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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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