Story of one of the 63 Nayanars: Thirugnana Sampantha Moorthy Nayanar
Sirkazhi is a small village in south India. It is a pretty little village with paddy fields and flower gardens everywhere. The village has a very famous temple in which Lord Shiva is the presiding deity. He has been also known as Thoniappar.
An Aanthanar by name Sivapaada Irudayar lived in Sirkazhi. He was a learned and good-hearted man. His wife was Bhagavathy. Both of them had constant affection and devotion for Lord Shiva.
At the time of this story, Jainism had spread in South India. Jain priests and the people of that faith used to cause hardships to people of the Saiva sect. People lived in ignorance unaware of the greatness of the Saiva sect. Sivapadar was very much hurt by the attitude of the Jain sect and the hardships suffered by the Saivas.
He stood before the sanctuary of Lord Shiva and prayed with joined hands, “Lord, open your eyes and see the sufferings of the people of Sirkazhi. Bless us with a child who will spread Saivism again in this country” he pleaded.
With Lord Shiva’s blessings and grace, Bhagavathy conceived. She gave birth to a beautiful son.
The child who shone bright and beautiful like the rising sun was named Aaludaippillaiyar and he was brought up with much care and affection.
One day, when Aaludaippillaiyar was three years old, Sivapaadar started for the Shiva temple to perform Shiva puja as usual. His son Aaludaipillai too ran after his father.
Sivapaada Irudayar got angry when he saw his son following him.”Do not follow me… Go back home to your mother”, he chided his son. But the child refused to listen to his father. He stamped his little feet on the ground stubbornly. The anklets on his feet also sounded musically in rhythm to his stubbornness. The father burst out laughing at the sight and he took his son with him.
One has to take a bath to purify one’s body before entering the temple. There was a beautiful pond beside the Shiva temple.
Sivapaada Irudayar reached the pond with his son. He made his son stay on the bank of the pond. He was worried that his son might fall into the pond accidentally while he was taking a bath. So, he prayed to God, “Lord, I leave the child in your care. Look after him”, he prayed and stepped into the pond and began to bathe.
While bathing, he uttered the mantras of Lord Shiva and dipped into the water. The child was watching his father all the time. He became alarmed when his father disappeared into the water.
He was afraid his father might have drowned in the pond. He looked around. There was no one around to help.
He looked up with his beautiful eyes.
He saw the sight of Lord Shiva with his consort Umadevi on the temple tower. The figures seemed life-like.
Tears trickled from the child’s eyes, “Mother… father..”, he began to cry.
Sivapaada Irudayar who was bathing in the pond could not hear his son’s cries. But, the wailing voice of the child was heard by the Lord of all worlds, Shiva and the mother of all lives, Umadevi.
This was probably because the child had done a lot of good karma in his previous birth.
Lord Shiva’s and Umadevi’s hearts softened on hearing the pitiful cries of the child. The next instant, Lord Shiva and Umadevi appeared before the child. The child blinked at the wondrous sight that no one could hope to see.
Lord Shiva smiled at Umadevi and told her affectionately, “Devi, give this child your milk of enlightenment and knowledge”.
As soon as he drank the milk of Umadevi, the supreme mother who fills all worlds with knowledge, he stopped crying. The divine child that had received the light of knowledge, smiled. Having received enlightenment in that instant, he became Thirugnana Sambandar.
It was a gift that the devas and sages could not get even after having done penance for a lifetime.
Lord Shiva and Umadevi blessed the child and vanished.
Soon after, Sivapaada Irudayar came out of the pond and reached the spot where he had left his child. He was amazed to see the radiance that shone from his son’s face. Milk was trickling from the corners of his son’s mouth. Sivapaada Irudayar became very angry.
“Who had given you milk to drink?”, he demanded of the child.
The divine child did not reply but stood smiling. On seeing his smile, the father became even angrier.
He took hold of a stick that was Iying beside him. Wielding it over his son, he demanded, “Tell me who had given you milk, or else, I will spank you”.
The child looked up smiling all the time. He looked up at the figures of Lord Shiva and Umadevi on the temple tower. He noticed the golden earrings on the figure of Lord Shiva.
Lifting his right hand, he pointed at the golden earrings and began to sing in a sweet voice,
“The Lord who wears golden earrings and is mounted on a bull,
He who wears the pure white crescent slice of the moon on his head,
He who applies the ashes of the dead all over his body,
He who resides in the famous Brahmapuram,
He is the one who blessed me with the gift of poetry
So that I might shower him with flowers of verse in his praise.”
Sivapaada Irudayar was amazed to hear his three years old child sing the beautiful Devaram song. The stick on his hand slipped unnoticed from his grasp. He realized that it was one divine play of the Lord. He embraced the divine child of Shiva.
The Devas showered flowers on hearing the beautiful song sung by Thiru Gnana Sambandar.
Hearing the wondrous news, all the devotees gathered at the temple of Shiva.
Thiru Gnana Sambandar entered the temple walking with his beautiful little feet. He was followed by his father.
Singing Devaram songs in praise of Lord Shiva, Thiru Gnana Sambandar worshiped the main deity of the temple, Lord Shiva with love and affection. He prayed to the Lord and attained bliss.
From then on, Sivapaada Irudayar carried his son on his shoulders and visited all the holy temples of Lord Shiva. Thiru Gnana Sambandar sang many Devaram songs in praise of the presiding deity of each temple.
Saivism and Hinduism flourished again. Devotees of Shiva praised him and revered him.
Thiru Gnana Sambandar was one of the four Saivite saints who sang songs in praise of Lord Shiva.
The other three were Thiru Navukkarasar, Sundarar, and Manickavasagar.
Among these four, Thiru Navukkarasar lived during the same period as Thiru Gnana Sambandar. But, Thiru Navukkarasar was elder to Sambandar by many years.
Thiru Gnana Sambandar was also one of the sixty-three Nayanmars who devoted their lives in serving Lord Shiva.
The devotional songs sung by these four Saivite Saints have been compiled into what is known as the ‘Panniru Thirumuraigal’, ie: the ‘Twelve sacred Saiva books’.
Dear children, we shall read later, more stories about Thiru Gnana Sambandar who was also a sweet little child like you.
Moreover, the other Saivite saints and Nayanmars referred to above are eager to meet you all in other pages of this website.