By Swami Harshananda
Nayanārs is also spelt as ‘Nāyanmārs’, who are the 63 Nāyanārs Śaiva saints belonging to the Tamil Nadu. They were the leaders of the Bhakti movement in South India during the period 7th and 8th centuries A. D. They came from all castes and all levels of the society. The list also includes quite a few women-saints also.
Contribution of Nayanārs
Their main contributions were:
- Off-setting the effects and spread of Jainism and Buddhism which had become more of a heretical movement than of true ethics and spiritual values
- Vigorously propagating the cult of devotion to God as Śiva
- Transcending all social barriers brought about by caste, wealth or power through devotion to God as the sole means of estimating the worth of a human being
- Development of chaste Tamil literature
Literature on Nayanārs
A comprehensive account of all the 63 Nāyanārs is given in the celebrated Tamil classic the Periyapurānam of Sekkizhār. It contains 4000 verses.
The more important and better known Nāyanārs are:
- Appar or Tirunāvakkarasar
- The Alvārs
- The Nāyanārs Tirunilakaṇthar
Contribution of Bhakti Movement
Sundara murti and The Bhakti Movement is the religious movement that upheld the superiority of bhakti or devotion to God as the simplest and the easiest mode of sādhanā or spiritual practice. It saved the religion from the labyrinth of Vedic rituals and the society from being demographically wiped out.
Philosophy of Nayanārs
The philosophy and religion of the Nāyanārs was primarily based on the Śaivasiddhānta. The Tevāram, compositions of Appar, Sundaramurti and Jñānasambandhar are chanted or sung in the Śiva temples of Tamil Nadu even today. The Nāyanārs advised their followers to give five kinds of gifts:
- Āhāra - food
- Bhaiṣajya - medical relief
- Abhaya - protection from fears and dangers
- Śāstra - religious instructions
- Dāna - presents of articles needed by the poor people
In the Rājarājeśvarī temple of Tañjāvur, there are relief figures depicting some incidents from the lives of a few of these Nāyanārs. Their images are found in the Nañjuṇḍeśvara temple at Nañjanaguḍu in the Mysore district of Karnataka.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore