63. Sundarar (Murthi)
(pronunciation = 'sundarar-moorthi')

By Swami Sivananda

Sundarar (Murthi) Nayanar flourished in the 8th century. He was a great devotee of Lord Siva. He is one of the Tamil Samaya Acharyas (four Tamil religious Teachers).

Sundarar (Murthi) Nayanar sang the glories of Lord Siva at all the sacred places that he visited. These hymns are called Thevaaram. They have been collected into a book-form. All devotees sing the Thevaaram even today. The hymns sung by Sundarar, Appar, and Thiru-jnana-sambanthar are called Thevaaram. The hymns of Manikkavasagar are called Thiruvaasagam.

Sundarar had the Sakhya Bhava or the attitude of a friend towards the Lord. He freely demanded of the Lord whatever he wanted. He did not do so with selfish desire, however. Whatever Sundarar asked for was for the sake of those who were dependent on him. He lived only eighteen years.

Sundarar (Murthi) Nayanar was born in Thiru Navalur where the entire atmosphere was full of spiritual vibrations and Saivism was well established. In this place, there lived a pious, devout and respected Brahmin by name Sadaiyar — whose ancestors were all ardent devotees of Lord Siva. Isai-Jnani Ammaiyar was his dutiful wife. She gave birth to a divine child whom the parents named — Nambi Arurar — after its grandfather.

In his previous incarnation, Arurar was Alala Sundarar, who was an ardent devotee of Lord Siva. When the milky ocean was being churned by Devas and Asuras, a deadly poison began to spread on the surface of the ocean threatening the existence of all beings. Then Alala Sundarar collected that poison in his hand and gave it to Lord Siva who drank it for the protection of the world. Hence, Sundarar got the word Alala (for Halahala, the poison) prefixed to his name.

Once, when Alala Sundarar was living by the side of Lord Siva in the Mount Kailas, serving the Lord and bringing flowers from the garden for His worship, Sundarar cast a lustful look at Aninditi and Kamalini, the attendants of Goddess Parvathi who had also gone to the garden to collect flowers for the Divine Mother's worship. They, too, fell in love with Sundarar. Lord Siva, through His divine vision, understood all that had happened in the garden. He called Alala Sundarar and said, "Sundarar, since you fell in love with these girls, you and they, too, will go down to the earth and take a human birth. You will marry them and enjoy the pleasures of the world."

Sundarar wept bitterly, regretting his folly which had resulted in his separation from the Lord. He prayed to the Lord, "Oh Lord! It is due to my evil thought that I have to undergo this separation from Thee. I am afraid lest I should be steeped in ignorance and forget Thee. Oh Lord of mercy! Let this not happen to me. Oh Lord of compassion! Dispel my ignorance soon and take me back to your lotus feet."

Lord Siva granted this wish.

There was another cause for Sundarar's human birth. To an ordinary man, it may appear that Sundarar was a victim to lust in the divine realm of Kailasa. It was not so. Sundarar was only an instrument in the hands of God. It was Lord Siva's wish that Sundarar should sing Thiru-Thondar-Thogai for the benefit of mankind. So, Lord Siva entered Sundarar's mind and created a desire for these two girls. Also, the Lord wanted to teach mankind a great lesson. Lust is extremely powerful. It can delude even a great devotee of the Lord like Sundarar — if he is not ever vigilant. Maya's charms are powerful. Unless this evil quality is burnt, the Jiva cannot reach Siva. Yet another lesson is the lustful eye was the cause of Sundarar's downfall. But, when it is used in the service of the Lord (for looking at the holy shrines, holy images of God, saints, and study of scriptures) the very same organ will help towards our emancipation.

Sundarar was, therefore, born as Arurar. The king of that place, Narasinga Munaiyar Nayanar, happened to see the beautiful child and fell in love with Sundarar. He wanted to bring Sundarar up himself and asked for the parents' permission.

Sadaiyar, whose mind was full of dispassion and who was not attached to anything in this world, immediately complied with the king's wish (As we shall see later, Sadaiyar and Isai-jnani Ammaiyar are also regarded as Nayanars).

