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

Tag: gold

Birbal Again!

Birbal, as we all know was a master in the art of using the right words/ sentences at the right time. This combined with his sharp intelligence and brilliant wit earned him the adulation of the Emperor and all others and of course he also got what he wanted. We shall see two such instances.

Emperor Akbar, on an occasion when Birbal had pleased him announced that he would give him a piece of land in a posh area of the city. However it was never granted. The Emperor had not forgotten about it, but every time when Birbal broached the subject, he pretended not to hear and turned his neck as if to observe what was going on, on the other side. After a few months Birbal stopped talking about the plot of land, but was waiting for the right moment when he could get it from the Emperor.

Now, one day, the Emperor was going for a stroll in disguise, along with Birbal. Both were walking through the country side. They spotted a group of camels there as camels were very much used in carrying goods and passengers in those days. One of the camels in the group had a crooked neck and appeared to be turning its neck and looking away.

Akbar was curious. “Birbal”, said he, “look at that camel. Why is it turning its neck and looking on the other side?”
Pat came the reply from Birbal. “Huzoor”, he said in a very polite voice, “May be the camel has also promised land to somebody and does not want to give it now”

Akbar was amused and also surprised at the clever way in which Birbal had got his point through. The very next day, Birbal got his piece of land!

On another instance, the Emperor got a talking parrot as a gift from another king. The parrot was an intelligent bird, for not only it could repeat what anyone said, but it could give replies to questions too. It was very charming and beautiful too and the Emperor instantly took a liking to it.

“Arrange a golden cage for the parrot!” he ordered his men. “He should be fed with the best fruits and food and taken care of extremely well”

“Yes, your highness!” said the courtiers to whom the order was given. “We will do everything as you wish”

“And” said Akbar, “once again I am telling you, he should be given the best care and…If any one of you comes and tells me that the parrot is dead, I will not hesitate to execute you!”

When Akbar was angry, he would really do what he said and the courtiers knew it and so off they went and arranged a beautiful big golden cage for the bird They fed it with exotic fruits and food and gave it sweet water and were always guarding it.

Despite all the good care given to it, unfortunately, the parrot died one night. The courtiers panicked. Not because the parrot died but one of them had to go and report it to Akbar! And their head would go next!!

The courtiers discussed among themselves and instead of going to Akbar, ran to Birbal. Birbal was surprised on seeing two courtiers coming puffing and panting at such a late time in the night.

He asked them in and told them to have a seat. “Now, may I know what brought you here at this time of the night?” he asked.

“Sire…. Sire…” they hesitated.

“Tell me. Fear nobody. What is the matter?”

Both the courtiers fell at his feet pleading. “Save our lives Sire” they said. “You can only grant us the gift of life”
Birbal knew that these were the two who were in charge of the parrot. “What happened” he asked. “Is all well?”

“The parrot died Sire…..” the first man broke down.

“In spite of taking so much care, the parrot is gone” continued the other, “but Sire if we go and tell the Emperor that the parrot has died, we will be hanged”. He started sobbing and narrated what the Emperor had told them.

Birbal knew that the King loved the parrot so much and may do what he had said. “I will take care” he said. “Both of you go home and rest. Go… Go and do as I say. I will take care”

The men left hesitantly.

The next morning, Birbal, with a pensive look went to the Emperor. Akbar looked at him and asked, “What happened Birbal? Why is the worried look on your face?”

“Nothing, your majesty. A strange thing happened. Your parrot is neither eating anything, nor drinking anything. It is neither moving its wings nor moving its beak. It is neither sitting up nor seeing anything…”

“The parrot died?” asked a shocked Akbar.

“You said it your majesty. I did not say it with my mouth” said Birbal.

The Emperor was so amused at the clever way in which Birbal broke the news and forgave the courtiers and rewarded Birbal!

The Story Of Somnath

On the day of Kartik Poornima this month, I had the good fortune of being at Somnath, the first of the twelve Jyotirlingas and after the elating darshan of Lord Somnath or Somashekhar, I wanted to tell you all the story of this great place.

