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Guru Namashivaaya

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Guru Namashivaaya
Adapted from
Read about  Arunaachal

There was a Guhai Namashivaaya lived on the hill. He had many disciples to teach. Among those disciples there was one disciple who later became known as Guru Namashivaaya. He showed some Siddhi (supernatural powers) also. This disciple also lived on the same hill. One day Guhai Namashivaaya was sitting and the disciple Namashivaaya was serving his Guru. Suddenly the disciple laughed. Guhai asked him - "What did you see that you laughed so suddenly?"

The disciple replied - "When I offered you my body, my soul, you accepted them all and thus you had control over me." Then he explained why did he laugh - "Once Thyaagaraja Swami, a local Deity was taken on a procession in Tiruvarur town. Many women dancers were accompanying him. They were so skilled in dancing that they could be compared with Apsaraa. One of these dancers stumbled and fell on the road. All laughed at her, I also laughed at her, that is all, nothing else."

Sometime later Guhai Namashivaaya noticed the same activity again when the disciple Namashivaaya rubbed his cloth which he was wearing on his shoulder, in a strange way. Guhai asked him as why did he rub that cloth in that way? The disciple answered - "The Golden Dancing Hall of Chidaambaram (read  " Its Structure") was screened with a black screen. A Ghee lamp was burning nearby it. A mouse came there and took the burning wick and ran away. While running away the screen caught the fire. All tried to put off that fire by smothering the curtain. I also rubbed my cloth to stop that fire to burn curtain."

Guhai understood with these incidents that his disciple has reached in the advance stage of his Saadhanaa; but he also knew that such incidents (Siddhi) are not the indication that he has uplifted himself spiritually also. So he decided to test his disciple's level of devotion. Once he vomited and collected in his begging bowl, and asked his disciple to throw it out at such a place where it should not come under anybody's feet. Now this disciple's devotion to his Guru was such that he took the vomit and ate it secretly considering it Prasaad. Guhai could not know what his disciple had done of his vomit. Later just to confirm he asked his disciple - "Did you throw it where it could not be stepped on by anybody?" The disciple politely answered - "I have taken it as Prasaad and kept it where it should be kept." Seeing the power and devotion of his disciple Guhai thought - "My disciple has been getting intelligent day by day. It is not proper to retain him here. Let me test him once more and then I will send him to his appropriate place.

Now Guhai was an accomplished extempore poet, so he composed two lines of a poetry and recited them to his disciple and asked him to complete it for him.
"The fruiting banyan provides fruit for the birds,
The bamboo when it matures is not without its use..."

This time the disciple immediately realized that his Guru was testing him. He pondered over the words of his Guru, that the Banyan word was used for his Guru, the fruit of banyan was the grace of the Guru and birds was used for all the devotees. From its second line he could make out that it was used for him, that since now you are mature you may also be useful to others. he was very much attached to the body of his Guru and did not want to leave him. He wanted to serve him only, so he did not like the idea to leave him and go somewhere else, but as he was fully devoted to him, he could not dispute his idea also. So when Guhai asked him to complete the verse, he said - "I am your disciple, it is not good for a disciple to oppose Guru."

Guhai got very pleased hearing this, he said to him - "Since you are mature enough, you may say what you want to say." The disciple completed the verse and said - "My Lord Namashivaaya, Would you consent to keep company with one who refrains from performing great and wondrous deeds?" The disciple understood that his Guru tested him because he showed his powers and his faithfulness to his Guru, so he requested his Guru - "If I stop showing my powers and exaggerated actions of my devotion to you, will you allow me to stay with you?"

Guhai got more pleased with his answer. He said - "O the Pupil of my eyes, You have indeed attained the true knowledge. Who can get a true disciple like you? From today you will be known as Guru Namhivaaya." Although he was very happy, but in his happiness he did not change his decision, he said - "Two elephants cannot be tied to the same post. This is a Bhog Kshetra (sensory enjoyment place) - see note below, there is a Divine Kshetra (Divine Place) called Chidaambaram where God bestows true knowledge. You have some work to do there, so please go there and live there."

