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Tag: Old man

Tirukurippu Thonda Nayanar

In the ancient town of Kanchipuram lived a saintly washer man by name Tirukurippu Thondar. He was a washer man by profession, but he considered it his duty to serve the devotees of Lord Shiva and just by looking at the facial expression of a devotee, he would know what he needed and do that service to the devotee. “Kurippu” means expression and since by seeing the “Kurippu” on the devotees’ faces, this saint did “Thondu” that is voluntary service, he came to be known as Tirukurippu Thondar.

The main service rendered by Tirukurippu Thondar was to wash the dirty clothes of the devotees of Lord Shiva. He believed that by cleaning the outward dirt and stains in the clothes of the devotees, his mind would be cleansed of the dirt of arrogance and ego. He was very sincere in his belief and continued doing this service. He believed that he could escape the cycle of rebirth and reach Lord Shiva by doing this service to the Lord’s devotees.

The Lord was pleased with this service of Tirukurippu Thondar and wanted the world to know about his greatness.

One day an old man appeared in the town. It looked that he was a devotee of Lord Shiva since he had holy ash smeared on his forehead and was wearing the holy Rudraksha. He was wearing a very dirty upper cloth which were almost in tatters. Tirukurippu Thondar sighted him and as was his custom, immediately offered to wash the upper garment of the old man.

“It is my duty to clean your garment, holy sir”, he said. “Kindly allow me to serve you”

The old man appeared hesitant and Thondar understood the reason of his hesitation. “I shall wash this immediately and dry it and give it in a couple of hours”, he said. “Do not worry that it will take time O Revered one”

The old man nodded his head. In a feeble voice he spoke. “I have only one upper garment to keep me warm, young man. If I do not get this garment by the evening, I shall not be able to bear the chill of the night. Hence please make sure that you give the garment by evening”

Saying so, the man removed the upper garment and gave it to Tirukurippu Thondar. Thondar promised the man that the garment will be delivered as promised as the sun was up and it was a very hot day with hot winds blowing. “If I do not deliver as promised” said he, “I will consider myself to be sinned”.

Tirukurippu Thondar took the garment and went to the river where he used to wash the clothes on a big stone. He washed the cloth well to remove the dirt and did it carefully as it was almost in tatters and wringed it to get rid of the excess water.

Just then something unexpected happened. There was suddenly the sound of rolling thunder. A startled Thondar looked up to see dark clouds suddenly moving towards the river and cool breeze blew from nowhere. Tup… Tup… Tup… Big raindrops started to fall. Before Thondar could realise, it started pouring in torrents. With a huge noise, the rain was pouring.

Thondar was in a state of shock. Just an hour back, the sky was so clear with the sun high up in the sky and now, when he had promised to deliver the old man’s upper garment…….

“It will stop shortly” Thondar consoled himself.  “After all this is not monsoon season and so this will soon stop”, he said to himself and looked up at the sky with great hope.

But the rain was not in a mood to stop. It poured and poured and poured. Noon became evening and the sun was preparing for his exit but the rain did not stop.

Thondar was devastated. Now, his promise would go unfulfilled for the first time. He was ashamed of himself, of the ignorance with which he promised the old man. Now what would the man do at night? Did he not specifically say that he needed his upper garment at night? Now, what reply would he give him?

The more he thought of the helpless situation he was in, the more depressed he became and at one point, decided that death was the only punishment he could award himself. He had no weapon to kill himself but he saw the washing stone.

Without a moment’s delay, he began to hit his head on the stone.

Dum… Dum… Dum… It was as if someone was trying to break a coconut. Blood started oozing out of his head and the few people who were standing under a big tree nearby watched Thondar in shock as he continued to bang his head on the stone.

Suddenly when Thondar banged his head on the stone, he did not hit the hard stone but felt he hit a soft sponge. The pain vanished and the blood stopped.

Thondar looked at the stone and was surprised to find the palm of the Lord come out of the washing stone. He realized that he had banged on the palm of the Lord. The palm, the Abhaya Hasta, which was the savior of the world, was looking magnificent, in the colour of the pomegranate flower, and the wrist was adorned with golden bangles and Rudraksha, smeared with the Holy Ash.

