Category Archives: Hinduism

Nandanar: Devotee for whose sake Nandi moved!

Nandanar was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. He is considered as one among the 63 Nayanars (Shaivite Saints). Nandanar belonged to a small village known as Adhanur in Tamilnadu. He belonged to the community that made percussion instruments and in those days they were looked down by the upper community. After his daily work, he would spent most of his time singing the glories of the Lord.

Nandanar once visited Lord Shiva’s temple at Thiruppunkoor. Since he was not allowed to enter the temple, he stood outside and prayed fervently to the Lord. He longed to have darshan of the Lord from far, but the huge Nandi was right in front of the Lord and was obstructing his view. Nandanar prayed to Nandi to move a little so that he can have a glimpse of the Lord. His prayers were answered and Nandi moved a little so that Nandanar could have the darshan of Lord Shiva! Even to this day, Nandi is tilted slightly to one side in this temple!

Nandanar cherished a deep desire to go to Chidambaram and have the darshan of Lord Nataraja. Every day people would ask him when he planned to visit Chidambaram. But the thought of not being allowed to enter the temple made him postpone his visit and he would tell people that he will “go tomorrow”. Every day he would tell people, “I will go tomorrow”. All the people started mocking him. They concluded that he would never go to Chidambaram and started calling him “tirunalaipoovar” meaning “one who will go tomorrow!”

One fine day, having made up his mind, Nandanar asked his landlord for permission to go to Chidambaram. The landlord asked Nandanar to first plough his agricultural land and only then he would give him permission. It was a huge task which would take days. Nandanar prayed to the Lord and started ploughing the field. Late into the night, he was exhausted and fell off to sleep. When he woke up next morning the entire field had been ploughed and was ready for sowing. The landlord was surprised and realized the greatness of Nandanar and immediately allowed him to go to Chidambaram. 

Overwhelmed by the Lord’s grace, Nandanar happily proceeded to Chidambaram, but he was not allowed to enter the temple. Singing the glories of Lord Sankara, he went round the holy city a number of times. Lord Shiva decided that it was time the world realized the greatness of Nandanar and his supreme devotion. The Lord appeared in Nandanar’s dream and beckoned him to enter the temple. Next day, in the morning, Nandanar joyously started walking towards the temple. At the temple, the priests had lit up the huge Vedic fire for a yagna. With a mind soaked in single-pointed devotion to the Lord and oblivion of the surroundings, Nandanar walked straight into the fire-kund which was right in front of him. Everyone around were stunned at the sight of Nandanar entering the homa-kund. But nothing happened to him! He came out of the fire unscathed. Nandanar’s physical form was shining like burnished gold! The presence of an inexplicable divine aura around him was evident. The priests realized the greatness of the Lord’s devotee and respectfully escorted him into the sanctum of the Lord. In the presence of all those assembled, that very moment, Nandanar merged and disappeared to become one with Parameshwara: the Lord-of-his-heart! 

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Narahari realizes the Oneness of Hari and Hara!

Narahari Sonar (13th century) was a great devotee of Lord Shiva residing in Pandarapur. He was a goldsmith by profession and was known for his honesty and sincerity. His skill and craftsmanship in creating the best of jewellery drew lot of customers from far and near. He often visited the Mallikarjuna temple nearby. Being a staunch devotee of Shiva, he refused to enter the famous Vittala temple. He would not even look at the gopuram of the temple, and during the festival time, he would move away to the neighbouring village to avoid listening to the bhajans and keerthans sung by the devotees of Panduranga!

A rich landlord along with his wife visited Pandarapur. The childless couple prayed to Lord Panduranga to bless them with a child. The landlord took a vow that if blessed with a child, he would in return offer a gold waistband to the Lord as a token of his devout gratitude. The Lord answered his prayers and he was blessed with a child. To keep his promise, the landlord came to Pandarapur. On enquiring he was informed that Narahari was the best craftsman in the town.The landlord came to Narahari and asked him to make a gold waistband for Lord Vittala. Initially, Narahari refused, but the landlord convinced him saying that it was he who was the customer and he would pay him well. Narahari agreed but on one condition. He would not go to the temple to take the Lord’s waist measurement. The landlord agreed to get the same for him. With the help of the pandit the Lord’s waist measurement was taken and provided to Narahari.

Narahari made a beautiful gem-studded gold waistband for Vittala and handed it to the landlord. He took it to the temple and handed it over to the pundit. When the pundit tried to put the waistband around Vittala’s waist, he found it small. It would not fit the Lord’s waist. Disappointed, the landlord brought it back to Narahari for rectification. Narahari was surprised. He had made the waistband strictly as per the specifications. Narahari again worked on the waistband and gave it back to the landlord. When the pundit tried to put it round the Lord’s waist, this time it was large! The waistband slipped down the Lord’s waist! The landlord became impatient. This time he pleaded with Narahari to come to the temple and take the measurement himself. But Narahari refused to enter the temple and have the Lord’s darshan. The landlord suggested that Narahari could blindfold himself and take the measurement without seeing Vittala. Narahari agreed. 

