In our series on Tamil Poet Saints, Sundarar occupies a unique place for, Lord Siva played a lot of amusing tricks, His Leelas on this devotee. Let us enjoy them.
Sunderar’s descent to earth : – Aalaala Sundarar was doing service to Lord Siva in Mount Kailash. Once when he went to pluck flowers for puja, he met 2 beautiful maidens, Aninditai and Kamalini who were in the service of Devi Parvati. Both Sundarar and the maidens were attracted to each other. Coming to know of this the Lord told them “all the 3 of you go to Bhuloka (Earth), get married there and continue to serve me there.” Accordingly they were born on earth.
Following the Lord’s command, Aalaasundarar was born in a place called Thirumunypadi in Tamil Nadu as the son of Sadiyanar and Isai gyaniar in the Adi Saiva Brahmin caste. He was named NambiI Aroorar. The king of that area took a great liking to the boy and brought him up in the palace. After his thread ceremony (upanayanam) he was engaged to marry the daughter of one Sivachariar.
Now starts the Lord’s Leela. At the marriage hall there suddenly appeared an old Brahmin and declared loudly that the bride groom is his bonded slave and that he cannot marry. All present were thunderstruck! Nambi Aroorar laughed derisively at the old Brahmin and asked “Are you a mad man? How can a Brahmin become slave to another Brahmin? “But the old man was adamant and would not give up his claim. Aroorar asked the old man to show him the document (palmleaf) but he refused. Aroorar was furious, he snatched the palmleaf from him and tore it to pieces. Then all the people, to settle the issue, went to the old man’s native village. But the people there also didn’t believe the old man. Then the cunning old man smiled slyly and said that what Sundarar tore was only a copy, and the original was still safely with him. Now they all agreed to the truth of the case and ordered Sundarar to become the oldman’s slave and work for him. Then the judges asked the old man where he lived. The old man took all of them to the temple. He went inside and disappeared. But there appeared a glorious sight! They saw Lord Siva sitting majestically on His mount Nandi Deva smiling at them. All the crowd, chanting the Lord’s Name, Namasivaaya! Namasivaaya! fell to the ground. The Lord then asked Aroorar to sing a tamil verse, (Pathikam) in honour of Him. Poor Aroorar was overwhelmed by all this, humbly replied that he never composed and doesn’t know how to. Lord said,”you called me a madman(Piththan) so start with that word”. Immediately a song burst forth from Sundarar’s lips, the famous Pitha Pirai Soodi (O piththa you are adorned with moon…) Thus began Sundarar’s poetic career!
(Though Sundarar’s marriage did not take place, the bride thought of Aroorar alone as her husband, lived a pious life and reached Lord’s feet in the end.)
The good Lord continued his Play with Sundarar. Once sleeping in an inn, the Lord taking the guise of an old man kept His feet repeatedly on Sundarar’s head. Finally Sundarar realised that it is the Lord and sang a poem in tamil, meaning “Who doesn’t know the Lord”. On the Lord’s command he went to Thiruvaroor and was doing service in the temple. Remember Kamalini of Kailas? She was born in the same town in the Devadasi family and her name was Paraviyar. She too was doing service in the same temple. Both she and Sundarar met, fell in love and fulfilled the ancient prophecy, got married and were living happily.
Sundarar also performed many miracles like bringing to life a dead boy, transforming bricks into gold so that Paraviyar could renovate dilapidated Siva temples. Once Sundarar wanted to sing Pathikams on the Siva Bhaktas living in the temple city of Chidambaram(thilly). The Lord Himself gave him the first line ‘Thilli Vaz Andanardam Adiyarku Adiyane’ meaning ‘Iam the slave of the slaves of the Brahmins living in Thilly’. On the request of a Siva Bhakta, Sundarar adopted his 2 daughters, Singadiyar and Vanapagiyar as his own.
But the Lord wasn’t finished playing with Sundarar. Remember Anindita of Kailasa? She was born as Sangaliyar. She refused to marry and was living in a Kannimadam (Nunnery) performing Lord’s service. Sundarar met her, fell in love with her, got married to her and promised her that he would never leave her! But alas, he forgot his promise and went back to his first wife Paraviyar. But sadly, he lost his eye sight as he broke his promise. But the Lord took pity on him and blessed him with a cane so that he could find his way.
Now his first wife Paravaiyar would not accept him as he cheated on her. Again the Lord came to his rescue. He went twice to Paravaiyar on Sundarar‘s behalf and pleaded with her to forgive her husband. See the lengths to which Bhagawan goes to help his Bhaktas!!
Sundarar spent his last days with his friend, the King Chraman, but he was dissatisfied with his earthly life and longed to be back to Kailash and be with his Lord. And it is said that the Lord sent a white elephant to bring his devotee back to Kailash. His two wives Paraviyar and Sangaliar had already reached Kailasa and were serving Devi Parvathy.
Such is the tale of Sundarar with whom Lord sported time and again! Sundarar lived for 18 years on this earth singing his Lord’s glory in melodious Tamil Pathikams which are revered to this day.
OM TAT SAT
Dr. AMRITHA MURTHY