Thondar was overwhelmed with joy and he joined his palms in reverence to the Lord’s arm and his eyes were filled with tears of joy!!!

The arm was visible to the onlookers also and they were equally dazed at the appearance of the Lord’s arm and they also chanted “Om Namasivaya… Om Namasivaya…” in ecstasy with folded palms.

Suddenly the rain stopped and the sun shone gloriously. A sudden light brighter than the sun appeared in front of Thondar and the others and there they could see Lord Shiva with his consort on the majestic Nandi. Lord Shiva looked at Thondar showering his grace and the next moment Tiruthondar’s soul merged with the Lord.

His devotion to Lord Shiva earned him a place amongst the sixty three Nayanars (Saivite saints)

 

 

Sakshi Gopal

Sakshi means Evidence or Witness in Sanskrit and Sakshi Gopal is the story of Gopal – the beloved Lord of Vrindavan having come as Sakshi or witness for the sake of his devotee.

In ancient India, there was a place by name Vidyanagara in the south of India. In this village there lived an old man who was extremely rich. In the same village lived a youngster who was very poor and uneducated, but was extremely good at heart. Once, a group of people from this village prepared to go for a yatra or pilgrimage to North India and visit places of religious importance. The rich man and the poor youth also joined the group and they started their journey. In those days of lack of transportation, people had to walk or go by bullock carts carrying their belongings and provisions in case they desired to cook on the way. Else they would eat and take shelter in choultries or public halls meant for this and run by charitable persons. They did not have any means to communicate to their family back home and therefore their return was not known to the family and their return was certain only when they actually came back.

Now, this group started from Vidyanagara and visited places like Kashi and Gaya. They were proceeding to Vrindavan when the old man fell ill. The place where they were was an unknown place and the old man did not know where to seek help from. He was running high temperature and could barely stand up. The group members tried helping him by providing him whatever home remedies they had brought with them, but it was of no avail. The man was getting no better.

The group members lost patience. “We cannot wait indefinitely” said one. “Yes, and what do we do if something happens to him? We will have to do all the rituals!” said another. The words came like a sword and pierced the old man’s heart. It was then that he felt, that he may not even make it back home. He was feeling very depressed and down when he heard the young man’s voice. The man was addressing the crowd. “You may all go on if you want” said he. “I will stay with this gentleman and come with him when he is cured”.

The old man was pleasantly shocked. He did not expect a total stranger to show this kind gesture. The other people were happy that they got rid of the ‘burden’ and carried on their pilgrimage. The youth, as promised stayed on with the old man and called a doctor and treated him properly. Money was not an issue as the old man was carrying enough. He helped him bathe and cleaned his clothes, fed him, gave him medicine on time and did all the help which is usually rendered only by a nurse, to help him get back to normalcy. The old man could not express his gratitude in words. Tears of joy were rolling down from his eyes. The young man was unperturbed the reaction of the old man. “I have done what a human being should do. How can one let a person lie sick and proceed as if nothing has happened? Come Sir, We shall also go to Vrindavan and see the Lord” he said to the old man and they proceeded to Vrindavan.

All the way, the old man kept expressing his gratitude and at one point he said, “I do not know how I am going to repay my debt to you. I have decided I shall marry off my only daughter to you!” The young man thought that the old man had gone mad. “Sir”, said he, “Please do not speak thus. You are a wealthy person, whereas I am poor in both wealth and knowledge. I think you are very emotional and so are talking like this. Even if you want, none of your family members including your daughter would like this idea. So please do not talk about this”.

The old man however had made up his mind and said to the youth, “I am hereby promising you that I shall give my daughter in wedlock to you and you alone!” By that time they had reached Vrindavan and had good darshan of the lovely Gopala in all his splendour.

Then the youth said, “Well Sir, if you are making a promise, I would like you to do it in front of this Gopala here!” The old man did not hesitate for a moment and looked at the Lord’s statue and said, “Hey Gopala, I promise to give my daughter in marriage to this young boy who has taken care of me like a son!”

They stayed in Vrindavan for a couple of days and then left on their journey back to Vidyanagara. The old man told his family in detail, the ordeal he went through when he fell ill and how this young man was more than a son in taking care of him and also about the promise he had made to the young man. He expected his family to acknowledge his action and support him.

