On this occasion of Sri Kanda Sashti, I am pleased to narrate to you a story of Lord Kartikeya who resides in Tirupparankundram, a place near the city of Madurai.
Tirupparankundram is considered to be the first of the six abodes of Lord Kartikeya. These abodes are known by the name of “Arupadai Veedugal”. ‘Kundram’ means hillock in Tamil language and true to the name in this place there is a hillock where the temple is situated.
In this story, we shall see how Lord Kartikeya saved Sage Nakkeerar and nine hundred and ninety-nine other sages at Tirupparankundram.
Sage Nakkeerar was an accomplished scholar and poet in the court of the Pandya King at Madurai. His period is said to be between the first and third century CE.
Once the Pandya King had a certain doubt which could not be cleared by anyone. The King then announced a contest for the public whereby anybody could come and give the answer in the form of a poem and claim the prize if their answer cleared the doubt of the King.
An ordinary poet by name Dharumi, prayed to Lord Sundareswara (Lord Shiva at Madurai) and with His grace wrote a poem and brought it to the court. Dharumi was very poor and a not-so-accomplished poet. However, the poem had the required clarification for the doubt of the King. So, the King was very pleased with Dharumi. He was about to reward him for his poem when Sage Nakkeerar intervened. Sage Nakkeerar had found an error in a word of the poem and thereby did not consider it fit to be rewarded.
There was an argument between Dharumi and Sage Nakkeerar following which Lord Shiva himself appeared in support of Dharumi and explained the usage of that particular word which was objected to by Nakkeerar. But Nakkeerar, blinded by his arrogance refused to listen to any explanation even if the poem had been written by the Lord himself. The outcome of his arrogance was that he had to suffer a terrible disease. Nakkeerar realized his fault and in repentance decided to visit Mount Kailash, visiting all the Shiva temples on the way.
His first stop was at Tirupparankundram, which, even though is known as an abode of Lord Kartikeya, has a shrine for Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva is known by the name Satyagireeswara in this place.
Sage Nakkeerar went to a lake near the hillock at Tirupparankundram to perform his daily prayers to Lord Shiva. He sat under a tree adjacent to the lake. He took out his pooja articles and was setting them up when a big leaf from the tree fell into the lake. Half of the leaf was in water and half of it was on the ground. Then a weird thing happened. The portion of the leaf which was in the water turned into a huge fish and the portion of the leaf on the ground into a huge bird. The fish was trying to pull the bird into the water and the bird was trying to pull the fish out of the water. It was like a tug of war.
Nakkeerar noticed this and wondered what this was, as he had never seen such an eerie thing. He had barely thought about it for a few seconds when he heard the sound of loud cackling laughter above him. He looked up the tree and saw a frightful demoness sitting on a branch. She was so huge in size with big bloodshot eyes and disheveled hair. Her finger nails were sharp and long and her canines were sticking out of her mouth like the tusks of an elephant.
“Hehehehehehehe” she laughed non-stop. “I got you! I got you! Today is my lucky day!” she screamed as she picked up Sage Nakkeerar in her fingers like a child picking up a toy.
Though Nakkeerar was shocked, he was not frightened and he managed to ask the demoness who she was and why she was picking him up.
“Heeheeheeheehee” the demoness cackled. “My name is Karkimukhi. And I catch people who get distracted while doing Shiva Pooja. It is my luck that you got caught today”.
Saying so she carried him to a cave behind the hillock. Nakkeerar could not get out of her clutches try as he might. She had an iron grip. She was so tall and big that she reached the cave with a few strides. She dropped him inside the cave with a thud. Nakkeerar looked around to find that there were hundreds of sages like him in there.
Karkimukhi said in a thundering voice, “I will be back soon for my lucky feast Hahaha….” She went away somewhere.
The moment the sages saw Nakkeerar they all began to wail in a loud voice. Nakkeerar was puzzled. Consoling them he asked what the matter was.
One of the sages said, “This demoness has been waiting to collect a thousand sages and eat all of them. Till now we were only nine hundred and ninety-nine in number and so we were all safe. We were being fed and taken care of well. Now that you, the cursed one, has come, we have become one thousand in number and it is not long before Karkimukhi will gobble us up. I think she has gone only to have a bath so that her hunger will increase and she can eat us with great relish. Oh! Why did you have to get distracted while doing Shiva Pooja and why did you have to get caught? “
All the other sages also cried out aloud, “You are the harbinger of misery and because of you we all will die a miserable death today. Look at our bad luck. Oh! Is there no one to save us from this destiny?” They were all howling piteously.
Sage Nakkeerar was ashamed to have been distracted while doing his prayers. He had always thought that he was a highly evolved soul but now, he realized that his mind was still not completely under his control and the fact that it had led to this pathetic situation made him feel extremely guilty.
He decided that only Lord Kartikeya who was the presiding Lord of Tirupparankundram could save all of them. Gathering his thoughts and focusing on Lord Kartikeya, he sat in meditation with one-pointed focus. Only the shimmering figure of Lord Kartikeya with his powerful spear (Vel) was foremost in his mind.
All his poetic scholarliness flowed like a fountain into a beautiful garland of poems which came to be known as ‘Tirumurugatruppadai”. Sage Nakkeerar sang on Lord Kartikeya as he is worshipped at Tirupparankundram, Tiruchendur, Palani, Swamimalai, Tiruttani and Pazhamudirsolai – the six abodes. The atmosphere in the cave changed from that of fear to surrender and devotion to the Lord. All the sages were praying with utmost devotion and sincerity.
How could Lord Kartikeya not be moved by the musical poetic offering in chaste Tamil? The prayer had its desired effect and the Lord appeared and destroyed Karkimukhi with his spear (Vel in Tamil) and saved all the one thousand sages present there.
Tirumurugatruppadai is considered a part of the Shaiva Tirumuraigal – the Shaivite literature. Even today it is the staunch belief of people that reciting Tirumurugatruppadai is a panacea for all evils, physical or otherwise.
Vetri Vel Muruganukku Arohara!!!