CHERAMAN PERUMAL NAYANAR


Cheraman Perumal Nayanar was born in Kodunkolur. It was the capital city of Malai Nadu
or the present Kerala. He was born in the royal family of Kothayars, otherwise known as the
Uthiyan family. The name Cheraman was the common name for all Cheras. Perumal was the title
adopted by him after his coronation. His original name was Perum-Ma-Kothayar. He was endowed
with good Samskaras. He had great devotion to the Lord even as a child. As he grew, his devotion
also grew. He had a remarkable degree of dispassion and discrimination. He did not like to rule the
country: and so, when he came of age, he renounced the world and went to Tiru Anchaikalam and
engaged himself in the worship of the Lord there. The country was ruled by Sengol Porayan. He,
too, soon realised the evanescence of worldly life and renounced the world! He had no issues and
the throne was vacant. They went to Tiru Anchaikalam and requested Perum-Ma-Kothayar to
ascend the throne. Though he was reluctant, lest it should interfere with his daily worship, he bowed
to the divine will. He went to the temple and offered a prayer. The Lord permitted him to accept the
rulership. By the Lord’s grace he ascended the throne and ruled the country justly and wisely. He
could understand all languages, even the language of the birds. The Lord had bestowed upon him all
the Aiswaryas, great strength, royal vehicles, etc.
After the coronation, he went to the temple and after worshipping the Lord he was returning
to the palace. On the way, he saw a washerman whose body had been smeared with white sand and
mud. The very sight enraptured Cheraman who saw in him the image of Lord Siva with the sacred
ash smeared all over the body. He was raised to God-consciousness. He descended from the
elephant and fell at the feet of the washerman, in spite of the latter’s protest. All were wonderstruck
to witness the supreme devotion of Cheraman.
By his many acts of devotion and piety, he earned the grace of Lord Siva. The Lord sent to
him a renowned musician and devotee, Banapatirar, with a palm leaf on which was the Lord’s own
song in praise of Cheraman! It read: ‘Oh king who honours great poets with rich presents, who rules
his subjects with love! Glory to you! I am very highly pleased with your devotion and charitable
nature. The bearer of this message is Banapatirar who is a great devotee like you. He is a great
musician and always sings My glories on his favourite instrument, Yazh. He has come to see you.
Welcome him with due respect and honour him with plenty of riches.’ Cheraman welcomed the
musician with great love and devotion. When he read the song of the Lord, he was overjoyed and
rolled on the ground. He said to Banapatirar: ‘Oh noble soul, kindly take possession of all these and
accept my kingdom also.’ Banapatirar was astounded to witness the king’s devotion and said: ‘Oh
king, I am highly pleased with your Darshan. I shall accept only what is absolutely necessary for
me, for that has been the command of the Lord.’ He took what he needed and left Kodunkolur on an
elephant. Cheraman escorted him up to the border.
Cheraman was greatly devoted to Lord Nataraja. He had surrendered his body, mind and
soul to Him. He would daily worship the Lord: and, by His grace, at the time of his prayer, he would
hear the musical sound produced by the Lord’s anklets during His dance. One day, however, at the
time of the prayer, he did not hear the usual divine sound. Cheraman was greatly afflicted at heart.
He thought that he must have been guilty of a great crime and decided to end his life, with his sword.
At once he heard the divine sound and a voice in the sky explained: ‘Oh noble soul, My friend
Nambi Arurar has come to Tillai and he was singing sweet Tamil songs. I was completely absorbed
in that and hence the delay in blessing you with the musical sound of My anklet.’ The Lord wanted
to create a friendship between Sundarar and Cheraman and so spoke highly of Sundarar to
Cheraman. Cheraman, desirous of worshipping Lord Nataraja and also of meeting Sundarar, at
once started for Tillai. The very sight of the Lord in Tillai entranced him. He sang ‘Pon Vannathu
Anthadi’ on Lord Nataraja. In appreciation, the Lord blessed him with the musical sound of His
anklets. Cheraman was swimming in divine bliss.
Before Cheraman reached Tillai, Sundarar had already left the place. Cheraman proceeded
to Tiruvarur where he met Sundarar. They embraced each other and fell at each other’s feet. They
became fast friends. At Tiruvarur Cheraman composed the famous ‘Tiru Mummanikovai’ on Lord
Thiagaraja.
Then they went to Vedaranyam. There Cheraman sang his ‘Tiru Anthati’ on the Lord. After
visiting many shrines on the way they came to Madura. The Pandyan king welcomed them. The
Chola prince who was staying with the Pandyan king also welcomed them. In their company the
great saints visited many shrines. Taking leave of the kings, Cheraman and Sundarar returned to
Tiruvarur. From there, at the request of Cheraman, Sundarar accompanied him to Kodunkolur.
There Cheraman took Sundarar on an elephant and went round the city in procession.
When Sundarar returned to Tiruvarur, he had instructed Cheraman to rule the country justly
and wisely. Cheraman obeyed the saint’s commands. On the next occasion when Sundarar visited
Kodunkolur one day Sundarar suddenly left the place and went to the sacred shrine at Tiru
Anchaikalam where he sought the Lord’s grace and attained Liberation. By intuition, Cheraman
learnt of Sundarar’s release and he also attained the Lotus Feet of the Lord, as we have already seen,
while dealing with Sundaramurthi Nayanar’s life. In Kailasa, Cheraman became the chief of Lord
Siva’s Ganas (servants).