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Saint Sundarar (Sundaramoorthy Nayanar) of Ancient Tamil Nadu: The Poet of Divine Intimacy

Spread India's Glorious Cultural & Spiritual Heritage

Introduction

Sundarar, also known as Sundaramoorthy Nayanar, is one of the most celebrated saints in Tamil Nadu and a key figure among the 63 Nayanars devoted to Lord Shiva. His life and hymns form an integral part of the Saiva Siddhanta tradition and are included in the revered collection known as Thevaram. Sundarar’s hymns stand out for their lyrical beauty, profound spiritual insights, and the unique, intimate relationship he shares with Lord Shiva.

Early Life and Divine Intervention

Sundarar was born in the 8th century in the town of Tirunavalur in present-day Tamil Nadu. According to tradition, he was born into a Brahmin family and was named Nambi Arooran. Sundarar’s life is marked by divine interventions right from his childhood. It is believed that he was destined to marry a celestial maiden named Kamalini, who was reborn as Paravai Nachiyar on earth.

A remarkable episode in Sundarar’s life involves a divine encounter at his wedding. As he was about to marry a princess, Lord Shiva appeared in the guise of an old man, claiming Sundarar as his slave. This divine play led Sundarar to renounce his worldly life and dedicate himself to the service of Lord Shiva, earning him the name Sundaramoorthy Nayanar.

The Hymns of Thevaram

Sundarar’s hymns are part of the sacred collection known as Thevaram, which also includes the hymns of Appar and Sambandar. Sundarar’s compositions are revered for their emotional depth, lyrical elegance, and devotional fervor. His hymns are characterized by a unique blend of divine love and human emotions, reflecting a close, personal relationship with Lord Shiva.

Themes in Sundarar’s Hymns
  1. Divine Friendship: One of the most distinctive aspects of Sundarar’s hymns is the way he addresses Lord Shiva as a friend and confidant. This intimate relationship is evident in the playful and conversational tone of his verses. Sundarar often speaks to Shiva in a manner that is both reverent and familiar, highlighting the personal bond he shares with the deity.
  2. Devotional Love: Sundarar’s hymns express a deep, devotional love for Lord Shiva. His verses are imbued with a sense of longing and affection, portraying Shiva not just as a distant god but as a beloved who is deeply involved in the devotee’s life. This theme of divine love resonates through his poetry, drawing readers and listeners into the depths of his devotion.
  3. Human Emotions and Divine Grace: Sundarar’s hymns vividly capture the range of human emotions, from joy and gratitude to sorrow and pleading. He does not shy away from expressing his struggles, doubts, and desires, making his hymns relatable to all devotees. Despite these human emotions, Sundarar’s unwavering faith in Shiva’s grace and compassion shines through, offering solace and hope.
  4. Philosophical Insights: While primarily devotional, Sundarar’s hymns also contain profound philosophical insights. He explores themes such as the impermanence of life, the nature of the soul, and the ultimate goal of union with the divine. His poetry seamlessly weaves together devotion and philosophy, providing a comprehensive spiritual guide.

Notable Hymns and Contributions

Sundarar’s hymns are preserved in the Tiruttondartokai, a section of the Thevaram. Some of his most notable hymns include:

  • Tiruvarutpa: In this hymn, Sundarar eloquently describes the boundless grace of Lord Shiva, highlighting the deity’s compassionate nature and the transformative power of divine love.
  • Tirupattinathar Pathikam: This composition reflects Sundarar’s deep emotional connection with Shiva, portraying the deity as both a protector and a friend who is ever-present in the devotee’s life.
  • Tiruthondar Thogai: Sundarar composed this hymn as a tribute to the 63 Nayanars, expressing his reverence for fellow devotees and their unwavering faith in Lord Shiva.

Sundarar’s Legacy

Sundarar’s contributions to Tamil devotional literature and the Saiva Siddhanta tradition are immense. His hymns continue to be sung in Shiva temples across Tamil Nadu, inspiring devotees with their lyrical beauty and heartfelt devotion. Sundarar’s unique approach to devotion, characterized by his intimate relationship with Shiva, has left a lasting impact on Tamil spirituality.

His life and poetry serve as a reminder of the power of divine love and grace. Sundarar’s hymns offer a pathway to connect with the divine in a personal and profound manner, encouraging devotees to cultivate a loving relationship with God.

Conclusion

Saint Sundarar’s life and hymns are a testament to the beauty of divine intimacy and devotional love. His unique bond with Lord Shiva, expressed through his lyrical and profound poetry, continues to inspire and guide devotees on their spiritual journey. Sundarar’s hymns are not just literary masterpieces but also timeless expressions of faith, love, and devotion.

As we reflect on Sundarar’s legacy, we are reminded of the transformative power of divine grace and the importance of cultivating a personal relationship with the divine. His hymns invite us to experience the joy and depth of devotion, leading us closer to the divine presence in our lives.


Spread India's Glorious Cultural & Spiritual Heritage

By Mala Chandrashekhar

Introducing Blogger Mala Chandrashekhar - A specialist academically trained in modern Western sciences, yet deeply enamored with India's timeless ethnic arts, crafts, and textiles. Her heart beats for the rich and glorious cultural and spiritual heritage of India, and she has dedicated her entire blog to spreading the immortal glories of ancient India worldwide. Through her simple yet impactful blog posts, Mala aims to reach every nook and corner of the globe, sharing India's beauty and wisdom with the world.

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