10 May 2009


According to Tamil literature, the famed Periapuranam was written during the thirteenth century and narrates the stories of 63 Nayanmars (Saivite saints) who achieved enlightenment through the path of devotion to Lord Shiva. The Nayanmars came from varied backgrounds ranging from kings and soldiers to untouchables – and in this way it shows that enlightenment depends not on caste or education but merely upon intensity and devotion to God. The reading of the Periapuranam is regarded as an inspirational aid to devotion and is famed throughout Tamil Nadu.

Sri Ramana Maharshi on Periapuranam

"I was not aware that experience of the Self was categorized and described variously. I was not familiar with philosophic terms like "Brahman" nor what an attributeless Truth meant. I was not aware that the individual Self and Easwara were one. I had an awareness of Easwara but not that it was the
atma itself. One cannot say whether the thought process (mind) became extinct or was in abeyance. The Self was being experienced without any effort. In a sense it was abidance in the Self. It was the experience of the unbroken atma in the words of Sankara. In Jnana Vasishta it is described as "sattva pathi

Did not Sankara and other self-realised persons worship God with attributes?" One moment it was submergence in the
atma at the next it was in God. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa also confirmed the last stages of saints and sages to be similar.

Other than Periapuranam I had not studied any other spiritual text by then. I had only heard of the Infinite Being with attributes as described therein. I had not heard of any attributeless Truth. Even while being conscious of the external world I was in the presence of Easwara — with no agony, or emotion." [Ramana Maharshi]

Occasionally I will relate stories from the Periapuranam, and to begin with below is the story of the Nayanmar, Ilayankudi Mara. [To read a previous story about the Nayanmar Poosalar go to this link here.]

Ilayankudi Mara Nayanar

Ilayankudi Mara Nayanar was a farmer and a great devotee of Lord Siva and His devotees and took great pleasure in serving them. Nayanar had been blessed with great wealth but considered it belonged to the Lord, to be utilized for the benefit of His devotees.

Lord Siva was highly pleased with the Nayanar’s devotion. He wanted to show to the world that His devotee would be undaunted by the worst calamity and would remain unshaken in his virtue. Nayanar’s wealth melted away. But although his wealth had left him, not only did he retain his great virtue, but it grew even more intense. Nayanar sold all his property in order to be able to serve the devotees of the Lord.

One day it was raining and Nayanar and his wife were starving. No one came forward to help them. Finally, he bolted the door and was about to fall asleep. Just then he heard a knock at the door, and, on opening it, found a Siva Bhakta standing in front of the house, drenched with rain. Nayanar at once took the guest inside, dried his body and gave him fresh clothes to wear. ‘Rest awhile, Swami, while we prepare some food for you to appease your hunger,’ said Nayanar and told his wife of his predicament: there was nothing to offer the devotee of the Lord. But, the devout wife suggested that Nayanar could go into the backyard and collect the grain-seeds that they had just sown that very day. Nayanar accepted the suggestion. On account of the heavy rain, the grains were floating and it was easy to collect them in a basket. As soon as he brought the grains, the wife fried and crushed them, and with the help of some greens that grew in their own backyard, cooked a nice dinner for the guest.

Nayanar was supremely happy. And, as he went to awaken the guest, he discovered that he had disappeared. And then Nayanar saw in the sky, Lord Siva who had come in the form of the devotee with Mother Parvati. Both were showering their blessing on him and his wife. The Lord said: ‘Oh noble souls, I am highly pleased with your devotion. You will soon attain My Abode and live there for ever.’

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