Note About Bhog Kshetra
* Since this is not a good word for Arunaachal-like Parvat, I think, there should be some other translation and explanation for this term. Or it might be possible that Guhai might be using this term in one of the three modes of the Deity - (1) Ilaya in which only the divine knowledge is manifest. (2) Bhog, in which knowledge and action are equally balanced. and (3) Adikaram, in which action predominates. if we take this explanation then it may mean that Arunaachal is that place where Shiv got involved in the world performing Leelaa and bestowing grace and liberation too; and he was sending him to Ilaya Kshetra as there he bestows only Divine knowledge. it does not show the superiority or inferiority of one over the other, but just show the different places to do different type of functions - although Shiv has manifested himself many times at Chidaambaram for the benefit of his devotees.

So Guhai asked his disciple to go to Chidaambaram. The disciple thought if had presented the case in a better way, perhaps he did not have to leave his Guru., but nothing could be done now. he said - "I cannot live without you. I will be doing your Darshan daily." But Guhai was also strong, he said - "Go to Chidaambaram and have the Darshan of the Golden Dancing Hall. If you get my Darshan there, stay back there; and if not, then come back here." The disciple accepted the condition of having his Guru's Darshan, and said to his Guru - "O Namashivaaya, You destroy the subtle bonds of birth through your words and through your meditations, through your glance and through your touch, and through your compassion which gladdens our hearts! You attained liberation through the fourth leg of the chair."

"The fourth leg of the chair" in this last line points towards Tureeya State which is beyond the three state of mind - waking, dreaming and sleeping. Guhai Namashivaaya attained liberation by living in the fourth state permanently.

Guru Namashivaaya Goes to Chidaambaram and Paarvatee Brings Him Food
Guhai said to him only - "You just go right now." So the disciple, means Guru Namashivaaya, set off on his journey to Chidaambaram and completed 10 miles by evening. Then he sat under a tree and spent three hours meditating on Self. After that he felt that he was hungry, he composed a poem towards the consort of Shiv in Arunaachal Temple, Unnaamulai, - "You are the dearest to the heart of Annaamalai; O Holy Mother Unnaamalai, Bring rice from every household to feed; Your servant whose every thought is in praise of you."

At the moment when Guru Namashivaaya was composing this verse, there was some sweet rice on the golden plate in the Temple. It was the Naivedya offered to Annaamalai and the priest forgot to take it to his home when he locked the Temple doors at night. When Unnaamalai heard Guru's prayer, she took that plate to Guru and came back to the Temple.

When the priest came in the morning and opened the temple doors, he did not find the plate. he looked for it for some time here and there, but in vain. It became certain that it has been stolen by some thief, although he could not understand that how one could steal the plate from locked doors. No Poojaa could be done for 8 hours, because everybody was busy in looking for the plate. At the same time a Braahman boy went into trance, possessed  by a spirit, and told that "the plate is with Guru Namashivaaya. he is sitting under a tree on the way to Chidaambaram. Mother took the food for him. You may find the plate there, go and bring it." The plate was recovered and brought to the Temple. Guru got up in the morning and walked eastwards praising his Guru.

Next he stopped at Rishi Vandanam place. Here Shiv lives in his Ardh-Naareeshwar form. he had been worshipped since long by Agastya Muni. Guru took bath in the holy tank "Aiyayiram Kondam", completed his own Poojaa and the worshipped Lord of that place. He then went back to the banks of the Tank and sat in meditation of Self. After a wile when he felt hunger, he again composed a poem for Divine Mother and asked for food. The Divine Mother came and said - "My husband and I are one, so is it proper to sing only my praise as a separate entity, so you compose another prayer in which I am united with him." So Guru composed another poem and sang it; and as soon as he finished singing it, the Mother brought food to him; Guru ate it and resumed his journey.

