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The divine Messengers

spirituality, saints, divine, gnana sambandar

The Divine Messengers: Tale of two great canonical saivite saints of Ancient India

Whether it is in the darkest part of Africa, or in the loneliest part of South America, slavery of one human being to another is the most abhorrent policy. But slavery to God is the greatest thing that can happen in the life of a human being and a select few are accorded this privilege by the almighty. Lord chooses the ones whose services he desires and so there is a unique relationship between God and the chosen ones as compared to the rest of the mortals. This is by no means to say that the pious ones among the rest are insincere in their devotion to god and that they are all selfish individuals motivated by material gains, for devotion to god is a virtue and not a form of scholarship that can be learnt, taught, perfected and codified. It has to come naturally, if it ever does. We have examples of evil persons being great devotees of supreme, but that never ever made them immune to punishment from god for their inherent wickedness and cunning. They all met with destruction at the hands of almighty. This is because truth neither possesses nor can be possessed. The only thing that distinguishes this galaxy of messengers from the rest is the fact that they are chosen by god to leave an everlasting impact on the mortal world. Lord Siva explains to great saint sundaramurthy Nayanar (8th century A.D) the qualities of these chosen devotees of his in the following words:

In glory, themselves they equal,
By devotion they appropriate me:
By union with me they conquer the world;
Shortcomings they have none;
Established in unique state they are;
Through their love they enjoy bliss;
Duality they have transcended.

In this context the lives of three saivite nayanmar saints namely tirugnanasambandar, tirunavukkarasar and sundarar and the greatest philosopher of India, Adi sankaracharya are of great importance. All of the above mentioned saints lived in the most glorious period of Indian political history between 6th and 11th century A.D. and left a valuable message that sincere and selfless devotion to the supreme being leads one to salvation and assures success in pursuit of justice and truth.

I like to dedicate this piece to the two of the three canonical saints, whose services have been outstanding because they had achieved a lot by the time they departed the world at tender ages of 18 and 16. They are sundarar and sambandar.

Sundarar was born in a province called tirumunaippadi, which is presently in the coastal district of cuddalore in Tamilnadu. In the days of sundaramurthy nayanar, tirumunaippadi was a pallava province administered by a pallava chieftain by the name Narasimha munaiyar. Sundaramurthy was born in an adisaiva brahmin family and was named nambi arooran. Nambi is title given to temple priests in ancient tamil country , irrespective of whether they serve in saivite or vaishnavite temples. Adisaivas are Brahmins who serve as priests in saivite temples.
For reasons not known sundaramurthy or nambi aroorar as he is named and will be referred to in this article, was adopted by the pallava chieftain and was brought up in his mansion like a prince. At the appropriate age he was invested with sacred thread . Being a mortal man, nambiaroorar was not aware of the mission of his life and God decided to remind him of the same. The occasion Lord Siva chose was nambiaroorar’s marriage. On the occasion of Nambi aroorar’s marriage, Lord Siva came in disguised as an old litigant. Thiru thondar puranam an expansion of nambi aroorar’s thiru thondar thokai considered to be a pioneering work that lists sixty great devotees of Lord Siva who attained mukti, narrates the meeting of lord siva in the following words:

With merit-conferring pure ash shining on the forhead he came,
And standing in the midst of the assemblage
In the pandal where the ceremony according to,
Holy vedic rites was about to begin,
He said:
“ All of you listen to these words of mine”
Thus spoke he of the lips
Which had in the ancient days uttered
Thousands of slokas of the vedas***
Addressing the great Nambi Aroorar he said:
“ settle here and now a great dispute based on a long ago agreement between You and me and then set about the rites”

**** Lord Siva is the author of vedas. He revealed it at the beginning of creation.

Thus god keeps his promise and despite themselves redeems his devotees as in Nambiaroorar’s case, much against their will. This is true all over the world. In four years following this intentional enslavement by Lord Siva, Nambi aroorar visited as many as 279 temples from Rameswaram to tiruvenkatam the modern day tirupati (then a part of tamil country) and tiruvotriyur in the east and tirumanjaikalam( near trichur) in present day kerala state(then forming a part of tamil country), a total of nearly 1000 kms most of them on foot. He composed in praise of Lord Siva more than 1000 decads and more than 10000 stanzas in 17 different puns(ragas). Saint Nambi Aroorar will always be remembered for the unique friendly nature of his relationship with Lord Siva.

Another such saint whose contribution to hymnology and reinforcement of saivite worship has been applauded by even great Adi Sankaracharya a century later is Tirugnanasambandar. Tiru gnansambandar is affectionately called son of god. Many regard him to be an incarnation of Lord Kartikeya (Son of Lord Siva), the same way Adi Sankaracharya is regarded as an incarnation of Lord Siva. Tirugnanasambandar was born to affluent Brahmin parents in sirkali a town at a distance of 40 kms from present day tanjore district in tamilnadu. He was born in the year 644 A.D. According to popular literature his father prayed for a son who would greatly reinforce the saivite faith , that was at that time being challenged by greatly proselytizing and non - vedic systems like Buddhism and Jainism. It is well known that both these systems received a beating at the hands of tirugnanasambandar’s philosophy. Sambandar exhibited many great traits that set him apart from rest of the kids and announced his divinity. First of all he is known to be a hyperlexic. Hyperlexics are persons who assimilate what they read instantaneously. At the age of three he is known to have fed with milk of gnosis, a fact confirmed later in soundarya lahari (succulence of beauty) by sankaracharya, by the divine mother and having been blessed with the beatific vision of Lord Siva and consort Parvati. A t the age of three when most children have a vocabulary of 50 words and when most of us struggle to form a sentence he sang in praise of lord no less than eleven stanzas complete with tamil grammar and prosody.

For his father’s query “who gave you the milk”, The child started out:

Behold him of ear having a plug of rolled palmyra leaf stuck in its pierced lobe,
The rider on the bull,
The wearer of pure white moon on his locks,
The one smeared with hot ashes of cremation ground all over his body,
The stealer of my heart,
He who is verily the great lord,
He who has abode in Brahmapuram(sirkali), of proud fame,
Bestowed grace on Brahma
Seated on a multipetalled lotus
When he humbly adored him
On a day long ago

And went on to complete eleven stanzas in perfect grammar. He is known to have corrected and taught the nuances of Vedas and shastras at the age of seven to those who were appointed to teach him the same. Thus he was as much a scholar in Sanskrit and Vedas as he was in tamil in which we know he has left us more than 10,000 hymns of which 4232 have survived to the day. This saint is known to have performed a number of miracles like bringing dead back to life, curing uncurable diseases etc. He is known to have defeated a number of scholars of various religious persuasions in debates. All these achieved before he was sixteen years of age, having completed his mission, he reached the divine abode. He is remembered for that great episode of being fed with milk of gnosis by none other than divine mother, thus confirming his status as son of god
Published: 2007-09-06
Author: K.Sethumadhavan

About the author or the publisher
A management professional with eight years experience in telecommunications industry, I have written a lot of articles in subjects related to management and strategic information analysis.

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