By N.V. Karthikeyan
The Kaumaras — those who regard and worship Lord Kumara, Skanda, Shanmukha, or Karttikeya as the Supreme Being — are one of the six sects of Hinduism. Saint Arunagirinathar is revered as one of the foremost among the acharyas (spiritual teachers) of the Kaumaras. He lived at Thiruvannamalai — the Agni Kshetra — one of the Pancha Bhuta Sthalas, which is sacred and famous for many other reasons as well.
As is the case with most of the saints and sages of the past, no authentic record of Arunagirinathar's life is available. Nothing definite is known about his birth, caste, etc. This has naturally led to much speculation about his life. And today, we have a number of versions of Arunagirinathar's life and that too with countless variations in minor details. When one goes through them, one is at a loss to know which is right and which is not. The more one reads, the more confusion is created in one's mind. I say confusion because different authors say different things without any source, basis, or authority, except their love for the Lord and the Saint. Even the few books that I could obtain and go through made me feel that I better leave this subject (i.e. the life of Arunagirinathar) untouched, lest I should add to the confusion which is already there enough. But, at the same time, I could not help writing something about Arunagirinathar's life, as I felt the book would be incomplete without the illustrious Saint's life, especially this being the only English rendering of "Kandar Anubhuti." Hence, I have tried here to collect and consolidate only those versions which have some reliable sources under three headings (listed below) — with, of course, some stress on the view that appeals to me as more intelligible, reasonable, and supported by some kind of evidence. I leave it to the readers to take what appeals to them. Whatever it be, one thing is certain — that Arunagirinathar was a saint of no ordinary attainment as could be assessed from a study of his different works.