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Archive for August, 2008

A man was running fast and he was stopped my another man.

“Why are you running so fast?”

Runner: “Didn’t you know? There is saint who has come to our village from afar and several of us are going to meet him.”

“But for that why are you running so fast? Our man persisted.”

“The tickets will get over,” said the runner.

“Tickets….”

“Yes, said the man. Each ticket costs Rs. 100 and the one who buys it will be rid of all his sins. I don’t have time to stop and chat with you, why don’t you also join me,” he asked.

So our man joins the runner. Soon they reached the village where the saint had camped. Several people had already congregated in a place and inside a large room, the saint was distributing the tickets and taking money for it. Those in the crowd who had bought the ticket were relieved that they were absolved of their sins. Our man too rushed inside and got two tickets from the saint.

Finally, the saint counted the money he had collected and found that there was Rs.10,000 in his bag. He tied it in a cloth bag and happily started for the next village.

It was becoming dark and the saint was passing through a dense forest. Suddenly a man jumped in front of the saint. He took a dagger from his pocket and told the saint “Give all your possessions to me otherwise I will kill you.”

Deciding that his life was more important than money, he gave his money bag to the thief. But he couldn’t contain his disappointment on losing his money. So he asked the thief “Why are you doing this? Don’t you know that it is a great sin to steal?”

The thief who by now you all know is our man at the beginning of our story, smiled.

“That’s why I bought two tickets. One was to absolve myself of my previous sins and the other one was to absolve myself of my sin after I looted you.The saint was dumbstruck. He finally realized that under the guise of a holy man one cannot cheat everyone all the time. 

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Purandaradasar

There are times, when you come upon a thing of the past, which you had misplaced or lost, and suddenly out of the blue you find it and you jump with joy. It was with similar joy that I greedily grabbed the book proffered by my dad when he visited me recently. The book in question is a well-thumbed copy of Maha Bhakta Vijayam, a collection of stories from the life of great poets like Thyagaraja and Purandaradasar and other religious masters. The book was first published in 1952 by The Little Flower Company

I have fond memories of this book as it belonged to my beloved Patti,  and who left it with my mom to feed her ‘hungry for story’ children. The story I have given today is my Patti’s favorite. I remember her telling this story each time we asked for one and she finished, we would say, “you have already told us this story tell another one” and she would oblige with a smile. This Gokulashtami as I welcomed Krishna into our home, I thought I would retell this favorite of Radha patti, to whom I dedicate this story.

In the small village called Vemannapuri, near Pandharpur, there lived a man by name Madhav Rao and his wife Rathnabai. They were blessed with a son after a long time, who they named Raghunath and they lavished their love on him. Just like his father, Raghunath was well versed in the arts and did well in his studies. When he grew up, his parents set him up with a pawn shop and also got him married to a girl Lakshmi bai.

After marriage, the couple lived happily. Raghunath’s business prospered and so did his greed. He charged exorbitant rates of interest to those he loaned money. He stopped charity work and if anyone reminded him of how his father was such a charitable person, they had to face his wrath.

His wife shed tears silently and was unable to talk any sense into him. They were soon blessed with a daughter who they named Rukmanibai. But even the birth of his daughter did not bring about any change in his activities.

One day, an old man who was passing by Vemannapuri enquired about Raghunath’s pawn shop. To those who asked him why he was looking for Raghunath, the old man answered that he needed financial help.

Some people even told the old man that if he needed money he should go to someone else and not Raghunath as he was not a good lender. The old man did not bother but finally reached the shop.

Seeing the old man in his tattered clothes, Raghunath brusquely told him “I am very busy, tell me what you want.”

The old man in reply took a lemon from his bag and after saying some prayers gave the lemon to Raghunath., who took it thinking that it is not for loan but for charity this man had visited him.

The old man then in a very polite voice told him that he needed thousand gold coins in donation to conduct his son’s wedding.

Raghunath was livid, he said “You don’t know about this business where there is no money for me. I don’t even get food to eat.” But the old man began giving a lecture about the country which had such great men and it was not wise on his part not do some charity at least.

Raghunath in his anger pushed the old man by the scruff of his neck. But the old man retaliated and both of them rolled in the dusty road. Raghunath finally pushed him away and ran into his shop.

