A collection of Indian tales of wit, wisdom, humour, bravery, devotion and lots more...

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The Story Of Amaraneedhi Nayanar

Amaraneedhi was a rich merchant belonging to the town of Pazhayarai which was the ancient day capital of the Chola kingdom.  It still exists with the same name in Tanjore District of Tamilnadu, India. Amaraneedhi traded in gold, gems, jewellery and silks. He was a very honest trader and also an ardent Shiva devotee. Though he earned lot of wealth in his trading activity, he spent an equal amount in charity to devotees of Shiva.

He built a “Matam” or choultry at Tirunallur which was nearby, to serve the Lord’s devotees who came to visit the temple there. A choultry is a resting place built by charitable persons/institutions for devotees to take rest. Amaraneedhi himself used to be at the choultry with his wife and son to serve the devotees who came to visit the Shiva temple at Tirunallur. After feeding them sumptuously it was the practice of Amaraneedhi to present the devotees with blankets known and “kandhai” and loin cloths known as “keeludai” along with money. This practice was going on for many years.

One day, a young mendicant appeared at the doorsteps of the choultry. He was a very handsome person, with holy ash smeared liberally on his forehead, His hair was matted and he was wearing rudrakshas for his earrings. Apparently he was a ‘Shivanadiyar’ (a devotee of the Lord Shiva)

He was also carrying a staff, on one side of which a bag of holy ash and two loin cloths were tied. He was so divine looking that Amaraneedhi stood up as if in a trance, to welcome him.  He offered a seat to the mendicant and told him that lunch would be ready in a few minutes. The mendicant smiled in acceptance and said, “Well, the fame of your charitable acts have spread far and wide and I will accept your hospitality, but I will go and have bath in the river Kavery and come back and then have lunch”. Amaraneedhi joyfully nodded his head when the mendicant continued, “And Amaraneedhi, please keep one of this loin cloths here. It looks like it will rain. If it rains while I go for a bath, I will need this when I come back. But make sure you keep it safe for this is very valuable to me”. Then, handing over one of the dry loin cloths which were tied to his staff, he left for his bath.

Amaraneedhi took the loin cloth inside and kept it safely in the cupboard. He went outside and waited for the mendicant to return. As the mendicant had predicted, it rained and after a while the mendicant returned, totally drenched. Looking at Amaraneedhi, he said, “Please bring the dry loin cloth I gave you”.

Amaraneedhi went inside and opened the cupboard but the cloth had vanished miraculously!! Amaraneedhi was surprised but thought it would have fallen down and looked all around. But it was nowhere to be seen. Amaraneedhi was very upset and came outside with faltering steps. He was holding another loin cloth as he had many in his possession as it was his practice to gift them. He stuttered and stammered and said “Holy Sir, I….. I.. am not able to.. Er…. find the cloth you gave me. But..  I have a new one for you. Please take this …” His eyes could not meet the eyes of the mendicant as he felt very guilty of being so careless.

The mendicant got very angry. “I told you to keep the cloth safe and in spite of that you have been so careless. This shows your arrogance… “

“Shiva Shiva…” uttered Amaraneedhi. “Please listen to me, O saintly one. I did not do this intentionally and have not been careless like this before. I am myself surprised that such a thing has happened. Please forgive me and take this new one”

“Oho, so this is how you give charity, I see. You steal from one and offer it to another in the name of charity huh! I thought you were an honest trader but it does not seem to be so….”

“Please, please O Holy One” pleaded Amaraneedhi. Tears were streaming from his eyes. Full of remorse for being so careless he said “Please don’t utter such harsh words. I will not be able to bear such harsh words of suspicion. Please believe me…  Please, forgive me and accept this cloth!”

By this time the passersby saw this argument going on and gathered to see what was happening. Amaraneedhi was embarrassed and looked up to the mendicant pitifully.

The mendicant was quiet for few minutes and then said, “I already told you that the cloth I gave you was very valuable to me and you go on telling me to take another. I cannot accept anything which is not equal to the one I have”

Amaraneedhi got some hope and begged the mendicant to suggest a way out.