Read about the lives of: Narasinga Munaiyar, Sadaiyar and Isai-jnani Ammaiyar

The boy grew up under royal care. At the proper age, the parents wanted to get their son married. Sadaiyar sought Sandakavi Sivachariar's consent to obtain his daughter's hand for his son, Arurar. Sivachariar gladly agreed. But, the wedding was not to take place.

Just when the ceremony was to begin, an old Brahmin, with sacred ashes on his body, rudraksha around his neck and matted locks on his head appeared and said, "This man, Arurar, is my bond-slave. I have a document to that effect executed by his grandfather. He cannot marry."

The old Brahmin, thus, put an end to the ceremony. Sundarar and the Brahmin then left the place. The young bride fixed her mind on the holy feet of Sundarar, shed her mortal coil and attained the immortal abode of Lord Siva.

Sundarar and the old man had a heated argument. Sundarar asked him, "Who are you and from where have you come?"

To which the Brahmin replied, "I belong to Thiruvennai Nellur."

Sundarar called the Brahmin a liar and said, "Come, let us go to Thiruvennai Nellur and get this dispute settled by the wise men there."

At Thiruvennai Nellur, before an assembly of wise men the old Brahmin produced the document which read as follows:

I, Aruran, the Adi Saivite of Thirunavalur, execute this bond of slavery with heart and soul. I and my progeny for all time to come are bond-slaves to Pithan of Thiruvennai Nellur, and we are bound to serve him by all means.

Pithan means Lord Siva who delights to be called a "mad man," to exemplify the state of the highest Yogi whose behaviour resembles that of a mad man but who teaches us that there is nothing in this world worth taking any notice of and the worldly "wise men" are all mad people in truth.

After examining the witnesses cited in the document and verifying the grandfather's signature, the assembly confirmed the old man's claim. Sundarar had to accept it as God's will.

Followed by all of them, the Brahmin entered the temple of Thiru Arul Turai on the pretext of showing them his house and promptly vanished. Arurar understood that it was the Lord Himself who had appeared as the old man to save him from the shackles of samsara. Sundarar was afflicted very much at heart that he had not recognized Siva earlier. He cried aloud. The Lord appeared before Sundarar and blessed him, "Oh noble soul. You are already my bhakta. You were in my abode in Kailasa before this birth as a man. A wrong thought made you take this birth. Now I have myself come to save you."

Because Sundarar had quarrelled with Brahmin, the Lord Himself called Sundarar Vanthondan (the devotee who used harsh words) and asked Sundarar to sing His glories.

"My clear child, you called Me Pithan (madman) during your quarrel. So, begin with this word and compose a poem." said Lord Siva.

Sundarar did so. The result was that inspiring poem Pitha Pirai Soodi. The Lord Himself came to be known as Thadu-thaat-konda Iswar (the Lord prevented and saved him from samsara).

Sundarar later visited a number of holy places and sang the praise of the Lord in all of them. Sundarar came to Adigai Virattanam, the sacred place where Appar served the Lord Viratteswarar and was blessed. Sundarar did not like to place his foot on the sacred ground and so stayed on the outskirts of the village.

Read about the life of Thiru-navuk-arasar (Appar)

That night when Sundarar was asleep, the Lord in the guise of an old man entered the mutt. The old man lay down close to where Sundarar was sleeping and pretended to sleep. He then placed His feet on the head of Sundarar. When Sundarar objected to this, the old man apologized. Sundarar went over to another corner of the room. There, too, the old man repeated the same action. Sundarar did not lose his temper — instead Sundarar calmly asked the old man for his identity and explanation for the abnormal behaviour.

"Oh friend, don't you know me?" replied the old man, who then disappeared.

Sundarar realized that it was again the Lord Himself. Since Sundarar had not gone into the sacred place (Adigai Virattanam) for Siva's darshan, the Lord Himself had come out to where the devotee was! Sundarar prayed, "Oh Lord! How kind and merciful you are! Even devotees who are well-versed in Vedas and Agamas cannot touch your feet. Out of love towards this poor creature, you left your abode and came here to bless me with your holy feet."

