The Saivite saints — Gnanasambandar, Tirunavukkarasar, Sundaramurthy and Manikkavachagar —have exemplified the bhakti bhava, but each has approached God in a distinct manner.
This illustrates that God is accessible to the sincere devotee whatever be one’s approach, said Sri Muthukrishnan in a lecture. It is also true that these paths are interrelated and are not mutually exclusive by any means.
Gnanasambandar’s bhakti bhava is seen as that of a Satputra, the way a child relates to his parents. A child in the arms of the mother has no fear and the devotee’s faith is akin to this feeling of total relaxation.
It is said that Siva and Parvati showered their parental love on the child Gnanasambandar. They blessed him with Jnana, and he was able to sing praises on the glory of the Supreme Lord even as a child. The divine couple also provided him with whatever he needed for his worship of the Lord.
Dasamarga is associated with Saint Tirunavukkarasar who saw Siva as his master. So his worship took the bhava of a servant who considers it a blessing to serve the Lord.
He took up the work of cleaning temple premises and inculcated in people the ideal of service as a form of devotion. His hymns reflect the penitent strains of an erring devotee who realises the time lost in other pursuits and seeks God with humility.
For Sundaramurthy, it was Sahamarga. This saint had the rare privilege to be a close friend of the Lord. There are many instances in his lifetime when Siva intervened and guided him personally; He would go out of the way to honour the demands of such a unique relationship.
Manikkavachagar’s way of devotion is described as Sanmarga, or the path of Jnana. The devotional experience takes root from the firm understanding of the Jivatma’s relationship with the Lord and its dependency on the Paramatma.
The result is the longing of the Jivatma for union with the Lord, and to gain this end, there is a turning away from worldly attractions with the aim of seeking God alone.