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Nandanar Nāyanār

Illustration courtesy of Ramalingar Pani Mandram.
It was said that Nandanar had his mind ever fixed on the Lord. But as a ‘low-born’, he was unable to enter the temple for darshan and remained outside the temple gates, where he would sing and dance with great devotion. Once Nandanar went to Thiruppungoor in hopes of glimpsing the Lord, only to be disappointed when he found the statue of Nandi obstructing his view. So great was his soul-stirring song of longing that Lord Siva had Nandi step aside so that Nandanar could have darshan. Later, eager for darshan of the dancing Lord at Chidambaram, Nandanar lamented in this vein: “How can I, a low-born, ever dare to enter these sacred precincts?” Circumambulating the walls of the temple night and day, despairing of ever seeing the Lord, Nandanar fell asleep from weariness. In a dream, Nataraja appeared to him and said: “To get rid of this birth, you may enter a flaming fire and emerge hallowed in the company of those wearing the sacred thread”.

Meanwhile, the Lord commanded the temple priests to arrange a great fire. The temple priests approached Nandanar and said, “Oh, Master, we have come here into your gracious presence at the Lord’s behest to prepare the ‘fire-bath’ for you”. A large fire was lit outside the southern wall of the temple. Nandanar went round it, lifted his hands in adoration, and meditating on the dancing feet of the Lord, plunged into its flames. Straightaway, he relinquished the ‘illusory’ body and emerged from the flames like a hallowed sage with matted tresses. The temple priests folded their hands in reverence and led the effulgent devotee into the Lord’s presence. Once having entered the inner sanctum and beholding Nataraja, Nandanar merged into his Divine form to delight forever in the bliss of His Lotus feet.

Reproduced from the November 2011 issue of the Saranagati eNewsletter
published by Sri Ramanasramam. The above text has been freely adapted from editions
of Periapuranam, Siva Bhakta Vilāsam (published by Sri Ramanasramam) and other texts.

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