Sundarar again continued his pilgrimage. At Thillai (Chidambaram), he went into a trance even as he saw the temple tower. In his ecstasy, Sundarar rolled on the ground and shed profuse tears of love. He had the darshan of Lord Nataraja. A heavenly voice commanded him to go to Thiruvaaroor.

He then visited many other shrines and came to Thiruvaaroor. The Lord appeared to the Brahmins of Thiruvaaroor and asked them to receive Sundarar with due honours. They did so. As Sundarar was worshipping the Lord in the temple, he heard a heavenly voice, "Sundarar! I have made you my friend. I prevented you from getting married. Hereafter, you will appear for ever as a bridegroom and sport on earth."

Immediately, Sundarar became a handsome bridegroom. People called him "Thambiraan Tholar (friend of God)."

In Thiruvaaroor, there was a chaste woman by name Paravayar who was none other than Kamalini, the attendant of Parvathi in Kailasa. Daily she would go to the temple and worship the Lord with faith and devotion and sing Siva's glories.

One day, Paravayar came to the temple (as usual) with her friends to worship the Lord. At the same time, Sundarar, with his devotees entered the temple. Prompted by past Karma, Sundarar was attracted by Paravayar's beauty. He wanted to marry her, and entered the shrine of the Lord with this thought. The Lord was Sundarar's friend, and so, he expressed his desire to Siva!

Paravayar who had seen Sundarar in the temple also fell in love with him and wanted to marry him.

The marriage was pre-ordained by Lord Siva Himself and it was now Siva's duty to bring it about. He appeared to both of them in their dreams and told them that they would get married. Siva also commanded His devotees in dream to arrange for the wedding of Paravayar and Sundarar the very next day. This was done accordingly, to the joy of both Paravayar and Sundarar.

One day, Sundarar went into the temple and found a number of devotees of the Lord there. He wanted to sing their glories. The Lord Himself sang the first line of the famous poem Thiru-Thondar-Thogai and (by Siva's grace) Sundarar completed it.

Thiru-Thonda-Thogai ("Assembly of the Sacred Slaves at Thiruvaaroor")

During Sundarar's stay at Thiruvaaroor, a Vellala by name Kundaiyur Kilar (who was very highly devoted to Sundarar) was regularly supplying Paravayar with enough grains and groceries for the maintenance of Sundarar and the devotees. Suddenly, there was famine in the district and people suffered for want of food. Kundaiyur Kilar was also affected. He was afflicted at heart because he could not supply the needs of Sundarar. Lord Siva appeared in his dream and promised enough grain! Kubera, the God of wealth, did the needful, as commanded by the Lord.

The next morning, Kundaiyur Kilar found huge heaps of grain. At the same time the Lord appeared before Sundarar and informed him of the incident. At once Sundarar left for Kundaiyur to meet Kilar. They met half-way. Sundarar saw the heaps of grain at Kundaiyur and knew that it was Siva's leela. He went to a nearby Kovil (temple) and sang the praise of the Lord, and entreated Siva to have the grain removed to Thiruvaaroor. A celestial voice immediately assured Sundarar of this.

Sundarar returned to Thiruvaaroor and informed Paravayar of all that happened. That night the Bhuta Ganas (servants of Lord Siva) removed the heaps of grain and filled the entire town of Thiruvaaroor with it! Paravayar offered repeated prostrations to the Lord and sang Siva's glory. She asked the people to take the grain to appease their hunger. Thus, the famine came to an end. All the people glorified the Lord and Paravayar.

Kotpuliyar Nayanar of Thirunattiyattankudi, the Commander-in-chief of a Chola King, and an ardent devotee of Lord Siva came to Sundarar and entreated him to grace Kotpuliyar's house with his divine presence. Sundarar agreed to this and went. After worshipping Sundarar, Kotpuliyar Nayanar prostrated himself at Sundarar's feet along with his two daughters, Singadiyar and Vanappahaiyar, and pleaded that Sundarar should marry the two daughters. Sundarar, however, placed them on his lap and fondled them, treating them as his own daughters. Then Sundarar went to the temple and sang in praise of the Lord, a song in which he called himself Singadiappan, since he took Singadiyar as his daughter.