“Are you out of your mind?” his elder son asked him. “Did you not think of our status and level in the society before promising such things? We are so wealthy and that fellow is a rustic idiot who has no means for even one square meal a day. He must have seen the money you carried and coerced you to give such promises. Rogue!”

The old man’s other sons staunchly supported the elder brother. The old man’s wife was also totally unhappy. “I have brought up our daughter in luxury all along and you want her to suffer by marrying a poor fellow? I will commit suicide if you do any such thing!” she screamed and started sobbing uncontrollably.

“We will also commit suicide” said the sons much to the agony of the old man. The man was in a dilemma. He was neither ready to give up his promise nor go against the wishes of his family.

The next day, the young man came with great hopes to the old man’s house. The moment the sons of the old man saw him, they chased him away with a stick, accusing him of brainwashing their father to usurp his wealth. The young man was very sad and went and met the elderly villagers of the village and told them the whole story and sought justice. They were sympathetic to the plight of the young man but they had to hear the other side of the story too and therefore a Panchayat was called the very next day. Panchayat was the form of a local court, in those days where a group of respectable elders (like a jury) heard the cases and delivered judgments which had to be followed failing which the family was ostracized.

The old man was informed to appear before the Panchayat and he came with his sons. The young man had no one to accompany him and he came too. The elders asked the old man whether he had promised his daughter to the young man. The old man had been tutored by his sons to vehemently deny this fact and the old man dutifully did the same, as he was under terrible pressure from his wife and sons. The young man however kept insisting that a promise had been given to him which should be honoured.

The Panchayat felt that there was a ring of truth in the voice of the young man. “Was there any witness when this man promised his daughter to you?” they asked.

“Yes there was”, said the young man. “This man promised me in front of Gopal!!” he said with great enthusiasm.
“Who is Gopal and where is he?” asked the Panchayat.

“You do not know Gopal? He is the deity of Vrindavan!” said the man in great anticipation of the case to turn in his favour.

“Then bring Gopal as witness” said the old man’s sons. “We will believe you if Gopal comes as evidence for you. Go and bring him!!” they said knowing that the case would die a natural death with this condition of theirs.

The Panchayat also agreed. “There should be some witness” they said and told the young man that they were in agreement with the old man’s sons.

The old man also said, “Yes, bring Gopal to speak for you”. The man was, in his heart of hearts hoping that the deity would really come as he was still in favour of giving his daughter to the young man.The sons of the old man on the other hand thought that the Lord would not turn up as He was a mere statue!

The young man travelled all the way back to Vrindavan. He stood before the ever smiling Gopal. “Lord”, he said. “You know what happened. I am only sad that the promise made in your presence has been taken so lightly by the man. I feel it as an insult to You. How can you be insulted thus? You are omnipresent and how can anyone deny something that has been done in your presence? Come with me, now, for I want your name not to be tarnished.”

A voice replied, “I have not seen a god walking for the sake of a devotee, young man!”

The man replied, “I have not seen a god talk also thus. Since you have spoken, you can as well walk and come with me!”

Gopal smiled to himself at the boy’s smart reply and said, “Well, if you wish, I shall follow you but on one condition, and that is, you should never turn back and look if I am coming behind you. You will know my presence by the sound of my anklets. Come on, let us go!”

The thrilled young man led the Lord walking to his village. They walked for over ten days he used to cook food on the way and leave it and wait for the Lord to eat and come behind him. He was extremely careful not to turn back though. He could hear the lovely jingle of the anklets “Clink Clink…” throughout the journey.

Once they neared the village, they were walking near the river and suddenly the sound of anklets stopped. The anxious young man, without thinking, turned around and in a flash the Lord had turned into a statue. “Son,” he heard the voice of the Lord, “There was too much of sand near the river that you could not hear the sound of my anklets. However since you have turned back, I will not follow you anymore. But go into the village and bring the old man and I shall remain as a statue here!”

The young man was elated, though sad that the Lord became a statue. He went and called all the people including the old man and they all saw the wonder. The whole village was astonished at the devotion of the young man and his purity of thought due to which Gopala of Vrindavan was there, in their village to see!! The old man and his family apologized for their behaviour and the marriage of the young man was held in pomp with the old man’s daughter. The Lord remained there with a temple built for Him.

