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12.11.2 (A) SUNDARAR
Sundaramurthy Swamigal, was in such great friendly intimacy with the Lord without ever being oblivious of His Divinity, that he made use of His services even for settling domestic quarrels; he was the first to sing the praise of the sixty-three Nayanmars. It was he who for the first time enunciated the importance of each one of the other 62 Nayanmars and listed them in TiruttonDattogai. On this work was based Nambi Andar Nambi’s Tiruttondar Tiru Andadi. The story of PeriapurANam written by Sekkizhar, starts and ends with the story of Sundarar.
Sundarar was born as a Brahmin, Nambi Aroorar by name, in Tirunavlur in the 9th century.. Both his parents are among the 62 Nayanmars in his list. Unlike Appar and Sambandar he behaved towards God as a friend. He treated the Lord as a coinfidant and took strange liberties with him. It is interesting that Lord Shiva who prevented his marriage by claiming him as His slave, served to bring about an alliance with a professional courtesan in Tiruvarur. It appears Sundarar was born in the human world by a curse of Lord Shiva. As such everything in his life happened according to God’s wishes and monitoring. And in Sundarar’s life, many miracles happened – some of them at Sundarar’s request to the Lord through a song. Sundarar’s contribution to the Shaiva canon is 1036.
Manickavachagar, also known as Tiruvadavoorar, was a contemporary of Varaguna Pandian II of the 9th century. His unique bridal mysticism, undivided loyalty and exclusive devotion to the Lord, find immortal expression in his exquisite poems like TiruvAchagam, which is a work of devotion-cum-wisdom par excellence known to melt even the hardest of hearts. Born in Tiru-Adavur near Madurai, his erudition, scholarship, good character and smartness attracted the attention of the Pandyan King who appointed him as one of his Ministers. Manickavachagar was a great devotee of Shiva and this slowly drew him away from his worldly involvements.
The King learnt that good Arabic horses were being sold near the eastern sea coast in the Chola country. So Manickavachagar was sent to negotiate a deal and purchase the horses for the cavalry of the Pandya Kingdom. On the way he was spiritually overwhelmed by a Shaivite Saint in the town of Tirupperunturai. He then realised material things are all transitory.His own conviction is that Lord Shiva himself came in the guise of that Saint and took him in. Manickavachagar was thereafter doing nothing but work for the temple in the service of the Lord. Actually he renovated the temple of Tirupperunturai with the money kept for the purchase of horses. The King heard of this turn of events and he sent his men to arrest him. But his spiritual Guru the Shaiva saint advised him to tell the king that the horses will arrive on the Moola-nakshatra day in the month of Avani (corresponding to August-September, when the Sun stays in the zodiacal sign of Leo). On the scheduled day the horses did arrive; but lo and behold! that night the horses changed into howling jackals and ran away. The King naturally became very furious and he put Manickavachagar in jail. But any such torment was taken by Manickavachagar as nothing but a service to Lord Shiva and so the only prayer he made to the Lord was to bestow on him more and more devotion to the Supreme.
In the meantime another miracle happened to convert the King. Due to the onset of floods in the river Vaigai, the King ordered every house to contribute one person for doing the manual work of raising the embankment to resist the floods. A poor woman by name ‘Vanthi’ whose living was by making and selling ‘Pittu’ for the public could not contribute one such person and so as a devotee of Lord Shiva she prayed to the Lord to help. The Lord came in the form of a labourer and offered to help and accordingly did the manual job of digging mud to be thrown into the flooding waters. But he also showed slackness in doing the job; naturally the supervisor complained about him to the King. The King awarded him a punishment of beating. But lo, when the beating by stick was actually executed, the beating was felt by everybody around including the King. The King realised his folly and it was realised by all that the labourer who enrolled himself on behalf of the poor woman, was none but God Himself, because no sooner the beating was felt by everybody, he disappeared and the flood waters subsided. The King retracted from his rash act of imprisoning Manickavachagar and released him. Thereafter Manickavachagar spent his life as a Sannyasi and gave himself completely to Lord Shiva. He went from place to place and finally stayed in Chidambaram, where he defeated, in argument, a contingent of Buddhists from Ceylon.
The Tiruvachagam of 600 verses and the Tirukkovaiyar of 400 verses constitute his contribution to Shaivite devotional literature. Both have been included as the eighth Tirumurai of Nambi’s edition of Saivite sacred texts. The pious belief is that Lord Shiva himself wrote these texts to the dictation of the great saint. One of the devotional poems in Tiruvachagam, namely Tiruvempavai follows the Tiruppavai of Shri Andal in pattern. The intensity of devotional feeling that the very phrasing in the poems generates in sensitive minds is such that it is true to say that ‘he who is not moved by the Tiruvachagam will be moved by nothing whatsoever.’ Tiruvachagam is as famous among the bhakti works in Tamil as the Gita itself is in Sanskrit. The work is full of inspired outpourings of the Bliss of God-experience.
The Tirukkovaiyar belongs to the Kovai type of literature and deals with the loving hero and beloved heroine and their love affairs. But the difference between this Kovai and other Kovais is the divine theme, whereby, the hero in this poem is Lord Shiva himself and the poet imagines himself to be the lady love. The anguish of being separated from God is the undercurrent of ‘rasa’ in both the works of Manikkavachagar.
Manickavachagar died at the age of 32, it is said, by entering the divine flame in the sanctum of the shrine of Nataraja in Chidambaram.
Here is a sample verse from Tiruvachagam
Tevar kO aRiyAda tEva-tEvan
chezhum pozhilkaL payandu kAttu azhikkum maRRai
mUvar kOnai ninRa mudalvan mUrti
mUdAdai mAdu Alum pAkattu enthai
yAvar kOn ennaiyum vandu ANDukoNDAn
yAm Arkkum kuDi allOm yAdum anjOm
mEvinomavan aDiyAr aDiyArODu
mEl mElum kuDaindu Adi AdiDuvOmE.
Even the King of the divines does not know the Lord of Lords, who is the Head of the Trinity. He is the Cause of all that has been created. He is the One who has kept the Goddess in one half of his body and has also taken me in.We shall not bow down to any other. There is nothing more to fear. Let us, all devotees of His, sing and dance on His Glory.