Volume 16 - Issue 02
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Posted on: Feb 12, 2018

How Saint Manikkavasagar Melted into Shiva

Part 03


The "Puttu" Loving Lord - The Eternal Protector

BP: There was one old lady called Pittuvani Ammaiyar. She was called so because she made her living by making a delicacy called pittu which is sweetened rice made into little cones. She was too old and weak to work for the river bund. But the king's instruction was that if someone was not working, then he or she should find a replacement. This meant that the old lady had to hire someone to do her part of the work. But she did not have even enough money for this.

Absolutely helpless, she prayed to Shiva. In a few minutes, a labourer landed up at her door and asked if she was looking for some help. She thanked the Lord and asked the man if he could work in place of her on the river bank.

The man gladly agreed. “But I have no money to give you,” she said. “Do not worry Ammaiyar. Just give me some of your puttu. I have heard so much about it. That is enough reward for me,” the labourer said with a hearty smile.

So Pittuvani Ammaiyar went inside and quickly made some puttu. Strangely the shapes did not come out so well that day. She was upset about it but the man relished those so-called imperfect delicacies as if they were nectar.

Just seeing the person eat so joyfully filled the heart of Ammaiyar. He then took her leave saying, “Let me now go and work for you. You do not worry about anything.”

After he left, when Ammaiyar went back to making her puttus, she noticed something strange. The dough was intact! She had just made several puttus from the same dough but somehow everything had got replenished on its own!

LS: Wow! When the Lord touches us, He completes us in every way. There will be no dearth of anything in our lives once His grace caresses our lives.

Also, look at the extent to which the Lord goes for His devotee. Shiva came down again, now as a labourer!

BP: Yes, this is so moving. Many a times when people do something for the Lord, say, when they give something in charity, they feel, to that extent their resources are reduced. What we do not realise is that the chance to offer something to the Lord is such a priceless blessing because once He accepts our present, we are ever going to be full in every way.

LS: You are so right. One has to experiment and experience this in one's life.

So Pittuvani Ammaiyar was helped but what about Manikkavasagar? Did he come out of prison?


The Light of Mannikkavasagar Hit The Darkness of Ignorance

BP: The story goes that when the king came to inspect the work, he saw that nobody was working on the area allotted to Ammaiyar. On enquiry he found that a labourer had been hired to do the work but this labourer was happily sitting on the grass at a distance and singing songs.

Enraged as this man's ‘callousness’, the king did the most despicable thing he could have ever done. He took a cane and hit the labourer.

LS: Oh my God!

BP: The moment he did this, most mysteriously, his hit recoiled! He was himself hit, no one knows how. No one dare hit the king!

Not only was he hit but all the living beings there also got a taste of the cane.

Everyone was stupefied and stunned into silence. No one had any clue what was happening.

LS: When you hurt God, you hurt Nature. Earlier we saw how the waters of Vaigai rose because the king punished Manikkavasagar. God is clearly telling us, “If you harm My devotee, Nature will not keep quiet as Nature is My vesture.”

BP: The good thing is finally the king woke up. He had to be awakened the hard way. He realised that the Divine had been knocking at his stone heart for far too long. In utter humility, he submitted himself to Shiva and sought His forgiveness.

At this point he heard an ethereal voice which said, “O King! Manikkavasagar is My beloved devotee. Whatever has happened was done only to demonstrate to the world the greatness of My devotee. Go now and release him and seek his blessings.”

LS: God had to literally beat the message into him!

BP: Oh yes! Also, the most moving thing is that in this whole process, He did not mind Himself getting beaten too.

LS: There are no limits to what the Lord would do for the sake of the honour of His devotee.

BP: That is why Shiva is hailed as ‘Neelakantha’; He can drink any poison for the sake of His devotees.

LS: So what happened next? Did the king reinstate Manikkavasagar as his prime minister again?

BP: The king was obviously shocked to his bones. He immediately rushed to the prison. On the way he stopped to see Pittuvani Ammaiyar for whose sake the Lord had come down as a labourer. When he entered her hut, he found that Ammaiyar had already attained salvation.

He then dashed to the prison and seeing Manikkavasagar, he just fell at his feet and sought his pardon. Manikkavasagar was totally taken aback. He wondered if everything was okay with the king. He lifted him and enquired about his welfare with love.

The king instantly said, “Forgive me, please. I was so ignorant. From today, you are the king of this realm. Please take over and rule this kingdom.”

Manikkavasagar understood that the king had somehow realised his follies. He gently replied, “I have already offered my services to someone else. You please continue to look after the welfare of the people. I am at the service of my Lord.” So saying, he blessed the king and donned ochre robes and from then on spent all his time only in singing the glories of Lord Shiva.

LS: So that is when he composed Thiruvasagam?

BP: Yes. His other literary masterpiece is Thiruvempaavai.

LS: In fact in the Shaivism tradition in South India, there are four stalwart saints, Manikkavasagar being one of them. Among the four, he is the only one who was directly initiated by Lord Shiva wherein the Lord came down in the form of a Guru and granted him The Supreme Knowledge.

