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The Nayanars (or Nayanmars; Tamil: நாயன்மார், romanized: Nāyaṉmār, lit. 'hounds of Siva', and later 'teachers of Siva')[1] were a group of 63 saints living in Tamil Nadu during the 3rd to 8th centuries CE who were devoted to the Hindu god Shiva. Along with the Alwars, their contemporaries who were devoted to Vishnu, they influenced the Bhakti movement in early medieval South India.[2] The names of the Nayanars were first compiled by Sundarar. The list was expanded by Nambiyandar Nambi during his compilation of material by the poets for the Tirumurai collection, and would include Sundarar himself and Sundarar's parents.


The Nalvar (lit. 'The Four') of Shaiva Siddhanta - (from left) Sambandar, Appar and Sundarar, the three foremost Nayanars, and Manikkavaasagar.

The list of the Nayanars was initially compiled by Sundarar (Sundararmurthi). In his poem Tiruthonda Thogai he sings, in eleven verses, the names of the Nayanar saints up to Karaikkal Ammaiyar, and refers to himself as "the servant of servants".[2][3][4] The list did not go into the detail of the lives of the saints, which were described in detail in works such as Tevaram.[5]

In the 10th century, king Raja Raja Chola I collected the volumes of Tevaram after hearing excerpts of the hymns in his court.[6]:50 His priest Nambiyandar Nambi began compiling the hymns into a series of volumes called the Tirumurai. He arranged the hymns of three saint poets Sambandar, Appar and Sundarar as the first seven books which he called the Tevaram. He compiled Manikkavasakar's Tirukovayar and Tiruvasakam as the eighth book, the 28 hymns of nine other saints as the ninth book, the Tirumandiram of Tirumular and 40 hymns by 12 other poets as the tenth book. In the eleventh book, he created the Tirutontanar Tiruvanthathi (also known as Tirutoṇṭar Antādi, lit. Necklace of Verses on the Lord's Servants), which consisted of 89 verses, with a verse devoted to each of the saints. With the addition of Sundarar and his parents to the sequence, this became the canonical list of the 63 saints.[5] In the 12th century, Sekkizhar added a twelfth volume to the Tirumurai called Periya Puranam in which he expands further on the stories of each of 63 Nayanars.[1][2][3]

The Nayanars were from various backgrounds, including Channar, Vanniyar, Vellalas, Idayars, Kurumbars, Thevars, oilmongers, Brahmins, Washermen, Harijan, and nobles.[1] Along with the twelve Vaishnava Alwars, they are regarded as the important Hindu saints from South India.

List of Nayanars[edit]

The 63 Nayanars in a Shiva temple
Kannappa Nayanar

Sundarar's original list of Nayanars did not follow any sequence with regards to chronology or importance. However, some groups have since followed an order for arranging their Nayanar temple images according to Sundarar's poem as well as the information from Nambi and Sekkizhar.[3][7]

List of 63 Nayanars
No.[7] Person Notes
1 Sundarar Born in Aadi month, Swathi nakshathiram
2 Tiru Neelakanta
3 Iyarpagaiar
4 Ilayankudi Maranar Vellalar
5 Meiporul Vellalar
6 Viralminda Vellalar
7 Amaraneedi
8 Eripatha
9 Yenathinathar
10 Kannappa Veduvar
11 Kungiliya Kalaya
12 Manakanchara Vellalar
13 Arivattaya Vellalar
14 Anaya
15 Murthiyar
16 Muruga Vellalar
17 Rudra Pasupathi
18 Nandanar (Thirunalai Povar)
19 Tiru Kurippu Thonda
20 Chandeshvara
21 Appar (Tirunavukkarasar) Vellalar
22 Kulachirai
23 Perumizhalai Kurumba Kurumbar
24 Karaikkal Ammeiyar Woman saint who lived in the 6th century[8]
25 Apputhi Adigal
26 Tiruneelanakka
27 Nami Nandi Adigal
28 Sambandar A child prodigy Saiva Saint who lived only 16 years
29 Eyarkon Kalikama Vellalar
30 Tirumular
31 Dandi Adigal
32 Murkha Vellalar
33 Somasi Mara
34 Sakkiya Vellalar
35 Sirappuli
36 Siruthondar Army general of the Pallava king Narasimavarman I
37 Cheraman Perumal Modern historians identified Cheraman Perumal Nayanar as the Chera ruler Rama Rajasekhara (c. 800—844 CE). He is the first known ruler of the Cheras of Makotai (c. 800—1124 CE)[9]

