Nandanar and the Periya puranam Interesting Facts ?

The Periya Puranam narrates that Nandanar belonged to Adanur (Adanoor) in the Chola kingdom. Presently, Adanur is located in Thanjavur district, in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. He was born in a remote place and in a low cast.

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He was a shiva devotee. In those times they wouldn’t let people in low casts go into temples, instead, they would be allowed to see the god from outside the temple. Nandanar was longing to see the icon of Nataraja in Thillai Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram. A fresco in the temple depicting Nataraja.

Nandanar was born in poverty, in Pulaippadi, the Pulai slums of Adanur. He was a staunch devotee of the god Shiva, the patron god of Shaivism. He was a leather maker, who crafted drums and other musical instruments.

He also served as a village servant, a watchman, a labourer as well as the "town crier", who used to beat the drums. In Nandanar's times, Dalits were not allowed to enter Hindu temples. So, Nandanar would stand outside a Shiva temple and sing the praises of Shiva and dance.

However, he harboured a strong urge to pay his respects to the icon of Shiva at Sivalokanathar Temple, Tirupunkur.

He stood outside the temple, but a huge stone Nandi (the bull mount of Shiva, whose sculpture is generally seen in Shiva temples, facing Shiva in the garbhagriha - sanctum sanctorum) blocked his path of vision. The compassionate Shiva ordered Nandi to move a little to side and the bull complied, allowing the Nayanar to see the central icon of Shiva, unobstructed.

Nandanar cleaned up the surroundings of the temple and dug a pond (which serves as the temple tank) in honour of Shiva. He circumambulated the shrine and returned to Adanur. Nandanar visited many temples of Shiva and served the god. Once, he longed to visit the Thillai Nataraja Temple of Chidambaram, which enshrines Shiva as Nataraja, the Lord of Dance.

He used to say every day that he will go the next day to Chidambaram, but never actually dared to step into the holy town, where he was prohibited entry. Thus, he came to be known as "Tiru-Nalai-povar", 'he who will go tomorrow'.

Finally, Nandanar reached the boundary of Chidambaram but feared to set foot in the town. He saw the smoke of fire sacrifices and heard the chants of the Vedic scriptures. Thinking about how he can see Nataraja's dancing icon, the Nayanar circumambulated the town numerous times and finally succumbed to fatigue and slept. Shiva appeared in his dream and told Nandanar to enter the temple through a holy fire.

The god also informed the Brahmin priests of Chidambaram to prepare a pyre. The next day, the Brahmins approached Nandanar as per the divine order. Nandanar entered the holy fire chanting the name of Shiva and reappeared in a new purified form.

He looked like a Brahmin sage, wearing matted hair (characteristic of a Shaiva) and the sacred thread worn by Brahmins across his chest. His body was smeared with sacred ash. The gods showered flowers on the Nayanar from heaven and the Brahmins cheered.

With the Brahmins, Nandanar went in the garbhagriha and saw Nataraja. The Nayanar disappeared in the image of Nataraja and became one with Shiva.

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