Nayanmars/Nayanars – an introduction
The Nayanars/Nayanmars were a group of 63 saints (also saint poets) in the 6th to 8th century who were devoted to the Hindu god Shiva in Tamil Nadu. They, along with Alwars, influenced the Bhakthi movement in Tamil Nadu. The collection of hymns by many devotees is called “Panniru Thirumurai”.
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These Thirumurais were composed over a number of years by devotees who lived during different periods and there was no information about any palm scriptures of the same. Many hyms were sung in temples regularly and hearing one, King Raja Raja Cholan was ecstatic.
He wanted to find out more about such compositions and also if any written records were available. He requested Nambi Andar [his minister &priest] to help him find these who in turn requested the Polla Pillayar of Thirunaraiyur to let them know the location of these scriptures.
On hearing from Lord Ganapathi that the original palm scripts of the hymns were kept locked in a chamber in the Chidambaram temple. The King and Nambi Andar Nambi proceeded to Chidambaram. On opening the chamber, they were shocked to see that most of the palm leaves were eaten away by white ants and they could recover only some of it.
image source: Google images
The list of the Nayanars was initially compiled by Sundarar (Sundararmurthi). In his poem, Tiruthonda Thogai, he sings, in eleven verses, the names of the Nayanar saints up to Karaikkal Ammeiyar, and refers to himself as "the servant of servants". The list was expanded by Nambiyandar Nambi during his compilation of material by the poets for the “Thirumurai” collection [1-11], would include Sundarar himself and Sundarar's parents.
Naalvar- Appar, Sundarar, Manikavasagar, Thirugnanasambandar
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Thirumurais 1, 2 and 3 are the verses sung by Thirugnana Sambandar called Thevaram. It is also called Thirkkadai kaapu.
Thirumurais 4, 5 and 6 are the hymns sung by Thirunavakarasar (Appar) called Thevaram.
Thirumurai 7 is by Sundaramurthy Nayanar also called Thevaram. It is also called Thiruppaatu.
Thirumurai 8 is the Thiruvasagam and Thirukkovaiyar by Manickavasagar.
Thirumurai 9 consists of the verses of Thiru Maligai Thevar and eight others Senthanar , Karuvur Thevar , Poonthuruthi Kaadanambi, Kandaraathithar, Venaatuadigal , Thiruvaaliamudhanaar , Purutothama Nambi , Sethirayar and it is called Thirvisaippa and Thiruppallaandu.
Thirumurai 10 is the Thirumandiram by Thirumoolar.
Thirumurai 11 by Lord Thiru Aaalavaiudayar (Lord Shiva) himself and eleven others Karaikal Ammaiyar, Iyadigal Kadavarkon, Seraman Perumal, Nakeerar, Kalladar, Kabilar, Baranar, Ilamperuman Adigal , Athiraavadigal , Patinathu adigal. This Thirumurai also includes the hymns sung by Nambi Andar Nambi who compiled all of the above. This is also called Prabhandam.
Thirumurai 12 is the Periya Puranam by Sekkizhar. This was written very much later compared to the compilation of the first eleven Thirumurais and documents the devotion and the life of 63 Nayanmars to their Lord. This was initially called Thiruthondar Puranam and later came to be called as Periya Puranam and considered as the twelth Thirumurai.
OM NAMAH SHIVAYA