Narahari blindfolded himself and was led to the sanctum of Lord Panduranga. With eyes covered, Narahari extended his hands towards the deity to take measurement of the Lord’s waist. Strange! As he moved his hands over the deity, he suddenly felt that it was his beloved Lord Shiva in front of him. He felt the Lord’s matted hair. His hands felt the familiar rudraksha and snake ornament round the neck. And around the Lord’s waist it was surely the tiger’s skin and not the silken robe! Narahari even felt a few drops of water on his hand – from Ganga who adorns Lord Shiva’s matted locks!! How could this be Shiva, the Lord-of-his-heart? He quickly removed the cloth that covered his eyes and looked. There in front of him was the smiling Vittala with hands on His waist. Rather annoyed, Narahari quickly blindfolded himself and again felt the idol with his hands. Sure, this time also, it was the idol of Shiva and not Vittala! There was no mistaking. Realization dawned on Narahari. He now realised that Lord Shiva and Lord Panduranga Vittala are ONE AND THE SAME. This was all the Lila or Sport of the Lord to make him realize the essential oneness between Hara and Hari! And Lo! The waist band perfectly adorned the Lord Vittala’s waist.

He fell prostrate at Lord Vittala’s lotus feet and begged to be forgiven for differentiating between Hara and Hari. Narahari was now a totally changed person. He renounced everything and completely dedicated himself to Lord Vittala who wears a crown with an emblem of Shiva-linga on it! Sant Narahari’s devotion to the Lord is evident in the beautiful abhangs (kirtans) that he has composed.

Hara Hara Mahadev!!Jai Jai Vittala Panduranga! Jai Hari Vittala Panduranga!!

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SRI RAMA NAMA VAIBHAVA!

RAMA means “sarveshu ramate iti ramah” – the “ONE who revels in all” – the Supreme Brahman. RAMA, the Absolute Reality is the very LIFE enlivening both: the insentient, inert things and the sentient, dynamic beings, lending to them all their very EXISTENCE. 

The Ashtakshara Narayana Mantra is: “Om Namo Narayanaya” – ‘Salutations unto Narayana’. Nara + Ayana means ‘the path (Ayana) taken by Nara (individual) to ultimately reach the State of Narayana’. If RA is removed from the mantra, it becomes ‘na-ayana’ which implies that there is ‘no path to reach the Higher’. Therefore, RA is the ‘life’ of this mantra. The Panchakshara Shiva Mantra is: “Namah Shivaya” – ‘Salutations unto Shiva’. Shiva signifies ‘Auspiciousness’. If MA is removed from the mantra, the meaning becomes negative: ‘na Shivaya’ or ‘inauspiciousness’. Therefore, MA is the ‘life’ of this mantra. When the two Aksharas, RA and MA come together it becomes RAMA. Hence the two-lettered word RAMA not only suggests that there is absolutely no difference between HARI and HARA, but also carries with it the power of both the mantras. 
RA originates from the word “Narayana” and therefore it represents the Ultimate Reality, the Spiritual GOAL. MA originates from “Namah” and therefore it represents surrender, the PATH to be taken to reach the Goal. Hence the word RAMA signifies the spiritual pilgrimage in total; since it represents the GOAL to be reached, and the PATH to be taken by the seeker. 

RA signifies “creation”. MA indicates “dissolution”. The A-kara inbetween which binds the two letters denotes “preservation”. Therefore, RAMA signifies the concept of Trinity: Brahma – Vishnu – Maheshwara. RA also stands for the Purusha-aspect or the SPIRIT. MA stands for the Prakriti-aspect or MATTER. Hence RAMA stands for Prakriti & Purusha: Matter & Spirit. 
The four Maha Vakyas (Great Statements) from the four Vedas denote totally and completely the journey of a spiritual seeker. Of the four Maha Vakyas, the second Maha Vakya: TAT TVAM ASI” is known as the “Upadesha Vakya”. Through this Maha Vakya, the Guru initiates and leads the seeker onto the path of contemplation to seek and realize the total identity between his individuality and the Absolute Reality. RAMA NAMA represents the Upadesha Vakya: TAT TVAM ASI. RA  stands for “Tat”. MA stands for “Tvam” and the A-kara inbetween signifies the total identity between the individual and the Universal. 

RAMA NAMA is known as the TARAKA Mantra – the mantra which helps an individual to cross (tara) the ocean of samsara and reach the State of Absolute Bliss (ka). When Hanuman had to cross the ocean, he placed the ring (with RAMA engraved on it) given to him by Sri Rama in his mouth (on his tongue). Significantly this means that the tongue should take to the chanting of the Lord’s name. The jewel of RAMA NAMA not only beautifies the tongue and makes an individual more cultured, but helps him to easily cross the shoreless ocean of samsara. It was RAMA NAMA that was written on the huge rocks that enabled them to float on water during the Setu bandhan! Indeed a gravity defying wonder showcasing the power of RAMA NAMA! Hanuman demonstrated that even the invincible and incomparable RAMA BANA (arrow) could not stand in front of RAMA NAMA! The RAMA BANA had to acknowledge the supremacy of RAMA NAMA and silently withdraw itself! Symbolically, Hanuman giving Rama’s ring to Seeta at Asokavana stands for the Guru giving mantra-deeksha to the disciple.