Read about the life of Kotpuliyar Nayanar

Sundarar then returned to Thiruvaaroor. It was Paravayar's custom to distribute plenty of money and other articles in charity on Panguni Uttaram, a festival day when Siva and Parvathi united. Sundarar went to Thirupugalur and prayed to the Lord to give him gold for the sake of Paravayar. That night he slept there with a few bricks as his pillow. The next morning, Sundarar woke up to find that all the bricks had been converted into gold. Sundarar was surprised at this miracle of Lord Siva and sang Siva's glory and returned to Thiruvaaroor. On the way, Sundarar had a vision of the Lord at Thiru Panaiyur.

After visiting many holy places again and singing hymns in praise of the Lord, Sundarar came to Thiru Pachilasramam. There he worshipped the Lord and asked for a gold coin. He did not get it immediately. He sang a pathigam (song) and the Lord at once gave Sundarar a heap of gold. The Lord was so fond of hearing Sundarar sing.

Then, Sundarar left for Vridhachalam, visiting a number of holy places on the way. He had omitted Thiru Koodalaiyarrur. So, the Lord came to him as a Brahmin of whom Sundarar enquired the way to Vridhachalam. The Brahmin led the way up to a certain distance, and then suddenly disappeared. It was close to Thiru Koodalaiyarrur which Sundarar now visited and sang a song in praise of the Lord there.

Then Sundarar came to Vridhachalam. He worshipped the Lord, and sang a pathigam expressing his desire for gold coins. The Lord gave him 12,000 pieces of gold. Sundarar prayed to the Lord to remove these gold pieces to Thiruvaaroor. The Lord asked Sundarar to throw them into the river Manimukta and to receive them back at Thiruvaaroor. Sundarar did so, keeping a piece for identification.

On return to Thiruvaaroor, Sundarar and Paravayar went to the tank to get back the gold pieces. Sundarar dived into the eastern side of the tank and searched for the gold, as though he had put them there. He could not find them. Sorely afflicted at heart, he sang a song. That was what the Lord wanted. Sundarar got the gold. All were amazed. But, on identification, it was found that the gold was inferior in value to the piece that Sundarar had kept back with him. Sundarar sang a song and the Lord restored to them their original value. So fond was Siva of hearing Sundarar sing a song.

Sundarar went out on another pilgrimage again. On the way, he was afflicted with hunger and thirst. The Lord who is the Indweller of our hearts, erected a water-shed and was waiting for Sundarar there in the guise of a Brahmin. Sundarar and the devotees entered the shed, singing the Panchakshara Mantra. The Brahmin offered Sundarar food and water and asked him to rest awhile. All of them appeased their hunger, but the quantity of the food remained the same. When they were resting the Lord disappeared. They knew that it was none other than the Lord Himself. Sundarar sang a song alluding to this incident.

On another occasion, soon after this, while on a visit to Thirukachur, Sundarar went to the temple, worshipped the Lord and was resting outside the temple, feeling hungry. The Lord understood it and so, in the guise of a Brahmin came to Sundarar and said, "It appears that you are hungry. Please wait here. I will give you food."

The Lord at once went out in the scorching sun, begged from each and every house, and offered the food obtained to Sundarar. As Sundarar and the devotees were eating, the Brahmin disappeared. They all understood that it was the Lord Himself. Sundarar sang a song alluding to this incident, revealing the Lord's supreme mercy.

Later on, Sundarar went to Thiruvotriyur and stayed there for some time, worshipping the Lord there. Aninditiyar, the other maid-servant of Parvathi in Kailasa, who had also taken a human birth, was now Sangilyar in Jnayiru in Thondai Nadu. Her father was Jnayiru Kilar, a Vellala by caste. He was also a staunch devotee of Lord Siva. Sangiliyar was devoted to Parvathi from her very childhood. Once her parents mentioned that she should get married, but the very word "marriage" made her faint. Later, a respectable Vellala wanted to marry her. He sent some people to approach the girl's father. Jnayiru Kilar did not like even to speak to his daughter about it. He sent them away with an evasive reply. Soon after, the boy who wanted to marry Sangiliyar, and the party that went to negotiate — all of them died. When Jnayiru Kilar heard this, he understood the greatness of his daughter. He took her to Thiruvotriyur and built a small ashram for her there.

