Great bhaktas have sung God’s praise. Verses sung in appealing tunes help us focus on God. The music in the verses ensures that we do not get distracted. We are so moved by the music that we worship with even greater fervour than we would usually. We may not be able to remember verses, but when they are musical, the music helps us remember the words too, said Sarala Rajagopalan in a discourse. Thus, music helps us reach God.
Tiruneelakanta Yazhpanar and his wife Matanga Choolamani accompanied the Saivite saint Thirugnanasambandar on his travels. Tiruneelakanta Yazhpanar would play a stringed instrument called the yazh and Matanga Choolamani would sing. In the temple at Tiruvalangadu, Karaikkal Ammaiyar is depicted with cymbals in her hand, as she keeps beat to Lord Siva’s dance.
The Gods themselves have played musical instruments. Lord Krishna could attract the cowherds, the Gopikas and even the cows with His flute playing. Tirumurugattruppadai says that Lord Subrahmanya also played the flute.
In the Peria Puranam, Sekkizhar tells the story of Anaya Nayanar, who would take his cows for grazing every day. Even as the cows grazed on the grass, Anaya Nayanar would play his flute. The bamboo for a flute was selected with great care those days. A slender bamboo would not do; nor would a very old one. A bamboo of the right age would be chosen and left to dry in a shady area. After one year, the bamboo would be fit to be used as a flute. Although God will accept our singing, even if we do not sing tunefully, care was still taken by those who sang His praise, using the right instruments and singing with proper attention. They saw their music itself as an offering to God. That being the case, how could they settle for anything that was second rate? Only the best would do for God. Anaya Nayanar’s music pleased Lord Siva so much that He told Anaya Nayanar to stay beside Him while playing his flute. Anaya Nayanar was born in a place called Tirumangalam, in Trichy district of Tamil Nadu, and even today, one can see an idol of Anaya Nayanar in a separate enclosure in the Siva temple here.