Sixty-three Nayanar Saints

by Swami Sivananda

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Book Code: ES160
xvi + 174 pages
Book Dimensions: 7.1 x 4.8 x 0.3 inches
Shipping Weight: 120 grams

Table of Contents

Publishers’ Note v
The Saiva Siddhanta Philosophy vii
The Nayanars’ Message For Us xii
1. Sundaramurthi Nayanar 3
2. Tiru Neelakanta Nayanar 22
3. Iyarpahai Nayanar 25
4. Ilayankudi Mara Nayanar 28
5. Maiporul Nayanar 30
6. Viralminda Nayanar 33
7. Amaraneedi Nayanar 35
8. Eripatha Nayanar 38
9. Enadinatha Nayanar 41
10. Kannappa Nayanar 44
11. Kungiliya Kalaya Nayanar 48
12. Manakanchara Nayanar 51
13. Arivattaya Nayanar 53
14. Anaya Nayanar 55
15. Murthi Nayanar 56
16. Muruga Nayanar 58
17. Rudra Pasupathi Nayanar 59
18. Tiru Nalai Povar Nayanar 60
19. Tiru Kurippu Thonda Nayanar 62
20. Chandesvara Nayanar 64
21. Tiru-Navukkarasar Nayanar 67
22. Kulacchirai Nayanar 79
23. Perumizhalai Kurumba Nayanar 80
24. Karaikal Ammaiyar 81
25. Appuddi Nayanar 83
26. Tiruneelanakka Nayanar 86
27. Nami Nandi Adigal 88
28. Tiru Jnana Sambandar 90
29. Eyarkon Kalikama Nayanar 105
30. Tiru Mula Nayanar 106
31. Dandi Adigal Nayanar 108
32. Murkha Nayanar 110
33. Somasira Nayanar 111
34. Sakkiya Nayanar 112
35. Sirappuli Nayanar 113
36. Siruthonda Nayanar 114
37. Cheraman Perumal Nayanar 118
38. Gananatha Nayanar 122
39. Kootruva Nayanar 123
40. Pugal Chola Nayanar 124
41. Narasinga Muniyaraiyar 125
42. Adipattha Nayanar 126
43. Kalikamba Nayanar 127
44. Kalia Nayanar 128
45. Satti Nayanar 129
46. Aiyadigal Kadavarkon Nayanar 130
47. Kanampulla Nayanar 131
48. Kari Nayanar 132
49. Ninra Seer Nedumara Nayanar 133
50. Mangayarkarasiyar 133
51. Vayilar Nayanar 134
52. Munaiyaduvar Nayanar 135
53. Kazharsinga Nayanar 136
54. Seruthunai Nayanar 136
55. Idangazhi Nayanar 137
56. Pugazh Tunai Nayanar 138
57. Kotpuli Nayanar 139
58. Pusalar Nayanar 140
59. Nesa Nayanar 142
60. Kochengat Chola Nayanar 143
61. Tiru Neelakanta Yazhpanar 145
62. Sadaya Nayanar 146
63. Isaijnaniyar 146
Manickavachagar 147
Selections From The Utterances of Nayanar Saints 157
Glory of Lord Siva 161
The Siva Lingam 166
Puja And Ishta Devata 168
Glossary 174

Publishers’ Note

Spiritual aspirants have always loved to study the lives of saints, which are living scriptures, as it were, throwing a flood of light on the spiritual path for the aspirants to walk boldly, fearlessly and joyously, to the goal of immortality. These short biographies from the pen of a great living saint and Yogi, have the added advantage of the best possible presentation.

This celestial scripture, the enthralling story of the Sixty-three Nayanars, the towering spiritual giants of South India, is destined to bring about a spiritual renaissance, nay, a revolution throughout the world. It is a book to jolt you out of your spiritual lethargy, a book to shake you out of your spiritual slumber, a book to heal your chronic spiritual blindness.

Nowhere else in the entire spiritual realm of man are such matchless devotion to and such fathomless love for God to be found. It is a book that will fill your eyes with tears and wring devotion out of your heart—no matter how stony it may be. It is an infallible devotion-injector and an irresistible magnet, powerful enough to convert any hardened atheist.

What spiritual ingredients did the Nayanars use to reach the Abode of God so quickly? They were pure devotion, innocent child-like love, firm faith, persistency and a granite will to overcome whatever obstacles God placed in their path to test their sincerity.

Apart from the biographies of the Sixty-three Nayanar Saints, this book contains an authoritative article on the Saiva Siddhanta Philosophy, the life of Saint Manickavachagar, selections from the utterances of Nayanar saints, and articles on Glory of Lord Siva, and Puja and Ishta Devata, all by Swami Sivananda, and evaluation of the Nayanar’s Message for us by Swami Venkatesananda.

May we all tread the path of devotion shown by the Nayanar saints and attain the Goal of life in this very birth!


The Saiva Siddhanta Philosophy

(Sri Swami Sivananda)

Introduction: In the books which treat of Saivism, there is a reference to four schools, viz., the Nakulisa-pasupata, the Saiva, the Pratyabhijna and the Rasesvara.

