(pronunciation = 'thiru-naalai-pOvaar')
By Swami Sivananda
Nandanar was a Paraiah (untouchable) by caste. He was born in Adanoor in the Chola kingdom. He was an embodiment of humility and devotion. Lord Siva was his sole refuge. He would often visit the holy places of pilgrimage, and supply leather drums and such other musical instruments for the temples. When he went near the temples, he always remained outside and worshipped the Lord mentally.
Once he had a desire to have darshan of the Lord at Thirupunkur. He was also eager to do some service to the Lord there. He went to Thirupunkur and stood in front of the temple. He was grieved because Nandi which is always right in front of the Lord was hiding Him. Nandanar prayed to the Lord fervently. The Lord was highly pleased with his devotion and asked Nandi to move a little so that Nandanar might have His Darshan. Even today, at Thirupunkur, Nandi is leaning to one side! Nandanar had a delightful darshan of the Lord. After digging a tank near the temple he returned to Adanoor.
The desire now arose in him that he should go to Chidambaram and have darshan of Lord Nataraja. The love of the Lord had grown so intense that he would shed tears of love and tell his companions, "I will surely go to Chidambaram tomorrow." This expression earned for him the name Thiru-nalai-povar (one who would go tomorrow).
One day he actually left his place and went to Chidambaram. He went round the village instead of entering the temple because he thought of his low birth (caste) and thus, did not want to enter the sacred temple. He prayed, "Oh Lord, I want to see your cosmic dance in your nritya sabha. But, how can I? On account of my low birth they will not allow me to enter the temple."
For days he went on praying like this. The Lord, pleased with his devotion, appeared in his dream and said, "Oh noble soul, do not grieve. You will come to me. Take a fire bath. Then come to my kanaka sabha along with the Brahmins."
Nandanar woke up and was highly pleased. At the same time, the Lord appeared before the Brahmins of Thillai, in their dream, and said, "O Brahmins, My dearest devotee Thiru-nalai-povar has come to Thillai. Prepare a sacred fire. Nandanar will take bath in it and then come to Me."
The next day, the Brahmins prepared the sacred fire. They went to Nandanar, and related their dream. Nandanar went round the fire, and with God Siva's name on his lips and his mind fixed on the lotus feet of the Lord, he jumped into the fire. He emerged from the fire with a new holy body, with sacred ashes smeared all over, the holy thread and matted locks. He was then taken inside the temple. In the kanaka sabha, Thiru-nalai-povar worshipped the Lord. He went into divine ecstasy and was completely absorbed in the dance of the Lord. A dazzling light was seen in the room and Nandanar had disappeared. He had become one with Lord Nataraja.
Sekkilaar, and G. Vanmikanathan. Periya Puranam A Tamil Classic On The Great Saiva Saints of South India. Ed. Dr. N. Mahalingam. Chennai: Sri Ramakrishna Math, 2000.
Sivananda, Swami. Sixty-Three Nayanar Saints. World Wide Web edition. India: Divine Life Society, 1999.