Now he came to another Teerth Vriddhaachalam. There he took bath in the River Manimuttar, had Darshan of Shiv and Paarvatee (in Perinaayakee form), came back to the River and meditated on Self; and when he felt hungry, he again composed a poem for the local goddess Perinaayakee who is depicted as an old woman. Like before, as soon as he finished his prayer, Paarvatee appeared in an old woman's form and said to him - "What is this son? is it good to address me as "old woman" from your mouth? Can an old woman walk? Can she bring food and water?" Guru said - "Mother, At Baal Kaashee you are Baal Ambikaa, this is Vriddh Kaashee, so here you are an old woman. Your Lord is also old Mountain Lord, that is why I sang that way." The Mother replied - OK, That is all right, but now you sing of me as a young woman." Guru said - "If I will sing like that, it means that I will be singing for two separate Mothers." The Mother said - "Let it be so, but now you sing of me as a young woman." So Guru again composed another poem and sang it. As he was finishing his poem, Mother brought him food in her Baal Ambikaa form. he ate the food and again set off on his journey.

Guru Namashivaaya in Chidaambaram
Now Guru Namashivaaya came to Bhuvan Giri. This place was very near to Chidaambaram, he could see Chidaambaram from there. As he saw the four Gopuram of Chidaambaram temple, a poem came out from his mouth spontaneously. Singing this song he came to Chidaambaram. He took bath in Shiv Gangaa Tank in the main Temple. He again composed a poem in praise of Mother (Shivakaamee - means who desires for Shiv or who is desired by Shiv). She is the female Deity of Chidaambaram Temple. She is the silent witness of Shiv's dance in the inner sanctum.

Before the creation of this Nataraaj Temple, there was a Kaalee Temple in Tillai Forest. When Shiv started his Dance - Aanand Taandav, in Chidaambaram, Kaalee filled with pride and challenged for a dance contest. Shiv wanted to remove her pride, so he said - "OK, Whoever will win will be the Lord of Tillai; while whoever will lose will leave his or her place." So both started dancing. Devtaa and sages also came to watch this Divine dance. At one step Kaalee got stuck and she accepted her defeat. She left her temple and started living out out the town. To remove her pride, Kaalee bathed in the Temple tank and worshipped Shiv. her fierce form disappeared and she adopted a softer form. The poem Guru sang contained the same idea, that as Devee washed her sins by taking bath in the Tank, other people also should wash their sins by  bathing in this Tank. The site where this dance was performed is called Nritya Sabhaa in the Temple. It now features an eight-armed image of Shiv performing the Oordhwa Taandav, the posture that defeated Kaalee.

After taking bath in the Shiv Gangaa Tank, Guru went in the Temple, expected to have Darshan of Nataraaj; he had his Darshan but in the form of Guhai Namashhivaaya who was still living in Arunaachal. As he had his Guru's Darshan unexpectedly, he immediately sang praise of Shiv. In an ecstatic state he wrote 100 verses, all in praise of Shiv, in less than half an hour. After that he went to lonely room. It is to be noted here that Guhai told him that if he did not have his (Guhai's) Darshan there, he could go back to Arunaachal. Thus when Guru had the Darshan of his Guru, it meant to him that he had to stay back here. Guhai had given him the work of the Temple's renovation, so Shiv made the authorities to know that Guru was there and he should be given the work he was destined to perform. At that time there 3,000 Braahman who could perform Poojaa there in the Temple. The Chidaambaram Mahaatmyam lists the local legends and myths as how these Braahman came to perform Poojaa in this Temple.

At that time a legendary king Hiranyavarmaa was ruling in North India. He was rebuilding this temple to show his gratitude to Shiv, as he was cured of leprosy by taking a bath in Shiv Gangaa Tank. He also brought 3,000 Deekshitar from North India who were original priests of this Temple but somehow emigrated to North. But when they returned, they were only 2,999. The number was made complete when Shiv himself agreed to be a priest.

This legend can explain why the Chidaambaram Temple does not follow the traditional rules and rituals prescribed in the Shaiv Agam, the scriptures that lay down the regulations for all acts of worship in South Indian Shaiv temples. Instead, the temple rites are governed by a manual attributed to the sage Patanjali. This was brought back from North India by the Deekshitar when King Hiranyavarmaa persuaded them to return home. It was no loss to the Temple, rather it was the holiest of all the holy temples of Shiv.

When Guru came to Chidaambaram, all priests were of three castes - Jeevanmukt, Jaatmukt, and Mahaamukt. According to their seniority they were supposed to be taken around only in a palanquin. So after Guru arrived there Shiv instructed the priests - "A great Yogee has come here, you must arrange a separate place for him, because he has to do many tasks on my behalf. Assign him the northern side of the Temple, outside the boundary of the Temple. I have placed my foot there twice - once when I was writing Tiruvachakam of Manikkavachagar, and second time when I brought the milk ocean for Upamanyu."

Story of Upamanyu
Upamanyu was the son of Vyaaghrapaad and his story appears in Mahaabhaarat. He had got a taste of milk, but it was not available in the Aashram in the forest where he lived. He asked some milk from his mother also, but she also could not arrange it for him. She said to him that they were living very simply and depended on Shiv to fulfill their needs. So he asked who was Shiv and how could he get his grace. His mother taught him how to meditate, not knowing that he wanted to ask for milk from Shiv. Soon Upamanyu had Darshan of Shiv who said to him - "I am very pleased with you. You are great devotee. You are a sage already. You will become Brahmarshi. You will have eternal youth. An ocean of milk will be there whenever you will want it. You can enjoy it with your friends and relations." It is said that this happened at Chidaambaram. The Tirupparkkadal, means "The Tank of Divine Milk" is situated to the North of the Temple compound. Nearby it is a math where a 9th century Shaiv poet composed many poems which are included in Tiruvachakam. So the priest took Guru at the appointed place and left him there.

Paarvatee Brings Food for Him Again
Guru again meditated for some time and then as usual asked Paarvatee food when he felt hungry. Devee brought the food for him and sang a verse for him - "I, Shivakaamee, sister to the great Lord who in ancient times drank with relish milk at the demoness' breast, have brought rice to delight the servant and slave of Guhai Namashivaaya." [Here the Lord is Krishn who drank the milk of Pootanaa] And after that Devee started bringing food for Guru daily.

He used to do his Yog there, so many people threw the money too for him. After a while lots of money had piled up, seeing it Guru thought that this money is not good for him, so he distributed it among people. When those 3,000 priests saw this they got upset as they thought that lots of money was wasted this way. So they went to Guru and asked him to come inside the Temple so that people can give him money there and those priests can utilize that money for good work. Guru said - "I have come here at the request of the Lord of Chadaambaram, what business I have to move from this place?" Those 3,000 priests thought that they alone would not be able to move him inside, so they sought the help of the three chief priests that they should communicate with Shiv in this matter. So those three priests went to Shiv, prayed him and said - "If Guru comes inside the Temple we can start some good work with that money." Shiv said - "This is good, but if you will ask him to come, he will  not come, I myself have to go to him and bring him inside."

Shiv Goes to Guru
So Shiv went to Guru in the form of a Sangam (a monk of Veershaiv sect) carrying a stick and a water pot. Guru was meditating. When he opened his eyes, he found a monk standing in front of him. He said - "I am your slave. Where have you come from?" Shiv said - "We live in Tillai Vanam (another name of Chidaambaram)." "And what is your name?" "My name is Ambaalatthdwaar (the Dancer of the Hall)." "And why have you come here?" "I need some food. I went all over, they told me if I came here I would get food here." Guru said - "Mother Paarvatee brings food for me. I don't have even a vessel here." Shiv pointed at the moon and said - "Here is the vessel." So Guru looked in the direction of the Mother and some food appeared there instantly. He said to Shiv - "Take this." "I won't." "Why?" "if you will give me food like this everyday, then only I will take it."

