Kungiliya Kalaya Nayanar was born in Tirukadavur, near Kumbakonam. He believed that burning of incense before the Lord, was the best service he could offer to the Lord. He was a Brahmin, and he got the name, ‘Kungiliya Kalaya Nayanar’ because he was always seen holding an incense pot in his hand.
Lord Shiva was highly pleased with Kalayanar’s intense devotion and his wonderful service. He wanted to put it to test so that the true glory of his supreme devotion to the Lord may be understood by all. Thus, by the will of Lord Shiva, Kalayanar became poor and his family had to go without food. He was forced to sell his property to make both ends meet.
Even this difficult situation did not stop him from burning incense before the Lord. The monetary situation became so bad that one day, his wife told him to sell her Mangalyam (a sacred thread with a pendant, which every married woman must always have on her person) to make some money. She knew that this was an inauspicious thing to do. Yet, she thought that with the money they get by selling her Mangalyam, she could buy some food for her children who were almost starving to death. Kalayanar proceeded to the market to sell the sacred piece of jewellery. On the way, he met a person selling good incenses. Without thinking twice, Kalayanar gave the Mangalyam to him in exchange for the incenses. He went to the temple and offered the same to the Lord and stayed there in a state of ecstasy, forgetting his own family.
Kalayanar’s wife waited for her husband and when he did not return, she put her starving children to bed and started praying to the Lord. Pleased with the devotion of the noble couple, that night Lord Shiva appeared in her dream and blessed her with all wealth. She woke up from her sleep and was amazed to find all types of riches in the house. Grateful to the compassionate Lord, she started singing His glories. She prepared a nice meal and waited for her husband’s return. The Lord also appeared before Kalayanar and told him to return to his family. Many Shiva Bhaktas came to his house to sing the glory of the Lord!
After a few years, in Thirupanandal, the temple priest requested his young daughter to do the worship of the Shivalinga as he had to visit a nearby town. The young girl did the worship whole heartedly. At the end of the worship, she desired to put a garland around the Lingam. As she lifted the garland with both her hands, her skirt began to slip from her waist. Holding the skirt tightly with her elbows to prevent it from falling, she tried to place the garland around the Lingam. She could not do so as she couldn’t raise her hand high enough. Understanding the predicament of the girl, the Lord leaned to one side and accepted the garland.
When the people saw the tilted Lingam, they tried in vain to pull the Lingam straight. Kungiliya Kalaya Nayanar came to know that the king of the place was upset about this situation. Kalayanar wanted to help the king. Taking the name of the Lord, he tied the Lingam to his neck with a rope and gently pulled it. The Lingam became upright! The King and the people of the village were so happy and understood the glory of the great Nayanar. The Devas were so pleased that they started showering flowers from heaven.
After spending some more time in the service of Lord Shiva and His devotees, Kungiliya Kalaya Nayanar reached Mount Kailash.