RAMA is the life-protecting (Raksha) and mukti-bestowing NAMA. In the sacred Kashi Kshetra, Lord Shiva known as Viswanatha, who knows the glory of RAMA NAMA has taken upon himself to delivery each and everyone from the bondages of samsara and grant them mukti by whispering RAMA in their right ear at the time of death (MARA-na). MARA denotes death, bondage, change, finite and mortal. The reverse of it, i.e., RAMA signifies life, liberation, changeless, infinite and immortal!

When Parvati asked Lord Shiva for an easy substitute-method for chanting the Sahasranama, Sankara simply told her to chant RAMA three times – the equivalent of Sahasranama!! RA is associated with the #2, and MA with the #5. A combine of the two letters RA & MA therefore becomes 2×5=10. Hence uttering RAMA once is equivalent to chanting the Lord’s name 10 times. To utter RAMA twice (10×10) is equivalent to chanting the Lord’s name 100 times. To utter RAMA thrice (10×10×10) is equivalent to chanting the Lord’s name 1000 times and hence equal to the chanting of the Lord’s Sahasranama!

“Sri Rama Rama Rameti Rame Raame Manorame,Sahasranama Tat Tulyam Rama Nama Varanane!”

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Karaikal Ammaiyar

Punithavati was a great devotee of Lord Shiva belonging to the merchant community in Karaikal (Tamilnadu). She belonged to the 6th century AD, and is one of the 63 great Shaivite saints known as Nayanmars. She spent her time in glorifying the Lord and serving His devotees, especially those who came visiting the town. A wealthy businessman, Paramadattan from Nagapattinam married the beautiful Punithavati. She devoted herself to household chores as well as continued her religious duties. 

One day a relative of Paramadattan visited him at his shop and gave him two mangoes. Paramadattan sent them to his house through his servant. Punithavati received them and placed them at the altar of her Lord. A little later, a Shiva Bhakta came along seeking for alms. Since nothing had been cooked, Punithavati gave away one mango to the sadhu. 

Later, Paramadattan came home and sat down to have his meals. He asked for the mango. She brought the one which was at the Lord’s altar and gave it to him. He found it extremely sweet and asked for the second one. It was not there. She had given it away as bhiksha to the sadhu. Knowing her husband’s temper and not knowing what to do, she ran to the pooja altar. With eyes overflowing with tears, she prayed fervently to the Lord to save her from the situation. As she pleaded with the Lord, a mango appeared in her hands! Overwhelmed at the Lord’s grace, she quickly went and gave it to her husband. This mango was far more sweeter in taste than the first one!! How could two mangoes from the same tree differ so much in taste? Obviously this was not the same mango that he had sent home. Paramadattan asked her to tell him the truth. Slowly she narrated everything to him. He was stunned. With absolute disbelief, he told her to ask Lord Shiva for one more mango. She was reluctant, but he insisted. She again went to the Lord and prayed to Him. Another mango appeared in her hand. She gave it to Paramadattan. The moment he touched the mango, it disappeared. Paramadattan realized that his wife Punithavati was not an ordinary woman but one of the greatest devotees of Parameshwara. He was filled with awe and respect for Punithavati. He no more considered her as his mortal wife. To him she was his Guru who had opened his eyes. He silently left home and settled down in the neighbouring Pandiyan kingdom. He married a local merchant’s daughter and even named his daughter Punithavati!

When Punithavati came to know that her husband had settled down in Madurai, she completely and totally dedicated herself to the Lord. Realising that her beauty and youthfulness was the greatest impediment, she pleaded with Lord Sankara to take away her beauty and give her an ugly form. The Lord granted her wish! Suddenly she became old in appearance and frightfully ugly to look at. Her frightful look brought fear to some, but evoked respect from others. She was reverentially addressed as: KARAIKAL AMMAIYAR. Many beautiful and devotional compositions on Lord Shiva are attributed to her. Desiring to have a glimpse of her Lord, she proceeded to Kailasa. The moment she saw the divine mountain, the abode of the Lord, she was reluctant to place her feet on them. She placed her head down and started walking with the help of her hands! Pleased with her devotion, Lord Shiva and Parvati gave her darshan. She asked for mukti. And if at all she had to be born again, it should be as His devotee only. She expressed her desire to see His Urdhva Tandava, while she sang for Him. The Lord told her to go to Tiruvalangadu where she would be able to witness his divine Nritya. Ammaiyar proceeded to Tiruvalangadu where Lord Shiva is worshipped as Vataranyeswara. With a pair of cymbals in hand Ammaiyar sang ecstatically while the Lord danced. Of the five famous sabhas attributed to Lord Nataraja, Tiruvalangadu is known as Ratna Sabha – the Hall of Gems. Ammaiyar stayed here singing the Lord’s glories and continued her devoted services unto the Lord till she finally merged with Lord Shiva.

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