Nayanars, also known as Nayanmars, are the Tamil mystics who influenced the development of Shaivism. Believed to have lived before the 17th century, these devotees belonged to different backgrounds (in terms of caste, economic and professional) and stages of life (single, married or sanyasi
), and included both men and women. Some Nayanars were learned but others did not have any formal schooling. The unique feature is their extreme devotion to Lord Shiva
, one of the supreme manifestations of divinity.