It is said that at a later date, the King Pratapa Rudra from Orissa brought this statue to Cuttack after his expedition to the south of India. Later on, the Lord was shifted to near Puri, where He still remains till this day.

As Gopal came for Sakshi (evidence) he is called Sakshi Gopal.

Blind Luck

This is a folk tale from the North of India.

Long long ago, there lived an old man near the city of Varanasi. His wife had died young and he had two sons. The elder one, Sonu, was blind at birth and the younger one Monu was a happy go lucky fellow hardly caring to educate himself or do any work.  Sonu, though blind had been bestowed with a rare power and that was to understand the language of the birds and animals. He would listen to their language and come to know of the happenings around him.

The old man had some wealth and so they were living peacefully. However, the man fell ill after some time and was lying in his death bed.

He called both his sons near him and said to Monu, “Monu, please do not leave the side of your elder brother ever. Even if you have to beg and eat, please take your brother with you and share the food. Please promise me this…” Monu kept his palm on his father’s palm and promised and the old man fell dead. After the rituals for the man had been performed, both the brothers sustained on the little wealth that had been saved by their father. After some time, the wealth was over and Monu started selling the assets one by one and finally sold the house also and spent the money.

Finally, they had to resort to begging. As his father had told him, he did not leave his blind brother and took him along wherever he went. The people of the city pitied the brothers in the beginning but slowly started to think that Monu being a healthy fellow could go for a job but had resorted to begging and they refused to give them food. Monu started feeling that his brother was a burden as he could not find food for himself and kept on thinking on why he should stick to the promise made by him to his father. So, one day, he decided that he would leave his blind brother in the forest. He told his brother that they were going for a walk and took him deep inside the forest and told him to stay there till he brought him fruits. He also bound one hand of his brother to a tree saying that since it was a new place, it would be difficult to locate him when he came back with fruits, if he went astray.

Sonu, being a simpleton, believed in what his brother said and waited under the tree, his one hand bound to the trunk of the tree. He kept on expecting his brother to come and he was feeling very hungry. Time passed but there was no sign of Monu. Slowly, it dawned on Sonu that his brother had betrayed him. He could sense that it was nearing evening. He could hear the shrill calls of the birds returning to their nests and could also hear the far off growls of the wild animals.

As he thought of his fate in the dark unknown forest, he was terrified. Further, he could not even run away because his hand was bound to the tree. After a few moments, he remembered that he had a small knife in his cummerbund. With the free hand, he pulled out the knife and cut off the ropes. Suddenly, he could hear the growls of the animals nearer and in sheer desperation, climbed up the tree to a safe height and sat on a branch.

As the sun set, many animals converged under the tree on which he was sitting. Amongst them were a lion, a cheetah and a bear. Though Sonu could not see them, being able to understand the language of the animals and birds, it was interesting for him to hear their conversation. Soon it was pitch dark.

“Hey cheetah!” said the lion, “Tell us some new secret you know!”

“Hmmm…… Well, do you know that this very tree under which we are standing is a magical tree?”

Sonu now pricked up his ears as the conversation continued.

The cheetah continued, “Do any one of you know that the pulp from the bark of this tree, if put into the eyes, can cure a blind man?” “Oh, is it?” asked the lion. Sonu, astonished at what he had heard just then, scratched the bark of the branch on which he was sitting with the knife he had and found that a pulpy substance oozed out. He applied the substance in his eyes and lo and behold! He could see even in the pitch dark of the night. He looked down to see a cheetah, a bear, a lion and various other animals and was amazed at his newfound sense.

The bear now spoke, “Hey, I know a secret too!” “What?” asked the others. “Did you know that the princess of this kingdom is always ill? And nobody knows why. But I know…” The animals looked amused as the bear continued. “There is a small black cat curled up underneath the princess’s bed and not even the princess or her maids or security guards know about it. The cat carries the evil spell of a witch. If the cat is removed from underneath her bed, the princess will be okay immediately. But the poor king not knowing this is asking doctors from all over the country to treat her…Ha ha ha…., now Lion, you tell us the secret you know”. Sonu listened with awe.

