Monday, June 16, 2008



The Beautiful mendicant and

people waiting to shower mangoes

The galaxy of saints of the Saiva fold in South India has been chronicled in the Thiruthondar Puranam by the saint poet Sekkhizar. Because of the greatness of the devotees whose lives are detailed in this classic and due to the sheer compass of the hagiography spanning the lives of 63 Nayanmars it is also known as Periya Puranam. This classic expounds the manner in which each one of His devotees became the recipient of Lord Siva's grace. Karaikkalamaamiyar is a lady among the Nayanmars and she is one of the few whose spiritual legacy has come down to us in her own words through the hymn, Arputha Thiruvandadi, in 101 verses.

Karaikkalammaiyar was a chosen child of the Lord. Named Punithavathi at birth, she grew with great devotion to Lord Siva, and was the apple of her father's eye, since she happened to the only child of the rich merchant of Karaikkal. When she obtained puberty she was married to Paramathaththar, son of the Judge of Nagapattinam. As per the wishes of his father-in-law Paramathaththar settled in Karaikal and looked after the business there.

The turning point came in her life when her husband happened to learn about her spiritual attainments. One day a merchant, presented two mangoes of a special variety to Paramadattar who sent them home. By chance a devotee came to her house and as was the custom she offered food and one of the mangoes to Him.

As usual Paramadattar came for lunch and after food karaikallaiyar presented the mangoes to him. Lured by the taste of the mango her husband wanted the remaining fruit, she became anxious and prayed to God. No sooner did her mind dwell on Lord Siva another fruit appeared in her hand. Her heart filled with gratitude and she served the fruit to his husband. The matter did not end there. Curious that the second fruit is far more delicious than the first , he asked her the reason. She related how she had obtained it with the Lord's grace. He wanted to see her getting the fruit again, as she prayed the fruit appeared in her hand and vanished immediately. Convinced that his wife is not an ordinary mortal but a goddess of some sort he deserted her and left to Pandia Kingdom and in due course he married another woman and was blessed with a female child whom he named as Punithavathi his first wife's name.

Some relatives of Karaikkalmmaiyar who happened to see Paramadattar informed her about the whereabouts of her husband. She set out to her husband's place. On seeing Karaikkalammiayar her husband fell at her feet and worshipped her and asked his second wife and child also to do the same. Realising the futility of spending her life like any other ordinary mortal she prayed to Lord to turn her into a wraith and walked on her head to Mount Kailash, the abode of Lord Siva and Parvati, singing her hymns Arputha Thiruvanthathi and Thriuvirattai Malai. When she reached Mount Kailash , fearing of desecrating if she walked with her legs she walked with her head. When Parvati the consort of the Lord asked, My Lord , who is that , who is coming like this? Karaikkalammiyar had the privilege of being addressed "My Mother" by the Lord Himself. Karaikkalammiyar got the boon to be in total union with the Lord singing His praise by sitting under His feet at Thiruvalankadu till this day.

Every year in the Tamil month of Ani coinciding with full moon day (June-July) a three day festival is held in the Kailasanathar temple of Karaikal to re-enact this divine experience in the life of the great devotee of Lord Shiva. This festival is known as Mangani Thiruvizha, (Mango Festival). The main events of the festival are the marriage of Punithavathi to Paramadattar, The circumbulation of Lord Shiva as Bikshadanar (alms taker) in the night of first day in white robes and jasmine flower, the special abulations to Pancha Murthis and darshan of Bikshadanar , it is a great sight to witness Him in Yellow silk cloth covered with holy ash all over His body and His lips shining like corals and his flowing hair locks holding mango in His left hand. It is a sight which we can get for just 15 minutes and is a great sight to behold.

The second day morning Bikshadanar comes to Karaikkalammaiyar's house as devotee, while he comes he is offered two mangoes and yellow silk robes by the devotees. One another ritual which is unique to this festival is the throwing of the mangoes from the roof top of houses as a prayer. As people believe that the mangoes are sacred who get those mangoes will bring them luck and also who are not having child will be blessed with child youth and old alike compete to catch at least one mango. In the evening when the Lord reaches the house of Karaikkalammaiyar, She offers Him food. Curd rice with all the fruits and sweets offered to the Lord and distributed to all the devotees. In the full moon night Karaikkalammaiyar leaves for Pandia Kingdom in flower palanquin and after the encounter with her husband she becomes a wraith and travels to Mount Kailash. The festival ends with Lord Shiva along with Pancha Murthis give darshan to her in Mount Kailsh mount.

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