NAMBIYANDAR NAMBI – A DEVOTEE INSTRUMENTAL FOR BRINGING OUT THE HOLY THEVARAM HYMNS
Compiled by Sri Ramakrishna Prasad – Chennai
Nambiyabdar Nambi is a great devotee to whom the shaivite devotees are indebted for making available the marvelous and peerless Thevaram (Tamil devotional poetry) hymns of Sambandar, Appar, Sundarar and also writing briefly the history of the 63 Nayanmars who were mentioned in the Sundarar’s Thiruththondaththokai, which was the basis on which Sekkizar wrote the nurturing literature of Thiruththondarpuranam. He is also one of the authors of the eleventh Thirumurai.
This devotee who did marvel in the youth was born in the town of Thirunaraiyur in the tradition of Adhi shaivites, who undertake the service of priesthood in the temples of Three-eyed Lord. After getting initiation into the veda learning, he started the learning of arts and scriptures along with vedas. One day as his father had to go to out of town, he took up the worship of the Lord Ganesha in that town’s temple. The young child went to the temple of the little elephant God. He did the worship as he had learnt. He gave the food offerings to the elephant headed Lord. He did not know that his father used to dedicate the offerings symbolically to the Lord and then take it back. The young child was waiting for the elephant headed Lord to eat the food. As the Lord did not, he started crying thinking the worship he made was faulty and hence the Lord has not accepted it. Quite some time he was weeping. Finally he decided crash his head as the Lord did not accept the food offering. The innocent and sincere love of this young kid brought the unbelievable grace of the Lord. The elephant headed Lord stopped the child from crashing his head and ate all the food offering the child had brought , which was purified by his faultless love. As the Lord pleasantly ate and blessed the child, he requested the Lord to teach the lessons that would have happened in the school that day as it was already late for the school, else his teacher would beat him. The elephant God of supreme knowledge whom everybody salutes to get the wisdom to worship the unexplorable Lord Shiva, taught this blessed kid the lessons !!
This happened the following day also and continued. The news spread like the fragrance of jasmine and the great Chozha emperor Rajarajan got to hear this. He along with the ministers, courtmen, people came in a big procession to Thirunaraiyur bringing along with them huge quantities of bananas, honey, flaked rice, sweet pancake and sesame balls as offerings for the Lord. In that suddenly crowded town he saluted the feet of the young renowned devotee Nambiyandarnambi and requested him to offer to the broken dented Lord all those heaps of bananas, mangoes and jack fruits along with other offerings right then. The flawless child also worshipped the Lord with purity and love and the Lord of wisdom ate all those heaps of offerings in one shot with the trunk hand ! The surprised king hailed the child and he pleaded out of his marvelous love for the Matted haired Lord that his prayer was to get the hymns done by the three great shaivite saints (Sambandhar, Appar, Sundharar) in total. The child out of the confidence on the elephant headed Lord assured the king that he would get him the information. With the tears of devotion filling his eyes, the child worshipped the Lord Ganesha to give the information. The gracious Lord disclosed the information, which became the great blessing for the shaivites to get their marvelous scripture. The palm leaves of those great hymns were kept behind the Dancing Lord of Thillai (Lord Nataraja’s temple in Chidambaram) and there is hand symbol marking the place. Lord also disclosed the information through Nambi that Thirunyana sambandhar’s hymns were 16000, Thirunavukkarasar’s were 49000 and Sundarar’s were 39000.
When Nambi and the king went to Thillai and opened the specified place they were appalled to see that most of those valuable hymns were eaten off by termites !! A great loss !! The Lord’s voice stating whatever required were left, consoled them. What they could recover was a less than 10 percent of the whole hymns. The king arranged for multiple copying of the hymns that were not destroyed by termites and preserving them. The shaivite world would be indebted to these two great devotees for saving the marvelous peerless hymns Thevaram at least partially. On the king’s request Nambi arranged the hymns along with the other great hymns like Thiruvachakam, Thirumandhiram as Thirumurai (ordered holy text). With the help of a lady who came in the tradition of Neelakanta Yazpanar the Pan (melody) of the Thevaram hymns were also got. Nambi with the blessings of Lord Ganesha, realised the history of the 63 great devotees mentioned by Sundarar and wrote a brief of their lives in his Thiruththondar Thiruvandhadhi. He also recorded the life of Sambandhar and Appar in the various hymns he wrote in praise of them. This servant of Shaivism has authored many hymns which are compiled under eleventh ThirumuRai.