriedly and
prayed to the Vairavar to stay in the house till the husband
returned. The Vairavar repeated his objection and said:
‘When he comes back tell him I am under the tree near the
temple.’ The Vairavar went away.
Immediately afterwards, Siruthondar returned. His wife
told him all that had happened in his absence. Siruthondar
was overjoyed because he was unable to find any other Bhakta
that day. At once he ran to the temple and fell at the feet
of the Vairavar and invited him to the house for Bhiksha.
The Vairavar, however, hesitated and remarked: ‘I doubt
whether you will be able to fulfil the exacting conditions I
shall demand for accepting your Bhiksha: so, better leave me
alone.’ Siruthondar was greatly grieved. He had thought that
this mendicant had been specially sent by God to enable him
to adhere to his vow and feed a Bhakta every day. He was
prepared to meet any demand from the Bhakta, if only he
agreed to take the Bhiksha. Now, the mendicant revealed his
condition: ‘Oh devotee, it is my habit to eat once in six
months the fresh meat of a Pasu. That time has now
come. I doubt whether you will satisfy me.’ This word
Pasu has two meanings: an animal and a human being.
Siruthondar thought that the mendicant only meant animal
meat: and readily agreed! To his surprise, however, the
mendicant revealed that meant human flesh! He also added:
‘Oh friend, it should be the meat of a child. The child
should be five years of age. He must be healthy. He should
be the only son of his parents. Such a boy must be held by
the mother and cut into pieces by his father. This meat must
be cooked nicely and offered to me.’ Without the least
hesitation, Siruthondar accepted conditions and took the
How to find a boy of the mendicant’s description?
Siruthondar thought of his own son who fitted the
description. The noble wife agreed, too, and asked him to
get the child from school. As soon as he came the mother
held him on her lap. The innocent child was laughing when
Siruthondar, with one stroke cut his throat. The head is
generally unfit for cooking, and is not fit for being
offered to the Lord. So, they gave it away to the
maid-servant and began to cook, the rest of the meat. After
worshipping the mendicant, Siruthondar was preparing to
offer him Bhiksha. The mendicant ascertained the method
adopted by them in cooking the meat and Nayanar explained
everything (except the fact that it was their own son that
they had sacrificed). The mendicant said he would eat the
head, too. The maid-servant had anticipated this and had the
head cooked and ready.
Once again, Siruthondar requested the Yogi to have his
meal. Now, the Yogi wanted another Siva Bhakta to eat with
him: and there was no one except the Nayanar himself. So, he
sat with the Yogi, ready to eat the flesh of his son, to
please the Yogi. Yet, one more condition had to be
fulfilled! The Yogi said that unless the host’s son ate with
him, he would not eat! Nayanar tactfully explained that his
son was not in the house and so could not join with them.
But, the Yogi insisted: ‘Go out and call for him: he will
come.’ Nayanar wanted to obey the Yogi and did as the Yogi
had asked to do. Wonder of wonders: the young boy came
running to the father as soon as the father had cried aloud:
‘Sirala, come here: the Yogi wants you to eat with him.’ The
parents were astonished to see their child, Siralan come
back to life. They entered the kitchen, but could not find
the Yogi there. The meat had also disappeared! As they were
searching for the Yogi, the Lord appeared before them,
blessed them and took them to His Abode.
37. Cheraman Perumal Nayanar
Cheraman Perumal Nayanar was born in Kodunkolur. It was
the capital city of Malai Nadu or the present Kerala. He was
born in the royal family of Kothayars, otherwise known as
the Uthiyan family. The name Cheraman was the common name
for all Cheras. Perumal was the title adopted by him after
his coronation. His original name was Perum-Ma-Kothayar. He
was endowed with good Samskaras. He had great devotion to
the Lord even as a child. As he grew, his devotion also
grew. He had a remarkable degree of dispassion and
discrimination. He did not like to rule the country: and so,
when he came of age, he renounced the world and went to Tiru
Anchaikalam and engaged himself in the worship of the Lord
there. The country was ruled by Sengol Porayan. He, too,
soon realised the evanescence of worldly life and renounced
the world! He had no issues and the throne was vacant. They
went to Tiru Anchaikalam and requested Perum-Ma-Kothayar to
ascend the throne. Though he was reluctant, lest it should
interfere with his daily worship, he bowed to the divine
will. He went to the temple and offered a prayer. The Lord
permitted him to accept the rulership. By the Lord’s grace
he ascended the throne and ruled the country justly and
wisely. He could understand all languages, even the language
of the birds. The Lord had bestowed upon him all the
Aiswaryas, great strength, royal vehicles, etc.
After the coronation, he went to the temple and
after worshipping the Lord he was returning to the palace.
On the way, he saw a washerman whose body had been smeared
with white sand and mud. The very sight enraptured Cheraman
who saw in him the image of Lord Siva with the sacred ash
smeared all over the body. He was raised to
God-consciousness. He descended from the elephant and fell
at the feet of the washerman, in spite of the latter’s
protest. All were wonderstruck to witness the supreme
devotion of Cheraman.
By his many acts of devotion and piety, he earned the
grace of Lord Siva. The Lord sent to him a renowned musician
and devotee, Banapatirar, with a palm leaf on which was the
Lord’s own song in praise of Cheraman! It read: ‘Oh king who
honours great poets with rich presents, who rules his
subjects with love! Glory to you! I am very highly pleased
with your devotion and charitable nature. The bearer of this
message is Banapatirar who is a great devotee like you. He
is a great musician and always sings My glories on his
favourite instrument, Yazh. He has come to see you. Welcome
him with due respect and honour him with plenty of riches.’
Cheraman welcomed the musician with great love and devotion.
When he read the song of the Lord, he was overjoyed and
rolled on the ground. He said to Banapatirar: ‘Oh noble
soul, kindly take possession of all these and accept my
kingdom also.’ Banapatirar was astounded to witness the
king’s devotion and said: ‘Oh king, I am highly pleased with
your Darshan. I shall accept only what is absolutely
necessary for me, for that has been the command of the
Lord.’ He took what he needed and left Kodunkolur on an
elephant. Cheraman escorted him up to the border.
Cheraman was greatly devoted to Lord Nataraja. He had
surrendered his body, mind and soul to Him. He would daily
worship the Lord: and, by His grace, at the time of his
prayer, he would hear the musical sound produced by the
Lord’s anklets during His dance. One day, however, at the
time of the prayer, he did not hear the usual divine sound.
Cheraman was greatly afflicted at heart. He thought that he
must have been guilty of a great crime and decided to end
his life, with his sword. At once he heard the divine sound
and a voice in the sky explained: ‘Oh noble soul, My friend
Nambi Arurar has come to Tillai and he was singing sweet
Tamil songs. I was completely absorbed in that and hence the
delay in blessing you with the musical sound of My anklet.’
The Lord wanted to create a friendship between Sundarar and
Cheraman and so spoke highly of Sundarar to Cheraman.
Cheraman, desirous of worshipping Lord Nataraja and also of
meeting Sundarar, at once started for Tillai. The very sight
of the Lord in Tillai entranced him. He sang ‘Pon Vannathu
Anthadi’ on Lord Nataraja. In appreciation, the Lord blessed
him with the musical sound of His anklets. Cheraman was
swimming in divine bliss.
Before Cheraman reached Tillai, Sundarar had already left
the place. Cheraman proceeded to Tiruvarur where he met
Sundarar. They embraced each other and fell at each other’s
feet. They became fast friends. At Tiruvarur Cheraman
composed the famous ‘Tiru Mummanikovai’ on Lord Thiagaraja.
Then they went to Vedaranyam. There Cheraman sang his
‘Tiru Anthati’ on the Lord. After visiting many shrines on
the way they came to Madura. The Pandyan king welcomed them.
The Chola prince who was staying with the Pandyan king also
welcomed them. In their company the great saints visited
many shrines. Taking leave of the kings, Cheraman and
Sundarar returned to Tiruvarur. From there, at the request
of Cheraman, Sundarar accompanied him to Kodunkolur. There
Cheraman took Sundarar on an elephant and went round the
city in procession.
When Sundarar returned to Tiruvarur, he had instructed
Cheraman to rule the country justly and wisely. Cheraman
obeyed the saint’s commands. On the next occasion when
Sundarar visited Kodunkolur one day Sundarar suddenly left
the place and went to the sacred shrine at Tiru Anchaikalam
where he sought the Lord’s grace and attained Liberation. By
intuition, Cheraman learnt of Sundarar’s release and he also
attained the Lotus Feet of the Lord, as we have already
seen, while dealing with Sundaramurthi Nayanar’s life. In
Kailasa, Cheraman became the chief of Lord Siva’s Ganas
38. Gananatha Nayanar
Gananathar was a pious Brahmin of Sirkali. He was a great
Bhakta of Lord Siva. People admired his virtue and devotion
and came to him for advice. He invariably gave them some
work connected with the temple, according to their ability.
They would clean the temple, make garlands, work in the
gardens, burn lamps in the temples, etc. Thus he infused
devotion in them for the Lord and transformed them into Siva
Bhaktas. He was greatly devoted to Jnana Sambandar. All
these earned Siva’s grace for him.
Here is another great but simple spiritual practice. Talk
to other people about God and the glory of devotion, etc.
