Subramanya Iyer was a great devotee of Devi Abhirami (Parvathi) of Tirukadaiyur. He would sit for hours together lost in contemplation in front of Devi. So intense was his devotion that he looked upon all women as manifestation of Mother Goddess and run to them and fall flat at their feet addressing them as ‘O! Mother’, whether in the temple or on the street. People even thought he was mad.
Serfoji I Bhonsle, who was King of the Thanjavur Maratha Empire from 1712 – 1728, came to the temple for darshan on a particular new-moon day. Everybody there made way for him. But Subramanya was sitting right in front of the deity, completely immersed in dhyana. On seeing him, the king enquired and was told by people around that he was an insane person. To test this, the king put forth a question to him asking what was the ‘tithi‘ that day. Subramanya who was in ecstasy, mentally seeing nothing but Devi’s divine face, beautiful and shining like the full-moon in the autumn sky, blurted out that it was full-moon day! The angry king walked away with a challenge that if he failed to see the full-moon at dusk, Subramanya would be burnt alive.
The temple priest woke him up from his meditation and explained what had happened. Subramanya was unperturbed. He said, “My divine Mother made me utter these words and so it is now Her responsibility to keep up Her words”.
Subramanya was made to climb onto a suspended wooden plank which was slowly being lowered. Down below was raging fire. It was dusk. Subramanya invoked His Mother, Sri Abhirami with beautiful verses. When he had just completed the 79th verse, Goddess Abhirami gave darshan to him in the skies. She removed Her diamond ear-ornament and tossed it into space. It stood there in the sky shining like the full-moon for all to see! Subramanya continued to sing Her praises. The ropes snapped, the fire got extinguished. The king realized his mistake and sought forgiveness from the great devotee of Abhirami. Subramanya was henceforth called “Abhirami Bhattar”. His beautiful collection of verses are known as Abhirami Anthaadi. Anthaadi means “End – Beginning”. The last word of each verse is the beginning of the next verse! Even to this day, devotees sing these verses on Amavasya and Poornima days at Devi’s Altar.
[PS: I request all to please forward and share these value based stories rich in our culture and tradition to elders, youth and children]