Saiva Siddhanta is the philosophy of southern Saivism. It owes its origin to no single author. It is midway between Sankara’s Adwaita and Ramanuja’s Visishtadwaita. Its literature consists chiefly of: (1) the twenty-eight Saivite Agamas, (2) the collection of Saivite hymns known as Tirumurai compiled by Nambi Andar Nambi, (it contains Tirumanthiram of Tirumular; the Thevaram of Appar, Sundarar, and Sambandar, and the Tiruvachagam of Manickavachagar), (3) the collection of the lives of Saivite saints, known as the Periyapuranam, (4) Meykandar’s Siva-jnanabodham, (5) Arulnandi’s Sivajnanasiddhiar, and the works of Umapati. Tirumular’s work Tirumanthiram is the foundation upon which the later structure of Saiva Siddhanta philosophy was built.

The central doctrine of the Saiva Siddhanta philosophy is that Siva is the Supreme Reality, and that the Jiva or the individual soul is of the same essence as Siva, but not identical. Pati (God), Pasu (soul), and Pasa (the bonds) and the thirty-six Tattvas or principles which constitute the world, are all real.

The Saiva Siddhanta system is the distilled essence of Vedanta. It prevailed in Southern India even before the Christian era. Tirunelvely and Madura are the centres of the Saiva Siddhanta school. Even now, Saivism is a very popular creed in South India. It is a rival school of Vaishnavism.

Characteristics of the Supreme Reality: The Supreme Reality is called Siva. He is infinite consciousness. He is eternal, changeless, formless, independent, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, one without a second, beginningless, causeless, taintless, self-existent, ever free, ever pure, and perfect. He is not limited by time. He is infinite bliss and infinite intelligence. He is free from defects, the all-doer, the all-knower.

Lord Siva is the God of Love. His grace is infinite. His love is infinite. He is the saviour and Guru. He is engaged in freeing the souls from the thraldom of matter. He assumes the form of a Guru out of His intense love for mankind. He wishes that all should know Him and attain the blissful Siva-Padam (the state of Siva). He watches the activities of the individual souls, and helps them in their onward march. He liberates the individual souls from their fetters or bonds.

The Five Activities of the Lord: The five activities of the Lord are: Creation, Preservation, Destruction, Veiling and Grace. These, separately considered, are the activities of Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, Maheshwara, and Sadasiva.

Siva, Shakti and Maya: Lord Siva pervades the whole world by His Shakti. He works through Shakti. Shakti is the conscious energy of the Lord Siva. She is the very body of Lord Siva. The potter is the first cause for the pot. The stick and the wheel are the instrumental causes. The clay is the material cause of the pot. Similarly, Lord Siva is the first cause of the world. Shakti is the instrumental cause. Maya is the material cause.

Shakti is not the material cause of the universe, because She is of the nature of consciousness (Chaitanya). Siva is pure consciousness, but matter is pure unconsciousness. Shakti is the intermediate link between the two.

Shakti is the reflex of Siva. It has no independent existence. Siva assumes this form out of His great love for mankind. Siva wishes that all should know Him.

Evolution of the Tattvas from Suddha Maya: The world undergoes evolution for the benefit of the souls. The whole process of creation is for the sake of the salvation of the souls. The world is real and eternal. The world of matter and souls forms the body of the Lord.

The Saiva Siddhanta analyses the universe into 36 Tattvas or principles, as against the 25 of the Sankhya. The 36 Tattvas arise from Maya, the material cause of the world. Suddha Maya is Maya in its primal state. From it arise the five pure principles called Siva Tattva, Shakti Tattva, Sadasiva Tattva, Iswara Tattva, and Suddhavidya Tattva. Siva functions through these five pure principles.

Maya evolves into the subtle principles, and then into the gross. Siva Tattva is the basis of all consciousness and action. It is undifferentiated (Nishkala Suddha Maya). The Shakti of Siva starts her activity. Then Siva becomes the experiencer. Then He is called Sadasiva, known also by the name Sadakhya, Who is not really separate from Siva. The Suddha Maya becomes active. Then Siva, the experiencer, becomes the ruler. He is then Iswara, Who is not really separate from Sadasiva. Suddhavidya is the cause of true knowledge.

The bonds that bind the soul (Anava, Karma, Maya): Souls (Pasu) are by nature infinite, all-pervading, eternal, and all-knowing like Lord Siva (Pati). Yet they think that they are finite, limited and little-knowing, ignorant, and temporary. This is due to the bonds (Pasa), viz., Anava, Karma, and Maya, which are called the three Malas or impurities. Anava is the impurity which makes the all-pervading Jiva think itself to be atomic (Anu). It produces the erroneous notion of finiteness. The second impurity or bond is Karma. The soul acts in certain ways on account of its limitation, and does good and evil actions. Karma brings about the conjunction of the soul with its body. The results of the Karma have to be worked out in the world. There should be worlds and bodies, in order to experience the fruits of actions and acquire knowledge. These are provided by Maya, the third Mala or bond. Maya is the material cause of the world. The soul gets experience and limited knowledge through Maya.

