The Story of Thirugnanasambandar
In the old city of Seerkali in Tamilnadu, lived a brahmin by name Sivapadahrudaya. He and his wife Bhagavathi Ammal were ardent Shiva Devotees and they used to pray to the presiding deity of the town Lord Shiva who was known by the name Thoniyappar.
In course of time Bhagavathi Ammal gave birth to a boy baby who was named Sambandan, Sambandan was a normal bubbly child as any child would be and was very attached to his father.
One day when his father was going to the temple as usual, little Sambandan who was three years now, was adamant that he would go with his father. The father was reluctant to refuse Sambandan and took him along. When they reached the temple, Sivapadahrudaya wanted to take a dip in the holy pond of the temple Brahma Teertham. He left Sambandan on the banks and told him to be there until he returned after his holy dip. Young Sambandan nodded his head and was watching his father go into the pond.
The father would dip his head and all in the pond and reappear again. This happened again and again and when once Sivapadahrudaya decided to hold his breath longer under the water young Sambandan panicked as he could not see his father. He cried out “Amma.. Appa” in anguish and Lord Shiva who was doing his celestial rounds with his consort Parvati heard this cry and decided to shower his grace on the little child for he had called them. Amma and Appa mean Mother and Father and when the Mother and Father of the Universe were called they could not resist showering their grace on the boy. Parvati Descended to where Sambandan was and fed him milk from a golden cup. Sambandan was very happy . By that time the father had finished his dip and came up. He saw milk drooling from the mouth of Sambandan and got very angry. Got very angry that his little son had taken milk from somebody . Accepting food from all and sundry was not an acceptable norm those days. It is still not in many households in India. He asked his son angrily , “Sambanda. who gave you the milk and why did you drink it?” Sambandan did not say anything . He just smiled. The father got very very angry and took a small stick and threatening to beat the child said ,”Tell me. Tell me now. Who gave you the milk?” Just then Lord Shiva and Parvati appeared in front of Sambandan and he broke into a verse “Thodudaya Sevian, Vidai Eri Oar Thooven Madi soodi ” meaning ‘He who wears earrings, who rides a bull and wears the moon on his head” The boy went on to sing many more songs and the people and the father were astonished. The father was so proud about the gifted child and the people named him “Gnana Sambandan” that is Sambandan endowed with divine knowledge and with respect he is called Thirugnanasambandar and he lived to sing many songs called Thevarams about the Lord’s glory and also help the people get Lord Shiva’s grace.
Sambandar lived in the seventh century and is considered the most prominent of the 63 Nayanmars. His hymns are said to be over 10000 but we have lost many of them over time and about four hundred survive.