Guru Gnana Sambandar, was born in Srivilliputhur, Ramanathapuram District, to Subramaniya Pillai and Meenakshi Ammal. They belonged to a middle class agricultural family. This community is noted for its, adherence to Saiva faith and for its vegetarian way of life. This community traces its legendary origin to Uma Devi who performed the first Siva Puja to lord Sri Ekambareswara at Kancheepuram.
Guru Gnana Sambandar was so named by his father Subramania Pillai in commemoration of the first saint Thiru Gnana Sambandar(1) of Sirkali, who embellished his surroundings nine hundred years before the birth of Guru Gnana Sambandar. The word Gnana Sambandam means one who is having inseparable nexus with supreme knowledge. It is one of the most illustrious names in Tamil Tradition linked with the resuscitation of the Tamil language, its culture and its faith which is Saivism. Thiru Gnana Sambandar was a Samayachariar par excellence, who hymned the alien faith out of Tamilnadu. His songs and on the reciter, the much sought after beatitude. The verses of Gurugnana Sambandar, having the name of the first saint Thirugnana sambandar, had his first spiritual awakening, enlightenment and inspiration at the golden lotus tank in Sri Meenakshi Sundereswara temple, Madurai. It was here he received the gift of Siva linga placed in a pettagam (box) from the Lord himself. The moment the time for fulfilling his mission, had come, (he received the gift) he experienced an inexplicable thrill and joy. The transcendent exhilaration as a result of his genuine penance freed him from his worldly ties and kindled the urge to find a spiritual Master.
Dharumai Aadheena Guru Mudhalvar Sri-La-Sri Gurugnanasambandha Desika Paramaachariya Swamikal
In obedience to the Divine guidance and command of Lord Chokkanantha of Madurai he went through the ancient city of Thiruvarur, where he had a darshan of Kamalai Gnanaprakasar, a well known saint and scholar preceptor, who came in the direct line of the disciples of Lord Siva at Kailas. This lineage is known as the Thiru Kailaya Parambarai. He adorned his surroundings between the years 1525 AD and 1575 AD. He received Gurugnana Sambandar and initiated him in the path of supreme knowledge and taught him the way of the ritualistic and traditional athmartha puja of Lord Chokkanantha by offering puja to the Siva Lingam which he obtained at Madurai. He consecrated him as his disciple and guided him along the path of Supreme knowledge. He introduced him to the doctrine of Saiva Siddhantha as initiated in the Sivagnana Siddhi which is an elaborate Tamil philosophical treatise and saiva Siddhantha philosophy, written by Saint Arul Nandhi (2), the second of the four Santhanacharyas
As Guruganna sambandar was a chosen child of God's ways, ecstatic songs flowed through his lips spontaneously extolling the grace of Gnanaprakasar, his master and he sung a hymn of thirty verses known as Gnanaprakasa Malai (garland of verses). He also sang another poem of hundred verses on Lord Chokkanantha of Madurai and it is known as "Chokkanantha Venba".(3) While doing psalms are unique packed with divinity, sublime beauty, soul uplifting thought and truth. He is a Tamilian who by his verses reassured the Tamilians their source in Siva. A devotional recitation of his divine verses is bounded to confer service to his master staying at Thiruvarur, he attained the stage of Dhyana Samathi, (mystic trance) in which stage his outward senses ceased to function and his mind alone was awake in full enjoyment of an inward peace. All his outward senses converged in his mind. He was neither conscious of his body nor of the environment, while he was in such Dhyana Samathi. He himself has uttered:-
"The supreme that the mind cannot approach
If thou wouldst like to reach
Stand firm always at the peace
Where it is neither night nor day,
Know that whatever thou seest is not thou
Quell down the Malas Three
The teacher of wisdom said."
(THE LIGHT SPIRITUAL INSTRUCTION)
In obedience to the will of his master he reached Dharmapuram, the Vilvaranyam, worshipping Sri Dharmapureeswarar and his consort Abayambigai. Time passed and the end of his master Gnanaprakasar had come rather suddenly. Guruganna sambandar's swan-song was a short poem on Gnanaprakasar at his Samathi and it is called "Navarathina Malai". Although Gurugnana Sambandar had the permission of his master Gnanaprakasar to visit him at Tiruvarur every Thursday, he was feeling the pangs of separation which he had expressed in many of his verses subsequently added on to the "Gnanaprakasa Malai".