The soul learns, by long experience, that this Samsara is full of pains and is transitory, and that he can attain eternal bliss and immortality only by attaining Sivatva or the nature of Siva or God-realisation. He develops Vairagya (dispassion), and Viveka (discrimination between the Real and the unreal, the Permanent and the impermanent).

Discipline and grace culminate in Jnana. Jnana is the supreme means of salvation or the attainment of the final beatitude. Karma and other means are only subsidiary to it. They are auxiliaries.

The attainment of Sivatva or Siva-nature does not mean complete merging of the soul in Siva. The liberated soul does not lose its individuality. It continues to exist as a soul in God. Sivatva is the realisation of an identity of essence in spite of difference. The soul attains the nature of Siva or God, but it is not itself Siva or God.

Three orders of Jivas: The Siddhantins divide Jivas or Pasus into three orders, viz., Vijnanakalas, Pralayakalas and Sakalas. Vijnanakalas have only the Anava Mala (egoism). Maya and Karma have been resolved. Pralayakalas have been freed from Maya alone, in the stage of Pralaya. Sakalas have all the three Malas.

The Malas affect only the Jivas, and not Siva. Those who are freed from the Malas or impurities attain Sivatva or the nature of Siva. They are the Siddhas or perfected beings.

The way to the attainment of Sivatva or God-realisation: You must free yourself from the three bonds, if you want to attain salvation. You must annihilate Maya, which is the root of all sins. You must destroy all Karmas which produce rebirth. You must remove the erroneous notion of a finite self.

The three bonds can be removed only through rigorous Tapas and proper discipline, the help of a Guru, and, above all, the grace of Lord Siva. Charya (observance), Kriya (rites), and Yoga (Yama-Niyama) constitute the discipline. When the aspirant practises in right earnest Charya, Kriya and Yoga he obtains the grace of Lord Siva. Then the Lord instructs the soul, reveals Himself and illumines him. Then the soul realises its nature as Siva.

Guru Puja

It is customary to observe the day on which these saints attained the Lord’s Feet, as a holy day. Given below are such days in respect of the Four Great Saivite teachers, with their respective holy days, according to the Tamil Calendar. Pray, fast and study their lives in these days.

Tirunavukkarasar Chitrai Sadayam
Tiru-Jnanasambandar Vaikhasi Moolam
Manickavachagar Ani Makham

Sundaramurthi Swamigal

Adi Swathi

The Nayanars’ Message For Us

How shall we evaluate this work by a saint on the lives of saints? A wise saying in Sanskrit echoes what we mean by ‘Only a Shakespeare can understand Shakespeare.’ Gurudev’s secondless devotion to God is amply reflected in the inspiring presentation of these great lives, simple, lucid and touching. We could have had none better qualified for it. Gurudev’s handling of it adds lustre to the illustrious lives.

There have been many ‘intellectuals’ even in India who have looked down upon the path of Bhakti (devotion) as something inferior to Jnana (wisdom). Their short-sightedness becomes at once apparent when we study the lives of the great Four Teachers (Appar, Sundarar, Manickavachagar and Sambandar) and realise that these great Jnanis, too, were great Bhaktas who loved to visit the temples and sing the glories of the Lord. Look at the humility of Appar who carried Sambandar’s palanquin: this reminds us of Gurudev’s own inimitable humility. It is not born of the weakness of the ignorant: but it is the culmination of true knowledge!

How shall we understand the wonderful spirit of renunciation that characterised the lives of many royal Nayanars, if we regard them as weaklings? They had understood the true nature of the world, and wanted only God. Can we not draw a parallel in our own divine Master who, similarly, renounced a royal life of a doctor in Malaya, in exchange for poverty and the begging bowl? Love of the Lord cuts at the very root of our attachment to this world, and snaps all worldly ties, to father, mother, son, wife or relatives. As the stories of the Nayanars illustrate, the devotee is ever ready to renounce all, in favour of devotion to Lord Siva. Chandesvara Nayanar, in his complete absorption in His worship, could inflict a mortal blow on his own father: but, that was because he saw not his father, but an obstacle to Siva Puja. When Arivattaya Nayanar found, for instance, that his weak body was getting unfit to carry on His worship, he was ready to cut his own throat. If Murkha Nayanar chose to gamble and even resort to violence to carry out his vow, Kannappa Nayanar would pull out his own eyes to serve the Lord! This great truth has been beautifully brought out again and again in these lives–love of God completely removes the devotee’s attachment to his own body. Who could even approach Siruthondar’s breath-taking devotion to the Lord and His devotees?

Let us also never forget that in the case of all the Nayanars devotion invariably meant expansion of the heart, and, therefore, service and charity.