You will be building up a powerful spiritual fortress around
you. You will be able to avoid people wasting your time: you
will not indulge in nor allow others to lead you into,
gossip which is the spiritual aspirant’s arch-enemy. People
who may in the beginning, think that you are strange in your
behaviour, will soon understand you and they will, of their
own accord, avoid useless talk in your very presence. At the
same time, you will be rendering a very great service to
humanity, by directing everyone’s mind towards God and
Dharma. Here is a wonderful Yoga which helps you and others,
too, at the same time. Put it into practice and realise its
39. Kootruva Nayanar
This saint was a chieftain of Kalandai. He was extremely
devoted to Lord Siva. Daily he would repeat the Panchakshara
Mantra, and serve the Bhaktas. The Lord made him more
powerful, and bestowed on him all wealth and strength.
Nayanar captured many places in the Chola and Pandyan
kingdoms. He wanted that the three thousand Brahmins of
Tillai should crown him king: they refused, because they
owed allegiance to the Chola king. All of them even left
Tillai fearing his wrath. Only one was left to do the Puja.
Even he refused to accede to Nayanar’s request. One day
Nayanar prayed to the Lord: and, in answer, the Lord Himself
appeared before him and crowned him by placing His Feet on
his head. Nayanar continued to worship the Lord and finally
The Lord, the Indweller of our hearts knew that, when the
Nayanar asked the three thousand Brahmins to crown him, it
was only to spiritualise the coronation and to enable him to
feel that the crown was but a symbol of the Feet of the
Lord. When the Brahmins feared political repercussions, the
Lord Himself fulfilled the devotee’s wish.
40. Pugal Chola Nayanar
Pugal Chola Nayanar was a king. He was living in Uraiyur
in the Chola kingdom. He was greatly devoted to Lord Siva
and His Bhaktas. He was an ideal king and people loved him
and followed in his footsteps.
Once he went to Karur to collect tributes due to him from
the kings of Kuda Nadu. All of them paid at once: but the
ministers reported that a petty king named Adigan had not.
He ordered his troops to invade Adigan’s fort. In the
meantime, the king’s elephant was killed by Eripatha Nayanar
for a Siva Aparadham (as we have already seen in Eripatha
Nayanar’s life). Ultimately, both Eripathar and the king had
the Lord’s Darshan. As this drama was being enacted,
elsewhere, the king’s troops had demolished Adigan’s fort,
killing many of his men, and Adigan himself had run away.
Pugal Cholar’s troops returned with a lot of wealth and the
heads of men killed. They placed all these at the king’s
feet. Among the heads, the king noticed a head with the
braid of hair on top—it belonged to a Siva Bhakta. Stricken
with terrible remorse the king had a big fire made, went
round it having the head on a golden plate in his hand and
entered the fire chanting the Panchakshara Mantra. Thus he
entered the Lord’s Abode.
41. Narasinga Muniyaraiyar
This saint was a petty chieftain. He lived in Tiru
Munaipadi. He was highly devoted to Lord Siva. He was a
champion of Saivism. On every Tiruvathirai day he would
conduct special Puja, feed Siva Bhaktas in whatever form
they appeared and offer the gift of a hundred gold coins to
each. On one such occasion, one Bhakta came with sacred
ashes on his stark naked body: this evoked disgust in the
hearts of the other Bhaktas. Nayanar understood this and
fell at the naked devotee’s feet and welcomed him with more
respect. He fed him nicely and gave him 200 gold coins. This
earned the Lord’s supreme grace for the Nayanar.
Here is an illustration of the subtle way in which saints
manifest their cosmic vision, and also the subtle way in
which they bring about the necessary change in the outlook
of others. To the Nayanar, all the devotees are the
manifestations of Lord Siva. The naked man does not evoke
the least trace of disgust or contempt. When he finds this
unhealthy attitude in others, he does not violently
correct them. In his own subtle, mysterious but very
effective way, he demonstrates the truth: and brings about a
change in the attitude of the ignorant. Both these lessons
42. Adipattha Nayanar
This saint was a fisherman born in Nulaipadi near
Nagapattinam. It was his practice to let go one fish from
his catch daily, as an offering unto the Lord. The Lord
wanted to reveal his greatness to the world. Once it so
happened that for many consecutive days he could catch only
one fish. He let it go, in the name of Lord Siva, and went
without food. One day he caught a golden fish, again only
one for the day. And, he stuck to his vow and let it go, in
the name of Lord Siva. The Lord appeared before him and
blessed this illiterate, fisherman saint!
Not indeed by vast erudition, nor by breath-taking
austerities, nor by hearing and talking a lot, but by
unflinching devotion alone can God be realised. This humble,
simple, fisherman saint has proved that beyond the least
trace of doubt. But, look at his steadfastness, Nishta!
It is not easy to acquire, unless you have living faith in
God. Otherwise, the mind will bring up all sorts of reasons
(lame excuses!) for breaking the vow. This supreme faith and
devotion is itself the highest Jnana. Only an ignorant man
studies books: what need is there for a great scholar to
study an elementary book on grammar? What need is there for
one to whom God is a living presence, to stuff himself with
words? Intellect is a help, if it serves faith: it is a
hindrance if it shakes it. Devotion is indispensable for
43. Kalikamba Nayanar
This saint was a Vaisya by caste and he lived in
Pennagadam in the Chola kingdom. He was doing some service
in the temple. He was very devoted to Siva Bhaktas in whom
he saw the Lord Himself. His wife, too, helped him in all
One day, his former servant came to his house in the
guise of a Bhakta. Nayanar, as usual, welcomed him, washed
his feet and worshipped him. But, his wife who recognised
the former servant did not join. Nayanar understood her lack
of devotion, cut off her hand and continued his worship of
the Bhakta. Practising this form of Yoga Sadhana, he
This saint has dramatically proved the great truth which
Sage Narada has emphasised in his immortal work ‘Bhakti
Sutras’: there is no distinction of caste, creed or status,
among the devotees of God. They do not recognise such
distinctions among themselves: and others, too, shall not
entertain such distinctions. It is blasphemy against God.
The great devotees have become one with Him. They are all
manifest divinity. Whatever might have been their past
life, caste or faith, they have now become divine
and hence such distinctions have no meaning.
44. Kalia Nayanar
Kalia Nayanar was an oil monger of Tiruvotriyur. His
adoration of the Lord, to Whom he was highly devoted, took
the form of lighting the temple lamps daily. He was rich.
But, in order to reveal his greatness the Lord made him
poor. His family people also refused help. He began to work
as a labourer to earn the oil. Even this became impossible.
He wanted to sell his wife: but no one would buy. At last,
in despair, he wanted to cut his own throat and use the
blood instead of oil, to burn the lamps. In that attempt,
Lord Siva caught hold of his hand and blessed him.
What greatness, and what intensity of devotion is
portrayed in this simple life! Self-forgetfulness is the
key-note in devotion. Remembering God always, the devotee is
so thoroughly absorbed in Him, that nothing but God and His
worship matters to him. By all means His worship must go on:
no obstacle shall stand in the way. The devotee’s
heart and mind are always positive, never letting a negative
thought enter them. He sees opportunities in difficulties
and is never beaten by any obstacles which serve him as
steps to God!
45. Satti Nayanar
Satti Nayanar was a Vellala by caste. He was born in
Varinjiyur in the Chola kingdom. He was a sincere devotee of
Lord Siva and honoured His devotees. He could not tolerate
anyone speaking ill of them. If anyone did so, he would cut
off the slanderer’s tongue. Lord Siva understood his pure
inner Bhav and showered His grace on him.
Besides revealing the glory of the Nayanar’s devotion,
this simple life also holds for us a great object
lesson—never speak ill of the saints or devotees of God.
They have attained union with God: and, so, if you vilify
them, you are vilifying God Himself. It is the greatest sin,
the greatest, Himalayan blunder. You cannot judge them: they
live on a different plane of consciousness from yours. Our
scriptures contain numerous illustrations of the strange
behaviour of saints, sages and Yogis. Sometimes they behave
as little children: sometimes as mad-men; sometimes as
fools. Mysterious is the nature of saints. Always worship
and adore them: you will be benefited. Do not criticise them
or speak ill of them or find fault with their conduct. Our
scriptures say that he who blames the conduct of the sages,
gets their bad Karma, and suffers doubly in consequence.
If anyone speaks ill of a saint or devotee of God, in
your presence, leave that place at once. Otherwise, your own
moral and spiritual structure will be dangerously
46. Aiyadigal Kadavarkon Nayanar
Aiyadigal Kadavarkon Nayanar was a Pallava king who ruled
over Kanchi. He infused the spirit of Saivism into his
Soon he got disgusted with worldly life, renounced the
world, after installing his son in his place, and undertook
a continuous pilgrimage of the various shrines singing hymns
in His praise, wherever he went. Lord Siva was highly
pleased with his devotion and blessed him with His Darshan.
This king has set an example for all kings and social
leaders to follow. Leaders should be the best example for
their followers. They should encourage the masses to walk
the path of virtue and Godlines. Otherwise, they live in
vain: and, what is more, they take upon their shoulders a
good part of the sins of their followers, for they are
responsible for those sins.
This Nayanar lives in our hearts even today because he
served his subjects both by precept and by his own personal
example. He taught them; he encouraged them; and, finally,
by his own life of renunciation and wholehearted devotion of
the Lord, set a glorious example for them to emulate. Such
is the life of an ideal leader.