It was part of Sangiliyar's sadhana to make garlands for the Lord in the temple. She regularly visited the temple and worshipped the Lord. One day Sundarar and the devotees went to the temple. After the worship, they came to the place where some devotees were making garlands for the Lord. Sangiliyar was also there. Sundarar was attracted by her beauty, due to past samskaras. He wanted to marry her, and expressed this wish to the Lord. The Lord promised to fulfil his wish.

The Lord appeared in Sangiliyar's dream and said, "Oh noble soul, I am highly pleased with your devotion. Now I tell this for your own good. Sundarar wants to marry you. He is my friend. He asked me to arrange the marriage. So, marry him. You will be happy."

Sangiliyar prostrated before the Lord and said, "Oh Lord, I will obey your command and marry him. But, he may desert me since he is already married."

The Lord asked her to get a promise from Sundarar that he would not part from her under any circumstance.

Then the Lord appeared before Sundarar and said that Sangiliyar had agreed to marry him on condition that he would not part from her. Sundarar said, "Oh Lord, how can I agree to this condition since I am constantly moving about visiting many holy shrines? But, if you so desire, then assure me that you will withdraw your presence from the Lingam in the temple and will take your abode in the nearby tree, when I take the oath before your image."

The Lord granted Sundarar this wish and disappeared.

Siva again appeared before Sangiliyar and said, "Oh noble soul, Sundarar has agreed to your condition. But, ask him to make this promise, not before the Lingam in the temple, but in front of the nearby tree."

The next morning Sangiliyar came to the temple. Sundarar was waiting there for her. Sangiliyar's friends told Sundarar that she wished the promise to be given in front of the nearby tree. Sundarar was taken aback by the request, but accepted the proposal. The promise was given. The marriage was immediately solemnised.

In Thiruvaaroor, Vasanta Utsavam was being celebrated on a grand scale. Sundarar remembered the festival and longed to go there. He also recollected that Paravayar would sing and dance there in front of the Lord. At the same time, he could not part from Sangiliyar. For a long time, he struggled between the two conflicting duties. Finally, he decided to leave.

When Sundarar crossed the border of Thiruvotriyur, he suddenly lost his eye-sight and fell down on the ground. The Lord is impartial. None can escape the operation of the law of divine justice (karma).

Sundarar slowly regained his consciousness. Immediately he realized his fault and prayed to the Lord for forgiveness, asking for the grant of the eye-sight, "Oh Lord, I take complete refuge in you. I always repeat your name. Even when I fell down losing my eye-sight, I remembered you only. Oh Lord of Mercy, even if I commit a crime, is it not your duty to forgive me? Oh Lord of Compassion, save me."

In spite of the blindness, however, Sundarar's thirst for the darshan of the Lord at Thiruvaaroor did not abate. With the help of some people on the way, Sundarar came to Thiru Mullaivayil. Here, again, he prayed to the Lord to give him eye-sight. At Thiruvembakkam, Sundarar again prayed to the Lord in a similar strain. In the temple, he prayed and asked, "Oh Lord, who accepted me into His fold, prostrations unto Thee. Oh Lord, who cleverly played a trick on me, are you inside the temple?"

The Lord gave Sundarar a blind-man's stick and a stern reply, "I am here. You can go."

This attitude of indifference on the part of the Lord pained Sundarar and he pleaded for mercy, "Oh Lord of mercy, have I not taken you as my sole refuge and support? I committed a mistake thinking that you will pardon me. You are even indifferent to public criticism. Will they not accuse you for turning a deaf ear to a devotee who is sincerely weeping at your feet, accepting his fault and craving for pardon? Oh Lord, can you not understand suffering? Like a loving child that has been separated from its mother for a long time and wants to hug her, I have come to you — but, instead, you treat me like a stranger. Oh Lord, you deceived me, who asked you to remain for a while near the tree, by cleverly informing Sangiliyar of the same and asking her to get the promise from me near the tree. Oh Lord, you gave me Sangiliyar and all the pleasures. But, now you give me the blind-man's staff and say, 'You can go.' Oh Lord, am I unfit to receive your mercy? Pardon me and relieve me of my sufferings."

