Thiru Jñāna Sambandar
In our series on Saivite saints we will now be reading on another great poet saint – Thiru Jñāna Sambandar who by his divine lyrics called Pathikams in tamil, sang the glory of Lord Śiva and popularised Śaiva Siddhanta in Tami Nadu. There are a lot of similarities between his life and Appar’s life which we saw earlier.
Sambandar was born in a Brahmin family about 1300 years ago in Sirghazi town in Tamil Nadu. His parents were Śiva Pada Hridayar and Bhagawathy amma. There are a lot of legends associated with his life which we will be reading now.
Once, as a child of 3 years he went with his father to the temple tank. His father left him on the tank’s steps and went to have a bath. The child felt hungry and started crying. Lord Śiva and Parvathi Devi were passing in the sky and heard the child’s cries. Parvathi Devi gave the child milk in a gold cup mixing with it “Śiva Jñānam” (Knowledge of Lord Siva). Thus he got the name Jñāna Sambandar by the grace of the divine mother. Seeing the child standing with milk dripping from his mouth his father got angry and scolded him saying “whose left over (yecchhal in tamil) milk did you drink?”. The child pointed to the sky and started singing the hymn “Thoduda Sevian…” indicating that the milk was from the divine couple.
Sambandar’s fame started spreading. He went on a pilgrimage to Śiva’s temples like his predecessor Appar singing the Lord’s glory. In one of his travels he met him and addressed him as Appare! (dear father!). Together they visited many temples singing soul stirring melodies on Lord Śiva.
Sambandar was especially dear to the divine couple. Once as he was singing in a temple and clapping his hands the child’s palms became red and tender. Unable to see the child suffering, Lord gave him Golden Cymbals (Thalams) and Devi blessed them with divine energy. At another time unable to see the child walking in the sun and rain the Lord presented him with a Pearl Palanquin and a Pearl Umbrella!
Many miracles are attributed to Sambandar. He got 1000 gold coins for his father so that he could perform a Yagna. Like Appar, he also brought back to life a merchant bitten by a snake, and got the long shut temple doors opened by singing to the Lord. In Mylapore, Madras, a father kept his daughter’s ashes staunchly believing that Sambandar had the power to bring back his daughter from the ashes. The father’s faith was justified and Sambandar sang the Pathikam ‘Mattitta Punnai’ and the girl rose from the ashes!
But his most famous deed was curing the Pandya King. The story goes thus; the Pandya Queen Mangayarkarasi was a great devotee of Lord Siva but the king was under the influence of Jain Monks. She requested Sambandar to come to Madurai, the Pandya capital and convert the king back to Śaivism. So Sambandar came and stayed in an inn. The Jain (Samana) monks came to know of this and set fire to the inn. But Sambandar was calm and sang the Pathikam “Pieyave Sendru” (go immediately). The fire subsided but the king was struck with burning fever. The monks tried all their skills to cure the king but his condition became worse. Requested by the queen, Sambandar, singing the famous Pathikam ‘Mandiramavadu Neeru’ applied the sacred ash Vibhuti on the king’s body and the king was cured of his fever immediately. The king realised his folly, fell at Sambadar’s feet and became a staunch bhakta. His ‘hunchback’ also became straight and he became known as Nedumaran -the long limbed one.
But the Jain monks were not giving up. They challenged Sambandar to write the truths about his religion and they also did the same. Both documents were put in the fire, however the Saint’s remained unburnt while Jain Monk’s turned to ashes! Next the monks put the documents in a river, their’s sank but his came floating up, dry! Thus he went on performing miracles wherever people requested him to remove a difficulty, save a life and cure an illness..
On his 16th year he married the daughter of another Śiva devotee and it is said that then in the presence of the wedding guests, Sambandar merged with the Divine, in glorious effulgence. Thus ended the life of this gifted personage who was specially blessed by the divine couple. Thus it once again proves that it is not the number of years one lives that matters but what one puts into them that counts!
OM TAT SAT
Written by: Dr. Amritha Murthy