15. Murthi Nayanar
To adore Lord Siva with sandalwood paste, smearing it all over the Lingam is regarded as a great form of His worship. This kind of worship was done by Murthi Nayanar. He was born in Madura in Pandya kingdom. He was a Vaisya by caste. He was a great devotee of Lord Siva. Daily he used to offer sandalwood paste to the Lord.
At that time, the city was invaded by a Karnataka king. In the battle the Pandya king was defeated. The Karnataka ruler became the Pandya king. He was a follower of Jainism. He wanted to exterminate Saivism and to spread his religion. He began to persecute Saivas. ‘Murthi Nayanar also had to bear a lot of sufferings. But, he was undaunted. He continued his worship of the Lord, with sandalwood.
The king, with a view to convert Murthi Nayanar forcibly to Jainism, made it impossible for anyone in Madura to obtain sandalwood. This greatly upset the Nayanar. He prayed to the Lord: ‘Oh Ocean of Mercy, this country is ruled by a tyrant and he is bent upon exterminating Your devotees. When will we be fortunate enough to get a king who will be devoted to You?’ He knew that the people would follow the king, out of fear and in an effort to win his favour. He, therefore, wanted a Saivite king!
He searched throughout the day for a little sandalwood to offer his worship. He could not get any. With a broken heart, he went to the temple: and he had a wonderful idea. He began to rub his own elbow (in the place of sandalwood!). The hand was bleeding profusely. Lord Siva was highly pleased with his devotion. A heavenly voice said: ‘Oh noble soul, I am immensely pleased with your devotion. Kindly stop rubbing your elbow. All your grievances will be redressed. Kindly take up the reins of the kingdom. After ruling the country justly and wisely for a long time, you will come to My Abode.’ Nayanar was amazed to hear this and to see that his elbow regained its original shape.
Murthi Nayanar did not aspire for kingship, but it was the Lord’s will. That night the cruel king died. The next day, the Ministers sent the palace elephant to choose their king, in accordance with an ancient custom. The elephant proceeded towards the temple. Murthi Nayanar had come there for his worship. The elephant bowed to him and placed him on his back and returned to the palace.
The Ministers begged of Nayanar to become their king. Nayanar stipulated this condition: ‘If I become king, I will not have any luxury bath, but will bathe only with the sacred ashes. My jewel will be only Rudraksham and my crown will only be matted locks. I shall strive to let the love of Lord Siva be enthroned in the hearts of all.’ The Ministers accepted these conditions with great joy and satisfaction.
Nayanar ruled the country justly and wisely for a long time, and eventually attained Siva’s Abode.