It is essential that, in our study of these great lives, we take them as a whole: the sixty-three blending into one marvellous scripture on devotion. Else, it might lead to perversion. Perversion in spiritual path can be quite disastrous. Gurudev would often narrate, for example, the case of a wicked man who would catch fish in the Ganges, cut it and eat it, quoting (as a devil would) from the Gita: ‘Weapon cannot cut the Atma, which is immortal.’ The perverse intellect reads in the Gita, a sanction for the use of violence. Stories in which there is seeming use of violence by the Nayanars have to be read with this caution: we have to take them as allegories exhorting us to rout out the inner obstacles to our Sadhana, ruthlessly. The story of Eripatha Nayanar, for instance, should be taken as an exhortation for us to kill lust, anger and greed, the powerful impediments on our spiritual path which, in the twinkling of an eye wreck our worship of the Lord.

If we study the lives as a whole, we will not fail to note that Anaya Nayanar, and Pusalar Nayanar hold before us the ideal Para Bhakta, supreme exemplars of the highest form of devotion.

If we approach these saints with faith and devotion in our hearts, we shall grasp the message they have for us. We shall also understand why they gave such a great place to externals like the sacred ash, Rudraksha, etc. These symbols remind one constantly of God: and, when they are said to remove our sins, they remove our sinful tendencies, too, by constantly reminding us of God, and keeping evil out of our mind.

May we all walk the path of devotion and attain the Lord in this very birth is my humble prayer at the divine feet of our master. That is the only way in which we can repay the debt we owe him for what he has done for us.

Dust of Gurudev’s Feet

Selections From The Utterances of Nayanar Saints

Appar or Tirunavukkarasar

The rare jewel of the Brahmins is the Veda with its six angas (parts). The rare jewel of the Saivite is the Panchakshara.

Everything is the manifestation of Lord Siva. Siva is Narayana, Brahma, the four Vedas, the Holiest, the most Ancient, the Perfect. Though Siva is all these, He is none of these. He is without name, without birth, death or disease. He is at once the transcendent and the immanent.

Love of Lord Siva must be felt and manifested. Sing. Pray. Worship. Weep. Dance. Lord Siva is the music or melody in the song, the sweetness in the fruit, the thought in the mind, the lustre in the eyes. He is neither male, nor female. He is without dimensions.

Subdue the senses. Practise regular meditation. Practise the four-fold Saivite discipline. Develop dispassion (Vairagya). Transcend the three bodies. Unite the individual soul with the supreme soul or Lord Siva. You will attain eternal bliss and immortality. You can behold Lord Siva if you look for Him with the light of wisdom issuing forth from the wick of life, fed with the ghee of meditation in the lamp of the mind within the house of your body.

Plough with truth. Plant the seeds of desire for Self-knowledge. Irrigate the mind with the water of patience. Supervise your work by looking within or introspecting. Build the fence of Yama, Niyama, or right conduct or right living. You will soon attain Sivanandam or eternal bliss of Siva.

Regard your body as the temple of Lord Siva, your mind as the worshipper, Truth as purity which is necessary for worship, the jewel of the mind as the Lingam, love as the ghee, milk, etc. Perform Puja to Lord Siva thus. Lord Siva cannot be obtained without making the mind one-pointed and meditating on the Panchakshara.


Tirumandiram deals with the practical and theoretical aspects of Saivite religion and philosophy. The treatment of Pathi (Lord Siva), Pasu (individual soul), and Pasam (attachment) in the old method is found in this book.

By the practice of the eight limbs of Raja Yoga, the Yogi obtains the blessing of Uma and attains Amarapadavi (Godhood) by the practice of Yama (self-restraint). He attains Siva Padam the (Abode of Siva) by the practice of Niyama (religious canons). He hears Nadam (mystic sound) by the practice of Asana (Yoga posture). He attains the stage, by the practice of Pranayama (restraint of breath) in which all the gods eulogise him. He attains the form of Siva by the practice of Pratyahara (abstraction of the senses) and the gods become confused as they cannot differentiate him from Siva. He can go anywhere including the worlds of Brahma and Vishnu by the practice of Dharana (concentration). He can walk into any place just as one can walk on earth. He attains the Abode of Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra and Indra, by the practice of Dhyana (meditation). He frees himself from all the Upadhis (limiting adjuncts) or fetters and unites with Lord Siva by the practice of Samadhi (superconscious state).

God alone is the Guru or the spiritual teacher. He reveals Siva. Sat Guru is Ambalam or Chidakasa (the divine plane of Consciousness). You will have to search for the Guru in your own heart. Knowledge, devotion, purity, Siddhis (psychic powers) are obtained through the grace of the Guru. The grace descends on the virtuous aspirant who has purity, dispassion, etc.

The thirsting aspirants should get help from the Param Guru. He imparts spiritual instructions to the aspirants. Then Suddha Guru confers upon them divine grace. When the aspirant obtains the divine grace, he gets several powers: purity, the power to know the Mantra, higher psychic powers, etc. Then the Sad Guru reveals him in the Chidakasa (the seat of Consciousness in the ether of the heart), breaks the three bonds, viz., Anava (egoism), Karma (action) and Maya (illusion), and helps him to enter the illimitable domain of Moksha or supreme abode of eternal bliss. Siva Guru presents himself later on and manifests Sat (Reality), Asat (unreality) and Sat-asat (that which is indescribable as either). When the Jiva (individual soul) attains the final knowledge he becomes Sivam Himself. The Guru who presents himself in the earlier stages, too, is Siva Himself.

