Essays About Shaivism

History, Philosophy, Beliefs and Practices of Shaivism,

Tirujnana Sambandhar, A Great Devotee of Lord Shiva

Shaiva Saint

Sambandhar took his birth in a Brahmin family in Sirkali in the district of Tanjore which is also known by the name Brahmapuri. He was born of Bhagavati and Sivapadahridayar. Bhagavati and Sivapadahridayar went to the tank to take their bath. The child also accompanied his parents. They left the child on the bank and proceeded to take bath. The child cried aloud: “O father!” as he did not see his parents. The parents did not hear the cry of the child, but Lord Siva and Parvati heard his cry. They both appeared before the child. Parvati gave milk to the child. The child drank the milk of divine knowledge along with the milk. From that moment he began to sing the praises of Lord Siva in various temples. He sang soul-stirring, sublime Tevarams or odes. This incident occurred when the child was three years old.

The parents finished their bath and came near the child. Milk was flowing from his mouth and there were tears in his eyes. The parents asked: “My beloved child, who gave you milk?” The child sang a hymn and narrated everything to his parents. The parents rejoiced heartily and gave to the child the name Tiru-Jnana Sambandhar as he attained divine wisdom through the grace of Lord Siva and Parvati. He was also known by the name Pillayar.

Thereupon Sambandhar proceeded to Tirukkolakka. He sang a hymn or ode in the temple. Lord Siva presented him with a gold cymbal.

There was a devotee of Lord Siva in Tiruyerukkattampuliyur. He could play well on the musical instrument Yal. His name was Tirunilakantha Yalpanar. He went to Sirkali to pay his respects to Sambandhar. Sambandhar took him to the temple of Lord Siva and heard his music. Yalpanar prayed to Sambandhar and said: “Let me always live with you playing thy hymns on Yal. Grant me my prayer”. Sambandhar agreed. Thereupon, Sambandhar and his parents and Yalpanar proceeded to Chidambaram and worshipped Nataraja. One day, Sambandhar saw the three thousand Brahmins of Chidambaram as the three thousand Siva Ganas.

Sambandhar wanted to worship the Lord at Aratturai. He walked on foot. He got tired and so he rested on the way in Maranpadi during the night. As he was a small boy, his tender feet were much affected by the long walk. The Lord of Aratturai appeared in the dream of the priests and told them: “Sambandhar is coming to Me. Take the pearl umbrella and the pearl palanquin which are now in the temple and hand them over to him”. The priests woke up and went to the temple. They saw the articles which they saw in their dream there. They took them, went to Maranpadi and gave them to Sambandhar. They informed Sambandhar about the command of the Lord. Sambandhar also knew this already as the Lord informed him also about this, in his dream.

Thereupon, the thread ceremony of Sambandhar was performed by the priests. Sambandhar did not study the Vedas and the Vedangas, but he repeated them and explained them to the priests. The priests were struck with wonder.

Appar heard all about the glory of Sambandhar. He came from Chidambaram to Sirkali to pay his respects to Sambandhar. Sambandhar came forward to receive Appar. They both spoke words of affection and love. Appar remained in the house of Sambandhar for some days.

The daughter of the king of Malaya country was suffering from an incurable disease. The king tried all sorts of medicines. Finally, he took her to the temple at Tiruppaccil Acciramam and left her there before the Lord. Sambandhar visited the temple and saw the princess in an unconscious state. His heart melted. He sang a Padigam and worshipped Lord Siva. The last line in every stanza ends: “Is it right for the Lord to cause suffering to this girl?” At once, the princess became all right. She got up and prostrated at the lotus-feet of Sambandhar.

Then Sambandhar proceeded to Tiruppattisvaram temple. It was a very hot day. Lord Siva of Tiruppattisvaram temple sent a pearl palanquin through His Ganas to ward off the heat of the sun.

Sambandhar sang a Padigam and received one thousand gold coins from the Lord of Avadutturai. In the Padigam, he asks in every stanza: “Is this the way of Your looking after my interests? If You do not give me anything, is that Your grace?” He gave the gold coins to his father.

Sambandhar proceeded to Tirumarugal. There a traveller was bitten by a snake. His wife was bemoaning the death of her husband. Sambandhar sang a Padigam. The traveller was brought back to life.

There was severe famine at Tiruvilimilalai. Sambandhar received one measure of gold every day from the Lord at Tiruvilimilala. He purchased provisions for this money and fed all Siva Bhaktas.

