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Tag: snake

The Magic Grove


In ancient India, there lived in a village, a girl by name Prabha. She lived with her father as she had lost her mother at a young age. Her father had married again. The step mother Rambadevi,  did not like Prabha . She had also a daughter a little younger than Prabha. Even though she did not like Prabha, she could do nothing about it as her husband loved Prabha  more than his life and would not tolerate any nonsense towards his loving daughter.

Prabha was a very kind girl and used to tend to the cattle of her house very dutifully. She used to take them out for grazing and stay out for most of the day and thereby escaped Rambadevi’s  anger and hatred.

One day, Prabha had taken out the cattle as usual for grazing and had settled down under a shady banyan tree . She used to amuse herself by playing a  game with some shells. Just as she had sat down and taken the shells out, to her horror, she saw a snake crawling towards her very fast. Aghast and afraid, as she hurried to get up and run, the snake spoke.

“Young Girl, please protect me!” it said in a human voice, much to her surprise. It continued, “A man is coming to kill me. Please sit down and hide me under your leg. Pleeeease… please save my life”

The snake sounded so pitiful that Prabha gave up her fear and said, “OK dear snake, I will hide you, but please do not harm me”

“Never will I harm you” said the snake, “but please sit down so that I may hide under your legs”. The snake sounded really pathetic.

Prabha obeyed the snake and took her place again under the tree where she was sitting originally. She was wearing a flowing skirt and the snake immediately slid under her legs.

The next moment, a man came running with a fat stick . He stopped for a moment on seeing the little girl.

“Hey Girl”, he called out, “did you see a snake go by?”

Prabha kept a cool expression and nodded her head in the negative.

The man did not suspect Prabha and ran away further down.

Prabha lifted her leg and said, “Come out, snake. The man has gone”. But to her utter surprise, there was no snake there and the next moment she saw a divine figure suddenly appear and come beside her. Shocked and tongue tied, all that the girl could do was to stare at him in awe.

“Do not be afraid dear girl, I am a Naga from Sarpaloka” said the man. “You have saved my life and I want to reward you. What do you want? Tell me!”

The surprised Prabha fumbled for words for a few minutes, but then told the Naga that her wish was that fodder and shade should be available for her cattle always.

It was the turn of the Naga to get surprised. He was so happy with her selfless attitude and said, “Well, little girl, you are so selfless. I grant you the wish that there will be a grove around wherever you are . The grove will move with you when you move and stop when you stop. And, whenever you need my help, just call out to me and I will come and help you”  So saying the Naga vanished. Immediately lot of trees appeared around Prabha and the place became very cool. Prabha was very excited and extremely happy.

She wanted to tell her father at once and  got up and headed for her home. The trees followed her. It was indeed a Magic Grove. When she reached home and told her father what had happened, he was extremely happy while Rambadevi, was extremely jealous. However, there was nothing she could do.

Years passed and Prabha was a beautiful young maiden now. But her inner personality had not changed a bit. She was the same loving and kind girl.

One day, she was sitting under a tree as usual playing with shells, when the king of the country came on a hunting expedition. Seeing the nice trees, the king’s retinue thought that it was a part of the jungle ahead and expected wild animals there. To frighten the wild animals, they started to beat drums aloud. Prabha’s cows were startled and started running here and there. Prabha , not aware of why the cows were running ran after them and lo and behold, the trees also started moving much to the horror of the King who was suddenly left in the hot sun!! He was so shocked and kept staring at Prabha , with wonder.

After some time, he regained his composure and after some enquiries with the villagers, he found his way to Prabha’s house. Her father was so happy that the king had come and welcomed him to the best of his ability. After the customary welcome, the king came to know the story behind the magic grove. He was so impressed by the girl’s kindness and she was equally beautiful too that he wanted to make her his queen. Prabha’s father was overjoyed and immediately gave his consent and the wedding took place with great pomp and show.

Now Prabha had to shift to the palace and the trees went with her. The king did not mind it though. Rambadevi  was fuming at the good luck of Prabha. She was waiting for an opportunity to harm her.

