This is the story of Appoodhi Adigal who is one of the sixty three saivite saints (Nayanmars).
Appoodhi was a Brahman living in Thingaloor, which is situated near Tiruvaiyaru of Tanjore District. He was a great philanthropist as he believed that service to mankind was service to God. He built many buildings, roads etc. and used to erect Thanneer Pandhals in summer. Thanneer Pandhals were kiosks erected to supply cool water and buttermilk to thirsty people in summer.
Appoodhi Adigal was a great devotee of Lord Shiva and loved to serve the devotees of Lord Shiva. He had heard a great deal about Saint Tirunavukkarasar and revered him equal to God even without seeing him! His respect for Navukkarasar was so much that he named every thing, every being as Tirunavukkarasar. The road built by him were Tirunavukkarasar road, his cows were named Tirunavukkarasar, the things in his house were referred to as Tirunavukkarasar and his sons were also named Periya Tirunavukkarasar (meaning Senior) and Siriya Tirunavukkarasar (Meaning Junior).
Once, it so happened that the Saint Tirunavukkarasar was visiting a temple near Thingaloor and since it was a hot day, went to have some water at the Thanneer Pandhal there. Just as he had water he noticed the name engraved in bold letters “TIRUNAVUKKARASAR THANNEER PANDHAL”. The saint was amused that his name was written so boldly and enquired with the people there about this. The people told him about the devotion Appoodhi had towards Saint Tirunavukkarasar and told him that he had just left the Pandhal a while back to his house which was nearby. The Saint wanted to meet Appoodhi and went to his house.
Sighting a Saint outside the entrance of his house, Appoodhi came hurriedly and welcomed him with all warmth. The Saint then congratulated Appoodhi on the good work he was doing, but asked him why everything was named after someone else and not in his name itself. Appoodhi Adigal was enraged at the word “someone else” and he admonished the saint about not knowing about Tirunavukkarasar despite being a Saivite saint. The time had come for Saint Tirunavukkarasar to disclose his identity. “I am that ‘some else’ ” said he, much to the pleasant shock of Appoodhi Adigal. “I am that Navukkarasar who was tested by Lord Shiva many a time”. Appoodhi Adigal was overwhelmed with joy and tears rolled down his cheeks. He did not for a moment know what to do. Then, he called out to his wife and children and introduced Saint Tirunavukkarasar to them. They were equally overjoyed and honoured the saint by washing his feet and fell at his feet for blessings. Appoodhi Adigal insisted that the saint should have lunch with them and the saint agreed.
Appoodhi’s wife cooked a good meal and called out to her elder son, “Periya Tirunavukkarasu” said she, “go to the garden and get a big plantain leaf for the guest”. The boy hurried with a knife in hand and just as he cut the leaf, a snake on the tree, dug its poisonous fangs into his hands. The boy shrieked and realised immediately that he would fall dead any moment but his thought was all that the leaf should be delivered to his mother so that the guest would not be delayed for lunch. So he ran back staggering under the effect of the poison which was working real fast and handed over the leaf to the mother and fell dead at her feet.
The lady immediately realised what had happened and was shell shocked and called in her husband and told him what had happened. But then the foremost thought in both their minds was that the guest should not go away if he knew this had happened. So they both decided to pretend that nothing had happened and so wrapped the body of the boy in a mat and kept it in the back yard.
The guest was invited to the inner room where the lunch was to be served. It was the habit of Saint Tirunavukkarasar to smear the Holy Ash before partaking food. So he smeared the Holy Ash on himself and also gave the same to Appoodhi, his wife and younger son.
Noticing that the elder son was absent he asked Appoodhi, “Where is Periya Tirunavukkarasu? Call him, for I will give him also Sacred Ash before I start eating”. Appoodhi could say nothing and said “He is not in a position to come now O’ Lord. Please go ahead and have your food”. The Saint was insistent. “No”, he said, “please call him. I will have food only after I give him the Sacred Ash”. Now Appoodhi Adigal had no other go than to tell him the truth. He reluctantly told him what had happened, with more concern that the guest would go away without having food.
Saint Tirunavukkarasar was moved by the philanthropic attitude of the entire Appoodhi family and told Appoodhi Adigal to bring the body of his dead son to the Shiva Temple there. Appoodhi Adigal and his wife, trembling with mixed emotions, brought the body of their dead son and placed him outside the temple. The Saint then, prayed to Lord Shiva and sang ten songs starting with “Onru Kolaam”. The dead boy got up as if waking up from sleep and came and got the blessings of his parents and the Saint. The onlookers were surprised beyond measure.
The Saint went back to Appoodhi’s house and had food. It is said that even at that juncture Appoodhi and his wife were asking for forgiveness for the delay caused by their family in feeding the guest!!! Saint Tirunavukkarasar stayed with Appoodhi family for some time giving them great joy!!