47. Kanampulla Nayanar
Kanampulla Nayanar was a wealthy man in Irukkuvelur. He
was a great Siva Bhakta. He wanted to utilise all his wealth
in His service only. So, with unswerving devotion he would
light the lamps in Siva shrines and sing His praise. Lord
Siva wanted to reveal his devotion. He withdrew his wealth.
He went over to Chidambaran. There also he continued his
service, with the money got by selling his possessions.
There was nothing left in the house. He had to cut grass,
sell it and purchase ghee with the money and burn the lamps.
Because he cut grass known as Kanampul, he was known as
Kanampulla Nayanar. One day he could not sell the grass. He
did not want to swerve from his duty, however. He went to
the temple and made a wick out of the grass and burnt it.
The quantity of grass was not enough. So, he brought his own
head near the lamp, spread his hair on the lamp, and began
burning it. At once Lord Siva appeared before him, and
48. Kari Nayanar
This ardent devotee of Lord Siva was a native of
Tirukadavur. He was a scholar in Tamil. He used to go to the
three Tamil kings, and get money by singing Tamil Kovais
(anthology). He earned a lot and built temples. Thus he
spread the cause of Saivism. He also served Siva Bhaktas and
earned His grace.
A true devotee of the Lord lives for His sake only. All
that he has is offered to the Lord as the devotee’s worship.
God is your creator, your father and mother, friend and
Guru. He has given you the various talents and skill. They
belong to Him. He dwells in all, and expects you to
utilise them in the service of all. This is the simple logic
by which the saints arrive at the conclusion that they
should see God in all, serve the Lord in all, and love Him
in and through cosmic love, expressed as selfless service
By leading such a selfless and divine life, you will
conquer your worst spiritual enemy, viz., egoism, and
realise God in this very birth, nay, this very second.
49. Ninra Seer Nedumara Nayanar And
Koon Pandyan, the Pandyan king, was ruling in Madura. He
was called Koon Pandyan because of his hunchback. He was
himself a poet and he patronised the Tamil poets and
established a Tamil Sangam. His wife was Mangayarkarasiyar.
She was the daughter of a Chola king. She was an ardent
devotee of Lord Siva. Kulacchirai Nayanar was his minister:
and he was also a staunch devotee of Lord Siva. Tiru Jnana
Sambandar has sung Padigams in praise of both.
Koon Pandyan had fallen a victim to the influence of
Jainism. The queen and the minister feared that unless
something was done, Saivism would be wiped out. When
Sambandar came to Madura and was staying outside the city,
Kulacchirai Nayanar invited him into the city. The Jains
tried in vain to destroy Sambandar. When Sambandar sang a
song, the king’s hunchback was cured, as also his burning
pain. He came back to Saivism. Since then he was known as
Ninra Seer Nadumara Nayanar, as his hunchback had
disappeared and he stood erect and tall.
The Pandyan king then defeated the northern kings at
Tirunelvely and spread Saivism there. Mangayarkarasiyar
helped her husband a lot in this. Both the husband and the
wife worshipped Sambandar with great faith and devotion.
Their devotion to the Guru and love of Saivism earned His
grace for them.
51. Vayilar Nayanar
He was a Vellala by caste. He belonged to Mylapore. He
was a Siva Bhakta. He constructed temples mentally and did
Manasic (mental) worship. He built the temple of
non-forgetfulness, lit the shining lamp of
Self-illumination, bathed the Lord in the waters of immortal
Ananda (bliss) and worshipped Him with the elixir of supreme
love. Thus he obtained salvation.
Here is the life of a Para Bhakta, a supreme devotee. He
had transcended the stage of idol worship. He had attained
great purity of heart and clarity of inner psychic vision so
that, without the aid of a symbol and without the help of
rituals, he could raise his mind to the sublime heights of
The inclusion of this wonderfully simple life of Vayilar
Nayanar is to point out that devotion is of many types, to
suit the taste and temperament of different individuals.
Whatever be the path the choose, ultimately they reach the
same goal, union with the Lord, Siva. The Hindu sages have
always declared that the spiritual path is not a stereotyped
one, the same drug for all diseases, the same food for all
people at all ages (from infancy to old age!), but that the
spiritual life is adapted (within broad limits) to the needs
of each individual. Everyone pursues the path or the
combination of paths suited to him, and ultimately reaches
the same goal.
52. Munaiyaduvar Nayanar
This saint was a Vellala by caste. He belonged to Tiru
Nidur in the Chola kingdom. He was a great Bhakta of Lord
Siva and His devotees. He was always the hope of the
desperate, the weak and the vanquished. They would call upon
him to turn their defeat into a victory. He would hire
himself out as a professional fighter. He fixed a wage for
this service and with that money he would feed the Siva
Bhaktas and look after them. He earned money in this way and
hence he was called ‘Munaiyaduvar’. Lord Siva was highly
pleased with him and blessed him.
Two vital lessons that this Nayanar’s life hold should
not be ignored. The first and foremost, even in the exercise
of the God-given talent of fencing, the Nayanar took care to
see, that it was used to defend the weak, the oppressed and
the downtrodden. Strength, too, is a manifestation of the
Lord, according to Him: but it should be used in His service
in a righteous way. The second one is that the fruits of
such service were always dedicated to the Lord. This is the
very core of the teaching of the Bhagavad Gita, and the
teachings of all saints and sages. Righteousness rests on
this pedestal of dedication to God and unselfishness.
Selfishness is the root cause of all sins and consequent
53. Kazharsinga Nayanar And
54. Seruthunai Nayanar
Kazharsinga Nayanar was an ardent devotee of the Lord. He
was a Pallava monarch, belonging to the family of Kadavar.
Due to God’s grace he defeated the kings of the northern
country and established Saivism there. He went on many
Once he came to Tiruvarur with his queen and visited the
temple. The queen, coming round the temple, came to the
place where flowers had been kept for Siva’s worship, and
she smelt a flower which had accidentally fallen on the
floor. Seruthunai Nayanar, a pious Vellala of Tanjore, who
was doing the service in the temple, was annoyed by her
action. He at once cut off the nose of the queen that smelt
The king, hearing the pitiable cry of the queen, rushed
to the spot. He was terribly angry with the man who was
responsible for the brutal act. Seruthunai Nayanar explained
to him the queen’s action which was an insult to Lord Siva
(Siva Aparadham). The king at once gave an additional
punishment to her, by cutting off her hand which picked up
the flower! Both the king and Seruthunai Nayanar were
glorified by the people and the celestials rained flowers on
them. Both of them attained the grace of Lord Siva.
55. Idangazhi Nayanar
This saint was the king of Velas in Kodumbalur. He was a
staunch devotee of Lord Siva. He had made arrangements with
all the Siva temples to perform worship according to the
Siva Agamas. There was another Siva Bhakta in the same
locality doing Maaheshwara Puja. He became very poor and so
he could not continue his Puja and feeding of Bhaktas. So,
one day he entered Idangazhi Nayanar’s granary at night and
began to steal paddy. The watchman caught him red-handed and
took him to the king. The king learnt on enquiry that the
Siva Bhakta’s motive for stealing was to feed the devotees
of the Lord. The king let him go.
This incident opened the eyes of the king. He realised
that nothing belonged to him and that the real owners of his
property were Lord Siva and His Bhaktas. So, he gave
permission to all Siva Bhaktas to enter his palace and
granary and take whatever they wanted. Thus he displayed his
zeal for the spread of Saivism. Thus he earned Lord Siva’s
56. Pugazh Tunai Nayanar
This saint was a pious Adi Saiva of Seruviliputhur. He
was an ardent Siva Bhakta. He was a Pujari (priest) in the
temple. His daily duty was to bathe the image, uttering the
Mantras and do the Puja, according to the Siva Agamas. Once
a famine swept over the land and he had no money to buy
food. He loved the deity and his daily duty so much that he
did not like to leave the place in spite of the starvation.
He stuck to that place and continued the Puja. His body was
emaciated. One day, in spite of his weakness, he fetched
water for the Lord’s Bath (Abhishekam) and, when he was
pouring the water on the Lingam, the water-pot slipped from
his hand and fell on Him. Nayanar forgot himself in sheer
exhaustion and fainted away. The Lord appeared in his dream
and said that He would leave one coin in the temple every
day till the famine was over so that he could procure the
necessary food with that money and appease his hunger.
Nayanar woke up and found that the dream was true! The Lord
thus enabled His Bhakta to get over the famine. He continued
his daily Puja in the temple and finally reached the Lord’s
57. Kotpuli Nayanar
This saint was a Vellala by caste. He was the
Commander-in-Chief of a Chola king. He was highly devoted to
Lord Siva. He was very pious and virtuous. It was his
practice to purchase paddy out of his income and give it to
Siva temples for the Lord’s food. He was doing this for a
Once he had to go out on military duty. So, he stocked a
sufficient quantity of paddy for the temple use, handed it
over to his relatives, with clear instructions that it was
meant only for the Lord and that they should not touch it
for their own use. During his absence, there was a famine
and his relatives had to suffer for want of food. So, they
laid their hands on the paddy meant for the Lord and
appeased their hunger. The Nayanar returned from his duty
and heard of his relatives’ action. He was annoyed with
them. He called them to his house and killed them, including
his parents, for this crime. His supreme love for the Lord
had so completely overshadowed his love for his own near and
dear ones! The Lord appeared at once before him and blessed
him, and also all the relatives who had died at his hand,
and took them all to His Abode.
