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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 Rat Merchant

Long long ago, in one of the port towns of Southern India there was a young man Ramu who was poor, but intelligent. Ramu was going in the market street one day, when he saw a dead rat. The Minister of the Kingdom who was also passing by with his friend looked at the rat and commented to his friend, “An intelligent man can earn thousands of gold coins with this dead rat”. Ramu who was nearby, was puzzled by the minister’s comment but nevertheless knowing that the minister was a shrewd man, picked up the dead rat in his hand and started to go home.
On the way, he was approached by the servant of the army commander, who was out to buy some food for the Commander’s cat. “Sell me this rat”, said the man. Ramu sold the dead rat to him for the price of one gold coin. This was his first earning. He was very happy.

He went to the market and got a big earthen pot and some jaggery with the gold coin. He filled up the pot with sweet water from the stream nearby. He went to the jasmine gardens near the outskirts of the city where the farmers were plucking flowers. He had powdered the jaggery and as the farmers came out tired after the work, he offered them jaggery and water. The farmers were very happy and gave him each a handful of jasmine buds. Ramu strung the buds into garlands and went to the temple a bit far from the town. He sold the flowers to the devotees and the temple and this practice went on for few weeks until Ramu had saved eight gold coins. In the process, Ramu had befriended some people of the next town and was keeping himself aware of the developments in the city.

In the next few days, there was a severe thunderstorm and the following day after the storm had subsided, as Ramu was passing the Royal Garden, he found the Royal Gardener very upset as the garden was strewn with lot of twigs and small branches and dead leaves and the garden had to be cleaned before the next day as the king was holding a party there the next day. Ramu thought for a while and told the gardener that he could clean the garden for him if he was allowed to take all the twigs and branches. The gardener was gratified and happily agreed. Ramu then went and bought some sweets from the mithaiwala with the money he had saved over the days. He found a bunch of young boys playing nearby and told them that if they helped him clear the debris in the Royal Garden, he would reward them with the delicious sweets. The boys were overjoyed and gladly cleared the garden of the twigs and branches and leaves. Ramu gave them the sweets and collected all the twigs and branches and took it home.

The next day was very sunny and Ramu cleverly dried all the twigs and branches. The next day as he was passing by the potter’s house, as he casually enquired about his well being, he came to know that the potter was not having dry wood for baking his pots that day. Ramu immediately encashed this opportunity and sold him the dry twigs and and branches and got fifteen gold coins and ten earthen pots in return. Ramu kept some of the money safely and bought jaggery with the rest.

He now bought jaggery powder and lemon and and went to the  fields where a number of  workers were cutting the weeds and grass. He filled the pots with lime juice and  offered the workers cool lime juice after their day of hard work. They were very pleased and asked him what they could give him in return. Ramu told them that he would ask them at the opportune moment. This went on for a few days. One fine day, Ramu came to know from his friends that a merchant was coming to the city with 500 horses to be sold to the king. Ramu told his worker friends that he would take two bundles of grass from each of them that day and also requested them that they should not sell grass in the coming week. The workers agreed and each of them gave him two bundles of grass.

Over the next few days, a horse trader came with the 500 horses to the town  to sell them to the king. To the horse trader’s surprise, there was not a single grass seller to be seen in the town. But as he passed by the market, he saw Ramu sitting with a lot of grass and he was the only grass seller available. The trader, in his anxiety bought all the grass Ramu had and Ramu made a quick 1000 gold coins that day.

A few days later a ship had arrived in the port carrying lot of precious stones and perfumes. Ramu, was aware that the ship was to arrive and immediately went and met the ship owner. He told the ship owner that he would take all the goods in the ship and gave the thousand gold coins in advance. A day later, the richest merchants and nobles of the town came to know of the ship and flocked to buy the cargo. But the owner said that the whole of the cargo was booked by one Ramu!! They could buy the cargo only if Ramu permitted. They were surprised as they had not known any merchant by name Ramu. Anyway, they enquired and made their way to Ramu’s house and told him that they also wanted to purchase the goods that had arrived from abroad. Ramu acted reluctant  for a while and after some time told them that they may have to pay 200 gold coins each if he was to give up the goods. The merchants had no way but to agree and gave Ramu the coins. This way he collected 10000 gold coins.

He bought a tray full of fruits and a small silk bag in which he put the coins he had earned. He went to the minister’s house and told the security guard that he had come to meet his ‘guru’. The puzzled guard went in and conveyed the same to the minister. The minster was also puzzled as he had not ‘tutored’ any student, but called him in. Ramu went in and presented the fruits along with the gold coins and prostrated at the feet of the minister. He then told him how he overheard his comment on the dead rat few months back and how he had come a long way with the help of the dead rat.

The minister was overwhelmed at the sincerity of Ramu and that he had given so much importance  to a casual remark made by him . He praised Ramu openly and also gave back the money placed in front of him and also announced that he would give his daughter in marriage to Ramu as he was looking for a sincere, hard working, enterprising individual!!

Ramu’s life took a full U-turn and he lived a very happy life ever after.

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