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May 17, 2009

Page: 14/35

Home > 2009 Issues > May 17, 2009

Kids? Org

Nandanar merged with Lord Nataraj

By Ratnadeep Banerji

Nandanar stands prominent amongst the sixty-three Nayanars. The Shaiva Siddhanta showers encomiums on their effulgent devotion to Shiva. God does not debar any bona fide person to seek him and call on him. The path remains ajar to all who are enthused with divine fervour. Things like social status or other mundane cognitions fall despicable. Ordaining a human being as untouchable is an ignominy our society has borne for aeons.

Nandanar was born in a slum in the village of Aadhanur on the banks of the river Coleroon in Tamil Nadu. His community of Paraiyar was involved in selling carcasses of dead animals and hence was considered untouchable. His entire community was ostracised and kept out of village. Nandanar used to make musical instruments such as dholaks (drums) using the skin of dead animals. His father worked as a landless labourer in the local zamindar?s farm.

Nandanar bore devotion and oodles of love for Lord Shiva. He wanted to have darshan of the Lord in the local temple. But the farcical temple laws didn?t allow untouchables inside temple premises. For hours Nandanar would stand at a distance and stare reverentially at the gopuram of the village temple and sing and chant Shiva mahima.

Once, Nandanar was told that in the temple town of Thiruppunkar, the shrine of Lord Shiva was made as such that the deity could be seen even from outside the temple. He travelled all way to the place. But to his chagrin he found that despite the interior of the temple being visible, the view of sanctum sactorum was blocked by a huge statue of Nandi. Nandanar became distraught. Lord Shiva could not bear it. He at once ordered Nandi to shift his position so that his devotee could have darshan. Nandi complied as his master bade him. Even till this day, the statue of Nandi in Thiruppunkar temple is not in sync with the temple entrance.

After sometime, Nandanar longed to go to Chidambaram temple. He wanted to envisage the cosmic dance of Lord Nataraj. But then how could he being an untouchable be allowed inside the hallowed precincts? Though in despair, Nandanar was adamant to behold the ananda tandav (the blissful dance) of Nataraj. The local zamindar jeered at Nandanar, ?I shall show you the way to Chidambaram. All you have to do is plough my fields and sow the seeds for the next crop within the next one night. It is nothing much for an untouchable person aspiring to go to Chidambaram?. At this Nandanar was in despair. The zamindar?s sprawling land covered over hundred acres. How could he do it overnight? Nandanar could only invoke Lord?s name to solicit succour. And thus he went to sleep.

Next morning, the entire village witnessed a miracle. The entire hundred acres of land had got ploughed and sown overnight. The divine spell brought the zamindar to the very slum where Nandanar lived. He fell at his feet sobbing and begged, ?Allow me to make arrangements for your journey to Chidambaram.? At long last, Nandanar set out for his cherished destination. But on reaching Chidambaram, he found the temple priests known as deekshidars did not even allow people of low castes to enter the township, let alone going near the temple. Nandanar camped on the outskirts of the town. His devotion made him circumambulate the entire town since he could not perform temple parikrama. Lord Nataraj could not tolerate such treatment meted out to such a close devotee. The Lord appeared in the dream of the chief priest of the temple and ordered him to fetch Nandanar inside the temple. ?He shall enter my abode through flames,? the Lord said. All deekshidars had to pay heed to this divine command.

Next morning, Nandanar was brought while a conflagration was lit at the temple entrance. Nandanar passed through agni pariksha without getting singed or blemished. The devtas watched and showered flowers on him. By now, the temple priests were filled with awe and reverence for Nandanar. Enraptured, Nandanar raised his hands aloft and entered the Chidambaram temple. Instantly he attained communion with the ananda tandav of Nataraj. His mortals were never seen again. Nandanar had surmounted teething troubles and prejudices of an entrenched society to mingle with the Divine.

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