58. Pusalar Nayanar
Pusalar was a Brahmin of Tiru Ninravur in Thondai
Mandalam. He excelled in the mental worship of the Lord.
Mental worship is thousands of times better than external
ritualistic worship: mental worship soon leads to Samadhi
(superconscious state) and Self-realisation. He strongly
desired to build a temple for Lord Siva, but he did not have
the money for it. So, mentally he gathered the necessary
materials for the purpose. He laid the foundation stone on
an auspicious day. He raised the temple and had even fixed
an auspicious day for the installation of the deity in it.
The Kadava king who was also a great devotee of Lord Siva
had built a magnificent temple in Conjeevaram. By chance he
had also fixed the date which Pusalar had mentally chosen,
for the installation of the Lord in his temple. The Lord
wanted to show the king the superiority of Pusalar’s great
devotion. So, the Lord appeared in the king’s dream and
asked him to postpone the installation ceremony in his
temple, as He would be going to the temple constructed by
His devotee at Tiru Ninravur. The king woke up from sleep
and was intensely eager to have the Darshan of the devotee
mentioned by the Lord and also have a look at the great
temple he had built, which he thought would be far superior
to his temple.
The king came to Tiruninravur and searched all over the
place for the temple: he could not find any. Then the king
enquired about Pusalar. He found out Pusalar’s house and
approached him. Pusalar was stunned when he heard of the
king’s dream. Soon, he recovered and was filled with joy. He
thought: ‘How kind and merciful is the Lord. I am only a
wretched creature and He has accepted my mental shrine as
His Abode. I am really blessed.’ He told the king that that
temple was only in his mind. The king was greatly surprised
to hear this. Admiring Pulasar’s devotion, the king fell at
his feet and worshipped him. Pulasar installed the Lord in
his mental temple and continued to worship Him till he
attained His Abode.
59. Nesa Nayanar
This saint was the native of Kampili. He was a weaver. He
was highly devoted to the Lord and His Bhaktas. His mind was
well fixed on the lotus feet of the Lord. His lips always
uttered the Panchakshara Mantra. His hands were ever busy in
the service of His Bhaktas. These three virtues gained the
Lord’s grace for him.
Here is another instance of the glory of the Name of God.
We have already seen the glory of the Lord’s Name (Vide
page 51) while studying the life of Sirapulli Nayanar.
Constant repetition of the Mantra enables you to remember
Him always, throughout the day and even during sleep! The
technique is this: as soon as you wake up in the morning,
sit down for half an hour and mentally repeat the Mantra.
And keep up the current during your work, too, by
withdrawing yourself for a few moments every hour and
mentally visualising the presence of the Lord in you and
mentally repeating the Mantra. If you are established in
this practice, very soon you will find that even when you
are talking or are engaged in other activities—nay, even
during sleep, the mind goes on repeating the Mantra. You
will get God-realisation. In addition to this glorious Japa
Yoga, Nesa Nayanar also practised the Yoga of Synthesis. He
thought of God, he lived for God, he worked for God, he was
highly devoted to God and loved Him.
60. Kochengat Chola Nayanar
In Chandra Tirtha in the Chola kingdom there was a thick
grove. In that grove under a Jambul tree there was a Siva
Lingam. A white elephant used to come there daily and
prostrate before the Lingam. A spider which was also devoted
to Him, noticed that dry leaves were falling on Him and to
prevent this wove a web above the Lingam.
The next day when the elephant came to worship, he found
the web, and, thinking that someone had polluted the place,
tore the web, offered his worship and went away. The spider
came upon the scene, felt sorry that his web had been
destroyed, wove another web and went away. The next day, as
the elephant was pulling the web away, the spider which was
present there, gave him a sting: the elephant died of the
poison on the spot. The spider, too, was caught in the
elephant’s trunk, and perished.
Due to His grace, this spider was born as the son of Suba
Devan, the Chola king. He and his dutiful wife went to
Chidambaram and eagerly prayed to the Lord Nataraja for a
son. The Lord granted their wish. Soon Kamalavati conceived
the child. The day of delivery arrived. Astrologers foretold
that if the child could be delivered a few minutes later, it
would rule the three worlds! The queen asked that she should
be tied to the roof of the room upside down, with a tight
bandage around her waist. When the auspicious time came, she
was released and the child was born. This was the spider
reborn! The child had red eyes as he had remained in his
mother’s womb a little longer. The mother, looking into his
eyes, said: ‘Kochekannano’ (the child with red eyes), and
expired. Hence, he was named Kochengat Cholan. When he
reached the proper age, his father enthroned him king,
retired from the world and, after severe penance, reached
the Lord’s Abode.
Kochengat Cholan promoted Saivism. In Tiru Anai Ka he
built a beautiful temple and installed the Siva Lingam under
the same Jambul tree! In Chola Nadu he built many shrines
and mansions for the use of the three thousand Brahmins of
Tillai. He provided for regular worship at Chidambaran.
Finally he reached the Lord’s Abode. His glories were sung
by the poet Poygayar in his ‘Kalavazhi Narpathu’.
61. Tiru Neelakanta Yazhpanar
In Tiru Erukattanpuliyur, in the Chola kingdom, there
lived an ardent devotee of Lord Siva by name Tiru Neelakanta
Yazhpanar. He was an expert in playing the Yazh (Veena, a
musical instrument). It was his habit to visit many sacred
shrines and sing His glories on the Yazh. He once went to
Madura. He was standing at the entrance and singing. The
Lord wanted to hear him at close quarters and so asked the
devotees in their dream, to bring Yazhpanar into the inner
shrine the next day. When the Brahmins took him inside the
shrine, Yazhpanar was surprised, but understood it was His
Lila and that He wanted to hear him play on the Yazh. As he
was singing, a voice was heard in the heaven: ‘If the
instrument rests on the wet floor, it will be spoilt: give
him a golden seat to occupy.’ At once a golden seat was
offered to him. Yazhpanar prostrated to the Lord and sang of
His supreme compassion, standing on the golden seat.
Yazhpanar then went to Tiruvarur and, here, too, he
remained outside the shrine and sang. And here, too, the
Lord wanted him to sing in His immediate presence. So, He
created another opening on the northern side of the temple.
Yazhpanar understood the Lord’s will and entered through the
gate and sang in His Presence. How he joined Sambandar and
got Liberation, has been told in Sambandar’s life.
62. Sadaya Nayanar And
In Tirunavalur in Tirumuraipadi there lived an Adi
Saivite by name Sadayanar. All his ancestors were ardent
devotees of Lord Siva. He was also pious and devoted.
Isaijnaniyar was his dutiful wife. She was also devoted to
the Lord. Due to their virtuous deeds in their past life, a
divine child was born to them. He was no other than
Sundaramurthi Nayanar. Narasinga Munaiyar, the king, was
attracted by the child’s beauty and wanted to bring it up
himself. The king approached the parents and they, without a
moment’s hesitation, handed the child over to him. By this
action, they showed that they had no attachment at all to
anything in this world.
They led the ideal Grihastha (household) life and finally
attained His grace.
Worldly attachment is the only chain with which man binds
himself to this Samsara. When there is attachment, there is
Samsara or bondage: if you are completely detached, you are
at once freed, you become a Jivanmukta. You enjoy the Bliss
of Brahman here and now, this very moment. This is the
unique glory of Hinduism: it promises immediate Liberation
here in this world, while yet embodied! Immediately the
entire world is transformed into a manifestation of Divine
Light. All the paradoxes and mysteries of Creation are
In Tiruvadavur in the Pandya kingdom there lived a pious
Brahmin. He and his dutiful wife, due to merit earned in
past lives, got a worthy son whom they named Vadavurar,
after the native place.
As the child grew, his wisdom increased as well. Soon he
had mastered all the scriptures. He also shone as the
embodiment of all virtues and won the love and esteem of
all. Even learned Pundits and saints were attracted by his
personality and wisdom. The king of Madura, Arimardana
Pandyan, heard of Vadavurar’s qualities and discovered that
he was an all-rounder and was proficient in administration
also. The king made him his Prime Minister. Even here
Vadavurar shone with extraordinary brilliance and won the
title of Tennavan Paramarayar.
As days passed, however, dispassion grew in Vadavurar’s
heart. He had realised the unreality of the world. To him
everything was painful: birth, disease, death, rebirth, etc.
He wanted to enjoy the eternal bliss of Sivanandam. Even
while he was administering the affairs of the state, his
mind was fixed on the Lotus Feet of the Lord. He would
invite learned men and discuss with them the intricate
points in the Vedas. Soon, he realised that a Guru was
necessary for real spiritual progress. He longed to meet the
real Guru. Whenever he went out on duty, he also searched
for his Guru.