Legend has it that the Lingam of Somnath has been there from aeons ago as a “Swayambhu” which means one which is not manmade, but how the Lord came to be known as Somnath is an interesting story. The Lord Shiva was known as Mrutyunjaya and Bhairavanatha amongst many names before he came to be known as Somnath.

According to the Skanda Purana, Daksha Prajapati, who was the son of Lord Brahma, had many daughters amongst whom he married off twenty seven to  Chandra, the Moon God. The twenty seven were Aswini, Bharani, Krittika, Rohini, Mrigasirsha, Arudra, Punarvasu, Pushya, Aslesha, Magha, Poorva , Uttara, Hastha, Chitra, Swati, Visaka, Anuradha, Jyestha, Moola, Poorvashada,Uttarashada, Sravana,Dhanishta,Sadaya, Poorva Phalguna,Uttaraphalguna and Revathi.

Chandra was an extremely handsome person and was somewhat proud about his looks too. When the marriage took place, Daksha Prajapati told Chandra that all his twenty seven daughters should be treated on par and to be treated well. Chandra also agreed to be impartial and treat all his wives equally well.

However, after the wedding, Chandra developed a fondness for his fourth wife Rohini. She became his favourite and he spent almost all the time in her company. The other wives were patient at the beginning but soon started feeling neglected as their sister Rohini kept Chandra with her all the time.

One day, three of them, Krittika, Magha and Anuradha were discussing this problem amongst themselves.

“He has not spoken a word to me for almost a month!” said Krittika.

“You are talking of speaking. He has not even smiled at me for the past two months”, Anuradha said with a sigh.

“You both do not know that he has not even glanced at me for as long as I remember” Magha said with tears in her eyes. “Let us wait here. He will come in a short while to go to Rohini’s palace and we shall ask him what he has in mind. Does he not remember the promise he made to our father?” Magha’s voice was trembling with anger.

Hearing the conversation, Chitra came and said “ You are waiting for our husband? Hmph… He has not come out from Rohini’s palace since yesterday. Where will you meet him? I think we shall go and complain to our father. Come on!”

“That is the right thing to do” the sisters chorused and went to meet their father taking all their other sisters with them.  Daksha was shocked to see the twenty six of his daughters teary eyed coming to see him so late at night.

“What happened my dears?” he asked, “And where is Rohini? Who has dared to trouble the daughters of the mighty Daksha Prajapati?” he roared.

The girls broke down. They told their father about  Chandra’s indifference to them and his partial treatment to Rohini.

“We cannot take it any more” they said. “Please help us”

Daksha, terribly angered by the behaviour of his son in law, stormed into Rohini’s palace. Chandra was taken by surprise and did not expect this.

Pointing at Chandra , Daksha said, “You…. You have failed in your duty as a husband. You have made all my daughters sad, much against what you promised me at your wedding! You are proud and arrogant because you are handsome. I curse you now, that you will lose all your sheen and beauty and the brightness because of which you are arrogant!”

The moment the curse was uttered, Chandra’s glow started to reduce. Chandra was almost in tears. He fell at the feet of Daksha and said, “Sir, Indeed I am sorry for my behaviour. Please recall your curse and bless me”

Daksha was in no mood to be pleased. He turned away and said angrily , “I cannot recall my curse. The power to remove your curse is only with Mahadeva”.  Saying so he stomped out of the palace.

Chandra was alarmed and so was Rohini. She was guilty that she was also party in bringing about the curse but both were helpless. Slowly day by day Chandra’s sheen and brightness started to reduce.

Chandra was desperate. And so were the devas, since the world was becoming darker night after night. They consoled Chandra and asked him to propitiate Lord Mahadeva. Chandra went from place to place praying to the Lord seeking relief from his curse.

When he came to this place near Veraval in present day Gujarat and found this Mrutyunjaya, he prayed fervently and asked the Lord to release him from the curse, The Lord was pleased and appeared before him.

