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 and charity.
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.
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 blessed him.
Aiyadigal Kadavarkon Nayanar was a Pallava king who ruled over Kanchi. He infused the spirit of Saivism into his people, too.
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.
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. Beware!
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 undermined. Beware!
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!
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 this.
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 attained Him.
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.
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 attaining Him.
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 unhealthyattitude 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 are important.
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.
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 attained Him.
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.