Friday, April 7, 2017

Know your Nayanmars - Part I (The Ladies)

The Nayanmars were great devotees of Lord Shiva who, through their incredible deeds find mention in the Thiruthonda Thogai, sung by Sundaramurthy Nayanar, at the behest of Lord Shiva. The first line of the verse was given by the Lord himself, as "Thillai Vaazh Anthanar Tham Adiyarkum Adiyen" and with his guidance,  Sundarar named and praised his devotees. 

The Nayanmars lived between the 6th and the 9th Century and contributed to spreading the Saivaite Bhakthi movement. The hymns sung by a few of them have been compiled as the Tirumuraigal , and these hymns, moved & motivated several people to follow Shaivism. 

The list of Nayanmars as recited by Sundarar in the Tiruthondathogai was further expanded by Nambiyandar Nambi to include Sundarar and his parents.

The series of posts on the Nayanmars, is a brief introduction into their lives and devotion, which raised them to their exalted position. For convenience of classification, they have been grouped differently from the order in which they are mentioned in the Thiruthondathogai. However, I am mentioning their order as well for connecting better.

I would like to thank Dr Saundarya Rajesh for triggering this idea.

Let us first start with the women: 

23. Karaikal Ammaiyar
Birth – Karaikkal  Mukthi – Thiruvalangadu
Guru poojai – Panguni Swathi
Temple – Karaikal Ammaiyar Temple, Karaikal


Punithavathiyar was the daughter of Dhanadhathan , a rich merchant of Karaikal,. She grew up as an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva. When she came of age, Dhanadhathan got her married to another wealthy merchant, Paramadhathan. One day some people who came to meet Paramadhathan, brought two mangoes for him, which he sent home. At that time, a devotee of the Lord came to Paramadhadhan’s house, weary and hungry. Punithavathiyar welcomed him warmly and offered him food. She served him one of the mangoes. 

In some time, Dhanadhathan reached home. Punithavathiyar served him food and the other mango. Relishing the tasty mango, he asked for the second. Punithavathiyar did not know what to do. She beseeched the Lord to help her tide over the situation. The Lord made another mango appear in her kitchen. Delighted, she quickly cut and served it to her husband. Realising the taste to be extremely divine, Dhanadhathan asked her where it had come from. She told him that the Lord had given it to her. The husband found it hard to believe and asked her to get another mango if that was the case. So she prayed again to the Lord and another mango appeared in her hands. When she gave it to Dhanadhathan, it disappeared. From that moment, his feelings towards Punithavathiyar turned to one of reverence. He left on a voyage to earn money, made lot of wealth, and settled in Madurai after marrying a wealthy merchant’s daughter. 

Unaware of all this, Punithavathiyar stayed in Karaikal, offering food to devotees of the Lord. When her relatives heard that Dhanadhathan had settled in Madurai, they took her to him. When he heard of their arrival, he ran out with his wife and daughter, and prostrated before Punithavathiyar. He said he was living with her blessings and had named his daughter after her. The relatives were shocked, but Punithavathiyar prayed to the Lord. If her husband no longer sought her, she was not desirous of her human body anymore. She requested the Lord to give her a skeletal form and proceeded to Kailash. She sang several hymns along the way. When she reached the foothills, she thought it would be disrespectful to climb with her feet, and started climbing on her head. When she reached, the Lord called her “Ammaiye” with a lot of affection. She cried, “My father” and fell at his feet. The Lord asked her what she wanted, and she said, she sought a place at his Lotus feet while he danced. The Lord asked her to go to Thiruvalangadu, where she got the vision of his Thandava and she stayed in eternal happiness.


57. Mangayarkkarasiyar Nayanar
Birth – Pazhayarai Mukthi – Madurai
Guru poojai – Chithirai Rohini
Temple – Dharmapureeswarar Temple, Pazhayarai

Mangayarkarasiyar was the daughter of the Chola King who married Nedumaran, the King of Madurai. She was a staunch Shaivaite but her husband was a Jain. Mangayarkarasiyar wanted her husband to adopt Shaivism. She kept praying to the Lord to show her a way to make her husband see reason. She along with her minister, Kulachiraiyar was instrumental in getting Thirugnanasambandar to Madurai to meet with the King. When the Jains set fire to the dwelling of Gnanasambandar, Mangayarkarasiyar was shocked and wanted to end her life, if at all anything happened to the holy child After Gnanasambandar cured Koon Pandiyan of his hunch and stomach ulcer, he became Ninra Seer Nedumaran, and adopted Shaivism. Mangayarkarasiyar went all over the Pandya Kingdom spreading Shaivism and worshipping the Lord in different shrines, and finally attained His lotus feet.


62. Isaignaniyar Nayanar
Birth – Thiruvarur  Mukthi – Thirunavalur
Guru poojai – Chithirai Chithirai
Temple – Thyagaraja Swamy Temple Tiruvarur,
Bhakthajaneswarar Temple, Thirunavalur

Isaignaniyar at Tirunavalur Temple

Isaignaniyar was born in Kamalapuram in a Sivachariyar family. She grew up with great love and devotion to the Lord. Her parents got her married to another great devotee, Chadaiya Nayanar. It was their pure love and surrender that gave them the fortune of being Sundaramurthy Nayanar’s parents. She named her son Nambi Aarooran in praise of the Lord of Tiruvarur and this devotion also passed on to her son, who even broke the promise he made to his wife, Sangiliyar to worship the Lord at Tiruvarur.

For a complete article on the Thirunavalur Bhakthajaneswara Temple on Aalayam Kanden, click here
For a free download of an e-book on the lives of the Nayamars, click here:

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