“Chandra”, he said, “I cannot relieve you fully from the curse of Daksha, but, you will wane for one paksha  (15 days) and wax for the next paksha. I will also wear you as a crescent on my matted locks”

The next moment Chandra regained his sheen , he was glowing as a full moon and he, along with Rohini fell at the feet of the Lord. Tears of gratitude were streaming from  Chandra’s eyes.

“Rise up” said the Lord  “and treat all your wives equally well. This place will henceforth be known as Prabhas Patan” (Prabhas means glittering, illuminating and patan means city in Sanskrit) “I will be known here as Somnath” (Som is another name for Moon)

And the Lord vanished. The day on which Chandra’s curse was released was the day of Kartik Purnima and therefore it holds special significance for this place.

Chandra is said to have built the temple for the Lord in Gold and it is said that Lord Sri Krishna in Dwapara Yuga rebuilt the same with Sandalwood. It is significant to mention that the place from where Lord Sri Krishna left this world hit by a hunter’s arrow is also very near this place.

The present temple was invaded many times from the 11th century onwards and the last invasion was by Aurangazeb.  Rani Ahilyabai Holkar (1725 to 1795 AD) who was instrumental in restoring many temples which were destroyed, was moved by the desecration caused to this temple and built a similar temple very near the original, which is still revered.

The original has been restored to a glorious condition thanks to the efforts of Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel and Dr. Rajendra Prasad.

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.

 

 

 

Sacks Of Affection

Once upon a time, there was an old man by name Rao. Rao was very rich and possessed four houses and a lot of gold. Rao’s wife had died long back and he was well taken care of by his four sons.

Rao had grown old and things were going on smoothly till such time Rao fell ill following an accident. He suffered an injury in his spinal cord and was recovering very very slowly. Being an active person otherwise, Rao became very depressed with his pace of recovery and thought that he would die very soon. So one day, he called three elderly men of the village as witness and distributed all his wealth and his houses to his four sons. Unfortunately or fortunately for Rao, he did not die as he expected. He recovered to some extent but was almost bed ridden and needed help for everything.

Over the next few days, Rao realized that the attitude of his sons and daughters-in-law had changed drastically. One day, on the pretext of his room being painted, he was shifted to the verandah of the house, and was given a tattered cot to sleep on. The silver plate on which he ate was replaced by a tin plate and a small can for drinking water. The arrangement became permanent. Day by day, the quantity and quality of food and the time his family spent with him, reduced drastically.

His calls were answered after a long time and his moans of pain were ignored completely. Nobody talked to him and he was left to stare at the ceiling and be alone. Rao was completely broken inside as he never expected his sons and their families to behave thus. He had always seen them affectionate and caring and thought they respected him highly. The grandchildren were also following the behaviour of their parents.

One day, Rao’s childhood friend Shamu who lived in a town far off, came to visit him. He was terribly shocked at Rao’s pathetic condition. Rao was very happy to see Shamu and poured out his heart to him.  Shamu was overwhelmed with grief and was angered beyond measure. “Look Rao,” he said, “you have done a mistake by distributing your wealth to your children while living. Do you not know that the best way is to write a will? You could have sent word to me. I would have helped you draft a will”

“Shamu, what has happened, has happened. I cannot undo it now. I will have to be resigned to my fate” said Rao, despondently. Shamu thought for a while and whispered something in Rao’s ears. Rao looked disbelievingly at Shamu, but Shamu just nodded his head and left. The family was so indifferent that they did not notice Shamu’s coming and going.

Fifteen days later, a huge bullock cart with two bullocks having big bells hung around their necks came with a lot of jingle bangle and stopped in front of Rao’s house. Somebody with a long beard and a topi got out of the cart shouting “Rao, Oh Raoji… Raoji…” Rao’s elder son and youngest son were inside the house and they were disturbed by the noise and came out. The man looked questioningly at the sons and asked them “Is this Rao’s residence?” The sons were not very cordial. With an indifference they replied, “yes, but who are you?”