One day, while the king was holding his Court, the head
of his cavalry entered and informed him that the cavalry
needed immediate replenishment, as age, death and sickness
had greatly depleted its strength. The king immediately
ordered the purchase of good horses. The task of buying good
horses from the right place was entrusted to Vadavurar. He
was extremely happy, as he was sure that he would find his
real Guru, during that tour. It was a God-sent opportunity
for him. He offered sincere prayer to Lord Somasundarar in
His temple and, besmearing His holy ash on his body and with
His name on his lips, Vadavurar started on the errand of
buying horses, with enough money. He reached Tiru
Lord Siva, Who is the Indweller of all hearts and so knew
Vadavurar’s mental condition, had decided to take him to the
divine fold. In the guise of a Brahmin and with a copy of
the book Siva Jnana Bodam in his hand, the Brahmin
was seated under a Kurunta tree near the temple at
Tiru Perunturai. He was surrounded by others (the celestial
servants in disguise). Vadavurar entered the temple and
stood motionless before the Lord, in intense prayer. He shed
tears of God-love. Then he went round the temple. Near the
tree he heard the holy vibrations of the Lord’s Name (Hara,
Hara) which melted his heart. The Brahmin’s magnetic
personality attracted him. With overflowing love and
devotion, Vadavurar ran to the Brahmin, as a calf to its
mother, after a long separation: and he fell at the
By His grace, Vadavurar was able to recognise him as his
real Guru. Holding his feet with his hands Vadavurar prayed:
‘Oh Lord, kindly accept me as your slave and bless me.’ The
Lord was waiting for this! He cast a graceful glance on
Vadavurar. This at once removed all his sins and purified
his heart. Then the Lord initiated him into the divine
mysteries of Siva Jnana. This very initiation entranced him.
He tasted the divine bliss and was self-forgetfully absorbed
in it. Then Vadavurar regained his consciousness and again
fell at the Guru’s feet. He prayed: ‘Oh Lord, Who has come
to initiate me into the divine mysteries! Oh Lord Who has
captivated me by a mere look! Oh Lord Who has melted my
mind! Oh Lord Who has made me surrender all wealth, body,
mind and soul! Oh my Jewel! Oh Wealth Imperishable! Oh Ocean
of Bliss! Oh Nectar of Immortality! Prostrations unto You!’
Singing His glories thus, Vadavurar removed all his
belongings and offered all at the Feet of the Guru. He had
become a Sanyasi. Smearing his body with sacred ashes,
fixing his mind on the lotus feet of the Guru, Vadavurar
plunged into deep meditation. When he awoke from this
meditation, he was filled with an eagerness to sing the
glories of the Lord. With love as the string and his
nectarine words as the gems, he made a garland and offered
it at the Guru’s feet. The Lord was highly pleased with it,
and called him ‘Manickavachagar’ since the hymns sung
by him were like gems in wisdom. The Lord asked him to stay
on at that place, and disappeared.
Separation from the Lord and Guru, made Manickavachakar
suffer intense pain and anguish. Soon, he consoled himself
and lived in the remembrance of the Lord and Guru. The
king’s servants who had accompanied Vadavurar thought that
he had forgotten the mission, and, so, after waiting for a
few days, gently reminded him. Manickavachagar sent them
back to the king with the message that the horses would
reach Madura within one month. When he heard of what had
happened to Vadavurar, the king was angry: but, waited
patiently for a month.
At Tiruperunturai, Manickavachagar was devoted to the
Lord, forgetting the king and the mission: and he spent the
money he had brought, in the construction of a temple. After
waiting for a month, the king sent him an angry note
reminding him that one should be as alert in dealing with
the king as one would be when dealing with a cobra, and
asking him to appear before the king at once.
Manickavachagar was upset. He went to the temple. He prayed
for the Lord’s protection. Moved by his sincere prayer, the
Lord appeared in his dream that night in the same form of
the Guru who initiated him and said: ‘Oh noble soul, fear
not. I myself will bring the best horses to Madura. You can
go in advance. Tell the king that the horses will arrive
there on Avani Moolam.’ The Lord disappeared after placing a
very costly diamond in his hands.
The next morning, Manickavachagar took leave of the Lord
of Perunturai and donning his ministerial robes started for
Madura. He bowed before the king and gave him the diamond.
He explained: ‘Your Majesty, I have already purchased the
horses for the entire money I had taken. I was waiting for
an auspicious day on which to bring the horses here. Avani
Moolam is an auspicious day. In the meantime, as commanded
by Your Majesty, I have returned. The horses will reach here
on the auspicious day.’ The king apologised to him for the
rash note he had sent. Manickavachagar built a big stable
for the horses.
His relatives, apprehensive of the real state of
Manickavachagar’s mind, appealed to him to look after them
and not to renounce the world. He laughed and said: ‘Oh
friends, the day the Lord initiated me. I have offered
everything at His Feet. I have now no relatives except the
Lord and His devotees. I have no connection with this body,
even. My only attachment is with the Lord Who is the remover
of all our sins and bestower of Immortal Bliss. Birth is
painful. Death is painful. Everything that is not connected
with the Lord is painful. I do not worry about anything in
the world now. I will beg happily with my palm as my begging
bowl and appease my hunger with the food that is received by
chance. When the earth is ready to give me shelter, why
should I resort to a special dwelling place? The perfume I
smear my body with is the sacred ash. My only belonging is
the garland of Rudraksha which destroys the sins of many
births. Oh friends, when I am under His protection, why
should I fear anybody?’
With his thought fixed on the Lord, Manickavachagar was
expecting the auspicious day. In the meantime, one of the
ministers had told the king that in truth Manickavachagar
had spent all the money in the construction of temples and
that Manickavachagar’s statement was false. The king’s
suspicion increased. He sent some messengers to Perunturai
to see whether the horses were really there. They returned
with a negative reply. Only two days remained now. The king
did not get any information about the horses. So, he ordered
his soldiers to torture Manickavachagar and get the money
back. They informed Manickavachagar of all that had happened
in the Court. He kept quiet. They tormented him, according
to the king’s orders. He bore everything, fixing his mind on
the Lord. The Lord Himself bore all the torture, and the
Bhakta was relieved. The soldiers could not understand the
secret of his endurance. They tortured him further! He
prayed to the Lord. The Lord heard His Bhakta’s prayer and
wanted to play His Lila. He willed that all the jackals of
the place should assume the form of horses. He also sent His
celestial servants to act as horsemen. He Himself assumed
the form of a trader in horses. He reached Madura. The dust
raised by the gallopping horses filled the sky. The people
were wonderstruck to see the fine horses. That day was Avani
Moolam. The thought that he had unnecessarily tortured
Manickavachagar pained the king’s heart. He at once released
him and apologised to him. Both of them went to the place
where the horses had been stationed. The king was happy to
see the good quality of the horses. The merchant was also
very handsome. Manickavachagar knew that it was the Lord
Himself and so mentally prostrated to Him. The king’s
servants led the horses to the stable.
Day passed into night. In accordance with the Lord’s
will, the horses assumed their original form of jackals,
broke the reins and fled from the stable, howling. Some of
them injured even the real horses. A few old jackals
remained in the stable. The next morning, the horsemen did
not find any of the horses and there were only a few old
jackals in the stable. They immediately reported the matter
to the king. The king got terribly angry with
Manickavachagar who, he thought, had deceived him by magic.
The king’s soldiers again began to torture him and
Manickavachagar prayed to the Lord for His help. At once the
Lord caused a heavy flood in the river Vaigai. There was
panic everywhere in the town. The people could not
understand the cause of this untimely flood. The soldiers
who were guarding Manickavachagar also fled. He went to the
temple. He worshipped Lord Somasundarar and was completely
absorbed in meditation. The king was puzzled. He wanted to
save the city from destruction. So, he ordered everyone in
the city to bring one basketful of mud and throw it on the
bank of the river to stem the flood. Everyone, except an old
woman by name Vandi, did so. She sold Pittu (a
sweetmeat) and eked out her livelihood. She was so much
devoted to Lord Somasundarar that she would daily offer it
to Him first and then sell it. She was in distress.
She prayed to the Lord for help. Lord Siva, out of His
compassion, appeared as a labourer before the old woman and
offered his services in return for a handful of Pittu. With
a dirty cloth around his waist and a basket on his head, he
would sing and dance and then put the mud on the bank of the
river. He ate her kind offering and threw the mud with such
force that it caused new breaches! For some time he would
sit idle and again sing and dance. The king’s servants found
the breach not closed where the Lord was working and
reported the matter to the king. The king who personally
supervised the work, noticed the idleness of the labourer,
and hit him with a stick. The Lord threw the mud on the
breach and it was closed. The blow, however, was felt by all
beings in the whole universe. The king at once understood
that it was all the Lord’s Lila. He recognised the greatness
of Manickavachagar. At that time, he heard an invisible
voice: ‘Oh king, your entire wealth was spent on Me and My
Bhaktas. By this act Manickavachagar earned for you great
merit. Instead of being grateful to him, you have tortured
him. The jackals turning into horses, and this sudden flood,
were all Lilas performed by Me for the sake of My devotee.
At least now open your eyes and learn a lesson for your
In the meantime, Manickavachagar had reached the temple
and was absorbed in meditation. He, too, felt the blow that
the king gave the Lord. He got up from meditation. The king
was in search of him. On the way he learnt that the old
woman had been taken to the Lord’s Abode in a celestial car.
He came to the temple in Tiru Alavai and prostrated before
Manickavachagar. He requested Manickavachagar to accept the
rulership of the kingdom. The saint refused this offer but
asked to be permitted to go to Perunturai. Both of them came
to Madura and worshipped the Lord. Manickavachagar then left
for Perunturai. The king also renounced everything soon
after this and reached the Lord’s Abode.
At Perunturai, Manickavachagar sang highly inspiring
songs and prayed that he should see the Lord in the form of
the Guru, as He appeared at first. The Lord fulfilled his
wish. He asked him to go to Chidambaram. On the way he
visited many shrines. In every shrine, unless the Lord
appeared in the original form of the Guru, he would not be
satisfied. At Tiru Uttarakosha Mangai, he wept bitterly when
he did not see Him as the Guru. The Lord had to accede to
his wish! By stages he reached Chidambaram and rolled on the
holy ground. He stayed in a garden near the temple and sang
the famous Tiruvachagam. The people of Tillai heard
the songs and enjoyed its bliss.
