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Siddhar Charithiram : Nandi Devar

This is an ongo­ing series on the Sid­dhar Parambarai of India. Sid­dha refers to per­fect­ed mas­ters who have achieved a high degree of phys­i­cal as well as spir­i­tu­al per­fec­tion or enlight­en­ment. We look at var­i­ous Sid­dhas who have graced upon this earth with their Pres­ence — their life and the wis­dom they shared in the form of poems, cou­plets that are referred to as Sid­dhar Padal­gal. To begin with, we are look­ing at Sid­dhas from the tra­di­tion of “Pathi­nen Sid­dhar­gal”. In the pre­vi­ous issues, we saw about Kud­ham­bai Sid­dhar, Pam­bat­ti Sid­dhar, Idaikkaat­tu Sid­dhar, Sat­taimu­ni Sid­dhar, Sun­daraanan­dar Sid­dhar, Karu­voorar Sid­dhar, Gorak­natha Sid­dhar, Mat­syen­dranatha Sid­dhar, Ramade­var Sid­dhar, Dhan­van­tari Sid­dhar, Patan­jali Sid­dhar, Sid­dha Thiru­moolar, Sid­dha Kon­ga­nar, Sid­dha Van­mikar, Kamala­mu­ni Sid­dhar, Sid­dha Boganathar and Sid­dhar Agasthi­yar. In the Guru Poorn­i­ma spe­cial edi­tion of series we were blessed to also write about the great Sid­dha Avvai. We also saw how the Sid­dhar­gal poet­ry is pre­sent­ed in Sand­hya Bhasha. In this last but not the least arti­cle, we will see the glo­ry of Sid­dhar Nan­di Devar.

Nan­di Devar Sid­dhar

Nan­di Devar is one of the fore­most of the 18 yoga sid­dhas. He has been direct­ly ini­ti­at­ed by Lord Shi­va Him­self. And so it is no won­der that he ini­ti­at­ed some spir­i­tu­al giants as his dis­ci­ples such as Thiru­moolar, Patan­jali, Dak­shi­namoor­thy, Romar­ishi & Sat­ta­mu­ni. His main con­tri­bu­tions include med­i­cine, kaya kalpa & Alche­my.

There was a sage named Shi­la­da who under­went severe penance to have a boon — a child with immor­tal­i­ty. Lord Indra pleased of the aus­ter­i­ties of Shi­la­da appeared in front of him to offer a boon. After hear­ing the request of Shi­la­da and his desire to have an immor­tal child, Lord Indra sug­gest­ed he pray to Lord Shi­va: nobody else could pro­vide such a boon. Sage Shi­la­da con­tin­ued his penance for 1,000 years. He was total­ly immov­able for many years, so the ter­mites set­tled on his body and slow­ly start­ed to build up their nest. Final­ly, his whole body was cov­ered up by them. The insects start­ed to eat his flesh and imbibed his blood. At last, only bones remained.

Lord Shi­va appeared in front of him and pro­vid­ed the boon for the child. Lord Shi­va also pro­vid­ed Sage Shi­la­da his old form. Sage Shi­la­da per­formed Yagna and a child appeared from the sac­ri­fi­cial fire. His body was clad in armour made out of dia­monds. The celes­tial dancers and singers per­formed on this aus­pi­cious occa­sion and the deities show­ered flow­ers on the child. The boy was named ’Nan­di’ — mean­ing who brings joy. Shi­la­da brought the child home. Imme­di­ate­ly the boy lost his divine appear­ance to an ordi­nary child. The child com­plete­ly for­got all about his birth. Sage Shi­la­da was wor­ried about the sud­den change. He devot­ed his time for Nandi’s upbring­ing his edu­ca­tion etc. By the age of sev­en, the boy was well versed in Veda and all sacred texts.

One day the deities Mitra and Varuna vis­it­ed Sage Shi­la­da. At the first sight of the boy, they com­ment­ed: Though the boy had all aus­pi­cious signs, he would have a very short life. He would not live after the age of eight. Sage Shi­la­da was mor­ti­fied at this remark. Nan­di could not bear his father’s sor­row; he began to pray to Lord Shi­va. Lord Shi­va appeared before him and blessed him. Lord Shi­va adorned the boy with a neck­lace and made him immor­tal. Lord Shi­va blessed the child and declared that he would be wor­shiped along with Him and become his vahana (vehi­cle). Imme­di­ate­ly the boy got all the divine pow­ers and trans­formed into half bull-half human. He and Shi­la­da went to Lord Shiv­a’s abode to live.

When the devas and the asur­as, joined togeth­er on a rare occa­sion to churn the ocean with a moun­tain to obtain the nec­tar of immor­tal­i­ty they uti­lized Vasu­ki, the ser­pent, as the rope. The devas pulled from one end and the asur­as from the oth­er. Lots of pre­cious herbs and gems were pro­duced dur­ing the Churn­ing and one of them was a poi­son (halāha­la) which became human kar­ma. This “poi­son” was so dan­ger­ous that none of the devas or asur­as want­ed to go near it. It was extreme­ly sticky and com­ing into con­tact with this poi­son, would drag the divin­i­ty down to the realms of suf­fer­ing. As every­one else ran away, Lord Siva, fol­lowed by Nan­di, came for­ward to help as he was the only one who could coun­ter­act this dead­ly poi­son. Siva took the poi­son into his hand and drank it, the descent of the poi­son was in turn stopped at His throat, by His divine con­sort. Siva is there­fore also known as Nīlakaṇṭha (the blue-throat­ed one) and Viṣakaṇṭha (the poi­son-throat­ed one). Nan­di saw some of the poi­son spill out of Siva’s mouth and imme­di­ate­ly drank if off the ground. The devas and asur­as watch­ing were shocked and won­dered aloud what would hap­pen to Nan­di. Lord Siva calmed their fears say­ing, “Nan­di has sur­ren­dered into me so com­plete­ly that he has all my pow­ers and my pro­tec­tion”.

