Nandanar (also spelt as Nantanar), also known as Tirunalaippovar (Thirunaalaippovar) and Tiru Nalai Povar Nayanar, was a Nayanar saint, who is venerated in the Hindu sect of Shaivism. He is the only Dalit (" untouchable") saint in the Nayanars. He is generally counted as the eighteenth in the list of 63 Nayanars. Like the other Nayanars, he was a devout devotee of the god Shiva.
The tale of Nandanar is retold numerous times in folk tales, folk music, plays, films and literature in Tamil society. While Nandanar is included in Nayanar list since the 8th century CE, the 12th century CE Periya Puranam gives a full hagiographical account of his life. The tale focuses on two miracles attributed to him. In Sivalokanathar Temple, Tirupunkur; his prayers are said to have moved a giant stone bull, which still appears in the moved position in the temple. Nandanar is said to have ritually purified himself by fire at Thillai Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram. Nandar's tale features in temple lore and religious literature related to both these temples. Gopalakrishna Bharati's 19th century retelling of the saint's life remains the basis of many later retellings. It expands the original narrative adding elements of oppression of the Dalit saint by higher castes. While higher caste retellings of the tale focus on the saint's observance of caste norms, Dalits emphasize his exploitation and superior religiosity.
Apart from collective worship Nandanar enjoys being part of the Nayanars in Shiva temples of Tamil Nadu, shrines depicted to Nandanar exist in both the sites of his miracles. The saint also became an icon of protest in Dalit rights movements.
Nandanar was the pseudoyum of P. C. Gopalan (1926–1974), who was one of the three famous Malayalam writers whose novels and stories depicted the life in the army camps and battlefields during the 1940s and 1950s, the other two being Kovilan (P.V. Ayyappan) and Parappurath (K.E. Mathai). He took his pseudonym from the name of a famous devotee of Lord Shiva, and one of the 63 Nayanars in Shaivism.
Anubhavangal, Ira, Thokkukalkkidayile Jeevitham, Athmavinte Novukal, Ariyappedatha Manushyajeevikal, Anubhoothikalude Lokam etc. are some of his better-known works. Adept in depicting the nostalgic sentiments of army men who leave their families back home, he was also successful in portraying the rustic glory of the villages of Kerala and the longing of youth of his time in matters of love.
Nandanar belonged to a poor family from Angadipuram and was suffering even penury during his childhood. Unable to continue his education due to abject poverty he somehow managed to get himself recruited into the army. The miseries of his life during his childhood has been narrated in the novel Anubhavangal in a style that is most touching and penetrating.
He took up writing seriously during his days in the army and has written more than a dozen books including novels, short stories and stories for children. After retiring from the army he continued his writing while staying at his house in Angadippuram.
Nandanar committed suicide in a lodge at Palakkad. Nandanar is remembered for his humility and simplicity. Nandanar's concept of ideal childhood which he never had was depicted in his series about Unnikkuttan, a little boy who enjoys life and everything that happens around him.
He remains known as one of the most endearing authors of children's fiction in Malayalam. His book Anubhavangal has been made a Malayam movie.
A film Adayalangal has been made about his life.
Bhakta Nandanar is a 1935 Tamil film directed by Manik Lal Tandon. It marked the film debut of the carnatic singer and stage artist K. B. Sundarambal. She was paid a then unprecedented 100,000 (equivalent of 60 million (2013 prices)) as salary for this film. This was also the first film for Ellis R. Dungan.
is 1942 Indian mythological and devotional film, based on the Tamil folk myth of Nandan, a low- caste farmhand, and his deep devotion to Lord Nataraja of Chithambaram. Nandanar was a major success, in part because of an innovative prize scheme.
The film was directed by Muruga Dossa and produced by S. S. Vasan under his production company Gemini Studios. The film script was written by Ki. Ra., with music by M. T. Parthasarathy and Rajeswara Rao. Starring M. M. Dandapani Desikar (his played titled role) and Serukalathur Sama played lead role and M. R. Swamynathan, Sundari Bai and other played portraying supporting role. Actor Ranjan appeared as Lord Shiva in one scene in the film.