The devotee attains the grace of the Lord when he meditates on Him in the chambers of his heart; in the space between the two eye-brows and in the head. The holy Feet of the Lord are highly eulogised. The holy Feet of the Lord are Mantra, beauty and truth.

Jneya or that which is to be known is Siva Ananda which is a product of Siva and His grace, Shakti. The Jnata (knower) is the individual soul or Jiva. He knows Siva by abiding in Siva Ananda and obtains Jnanam or Knowledge.

Moksha is the attainment of Siva Ananda. He who attains Moksha will attain supreme knowledge of Siva. He who gets established in Siva Ananda will attain knowledge and Moksha (final emancipation).

The Jiva who knows Siva Ananda dwells for ever in it. He attains Siva and Shakti in Siva Ananda. He is endowed with true knowledge which is really union of Siva and Shakti. Lord Siva shows the path which leads to Moksha, to the aspirant who is endowed with dispassion, non-attachment, and renunciation, and who praises Him always and performs regular worship.

The devotee of Lord Siva gets strength to resist the temptations of the world and Indra, through his Tapas or austerity. He does not care at all for the celestial pleasures offered by Indra. He is quite contented with the Supreme Bliss attained through union with Lord Siva.

Glory of Lord Siva

OM I bow with folded palms to Lord Siva Who is the Lord of the universe, World Teacher, Who is the Destroyer of Tripuras (three cities of lust, anger and egoism), Who is the Lord of Uma, Gauri, Ganga, Who is full of light, knowledge and bliss, Who is the Lord of Yogis, who is the storehouse of knowledge and Who is known by the various names as Mahadeva, Sankara, Hara, Sambhu, Sadashiva, Rudra, Soolapani, Bhairava, Uma-Maheshwara, Neelakantha, Trilochana, Tryambaka, Viswanatha, Chandrasekhara, Ardhanaareesvara, Maheshwara, Neelalohita, Parama Siva, Digambara, Dakshinamurthi, etc.

How merciful He is! How loving and kind He is! He even wears the skulls of His devotees as a garland around His neck. He is an embodiment of renunciation, mercy, love and wisdom. It is a mistake to say that He is the destroyer. Lord Siva in reality is the regenerator. Whenever one’s physical body becomes unfit for further evolution in this birth, either by disease, old age or other causes, He at once removes this rotten physical sheath and gives a new, healthy, vigorous body for further quick evolution. He wants to take all His children to His Lotus Feet quickly. He desires to give them His glorious ‘Siva-Padam’. It is easier to please Siva than to please Hari. A little Prem and devotion, a little chanting of His Panchakshara (the Mantra OM NAMAH SIVAYA which has five letters) is quite sufficient to infuse delight in Siva. He gives boons to His devotees quite readily. How large is His heart! He gave Pasupatha Astra (a weapon) to Arjuna, without any difficulty, for his little penance. He gave a precious boon to Bhasmasura. In Kalahasthi, near Tirupathi, He gave Darshan to Kannapa Nayanar, the devoted hunter. In Chidambaram, even the untouchable saint Nandan had the Darshan of Lord Siva. He ran with tremendous speed to make the boy Markandeya immortal, when he was in the clutches of the God of Death–Yama. Ravana of Lanka pleased Lord Siva, with his Sama-chantings (Sama is one of the three Vedas). He initiated the Four Divine Youths (Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanathana, Sanatkumara) into the mysteries of Jnana, in the form of Dakshinamurthy. In Madura He assumed the form of a boy and carried earth on His head for a devoted lady. Look at His unbounded mercy for His devotees! When Brahma and Vishnu went to find out the Head and Feet of Lord Siva, He assumed the form of an infinite, expansive blaze of light. They were baffled. How magnificent and self-effulgent He is! He lived for several years in the house of Pattinathu Swami of South India, as his adopted son, and disappeared, after giving him the small note: ‘Even the broken needles will not follow you after death.’ The reading of this note was the starting point for attainment of Jnana for the Swami. Why do you all not attempt this very second, with sincerity, to realise God?

Hatha Yogis awaken the Kundalini Shakti that is lying dormant in the Muladhara Chakra, by Asana, Pranayama, Kumbhaka, Mudra and Bandha, taking it up through different Chakras (centres of spiritual energy) viz., Swadhisthana, Manipura, Anahata, Vishuddha and Ajna, and join it with Lord Siva at the Sahasrara, the thousand-petalled lotus at the crown of the head. They drink the nectar of Immortality. This is termed Amrita-Srava. When the Shakti is united with Siva, full illumination comes to the Yogi.

