Birth place : Aadhanur
Mukti : Chidambaram
Star : Purattasi Rohini
A Harijan by birth, Nandanar earned his livelihood by cultivating the small piece of land donated to him. An ardent devotee of Lord Shiva, he served the Lord by supplying leather and strings for the musical instruments used in the temple of Aadhanur. In his Bhakti towards Lord Shiva, he used to sing and dance in ecstasy in front of the temple.
Once, Nandanar went to the Shiva temple in Thirupungur. When he tried to see the Lord, he found the huge Nandi right in front of the Lord hindering the view. Nandanar requested Nandi to move aside and Nandi promptly moved to one side so that this great devotee could see his Lord!
Nandanar visited many Shiva temples and was also very keen to visit the temple of Chidambaram, but kept postponing the trip. Being a harijan, he was not sure if he had the right to enter the temple at Chidambaram. Hence he postponed the journey saying “Naalai poven, Naalai poven” ( I will go tomorrow) Hence he came to be called Thirunaalaippovar. Finally one day, he did go to Chidambaram. He entered the town and saw smoke coming out of the Brahmins’ houses busy in their daily homam rituals. Nandanar felt quite awful about his low caste and spent a few more days going around the town, without entering the temple.
One day, Nandanar dreamt of a fire being lit in front of the temple and he entering the fire. The Brahmins of Chidambaram also had a dream in which their Lord asked them to light a fire and ask Thirunaalaippovar to walk in it. Realising this was a divine dream, the Brahmins lit the fire and requested Nandanar to enter it. Nandanar entered the fire and came out as a celestial Rishi. The moment Nandanar entered the sanctum, Lord Shiva gathered his devotee to his feet and Nandanar vanished.
Note – This story is quite different from the Nandanar story I have heard and the movie I have seen. But in the reference books, it is clearly mentioned that nowhere Nandanar was stopped from entering the temple because he was of low caste, but he himself was hesitant to enter the temple!