It is also said that what God told man is there in the Bhagavad Gita, what man told man is present in Thirukkural, written by another great saint Thiruvalluvar, and what man told God is what emerged from Manikkavasagar.

Devotion Walking in Two Feet

BP: Maybe that is why his compositions are considered the acme of devotion. They say, if Manikkavasagar's prayerful compositions do not melt your heart, nothing ever will.

In one of his songs he says:

O hill of gold and precious gems,
Grant in Thy grace to me
A heart to melt, Lord of my life,
In ceaseless love to Thee.

In another he sings:

Oh Loving Lord! My soul, my body, my wealth, all of these You had taken over from me, on the very day when You took me into Your fold. Will I have any misery then, today?

Oh, the Lord of eight shoulders and three eyes, whether You do good or You do bad, how does it matter? Why would I be responsible for it?

Then, there is this one:

And yet my body will not turn from heel to head one heart
To melt in love for Thee, one eye to shed the tears that smart
In swelling floods. Ah! Wretched that I am, who only moan!
My two eyes are unfeeling wood; my heart is a great dead stone.

In this, Manikkavasagar is lamenting why his body has remained a body and not got converted into a heart, even after receiving so much grace from the Lord. He feels that his eyes have become ‘unfeeling wood’ because they are not ceaselessly shedding tears of joy of knowing the Lord. He just felt that he should melt away in praises and memories of His Lord.

In fact that is what really happened too.

Manikkavasagar Decides That a Dumb Should Speak

LS: You mean he melted into Shiva?

BP: Yes, it indeed unfolded that way. Manikkavasagar spent months and years travelling and instilling love for God in the hearts of people everywhere. People were witness to amazing miracles wherever he went. Once for instance, some fanatic Buddhists challenged him for an intellectual discussion.

Manikkavasagar never liked these intellectual gymnastics; he operated only from the heart. However he accepted this challenge because of an indication from Shiva Himself. When the Buddhists started casting a lot of blemishes on Shaivism, Manikkavasagar picked up a dumb girl from the crowd and made her sing the glory of Shiva. This left everyone speechless.


LS: Nothing is impossible once you become a channel of the Lord's power and grace.

The Divine Documents His Devotee Forever

BP: Absolutely. Finally Manikkavasagar arrived at the hallowed shrine of Chidambaram.

Here an old man met him and said, “You are singing such beautiful compositions. If this is written down and documented, it will benefit many more.

"If you don't mind I am willing to put them all down. Please sing them for me. This will be a treasure for coming generations.”

Something told Manikkavasagar to agree to the proposal. So he sat on the footsteps of the shrine of the Chidambaram temple and recited the entire Thiruvasagam. As he did this, the old man meticulously wrote them down on palm leaves. This went on for days.

Then one day when the priest of the Chidambaram temple opened the doors of the shrine he found this bunch of palm leaves at the foot of the idol. Completely bewildered, he picked them up and examined them. What he saw there left him completely flabbergasted.

In every leaf he found a common signature which read: “This work has been penned by the Lord of Chidambaram as dictated by Manikkavasagar.”

LS: Wow! The Lord had come again in the form of a scribe to document His devotee's work!

BP: Isn't that incredible? The priest was so thrilled to see this that he rushed to call Manikkavasagar. When Manikkavasagar himself saw this, he simply broke down like a Himalayan ice avalanche breaks into the Ganga.

“O Lord! You had come again and I didn't recognise You!” he began to piteously lament.

“Have I dictated anything? It is You who recited through me, You are the voice, You are the syllable, You are the music and You are the sound! Why do You ascribe all this to me?” He continued to pray and plead with the Lord. He somehow wanted to see Him. His cries were too heart-rending; even a stone would melt listening to those pleas.

As he prayed in complete submission, at one point he just fell at the feet of Nataraja, the Lord of Chidambaram. His cries continued ceaselessly. In fact the intensity of that moment was so high that everyone present there felt so uplifted.

And the next instant, in front of everyone's eyes, the body of Manikkavasagar turned into a ball of light and merged into the heart of Shiva.

LS: Phenomenal! His final moment could not have been any more glorious!

BP: A fitting finale to such an exalted soul! A journey that started in Thiruperundurai culminated in Chidambaram. In Thiruperendurai Shiva is worshipped as ‘Atmanatha’, the Lord of the Self. Manikkavasagar's tryst with his Self began there.

In Chidambaram, Shiva is present as ‘Akash lingam’ where He has no name or form; He is limitless and boundless. Manikkavasagar melts into this all-powerful and all-pervasive universal consciousness.

LS: Our journey starts with “I am in the light” and then Swami says, we realise that “The light is in me” and finally we reach the stage of “I am the light”. Manikkavasagar became the Light to guide generations of seekers from darkness to enlightenment.

BP: We can only be grateful to the Lord for creating a Manikkavasagar to goad us on this hallowed path and also for blessing us with this opportunity to think of Him and drink this heavenly ambrosia of undiluted devotion.

LS: Absolutely. Sairam.

Part 01 | Part 02

- Radio Sai Team

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