Lord Siva represents the destructive aspect of Brahman. That portion of Brahman that is enveloped by Tamo-guna-pradhana-Maya is Lord Siva Who is the all-pervading Iswara, and Who also dwells in Kailasa. He is the storehouse of wisdom. Siva minus Parvathy is pure Infinite Being. With Maya, He becomes Saguna Brahman (personal God) for the purpose of pious devotion of His devotees. Devotees of Lord Rama must worship Siva also. Rama Himself worshipped Lord Siva at the famous Rameshvaram. Lord Siva is the Lord of ascetics and Lord of Yogins robed in space (naked – Digambaras).

His Trisul (trident) that is held in His right hand represents the three Gunas–Satva, Rajas and Tamas. That is the emblem of sovereignty. He wields the world through these Gunas. The Damaru (drum) in His left hand represents the Sabda Brahman (OM) from which all languages have been formed. It is He Who formed the Sanskrit language out of the sound of the Damaru. The wearing of the crescent moon on His head indicates that He has controlled the mind perfectly. The flow of the Ganga represents the nectar of immortality. Elephant represents, symbolically, the Vritti (mental modification) of pride. Wearing the skin of an elephant denotes that He has controlled pride. The tiger represents lust and his sitting on the skin indicates that He has conquered lust. His holding a deer in one hand indicates that He has removed the tossing or wandering nature of the mind. Deer jumps from one object to another. His wearing of serpents around His neck denotes wisdom and eternity. Serpents live for a large number of years, and represent Time which glides away smoothly! He is Trilochana (Three-eyed), in the centre of whose forehead is the third eye, the eye of wisdom. Nandi, the bull that sits in front of the Siva Lingam represents Pranava (OM). The Lingam represents Adwaita (monism). It points out ‘I am one without a second’ just as a man raises his right hand above his head pointing out his right index finger only.

Kailas hills in Tibet are a huge range with a central, beautiful, naturally carved and decorated shining peak, eternally clad with silvery snow, 22,980 feet above sea-level. Some take the height to be 22,028 feet. This particular peak is in the from of a natural, huge Siva Lingam. This is worshipped as the form of Lord Siva from a distance. There is neither a temple nor a priest, nor daily worship here. I had the fortune to have Darshan of Kailas through the grace of Lord Siva on July 22nd, 1931. I even climbed with panting breath to the foot of Kailas peak where the river Indus takes its origin. It is a picturesque and soul-stirring scene. You will have to ascend from Didipha Guha, the first halting place in the Parikrama (circumambulation) of Kailas which covers 30 miles. It takes three days. On the way comes the famous and sacred Gauri Kund which is eternally covered with snow. You will have to break the snow when you take a bath.

The following are the twelve Jyotir Lingas of Lord Siva:

1. Somnath in Gujerat.
2. Mallikarjun in Sri Saila Parvat near Tirupati.
3. Mahakalam in Ujjain in Gwalior State.
4. Omkareshwar on the banks of the river Narmada in Amaleshwaram.
5. Bhaijnath near Gaya.
6. Naganath in Southern India.
7. Kedarnath in the Himalayas.
8. Tryambak, near the source of the Godavari, in the Nasik district, Bombay.
9. Rameswaram in South India.
10. Bhima Sankar, near Poona.
11. Viswanath in Banares.
12. Grineshwar (Gokarna) in Kharwar district.

Even if people remember these 12 places both morning and evening, the sins of seven births will be destroyed.

The Siva Lingam

You will find in the Linga Purana:

Pradhanam Prakritir Yadahurlingamuttamam Gandhavarnarasairheenam sabda sparshaadi varjitam The foremost Lingam which is primary, and is devoid of smell, colour, taste, hearing, etc., is spoken of as Prakriti–Nature.

Linga means mark in Sanskrit. It is a symbol which points to an inference. When you see a big flood in a river, you infer that there should have been heavy rains the previous day. When you see smoke, you infer that there is fire. This world of countless forms is a Lingam of the Omnipotent Lord. The Siva Lingam is a symbol of Lord Siva. When you look at the Lingam, your mind is at once elevated and you begin to think of the Lord.

Lord Siva is really formless. He has no form of His own; and, yet, all forms are His forms. All forms are pervaded by Lord Siva. Every form is the form or Lingam of Lord Siva.

There is a mysterious power or indescribable Shakti in the Lingam, to induce concentration of the mind. Just as the mind is focussed easily in crystal gazing, the mind of a devotee is easily concentrated when he looks at the Lingam. That is the reason why the ancient Rishis of India and the seers have prescribed Lingam for being installed in the temples of Siva.

Siva Lingam speaks to you in the unmistakable language of silence: ‘I am one without a second. I am formless.’ Pure, pious souls only can understand this language. A curious, passionate, impure foreigner of little understanding or intelligence says: ‘Oh, the Hindus worship the phallus. They are ignorant people. They have no philosophy.’ When a foreigner tries to learn Tamil or Hindustani language, he first tries to pick up some vulgar words. This is his curiosity nature. Even so, the curious foreigner tries to find out some defects in the worship of the symbol. Lingam is only the outward symbol of the formless Being, Lord Siva, Who is the indivisible, all-pervading, eternal, auspicious, ever-pure, immortal essence of this vast universe, Who is the undying soul seated in the chambers of your heart, Who is your Indweller, innermost Self or Atman, one with Brahman.