His con­tri­bu­tions include on med­i­cine, kayakalpa and alche­my. Some of his emi­nent dis­ci­ples are Dhan­vantri, Thiru­mu­lar, Patan­jali, Dak­shi­na­murthy, Romar­ishi and Chat­ta­mu­ni. His samad­hi is in Kasi.

There are six­ty two ref­er­ences about Nan­di in Thirumular’s Thiru­mandi­ram. Many med­ical trea­tis­es are in his name such as Vaid­hya kaviyam 1200, Nan­deesar 300, Nan­deesar Karukkidai 300, Nan­di nigan­du 300, Nan­di kalai gnam 1000, Nan­di Soothiram 500, Samavaadam 200, Danda­ga pat­chi­ni 100, Gana Soothiram 100, Mup­pu Soothiram 37, Vaidyam 12, Karukkidai Soothiram 33. Many astro­log­i­cal books are found with his name. His Kalai ganam explains about 32 vari­eties of herbal elixirs and details about var­i­ous aspects of reju­ve­na­tion ther­a­pies. In his Nan­dis­ar Kalai­j­nanam Nan­di Devar claims that Vyasa is his younger broth­er, Dasaratha, father of Rama is his mater­nal uncle, Dhan­van­tiri is his son (i.e., dis­ci­ple) and Asvinidevas (the divine physi­cian twins) are his grand sons. He also says that he is the son of Siva and His con­sort. Because of the grace of Lord Siva and Moth­er Uma he got the name Kailaya cittan(Siddha of Mount Kailash).

Out of his work, let us see some cou­plets that specif­i­cal­ly men­tions Yog­ic prac­tices

கேளப்பா மணிபூர கத்தில் மைந்தா கெடியாக இம்மென்று கும்பித் தேத்து வாளப்பா வகையாக நின்று கொண்டு வளமான பூரகத்திற் றோதாம் பண்ணி வாளப்பா வேண்டியவாம் வரங்கள் கேளு வளமாக விண்ணுவர மீவார் மாரு

In the Manipu­ra­ka, my son Raise the con­trolled breath as im. Stand in the prop­er stance And praise, hav­ing set­tled in pura­ka And ask for the desired boons Vis­nu will bestow plen­ti­ful of boons

Sid­dha poet­ry, as we might have seen from the pre­vi­ous edi­tions, has plen­ti­ful ref­er­ences to chakras in our body. The manipu­ra-chakra is referred here. All pranas bal­ance at the manipu­ra. Manipu­ra is presided over by Vis­nu and asso­ci­at­ed with the svar­loka. Kumb­ha­ka is the prac­tice of hold­ing one’s breath.

ஆமப்பா கும்பகத்துள் உம்மென் நாடி அப்பனே மனதைக்கும் பகத்தில் வைத்து வாமப்பா பூசைநை வேத்யஞ் செய்து வளமான கும்பகத்தை மனத்தால் வேண்டி காமப்பா கும்பகத்தை வரங்கள் கேளு கண்மணியே வேண்டுவர மீவா ரையா Yes, draw with­in the kumb­ha­ka the breath as um And con­cen­trate on breath-con­trol. Do the wor­ship and give offer­ings pray­ing to kumb­ha­ka In your mind ask for boons from this act of Breath-con­trol which is nour­ish­ing as mother’s milk. Dear one! He will ful­fil the desires.

The prac­tice (wor­ship) of kumb­ha­ka begins with with­draw­ing one’s breath into one­self. Full of con­cen­tra­tion one should do this and give offer­ings to the act of kumb­ha­ka. As nour­ish­ing as mother’s milk, the prac­tice of kumb­ha­ka con­fers innu­mer­able boons. What­ev­er is asked for is giv­en, for the abil­i­ty to con­trol one’s breath is high­ly val­ued.

Sid­dhas nor­mal­ly did not reveal open­ly the knowl­edge they have gained. They hid their teach­ings in Sand­hya Bhashya, as we have time and again. But Nan­di Devar open­ly declared all that he knew. This act of Nan­di Devar made the oth­ers furi­ous. They com­plained him to Lord Shi­va who con­demned this act of Nan­di. Learn­ing that Lord Shi­va was upset, Nan­di Devar took the form of a bull and crouched in a seclud­ed place wait­ing for the right time to approach Lord Shi­va full of humil­i­ty. Lord Shi­va, all know­ing and almighty, saw Nan­di Devar crouch­ing. He, with all sweet grace, came to him and told him, “Oh! Nan­di! Come”. Nan­di Devar, knelt before Him in a salut­ing pos­ture, and nobody dared to come in between the knelt Nan­di and Lord Shi­va. It is this pos­ture that is depict­ed in all the tem­ples and even now nobody pass­es in between Siva and Nan­di.

The elixirs offered by Nan­di Devar are so many. We invite you to con­tem­plate more on these lines and share with us your insights. We also invite you to share with us lines from Sid­dhar Padal­gal that have deeply touched you. You could write to us at

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