Then, completely resigning himself to God, Sundarar came to Conjeevaram, after visiting many holy places on the way. He worshipped Mother Kamakshi and expressed his sufferings to her and pleaded to her to relieve him of his sufferings. Sundarar then worshipped Lord Ekambareswarar. Mother, who is seated on Siva's left side, had already been moved by Sundarar's prayers and wanted to shower Her grace on him. Lord Siva understood this. He at once restored vision to Sundarar's left eye. In ecstasy, Sundarar rolled on the ground, shedding profuse tears of love.

After spending some days there, singing the glories of the Lord, Sundarar proceeded to go to Thiruvaaroor. At Thiruvaavaduthurai, Sundarar again prayed to the Lord to forgive him and restore sight to the other eye, too. Sundarar then came to Thiruthurithi. The Lord asked Sundarar to take a dip in the northern tank there. Sundarar did so, and came out of it. To the surprise of all, Sundarar's body had become as bright as polished gold. People were amazed at this change. Sundarar went into the temple and prayed.

Sundarar reached the outskirts of Thiruvaaroor. He grieved that, due to his partial sight, he could not get a complete darshan of the Lord. The very sight of the temple tower entranced him. Sundarar wanted to feast both his eyes on the beauty of the Lord and so prayed to Siva to restore vision to his other eye also. Sundarar's supreme devotion and lamentation moved the Lord's heart. Siva at once cured the other eye also. Sundarar was extremely happy. He worshipped the Lord and remained completely absorbed in divine bliss.

In the mean time, people whom Paravayar had sent to greet Sundarar and inform him of her eagerness to meet him, found out that he had married Sangiliyar. They went back and told Paravayar about this. Paravayar was sunk in grief. She was annoyed, too. Paravayar's people refused to allow Sundarar's devotees to enter the house. When Sundarar heard of this, he was afflicted at heart. He sent some elderly devotees to Paravayar to bring about a reunion. They failed. At midnight when all the devotees were asleep, he prayed to the Lord for His help in pacifying Paravayar. The Lord appeared before Sundarar and assured him of His help. The Lord disguised Himself as Sundarar's messenger, a Brahmin priest, and went to Paravayar's house. The Brahmin pleaded Sundarar's cause and asked her to accept Sundarar back. She refused, though she herself was grief-stricken at the separation from Sundarar. Her annoyance at his second marriage was so great! The Lord coolly returned to Sundarar, who was anxiously awaiting His return. When the Lord informed Sundarar of all that had happened, Sundarar fell down on the ground, in grief, "If you do not help me, Oh Lord, I will give up my life."

The Lord seeing Sundarar's pitiable condition, assured Sundarar of help and again set out to go to Paravayar's house.

In the mean time, the devout Paravayar had understood that the Brahmin was no other than the Lord Himself and was suffering from terrible anguish for not recognizing Siva. The Lord again went to her house: and this time He appeared before her in His real form. Paravayar at once prostrated before Siva. The Lord said, "O Paravayar, I have again been sent by Sundarar to plead his case. Do not refuse this time. He is undergoing terrible agony on account of separation from you. Accept him and allow him to come to your house."

Paravayar prostrated to the Lord again, with folded palms and said, "Oh Lord, first you came in the guise of a Brahmin but I did not recognize you. Again you have come and have shown me your real form. Oh Lord, how kind you are! You have graced my hut and showered your grace on me. You have taken so much trouble this midnight, for the sake of your friend. How can I go against your wish? I will accept and obey your command."

The Lord was immensely pleased with her. He blessed her and returned to Sundarar. The Lord informed Sundarar that He had pacified Paravayar and that Sundarar could now return to her. He then disappeared. Sundarar was overwhelmed with joy and sang the Lord's glories.

In the mean time, Paravayar had decorated her house beautifully and was eagerly waiting for her Lord. Sundarar, with his devotees, entered the house. Paravayar fell at Sundarar's feet. Thus, they were re-united after a long separation.