Sphatikalingam is also a symbol of Lord Siva. This is prescribed for Aradhana or worship of Lord Siva. It is made of quartz. It has no colour of its own, but takes on the colour of the substance which comes in contact with it. It represents the Nirguna Brahman or the attributeless Supreme Self.

For a sincere devotee, the Lingam is not a block of stone. It is all radiant Tejas or Chaitanya (Light or Consciousness). The Lingam talks to him, makes him shed profuse tears, produces horripilation and melting of heart, raises him above body-consciousness, and helps him to commune with the Lord and attain Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Lord Rama worshipped the Siva Lingam at Rameshwaram. What a great mystic Shakti there should be in the Lingam!

Puja And Ishta Devata

Puja is the common term for ritual worship, of which there are numerous synonyms such as Archana, Vandana, Bhajana, etc., though some of these stress certain aspects of it. The object of worship is the Ishta Devata or the guardian deity or the particular form of the Deity whom the devotee worships.

Whilst all things may be the objects of worship, choice is naturally made of those objects which, by reason of their effect on the mind, are more fitted for it. An image or one of the useful emblems is likely to raise in the mind of the worshipper the thought of God.

In Puja, an image or picture representing some divine form is used as the object of worship. The image is adored. A Lingam represents Siva. All forms are one. All are adoring the same Iswara. The differences are only differences of names due to difference in the temperament of the worshippers, but not in the object of adoration. It is only out of ignorance that different religionists and different sects fight and quarrel amongst themselves.

Regular worship, Puja or other modes of demonstrating our inner feeling of recognition of Divinity in the idol unveil the Divinity latent in it. This is truly a wonder and a miracle. The picture comes to life. The idol speaks. It will answer your questions and solve your problems. The God in you has the power to awaken the latent Divinity in the idol. It is like a powerful lens that focusses the sun’s rays on to a bundle of cotton. The lens is not fire and the cotton is not fire either, nor can the sun’s rays, by themselves, burn cotton. When the three are brought together in a particular manner, fire is generated and the cotton is burnt. Similar is the case with the idol, the power of the devotee’s concentration and faith makes the idol shine with resplendence. God is then enshrined in the idol. From here, He will protect you in a special manner. The idol will perform miracles. The place where it is installed is at once transformed into a temple, nay, a Vaikuntha (abode of Lord Vishnu) or Kailasa (abode of Lord Siva). Those who live in such a place are freed from miseries, from diseases, from failures and from Samsara itself. The awakened Divinity in the idol acts as a guardian angel, blessing all, conferring the highest good on the devotees.

All the Nayanars attained God-realisation through the worship of the Lingam, the image of Lord Siva. A pseudo-Vedantin feels ashamed to bow down or prostrate before an idol. Appar, Sundarar, Sambandar etc., had the highest Adwaitic realisation. They saw Lord Siva everywhere and yet they visited all temples of Siva, prostrated before the idol and sang hymns which are on record now. The Nayanar saints practised Chariyai and Kriyai only and attained God-realisation. They swept the floor of the temple, collected flowers, made garlands for the Lord, and put on lights in the temple. They were illiterate, but attained the highest realisation. They were practical Yogis and their hearts were saturated with pure devotion. They were embodiments of Karma Yoga. All of them practised the Yoga of Synthesis. The idol in the temple was a mass of Consciousness for them.

Lord Krishna gives a description of worship to Uddhava in the eleventh chapter of Srimad Bhagavatam:

‘The sun, fire, earth, or clay, water, a Brahmin, any image of Mine in the concrete, clearly thought of as seated in the heart, may be worshipped in My Name sincerely with such articles as could be obtained by him. The worship should be sincere and whole-hearted and the devotee should imagine Me as his preceptor. The devotee should begin My worship for obtaining My grace and not for any other desire. In ordinary images I should be invoked at every time of worship. I can be pictured in the mind. The worship of My image in the heart should be with accessories pictured in the mind.

‘The image should be washed or bathed, cleaned and adorned with ornaments and marks. The devotee should not rise in the midst of worship to get some articles. Once seated, he must finish it before he rises for anything. He should be seated on Darbha grass or other clean seat. He must put My image facing north or east or must himself sit facing north or east. He must sit facing Me or sideways. He should repeat the mantras for purifying himself. He should clean his body by control of breath. He should sit quiet and meditate on Me for some time.