“Bring a balance” said the mendicant. Taking the other wet loin cloth which was tied to his staff, he continued, “I shall keep this in one scale of the balance. I shall take whatever is equal to this in weight”.

Thinking that his problem would be solved in a short while, Amaraneedhi brought from inside the huge balance he used to weigh gold bars and silks in his trade. He respectfully, took the wet cloth from the mendicant and kept it on one scale. He brought a new loin cloth and kept it on the other scale. There was no change in the balance. The plate with the wet cloth was down and the other was high up. Amaraneedhi brought few more cloths and kept them. Hmm… No change.

Puzzled, he went and brought the entire stock of new cloths kept for donating and kept them on the plate. Status quo continued. By this time the people who had gathered were also surprised at the way the balance was behaving! The mendicant with a nonchalant look turned at Amaraneedhi as if to ask, “Is it all?”

Amaraneedhi ran inside and brought the blankets kept for donating and put them on the balance. The single wet cloth sat on the one scale like an iron block, whilst all of the things kept on the other scale could not move the scale down even a wee bit. Amaraneedhi could not gauge what was happening. He brought out all the silks in his possession and put them on the plate. Still no change. Amaraneedhi ran back inside and brought all the money, the gold and jewellery in his possession and put them on the scale. But the scale with the cloth remained down as if stuck to the ground.

Amaraneedhi had nothing else to offer. Overwhelmed by a feeling of helplessness, he, mentally surrendering to the Lord he worshipped, called his wife and son, and looking at the mendicant said tearfully, “O Saint, I know that you are not an ordinary human being. I have nothing in my possession left to offer, equivalent to the cloth of yours. Hence I am offering myself, my wife and my son!” Saying thus, he climbed on the scale, followed by his wife and son and with closed eyes, said, “If our devotion to Shiva devotees has been sincere all these years, let the scales become equal”.

Lo and behold, the scale with the wet cloth rose and the other scale came down and both stood equal. The people around were awestruck and the mendicant vanished. In his place stood a smiling Lord Shiva along with his consort Parvati and son Subramanya.

Before Amaraneedhi could come to terms with what was happening, the scales turned into a Vimana (flying craft) and Lord Shiva spoke, “I am pleased with your service Amaraneedhi”, he said. “Now it is your turn to enjoy the bliss of Shivalokam. Come and be with me”

And to the surprise of the onlookers, the Vimana with Amaraneedhi and his family vanished and so did Lord Shiva.

This is the story of Amaraneedhi, who is known as Amaraneedhi Nayanar. The temple at Tirunallur, of Kalyana Sundareswarar, still stands majestically and the temple is mentioned in the Tevarams of other Nayanars. Its age is dated back to the 7th to 9th century during which the Nayanars lived in Tamilnadu.

For knowing more about Nayanars, please see the background guide.

 

 

 

The Story Of How Tirugnanasambandar Revived Poompavai

In the present day Mylapore (in Chennai), there lived a merchant by name Shivanesan during the period of Tirugnanasambandar (7th Century AD). Shivanesan was a prosperous merchant who owned ships and traded in gold and precious gems. He was a devotee of Lord Shiva and greatly revered all Shaivite saints, especially  Tirugnanasambandar about whom he had heard a lot. (You can read the story of how  Tirugnanasambandar was blessed by Lord Shiva here.)

Shivanesan had a daughter by name Poompavai. She had been born to him after years of penance and therefore he loved her very dearly. Poompavai was an icon of beauty with eyes of a doe, thick, black and curly hair, a broad forehead and a charming face. Since Shivanesan had heard the greatness of  Tirugnanasambandar so much, he had decided to give his daughter’s hand in marriage to  Tirugnanasambandar only and had also publicly announced so even without meeting Sambandar in person, even once.

One day, Poompavai , when she was twelve years old, had gone to play in the garden with her friends. Unfortunately, there, she was bitten by a poisonous snake, when she was plucking jasmine flowers and the poison caused her to swoon immediately. Her friends rushed in carrying her. Shivanesan immediately summoned the best doctors but his efforts were of no avail. Poompavai died shortly thereafter. Shivanesan and his family were totally shattered by this incident. Shivanesan was so attached to his daughter that even after her death, he announced that if anyone could revive his daughter he would gift all his wealth to them. In the three days following her death, many magicians and reputed physicians came and tried their luck but their efforts bore no fruit.

