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Sage Vageesa – Life Story

Sage Vageesa is one of the sixty three Shaivite saints known as the Nayanmars. Vagisa, popularly known as Saint Thirunavukkarasar, was born in a family of Shiva devotees. However, for some reason, he was drawn to Jainism, in which he acquired considerable prowess. Later, he was afflicted with severe stomach pain which his Jaina teachers could not cure with their methods. Finally, his prayers to Mahadeva Shiva proved effective. With this, he returned to the fold of Shiva with intensified devotion.

When he sang a padiga (a poem in Tamil) in gratitude and with devotional fervor, a divine voice announced that  in view of his masterly composition, he would be known henceforth as Vageesa (Lord of speech).

Sage Vagisa traveled extensively, visiting countless Shiva shrines and composing a number of poems and songs in praise of Bhagavan Shiva. When he met the young Gnana Sambandar at Sirkali, the latter addressed him as appa (father), and since then Saint Thirunavukkarasar came to be known as Appar.

Sage Vageesa is credited with many miracles. At Vedaranyam he made a fervent appeal to Shiva to make the doors of a temple which were closed for a long time open, and his wish was fulfilled. He and Sambandar provided food and succor to people during a famine, using the gold coins provided to them by Bhagavan Shiva. Sage Vagisa also had an extraordinary vision of Kailasa while in his native place Tiruvaiyaru.

Appar is often portrayed in pictures holding a spade, since his favorite mode service was cleaning up and the temple premises by clearing away the grass and weeds. Appar lived to the age of eight one. At the moment of his passing, there emerged from him the final song – ‘O Lord of Eternal Abode! I am reaching you soon.’

Once Sage Vagisa was doing penance on the Kailash Mountain, and he was disturbed by the shaking of the mountain and by the shouts of agony of demon Ravana. The sage told Ravana that he should recite the Sama Veda. Mahadeva Shiva would be pleased to hear the Sama Veda and would release Ravana’s trapped hands from beneath the mountain. Ravana, accordingly, sang the Sama Veda and was released. Since sage Vageesa’s penance was disrupted, he took birth again. It is believed that he was reborn as Saint Thirunavukkarasar, one of the 63 Nayanmars. It is also significant that Thirunavukkarasar, because of his skill in composing poems, came to known as Vageesa.