This is the story of Nampaaduvaan associated with Kaisika Ekadashi which is falling on 10th of December 2016. Ekadashi is the eleventh day of the waxing/waning moon and this day of the waxing moon in the Tamil month of Kartikai is called as Kaisika Ekadashi.
There is a beautiful story associated with this particular Ekadashi which goes on to show that the Lord Narayana’s compassion has no boundaries of religion, caste or creed. This story is said to have been mentioned in one of the ancient Puranas, the Varaha Purana.
Tirunelveli is a district in the southern part of India where Mother Nature has showered her bounty in the form of thick woods, rivers, waterfalls and the like and in this district lies the holy town of Tirukkurungudi. In this place there lived a person whose was called Nampaaduvaan. He was called so because, every Ekadashi night, he used to walk to the temple of Nambi (Lord Narayana) with a stringed instrument in hand and stand outside the temple and sing songs for the Lord through the night. He would leave for his home early in the morning. Hence he was fondly called Nampaaduvaan which translates as ‘Our singer’. He belonged to a community which was looked down upon in those days and therefore he felt embarrassed to go and sing in front of the others during the day. Also in ancient days there was the practice of not letting everyone inside the temple and this was probably one of the reasons Nampaaduvaan stood outside and sang his prayers.
On this particular Ekadashi of the Kartikai month, Nampaaduvaan started for the temple, late at night with his Ektara (one stringed instrument). He walked through the dense forests as he did every day to reach the temple.
As he was passing by a huge tree, he heard a bloodcurdling scream from atop the tree. As he looked up startled, he could see a gory demon with outstretched arms trying to reach and catch him. Nampaaduvaan was not a coward and so stepping aside he asked him “Who are you and what do you want from me?”
The gory demon with a wicked smile said, “Fool, do you not know I am a Brahma Rakshas? I have been deprived of my food for the past few days and so I will have you for my dinner now”.
Seeing the worried look on the face of Nampaaduvaan, the demon continued, “there is no use worrying, O fellow! Now that I have found you, you shall not go back alive from here… Ha….ha… ha…” The eerie laughter was so frightening.
Nampaaduvaan immediately said, “I am not worried about my death O Rakshas. I am worried that I cannot fulfil my vow of singing before the Lord tonight. Let me go now. I will go and sing my hymns to Narayana now and come back in few hours and you can devour me”
The Rakshas looked at him with scorn. “You want me to believe that someone who escapes from me will come back to die? Would a deer which escapes from the lion come back to it?? No way! I will eat you right now hahaha….” The long hairy arm with fingers having nails like the claws of an eagle reached out to Nampaaduvaan.
Nampaaduvaan calmly looked at the demon and said, “O Brahma Rakshas, I speak nothing but the truth and I want to go and do my duty of singing the hymns to my Lord and if I fail to come I will accept the punishment that is given for grave sins.”
The demon was amused that this man was brave enough to argue with it and went on, “Grave sins? What grave sins? Huh?”
Nampaaduvaan started listing the grave sins listed in the scriptures, such as discriminating in the food stuff while eating with another, grabbing back what has been given in charity, blaming or abusing the person who gives food and so on. He listed seventeen such sins and each time when he listed one, he said, “Rakshas, if I do not come back to you as promised, let me get the punishment given for this sin.” The Rakshas was not satisfied and would not let Nampaaduvaan go.
After seventeen such sins, at last Nampaaduvaan said, “O Rakshas, if I do not come back, let me get the punishment one gets for equating Lord Narayana with demi-gods”
The Rakshas now felt that this fellow would come back after all, but still with some suspicion, let him go his way.
Nampaaduvaan went to the temple entrance and sang to his heart’s content and was in a very happy frame of mind that his body was going to be of use to someone. He sang songs in the tune known as “Kaisika”. He bowed to the Lord with great humility and started walking back, when he was confronted by an old man.
“Where are you going dear fellow?” asked the old man to Nampaaduvaan.
“I am going back after my duty of singing for Lord Narayana” said Nampaaduvaan. His voice was as calm as ever in spite of having to go and become the prey of the Rakshas in a few minutes.
“Do not go this side, my friend”, said the old man. “There is a fearful Rakshas on the tamarind tree down the path. Instead go by the alternate route behind the temple”
“It is ok Sire. I have already met the Rakshas and will be meeting him now. All humans born in this world have to die one day or other and so I do not fear death.” Saying so he bowed to the old man who was none other than Lord Narayana.
The old man smiled and raised his hand and blessed Nampaaduvaan, who then went his way.
The Rakshas was surprised that this fellow had kept up his words. It had never seen anyone escape from its clutches and come back again. This act of honesty of Nampaaduvaan brought about a change in the mind of the Rakshas.
Looking at Nampaaduvaan, it said, “Well, you have kept up your word for which I am very happy, but my hunger is gone now and so instead of your physical body, give me the grace of the Lord you have received by singing the hymns”
Nampaaduvaan said, “I always believe that one should always keep up his/her words. You asked for my body and I am ready to give it up. Now you want the ‘punya’ I have earned by singing the hymns. Eat me up O Rakshas, as you had asked for earlier. Furthermore, I sing hymns as an offering to Lord Narayana and do not seek anything in return from the Lord. Therefore I do not even think of how much merit I would have earned by singing the hymns. Now do not delay. Eat me up”
The Brahma Rakshas was not ready to listen to Nampaaduvaan.
“I told you I am not hungry anymore. Now, listen to me. You would be certainly earning merit by singing the Lord’s glory. I am not asking for all of that. Just give me the merit earned by one song please”, it pleaded.
Nampaaduvaan was also in no mood to relent.
“I already told you Rakshas, I wish to keep up my word and I hope and wish you keep up yours too. Please go ahead and eat me up and satisfy your hunger” he said.
The Rakshas was surprised at the insistence of Nampaaduvaan. It had not seen any creature voluntarily offer their life to it.
It again pleaded with Nampaaduvaan. “I told you I am not hungry for your body, but I am thirsty for the merits you have earned. Please, O man, please give me the merits earned by you by singing at least one stanza of the hymn you sang.”
Nampaaduvaan was unmoved.
“Just one stanza or at least two lines please”, the demon pleaded.
The demon’s plea was so pitiful that Nampaaduvaan could not refuse.
“Ok” he said, “I shall pray for you and sing the last two lines of the Kaisika tune I sang for the Lord”
Nampaaduvaan meditated upon the Lord, praying that the merit of his singing go to the demon and started singing the last two lines of the hymn.
The moment the first line was sung, the body of the demon dissipated and by the time the second line was sung, a beautiful divine figure emerged out of the demon’s body.
To a surprised Nampaaduvaan, the figure said, “I am Soma Sharma. By some curse, I became a Brahma Rakshas and now by listening to the hymn on Lord Narayana, I have regained my old self. My respects to you O divine singer”. Soma Sharma bowed to Nampaaduvaan and in the skies appeared the luminous figure of Lord Narayana with whom Soma Sharma and Nampaaduvaan converged thereby attaining salvation.
This Ekadashi and Dwadashi (twelfth day of waxing/ waning moon) therefore has come to be known as “Kaisika Ekadashi” and “Kaisika Dwadashi” respectively.