Yet, this was not all. The news that Sundarar had sent Lord Siva Himself as his messenger, had reached the ears of Eyarkon Kalikamar Nayanar of Thiru Perumangalam in Ponni Nadu. He was a great devotee of Lord Siva. He was terribly angry with Sundarar for treating the Lord as a messenger to settle a domestic quarrel. How, in a wonderful and mysterious manner, Lord Siva brings about a reconciliation between the two Nayanars, both of them greatly devoted to Him, we shall see, when we describe the life of Eyarkon Kalikamar Nayanar.

Read about the life of Eyarkon Kalikamar Nayanar

Equally interesting, is the way in which the Lord unites in friendship Sundarar and Cheraman Perumal Nayanar, another royal devotee of the Lord. We shall describe it in detail when we come to the life of Cheraman Perumal Nayanar.

Read about the life of Cheraman Perumal

When, along with Cheraman Perumal, Sundarar was proceeding to Madurai, they arrived at Thirunagaikkoronam. Here, Sundarar sang a song in which he asked the Lord to give him a pearl garland, precious stones, musk, spectacles, fragrance, clothes, jewelry, one-third of the wealth of Thiruvaaroor, horses which ran as fast as the wind, golden flowers, palanquin, etc. How wonderful is the relation between the devotee and the Lord! Sundarar regarded God as his friend, because God Himself had wanted it to be so. Sundarar adopted towards God the Sakhya Bhava (attitude of a dear friend).

In the company of Cheraman Perumal, Sundarar went on several pilgrimages, and met many of the kings of South India. Once, when they were at Thiru Kandiyur, they saw Thiruvaiyar on the opposite bank of the river. Cheraman desired to visit that place also. The river was in flood, and it was impossible to cross it. Sundarar sincerely prayed to the Lord to help them by singing a pathigam which easily pleased the Lord. At once the river gave way, leaving a sandy tract through which they could walk across to the other bank. As soon as they reached the other bank, the river resumed its former form. They were delighted at this miracle of the Lord. Even the five elements are ever ready to serve the devotees of the Lord, at His command.

Cheraman then took Sundarar to his own palace, with great honour and pomp. Sundarar stayed with Cheraman for some time. Sundarar suddenly remembered the Lord of Thiruvaaroor and wanted to go there. Cheraman could not accompany Sundarar and was therefore grief-stricken. Sundarar consoled him and asked Cheraman to stay behind and rule the country wisely and justly. Cheraman prostrated himself before Sundarar and gave Sundarar rich presents. However, God Siva sent His own people to carry these presents, and to accompany Sundarar. It was the Lord's wish that Sundarar should receive gifts only from Him! How could His friend receive from others? Hence, Siva desired to deprive Sundarar of what Cheraman had given him. When Sundarar and his retinue were passing through Thirumuruganpondi, the Lord sent His Servants to rob Sundarar of all the riches that he had received from Cheraman. The Lord's servants disguised themselves as hunters and attacked the party that was carrying the presents. The party dropped all and fled. They went to Sundarar and reported to him what had happened. Sundarar went to the local temple and sang a pathigam. He came out of the temple and to his surprise Sundarar saw all that they had been robbed of. Now, it was a gift from the Lord Himself, and so Sundarar (God's friend) could have it. Wonderful are the leelas of the Lord.

After some time, Sundarar again desired to see Cheraman Perumal. On the way to Kundakolur, he went to Thiru Pukkoliyur Avinasi. As Sundarar entered this place, he heard simultaneously — auspicious, as well as, wailing sounds emerging from different houses.

On enquiry, Sundarar learnt how two Brahmin boys of the same age, from these two houses went to tank for a bath; and how one of them was caught by a crocodile, and the other escaped, providentially. The latter was being invested with the sacred thread that day, and hence, the auspicious sound from that house. The people in the deceased boy's house were bemoaning the loss of the boy, sore at the feeling that, had he been alive, he would also be celebrating the sacred thread ceremony that day.

