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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.