In Ezha Nadu (Ceylon) there was an ascetic who was
constantly repeating ‘Long Live Ponnambalam’. The king of
the place could not understand this, as he was a Buddhist,
and had called the ascetic to him. The ascetic went to the
palace and sat down in front of the king with the same
words! Upon being asked by the king to explain the meaning,
the ascetic said: ‘Oh king, Ponnambalam is a sacred place in
the Chola kingdom. This place is also called Chidambaram.
Here the Formless God takes a Form, of Nataraja, the divine
dancer, for the welfare of the world. The object of His
dance is to free the souls from the fetters of Maya. Inside
the temple there is a tank called Siva Jnana Ganga tank. In
this tank Hiranyavarman, the son of Manu, took his bath and
got his leprosy cured. Those who take a bath in this sacred
tank and then worship Lord Nataraja are purified of all
sins. For them there will be no more birth. They will attain
The Buddhist Guru who heard all this questioned: ‘Oh
king, how can there be a God other than Lord Buddha? I will
myself go to Chidambaram and defeat the Saivite in argument
and convert the temple into a Buddhist shrine.’ So saying he
left for Tillai. The king also accompanied him, with his
The Saivites sent a message to the Chola king asking him
to arrange a debate with the Buddhists when the latter had
arrived at Chidambaram. The day prior to the appointed day,
the Brahmins prayed to Lord Nataraja for success in the
debate. That night the Lord appeared in their dream and
said: ‘Approach Vadavurar and request him to oppose the
Buddhist Guru in argument’. The next morning, the Brahmins
approached Vadavurar who readily agreed. He went to the
temple, worshipped the Lord, and entered the hall of the
debate. He did not like to see the face of the Buddhists:
so, he sat behind a curtain. The Buddhists opened the
debate. Manickavachagar explained the principles of Saivism.
The Buddhists could not offer counter-arguments. They went
on repeating their arguments! Manickavachagar prayed to the
Lord for help. At His instance, Devi Sarasvathi withdrew Her
grace from the Buddhists, and they became dumb. The
Buddhists were defeated in argument.
The Buddhist king understood Manickavachagar’s greatness.
He said: ‘You have made my teacher and all his disciples
dumb. If you can make my dumb daughter speak, I and my
subjects will embrace Saivism.’ Manickavachagar asked him to
bring his daughter. He prayed to the Lord for His help and
then asked the girl to give proper answer to the questions
put by the Buddhist Guru on Lord Siva. The dumb daughter not
only began to speak but gave fitting answers to those
questions. They were all wonder-struck at this miracle. The
king and the Buddhists recognised the superiority of Saivism
and embraced it. Manickavachagar restored speech to the
One day Lord Siva desired to hear Tiruvachagam from the
lips of Manickavachagar and bestow Moksha on him. He went to
Manickavachagar in the disguise of a Brahmin.
Manickavachagar welcomed the guest with respect and enquired
of his needs. Lord Siva told Manickavachagar: ‘I want to
hear Tiruvachagam from your own holy lips. I shall write it
down, so that I can learn it and with its help free myself
from the shackles of Samsara.’ Manickavachagar recited the
Tiruvachagam. The Brahmin (Lord Siva) wrote it down on palm
leaves. Then he suddenly disappeared! At once
Manickavachagar knew that the Brahmin was the Lord Himself.
He felt terrible anguish for not having recognised Him.
The Lord wanted to immortalise Manickavachagar and to
spread his glory. So, He kept these songs on the step of
Panchakshara of the Chit Sabha. The Brahmins of Tillai were
surprised to see them lying there. They opened the leaves
and read the contents. In the end it was written
‘Manickavachagar repeated this, Tiru Chitrambalam wrote
this.’ The Brahmins wanted to know the meaning of these
verses: so they showed this to Manickavachagar who took them
to the temple, and, pointing out to the image of Lord Siva,
said: ‘This Tillai Nataraja is the purport of these
stanzas.’ He at once merged himself at the Feet of Lord
Selections From The Utterances Of Nayanar
Appar Or Tirunavukkarasar
The rare jewel of the Brahmins is the Veda with its six
angas (parts). The rare jewel of the Saivite is the
Everything is the manifestation of Lord Siva. Siva is
Narayana, Brahma, the four Vedas, the Holiest, the most
Ancient, the Perfect. Though Siva is all these, He is none
of these. He is without name, without birth, death or
disease. He is at once the transcendent and the immanent.
Love of Lord Siva must be felt and manifested. Sing.
Pray. Worship. Weep. Dance. Lord Siva is the music or melody
in the song, the sweetness in the fruit, the thought in the
mind, the lustre in the eyes. He is neither male, nor
female. He is without dimensions.
Subdue the senses. Practise regular meditation. Practise
the four-fold Saivite discipline. Develop dispassion
(Vairagya). Transcend the three bodies. Unite the individual
soul with the supreme soul or Lord Siva. You will attain
eternal bliss and immortality. You can behold Lord Siva if
you look for Him with the light of wisdom issuing forth from
the wick of life, fed with the ghee of meditation in
the lamp of the mind within the house of your body.
Plough with truth. Plant the seeds of desire for
Self-knowledge. Irrigate the mind with the water of
patience. Supervise your work by looking within or
introspecting. Build the fence of Yama, Niyama, or right
conduct or right living. You will soon attain Sivanandam or
eternal bliss of Siva.
Regard your body as the temple of Lord Siva, your mind as
the worshipper, Truth as purity which is necessary for
worship, the jewel of the mind as the Lingam, love as the
ghee, milk, etc. Perform Puja to Lord Siva thus. Lord Siva
cannot be obtained without making the mind one-pointed and
meditating on the Panchakshara.
Tirumandiram deals with the practical and theoretical
aspects of Saivite religion and philosophy. The treatment of
Pathi (Lord Siva), Pasu (individual soul), and Pasam
(attachment) in the old method is found in this book.
By the practice of the eight limbs of Raja Yoga, the Yogi
obtains the blessing of Uma and attains Amarapadavi
(Godhood) by the practice of Yama (self-restraint). He
attains Siva Padam the (Abode of Siva) by the practice of
Niyama (religious canons). He hears Nadam (mystic sound) by
the practice of Asana (Yoga posture). He attains the stage,
by the practice of Pranayama (restraint of breath) in which
all the gods eulogise him. He attains the form of Siva by
the practice of Pratyahara (abstraction of the senses) and
the gods become confused as they cannot differentiate him
from Siva. He can go anywhere including the worlds of Brahma
and Vishnu by the practice of Dharana (concentration). He
can walk into any place just as one can walk on earth. He
attains the Abode of Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra and Indra, by the
practice of Dhyana (meditation). He frees himself from all
the Upadhis (limiting adjuncts) or fetters and unites with
Lord Siva by the practice of Samadhi (superconscious state).
God alone is the Guru or the spiritual teacher. He
reveals Siva. Sat Guru is Ambalam or Chidakasa (the divine
plane of Consciousness). You will have to search for the
Guru in your own heart. Knowledge, devotion, purity, Siddhis
(psychic powers) are obtained through the grace of the Guru.
The grace descends on the virtuous aspirant who has purity,
The thirsting aspirants should get help from the Param
Guru. He imparts spiritual instructions to the aspirants.
Then Suddha Guru confers upon them divine grace. When the
aspirant obtains the divine grace, he gets several powers:
purity, the power to know the Mantra, higher psychic powers,
etc. Then the Sad Guru reveals him in the Chidakasa (the
seat of Consciousness in the ether of the heart), breaks the
three bonds, viz., Anava (egoism), Karma (action) and Maya
(illusion), and helps him to enter the illimitable domain of
Moksha or supreme abode of eternal bliss. Siva Guru presents
himself later on and manifests Sat (Reality), Asat
(unreality) and Sat-asat (that which is indescribable as
either). When the Jiva (individual soul) attains the final
knowledge he becomes Sivam Himself. The Guru who presents
himself in the earlier stages, too, is Siva Himself.
The devotee attains the grace of the Lord when he
meditates on Him in the chambers of his heart; in the space
between the two eye-brows and in the head. The holy Feet of
the Lord are highly eulogised. The holy Feet of the Lord are
Mantra, beauty and truth.
Jneya or that which is to be known is Siva Ananda which
is a product of Siva and His grace, Shakti. The Jnata
(knower) is the individual soul or Jiva. He knows Siva by
abiding in Siva Ananda and obtains Jnanam or Knowledge.
Moksha is the attainment of Siva Ananda. He who attains
Moksha will attain supreme knowledge of Siva. He who gets
established in Siva Ananda will attain knowledge and Moksha
The Jiva who knows Siva Ananda dwells for ever in it. He
attains Siva and Shakti in Siva Ananda. He is endowed with
true knowledge which is really union of Siva and Shakti.
Lord Siva shows the path which leads to Moksha, to the
aspirant who is endowed with dispassion, non-attachment, and
renunciation, and who praises Him always and performs
The devotee of Lord Siva gets strength to resist the
temptations of the world and Indra, through his Tapas or
austerity. He does not care at all for the celestial
pleasures offered by Indra. He is quite contented with the
Supreme Bliss attained through union with Lord Siva.