The man turned around and called out to his men on the cart, “Bete, bring the sacks down!” As the sons looked puzzled, the men brought down four sacks made of very thick material, that what was inside was not visible. The sacks were well sealed.

“Where is Rao?” the man demanded, “I have come back to repay with interest the loan I took forty years back from Rao. Thanks to him, I am a successful businessman now”. He looked around impatiently and asked, “Is Rao there or not? If he is not there I will go back with my money!” The next second both the sons bowed down with so much humility which was unseen till now and said “Arre Saab, who said our father is not there? He is very much there. Please…. Please do come…” And they led him to Rao’s presence. Rao could recognise Shamu who was in the disguise.

“I am Babulal” said Shamu. “Thank you so much sir, for your help. You may not remember, but you gave me 50 silver coins as loan forty years back, and I invested it in my new business and have become a millionaire Sir. I owe my wealth to you and so have brought the money back with interest” Saying thus he signalled at the men who brought the sacks. They brought the sacks and kept it in front of Rao. “Thank you Babulal”, said Rao, “I remember vaguely now. Thank you very much”

The elder son of Rao started, “We shall keep the money inside…” when Rao cut him short. “Let it remain underneath my bed. It is my money and I will decide on how it will be spent”, he said in a stern voice, and looking at Shamu, said, “Babulal, do me a favour. Please go to the next street and call the headman of the village with two more elders. I would like to have a witness for this money being received by me and later on after my time, there will not be a problem in distributing the money”.

The shocked sons, whose mouths had run dry at this unexpected turn, were helpless. Shamu immediately did as he was instructed and in the presence of the elders, Rao gave Babulal a receipt. Suddenly it started to rain and water was splashing from the side of the verandah and Babulal asked him, “Sir, you are so rich, why are you lying in the verandah, if there is no place inside I could take you to my place with your money just now. Should I Sir?”  And he stood bowing his head humbly.

Within a minute, the sons were ready with the soft mattress in his old cot inside and held out their hands in support to lead him to the bed. “Keep the sacks in the almirah” said Rao, “and put my bed against the almirah”. There was not a word of protest and soon Rao was in his cosy bed.

Within a matter of minutes, the household’s attitude had completely changed. Rao was offered hot food and drink and the youngest son said he would stay with the father in his room at all times to help him. Babulal took leave of Rao and went his way and Rao’s comfortable life returned to him. But Rao had learnt the lesson of how money could change people’s attitudes totally!

After a few years, Rao died a natural death due to old age and the sons did all the rituals waiting patiently to take the “money” their father had kept in the sacks in the cupboard.

I leave it to you to imagine the expressions on the sons’ faces and that of their families when they found nothing but sand and gravel in the four sacks. Ha ha ha….

Birbal Cooks Khichdi!

Once Emperor Akbar had gone on a hunting expedition. It was the peak winter season and late in the evening, Akbar wanted to have a wash, after a tiring day. He went to the nearby river and when he tried to take the water, it was ice cold. Akbar was very surprised that the water should be so chill that he could not bear it even for the few seconds when he put his hand in. He made a casual remark, saying, “I bet nobody would have a dip in this cold water even if I give them one thousand gold coins!!” Birbal, who was present there immediately retorted, “No Jahanpanah, I can bring you a person who will even stay chest deep in this cold water through the night for getting thousand gold coins. Money is very powerful!” Akbar looked at him amused, and asked him to bring the person, the next day to court.

Birbal, obeyed the order and the very next day, brought a young , but poor man, to the court and the Emperor asked him whether he would stand in the river bare bodied in chest deep water through the night, if he was given a thousand gold coins. The man nodded his head vigorously and said that he will do it the same night. Akbar ordered the man to be taken to the river along with two bodyguards and told the guards to keep a watch over him while he stood through the night bare bodied in chest deep water. The man was taken accordingly and he stood in the river shivering through the night but did not give up. As the sun came up in the morning, the man went home.

