Sundara (Murthi) Nayanar who lived in the 8th century was a great devotee of Lord Siva. He is one of the four great Tamil religious Teachers ('nalvar'): Sambandar, Appar(thirunavukkarasar), Sundarar, Manikkavachagar. Except for Manikka-Vachaagar, the oldest of the four, others lived during the struggle between the Jains and the Saivites.
Sundarar is also one of the Sixty-three Nayanars whose lives were recorded in the "Periya Puranam," (The Great Epic) by Sekkilaar, a poet and the chief minister in the court of the Chola King, Kulothunga Chola II.
In the village of Tirunavalur, a temple priest called Sadayanar and his wife Isaignani, both staunch Shiva devotees, had a son Nambi Arurar. The ruler of the local kingdom (Thirumunaipadi-Nadu), Narasingamunaiarayar a chieftain, adopted him and brought up as his own son, and called him Sundarar.
Sundara Murthi Nayanar sang the glories of Lord Siva at all the sacred places that he visited. These hymns are called Thevaaram. The hymns sung by Sundarar, Appar, and Thiru-jnana-sambanthar are called Thevaaram. The hymns of Manikkavasagar are called Thiruvaasagam.
Sundarar regarded the Lord as his friend (Sakhya Bhava), whom he could call upon for any help. In his previous incarnation, he was Alala Sundarar, one of the Shiva ganas. He was the one who fed Shiva the deadly poison that formed in the milky ocean when churned by Devas and Asuras, who drank it for the protection of the world. Hence, Sundarar got the word Alala (for Halahala, the poison) prefixed to his name.
Once, when Alala Sundarar was living by the side of Lord Siva in the Mount Kailas in His service, he was enamored by two girls Aninditi and Kamalini, the attendants of Goddess Parvathi. They, too, fell in love with Sundarar. Lord Siva, through His divine vision, understood all that had happened and called Alala Sundarar and said, "Sundarar, since you fell in love with these girls, all of you will have to take a human birth. You will marry them and enjoy the pleasures of the world."
Kamalini, the attendant of Parvathi in Kailasa took birth in Thiruvaaroor, and was called Paravayar. Every day she would go to the temple and worship the Lord with faith and devotion.
One day, Sundarar entered the temple with his devotees at the same time as Paravayar. Prompted by past Karma, Sundarar was attracted by Paravayar's beauty, and Paravayar too fell in love with him. Sundara expressed to Shiva his desire to Paravai.
It was now Shiva's duty to bring about their marriage. He appeared to both of them in their dreams and told them that they would get married. Siva also commanded His devotees in dream to arrange for the wedding of Paravayar and Sundarar the very next day. The wedding took place accordingly, to the joy of both Paravayar and Sundarar.
Anindita, the other maid-servant of Parvathi in Kailasa, who had also taken a human birth, was now Sangilyar in Jnayiru in Thondai Nadu. Seeing Sangiliyar disinterested in marriage and her intense devotion to Parvathi, her father built a small ashram for her at Thiruvotriyur.
It was Sangiliyar's daily routine to make garlands for the Lord in the temple. One day Sundarar and his devotees went to the temple. After the worship, they came to the place where Sangiliyar, along with other devotees was making garlands for the Lord. Sundarar was attracted by her beauty, due to past samskaras. He wanted to marry her, and expressed this wish to the Lord. The Lord promised to fulfill his wish.
The Lord appeared in Sangiliyar's dream and directed her to marry Sundarar. But Sangiliyar was worried that Sundarar may desert her, because he was already married.
The Lord asked her to get a promise from Sundarar that he would not part from her under any circumstance.
Then the Lord appeared before Sundarar and said that Sangiliyar had agreed to marry him on condition that he would not part from her. Sundarar wanted to be free to visit temples and was hesitant about such a binding. He asked God for the promise that he would withdraw His presence from the Lingam in the temple when he took the oath before His image and instead reside in the nearby tree during that time.
The Lord granted Sundarar this wish and disappeared.
Siva again appeared before Sangiliyar and asked her to demand Sundarar that he make a promise not before the Lingam in the temple, but in front of the nearby tree. This was conveyed by Sangiliyar's friends to Sundarar.
Sundarar was taken aback by the request, but he accepted the proposal. The promise was given. The marriage was immediately solemnized.
It was now the time for Vasanta Utsavam in Thiruvaaroor, and Sundarar longed to go there. He remembered that Paravayar would sing and dance there in front of the Lord. Due to the promise given to Sangiliyar, he was conflicted about leaving her. Finally, he decided to leave.
When Sundarar crossed the border of Thiruvotriyur, he suddenly lost his eye-sight and fell down on the ground. When he regained his consciousness, he prayed to the Lord for forgiveness and the grant of the eye sight.
In spite of the blindness, however, Sundarar's thirst for the darshan of the Lord at Thiruvaaroor did not abate. With the help of some people on the way, Sundarar came to Thiru Mullaivayil. Here, again, he prayed to the Lord to give him eye-sight. At Thiruvembakkam, Sundarar again prayed to the Lord and the Lord gave Sundarar a blind-man's stick and Sundarar prayed, "Oh Lord, you deceived me. I asked you to remain for a while near the tree, but you cleverly informed Sangiliyar and asked her to get the promise from me near the tree. Oh Lord, you gave me Sangiliyar and all the pleasures. But, now you give me the blind-man's staff and say, 'You can go.' Oh Lord, pardon me and relieve me of my sufferings."
Then, completely resigning himself to God, Sundarar came to kanjeevaram, after visiting many holy places on the way. Mother Kamakshi had already been moved by Sundarar's prayers and wanted to shower Her grace on him. Lord Siva at once restored vision to Sundarar's left eye. In ecstasy, Sundarar rolled on the ground, shedding profuse tears of love.
Sundarar reached the outskirts of Thiruvaaroor. He grieved that, due to his partial sight, he could not get a complete darshan of the Lord. Shiva at once cured the other eye also. Sundarar worshipped the Lord and remained completely absorbed in divine bliss.
In the mean time, people whom Paravayar had sent to greet Sundarar and inform him of her eagerness to meet him, came back with the news of his marriage to Sangiliyar. This annoyed Paravai and she refused to allow Sundarar's devotees to enter the house. She would not heed to the entreaties of the elderly emissaries Sundarar had sent to bring about a reunion. Sundarar prayed to the Lord for His help in pacifying Paravayar. The Lord disguised Himself as Sundarar's messenger, a Brahmin priest, and went to Paravayar's house. The Brahmin pleaded Sundarar's cause, but Paravai refused and sent them back. Yet she was grief-stricken at the separation from Sundarar.
When the Lord informed Sundarar of all that had happened, Sundarar was inconsolable and blamed that Shiva's going there in the form of a messenger and not in His true form was the cause for the failure of the mission. The Lord once set out to go to the second time.
In the mean time, the devout Paravayar had understood that the Brahmin was no other than the Lord Himself and was suffering from terrible anguish for not recognizing Shiva. The Lord again went to her house: and this time He appeared before her in His real form. Paravayar at once prostrated before Siva and agree to obey his commands.
The Lord then informed Sundarar that He had pacified Paravayar and that Sundarar could now return to her. In the mean time, Paravayar had decorated her house beautifully and was eagerly waiting for her Lord. Sundarar, with his devotees, entered the house. Paravayar fell at Sundarar's feet. Thus, they were re-united after a long separation.
Thiruppugazhs in which the reference appearsParavaikku eththanai