The Nayanar Saints and the Sacred Tevarams of Tamil Nadu

Spread India's Glorious Cultural & Spiritual Heritage


The spiritual landscape of Tamil Nadu is richly embroidered with the devotions of its many saints, particularly the Nayanars, whose heartfelt hymns to Lord Shiva echo through the corridors of time and temples. The Nayanars, a group of 63 saints, remain central figures in the Shaiva tradition, celebrating Lord Shiva through their profound compositions known as Tevarams.

Who Were the Nayanars?

The Nayanars came from various backgrounds, encompassing farmers, kings, traders, and brahmins, united by their unwavering devotion to Shiva. Their lives and stories are marked by episodes of intense devotion and miraculous events, as recorded in Tamil literature. Among the 63 saints, three—Appar, Sundarar, and Thirugnana Sambandar—stand out as pillars of this devotional movement. These saints are reverently referred to as the Tamil Trinity of Shaivaite poets.

The Essence and Impact of Tevarams

Tevarams comprise the first seven volumes of the Tirumurai, the sacred anthology of Tamil Shaiva Siddhanta. Composed between the 6th and 9th centuries AD, these hymns blend bhakti (devotion) with literary elegance, offering insights into the religious life of the time and the vernacular vigor of Old Tamil. The hymns are not just spiritual odes; they are also vehicles of personal expression and communal identity.

Literary Significance

The literary value of the Tevaram hymns is immense. They are among the earliest examples of Tamil poetry, characterized by their lyrical beauty and depth of feeling. The hymns use a range of poetic devices, such as metaphor and simile, and employ a vocabulary that draws deeply from the everyday life and natural environment of the region. This made them accessible and endearing to the common people, ensuring their popularity and continued relevance.

Religious Significance

Religiously, the Tevarams are paramount in the practice of Tamil Shaivism. They are integral to the worship in Shaiva temples, where they are sung with great reverence. The hymns are believed to invoke the presence of Shiva, turning recitals into a divine experience. The tradition of singing the Tevarams in temples, known as Panniru Tirumurai Katcheri, has been upheld for centuries and is a testament to the enduring spiritual legacy of the Nayanars.

Preservation and Continuity

The survival and preservation of Tevaram hymns owe much to the efforts of individuals like Nambi Andar Nambi, who in the 10th century compiled and categorized the hymns under the patronage of Chola king Raja Raja Chola I. This ensured that the hymns transcended their own era to become timeless classics, revered across generations.


Today, the Tevarams continue to be celebrated in temples and festivals, retaining their power and poignancy in the cultural conscience of Tamil Nadu. They exemplify a unique fusion of art, devotion, and community that continues to inspire and uplift, making the Nayanars not just historical figures, but eternal presences in the spiritual heart of their land. The legacy of the Tevarams underscores the profound impact that devotion and art can have on society, preserving ancient traditions in ways that continue to resonate with modern spiritual seekers.

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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