A few years later, the king sent a messenger with loads of gifts to Prabha’ s house to convey the good news that they were expecting their first child. Prabha’s father wanted to see his daughter and sent word through the messenger that he would come soon. Rambadevi , surprisingly supported this wish of his and urged him to go soon and see Prabha.

“Whatever royal food she may have, she will miss home food at this time and you should carry a big laddoo for her”, she told her husband. Still surprised, he thought that her attitude had changed at the thought of her going to become a grandmother.

Rambadevi  then proceeded to make a big laddoo but mixed some deadly poison in it. She then packed it and gave it to the husband asking him to give it to Prabha. The old man took it and went on his way . It was a hot day and it was noon. He sat down under a big banyan tree and was soon  dozing off under the cool shade.

Now, this tree happened to be the home of a Yaksha ( celestial being) and this yaksha had supernatural powers and could sense that the man was carrying something bad. The yaksha got down and with his magical power took the laddoo being carried by Prabha’s father and replaced it with a laddoo he created with his powers. After a short while, Prabha’s father, got up, unaware of what had happened, continued his journey and went to the palace and saw Prabha and gave the laddoo. He stayed with her for a few days and came back to the village.

Rambadevi  was surprised  to see him come home happily for she thought he would come bringing the news of her ‘sudden death’.  She could not figure out what had happened as Prabha’s father said that Prabha enjoyed the laddoo.

After a few months, news came from the palace that a handsome baby prince was born to Prabha. Rambadevi  was burning with jealousy. However, she did not show her feelings and told her husband,  “We may be not so rich , but is it not our duty to bring our daughter home with her child? After all, she must be also yearning for parental support now. Go and bring her home. Tell the king that we shall send her back after three months. Hurry up, Go now! And, do not return immediately. The king may feel insulted. Stay there for a few days and then bring her!”

The father was really impressed at what he felt was a ‘sea change ‘ in her attitude. He happily agreed and  went to the palace to place this request before the king.

Rambadevi, in the meanwhile called  some expert well diggers secretly and asked them to dig the deepest well in the middle of their garden. “The mouth of the well should not be too wide” she told them, “but see that the well is as deep as all the wells put together in this village. If the job is done well, you shall have a bag of gold coins!”

The well was dug in a matter of days by the experts and she called her trusted servant and told him to cover the mouth of the well with some coconut palm leaves and then carefully made some floral pattern with grass and some rare flowers on top of that. Nobody could suspect that it was the opening of a deep well.

After a few days, Prabha came home with her baby and her father in a royal palanquin with lots of gifts and gold.  The Grove also accompanied her and once more her house was surrounded by the cool shade of the grove. Her  stepmother welcomed her with fake affection and cuddled the baby with great love. She treated Prabha to lots of goodies and spent time nicely with her.

After few days Prabha herself started believing that her step mother’s attitude had changed. One day, when the father had gone out, the stepmother called out endearingly, “Prabha… O Prabha dear, come out in the garden. You should get some fresh air.” Prabha went out leaving the baby in the care of her step sister. As expected, the new patch in the garden caught Prabha’s attention and she asked her step mother about it.

“Well Prabha, those are very special flowers. I got them specially for you.  They are as soft as silk and the scent of them will linger for months together in your hands. Go, see and touch them” said Rambadevi.

Prabha who was still a naive girl unwittingly stepped on the pattern when the grass beneath gave way and she fell in. “Aaaah……. I am falling!!  Save me….” she cried, and then remembering the Naga, she called out aloud, “O Naga! Save me… please…”

The next moment  the Naga appeared beneath her in the well and she landed in his arms.  Prabha was so relieved and told the Naga to take her back. “My child is alone there” she said. “Take me back to my house and I will go back to my husband”.

“Wait” said the Naga. “I will see that your step mother gets what she deserves and so do not hurry. You can stay in my palace in the nether world. Close your eyes”

Unable to disobey the Naga, Prabha closed her eyes and the next moment on the Naga’s command, she opened her eyes to see that she was in a beautiful palace with many attendants to take care of her needs.