Born in Aadhi month, Swathi nakshathiram

38 Gananatha
39 Kootruva
40 Pugal Chola Chola King
41 Narasinga Muniyaraiyar Muniyaraiyar
42 Adipaththar
43 Kalikamba
44 Kalia Born in Aadhi month, Kettai nakshathiram
45 Satti
46 Aiyadigal Kadavarkon
47 Kanampulla
48 Kari
49 Ninra Seer Nedumaara Pandya King
50 Mangayarkkarasiyar Queen and consort of Nindra Seer Nedumaran
51 Vayilar Vellalar
52 Munaiyaduvar
53 Kazharsinga
54 Idangazhi Vellalar
55 Seruthunai Vellalar
56 Pugazh Thunai
57 Kotpuli Vellalar
58 Pusalar
59 Nesa
60 Sengenar (Kochengat Chola)
61 Tiru Nilakanta Yazhpanar
62 Sadaiya Sundarar's father
63 Isaignaniyaar Sundarar's mother

Other saints[edit]

The 9th-century poet Manikkavacakar was not counted as one of the 63 Nayanars but his works were part of the eighth volume of the Tirumurai. Although the traditional count of Nayanars is only 63,[10] the Tamil poet-philosopher Valluvar is often counted as the 64th Nayanar as a sign of honour and is taken in annual procession by various communities across South India, including the Mylapore and the Tiruchuli communities.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Sadasivan, S. N. (2000). A Social History of India. New Delhi: A.P.H. Publishing Corporation. pp. 150–151. ISBN 81-7648-170-X.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Ramaswamy, Vijaya (2007). Historical Dictionary of the Tamils. Scarecrow Press. p. 167. ISBN 9780810864450.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Sivananda, Swami. "Sixty-Three Nayanar Saints". The Divine Life Society uttar Pradesh. 19. Tiru Kurippu Thonda Nayanar. Archived from the original on 23 November 2019.
  4. Mahadevan, T. M. P. (1971). Ten Saints of India (3rd ed.). Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. p. 35. LCCN 70-924698.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Zvelebil, Kamil (1974). Tamil Literature. A History of Indian Literature. Vol. 10. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrasowitz. p. 130. ISBN 3-447-01582-9.
  6. Cutler, Norman (1987). Songs of Experience: The Poetics of Tamil Devotion. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-35334-3.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Vanmikanathan, G. "The Sixty-Three Nayanars". Archived from the original on 30 September 2019. Retrieved 20 April 2020.
  8. Das, Sisir Kumar (2005). A History of Indian Literature, 500-1399: From Courtly to the Popular. Chennai: Sahitya Akademi. p. 31. ISBN 81-260-2171-3.
  9. Narayanan, M. G. S. (1996). Perumals of Kerala: Brahmin Oligarchy and Ritual Monarchy—Political and Social Conditions of Kerala Under the Cera Perumals of Makotai (c. AD 800–AD 1124). Calicut, Kerala: Xavier Press. OCLC 38233093.
  10. Kāraikkālammai, Peter J. J. de Bruijn (2007). Poems for Śiva, illustrated with masterpieces of Hindu art. Rotterdam: Dhyani Publications. p. 5. ISBN 978-90-811564-2-4.
  11. Kannan, Kaushik (11 March 2013). "Saint poet's guru pooja at Tiruchuli". The New Indian Express. Tiruchuli: Express Publications. Retrieved 3 September 2020.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

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