Kulaccirai, minister of the Pandian king invited Sambandhar to his place. He was a devotee of Lord Siva. Mangayarkkarasi, the queen was also a devotee of Lord Siva. Sambandhar visited Madurai and worshipped the Lord there.

The Jains set fire to the camp of Sambandhar. Sambandhar sang a Padigam. The fire was extinguished, but the Pandian king got severe fever. The doctors and the Jains were not able to cure him. The king requested Sambandhar to cure him. Sambandhar sang a Padigam in praise of the holy ashes and applied them to the king’s body. At once, the king became all right.

Thereupon it was decided that both Sambandhar and the Jains were to put their writings into the fire and that if Sambandhar’s religion was the better one, the palm leaves which he put into the fire should not be burnt. Sambandhar came out successful in the test.

Afterwards, there was another test. The Jains said that the palm leaf which contained the writings of a true religion should go against the current of the Vaigai river. The minister said: “What is the punishment for those who are defeated in the test?” The Jains replied: “Those who are defeated will be hanged”. The Jains put a palm leaf in the river. It went along the current of the river. Sambandhar wrote one of his poems and threw it into the Vaigai. It went against the current and reached the place known as Tiruvedangam. Sambandhar sang a Padigam to stop the palm leaf. It stopped. The minister ran, took the leaf and showed it to the king.

Then some of the Jains were hanged. The rest embraced Saivism. Sambandhar went with the king and queen to the temple at Madurai and praised the Lord there.

Sambandhar wanted to go to Tirukkollampudur to have Darsana of the Lord there, but there was flood in the river. The boatmen gave up the idea of crossing it. They tied the boat somewhere and left the bank. Sambandhar took the boat, sang a Padigam and went over to the other side along with his party.

The devotees of Sambandhar were blowing the trumpet of victory when they were travelling. The Buddhists became very jealous of this. They informed their spiritual head, Buddhanandi. Buddhanandi called Sambandhar for discussion.

Sambandhararanalayar, a disciple of Sambandhar who was recording all the songs of his master, sang a Padigam sung by Sambandhar and said: “A thunder will fall on the head of this Buddhanandi”. At once, a thunder fell on the head of Buddhanandi. He died immediately. Some Buddhists ran away. Some others embraced Saivism and applied the holy ashes on their forehead.

Thereupon Sambandhar visited Tiruvottur. One man came to Sambandhar and said: “O Swami, all the palmyra seeds have become male palmyras. People are mocking at me. Kindly bless me”. Sambandhar sang a Padigam. The male palmyras were converted into female palmyras.

In Mylapore, there lived a devotee of Siva named Sivanesa Chettiar. A daughter was born to him after doing penance. He gave her the name Poompavai. Sivanesar heard about the glory of Sambandhar and surrendered all his wealth and daughter to the saint. One day, Poompavai was bitten by a cobra, while she was gathering flowers in the garden. She died immediately. Sivanesar kept her bones in a pot and kept the pot in the Kannikaimatam. He decorated the pot with silk cloth. Sivanesar invited Sambandhar to the place. Sambandhar came to Mylapore and had Darsana of Kapalisvarar. The devotees informed Sambandhar about the death of Sivanesar’s daughter. Sambandhar asked Sivanesar to bring the pot which contained the bones of his daughter. Sivanesar brought the pot at once. Sambandhar sang a Padigam. Poompavai came out of the pot just as Lakshmi emerged from the lotus. Sivanesar’s heart was filled with intense delight. There was a rain of flowers from the celestial regions. Then Sambandhar went to Sirkali.

The Brahmins approached Sambandhar and said: “O Swami, you will have to marry a girl now in order to perform the sacrifices mentioned in the Vedas”. Sambandhar agreed. The Brahmins and the father of Sambandhar selected the daughter of Nambiandar Nambi as the bride. The marriage ceremony was arranged at Nallur Perumanam. Sambandhar went along with his chosen bride into the temple. When he approached the Lord, he, his bride and his followers got merged in the Jyotis or the effulgence of the Lord.

Sambandhar says in one of his Padigams: “O foolish man, do not allow days to pass. Serve Lord Siva who has a blue neck. Hear His praise. Meditate on His form. Repeat always the Panchakshara. Live in the company of devotees of Siva. Serve them. His name will remove all evils and dangers likely to fall on you and your children. Worship Lord Siva. He will confer on you eternal bliss and immortality”.


Source: Reproduced, with the general permission, from Lord Siva and His Worship, WWW edition 2000, By Sri Swami Sivananda © The Divine Life Trust Society