Meanwhile, the old man dusted himself and walked over to Raghunath’s house thinking how his wife would welcome him.

Lakshmibai saw the old man and respectfully bade him to sit. The old man sat down and told her about what happened between him and her husband. He told her that he needed thousand gold coins urgently.

Lakshmibai was filled with sorrow that her husband had behaved in this way with such an old man and wondered how she could help him. She took her diamond nose-ring and told the old man that if he could sell it, he would get about three thousand gold coins and that he should leave quickly to the next village, lest her husband returned. The old man thanked her and left.

Meanwhile, a rich man entered the shop and showed Raghunath, a diamond nose ring. Raghunath valued it and said he could give the trader about thousand gold coins and not a penny more. The trader got angry, haggled a bit and then agreed for thousand. But Raghunath had a nagging doubt that the nose ring belonged to his wife. On the pretext of getting the money from home, he made the trader sit in the shop and went home.

Lakshmibai was scared that her husband would ask about the nose ring. Likewise, Raghunath asked her to bring the nose ring. She went inside and put on the act of searching for the nose ring in her box. She prayed to Krishna to help her in her time of need. Suddenly she noticed that in a corner of the box a tiny nose ring shined on her. She was surprised, but took it to her husband thanking Krishna for his timely help.

As soon as he took the nose ring, Raghunath knew that it was not his wife’s nose ring. Promising that he would not yell at her he asked her to tell how she got this superior nose ring.

Lakshmibai related how she had donated it to the old man. Raghunath knew it was Krishna who had come and he had not realized it. He went with Lakshmibai to his shop but the trader had left. There were a few flower petals in his place.

He realized how he had brought misfortune on several families by charging higher interests. He began focusing on turning over a new leaf. He gave away all his hoarded wealth to the needy and became a devotee of Krishna. Later, he became known as Purandaradasar, which is for another day.

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Tirumullaivayil

Once upon a time, Tirumullaivayil was a dense forest. Vanan and Onan were two tribesmen from the Kurumbar clan. They had made Tirumullaivayil their den and were troubling people living in and around the region. No one could defeat them in battle for a long time.

Finally, a king by name Thondaiman bravely faced the Kurumbas in their territory. But he was defeated and he ran away from the battlefield. While fleeing, the king was seated on an elephant. When the elephant was running it’s leg got caught in a jasmine creeper.

Annoyed at the situation, the king slashed the jasmine creeper with his sword. Suddenly blood spurted out of the creeper and the king was frightened.

He got down from the back of the elephant and inspected the place from where the blood oozed. He was surprised to find a shiva linga nestled in the creeper. He was also shocked to find that his sword had touched the linga and made a mark on it.

In despair the king tried to kill himself with his sword, when Lord Shiva appeared before him. He said “Even if I have a mark on my person I will remain here to serve the people as Masilamani (meaning ‘no scar’ in Tamil).” The lord also sent his aide Nandi to help the king in tackling the Kurumbars.

The king with the help of Nandi defeated the Kurumbars and built a temple for Shiva in the forest.

In this temple, Nandi does not face Shiva as he went to battle with king Thondaiman. The Shiva linga is adorned with sandal paste throughout the year except for one day in April when it is removed and anointed afresh.

The temple is situated in Tirumullaivayil on the Ambattur-Avadi road. Built in 800 A.D. people believe the deity here grants every wish of the devout.

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Parikshit

After Abhimanyu’s death, his son Parikshit ascended the throne. He was a good king and his subjects loved him. But fate had different plans for him.

One day while he was hunting, he spotted a deer and sent an arrow after it. The arrow missed the deer and it ran for its life. The king followed the deer and reached the ashram of sage Sameekar who was observing a vow of silence. Parikshit asked the sage “Did you see a deer passing by?”

When the sage did not reply, Parikshit picked up a dead snake lying nearby and garlanded the sage with it and left in a huff.

A little while later the hermit’s son Shringi arrived. He was angered that someone had insulted his father this way and cursed that whoever did this act will be killed by Takshaka, the king of snakes within 7 days.

