(pronunciation = 'thiru-neela-nakkar')
By Swami Sivananda
Thirusattamangai was an important city in the Chola kingdom. It was a place full of spiritual vibrations and Siva bakthi. The Brahmins were devoted to the study and recitation of the Vedas and worship of the Lord. And, the women were devoted to their lord (the husband) and served them as they would serve God Siva Himself. It is situated seven miles east of Nannilam. There is a temple in this place called Ayavanthi. The Lord presiding over this is Ayavanthi-Nathar. His Consort is Malarkanni Ammai.
In this city, there lived the glorious brahmin Thiru-nila-nakkar Nayanar. He was well versed in the Agamas and was regular in his ritualistic worship of the Lord.
On a Thiruvathirai day he was devoutly worshipping the Lord in the temple. His wife was also with him. A spider fell upon the Sivalingam, when the worship was in progress. Thiru-nila-nakkar's wife, without a moment's hesitation, blew it away, and spat on the spot where it had fallen, on the Siva Lingam this is what they do when a spider falls on the body of a child or other human being. But, the husband was enraged at the wife's sacrilegious action she had spoilt the worship and polluted the temple by spitting on the Sivalingam. Without a second thought, Thiru-nila-nakkar abandoned her and returned home.
The lady appealed to Lord Ayavanthinathar for mercy. Lord Siva appeared in Thiru-nila-nakkar's dream that night and showed him His body all the parts of Siva's body except that on which his wife had spat, had been affected by the spider poison.
Thiru-nila-nakkar Nayanar realised that bakthi was superior to ritualistic worship. Thiru-nila-nakkar recalled the vision of the Lord he had, in his dream and rejoiced, rolled on the ground, wept out of sheer joy and danced.
The next morning, Thiru-nila-nakkar went to the temple and worshipped the Lord, and returned home with his wife, the noble devotee to whom the Sivalingam was not a stone, but a living presence.
Once Thiru-jnana-sambanthar visited this place with Thiruneelakanta Perumbanar and Virali. Thiru-nila-nakkar Nayanar was very eager to meet the great saint Sambanthar. He welcomed the Sambanthar with due honours. That night, Sambanthar asked Thiru-nila-nakkar to give some accommodation to the other two Siva bakthas who were with him. However, they were not of the "high" (Brahmin) caste! So, Thiru-nila-nakkar Nayanar hesitated to let them sleep inside the house. He asked them to sleep near the sacrificial pit. As soon as the Siva bakthas went near the pit, Thiru-nila-nakkar Nayanar was astounded to see that the sacrificial fire began to burn of its own accord. He understood that, through the fire of their devotion, the Siva bakthas had attained to a stage which was far higher than what mere ritual could lead to. The mist of caste distinction also vanished from the eyes of Thiru-nila-nakkar Nayanar.
Next morning, Sambanthar went to the temple and sang a song in which he glorified Thiru-nila-nakkar Nayanar. When Sambanthar wanted to leave the place, Thiru-nila-nakkar also wanted to accompany him. But Sambanthar instructed Thiru-nila-nakkar to stay there itself and serve Siva bhaktas. Thiru-nila-nakkar Nayanar obeyed.
Thiru-nila-nakkar was, however, longing to be always at the feet of Sambanthar. Soon his wish was fulfilled. He heard of Sambanthar's marriage and went to Nallur Perumanam to witness it. When Sambanthar got merged in the light of Lord Siva, Thiru-nila-nakkar also got merged in it.
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.