In the meanwhile, Prabha’s father had returned and asked about his daughter for which his wife feigned ignorance. She said she found Prabha ‘missing’ and was herself in a state of shock. “I am afraid what the King will say!” she said and started sobbing. Then later on, she told her husband that she would manage when the King came. As expected the King came in a few days.  The step mother presented her own daughter with the child to the king.

Puzzled, the king asked, “Where is Prabha?”

“This is Prabha, your Highness!” said the stepmother. “Soon after she came here, she contracted a rare disease that has left her features changed. Please take her to the palace and get her treated by your doctors”

“But where is the grove?” asked the king who was not convinced by her answer.

The question was unexpected and the step mother said hurriedly “Hmmm… That  grove.. Hmm.. It has gone to water itself… It will come back..”

The king was even more puzzled as never had this grove gone to ‘water’ itself, but he could not find the grove or Prabha’s trace anywhere in the house. Reluctant as he was, he could not believe the version of Prabha’s step mother , but he could not do anything about it either. So half heartedly he took Prabha’s sister with his child back.  He was still suspicious about the whole affair and therefore  appointed an elderly nurse to be with the baby all the time. He had also shared with the nurse his suspicion about Prabha’s ‘disease’ and changed features  and asked her to be extra vigilant and tell him if she noticed anything strange.

In the meanwhile, Prabha could not bear the separation from her baby. She pleaded with the Naga to let her go and see the child.

“OK “ said the Naga. “You may go if you wish. But I will take you there every night and you have to come back to me by midnight after seeing your child. I am telling this for your good only and you will realise soon. If you do not return as promised, I will never hereafter answer to your calls” he said.

Prabha was very excited and happy and every day, she went after the palace had slept. She sneaked in through the balcony , saw her child , cuddled and fed him and put him to sleep in his cradle while her sister was happily sleeping in her bed. Prabha also saw to it that she always returned before midnight to the Naga.

Now, one day, in the morning, the nurse noticed stains of milk flowing from the lips of the baby and was surprised for it was she who cleaned his face before he went to sleep every day. This happened  successively in the next few days and the nurse reported the matter to the king who told her to be awake and find out. The following night, the nurse was in for a shock when she saw Prabha coming like a fairy and feeding her child. She pretended to be asleep and reported the matter to the king the next morning.

The surprised king also hid in the darkness near the balcony that night and as Prabha was slipping away caught her in an iron grip. “Leave me”, she shouted. “I have to go back to the Naga! Please leave me….” The next moment there were guards with lights and the bright lights shone on the face of Prabha and the king and the king sternly asked her what the matter was and why she was hiding. Prabha, told the king what happened, sobbing in grief. Her stained cheeks showed how much sorrow she was in.

The king immediately called Prabha’s sister and asked her . She was also afraid and confessed that she was also a part of the conspiracy. The enraged king immediately ordered capital punishment for mother and daughter but Prabha intervened. “Your Highness”, she said, “Please do not be so harsh on them. After all,  my step mother brought me up as my mother was not there and I should always be grateful for that. Please forgive them”.

“I appreciate your kindness Prabha “ said the king, “but the wrong doers must be punished. And so I am banishing them from this kingdom forever. You father can come and stay with us in the palace” .

The king’s orders were carried out and the grove had appeared and Prabha lived a peaceful and happy life with no need to call the Naga any more.

This is a story I have read in my childhood in Amar Chitra Katha. I have read it so many times and also narrated it to my children many many times that even today as I write,  the pictures of the story are vivid and evergreen in my memory. Of course there are tiny figments of my own imagination added here and there.

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.

 

Power of the Mind

Long long ago, in a village in North India, there lived a well-to-do farmer named Balbir. He was a hard worker and was very sincere and so naturally, he earned a good amount of money. His wife was also a sweet-natured lady.
Unfortunately, his wife died during childbirth of their first child, a son, who was named Ganesh. Balbir married again, but the second wife Seetha was equally a good natured and kind woman. She treated Ganesh as her own child and Ganesh never got to know that his mother had died. In due course Balbir had two more sons, Umesh and Naresh and the couple brought up all the three sons equally well and even Naresh and Umesh did not know that Ganesh was their step brother.

