Essays About Shaivism

History, Philosophy, Beliefs and Practices of Shaivism,

Sundaramurthy Nayanar, Shiva Devotee


There was a Brahmin by name Sadayanar in Navalur in Tamilnadu. He was very pious and devoted to Lord Siva. He had a pious son named Nambiyarurar or Alala Sundarar. He attained manhood. He was known by the name Sundaramurti Nayanar also.

Sundaramurti Nayanar was a great devotee of Lord Siva. He is one of the four Saiva Acharyas. Lord Siva of Tiruvennainallur appeared before Sundaramurti in the form of an aged Brahmin on the eve of his marriage. The Lord said that Sundarar was His bond slave and so ought to work for Him in His house. The name of the Lord is Taduttatkonda Isvar or the Lord who obstructed and saved Sundarar from Samsara.

Sundaramurti visited several temples. He went to Adigai Virattanam. Lord Siva appeared before him and placed His sacred feet on his head. Sundarar then went to Tiruvarur. Lord Siva made Sundarar His friend.

Kamalini was the maid servant of Umadevi at Kailas. She entertained a desire to marry Alala Sundarar. So she was forced to take birth in the world at Tiruvarur. She was named as Paravai. She came of age. Lord Siva of Tiruvarur appeared in the dream of the devotees and told them: “Arrange for the marriage of Paravai and Sundaramurti”. Lord Siva informed Paravai and Sundarar also. Sundarar married Paravai and both lived happily.

There was a famine in Tiruvarur. Lord Siva appeared before Sundaramurti and gave him heaps of grain. It was impossible to remove this large quantity of grain. Sundaramurti asked Lord Siva to help him. The grain was removed to the house of Paravai by the Ganas, the agents of Lord Siva.

When Sundarar was at Tiruppugalur he asked for gold for his wife. He kept his head on bricks and slept. He woke up and found the bricks converted into gold. He got again gold on his way to Vriddhachalam. He threw the gold in the river Manimukta according to the Lord’s command. He took it again in the tank at Tiruvarur. Lord Siva showed him the way to Tirukkudalaiyarru r.

Lord Siva gave Sundarar food when he was going to Tirukkarukavur. On another occasion Lord Siva begged food for Sundarar.

Sundaramurti went to Tiruvottiyur. He married Sangili, a great devotee of Lord Siva through the grace of Lord Siva. Aninditai, maid servant of Umadevi who lived in Kailas, took her birth as Sangili.

Sundaramurti requested Lord Siva to stay under the Magila tree when he was to swear to Sangili that he would not leave her. Sundarar wanted Sangili to go inside the temple, but Lord Siva already informed Sangili that He was under the tree and not inside the temple. Thereupon, Sangili asked Sundaramurti to come to the tree and not inside the temple, to take the oath. Sundaramurti had to give consent to Sangili’s request. Later on, he broke the oath by going to Tiruvarur to see the Utsava leaving Sangili, and became blind.

Sundaramurti said to the Lord: “If it is just that You should make me blind, kindly give me a stick”. Lord Siva gave a stick at Tiruvenpakkam. Sundarar’s left eye became all right when he came to Kanjivaram. When he praised Lord Siva at Tiruvarur his right eye also became all right. When Sundaramurti was passing through a street in Tiruppukoliyur he saw that some people were crying in a house and some people were rejoicing at the opposite house. He asked the people: “What was the matter in both the houses?” They said: “Two boys aged five took bath in a tank. One boy was devoured by a crocodile and the other boy escaped. The parents of the boy who was killed by the crocodile are bitterly weeping. The parents of the boy who escaped, are celebrating his thread-ceremony and so they are rejoicing.”

Sundarar was greatly moved. He sang a Padigam in praise of Lord Siva-Avinasi. The crocodile brought the child to the shore through the order of Lord Yama. The parents of the boy greatly rejoiced and prostrated before Sundarar.

During the pilgrimage tour, Sundarar came to the bank of Kaveri. There was flood in the river. He wanted to have Darsana of Lord Siva at Tiruvayur. He sang a Padigam. The river gave way to Sundarar. He reached Tiruvayur and worshipped the Lord.

There was a great devotee of Lord Siva in Tiruperumangalam named Kalikamar. He was a Pillai by birth. He heard the news that Sundarar sent Lord Siva as a messenger to Paravai, and said: “A devotee has ordered the Lord to do some work. He has made the Lord his servant. That too for the sake of a woman. Is this man who has behaved like this, a devotee? I am a great sinner. My life has not yet departed from me as I have heard such news. I have not destroyed my ears, with an iron rod, which heard such news of a so-called devotee”.

Sundarar came to know of the condition of Kalikamar Nayanar. He knew already that what he did was a grave error. He prayed to the Lord to pardon him. Lord Siva wanted to unite these two devotees. He caused the disease gastritis in Kalikamar, appeared in his dream and said: “This disease can be cured only by Sundarar”. Kalikamar reflected: “It is better to bear the pains of this disease, than to be cured by Sundarar”. The Lord commanded Sundarar: “Go and cure the disease of Kalikamar”.

Sundarar sent a message to Kalikamar about his coming to him. Kalikamar thought: “Let me give up my life before Sundarar comes to cure me.” He cut open his bowels and gave up his life. The wife of Kalikamar received Sundarar with great honour.

Sundarar said to the wife of Kalikamar: “I wish to cure the disease of your husband and live with him for some time”. She kept quiet and asked those who were around her to tell Sundarar that her husband was not suffering from any disease and he was sleeping. Sundarar informed the people that he had a strong desire to see Kalikamar. Then they showed Kalikamar. Sundarar saw the dead body of Kalikamar. He also drew the sword and wanted to kill himself. Kalikamar came back to life through the grace of Lord Siva. He at once caught hold of the hands of Sundarar. Sundarar fell at the feet of Kalikamar. Kalikamar also prostrated at the lotus-feet of Sundarar. They both embraced each other. They both went to the temple of Lord Siva and worshipped Him. Thereupon, they proceeded to Tiruvarur.

Paravai was very much annoyed towards Sundarar for having left her and married Sangili. Sundarar requested Lord Siva to pacify Paravai. Lord Siva went twice to the house of Paravai, pacified her and united them both. The Lord acted the part of a messenger for His devotee. The Lord becomes a perfect slave of His sincere devotees.

Sundaramurti became quite disgusted with this worldly existence. He requested Lord Siva to take him back to Kailas. Then Lord Siva sent him a white elephant.

Sundaramurti sang the glories of Siva in different sacred places. These hymns are called Tevaram. They are collected in a book-form. All devotees sing Tevaram even today. The hymns sung by Sundaramurti, Appar or Tirunavukarasar and Tirujnana Sambandhar are called Tevaram. The hymns sung by Manickavasagar are called Tiruvasagam.

Sundaramurti had the Sakhya Bhava with Lord Siva. Therefore, he was quite friendly with the Lord, took any kind of liberty with Him and asked for gold, pearl garland, musk, a garland of precious stones, spectacles, clothes, fragrance, jewels, horses which can go with the swiftness of the wind, golden flowers, palanquins, one-third of the riches of Tiruvarur. He did not ask for these things on account of desire for enjoyment. He had no selfish desires. He did not keep them. He utilised them for those who depended on him.

Sundaramurti showed to the world the path of Sakhya Marga or Sakhya Bhava in Bhakti.


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