Nakkeerar is a medieval Tamil poet from Madurai. He is renowned for his most famous work, the Tirumurukāṟṟuppaṭai. He was also the author of another work called Iraiyanar Akapporul. He should not be confused with the Sangam period writer Nakkirar (c. 250 CE), who composed anthologies like the Neṭunalvāṭai.
He is one of the prominent characters in the Thiruvilaiyadal Puranam. The Thiruvilaiyadal episodes of the confrontation of Sundareswarar (Shiva) with Nakkeerar is enacted as a part of the Meenakshi Amman Temple festival traditions of Madurai.
Nakkeerar was born in a family of chank-cutters. It is not known when Nakkeerar had lived but it is widely assumed that he lived in the 9th century AD during the Sangam period. According to broad consensus among historians and scholars, the hero of the epic PandiKovai was the Pandyan king Nedumaran who lived between 675 and 750 AD. Since Nakkirar was a contemporary of Nedumaran, they have concluded that he must have lived around the 8th century AD.
Confrontation with Lord Shiva
The Tiruvilaiyadal Puranam relates an incident involving Nakkeerar's confrontation with Lord Shiva. Once the Pandiyan king had a doubt as to whether the scent from a woman's hair was natural or artificial. He announced a prize of 1000 gold coins for anyone to resove his doubt. A poor poet named Tharumi prayed to Lord Shiva to make him get the award. The Lord gave a poem to the poet and asked him to take it to the King. When this poem was read in the court, Poet Nakkeerar found fault with it and stopped the Pandiyan king from giving the prize. Tharumi's grief grew and he again appealed to the Lord. He said he was not worried for not receiving the prize but he could not bear anyone finding fault with the Lord's poems.
Thereupon, Lord Shiva himself came to the court and challenged Nakkeerar. But Nakkeerar was not moved. Though Lord Shiva asked him if the hair of Ganapoongodai, the consort of Lord Kalathinathar, whom Nakkeerar worshipped,did not have a natural scent,the undaunted Nakkeerar asserted that it was so. Shiva opened the eye in his forehead (Netrikkan) which emitted fire and looked at Nakkeerar to show the poet who he was. Even then, Nakkeerar persisted in his statement. As he could not bear the scorching heat emanating from the divine eye he jumped into the water of the Golden Lotus Tank. Then at the request of the other poets, the Lord took Nakkeerar out of the tank, forgave him and made him study under 'Agasthiar', the Tamil Sage. This story remains a popular legend.
Nakkeerar is the author of an epic titled Sriharnipuram which he composed at the behest of Kulachirai Nayanar, the Prime Minister of the Pandya king Gunapandiyan. He also composed a hymn Tirumurukarruppatai that praises Thiruparankundram, an important shrine to Lord Murugan.
The episode involving Nakkeerar and the Hindu god Shiva was depicted in the Tamil film Thiruvilaiyadal which was based on the stories of the Thiruvilaiyadal Puranam. The role of Nakkeerar was played by the director of the movie A. P. Nagarajan himself. The scenes featuring Nakkeerar and Lord Shiva (Sivaji Ganesan) are iconic and famous in the history of cinema.
- Chitty, Simon Casie (1859). The Tamil Plutarch, containing a summary account of the lives of poets and poetesses of Southern India and Ceylon. Jaffna: Ripley & Strong.