The boys were also hard working and toiled with their father and Balbir had acquired considerable wealth in the form of lands. Balbir was also good in managing the lands productively. Balbir grew old and died one day. Ganesh took up his father’s place and showed that he was equally capable in managing the lands. Their wealth continued to grow.
There were a couple of jealous neighbours who were always looking for an opportunity to pull down Balbir’s growth and now that he was not around anymore, they got a chance. They casually mentioned to Naresh and Umesh that Ganesh was actually their step brother and it was he who was wielding the baton now and if left unchecked, he could any day drive away Naresh and Umesh.

The brothers were shocked. They went to their mother and demanded to know the truth. The mother admitted that as for his being their step brother, what the neighbours told was true. “But sons,” said she, “Ganesh Bhaiyya is so affectionate to you. Why on the earth do you imagine that he would drive you away?” The brothers were unwilling to relent. Naresh said, “I am so angry that I want to murder him” Umesh added, “My blood boils to think that we have been sharing our wealth with a step brother. Hmmph..I want to get rid of him forever!” Seetha, a kind soul as she was felt very distressed to see their anger and wanted to teach them a lesson. “Okay sons,” she said, “You do not show your anger thus. I will get rid of him”. The sons were pacified.

A few days later, Naresh and Umesh had gone to see their cousin in the next village. That night, Ganesh and his mother were asleep. Suddenly Ganesh heard his mother scream loud “Snake! Snake!” Ganesh woke up with a start and took up the stick near his bed. “Where mother? Where is it?”, he asked looking around everywhere. Seetha, with a frightened look on her face said, “I… I saw it.. entering your mouth and it vanished…” Saying thus, she fainted.
Ganesh was shell-shocked as he had this habit of sleeping with his mouth open. He immediately sprinkled some water on his mother and she woke up. He comforted her saying that it must be a dream and she went back to sleep. But that night changed Ganesh totally. He became very worried and kept on thinking of the snake. He could not rest his mind.
Slowly over the days, he was not talking much and was always seen with a worried and depressed look. He did not eat much and did not do any physical work. He did not seem to be interested in any material thing. This took a toll on his health and within two weeks he became bed-ridden.

His younger brothers were feeling gleeful for without physically getting rid of him, he was now out of active life and now they had all the wealth to themselves to manage and they totally ignored Ganesh and started to take their own decisions. The jealous neighbours were waiting for this day. Slowly, they started interfering in the brothers’ decisions and imposing their will. One of them even occupied a chunk of land belonging to the brothers, by putting up a small house, on the pretext that it was to supervise the rice planting in his field which was nearby. The other neighbour also was planning a similar exercise on another portion of the land. Umesh and Naresh could physically work very hard no doubt, but they did not possess the assertiveness or shrewdness that their elder brother Ganesh had.

Slowly, Umesh and Naresh started to realise that they were being taken for a ride by the neighbours and in no time, the neighbours would usurp the whole of their wealth. For the first time, they felt very sore about their own attitude towards Ganesh. They felt that if Ganesh had been around, all this could have been averted. That night they spoke out their mind to their mother and told her that they realised how mean they were. “We thought of killing Bhaiyya,” said Naresh. “We are ashamed, mother, of how bad we have been” echoed Umesh. “Poor Bhaiyya, we have not been even talking to him for the past two months. After how well he has protected father’s property, we realise how good he is, and….mother, as you said, we feel Ganesh Bhaiyya would not have even dreamt of chasing us away”. He continued, “But, what is the use now, Bhaiyya is bed-ridden and looks miserable. I do not know whether we can save him even. I shall go to the town tomorrow and find out if the Vaid (doctor) can come home and see Bhaiyya”.

Seetha saw that the brothers had realised their folly. She told them, “ Naresh and Umesh, before you go to the doctor, go to the temple of the Goddess in the hills and stay a night there and offer prayers. Then you can come home and go to the doctor”. “As you say, mother said the brothers and started for the temple the very next morning.