Glory Of Lord Siva
OM I bow with folded palms to Lord Siva Who is the Lord
of the universe, World Teacher, Who is the Destroyer of
Tripuras (three cities of lust, anger and egoism), Who is
the Lord of Uma, Gauri, Ganga, Who is full of light,
knowledge and bliss, Who is the Lord of Yogis, who is the
storehouse of knowledge and Who is known by the various
names as Mahadeva, Sankara, Hara, Sambhu, Sadashiva, Rudra,
Soolapani, Bhairava, Uma-Maheshwara, Neelakantha,
Trilochana, Tryambaka, Viswanatha, Chandrasekhara,
Ardhanaareesvara, Maheshwara, Neelalohita, Parama Siva,
Digambara, Dakshinamurthi, etc.
How merciful He is! How loving and kind He is! He even
wears the skulls of His devotees as a garland around His
neck. He is an embodiment of renunciation, mercy, love and
wisdom. It is a mistake to say that He is the destroyer.
Lord Siva in reality is the regenerator. Whenever one’s
physical body becomes unfit for further evolution in this
birth, either by disease, old age or other causes, He at
once removes this rotten physical sheath and gives a new,
healthy, vigorous body for further quick evolution. He wants
to take all His children to His Lotus Feet quickly. He
desires to give them His glorious ‘Siva-Padam’. It is easier
to please Siva than to please Hari. A little Prem and
devotion, a little chanting of His Panchakshara (the Mantra
OM NAMAH SIVAYA which has five letters) is quite
sufficient to infuse delight in Siva. He gives boons to His
devotees quite readily. How large is His heart! He gave
Pasupatha Astra (a weapon) to Arjuna, without any
difficulty, for his little penance. He gave a precious boon
to Bhasmasura. In Kalahasthi, near Tirupathi, He gave
Darshan to Kannapa Nayanar, the devoted hunter. In
Chidambaram, even the untouchable saint Nandan had the
Darshan of Lord Siva. He ran with tremendous speed to make
the boy Markandeya immortal, when he was in the clutches of
the God of Death—Yama. Ravana of Lanka pleased Lord Siva,
with his Sama-chantings (Sama is one of the three Vedas). He
initiated the Four Divine Youths (Sanaka, Sanandana,
Sanathana, Sanatkumara) into the mysteries of Jnana, in the
form of Dakshinamurthy. In Madura He assumed the form of a
boy and carried earth on His head for a devoted lady. Look
at His unbounded mercy for His devotees! When Brahma and
Vishnu went to find out the Head and Feet of Lord Siva, He
assumed the form of an infinite, expansive blaze of light.
They were baffled. How magnificent and self-effulgent He is!
He lived for several years in the house of Pattinathu Swami
of South India, as his adopted son, and disappeared, after
giving him the small note: ‘Even the broken needles will not
follow you after death.’ The reading of this note was the
starting point for attainment of Jnana for the Swami. Why do
you all not attempt this very second, with sincerity, to
Hatha Yogis awaken the Kundalini Shakti that is lying
dormant in the Muladhara Chakra, by Asana, Pranayama,
Kumbhaka, Mudra and Bandha, taking it up through different
Chakras (centres of spiritual energy) viz., Swadhisthana,
Manipura, Anahata, Vishuddha and Ajna, and join it with Lord
Siva at the Sahasrara, the thousand-petalled lotus at the
crown of the head. They drink the nectar of Immortality.
This is termed Amrita-Srava. When the Shakti is united with
Siva, full illumination comes to the Yogi.
Lord Siva represents the destructive aspect of Brahman.
That portion of Brahman that is enveloped by
Tamo-guna-pradhana-Maya is Lord Siva Who is the
all-pervading Iswara, and Who also dwells in Kailasa. He is
the storehouse of wisdom. Siva minus Parvathy is pure
Infinite Being. With Maya, He becomes Saguna Brahman
(personal God) for the purpose of pious devotion of His
devotees. Devotees of Lord Rama must worship Siva also. Rama
Himself worshipped Lord Siva at the famous Rameshvaram. Lord
Siva is the Lord of ascetics and Lord of Yogins robed in
space (naked - Digambaras).
His Trisul (trident) that is held in His right hand
represents the three Gunas—Satva, Rajas and Tamas. That is
the emblem of sovereignty. He wields the world through these
Gunas. The Damaru (drum) in His left hand represents the
Sabda Brahman (OM) from which all languages have been
formed. It is He Who formed the Sanskrit language out of the
sound of the Damaru. The wearing of the crescent moon on His
head indicates that He has controlled the mind perfectly.
The flow of the Ganga represents the nectar of immortality.
Elephant represents, symbolically, the Vritti (mental
modification) of pride. Wearing the skin of an elephant
denotes that He has controlled pride. The tiger represents
lust and his sitting on the skin indicates that He has
conquered lust. His holding a deer in one hand indicates
that He has removed the tossing or wandering nature of the
mind. Deer jumps from one object to another. His wearing of
serpents around His neck denotes wisdom and eternity.
Serpents live for a large number of years, and represent
Time which glides away smoothly! He is Trilochana
(Three-eyed), in the centre of whose forehead is the third
eye, the eye of wisdom. Nandi, the bull that sits in front
of the Siva Lingam represents Pranava (OM). The Lingam
represents Adwaita (monism). It points out ‘I am one without
a second’ just as a man raises his right hand above his head
pointing out his right index finger only.
Kailas hills in Tibet are a huge range with a central,
beautiful, naturally carved and decorated shining peak,
eternally clad with silvery snow, 22,980 feet above
sea-level. Some take the height to be 22,028 feet. This
particular peak is in the from of a natural, huge Siva
Lingam. This is worshipped as the form of Lord Siva from a
distance. There is neither a temple nor a priest, nor daily
worship here. I had the fortune to have Darshan of Kailas
through the grace of Lord Siva on July 22nd, 1931. I even
climbed with panting breath to the foot of Kailas peak where
the river Indus takes its origin. It is a picturesque and
soul-stirring scene. You will have to ascend from Didipha
Guha, the first halting place in the Parikrama
(circumambulation) of Kailas which covers 30 miles. It takes
three days. On the way comes the famous and sacred Gauri
Kund which is eternally covered with snow. You will have to
break the snow when you take a bath.
The following are the twelve Jyotir Lingas of Lord Siva:
1. Somnath in Gujerat.
2. Mallikarjun in Sri Saila Parvat near Tirupati.
3. Mahakalam in Ujjain in Gwalior State.
4. Omkareshwar on the banks of the river Narmada in
5. Bhaijnath near Gaya.
6. Naganath in Southern India.
7. Kedarnath in the Himalayas.
8. Tryambak, near the source of the Godavari, in the Nasik
Rameswaram in South India.
10. Bhima Sankar, near Poona.
11. Viswanath in Banares.
12. Grineshwar (Gokarna) in Kharwar district.
Even if people remember these 12 places both morning and
evening, the sins of seven births will be destroyed.
The Siva Lingam
You will find in the Linga Purana:
Pradhanam Prakritir Yadahurlingamuttamam
Gandhavarnarasairheenam sabda sparshaadi varjitam The
foremost Lingam which is primary, and is devoid of smell,
colour, taste, hearing, etc., is spoken of as
Linga means mark in Sanskrit. It is a symbol which
points to an inference. When you see a big flood in a river,
you infer that there should have been heavy rains the
previous day. When you see smoke, you infer that there is
fire. This world of countless forms is a Lingam of the
Omnipotent Lord. The Siva Lingam is a symbol of Lord Siva.
When you look at the Lingam, your mind is at once elevated
and you begin to think of the Lord.
Lord Siva is really formless. He has no form of His own;
and, yet, all forms are His forms. All forms are pervaded by
Lord Siva. Every form is the form or Lingam of Lord Siva.
There is a mysterious power or indescribable Shakti in
the Lingam, to induce concentration of the mind. Just as the
mind is focussed easily in crystal gazing, the mind of a
devotee is easily concentrated when he looks at the Lingam.
That is the reason why the ancient Rishis of India and the
seers have prescribed Lingam for being installed in the
temples of Siva.
Siva Lingam speaks to you in the unmistakable language of
silence: ‘I am one without a second. I am formless.’ Pure,
pious souls only can understand this language. A curious,
passionate, impure foreigner of little understanding or
intelligence says: ‘Oh, the Hindus worship the phallus. They
are ignorant people. They have no philosophy.’ When a
foreigner tries to learn Tamil or Hindustani language, he
first tries to pick up some vulgar words. This is his
curiosity nature. Even so, the curious foreigner tries to
find out some defects in the worship of the symbol. Lingam
is only the outward symbol of the formless Being, Lord Siva,
Who is the indivisible, all-pervading, eternal, auspicious,
ever-pure, immortal essence of this vast universe, Who is
the undying soul seated in the chambers of your heart, Who
is your Indweller, innermost Self or Atman, one with
Sphatikalingam is also a symbol of Lord Siva. This is
prescribed for Aradhana or worship of Lord Siva. It is made
of quartz. It has no colour of its own, but takes on the
colour of the substance which comes in contact with it. It
represents the Nirguna Brahman or the attributeless Supreme
For a sincere devotee, the Lingam is not a block of
stone. It is all radiant Tejas or Chaitanya (Light or
Consciousness). The Lingam talks to him, makes him shed
profuse tears, produces horripilation and melting of heart,
raises him above body-consciousness, and helps him to
commune with the Lord and attain Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Lord
Rama worshipped the Siva Lingam at Rameshwaram. What a great
mystic Shakti there should be in the Lingam!