Guru said - "You seem to be quite old. I travel a lot - Kaashee, Raameshwaram etc. How can I promise you that I can give you food like this everyday? You may not even be near to me." Shiv said - "If I walk ahead of you, then you give me food, and if I am at your back, I don't need your food." Guru agreed and requested him to eat the food. Shiv again said - "If you will first touch your Vibhooti pouch or Rudraaksh bead then I will take food." Guru refused to comply with these conditions and repeated his first condition - "If you will stand before me then only I will give you food, otherwise not." Shiv said - "Yes, I will stand before you if I need food."

Guru does not yet know that his visitor is Shiv himself. And when he says that he wants food daily from him, he means that he wants his food served daily in the temple. When Guru realized this then only he came to the Temple to arrange it. This first food was a different kind of offering. When Shiv asked Guru to touch Vibhooti or Rudraaksh, he meant to take a formal vow. For a Veershaiv it means an un breakable commitment.

Shiv made a pose as if he wanted to start the food, but he said - "Before I take food, I feel thirsty, I want some water." Guru didn't even try to bring some water for himself, instead he showed him the Tirupparkkadal Tank to take water from there. Shiv went there and disappeared. He came to the temple and talked to those three priests - "I have made an arrangement. You should take the palanquin in which I ride with banners, made him sit in it, take him through all the four streets surrounding the Temple and then bring him to me." So the three priests went to him with the palanquin and politely asked him to sit in it. Guru was surprised to see the palanquin, he said - "Why should I sit in this palanquin? What is there in it for me?" At this the priests said - "This is not a palanquin, it is the tiger skin seat which is very apt for you." But Guru still declined to enter into it. So the priests tried another way.

They said to him - "Yesterday our Lord came to you, what did you tell him?" Guru tried hard to recollect the incident and thought that the Sangam monk was not an ordinary monk. he went into a Yaugik trance and saw that the monk was Lord himself who came to him and gave his Darshan to him. He came back from his trance and said to the priests - "It seems after coming here he might have gone to you and reported the incident. He finally made out what had been going on, he sang a verse - "Appearing as a Veer Shaiv mendicant, The Lord himself manifested to me and asked me to give him alms. But when I offered him food, He bade me create all the endowments to guarantee his service every day." And only after reciting this he sat in the palanquin.

After taking him round the Temple, the priests brought him to the temple. He got down from the palanquin near the flagpole, took off his shoes outside the Panchaakshar Hall, went into the Golden Hall and did Darshan of Shiv. He then asked the 3,000 priests as what endowment he should create. Shiv spoke through an oracle - "Create the endowment for all the people." Guru thought that if lord himself was asking to create endowment like this for all the people and he himself will give money to start with then it should continue forever. So he lifted up the golden plate and sang a verse asking him to give him something. As he finished his verse, a gold coin fell in his plate from sky. All the people present there said - "Oh, God himself has donated this?" and thought that they should also donate something to it. So they donated gold, pearls, money to it. Guru gave all that to those 3,000 priests and started to walk away from there.

Shiv Dances
As he was walking forward, his steps were stopped, he asked - "Oh, What has happened to me? Why I can't go from here?" The priests said - "I don't know." So he again went into trance and came back from it. he then asked - "Is there any jewelry made for the Lord?" The priests thought for while and said - "Yes, a pair of tinkling anklets (Silaampu) and a girdle with tinkling bells (Kinkini) have been made for him, but if there is any other one, we do not know." So Guru called the goldsmiths and asked them the money will they need to make a Silaampu, a Kinkini, and a Veer Kaantaamani. They replied, "50,000 gold coins". Without any second thought he took the money out of what has been collected and gave it to them for this purpose. All the people said ridiculing him that if the Lord needed so much jewelry, he would have to dance as well. One of them said sarcastically - "So the Lord has to dance just for him." Guru heard everybody's comments.

