Wednesday 3 August 2011

Saint of Karaikkal

In Karaikkal (Pondicherry) along the main road, there is a shrine dedicated to a holy woman, who was a great devotee of Lord Shiva.  Lord Shiva moved by her spirit of devotion proclaimed her as “Mother” and thereafter the saint came to be known as “Karaikkal Ammaiyar” (The Holy Mother of Karaikkal).
Karaikkal Ammayar was born to a rich merchant.  She was named Punithavathi at birth.  She being the apple of the eye of her parents, they were reluctant to part with their daughter after her marriage and hence invited their son-in-law to come and stay  with them. 
The son-in-law agreed and they lived as a happy family.  Punithavathi was an ideal housewife in everyway.  It so happened that one day, her husband sent her from his shop two mangoes with instructions to keep them for his dinner.
While Punithavathi was engaged in her daily chores, a mendicant came to her house seeking alms.  Since the food was not ready, she offered one of the mangoes to the mendicant, which he ate with great relish and went away. 
Punithavathi’s husband came later for his dinner and on remembering the mangoes asked for them.  Punithavathi brought one of the mangoes and gave it to her husband, who after consuming it asked  for the second one.
Punithavathi was in despair.  She felt that she had committed a sin by not keeping her words to her husband.  With guilt and grief, she stepped aside and prayed to Lord Shiva, the matted hair God who has the moon and the Ganges on his head and beseeched  him to give her a mango. 
Lo!  A mango appeared in her hands. With great relief and happiness, she gaved it to her husband. The husband who ate the mango, felt that he had never tasted anything as sweet or relishing as that mango.  As it was unique from the other one, he asked her where it came from?  Punithavathi explained to him all that had happened.  Her husband could not believe this and challenged her if she would get another mango by way of her devotion.
As she had no other choice, she once again prayed to Lord Shiva fervently and another mango appeared in her hand.  She gave that mango to her husband.  On taking it, the mango disappeared from his hands.  Her husband was left confused and bewildered.  He began to think that his wife was some goddess and forthwith began to live away from her.
After a few months, he went on a voyage to sell his wares and soon became a rich merchant.  He bought a house in the Pandya Kingdom and also married a beautiful girl.  A girl was born to them and he named her Punithavathi, in memory of his saintly wife.
This escapade soon came to the ears of Punithavathi’s father who along with her and  a few relatives came to his house for a fight.  On seeing them he prostrated before Punithavathi and explained that he could only think of her as a goddess and not as his wife.  Also he had named his daughter after her in devotion.
Punithavathi was appalled by her husband’s gesture.  She swore to Lord Shiva that she had maintained her body only to serve her husband and now that he had eschewed her, it should become a bag of bones. 
To the amazement of everyone there, her  body immediately became a skeleton, with protruding eyes, long nails, swollen veins and emaciated flesh.
Having attained what she desired, she proceeded to Mount Kailas, the abode of her Lord.  Having reached there, she remembered the tales of its sanctity and overcome by devotion, she decided to climb the mountain on her head.
The universal Mother Parvathi was amazed at the ghostly figure coming up to her on its head and asked Lord Shiva, who it was. Lord Shiva affectionately addressed the ghostly figure as, “Oh My Mother”.
The eternal parents who are Lord Shiva and Parvathi came down to meet Punithavathi and asked her, “What did she want from them”? 
After prostrating before them, Punithavathi prayed that she should not be born again.  But if she was to be born again, the boon of never forgetting him was what she desired.
Lord Shiva blessed her and directed her to go to the ancient town of Alangkadu.  Having reached there, Punithavathi spent her time writing songs in praise of Lord Shiva and remaining in communion with him.
Article by : R. Ramdas Thampuran
Source: Bhavan's Journal 15 June 2010
To know more about Bhavan's Journal and to subscribe visit:

No comments:

Post a Comment