(Last Updated on : 06/07/2011)
Sundarar or Cuntarar was born as Nambi Aruvar to parents Sadaiyanar and Isaignaniin in the village of Turinavalur. Narasingamunaiarayar, the ruler of the local kingdom, Thirumunaippadi- Nadu had adopted and brought him up as his own son. Later when he grew up and was about to get married an old man suddenly arrived at the wedding hall. He claimed that Sundara was his slave and hence there can be no marriage. The old man produced an old palm script written by Sundara's forefathers. The script helped the old man prove his words to the assemblage of people. The marriage was thus cancelled and dejected Sundarar followed his 'new master.' They together went to a nearby temple where the old man suddenly disappeared. Sundarar soon realized that the old man was Lord Shiva
who wanted him to worship and sing his praise. Sundarar thus immersed himself in the service and devotion of Shiva. He became one of the christened devotees whose verses form the seventh book of the twelve sacred Thirumurai. These form the sacred requests to Lord Shiva for the Shaivaites. Sundarar also compiled the life histories of many other Shavaite saints. He travelled extensively to different parts of the world and later even married Paravayar, a courtesan. However he also married another woman Sangiliyar and for this bigamous deed he lost his eyesight. Later through his devotion he regained his eyesight. Afterwards when the moment to unite with the lord approached Lord Shiva sent Lord Indra
's white elephant Iravatham to bring him. Cherum Perumal, the king of Kerela and an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva, when heard about the royal journey of Sundarar, followed him on his horse. They both then united with Shiva at Mount Kailasa
The story of Sundarar and Cheraman has been narrated in Periapuranam which is a detailed work on the lives of all the sixty three Nayanmar saints. In the twelfth century this work was sponsored by Anapaya, a Chola King. It was compiled by one Sekjiyar. The chapter on Sundarar has been named as 'Velaanai-Ch-Charukkam' or the 'Chapter on the White Elephant.' Sundarar's royal status, his ardent devotion to Shiva and his grand role of propagating Shaivism has undoubtedly made the most renowned saints among the other sixty three saints. Sundarar is one of the few saints who attained salvation in his human form mounting the elephant sent by Shiva. Rajaraja Chola 1, one of the greatest emperors of the Chola Dynasty
, had also chosen the story of Sundarar to depict it in his frescoes.