That night, again, Ganesh heard his mother shriek in the middle of the night. “Snake” she cried, “Ganesh, a snake!!!” Ganesh was not able to get up. But Seetha got up and lit a lamp and happily said, Ganesh, I saw the same snake which entered your mouth, go out of your mouth. There… there, it slid out through the window.” Ganesh who was so weak and could not even sit up, slowly got up. His face had a relieved look. “Are you sure mother? “ he asked. “Yes” said Seetha. It was the same snake. It got out of your mouth and slid away”. That was enough. Ganesh was up early in the morning and was feeling hungry. Seetha gladly gave him breakfast. He ate well that day and chatted with his mother on the goings on in their lands. When he heard about the antics of the neighbours, he was furious and vowed to shoo them away from their land.

The next day when Naresh and Umesh returned, they were pleasantly surprised to see Ganesh sitting up in his bed and eating. They fell at his feet and asked for forgiveness for their rude behaviour. Ganesh had not a wee bit of hatred and he embraced them and told them, he would be up soon and would start working. Both the brothers were relieved and so was Seetha.

For, she knew the Power of the Mind!!

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 Story Of Appoodhi Adigal – one of the sixty-three Nayanmars

This is the story of Appoodhi Adigal who is one of the sixty three saivite saints (Nayanmars).

Appoodhi was a Brahman living in Thingaloor, which is situated near Tiruvaiyaru of Tanjore District. He was a great philanthropist as he believed that service to mankind was service to God. He built many buildings, roads etc. and used to erect Thanneer Pandhals in summer. Thanneer Pandhals were kiosks erected to supply cool water and buttermilk to thirsty people in summer.

Appoodhi Adigal was a great devotee of Lord Shiva and loved to serve the devotees of Lord Shiva. He had heard a great deal about Saint Tirunavukkarasar and revered him equal to God even without seeing him! His respect for Navukkarasar was so much that he named every thing, every being as Tirunavukkarasar. The road built by him were Tirunavukkarasar road, his cows were named Tirunavukkarasar, the things in his house were referred to as Tirunavukkarasar and his sons were also named Periya Tirunavukkarasar (meaning Senior) and Siriya Tirunavukkarasar (Meaning Junior).

Once, it so happened that the Saint Tirunavukkarasar was visiting a temple near Thingaloor and since it was a hot day, went to have some water at the Thanneer Pandhal there. Just as he had water he noticed the name engraved in bold letters “TIRUNAVUKKARASAR THANNEER PANDHAL”. The saint was amused that his name was written so boldly and enquired with the people there about this. The people told him about the devotion Appoodhi had towards Saint Tirunavukkarasar and told him that he had just left the Pandhal a while back to his house which was nearby. The Saint wanted to meet Appoodhi and went to his house.

Sighting a Saint outside the entrance of his house, Appoodhi came hurriedly and welcomed him with all warmth. The Saint then congratulated Appoodhi on the good work he was doing, but asked him why everything was named after someone else and not in his name itself. Appoodhi Adigal was enraged at the word “someone else” and he admonished the saint about not knowing about Tirunavukkarasar despite being a Saivite saint. The time had come for Saint Tirunavukkarasar to disclose his identity. “I am that ‘some else’ ” said he, much to the pleasant shock of Appoodhi Adigal. “I am that Navukkarasar who was tested by Lord Shiva many a time”. Appoodhi Adigal was overwhelmed with joy and tears rolled down his cheeks. He did not for a moment know what to do. Then, he called out to his wife and children and introduced Saint Tirunavukkarasar to them. They were equally overjoyed and honoured the saint by washing his feet and fell at his feet for blessings. Appoodhi Adigal insisted that the saint should have lunch with them and the saint agreed.

Appoodhi’s wife cooked a good meal and called out to her elder son, “Periya Tirunavukkarasu” said she, “go to the garden and get a big plantain leaf for the guest”. The boy hurried with a knife in hand and just as he cut the leaf, a snake on the tree, dug its poisonous fangs into his hands. The boy shrieked and realised immediately that he would fall dead any moment but his thought was all that the leaf should be delivered to his mother so that the guest would not be delayed for lunch. So he ran back staggering under the effect of the poison which was working real fast and handed over the leaf to the mother and fell dead at her feet.

