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Durable Link to this BlogTuesday, January 05, 2010

Saiva Saints of South India

Saiva Saints of South India:

Appar- like Alvars or Vaishnava Saints, Saiva Saints called Nayanmars have influenced life and thought of South Indians through the ages sixty three Nayanmars (called "Aravatmuru puratanaru" in Kannada language), are venerated in many Siva temples of Tamilnadu. There were kings, brahmins, merchants, potters, farmers, hunters, shepherds and fishermen among them. Appar (father) belonged to Vellala so called low caste. He seemed to have lived in the 5th century C.E.

Appar seems to have followed Jainism earlier. But became Saiva mendicant later and moved from place to place singing glories of Siva. He did humble jobs in the temple like cleansing the premises and removing weeds from the temple garden. Appar sang as he worked.

As fire in wood, as butter in milk, The Luminous one lies hid within, First fix the churning rod of love Pass round the cord, intelligence, Then twirl (churn). God will bless thy fight.

Another of his hymn runs like this:-

He is our mother and father He our brother and sister, He the creator of the three worlds;

If we can remember in our hearts The Beloved of the Gods, and the Dweller in the flower city. He will be the unseen Helper of all.

Jnanasambandar Appar preached utmost humility and preached the path of a servant i.e. dasa marga. Jnanasambadar - was a very young lad when he became devotee of Appar, whom he called father (Appa). Jnanasambandar came from a Brahmin family. As innocence personified it is believed that Goddess Parvati herself came down to the earth, fed and nursed him. He called her Amma. He moved with Appar and died at the age of sixteen. He stood for virtuous living. As Appar followed dasa marga Jnanasambandar followed the path of the good son (Sat-putra marga).

Sundaramurti The third great Saint who preached the path of friendship (saha-marga) was Sundaramurti born in Brahmin caste. It is said that Siva himself came in the guise of an old man and claimed him to be his bond-slave. Like his predecessors he wandered all over the Southern Indian region and sang praises of Siva. He also died young.

The hymns of the three saints are known as Tevaram or Devaram. These hymns are sung in all the important Siva temples of South India Instead of Vedic-mantra recitation. These Tevaram compositions are sung at the time of puja in Tamil homes as well.

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Jyotsna Kamat

Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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