In course of time he raised a small hermitage, at Dharmapuram, installed Sri Chokkanantha, the Sivalinga, obtained in Madurai and in whose worship he was initiated by his master Gnanaprakasar at Tiruvarur. He performed the worship to the Murthy according to the prescribed Agama rituals. The spiritual peace and divine lustre that emanated from him, gathered for him innumerable devotees and followers, all ardent seekers of truth and enlightenment. He guided them along the path of God and radiated love for all beings. Under his spiritual influence even animals gave up their animosity and line, cow and goats lived together in peaceful harmony without harming one another. The Dharmapureeswarar Temple, realising his spiritual attainment, taught him many esoteric sciences of which they were masters and eventually handed over to him, the custody and the administration of Sri Dharmapureeswarar temple. He founded the Mutt there.
Gnana Sambandar from then onwards came to be known as GuruGnana Sambandar, the name that distinguishes him from the other spiritual leaders of the same name. He was a guru in the true sense of the word. He flourished in Dharmapuram for a long time. His spiritual attainments attracted to Dharmapuram a large number of seekers after truth, from far and near. His was a life of absolute surrender to God radiating peace and love to all beings which had helped him to attain the goal of life.
Mutt is a holy abode for ascetics practising discipline under the guidance of their chief, the head of the Mutt. Invariably the head of the Mutt is a holy person divinely inspired. The head of the Mutt is a fountain head of inspiration. With equal facility he managed the temporal and the spiritual aspects of human existence. By his word, deed and conduct he ushered into the inmates, a divine atmosphere eminently conducive to learning , imparting knowledge as well as provide discipline. It is a place which fosters philosophy, theology and religion. Devotees flock to it in great numbers. The main object of Dharmapuram Mutt is the propagation of Saiva Siddhantha philosophy which is one of the finest systems of Hindu thought and life.
GuruGnana Sambandar had inducted several treatises on the various aspects of the Saiva System of Philosophy. Coming from the direct line of preceptors, by Lord Dakshinamoorthy himself, he was able to author a number of books on the Kria, Yoga and Gnana patham of the system. By his unique ability he has secured an indelible place in Saivism, he wrote a small treatise of twenty five verses called Mukthi Nichayam (4), affirming the nature of salvation. Two commentaries in this text were written about 1700 A.D. by velli Ambalavana Thambiran, a disciple of Dharmapuram. One is a short gloss and the other is a large exposition. These are evidence of the glory of Guruganna Sambandar. Hence his name lives in history, not merely as the founder of Dharmapuram Monastery, but also as one who has promoted the Saiva Siddhantha philosophical concepts and enriched its literature by his expository writings. 1. Chokkanantha Kattalai Kalithurai, 2. Gnanaprakasa Malai, 3. Chokkanantha Venba, 4. Navarathina Malai, 5. Dasa Karia Agaval, 6. Jannavavarna Vilakkam of which some have been translated and published in English and Hindhi.
When GuruGnana Sambandar realised that the day of his final union with Siva was approaching, he opted for an unbroken beatitude. However other things were to be arranged for. He selected from among the followers Anandha paravasar, as the next spiritually attuned and best fitted to assume the Dharmapuram Gnanapeedam. Immediately he appointed him, consecrated him with due rituals and installed him as his successor. He then entered in to Jeeva Samadhi. But Ananda Paravasar who was in reality, more highly evolved than the occasion demanded, cared no more for the worldly existence after his master. He prostrated before Jeeva Samadhi of his Guru and entered eternal Samadhi.
At the request of the other disciples to ensure the next successor Guruganna Sambandar came out of his Jeeva Samadhi, chose Satchitananda, another disciple, initiated him and nominated him as the next successor and entered Jeeva Samadhi again. But Satchitananda did not have the required enlightenment. It was naturally passed on to Gurugnana Sambandar. On the representations made by his disciples, he bestowed his gracious look on Satchitananda so that he realises the Gnana Nilai to assume the spiritual headship of the Dharmapuram Mutt and then entered into his final Samadhi of eternal non-dual union with Siva.
The Samadhi of GuruGnana Sambandar had subsequently been built up into a grand temple in granite and it is now called as Sri Gnanapureeswarar temple.