2 December 2014

2014 Deepam Festival. Day Six—Morning: Elephant with 63 Nayanars

In the festivities of the morning of the sixth day, a glorious Silver Elephant, (notice the sugar cane in its mouth) leads a procession of the great Shiva devotees, the 63 Nayanars.

Glorious Silver Elephant

Lord Arunachaleswarar on the Silver Elephant

Procession starting on Car Street around the perimeter streets of Temple

On both sides of the below photograph, one can see individual palanquins of the Nayanars.

The Nayanars are remembered as a group of 63 saints (poets) of the 6th to 8th century who were devoted to Lord Shiva. It was they that influenced the Bhakti movement in Tamil Nadu. The names of the 63 saints were first compiled by Sundarar and the list was expanded by Nambiyandar Nambi during his compilation of material for the famed Tirumurai.

Message of the Nayanars

“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 Temples and sing the glories of the Lord.

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.

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. We have to take the individual tales of the Nayanars as allegories exhorting us to rout out the inner obstacles to our Sadhana.

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.” 
[By: Venkatesananda]

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Out of these 63 Nayanars, the four Saiva Samaya Acharyas; (left to right) Tirugnansambandar, Tirunanvukkarasar (Appar), Sundarar and Manikkavasagar are remembered best of all.

The Saiva Samaya Acharyas

The principal teachings of the four Saiva Samaya Acharyas is of love and surrender to God; and of service to God and godly men. That love, devotion, and service to God is the only way one can obtain His Grace. God is One and He is Shiva. That man must get over his bonds which keep him in ignorance and obtain inseparable union with Shiva through the Lord's Grace.

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