Friday, April 24, 2009

Hindu Gods and Untouchability-Part 3

After writing about Kanakadasa and Kannappa Nayanar in part 1 and part 2,In this post I am writing about Maaraneri Nambi who was honoured by Lord Shri Ranganathar posthumously.In previous posts the two devotees were blessed during their respective lifetime.But here ,it is an entirely different story.This wonderful incident features in Shri Ramanujacharya's Life History.

When we read the great lives of these 3 acharyas who spreaded Advaitham,Dwaitham and Vishishtadwaitham ,We come to know that they followed excellent principles during their life time and they treated people of all sects equally because they knew the ultimate truth that God lives in all beings.But the present day followers of all these 3 philosophies who constitute the major chunk of the so called uppercastes neither study their acharya's Life history thoroughly nor follow their teachings and principles with sincerity.They are more happy in taking false pride about their caste ranking in the varna system which fuels the discriminative attitude.Now let us proceed with the post.

Shri Ranganathar's grace on Maaraneri Nambi
First let me introduce the important characters of this post for those who don't know the history.
Aalavandhaar (ஆளவந்தார்)- Grand son of Nadamuni(நாதமுனி) who wrote a concised collection of Naalayira Divya prabandham(நாலாயிர திவ்ய பிரபந்தம்).Aalavandhaar was a great Vaishnavaite guru and acharya.

Periya Nambi(பெரிய நம்பி)-A great disciple of Aalavandhaar.He belonged to a brahmin subsect.(I am specifying the caste because it is required for this post) and he was also a great Vaishnavite Acharya.

Atthuzhai(அத்துழாய்) -Daughter of Periya Nambi.

Thirukachi Nambi (திருக்கச்சி நம்பி)-Another great disciple of Aalavandaar.He belonged to Vysya Caste.Young Ramanujachar used to approach him to clarify many of his spiritual doubts.

Maaraneri Nambi(மாரனேரி நம்பி) - Another disciple of Aalavandhar.Belonged to Harijan Caste.He was also a great Vaishnavite Acharya.Both Periya Nambi and Maaraneri Nambi studied together under Aalavandhar.Aalavandhar had always admired and appreciated Maaraneri Nambi's staunch devotion to Lord Vishnu.

One interesting point to note is that Lord Varadharaja Perumal had appeared in the dream of Thirukkachi Nambi and instructed him to convey to Ramanujachar that he should accept Periya Nambi as his Guru.From that day onwards Ramanujachar became the disciple of Periya Nambi.

Periya Nambi and Atthuzhai had great admiration for Maaraneri Nambi because of his devotion and good qualities.In his later stage when Maaraneri Nambi fell sick,Periya Nambi served him in many ways,He prepared food in his house and took it to Maaraneri Nambi's House to feed him.Periya Nambi attended his sick friend very lovingly.In fact Ramanujachar himself was astonished on seeing Periya Nambi serving Maaraneri Nambi inspite of all caste barriers.

Such people who think beyond castelines have always inspired awe and respect in me.A Brahmin Acharya serving Harijan Acharya,isn't it wonderful.Will our people learn lessons from this?

When Maaraneri Nambi died,Periya Nambi did all his funeral rites with due respect.This attitude of her father increased Atthuzhaai's respect for her Father.Ramanujachar also could easily understand Periya Nambi's way of thoughts.
But other people in that town didn't accept Periya Nambi performing funeral rites for a Harijan.They got agitated and imposed a ban on Periya Nambi's family.They covered Periya Nambi's House with a thorny fence and ordered that Periya Nambi's family members should not come out of their house and nobody should enter Periya Nambi's House.

When this ban was on,Shri Ranganathar's Utsav was held in ShriRangam.During that festival a chariot procession of Shri Ranganathar was held with great pomp and splendour.Chariot entered the street where Periya Nambi's house was located.On seeing the chariot Atthuzhaai Ammayaar came out of the house,prostrated in front of the chariot with great devotion,got up and spoke with a loud voice."Swear on Thee!Holy Order on thy Name!" (திரு நின் ஆணை ! நின் ஆணை கண்டாய்! ) and stood before the Chariot.

