The Tamil devotional classic, “Periya Puranam,” (The Great Epic) by Sekkilaar is the saga of the sixty-three Nayanars (servitors of the Lord) — who not only lived for God Siva but adored Him in delightfully distinct ways. These Saivaite Saints lived in the Tamil Nadu kingdoms hundreds of years ago.
God Siva, whom these Saiva-Siddhantins worshipped, is not a sectarian deity but the Supreme Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer of the universe, who comes in human form from time to time and “plays” with these servitors when their devotion gets incandescent.
These nayanars do not belong to any one community; they hail from various communities—high and low, rich and poor. They are of both sexes and of all ages, and range from tribal hunters to emperors of vast domains. Caste and community, wealth and status, do not count with them, even as they do not with the Lord. The trials and tribulations they cheerfully undergo and the incredible sacrifices they make for the Lord’s sake take our breath away. Any one who reads the lives of these Nayanars will no doubt be impressed by the sense of devotion they had for the Almighty. The life of each and every saint is a grand illustration of the emancipation of the soul in its search for the Supreme Divine Being. To peruse their stories is to inhale the air of sanctity and blessedness.
Sekkilaar, and G. Vanmikanathan. Periya Puranam — A Tamil Classic On The Great Saiva Saints of South India. Ed. Dr. N. Mahalingam. Chennai: Sri Ramakrishna Math, 2000.