Later, in the day, eager to claim his award, the man came to the court to meet the Emperor. “Hmmm…. So.. you stayed in the cold water throughout the night huh?” thundered Akbar. “Yes, Jahanpanah” replied the man meekly, “I stood throughout the night in the water.”

“Did you not feel cold at all?”

“I did… Jahanpanah.”

“How did you spend the night without sleeping?”

“Jahanpanah, there was a street light two hundred metres away and I kept staring at it to keep myself awake…”

“Well, you have earned your reward” said Akbar and called his minister to get the bag of gold coins as promised.

Just then, a voice was heard, “Salaam Jahanpanah! ” The voice belonged to one of the courtiers who was always jealous of people who got rewards from the king. “Excuse me” he continued. “Your Highness is an epitome of justice and your judgement is always impeccable, but now….”

Akbar looked at him questioningly. The man continued “ This man has already admitted that he was staring at the street light throughout the night and is it not possible that he grasped the warmth of the light ? Then how could he claim that he spent the entire night freezing in the cold water?”

Akbar considered this view point and shrugged his shoulders. “ It seems what my courtier says may be true. I don’t think I can give this reward to you.” The poor man face fell as he heard the words of the Emperor . He stood sadly for a moment and left the palace, without a word, his face really downcast. Birbal, was watching the entire proceedings and was shocked by this behaviour of Akbar and he also knew about the attitude of the courtier. He mentally made up his mind to see that justice was done to the poor man, but left the court silently.

A few days later, Birbal was absent in the court. He had assiduously sent word to the King that he would come to the court after he finished cooking Khichdi which he had started that morning. The next two days also, he was absent and word came that the “Khichdi was not cooked yet.” Akbar was curious and knew that this was not an ordinary matter.

So, the next day, accompanied by the courtiers, he paid a surprise visit to Birbal’s house. He was told that Birbal was cooking Khichdi in the garden behind the house. “Strange” thought Akbar as he walked to the garden. The sight he saw there was even more strange. Birbal has planted two long poles which were connected with a rope and in the middle of the rope hung a pot and Birbal was stirring its contents standing on a high stool, with a look of impatience on his face. There was a small oil lamp on the ground beneath the pot and the distance between the lamp and the pot was approximately two metres.

Akbar and his courtiers were genuinely amused, and Akbar asked “ Birbal, What is this I hear? I was told you were cooking Khichdi and…” Before the King could complete, pat came the reply, “Yes Jahanpanah, I am cooking Khichdi for the past four days and this stupid thing is not getting cooked yet!” Akbar asked, “But Birbal, how can the food get cooked at such a height with such a small flame?” “It is not that much of a distance Jahanpanah”, said Birbal, “When a man can get warmth from a lamp two hundred metres away, there should be no problem for the heat to reach this small pot from a small distance of two metres.”

Akbar immediately saw Birbal’s point and said “Well done Birbal, I see your logic and I shall summon the poor man today itself and give him the reward he earned.”

The poor man was very thankful to Birbal and once again, Birbal proved himself to be witty as well as just.

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!!

The Rat Merchant

Long long ago, in one of the port towns of Southern India there was a young man Ramu who was poor, but intelligent. Ramu was going in the market street one day, when he saw a dead rat. The Minister of the Kingdom who was also passing by with his friend looked at the rat and commented to his friend, “An intelligent man can earn thousands of gold coins with this dead rat”. Ramu who was nearby, was puzzled by the minister’s comment but nevertheless knowing that the minister was a shrewd man, picked up the dead rat in his hand and started to go home.
On the way, he was approached by the servant of the army commander, who was out to buy some food for the Commander’s cat. “Sell me this rat”, said the man. Ramu sold the dead rat to him for the price of one gold coin. This was his first earning. He was very happy.

He went to the market and got a big earthen pot and some jaggery with the gold coin. He filled up the pot with sweet water from the stream nearby. He went to the jasmine gardens near the outskirts of the city where the farmers were plucking flowers. He had powdered the jaggery and as the farmers came out tired after the work, he offered them jaggery and water. The farmers were very happy and gave him each a handful of jasmine buds. Ramu strung the buds into garlands and went to the temple a bit far from the town. He sold the flowers to the devotees and the temple and this practice went on for few weeks until Ramu had saved eight gold coins. In the process, Ramu had befriended some people of the next town and was keeping himself aware of the developments in the city.