Ignoring startled people around,she stood infront of the Lord's Chariot and continued with a loud voice,"Didn't you play and have food with Shepherd boys? Didn't you recognize and honour the devotion of Thiruppaanazhwar who belonged to a low caste?Won't you approve the act of my father doing funeral rites to Maaraneri Nambi?These people have boycotted my father and have put thorny fence in front of our house.Oh!Lord!What is your opinion about my father's deed ?Is it right or wrong?Till a correct decision is taken on this matter,and till you give a clear judgement about this ,Thy Holy chariot will not move from this spot.I Swear on Thee!"

On hearing her holy order,Chariot did not move a bit further.Many persons tried but in vain.Time was passing on.But chariot cannot be moved.

At that time one priest was possessed by Lord Ranganatha and he said in a commanding voice " Ask the person who headed the agitation against Periya Nambi to go into his house,ask his pardon and make Periya Nambi sit on his shoulder as mark of respect and bring him in front of the chariot!Then the chariot will move further!"As per the Holy order,the person who lead the agitation against periya Nambi removed the thorny fence ,entered the house carried Periya Nambi on his shoulders and brought him before the chariot and one priest declared that funeral rites done to Maaraneri Nambi by Periya Nambi was approved and appreciated by the Lord and they lifted the ban on him.Periya Nambi was honoured with due respect and people asked for his pardon.

To the amazement of all,the chariot started moving and reached the destination.

This wonderful incident is also a testimony which stands by the fact that God never approves inequality among Human beings.

Reference:Chapter "3 Acharyas-16" from "Hindu Maha Samudram" by Cho Ramaswamy.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hindu Gods and Untouchability-Part 2

In part 1 of this series,I had written about the amazing mercy of Udupi Krishna on "Saint Kanakadasa".In this post ,I will discuss about the grand uncomparable devotion of Kannappa Nayanar.All the posts in this series will strongly emphasize the fact that Untouchability was imposed on the society by the practicing selfish Hindus but not by Gods as proclaimed by many people.

The story of Kannappa Nayanar from 'Periya puranam' written by Sekkizhar(சேக்கிழார்) in Tamil is one of my favourites.It not only emphasizes the fact that devotion and Gods are above caste,creed and all differences,but it beautifully depicts how God accept the offerings of a devotee when the devotee is full of pure and loving devotion.Rituals,Methods adopted during puja by learned pandits are of miniscule value when compared to the Methods by which Kannappa nayanar served his Lord.

Lord Shiva and Kannappa Nayanar

Kannappa Nayanar was born as 'Thinnan'(திண்ணன்) in a hunter community to the supremo of the community in Uduppur, Naagan( நாகன் )and his wife Thatthai( தத்தை ) after the childless couple prayed for very long years to Lord Murugan. Thinnan grew up learning hunting and other martial arts as per their tradition.

When he reached his sixteenth age,oneday subjects of that territory came with a complaint to Naagan about the increasing menace of wild animals in that area.Naagan found it difficult to lead the uphill task of hunting because of his age,so he asked his son Thinnan to lead the group of hunters.The group also accomplished the task successfully but for a wild pig which was so evasive.So Thinnan sent back all other hunters back and was accompanied by only two of his fellow hunters,Naanan and kaadan and chased the pig. The pig went faraway near the foot of Thiru Kaalahasthi Hill near present day Tirupati and got killed by one of the sharp daggers of Thinnan. Three of them found that they had come very long way from their home,but felt very hungry and Thirsty,so Thinnan ordered the duo to cook the pig and bring some water.Kaadan started cooking the pig and Naanan and Thinnan set out in search of water.Naanan told about the nearby river, so both of them walked towards it.

Both of them reached the hill and Thinnan started experiencing a unique emotion which was lessening the burden of his sins.He started feeling very pure,peaceful innerself and asked about the reason to Naanan.Naanan told that at the top of the hill is the abode of 'Kudumi Thevar'(Lord Shiva).

As soon as Thinnan reached the Temple,he saw Lord shiva's idol ,he was overwhelmed with joy ,he rushed and embraced his Lord.His innocent mind started thinking that there is nobody to guard his lord in the forest which was full of Wild animals.So he decided to stay there to guard his Lord.He saw many flowers and leaves on the idol,Naanan explained that once when he accompanied his father to this temple,the priest was doing abhishek(holy bath) to the Lord and was offering flowers and leaves.Immediately Thinnan thought that that should be the way God likes to be worshipped.He started worrying that God should be feeling hungry without food now.He decided to go and bring some food for his beloved God.By the time Kaadan came to say that pig is cooked and ready to eat.Thinnan who had not taken food for many hours had completely forgotten his Hunger and thirst,was so obsessed with the God,He went and and selected the best pieces of flesh of cooked pig.On seeing his actions,both Naanan and Kaadan thought that Thinnan has gone crazy about the Lord and it is apt to bring his Father Naagan.So both of them left.

