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The history of Thiru-Naalaip-Povaar Nayanar (Nandanar)

Thirunaalaippovaar, was a great devotee who rejoiced at the lotus feet of the Lord in spite of the social restrictions placed on him because of his caste. He led a fruitful life by the sheer power of his love, not the ordinary kind of love that would wane at the sight of obstacles, but a pure, determined and sincere love for the Almighty. The great devotee Sundara Murthy Nayanar called himself as a servitor to Thirunaalaippovaar. 

Thiru-Naalaip-Povaar Nayanar - The History of Thiru-Naalaip-Povaar Nayanar (Nandhanar)
The Saint Nandanar, worshipped by the priests of Thillai, enters the abode of Lord Nataraja!

On the banks of river Kollidam that sprinkles water with its tidal arms on to the lotuses that lean upon both its banks, is the village Adhanur. In that fertile village was a tenement that gave this world a pearl by name Nandanar. Unflinching love to the glorious feet of Lord Shiva, peerless devotion and professional discipline were his unmissable characteristics. This simple devotee knew only love, devotion and dedication to the Lord. He was oblivious to traits like ostentation, self-pride and worthless talk and offered the best service he could within the bounds of his traditional profession. Nandhanar belonged to the Pulayar social group. He provided hides for making drums and nerves for the strings of the various musical instruments like veena and yazh that are played during the worship of the Lord, from whom the chants of the Vedas reverberate to the tune of the celestial veena when all the sound of the universe has ceased. He also provided the Gorochan (Cow Stone) for the worship of the Lord of the Devas.

This man had immense love for the Lord, which was probably not understood by anyone around other than that Lover Himself. He would stand outside temples wherever he would find one, chant, sing, dance and rejoice in that Glory that is Omnipresent. One day he wished to pay obeisance and serve Shiva as Lokanathan in Tiruppunkur. He came to the temple gate, straight in front of the Lord's altar to behold Him. The holy Bull as usual was in front of the Lord and came in between the devotee and the Lord. Lord Ashutosha, the Easily Pleased, knowing the ardent love of this splendid simple devotee showered His grace by asking the Bull to move aside a little bit so that Nayanar could see Him. The humble devotee who felt on the top of the world saluted, fell to the ground and prostrated. The poor devotee was keen to serve the Lord at Tiruppunkur. Looking at the poor state of the surroundings of the temple, he took upon the task of cleaning it up and digging a nice pond there. At the completion of the service, he circumambulated God and returned home happily.

In this way he visited many shrines of the Lord to pay obeisance and do any service he could. But one wish remained in his mind - to behold the Blissful dance at Thillai (Chidambaram). He couldn’t sleep at night; during the day he would be immersed in the thought of whether he might be able to make it to Thillai or not. The thought kept haunting him and he would daily console himself by saying, "I will go tomorrow". (“naalaipovvaan” - hence he became known as Thirunaalaippovaar). That tomorrow never seemed to come and he was unable to bear it any longer. Finally, he convinced himself to go to Thillai. He reached the outskirts of that holy town; he saw smoke from the sacrificial fires and heard the sound of Vedas being chanted. Hesitant to enter the holy precincts of the town because of his low birth, he circumambulated it many times and out of fatigue slept there itself. Now, the Lord who Himself comes to His devotees to take them, couldn’t tolerate His sincere devotee who was longing to see His dance lying outside the town anxiously. He came in the servitor’s dream telling him to let go of this birth and enter His holy abode through fire.

The Lord appeared in the dreams of the priests of Thillai instructing them about creating the fire for His devotee Thirunaalaippovaar. The next day the priests came to the devotee as per the Lord’s decree to create the holy fire for him. Feeling blessed, the excellent devotee of the Lord whose love could not be charred by any fire, entered the flames praising the Holiest of the holy things - His graceful feet. Nandanar came out of the fire, to the shower of flowers by the Devatas, salutations of the priests of Thillai and much to the joy of the assembled devotees, with a shining body of a sage adorned with all the holy symbols of the Lord, to worship the Cosmic Dancer Nataraja. With the priests accompanying him, he saluted the temple tower of the Lord who holds a deer in His left and entered the Holy abode in a hurry. All those assembled just saw him entering the Cosmic dancer's altar, but when they looked inside they saw only the Cosmic dancer's vigraha. Let the pure wonderful devotion of Thirunaalaippovaar Nayanar which surmounted a mountain of hurdles to reach the Lord stay in our minds forever.

Guru Pooja: Purattasi/ Rohini or Kanya / Rohini


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