Sri Sivavakkiyar (sometimes Civavakkiyar) was a great Tamil Poet who lived in the period preceding the 10th Century A.D.
Sivavakkiyar was an early rebel against the Brahmanic order, he was resolutely opposed to the Caste system and was opposed to idol worship and temple ceremonies. His rebellion against any kind of orthodoxy meant his work was left out of the Saiva canonical literature however some of his poetry is well read in Tamil literary compendiums.
Sri Sivavakiyar, was born with Lord Shiva's name on his lips. He said that the constant repetition of the Lords name would even turn ones body into gold. A great rennuciate he is said to have lived for over 4,000 years. His works include Naadi Parikshai and Sivavakiyar 1000.
He came to Kasi after learning vedas. There he met a Siddhar/Seer/Saint, who was also a cobbler. Though the Saint/Siddhar could sense the power of Sivavakiyar, he wanted to test him. So he gave Sivavakiyar some money and asked him to give it to his sister, 'River' Ganga. He also gave him a bitter Bottle Gourd and asked him to remove the bitterness from the Bottle Gourd. Sivavakiyar immeditely left for the river bank without any second thoughts on whether the tasks can be completed or not. After he reached the banks, a beautiful hand raised above the water and Sivavakiyar without any second thoughts placed the money on the hand. The hand returned back into the water. He also washed away the bitterness from the bottle gourd and took it back to the Siddhar. The Siddhar was happy to see that Sivavakiyar had passed the test. He wanted to test him once more. So he gave Sivavakiyar a waterbag and instructed Sivavakiyar to call out for Ganga and ask for the money that he had given her earlier. Sivavakiyar at once called out to Ganga asking for the money. Immediately a beautiful hand appeared from the waterbag and gave him back the money. Sivavakiyar, without being perturbed even for a single moment, took the money and gave it to the Siddhar. The Siddhar was realy impressed on Sivavakiyar's ability to focus without being bothered by doubts or anxiety. Then he asks Sivavakiyar to lead a family life till he attains samadhi. He also gives him some sand and a bottle gourd and says that the lady who cooks both the sand and the bottle gourd would be his wife.
After taking leave from the Siddhar, Sivavakiyar continues his pilgrimage. In the midst of his travel, he meets a Nari Kurava (Gypsy) group and they welcome him wholeheartedly. After talking to them for some time, a lady from Nari Kurava gang rushes upto him and says that she will be happy to serve him and that he should not hesitate to ask for her help. Sivavakiyar immediately gives her both the sand and bottle gourd and asks if she could cook both sand and bottle gourd together. The lady without hesitating a moment, takes both and rushes to the kitchen. After some time she comes back with cooked rice (the sand has turned into rice) and bottle gourd curry. Sivavakiyar immeditely realizes that he has met his wife and asks the group if he could marry her. They also agree to the proposal on the condition that he also stays and travels with them. He also agrees and marries his lady. But he also makes sure that he does continues with his spiritual practises.
Siddhar Sivavakiyar continued to stay with the Gypsy group and also diligently learnt their work. Once he went to the forest to get firewood. He chose a tree and started to cut. Suddenly Gold Dust started sprinkling from the tree. After seeing this he started to run shouting that "Lord Yama" (Angel of Death) has arrived. His group asked him what happened and he told them what he saw. Hearing this some 4 people left for the forest with gunny bags to collect Gold Dust. By the time they had filled their bags it started to darken. Since they were hungry, it was decided that two of them would go to the nearest village to get food. Those who went to the village planned to kill their partners who had stayed behind, so they added poison to the food. And the two persons who had stayed behind also plotted against the other two partners who had gone to get food. On their way back to the forest, the two persons who had gone to collect the food were done to death by the other two persons. After killing their partners, they sat down to have their food and in no time they also passed away. Next day Sivavakiyar saw the four bodies and felt sorry that these four people had lost their lives to "Lord Yama" (i.e. the Tree).
Sivavakiyar had a friend with the name Konganar, who was also a great Siddha. Konganar felt very bad that his friend, who is a Master Siddha, was living a life of poverty. So one day, he went Sivavakiyar's home, knowing that Sivavakiyar would not be available. He asked Sivavakiyar's wife to get some Iron and turned the same to Gold and left after handing over the Gold to her. Sivavakiyar's wife narrates the incident to him after his return. Sivavakiyar asks his wife on whether she wants the Gold. His wife replies that his love is all that she wants and not the gold. Then he asks his wife to drop the gold in the well and his wife also obliged wholeheartedly.
One day few devotees of Siva came to Sivavakiyar and asked whether he would teach them to make Gold, so that they could eradicate poverty and this also will help in removing negative Karma. Hearing this Sivavakiyar laughed and asked why Gold is required for removing negative Karma. He also advised them to leave behind all materialistic desires and merge their consciouness with Lord Siva. And added that this is the only way to attain Nirvana.
It is believed that he was an Atheist who later converted to Saivism and then to Veera Vaishnavaism. He attained Siddhi at kumbakonam. Even now pujas are regularly conducted escpecially on Full Moon Day. Those who pray to him are blessed with clear mind without any anxieties or worries about the past or future. One can pray to Sivavakiyar on Mondays, wearing white clothes and with white flowers. This is told as a remedy for those people with Chandra Dhosham.
He was generally considered to be an iconoclast because he vehemently decried temple worship. He did so no doubt, but he said still more vehemently that man should make his heart the temple of God. He had scant respect for rituals which in popular belief had become a substitute for love and service to God and to fellow beings. He was a vehement opponent of caste. Almost all the siddhas believed in the oneness of all creation and they preached a philosophy of love and service and of an inward contemplation. Sivavakkiyar is a shining example of this faith. Some of his verses have the force of a sabre thrust.
Sivavakkiyar explains the transformation of the physical body into a divine body on the analogy of a worm turning itself into a butterfly. Let us state briefly the various stages involved in kaya sadhana. Sthula sarira is the unripe, ordinary, physical body not disciplined by yoga. It is a "deceptive threshold", and one has to "open" it , i.e., go beyond it to achieve kaya siddhi. Sivavakkiyar says that people should protect, immortalize, and preserve the body through the method of yoga just as they would protect a beautiful lady of the house73. When the sthula sarira is disciplined by yoga it becomes ripe or pakva.
Sivavakkiyar is fond of using the expression threshold, i.e., " vasal " in Tamil and he calls the human body as a threshold where God resides. The concept " threshold " is a mystical one and the body is one such mystical threshold, the other threshold being the guru.
In Siddha literature the threshold is a mystical thing. It is a boundary between two worlds, the ordinary, profane world and the sacred world beyond. It is a point where we pass from one mode of being to another, from one level of consciousness to another. The term " vasal " used by the Tamil Siddhas stand for the moment when we ourselves open up to new depths of our being. They say that one need not go to
places of pilgrimage or study sastras when the threshold is in oneself. The idea of the body as a microcosm of Reality received a spiritual, mystical denotation in the Tamil Siddhas as against the purely physical denotation of it in the other traditions. The inter- relations of man's body and the universe (that is Reality) have to be realized by spiritual endeavour. Kaya sadhana is such an endeavour.
Another important aspect of the Siddha view of the human body is nyasa, which consists of feeling the God or powers representing the Gods in different parts of the body.