Thinnan who was least bothered about his companions took the flesh pieces in his arrow like flowers arranged in a garland,went to the river collected water with his mouth and stored in it,pluck some wild flowers and leaves and inserted in his thick hair and went to the top of the hill.There he removed all the flowers and leaves which were already on the idol with his footwear and showered the flowers on God which were inserted in his hair ,Did "Abhishek' to God with the water stored in his mouth(which is considered unholy) and offered the flesh pieces to God by feeding with his hands as a mother would do to her infant.Thinnan's heart was brimming with love and devotion.Whole night he safeguarded the Saviour of this World without sleeping.

Next day Early morning ,he went to bring food and water to his dear God.Meanwhile "Shivakochariyar" the priest of the temple came to do the daily puja.He was shocked to see the strewn pieces of meat and bones around the idol ,Feeling sad,he cleaned the entire place and consecrated to bring back the holiness(!!!) of the place and went back.

Entire day,Thinnan was hunting ,collected firewood,cooked a tasty food out of deer flesh and reached the hill top before sunset.As the previous day,he did puja to God with his unique method and fed the Lord with meat.Without sleeping in the night ,he safeguarded the place.Again in the morning he ventured out for hunting.Everyday the dumbstruck priest cleaned the place and consecrated.He was filled with gloom and sad and thought that this was due to his negligence towards God.This continued for six days.Everyday Thinnan brought different items like Honey to feed his Lord.He collected different types of flowers,leaves,cooked different animals and served Lord.

Shivakochariar who was petrified by these happenings prayed to God to show the culprit who was doing such a misdeed.Lord Shiva appeared in the dream of the priest and praised Thinnan's devotion "Don't think that he is doing a wrong thing.Water which he spits from his mouth to bathe me is Holier than Ganga.The flowers which he offers me from his hair are purer than flowers offered by all holy men.whatever he does ,it is with pure devotion,when he places his foot on me to clear the place ,I feel like a mother who takes pride on a child's tender foot which kicks her innocently.Tomorrow,Go and hide there to witness the grand display of his extraordinary devotion".

Next morning,seventh day ,perplexed Sivakochariar went to the temple, did the puja as usual and hid behind to watch the wonderful event with fear and astonishment.

Thinnan was rushing towards the temple as he was late and he was seeing bad omens on the way.Quite tensed ,he reached the temple ,but to his horror he saw one of the Lord's three eyes bleeding.He was shocked and tried to stop the bleeding,when it didn't he rushed out to pick some healing herbs and applied it on the bleeding eye.But couldn't stop the bleeding.Immediately a wild idea struck his mind,he used his arrow to pluck one of his eye and took his eye and applied(pasted) on the bleeding eye.Wonder of wonders!Bleeding stopped.Thinnan jumped with joy!But his joy was shortlived.The other eye started bleeding.Thinnan was not that tensed now.Now he knows the technique.

The stunned priest was watching all these with astonishment.He couldn't believe his eyes nor he has never seen such a great selfless devotion.

Thinnan was already bleeding because of the plucked eye,but unmindful of his pain,he was worried how to paste the second eye on Lord if he loses his second eye also,because he will not be able to see anything.So he placed his foot on the bleeding eye of the Lord as a marking and took the arrow to pluck his second eye.

At that glorious moment,Lord Shiva appeared and held his devotee's hands which were about to pluck the eye,and ordered "Nillu Kann appa!". (கண் அப்ப ) meaning "Stop Kannappa" Appa in Tamil is to apply or paste."Kann" in Tamil is eye. Since Thinnan was trying to paste his eye to God ,Lord Shiva lovingly honoured him by calling Thinnan by that name.

Shivakochariar could only silently realise the power of devotion on seeing this grand event.

This incident is one of the major testimony which stands as a proof that God is above all differences like Castes,education,race and all such worldly barriers.

CU in next post!


1.Chapter "Periyapuranam" in "Hindu maha samudram" by Cho Ramaswamy which is based on "Periyapuranam pozhippurai " by Ki.Va.Ja