The lady immediately realised what had happened and was shell shocked and called in her husband and told him what had happened. But then the foremost thought in both their minds was that the guest should not go away if he knew this had happened. So they both decided to pretend that nothing had happened and so wrapped the body of the boy in a mat and kept it in the back yard.

The guest was invited to the inner room where the lunch was to be served. It was the habit of Saint Tirunavukkarasar to smear the Holy Ash before partaking food. So he smeared the Holy Ash on himself and also gave the same to Appoodhi, his wife and younger son.

Noticing that the elder son was absent he asked Appoodhi, “Where is Periya Tirunavukkarasu? Call him, for I will give him also Sacred Ash before I start eating”. Appoodhi could say nothing and said “He is not in a position to come now O’ Lord. Please go ahead and have your food”. The Saint was insistent. “No”, he said, “please call him. I will have food only after I give him the Sacred Ash”. Now Appoodhi Adigal had no other go than to tell him the truth. He reluctantly told him what had happened, with more concern that the guest would go away without having food.

Saint Tirunavukkarasar was moved by the philanthropic attitude of the entire Appoodhi family and told Appoodhi Adigal to bring the body of his dead son to the Shiva Temple there. Appoodhi Adigal and his wife, trembling with mixed emotions, brought the body of their dead son and placed him outside the temple. The Saint then, prayed to Lord Shiva and sang ten songs starting with “Onru Kolaam”. The dead boy got up as if waking up from sleep and came and got the blessings of his parents and the Saint. The onlookers were surprised beyond measure.

The Saint went back to Appoodhi’s house and had food. It is said that even at that juncture Appoodhi and his wife were asking for forgiveness for the delay caused by their family in feeding the guest!!! Saint Tirunavukkarasar stayed with Appoodhi family for some time giving them great joy!!

The lion, monkey, snake and the merchant

Once upon a time, in an ancient city of India, lived a simpleton by name ‘Dharmabuddhi’. He was a very kind-hearted soul who helped anybody in need be it man or animal, expecting nothing in return. He was not a very rich person and lived a very frugal life.

One day, Dharmabuddhi was going to visit his friend in the next village. As he was passing by an open well in the nearby woods, he heard sounds of a lion grunting, a monkey screeching, a snake hissing and a man yelling for help. He peered into the well and saw all of them in distress. True to his nature, He pulled a long log of wood and pushed it into the well. The animals climbed out one by one but the man was not able to climb out without Dharmabuddhi’s help. When Dharmabuddhi tried to pull out the man, all the animals told Dharmabuddhi not to help the man get out. But Dharmabuddhi ignored them and rescued the man. What a mistake that was. All of them thanked Dharmabuddhi profusely and asked him to call them in times of distress. The lion told Dharmabuddhi to visit him in the deep jungle while the snake told Dharmabuddhi to think of him if Dharmabuddhi wanted help. The monkey told him to visit the mango tree which was located on the outskirts of the jungle and the merchant who so happened to be a gold merchant told Dharmabuddhi to visit him in the next town after passing the deep jungle. All of them  returned to their respective homes.

One day, Dharmabuddhi heard from one of his friends that there were better job opportunities in the neighbouring town. So, he set off to the neighbouring town in search of a job. He had to pass through the forest to get to the town. After walking for a while, Dharmabuddhi got tired and sat down under a tree to rest. The tree happened to be in a lion’s territory.

Suddenly there was a deafening roar and Dharmabuddhi sat rooted to the ground. He slowly turned around and what did he see? He saw a lion sitting right behind him. To his surprise, the lion did not attack him. The lion looked familiar to Dharmabuddhi. Aha! This was the lion that Dharmabuddhi saved!! The lion had recognized Dharmabuddhi instantly. It allowed Dharmabuddhi to hug him and it dropped a gold  necklace which it was having in its mouth at Dharmabuddhi’s feet.  Dharmabuddhi picked the glittering gold necklace up, thanked the lion and continued his journey. He thought he would sell this necklace to the gold merchant who he had rescued earlier and who was living there.