In the next few days, there was a severe thunderstorm and the following day after the storm had subsided, as Ramu was passing the Royal Garden, he found the Royal Gardener very upset as the garden was strewn with lot of twigs and small branches and dead leaves and the garden had to be cleaned before the next day as the king was holding a party there the next day. Ramu thought for a while and told the gardener that he could clean the garden for him if he was allowed to take all the twigs and branches. The gardener was gratified and happily agreed. Ramu then went and bought some sweets from the mithaiwala with the money he had saved over the days. He found a bunch of young boys playing nearby and told them that if they helped him clear the debris in the Royal Garden, he would reward them with the delicious sweets. The boys were overjoyed and gladly cleared the garden of the twigs and branches and leaves. Ramu gave them the sweets and collected all the twigs and branches and took it home.

The next day was very sunny and Ramu cleverly dried all the twigs and branches. The next day as he was passing by the potter’s house, as he casually enquired about his well being, he came to know that the potter was not having dry wood for baking his pots that day. Ramu immediately encashed this opportunity and sold him the dry twigs and and branches and got fifteen gold coins and ten earthen pots in return. Ramu kept some of the money safely and bought jaggery with the rest.

He now bought jaggery powder and lemon and and went to the  fields where a number of  workers were cutting the weeds and grass. He filled the pots with lime juice and  offered the workers cool lime juice after their day of hard work. They were very pleased and asked him what they could give him in return. Ramu told them that he would ask them at the opportune moment. This went on for a few days. One fine day, Ramu came to know from his friends that a merchant was coming to the city with 500 horses to be sold to the king. Ramu told his worker friends that he would take two bundles of grass from each of them that day and also requested them that they should not sell grass in the coming week. The workers agreed and each of them gave him two bundles of grass.

Over the next few days, a horse trader came with the 500 horses to the town  to sell them to the king. To the horse trader’s surprise, there was not a single grass seller to be seen in the town. But as he passed by the market, he saw Ramu sitting with a lot of grass and he was the only grass seller available. The trader, in his anxiety bought all the grass Ramu had and Ramu made a quick 1000 gold coins that day.

A few days later a ship had arrived in the port carrying lot of precious stones and perfumes. Ramu, was aware that the ship was to arrive and immediately went and met the ship owner. He told the ship owner that he would take all the goods in the ship and gave the thousand gold coins in advance. A day later, the richest merchants and nobles of the town came to know of the ship and flocked to buy the cargo. But the owner said that the whole of the cargo was booked by one Ramu!! They could buy the cargo only if Ramu permitted. They were surprised as they had not known any merchant by name Ramu. Anyway, they enquired and made their way to Ramu’s house and told him that they also wanted to purchase the goods that had arrived from abroad. Ramu acted reluctant  for a while and after some time told them that they may have to pay 200 gold coins each if he was to give up the goods. The merchants had no way but to agree and gave Ramu the coins. This way he collected 10000 gold coins.

He bought a tray full of fruits and a small silk bag in which he put the coins he had earned. He went to the minister’s house and told the security guard that he had come to meet his ‘guru’. The puzzled guard went in and conveyed the same to the minister. The minster was also puzzled as he had not ‘tutored’ any student, but called him in. Ramu went in and presented the fruits along with the gold coins and prostrated at the feet of the minister. He then told him how he overheard his comment on the dead rat few months back and how he had come a long way with the help of the dead rat.

The minister was overwhelmed at the sincerity of Ramu and that he had given so much importance  to a casual remark made by him . He praised Ramu openly and also gave back the money placed in front of him and also announced that he would give his daughter in marriage to Ramu as he was looking for a sincere, hard working, enterprising individual!!

Ramu’s life took a full U-turn and he lived a very happy life ever after.

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