In ancient India Saivism took shape as a distinct and major religious movement mostly in the south due to the untiring work of many great saints who were dedicated to Siva in every conceivable way and showed exemplary devotion to their beloved Lord through their lives and works of great merit. Outstanding among them were the four great teachers, namely
Manikkavachaka, Appar, Jnanasambhanda and Sundarmurthy.
They are said to be the originators of the four main paths of Saivism, namely the sat
marga, dasa marga, the satpura marga and the saha marga. Mention may also be made of
Auvai, a famous woman saint from Tamilnadu who composed many devotional poems of highest fervor.
Sakyanayanar was originally a Buddhist monk who became an ardent devotee of Siva in the later part of his life. He was blessed with a vision of Siva with
Parvathi. Nandanar was an untouchable by birth, but was accepted as a great devotee of Siva and allowed to enter the famous Chidambaram temple because of his great devotion.
There were many such saints who contributed greatly to the spread of Saivism in ancient India through their devotion and selfless acts of service.