Then Shivanesan consoled himself that since he had already decided to give her to Tirugnanasambandar, he would mourn no more. So after her cremation, he collected her bones and ashes and placed them in an urn made of clay. He decorated the urn with sandal, jewellery and flowers and silks and placed it on the bed of her room . He offered rice and milk every day to the urn and also kept an attendant in the room for the urn, treating it as his daughter herself.

Years passed and one day Shivanesan heard that Tirugnanasambandar was visiting Tiruvotriyur which is in the north of today’s Chennai. Shivanesan arranged a floral pandal all the way from Tiruvotriyur to Mylapore and went with his assistants to request Tirugnanasambandar to come to Mylapore. Coincidentally, Sambandar was leaving from Tiruvotriyur to visit Mylapore to have darshan of Lord Kapaleeshwara. Shivanesan gladly accompanied the saint to Mylapore.

On the way, some of Shivanesan’s assistants told the saint about the incident that had happened concerning Poompavai. Sambandar smiled but did not say anything. The entourage of Sambandar accompanied by Shivanesan and his men went to the Kapaleeshwara temple and had darshan of the Lord. After that when they came out of the temple, Tirugnanasambandar turned to Shivanesan and said, “ Please bring the urn in which you have placed your daughter’s remains to the entrance of this temple, which is the abode of the Lord who dances in cremation grounds ” .

Shivanesan, was greatly pleased and after bowing to Sambandar, went home, and brought the urn in a palanquin, accompanied by his daughter’s friends and placed it where Sambandar told him to. Meanwhile lot of crowd had gathered in curiosity to see what was going to happen.

Sambandar looked intently at the urn for some time meditating upon the Lord Shiva. Then, he called out her name and started to sing the hymn starting with the words “Mattitta Punnai” . He sang ten hymns and in each hymn, the first three lines would describe the various festivals of Kapaleeshwara temple and the beauty of the Lord and the last line said “Is it fair for you to have gone away without seeing all this, Poompavai?”

The divine hymns had a marvellous effect. As he sang the tenth hymn “Urinchaya Vaazhkai”, the urn broke open and Poompavai appeared, as grown up as she would have been if she would have been alive. She appeared like a goddess, extremely beautiful with no trace of anything having happened.

All the people were overwhelmed and uttered “Hara Hara , Hara Hara” marvelling at the grace of the Lord Kapaleeshwara. Poompavai , walking gracefully came and bowed to Tirugnanasambandar praying to him. Sambandar turned to Shivanesan and told him to take his daughter home. Shivanesan, bowing to the saint said,” Sir, I have vowed to get my daughter married to you and request you to please accept her hand”.  Sambandar looked at him and said, “Your daughter died of a snake bite. Due to the grace of the Lord, she got her life back for which I have been an instrument in the hands of the Lord and it is not proper for me to marry her (for he was like a father to her now) . She is now the daughter of Lord Shiva. Hence, it is not appropriate for you to speak thus”

Shivanesan and his family were not at all convinced and fell at the feet of Sambandar to accept their request. But Sambandar consoled them with quotes and advices from the ancient texts and took leave of them and went his way.

Eventually Shivanesan gave up his idea, but thought that since he had mentally given away his daughter to Sambandar, he could never accept anyone else as his son-in-law. Poompavai also thought exactly the same way and spent her life as a spinster indulging in devotion to Lord Shiva.

This is the story of how Tirugnanasambandar revived Poompavai from death.

Interestingly , the songs sung in this set (Padhigam) about 1300 years ago, (Sambandar’s period is said to be 7th century AD), mentions Aippasi Onam, Karthikai Deepam, Margazhi Tiruvadirai, Thai Poosam, Masi Magam (bathing in sea), Panguni Uthiram, and the Pavitrotsavam and Tirukkalyanam festivals. This, as a form of recorded history, shows how ancient these festivals are which are being still celebrated today in Kapaleeshwara Temple!!

Shambho Mahadeva!!

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