On the 40th day the jewelry was brought to him, he called all the 3,000 priests and said to them - "If the Lord dances, will you be all willing to witness it?" "Oh sure, By seeing that our 21 generations will be redeemed." Guru thought, "These people are very skeptical, if the Lord moves here they would say that the wind has moved him." So he asked them to close all the windows, adorned the Lord with that jewelry and prayed to see his dance - "Lord of the Hall, can we ever perish, if but one of your feet dances? To behold all the gods in heaven, could not compare with such a sight! And could that foot ever grow weary which delighted victorious Patanjali and the fierce tiger-footed Vyaaghrapaad too?" As the Lord heard Guru's prayer, he started dancing. Everyone fell down, prostrated and motionless face down.

Then the three Chief priests raised their heads and said to Guru - "This dance has been going on for long time. O Guru, You have been playing the instruments, and O Lord of Tillai, You have been dancing without moving. We cannot witness your greatness, unless you stop." Guru replied - "Did I ask him to dance? Am I capable of stopping his dance?" They said - "Whoever is keeping Time, he should stop first." But Guru ignored their request and continued to beat drum and singing his praise.

Muyaalakan was the demon the Rishi created to attack Shiv. Shiv had broken his spine just by a touch of the tip of his big toe and he fell down. So in all Aanand Taandav dances Muyaalakan is shown under Nataraaj's right foot. The Dwarf symbolizes ignorance. So when Nataraaj repeatedly stamps on his body, it means that he is removing ignorance which is great hindrance in meeting with God. In Sanskrit Muyaalakan (dwarf) is called Apasmaar (epileptic). Ignorance, in an epileptic fit of madness, tries to assail God, but is immediately broken and destroyed.

The three priests wanted to stop this dance so they tried another way. They said - "Guru is singing Shiv's praise and if we sing the praise of Guru, maybe we can be successful to please him and stop the dance. So they sang in praise of Guru. Guru got pleased and he sang a new verse to request Shiv to stop his dance. As he finished his verse, the dance got stopped. Priest were so impressed with the command that Guru had over Lord that they decided that when he would die, they will erect a Ling over his Samaadhi and worship it too as if he was also their Lord.

He lived there for long time and till he lived there he composed many verses in praise of Shiv, many survived, many not. One of his biographers has written that he wrote no other poem except the praise of his Guru and he did  not worship any other Deity except Shiv.

Nothing more is available about Guru Namashivaaya. Some say that he passed away at Tirupperundurai, while a stone inscription is found at Chidaambaram, shortly after of his death, that "Namashivaaya became one with the Shiv Ling upon the Mountain Arunaagiri. After this inscription there are three words, "vanta guru tanam", whose meaning, in the context, is a little obscure that Arunaachal himself took the form of Guru Namashivaaya and came to Chidaambaram to execute his (Lord's) work there.

Nataraaj is always depicted with four arms. One of his legs is raised in a dancing posture. The positions and activities of the limbs are held to represent the Panch Kritya - the five-fold activities of God : creation, preservation, destruction, veiling and grace.

The death date on the stone occurs in the middle of the12th century, but various other references in Guhai Namashivaaya's poems indicate that they were written about a hundred years later (means during 13th century). It is not possible to separate, definitively, the fact from fiction. Guru Namasivaya's literary works and the various inscriptions in Chidaambaram can only corroborate the following facts:
(1) That he lived at Arunaachal with his Guru, Guhai Namashivaaya.
(2) That he achieved a very high spiritual stage through the grace of his Guru and the power of Arunaachal.
(3) That he did go to Chidaambaram and was responsible for many temple endowments there. An inscription there gives a list of all his literary works, all of which are poems praising different aspects of Shiv.


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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 10/20/12