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)