The Lion gave a growl and started his secret. “Hey buddies, do you know, there is a village by name Soonapur at the end of this forest and true to its name, the village has become very scarcely populated due to a strange happening there” Sonu and the animals listened with great interest. The lion continued, lowering his voice. Sonu had to strain to listen to what the lion was saying. “All the children in Soonapur die as soon as they are born and all the elders in the city are suffering from a strange illness for the past two months. Their spinal cords have become twisted all of a sudden and they are becoming hunchbacks. None of them know why this is happening and they are at a loss to know what to do to stop this happening.” The lion stopped and all the animals stared at him, expecting him to continue. The Lion continued, “There is an old Peepul tree near an abandoned temple in the village and there lives a black cobra in a hole in the tree. If anyone feeds milk to the cobra in a black pot early exactly at mid day, it will drink it and leave the tree. Then the spell of the village will be lifted”

Sonu had listened with total concentration and was extremely excited. Soon the voices were lowered and the animals slept under the tree. At day break, the animals got up and went their ways. Sonu enjoyed the brightness of the light which he was seeing for the first time in his life. He savoured the beauty of the forest, its trees, waterholes and all and slowly walked in some direction. Luckily he spotted the village Soonapur soon. He was surprised that what the lion had said was true. He enquired with the people about the tragedy and was pained to hear their story. He consoled them and promised that he would put an end to their tragedy by that evening. He got a black pot from one of the villagers and some milk and went in search of the abandoned temple. He found the tree and the hole before midday and placed the pot with milk in front and prayed with folded hands. After a while, a black cobra slid down from the hole and drank the milk and glided into the thick vegetation swiftly.

The next minute the people of Soonapur felt a tingle in their spines and were surprised to find their backs becoming straight. Sonu was returning from the temple, when all the people rushed out and showered him with lot of money and gifts. Sonu told them to wait until he went on another mission and promised that he would be back soon.

He walked on and on and by the night, reached the capital city. Though it was very late, he reached the palace and asked for an audience with the king. The gatekeepers refused but seeing his insistence, they went and reported the matter to the king. The king called and asked Sonu about his mission and Sonu claimed that he could cure the illness of the Princess. The King was furious as he thought Sonu was a joker and said, “Look here, I have tried the services of the best doctors in this country and it has been of no avail. If you have come here to play any kind of joke, beware! This sword of mine is very sharp and can chop your head in a second”. Sonu was least flustered by the king’s words. “Your Highness, said he, I am confident that your daughter will be up by tomorrow noon, and when I cure her, will you give what I want?

“Yes” said the king totally sure that the boy would be the prey to his sword the next day.

The next day, Sonu went to the chamber where the princess lay. The chamber was the highest room in the king’s fort and out of the window in the chamber; one could see the deep river gushing with fury miles and miles below. He asked all the security men and maids to leave and they all obeyed as it was the king’s order that Sonu should be given what he wanted, to cure the princess. Sonu went in and closed the doors. He opened the window and peered underneath the bed of the princess. The princess was in deep sleep. There was a tiny black cat curled up under the bed. In a moment, he picked it and flung it down into the river through the window.

After a while, the princess jumped up from bed. “Why was I sleeping so long? I am hungry” she said as Sonu opened the door to the curious onlookers which included the king. The princess ran up to the king and hugged him. “Papa, why did I sleep so long?” she asked in her sweet voice. The king saw that she was perfectly okay and was overwhelmed with joy. Even without Sonu asking for it, he offered the princess hand in wedding to him and overnight Sonu became a Prince, the son in law of the king.

He spent happy days and went back to Soonapur and met the people, who were very happy and showered him with gifts. As he was going back to the palace, he saw a beggar in tattered robes and the beggar was sobbing. Sonu recognised that it was Monu and went up to him and talked to him. Monu was extremely surprised at the blind luck which had befallen his brother. He was ashamed when Sonu was still affectionate to him even as he had ditched him in the jungle. He asked for forgiveness and Sonu, a good person he was forgave him readily and gave him money to start a new business and Monu turned a new leaf and they all lived happily ever after.

 

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