19 September 2011

Karikal Ammaiyar

One of the few women saints whose stories appear in the 'Periapuranam, The Lives of the Sixty-Three Saivite Saints', is that of Karikal Ammaiyar. The stories of the 'Periapuranam' may expand our hearts by showing the depths of devotion to Lord Shiva that can be reached by mortal man.

The story of Karikal Ammaiyar

Punithavathiar as Karaikal Ammaiyar was called, was born in a Vaisya family. Her father was Danadathan. He was a wealthy merchant. He was very virtuous, too. He and his dutiful wife prayed to the Lord for a child, and the child the Lord blessed them with they called Punithavathy. From her childhood, Punithavathy had an intense love for Lord Siva and His Bhaktas. She was married to Paramadattan, a wealthy Vaisya. Both of them were leading an ideal householder’s life.

One day Paramadattan sent two mangoes to his house. Punithavathy kept them safely so that she could serve her husband with them at meal-time. In the meantime, a Siva Yogi appeared before her. He was hungry and completely exhausted. Punithavathy worshipped him and offered him Bhiksha. She had nothing to give him, except the mangoes. She gave one to the guest. At midday Paramadattan came to the house. The wife served him with one mango. He liked it, and asked for the other. She was upset. She appealed to the Lord for help.

When she finished her prayer, mysteriously a mango fell on the palm of her hand. She gave it her husband. He tasted it. It was exceptionally sweet. He asked her to tell him from where she got it, as he was quite sure it was not the mango he had sent. Punithavathy told him the whole truth. Paramadattan, however, would not believe this and challenged her to produce another. She prayed again to the Lord. Another mango appeared on her palm. She gave it to him. But, at once it disappeared from his hand. He was astounded. He understood the greatness of his wife. He felt that it was a great sin to live with her as her husband. On the pretext of going to a foreign country for trade, he sailed with a ship load of goods. On return, he established himself in a big city in the Pandyan kingdom. He married a Vaisya girl and lived happily. He had a daughter by her and he named her Punithavathy, after his first wife.

Punithavathiyar’s relatives came to know of her husband’s whereabouts and took her also there in a palanquin. When Paramadattan heard that Punithavathy was coming to him, he, with his second wife and child, went forward, and fell at Punithavathy’s feet. When the people demanded an explanation, he revealed that he regarded her, not as his wife, but as a Goddess. Punithavathy understood his mental condition, and prayed to the Lord: ‘In that case, Oh Lord, deprive me of the present physical charm and let me have a demonaical form.’ Her prayer was immediately granted and her charming body was transformed into a skeleton.

Then she went on a pilgrimage to the holy Kailasa. Feeling that it would be a great sin to place her foot on those sacred grounds, she made the last part of the journey on her head. Mother Parvathy was surprised to see Punithavathy’s strange form and her wonderful devotion. Lord Siva told her of Ammaiyar’s greatness. When she went near Him, Lord Siva welcomed her with extreme love and granted a boon to her. She fell at His Feet, and prayed: ‘Oh Lord of Mercy, give me sincere, pure, unalloyed, eternal and overflowing devotion unto You. I want no more birth. If, however, I have to take birth here, grant me that I should never forget You. Whenever You dance, I must be at Your feet singing Your praise. This is my only wish.’ Lord Siva granted the boon and asked her to proceed to Tiruvalangadu to witness His dance. She went to that place and spent her life singing the praise of Lord Siva.

[By Swami Shivananda]


Anonymous said...

Thank you. Another inspiring story to take us closer to Arunachala

Meenakshi Ammal said...

Thanks for your comment. Yes, I personally find it very helpful to read such devotional stories.

Of the Periapuranam (Lives of 63 Saivite Saints) Sri Ramana said of his early days, previous to his death experience as a young child:

"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 . . . "

He recounted later that as a child he would clasp his copy of the Periapuranam in his hands and stand in front of the Goddess Meenakshi at Madurai and with tears flowing ask that he should have such devotion as the Nayanars (saints) in the book.

Sri Ramana often recommended to his devotees the reading of the lives of the Shiva saints as a ways of increasing devotion.

Anonymous said...

Bhagawan probably read the Tamil version of 'Periapuranam'. Is it available in English? I couldn't find it on the Ramanashramam website.

meenakshi ammal said...

Yes its available in English and the Ramana Ashram bookstore link for the Periapuranam in English is: