Thursday, 23 May 2019

Saiva Saint Karaikkal Ammaiyar

 Karaikal Ammaiyar (meaning “the revered mother from Karaikkal”), one of the three women amongst the 63 Nayanmars, is one of the greatest figures of early Tamil Literature. She was born at Karaikkal, South India and lived during the 6th Century. She was a great devotee of Lord Shiva.  A devotee, whom the Lord himself called his Mother, was Karaikkal Ammaiyaar!

                                      image source: google images

Born in the town of Karaikkal to a rich merchant, Karaikkal Ammaiyar was originally named Punithavathi. Punithavathi was devoted to Lord Shiva right from her childhood. When she came of age, her father got her married to another merchant by name Paramadattan from Nagapattinam. But as she was his only child, her father did not want her to stay away. Hence he built a house near his place for his daughter and son-in-law and made them live close by.

Punithavthi and Paramadattan started their life in Karaikkal. One day when Paramadattan was at work, a visitor brought him two mangoes. He sent the mangoes home. Punithavathiyar was alone at home. A devotee of Lord Shiva  came for food. Punithavathiyar offered him lunch and also one of the mangoes her husband had sent.

                                image source: google images

Later, when Paramadattan came home for lunch, he asked for a mango and ate it. He found the mango very sweet and wanted to eat the other mango too. Worried that Paramadattan may be angry if she said she had given it away, Punithavathi went inside and prayed to Lord Shiva. 
                                                      image source: google images

Miraculously, she got a mango in her hand and took it to her husband. Paramadattan found this mango extremely tasty and asked his wife about it. Punithavathi came out with the truth that the Lord had given it to her. Unable to believe this, Paramadattan asked Punithavathi to request the Lord for one more mango. She did this promptly and gave him the third mango (the second miraculous one). The mango vanished from Paramadattan’s hand.

                                             images Source: google images

Now Paramadattan understood that his wife was no ordinary woman and decided that he could not continue to live with her. He said he was going out of town on business and sailed out of the country. He came back and settled down in a town in Pandyanadu.He also married again and had a daughter. He named his daughter Punithavathi out of respect for his first wife.

Coming to know that Paramadattan was living in another town nearby, Punithavathi’s relatives took her to him. When they met, Paramadattan fell at Punithavathiyar’s feet along with his family members. The relatives were surprised to see the husband falling at his wife’s feet. Paramadattan then narrated the story of the mangoes to the relatives. Understanding that her husband would never live with her any more, Punithavathi wanted to give up her youth. She prayed to the Lord to change her form to a skeletal ghost (பேய் உருவம்). Her prayer was answered and she immediately transformed into a ghost. She proceeded to Kailasam in that form.

 Reaching Kailasam, she did not want to walk on her feet and hence started walking on her head. Goddess Parvathi enquired Lord Shiva about the ghost form walking upside down towards them. The Lord said, it was his “Mother” who was on her way to meet him. Punithavathiyar became Karaikkal Ammaiyar as the Lord himself called her His mother. She reached the Lord and fell at his feet, calling Him her father. She conveyed her wish to see His cosmic dance and the Lord asked her to reside in Thiruvalangaadu and see his dance there forever. Karaikkal Ammaiyar reached Thiruvalangaadu and once there, she could see only the Lord everywhere and hence continued to walk on her head. Here she sang the Lord’s praise and attained mukti.

Karaikkal Ammaiyar has composed many hymns on the Lord like “Arpudha Thiruvandhadhi”, “Irattai Mani Malai” and “Thiruvaalankaadu Mootha Thiruppthigam”.

About Maangani Thiruvizha celebrated in Kararikal

karaikkal ammaiyar during Maangani festival

Maangani Thiruvizha/Mango Festival is celebrated in Karaikaal every year. It is celebrated in the memory of Lord Bikshantar who will be provided food by Karaikal Ammaiyar during the Tamil month of Aani [June-July]. People from different parts of Tamil Nadu bring varieties of mangoes for this festival and offer it Lord Shiva and Karaikkal Ammaiyar. Each day the Panchamurthi or the Five divine Gods idol are taken through the streets of Karaikal. On the main day of the festival the huge idol of Lord Bikshantanr is taken through the streets. People are distributed curd and mangoes in the streets and in the temple. On that day, people throw Maangani or Mangoes from their roof tops towards the crowd. Goodness of eating the Mango caught in the festival includes blessings of Lord Shiva and those who did not have children for long years will surely give birth.
Kaaraikkal Ammaiyar Kovil


                                 images source: google images

The event of Saiva Saint Karaikkal Ammayar reaching Kailasa in her “Ghost body” is celebrated the next day.

The two hymns Rettai Mani Maali and Thiruvandadhi would be recited. After chanting, all the lights in the temple would be put off and lamp of Lord Shiva and Ammaiyar would be lit. The lamp of Ammayar would be taken to Lord Shiva and placed together signifying the reaching of Ammayar to the Lotus feet of Lord Shiva in Jyothi form.


Thiru Kannappa Nayanar

Thiru Kannappa Nayanar

Thiru  Kannappa Nayanar was one of the 63 Nayanars, an ardent devotee of lord Shiva who did not hesitate to pluck his eyes and offered it to SriKaalahastheeswarar. Long ago, there lived a hunter named Nagan in a place called Uduppu near SriKalahasti. His name was Nagan and he was the chieftain of the hunting tribal group. Nagan and his wife Uduppura did not have any children. They were great devotees of Lord Murugan. After deep penances and prayers, they were blessed with a very beautiful baby boy whom they named as Thinnan.
                                               image source: google images
Thinnan was taught archery, martial arts and other skills by his father and other elders of the tribal group. Thinnan in Tamil means strong, as the name suggest he grew into strong young boy who mastered archery in a very short period of time.

Nagan felt that he was getting old and the hunting group needed a young Chieftain. So he consulted with all the elders and appointed Thinnan the next Chieftain. Thinnan discharged his duties well and led the tribes on hunting expeditions successfully.

On one such hunt, Thinnan was separated from his friends, and he found himself in an unknown part of the jungle. Trying to find his way out, he came across a Shiva Lingam [Kaalahastheeswarar].  Thinnan found himself mysteriously attracted to the Lingam. He was filled with a desire to make an offering to the deity and stay back with the lingam. Thinnan immediately asked his friend to make a fire and cook the boar. After the meat was cooked, he chose the perfectly cooked meat pieces  and placed it before the Lord with great love.
                                       image source: google images

Thinnan did not want to leave the Lord due to inexplicable affection he had towards Shivan. He decided to stay back, so he asked his friend to convey the same message to his parents and stayed with the Lord.

Every day, Thinnan went for hunting, catch some prey, cook the meat and offered it with great love to Lord Shiva. He did not have any utensils, so he filled up his mouth with water and pluck wild flowers and bring them in his matted hair as he would be carrying the meat in his hands. He spit the water on the Lord doing the abishekam and placed the cooked meat in front of the Lord. He would decorate the Lingam with the wild flowers and adorned the beauty of the lord, this was his daily routine.

This Shivalingam was taken care by a Brahmin who lived in a nearest town. He was a great devotee of the Lord, who did the Pooja everyday with great devotion. The Brahmin returned to the shrine the day after Thinnan had made his offerings, and was shocked to see the meat lying next to the lord! He assumed that some animals must have left the meat there, and cleaned it well with fresh water from a nearby stream before continuing with his routine. The Brahmin left that day, satisfied that he had done his duty.

The next time the Brahmin returned to the shrine, he was repulsed by the sight he saw! There was meat all over the place again, and this time, the Lingam was covered by spittle! This was not the work of an animal, but a human being! How could anyone thus defile the Lord? He patiently cleaned up the shrine before chanting the mantras and purified the Lingam before making his offerings. Again, he left, having done his duty, hoping that such sacrilege would not occur again.

Disgusted by the situation, he could not control his tears and addressed the lord aloud, “O Lord, you are the purest of all, the greatest of all Gods. How can you allow such indignities to happen to you yourself? You are the protector of the universe. Please help me solve this mystery.”

Lord Shiva was moved by the Brahmin’s plea, and spoke out to his devotee, “My dear devotee, what you consider indignities is the offering made to me by another devotee. He knows nothing of rituals and correct practices, but, like you, he loves me with all his heart. I am bound by his devotion, and have to accept all that he offers me. If you wish to see the extent of his love for me, hide somewhere and see what happens. It is time for him to come.”

The Brahmin was curious about this devotee whom the Lord himself praised and hid behind the tree. Thinnan came very soon, as usual carrying meat in his hands and water in his mouth. As he poured the water from his mouth on the lingam and made his offerings, the Brahmin was shocked.

Thinnan pleaded the Lord to accept his offerings, at that time he looked closely at the Lord. Suddenly, he noticed that there was something oozing from the Lord’s left eye! Horrified, he collected herbs and applied them to the eye, hoping to cure the problem, but it only made it worse, for blood started oozing out of Lords eyes. He tried out a few more remedies, none of which worked.

                                       image source: google images
Finally, he decided that the only way he could solve the problem was by offering the Lord his own eye. Taking one of his knives, he cut his left eye out of its socket, and placed it on the lord! At once, the blood stopped oozing, and Thinnan was relieved.

Suddenly, he was shocked to notice that the right eye was now bleeding the same way! He now knew the solution and decided to offer his other eye too. But once he had taken his right eye out, how would he see where to place it? He pondered for a minute, and came up with a solution. Lifting his leg, he placed it on the place where the Lord had his right eye, and with his knife, proceeded to take out his right eye from its socket!

Even the lord could not bear to see this great sacrifice by his devotee, and appeared in front of him.  The Lord addressed, “Halt, Kannappa, Halt!”, you are Kannappa as you have offered your eye to me!”.  The Brahmin too came out from hiding, and bowed before the Lord.
                                Kannappa Nayaynar Sannidhi in Thiru Kaalahasthi
                                     image source: google images
                                           Kannnappa Nayanar Sannidhi - Thiru Kaalahasthi
                                            image source: google images
Lord Shiva blessed both of them and praised them for their devotion, in their own way. He especially lauded Thinnan, and declared him to be a saint – a Nayanar, as the greatest of Shiva’s devotees were known. Since he had given up his eyes (kann is one of the words for eye) for the Lord, he would henceforth be known as Kannappa Nayanar.


Saturday, 18 May 2019

Nayanmars/Nayanars – an introduction

Nayanmars/Nayanars – an introduction

The Nayanars/Nayanmars were a group of 63 saints (also saint poets) in the 6th to 8th century who were devoted to the Hindu god Shiva in Tamil Nadu. They, along with Alwars, influenced the Bhakthi movement in Tamil Nadu. The collection of hymns by many devotees is called “Panniru Thirumurai”.

63 Nayanars
image source: google images

These Thirumurais were composed over a number of years by devotees who lived during different periods and there was no information about any palm scriptures of the same. Many hyms were sung in temples regularly and hearing one, King Raja Raja Cholan was ecstatic.

He wanted to find out more about such compositions and also if any written records were available. He requested Nambi Andar [his minister &priest] to help him find these who in turn requested the Polla Pillayar of Thirunaraiyur to let them know the location of these scriptures.

On hearing from Lord Ganapathi that the original palm scripts of the hymns were kept locked in a chamber in the Chidambaram temple. The King and Nambi Andar Nambi proceeded to Chidambaram. On opening the chamber, they were shocked to see that most of the palm leaves were eaten away by white ants and they could recover only some of it.

Chidambaram Temple
image source: Google images

The list of the Nayanars was initially compiled by Sundarar (Sundararmurthi). In his poem, Tiruthonda Thogai, he sings, in eleven verses, the names of the Nayanar saints up to Karaikkal Ammeiyar, and refers to himself as "the servant of servants". The list was expanded by Nambiyandar Nambi during his compilation of material by the poets for the “Thirumurai” collection [1-11], would include Sundarar himself and Sundarar's parents. 

Naalvar- Appar, Sundarar, Manikavasagar, Thirugnanasambandar
image courtesy: google images

Thirumurais 1, 2 and 3 are the verses sung by Thirugnana Sambandar called Thevaram. It is also called Thirkkadai kaapu.
Thirumurais 4, 5 and 6 are the hymns sung by Thirunavakarasar (Appar) called Thevaram.

Thirumurai 7 is by Sundaramurthy Nayanar also called Thevaram. It is also called Thiruppaatu.

Thirumurai 8 is the Thiruvasagam and Thirukkovaiyar by Manickavasagar.

Thirumurai 9 consists of the verses of Thiru Maligai Thevar  and eight others Senthanar , Karuvur Thevar ,  Poonthuruthi Kaadanambi, Kandaraathithar,    Venaatuadigal , Thiruvaaliamudhanaar , Purutothama Nambi , Sethirayar  and it is called Thirvisaippa and Thiruppallaandu.

Thirumurai 10 is the Thirumandiram by Thirumoolar.

Thirumurai 11  by Lord Thiru Aaalavaiudayar  (Lord Shiva) himself and eleven others Karaikal Ammaiyar, Iyadigal Kadavarkon, Seraman Perumal,  Nakeerar, Kalladar, Kabilar, Baranar, Ilamperuman Adigal , Athiraavadigal , Patinathu adigal. This Thirumurai also includes the hymns sung by Nambi Andar Nambi who compiled all of the above. This is also called Prabhandam.

Thirumurai 12 is the Periya Puranam  by Sekkizhar. This was written very much later compared to the compilation of the first eleven Thirumurais and documents the devotion and the life of 63 Nayanmars to their Lord.  This was initially called Thiruthondar Puranam and later came to be called as Periya Puranam and considered as the twelth Thirumurai.  


The Princess and the Frog

In a distant kingdom lived a king with three lovely daughters in a magnificent castle. The youngest princess loved to live a simple life, enjoying the beauty of Mother Nature. However, she had a golden ball in her possession which was her favourite. She would play with it to pass her time.

                                  image courtesy: Google images
Behind the castle, there is an abandoned well. No one goes there. The princess however loves to play there as she would be alone. One day, she was playing with her golden ball near the well. But it slipped and fell inside the well. The princess started crying. She had lost her favourite ball. Just then …

“I can help you get the ball.” Said a voice.

“Who was that?”, wondered the princess.

“Over here”, said the voice. When the princess looked down, she saw a frog!

“How will you get the ball? You are a frog?” exclaimed the astonished princess.

The frog then said that he would get the ball back, only if the princess would take care of him, let him eat from her plate and sleep on her bed. The princess readily agreed, for she wanted the ball. Within a moment, the frog dived in the well, and was back with ball in his mouth. Without even thanking him, the princess ran away to the castle.

That evening, when the princess was having dinner with her family, the princess heard a scratching noise from the door. When she opened it, she found the frog.

“Oh no!” muttered the princess.

“Well princess, you forgot your promise and I am here to remind you of it .” said the frog.
The king was puzzled and asked for an explanation. The princess narrated the entire incident.

“Well dear, a promise can never be broken, so you will have to take care of your friend.” said the king.

The princess unwillingly agreed and fed the frog all evening. In the process, she lost her appetite. She got off from the table and went straight into her room, where she quickly undressed and got ready for bed. However, the frog was already on her bed.

                                 image source: Google images

“Get off the bed!” screamed the princess.

“Well, there is one way you could get rid of me” said the frog. “If you give me a kiss on my lips, I shall never disturb you again.”

“Disgusting,” thought the princess. However, she wanted to get rid of the frog so badly, she closed her eyes and quickly kissed the frog’s slimy lips.

Just that instant, there was a blinding flash in her room and in place of the frog stood a handsome young prince. He explained that a wicked witch had cast a spell on him and turned him into a frog and the only way the spell could be broken was the kiss of a young princess.

So the princess and the prince married and lived happily ever after.

The End.

Rewritten by my daughter
Harshini Anandakumar

Dot – The Little Princess

Once upon a time in an anthill lived a princess named Dot. Her sister Pink was the queen of the anthill. She was a good queen but worried a lot. Even though she tried not to, but the circumstance at the anthill made her worry a lot.

                                  image source: google images

There were big, mean grasshoppers, who would come to collect most of the grain they harvested every year leaving nothing for them to eat.

Dot had a friend name Flik. He was an inventor. He once made a telescope with water and a rolled up leaf.

                                    Source: google images

One day as the grasshoppers came, everyone ran inside the anthill. Flick was left outside. He accidently knocked over the entire offering of grain into the river. The grasshoppers were very angry. But the ants sent them away by telling they would give more grain next time.

Flik felt bad and hence went to find warrior bugs to protect the anthill. But he accidentally brought circus bugs. So, he made everyone make a bird with leaves and twigs. They thought they could scare the grasshoppers away and it worked. But suddenly the wind was strong and it blew the leaves away. The grasshoppers were very angry.

One of the circus bugs brought a real bird to scare the grasshoppers away. The anthill did not face any problems ever since.

The End.
Rewritten by my daughter
Ishanvi Anandakumar

Friday, 17 May 2019

Thiru Kungiliya Kalayar Nayanar

Thiru Kungiliya Kalayar was born in Thirukadavoor/Thirukayur located on the river banks of Cauvery.  It is one of the famous villages in the Chola Kingdom where the well-known temple of Lord Shiva – Sri Amritha Ghateshwarar and his consort Goddess Abirami is situated.

                                    Image source: Google images

Kungiliya Nayanar was a Brahmin and a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva.  His wife was also equally devoted to Lord and they lived a righteous life.  He carries a pot of sambrani/incense [Kungiliyam – is the gum from the kungiliyam tree which is a natural incence] – a substance burned for pleasant fragrance with him.   He made it a regular practice to keep burning incense for its fragrance before lord Shiva and treated it as a service.  He served the devotees of Lord with great passion.  He spent a large part of his wealth in the service to Lord.  Gradually, he found it difficult to meet the minimum daily expenses in the family.  He sold all his properties and nothing remained, still he continued his sincere service to Lord.

                                     Image source: Google images

One day, seeing the unending poverty at home Kungiliya Kalayar’s wife handed Kalayar with her Mangalya Sutra/Maangalyam (A sacred chain worn by married woman) which was only thing left with her.  Kungiliya Kalayar without any hesitation went to the market to sell the sacred chain of his wife, in order to get some rice, vegetables to wave off the hunger of their children.

 The most compassionate Lord wanted to test the devotion of Kungiliyar and spread his glories to this world.  Lord disguised in the form of an incense seller and appeared before Kungiliya Kalayar.  Seeing the incense with an exceptional fragrance, Kungiliya Kalayar totally forgot any of the requests his wife has made for the purchase of provision.  He instantly, gave the Mangalya Sutra to the incense seller and returned with sacks of sambrani/kungiliyam.  He marched towards the temple and started to burn the kungiliyam in front of lord Shiva.

                                     Image source: Google images

Kungiliya Kalayar’s wife patiently waited for her husband to return home with the provisions.  The whole day passed without any news of him.  She put the children to sleep and continued waiting for her husband. She continued to pray for her husband’s safe return.  On that night, Lord Shiva appeared in her dream and blessed her with all the prosperity for their sincere devotion to Lord.  She abruptly woke up from the sleep and was amazed to see all kinds of richness in their home.  The whole house was transformed into an expensive and attractive looks. Once again, she wholeheartedly sang praising the glory of Lord.  She rushed to cook an elaborate and delicious meal for the whole family and waited for her husband’s return.

Kungiliya Kalayar who was in the temple immersed at the devotion to Lord, suddenly heard a divine voice instructing Kungiliya Kalayar to return home and have an elaborate meal with his family.  Kungiliya Kalayar was not aware of the hours he had spent before the deity, started to follow the divine instruction.  When he reached home, he was astounded to see the splendid beauty and its grandeur with the grace of Lord.  Soon, the devotees of Lord assembled and sang praising the glory of Lord.  Kungiliya Kalayar and his wife served them with utmost respect and honour.  He continued his divine service to Lord with the enormous wealth.  He firmly believed that the wealth belongs to almighty Shiva and it should be utilized only to the service of Lord.

Kungiliya Kalayar made a visit to the temple of Lord Aruna Satesar, Thiruppanandal.  This is the temple where Thadaka - daughter of a demon worshipped Lord Shiva for an offspring.  Seeing her unparalleled devotion, Lord Aruna Satesar worshipped in the form of Lingam made a sharp bend for Thadaka so that she could decorate the Lingam with the flower garlands.   Many of the villagers tried to straighten up the Lingam with their mighty force; unfortunately none of them were successful. 

The King was deeply distressed at this and desired to set straight the Lingam.   Kungiliya Kalayar genuinely concerned about the King and wanted to eradicate his agony.  He tied a rope on his neck and the other end on the Lingam; he gently pulled out and straightened the curve of the Lingam.   Everyone was amazed at the devotion of Kungiliya Kalayar and deities showered flowers upon him.  Kungiliya Kalayar continued his divine service to Lord and finally attained the Abode of Lord Shiva.

Birthplace: Thirukadavoor/Thirukadaiyur

Star: Aavani Moolam


Thiru Poosalar Nayanar

Thiru Poosalar is the eight century Nayanar saint and is counted 58th in the list of 63 Nayanmars. Poosalar was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva and always desired to build a beautiful temple for the alimighty.

Thiru Poosalar hailed from a town called Thiruninravur. He was a great devotee of Lord Siva and longed to build a temple for his Lord, though he was a very poor man. He roamed far and wide to get the required funds, but his efforts were not fruitful. He was desperate and distressed beyond words.

Suddenly a thought struck him. "Why do I not attempt to build a temple for my Lord in my heart?" He determined to do so. He studied the Agama Sastras and consulted knowledgeable Sivacharyas. The thought got shape in his mind to build a grand temple for the lord almighty.

image source: google images

He gathered requisite materials in his mind. He approached rich donors and collected huge amounts from them-all in his mind. Expert architects were approached who formulated designs, plans and drawings. He collected artisans, renowned sculptors, labourers and tools. He did not even leave small details, however trivial it might appear on first sight! His thoughts were occupied only with the construction of a grand temple for the Lord and determined to complete the task with great devotion.

On an auspicious day, the corner (foundation) stone was laid according to the rituals. With infinite love and meticulous care he had the temple built brick by brick, stone by stone, pillar by pillar, sculpture by sculpture, day and night, unseen by anyone.

Layer by layer, from the base to the top, the temple was nearing completion. He planned the huge Rajagopuram, other four towers, one each for the four directions, North, East, West and South. He supervised the construction devotedly. The rounded dome, the ancillary pillars, pavilions, shrines and the sacred kalasams were all made ready, worked on the wall sides and niches. Shrines for the Divine Mother, the Lord's Consort, Vinayaka, Muruga, main deity, Durga were completed. Walls and prakarams were laid. The temple tank was dug and filled with clean water fit for abihsekham (anointing)

At last, the temple was fully completed. It was grand, mighty and a rare sight to behold! He consulted the priests, discussed with them in great detail and fixed an auspicious date for the Mahakumbhabhishekam (consecration) of the temple. ..

The Kadava king of Kanchi who was also a great devotee of Lord Shiva had built a magnificent temple of granite, marble, red and black stones. The king decided to perform the Kalsabhishekam on the same date, on which Poosalar had mentally chosen for the installation of the Lord in his temple.

image source: google images

The Lord wanted to show the king the superiority of Poosalar’s great devotion. So, the Lord appeared in the king's dream the night before the sacred consecration date. The king was thrilled. But, the Lord asked him to postpone the installation ceremony in his temple. The Lord explained that He had to be present at the installation and consecration ceremony fixed by His dear devotee Poosalar of Thiruninravur on that same date! That was far more important!

The king woke up from sleep and was intensely eager to have the darshan of the devotee mentioned by the lord and also to have a look at the great temple built by Poosalar, which he considered to be more superior to the temple he built.
                                                       image source: google images

The King moved on to Thiruninravur in search of the temple. The king could not find any temple and so he enquired about the whereabouts of Poosalar. The King spotted Poosalar in the town and asked him about the temple. He also told him about the words of the Lord in his dream.

Poosalar was in tears. He was deeply touched by the grace of the Lord. He told the king that the temple he built was in his mind. The king was surprised to hear this. He admired Poosalar’s devotion and fell at his feet and started to worship him. Poosalar installed Lord Shiva in his heart/hridayam temple and continued to worship till he attained Lord Shiva’s abode.

The King later on built a temple in Thiruninravur – Hridayaleeswarar Temple( the lord who resides in heart) and made the dream of Poosalar Naayanar come true.

                                 Hridayaleeswarar Kovil - Thiruninravur
                                 image source: Google images