‘He should fancy Me as in a lotus with eight petals, overflowing with fragrance and radiant with light. Sandal-wood, saffron, camphor, Kumkum and fragrance should be used. Purusha Sukta (a Vedic prayer) and other sacred literature should be recited. My devotee may adorn Me with cloth, gems, sacred thread, sandal, flowers, saffron, and ointments, etc. The devotee should offer water for washing the Feet, Achamanam (for sipping), sandal, words of greeting, invitation, and hospitality. He should also wave incense, light and camphor at My altar. He can sing aloud hymns in My praise. He can sing songs and dance in My altar reciting My various deeds and achievements. He should seek My grace, prostrating himself duly before Me. Putting his head on My Feet, he should ask for My grace to protect him and save him from the wheel of births and deaths.

‘He should adorn himself with the flowers and sandal used in such worship. The devotee may worship Me in any form in all objects or in himself in the manner that appeals most to his mind, and inclinations, as I am immanent in all things. My devotee, worshipping Me thus with rituals, Mantras or both, attains not only bliss and Self-realisation, but also all things he desires. By building temples, altars, etc. devotees attain power over all the worlds. By worship of Me they attain Brahma Loka. By all the acts, they attain My power and immanence.’

Bells are rung in the temples, and while doing Puja, to shut out the external sounds and to make the mind inward and concentrated.

Lights are waved before the Deity. This denotes that the Lord is supreme Light. The devotee says: ‘Oh Lord, Thou art self-effulgent, Light of the universe. Thou art the light in the sun, moon, and fire. Remove the darkness in me by bestowing your divine Light on me. May my intellect be illumined.’ This is the significance of waving lights.

Incense is burnt before the Deity. The smoke spreads through the whole room. It acts as a disinfectant. It denotes that the Lord is all-pervading and fills the whole universe by His living presence. The devotee prays: ‘Oh Lord, let the Vasanas and Samskaras dormant in me vanish like the smoke of this incense and become ashes. Let me become stainless.’

Burning of camphor denotes that the individual ego melts like the camphor and the Jiva becomes one with the Supreme Light of lights.

The pasting of sandal reminds the devotee that he should, in his difficulties, be as patient as the sandal. Sandal emanates sweet odour when it is ground. So also, the devotee should not murmur when difficulties arise, but, on the other hand, remain cheerful and happy and emanate sweetness and gentleness like the sandal. He should not hate even his enemy. This is another precept we learn from this. Though the sandalwood is crushed and ground, it silently wears itself out, emanating only very sweet odour. One should return good for evil.

It is the understanding of this inner meaning of Puja that brings in the higher form of devotion.

Bhakti is of two kinds, viz., higher Bhakti or Para Bhakti, and lower Bhakti or ritualistic Bhakti. Ritualistic Bhakti is formal Bhakti. The mind becomes purer and purer. The aspirant gradually develops love for God through ritualistic worship.

Hinduism leads the aspirants gradually from material images to mental images, and from the diverse mental images to the one Personal God, and from the Personal God to the Impersonal Absolute.

Do Japa of the Panchakshara–Om Namah Sivaya. You can even sing the Panchakshara nicely:

Om Namah Sivaya, Om Namah Sivaya,
Om Namah Sivaya, Om Namah Sivaya.

People used to dance, during my tours, whenever I sang the Siva Tandava Kirtan:

Agad Bhum, Agad Bhum Baje Damaru,
Nache Sadasiva Jajad Guru
Nache Brahma, Nache Vishnu, Nache Mahadev
Kappar Lekey Kali Nache Nache Adidev.

Do Puja regularly with faith and devotion. Always and at the end of your prayers, Puja, meditation or Japa, repeat the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra–

Om Tryambakam Yajaamahe Sugandhim
Pushtivardhanam, Urvaarukamiva Bandhanaan-
Mrityor Muksheeya Maamritaat.

for the health, long life, peace and happiness of all. This great Mantra in praise of Lord Siva works wonders, averts accidents, heals diseases and bestows long life. It will also liberate you from Samsara.


Abhishekam — Bathing the image of God.
Aiswarya –Wealth.
Agama — Scripture dealing with ritualistic worship.
Archana — Worshipping the image with flowers.
Bhasma — The holy ash.
Bhav — Attitude, faith.
Deva — Celestial being.
Jivanmukta — The sage, liberated while living here.
Jnana — Wisdom, relating to God.
Karma — Effect of past action (in past births).
Khanda — Similar to chapter, in the Vedas.
Kowpeenam — Loin cloth.
Mutt — A monastery.
Nitya Karmas — Daily obligatory duties.
Pralaya — Cosmic dissolution.
Rishabha — Bull, the vehicle of Lord Siva.
Rudraksham — A kind of bead used by devotees.
Samsara — Transmigration, round of birth-death.
Samskaras — Subtle mental impressions.
Tapas (Tapaswin) — Austerity (one who does).
Vairagya — Dispassion.
Vaisya — A businessman.
Yajna (Yaga) — Ceremonial sacrifice.

NOTE: In the case of some proper names, the Tamil tradition of using them in different forms has been adopted: viz., Enadinatha Nayanar is referred to as Enadinathar or Enadiar. These will be obvious. The names of some festivals, viz., Panguni Uttaram, Vasanta Utsavam, Maha Navami, have been retained. There are a number of other proper names, too, with which the reader will become familiar.

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