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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 Curse On King Dasaratha

This is a story from the Valmiki Ramayana.

Dasaratha, who was the emperor of Kosala, died a painful death separated from his four sons- Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrugna. It is indeed ironic that a powerful emperor who had not one, but four valiant, handsome and righteous sons, did not have even one of them near him, while he passed away.

On the sixth night after Rama left Ayodhya, the devastated King Dasaratha could not have a wink of sleep. It was past midnight and the King lay wide awake, his heart full of grief at the injustice he had done to his beloved Rama. His mind was looking back at all the events in his life and he suddenly remembered this incident. He asked Kausalya to come nearer and started narrating the incident to her.Dasaratha said, “When a person does good things, he reaps good things and the same way, when he does bad things, he reaps its effect. By the time one realises this principle, it is too late to make amends. I am also a victim of this cycle and I want to relate to you an incident which happened when I was a young prince.” Dasaratha then shared his story with Kausalya.

When Dasaratha was a young prince, he was a master archer and had learnt a difficult technique in archery by name “Shabdavedi”. By mastering Shabdavedi, he could, by listening to the sound made by any animal, kill it with his arrow aimed from a distance. Dasaratha was very proud of his achievement and it helped him in his hunting.

One day during the rainy season, Dasaratha went to the banks of the Sarayu, to hunt. It was raining and it was exciting for him to hunt in the rain. As he stood near the Sarayu, he could hear the noise made by an elephant drinking water with its trunk. Since Dasaratha was well versed in Shabdavedi, he shot an arrow in the direction from which the sound came. After a moment, much to the dismay of Dasaratha, a human voice cried in pain and someone said, “Who has done me to death? Why should I be hunted like an animal? Who is this shameless man who has done this heinous crime?” A horrified Dasaratha rushed to the spot to see a young man lying along the banks of the river, with mud and blood smeared on his body. Beside him was a pot half filled with water.

Dasaratha at once realised the grave mistake he had committed. He had mistaken the sound of the pot being filled up with the river water to be that of an elephant drinking water. The young man looked at Dasaratha and said, “You are a prince! And yet, you have hunted me like an animal? I was going to carry water to my old parents who are both blind. They are totally dependent on me and now you have hunted me, who was their only support….” Shravan Kumar, the young man, was now speaking with great difficulty due to the pain he was suffering on account of the arrow which was embedded on his chest. He continued, “My parents will be helpless without me and they do not even know that I am dying.” Shravan stopped talking, writhing in pain. Dasaratha, overcome with emotion, fell at the feet of the young man pleading with him to be forgiven.

The man could not be pacified and after a while, told Dasaratha to take the pot full of water to his parents who were waiting with thirst at the ashrama which was some distance away from the river. He also said, “O Prince! Please tell my father what you have done and please ask for forgiveness as he may curse you in his anger. Please also remove this arrow from my chest so that I may die in peace.” A reluctant Dasaratha obeyed Shravan and removed the arrow from his chest after which Shravan died almost immediately. Then, with a heavy heart, he proceeded to the ashrama with the pot of water in his hands.

The old couple were eagerly awaiting the arrival of their son at the doorway of the ashrama. Hearing Dasaratha’s footsteps, they were impatient as their son had gone a long time back to fetch them water. So, mistaking Dasaratha for Shravan, they called out to him in endearing words to give them water without delay.

Dasaratha, mustering enough courage, broke the tragic news to them. The couple were shocked beyond words. After a long moment of silence, Shravan’s father spoke, “If you hadn’t admitted your guilt, my anger would have caused your head to explode. Lead us to our son.”

Dasaratha witnessed heart-rending scenes as the couple mourned their son and performed his last rites. Still unable to reconcile with what had happened, Shravan’s father turned to Dasaratha and cursed him, “I’m suffering the pain of separation from my son on account of your thoughtless action! I CURSE YOU THEREFORE TO SUFFER A DEATH SIMILAR TO MINE! YOU WILL DIE WHEN YOUR SON IS SEPERATED FROM YOU!!” Saying thus, the couple entered the fire which had been created for the last rites of their son.

As he ended the story, Dasaratha’s eyes were flowing with tears. Kausalya too wept as she was too stunned to react. Dasaratha lay,lamenting his fate, and his life ebbed out that tragic night. The Sun of the Ikshwaku clan had set.

This is the story of The Curse On Dasaratha.

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