When Parikshit reached his palace, he heard about the curse and was worried sick. He immediately set about building a tall pillar and a palace above it. He settled himself in it and had soldiers, astrologers, herbal medicine experts and his ministers around him in order to safeguard himself from any attack from a snake.

Six days passed without any incident. On the seventh day a basket of fruits arrived for the king. The king distributed the fruits to a few people near him and he also took a fruit to eat. But as fate would have it, Takshaka, the king of snakes had already entered the fruit in the form of a worm. When the king bit into the fruit, the snake took its original form and bit the king, who fell down dead. Thus the curse on Parikshit came true.  The moral of this story usually related in puranic discourses is “One can never win over fate.”

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Once upon a time there was a king named Rayathondaiman. The country was under the rule of the Nawabs and Rayathondaiman was the king of a small area called Kanchamanadapuram, allotted to him by the Nawabs.

The king was fond of hunting. One day while returning from one such expedition, he met a small boy who was crying inconsolably.

He went up to the boy and asked him why he was crying. The boy said he had lost his mother and that his father had brought home a stepmother, who did not even give him food. “I have run away from home but I don’t know where to go,” he cried.

Feeling sorry for the boy, the king took him to his palace and gave him a job in the stables.

The boy was very happy to work in the stables where there were about 2000 horses. There was one horse in the stables, which couldn’t be tamed by anyone. The stable hands told the boy not to go near the horse. But the boy went near the horse and in a few days befriended it. The boy now wanted to ride the horse and one day at night when everyone was sleeping he rode the horse. Then he started riding the horse daily at night.

One day a stable hand came looking for the horse at night and found it missing. He then saw the boy riding the horse. He went and informed the king that the boy had tamed the horse.

The king was surprised that the boy had tamed the horse and was full of praise for him. He also gave him the job of training all the horses.

Years passed and the boy grew up into a handsome man. The king made him the general of his army. He also made him in-charge of collecting taxes from the people. The boy was good at whatever job he was given. Pleased with his services the king gave his only daughter in marriage to him.

A few years later, the general’s wife was pregnant. One day when the general was away collecting taxes in the neighboring town, there was heavy rain in Kanchamanadapuram. Due to the rains the dam in the next town burst and the whole town was flooded. Cattle drowned and many people died. The Nawab on hearing the news sent word to Thondaiman to repair the dam. The king with the help of his men repaired the dam. But the same night it broke again. This went on for some days.

The Nawab was very angry and came to inspect the dam. He told the king if the dam wasn’t repaired in seven days the king would be stamped to death by the Nawab’s elephant.

The king was in a quandary. His son-in-law wasn’t in town. His daughter was pregnant and he was in a fix.

That night he heard a voice from the heavens, which said “If a pregnant woman carrying her first child is sacrificed at the site of the dam, then the situation would correct itself.”

The next morning the king called his subjects and told him about the heavenly voice and asked them their opinion. The people were shocked and they also knew that the king’s daughter was pregnant with her first child. Many people who had a pregnant woman at home left the town fearing they may be asked to sacrifice her.

But the king’s daughter very calmly asked her father to arrange for her baby shower near the dam. Though the king agreed, he was worried. The baby shower went off well and when returning to the palace after the event, his daughter removed a small knife she had hidden on her person and killed herself. The king was grief stricken and cried. As prophesied the dam didn’t break after that and the whole town was talking about the woman’s sacrifice.

Finally, the general arrived. He was grief stricken. He said that the town people had sacrificed his wife to save their own skin. He rode on his horse and started beating whoever came his way. People ran helter skelter when they saw him on the horse.

That night when the general was tossing sleeplessly in bed, his wife appeared before him. “Don’t trouble the people like this. I took my own life for the well being of the people,” she said. “I will remain in this town and safe guard the people,” she added. The general promised his wife that he wouldn’t trouble the people any more and true to his word worked for the welfare of his people. The kingdom flourished. The people of the town built a temple to honor the general’s wife and to this day she is a standing divine presence in the town of Kanchamanadapuram and she is known as Uruppidi Amman. The temple is situated amidst dense forests, which and is half a kilometer away from the village. Another feature in this temple is that only women priests perform rituals and that too only on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Kanchamanadapuram is situated in Kadalur district, 3 kilometers from the Vadalur-Chennai highway.  

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