Puja And Ishta Devata
Puja is the common term for ritual worship, of which
there are numerous synonyms such as Archana, Vandana,
Bhajana, etc., though some of these stress certain aspects
of it. The object of worship is the Ishta Devata or the
guardian deity or the particular form of the Deity whom the
Whilst all things may be the objects of worship, choice
is naturally made of those objects which, by reason of their
effect on the mind, are more fitted for it. An image or one
of the useful emblems is likely to raise in the mind of the
worshipper the thought of God.
In Puja, an image or picture representing some divine
form is used as the object of worship. The image is adored.
A Lingam represents Siva. All forms are one. All are adoring
the same Iswara. The differences are only differences of
names due to difference in the temperament of the
worshippers, but not in the object of adoration. It is only
out of ignorance that different religionists and different
sects fight and quarrel amongst themselves.
Regular worship, Puja or other modes of demonstrating our
inner feeling of recognition of Divinity in the idol unveil
the Divinity latent in it. This is truly a wonder and a
miracle. The picture comes to life. The idol speaks. It will
answer your questions and solve your problems. The God in
you has the power to awaken the latent Divinity in the idol.
It is like a powerful lens that focusses the sun’s rays on
to a bundle of cotton. The lens is not fire and the cotton
is not fire either, nor can the sun’s rays, by themselves,
burn cotton. When the three are brought together in a
particular manner, fire is generated and the cotton is
burnt. Similar is the case with the idol, the power of the
devotee’s concentration and faith makes the idol shine with
resplendence. God is then enshrined in the idol. From here,
He will protect you in a special manner. The idol will
perform miracles. The place where it is installed is at once
transformed into a temple, nay, a Vaikuntha (abode of Lord
Vishnu) or Kailasa (abode of Lord Siva). Those who live in
such a place are freed from miseries, from diseases, from
failures and from Samsara itself. The awakened Divinity in
the idol acts as a guardian angel, blessing all, conferring
the highest good on the devotees.
All the Nayanars attained God-realisation through the
worship of the Lingam, the image of Lord Siva. A
pseudo-Vedantin feels ashamed to bow down or prostrate
before an idol. Appar, Sundarar, Sambandar etc., had the
highest Adwaitic realisation. They saw Lord Siva everywhere
and yet they visited all temples of Siva, prostrated before
the idol and sang hymns which are on record now. The Nayanar
saints practised Chariyai and Kriyai only and attained
God-realisation. They swept the floor of the temple,
collected flowers, made garlands for the Lord, and put on
lights in the temple. They were illiterate, but attained the
highest realisation. They were practical Yogis and their
hearts were saturated with pure devotion. They were
embodiments of Karma Yoga. All of them practised the Yoga of
Synthesis. The idol in the temple was a mass of
Consciousness for them.
Lord Krishna gives a description of worship to Uddhava in
the eleventh chapter of Srimad Bhagavatam:
‘The sun, fire, earth, or clay, water, a Brahmin, any
image of Mine in the concrete, clearly thought of as seated
in the heart, may be worshipped in My Name sincerely with
such articles as could be obtained by him. The worship
should be sincere and whole-hearted and the devotee should
imagine Me as his preceptor. The devotee should begin My
worship for obtaining My grace and not for any other desire.
In ordinary images I should be invoked at every time of
worship. I can be pictured in the mind. The worship of My
image in the heart should be with accessories pictured in
‘The image should be washed or bathed, cleaned and
adorned with ornaments and marks. The devotee should not
rise in the midst of worship to get some articles. Once
seated, he must finish it before he rises for anything. He
should be seated on Darbha grass or other clean seat.
He must put My image facing north or east or must himself
sit facing north or east. He must sit facing Me or sideways.
He should repeat the mantras for purifying himself. He
should clean his body by control of breath. He should sit
quiet and meditate on Me for some time.
‘He should fancy Me as in a lotus with eight petals,
overflowing with fragrance and radiant with light.
Sandal-wood, saffron, camphor, Kumkum and fragrance
should be used. Purusha Sukta (a Vedic prayer) and other
sacred literature should be recited. My devotee may adorn Me
with cloth, gems, sacred thread, sandal, flowers, saffron,
and ointments, etc. The devotee should offer water for
washing the Feet, Achamanam (for sipping), sandal, words of
greeting, invitation, and hospitality. He should also wave
incense, light and camphor at My altar. He can sing aloud
hymns in My praise. He can sing songs and dance in My altar
reciting My various deeds and achievements. He should seek
My grace, prostrating himself duly before Me. Putting his
head on My Feet, he should ask for My grace to protect him
and save him from the wheel of births and deaths.
‘He should adorn himself with the flowers and sandal used
in such worship. The devotee may worship Me in any form in
all objects or in himself in the manner that appeals most to
his mind, and inclinations, as I am immanent in all things.
My devotee, worshipping Me thus with rituals, Mantras or
both, attains not only bliss and Self-realisation, but also
all things he desires. By building temples, altars, etc.
devotees attain power over all the worlds. By worship of Me
they attain Brahma Loka. By all the acts, they attain My
power and immanence.’
Bells are rung in the temples, and while doing Puja, to
shut out the external sounds and to make the mind inward and
Lights are waved before the Deity. This denotes that the
Lord is supreme Light. The devotee says: ‘Oh Lord, Thou art
self-effulgent, Light of the universe. Thou art the light in
the sun, moon, and fire. Remove the darkness in me by
bestowing your divine Light on me. May my intellect be
illumined.’ This is the significance of waving lights.
Incense is burnt before the Deity. The smoke spreads
through the whole room. It acts as a disinfectant. It
denotes that the Lord is all-pervading and fills the whole
universe by His living presence. The devotee prays: ‘Oh
Lord, let the Vasanas and Samskaras dormant in me vanish
like the smoke of this incense and become ashes. Let me
Burning of camphor denotes that the individual ego melts
like the camphor and the Jiva becomes one with the Supreme
Light of lights.
The pasting of sandal reminds the devotee that he should,
in his difficulties, be as patient as the sandal. Sandal
emanates sweet odour when it is ground. So also, the devotee
should not murmur when difficulties arise, but, on the other
hand, remain cheerful and happy and emanate sweetness and
gentleness like the sandal. He should not hate even his
enemy. This is another precept we learn from this. Though
the sandalwood is crushed and ground, it silently wears
itself out, emanating only very sweet odour. One should
return good for evil.
It is the understanding of this inner meaning of Puja
that brings in the higher form of devotion.
Bhakti is of two kinds, viz., higher Bhakti or Para
Bhakti, and lower Bhakti or ritualistic Bhakti. Ritualistic
Bhakti is formal Bhakti. The mind becomes purer and purer.
The aspirant gradually develops love for God through
Hinduism leads the aspirants gradually from material
images to mental images, and from the diverse mental images
to the one Personal God, and from the Personal God to the
Do Japa of the Panchakshara—Om Namah Sivaya. You
can even sing the Panchakshara nicely:
Om Namah Sivaya, Om Namah Sivaya,
Om Namah Sivaya, Om Namah Sivaya.
People used to dance, during my tours, whenever I sang
the Siva Tandava Kirtan:
Agad Bhum, Agad Bhum Baje Damaru,
Nache Sadasiva Jajad Guru
Nache Brahma, Nache Vishnu, Nache Mahadev
Kappar Lekey Kali Nache Nache Adidev.
Do Puja regularly with faith and devotion. Always and at
the end of your prayers, Puja, meditation or Japa, repeat
the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra—
Om Tryambakam Yajaamahe Sugandhim
Pushtivardhanam, Urvaarukamiva Bandhanaan-
Mrityor Muksheeya Maamritaat.
for the health, long life, peace and happiness of all.
This great Mantra in praise of Lord Siva works wonders,
averts accidents, heals diseases and bestows long life. It
will also liberate you from Samsara.
Abhishekam — Bathing the image of God.
Aiswarya — Wealth.
Agama — Scripture dealing with ritualistic worship.
Archana — Worshipping the image with flowers.
Bhasma — The holy ash.
Bhav — Attitude, faith.
Deva — Celestial being.
Jivanmukta — The sage, liberated while living here.
Jnana — Wisdom, relating to God.
Karma — Effect of past action (in past births).
Khanda — Similar to chapter, in the Vedas.
Kowpeenam — Loin cloth.
Mutt — A monastery.
Nitya Karmas — Daily obligatory duties.
Pralaya — Cosmic dissolution.
Rishabha — Bull, the vehicle of Lord Siva.
Rudraksham — A kind of bead used by devotees.
Samsara — Transmigration, round of birth-death.
Samskaras — Subtle mental impressions.
Tapas (Tapaswin) — Austerity (one who does).
Vairagya — Dispassion.
Vaisya — A businessman.
Yajna (Yaga) — Ceremonial sacrifice.
NOTE: In the case of some proper names, the Tamil
tradition of using them in different forms has been adopted:
viz., Enadinatha Nayanar is referred to as Enadinathar or
Enadiar. These will be obvious. The names of some festivals,
viz., Panguni Uttaram, Vasanta Utsavam, Maha Navami, have
been retained. There are a number of other proper names,
too, with which the reader will become familiar.