Sundarar wanted to console the bereaved family. As he stood in front of the house, the people stopped wailing and came out to receive Sundarar. They were eager for a long time to get Sundarar's darshan, and so, forgetting their sorrow, they came to welcome him. Their devotion moved Sundarar's heart. Sundarar was prompted by the Lord to bring the dead boy back to life.

So, Sundarar went to the same tank and sang a pathigam on the Lord of Avinasi to give the child back to the parents. The Creator, pleased with Sundarar, entered the stomach of the crocodile and re-constituted the body of the boy, though it had already been digested. Lord Yama, too, released from his custody, the life he had once removed and the crocodile vomitted the boy! To the wonder of all, the boy was much more handsome than when he met with the accident, and he showed signs of growth, appropriate to the lapse of time. All were amazed at this miracle of Sundarar. The parents of the boy were immensely pleased and embraced Sundarar's feet. Sundarar took the boy to the temple and worshipped Lord Avinasiappar. Sundarar himself performed the sacred thread ceremony for the boy.

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At Kodunkolur, Cheraman, who had already come to know of the crocodile miracle, received Sundarar with still greater love and veneration than before. Sundarar stayed with the king for some time.

One day, Sundarar visited the temple alone and worshipped the Lord. The very sight of the Lord sent Sundarar into trance. He rolled on the ground shedding tears of God-love. The hairs on his body stood on end and his mind was filled with rapture. He regained consciousness after a long time. Sundarar was tired of worldly existence and so requested the Lord to take him back to Kailasa. Sundarar sang a pathigam expressing his wish.

The Lord, desiring to take Sundarar back to His Abode, commanded the celestials to bring Sundarar to Kailasa on a white elephant. Siva also informed Sundarar of this.

As Sundarar came out of the temple, where he sung the pathigam to Lord Siva, a white elephant was waiting for him. Sundarar mentally wished to take Cheraman Perumal also with him to Kailasa. Then Sundarar climbed the elephant and proceeded towards Kailasa.

In the pathigam he sang on this occasion, Sundarar himself reveals that this departure for Kailasa was not in his physical body, but in his spiritual body. The physical body was discarded here in this world itself and the elements of which it was composed were returned to their sources.

Cheraman learnt by intuition of Sundarar's departure for Kailasa. At once, Cheraman mounted a horse and came to Thiru Anchaikalam. There he saw Sundarar going along the sky on the celestial elephant. At once, Cheraman pronounced the Panchakshara Mantra in the ears of the horse. The horse flew up and reached Sundarar. Cheraman worshipped Sundarar there. Both of them went to Kailasa in their spiritual body.

At the gate of Kailasa, Sundarar was allowed to enter, while Cheraman was not. Sundarar went into Siva's presence and praised the Lord's mercy, "Oh Ocean of mercy, you have pardoned my sins and released me from the quagmire of samsara. You have taken me back into your fold, and bestowed on me the immortal bliss. How kind and merciful you are!"

Sundarar then informed the Lord that Cheraman was outside the gate. To please His friend, Sundarar, Lord Siva sent His mount Nandikesvarar to bring Cheraman also in. The Lord asked Cheraman how he could come to Kailasa without Siva's permission. Cheraman replied that when he saw Sundarar proceeding to Kailasa, he could not bear separation from Sundarar and so accompanied him. Now, by the good offices of Sundarar (which earned for Cheraman the Lord's grace), Cheraman had been admitted into the Lord's abode. In these words, Cheraman expressed a very great truth — even if the devotee is undeserving, if he is devoted to a saint (the Guru), he will also gain a place in the kingdom of God through the intercession of the Guru.

Sundarar, as before, engaged himself in Lord Siva's service with all his heart and soul. Paravayar and Sangiliyar, being purged of their karmas, also reached Kailasa. They resumed their original duty as the servants of Mother Parvathi.



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.


See Also:

WeblinkSundarar (Murthi)

WeblinkSundarar (Murthi)'s Thevaaram (Thirumurai 7)

WeblinkThe Four Saiva Samaya Acharyas

WeblinkThiru-Thonda-Thogai ("Assembly of the Sacred Slaves at Thiruvaaroor")

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