He had walked for a while when suddenly a gang of robbers pounced on him and took away his only radiant hope of feeding his family, the gold necklace. Helpless Dharmabuddhi sat under a mango tree thinking of what he would do now. Luck had favoured him so much in the last few minutes and now  his hopes were just washed away by the awful robbers. The monkey whom Dharmabuddhi had saved lived on this very tree. The monkey had witnessed what happened to  Dharmabuddhi and was determined to help him. He gathered some juicy mangoes and threw it near Dharmabuddhi. Surprised Dharmabuddhi looked up and saw the monkey smiling at him. Dharmabuddhi immediately recognized his old friend and asked him to also have some of the juicy mangoes. The monkey, who didn’t want to disappoint Dharmabuddhi climbed down and had two of the juicy mangoes he had given him. Sleepy after eating these mangoes, Dharmabuddhi  laid down and slept. The monkey, waiting for this moment jumped from tree to tree to find  robbers. Soon he found the robbers who so happened to be also sleeping under a tree. The monkey slowly and stealthily climbed down from the tree and found the  necklace. He grabbed it and  returned to his mango tree to find Dharmabuddhi. Dharmabuddhi had just woken up from his sleep and was searching for the monkey to bid him goodbye. The monkey landed near Dharmabuddhi and gave him the  necklace. Overjoyed by his friends’ faithfulness, he hugged the monkey and set off for the  town yet again.

After he reached the next town, he went in search of the merchant. Finally, Dharmabuddhi found the  merchant. The merchant welcomed Dharmabuddhi to his house and asked what Dharmabuddhi’s problem was. Dharmabuddhi told the merchant that had a gold necklace to be sold and also told him that the lion gave him the necklace. The wicked merchant recognized that this necklace belonged to the prince of this town who was killed while he was hunting. The merchant very well knew that Dharmabuddhi would not have committed this crime but he thought of the reward the king would give him of finding the “murderer”. He told Dharmabuddhi to stay at his house for the night as Dharmabuddhi would be ‘tired’ and the naive Dharmabuddhi agreed.

The merchant woke up early next morning and set off to the palace to inform the king that he had found the ‘murderer’. The depressed king, without holding any trial, put Dharmabuddhi in prison. Desolate Dharmabuddhi now realized that he should have listened to his friends’ advice and not helped the merchant. He realized that after all he had one more friend left, the snake. He thought desperately of the snake and suddenly he heard a hiss from the tiny window of the prison. Immediately, he saw a slim green snake slither into the prison cell from the window. Dharmabuddhi could not believe his eyes. This snake was the snake he had saved! The snake now spoke. “hisssssssss… dear Dharmabuddhi hissssssss why did you believe the cunning merchant………… you can’t do anything about it now………………. but i can………… I have brought  a herb which can cure my venomousssssssss ssssssssnake bite………… I will now bite the queen and nobody can sssssssssave her…………. except you……………. pour this herb juice in her mouth…….and she will be sssssssaved…………….the king will be overjoyed…….and release you……….good luck……………. ” The snake dropped a herb in front of Dharmabuddhi and  slithered out of the window. Soon it entered the  queen’s chamber and bit her. The queen instantly fell unconsious. The king now even more depressed announced that he would grant anyone anything they wish if they saved the queen. He summoned doctors from distant towns and villages but nobody could help.

Dharmabuddhi also heard of the announcement of the king and he seized the chance. He asked the king to allow him to cure the queen. The frantic king allowed Dharmabuddhi to cure the queen. As the snake had said, Dharmabuddhi crushed this herb and poured it into the queen’s mouth. The queen immediately regained consciousness. The  king, overjoyed by Dharmabuddhi’s help asked him what he wanted. Dharmabuddhi immediately narrated his story of how he got the necklace and how he was cheated by the merchant. The king got very angry at the merchant and wanted to punish him.  Dharmabuddhi told the king not to. Dharmabuddhi said that it would be bad if we take revenge on people who do bad to us. Dharmabuddhi also told the king about his shortage of money. The king instantly gave Dharmabuddhi a bag of gold coins and told Dharmabuddhi to start a business in this very town.

Dharmabuddhi, thrilled by this gesture of the king shifted to this town with his family and lived happily ever after thanking his friends and visiting them whenever he could.

 

P.S: This story has been written by my daughter who has listened to this story many times in her childhood. I have only edited it.

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