In the fertile region of Maenmazhanadu lived a young cowherd devoted to the Lord. One day at pasture, he met a sage and asked the saint to teach him how to better love and serve the Lord. The sage, detecting the boy’s earnestness, initiated him in the panchaksara (namasivaya). The cowherd began his recitations and day by day the mantra deepened in him until he was able to meet the daily 32,000 repetitions suggested by his preceptor. As he continued his practice, he began to be filled with a profound love for the Lord until one day, his vision was altogether altered: he saw that all of creation was nothing but Lord Siva Himself. Filled with music and the desire to praise the Lord through song, Anaya cut a stick of bamboo, fashioned a flute and began to play hymns to Mahadeva. When he played the notes of the panchaksara, his herd forgot their grazing and followed him into the forest. As they sat underneath a konra tree, the other animals of the forest gathered round and were soothed by the spell-binding melody. A poisonous snake leaned lightly on the recumbent peacock; the forest tiger lay next to the timid doe; nagas emerged from their caverns below the earth while the apsaras, gandharvas and charanas of heaven stood transfixed, all caught in the same spell. At last Mahadeva himself appeared and there and then, beholding the sanctity of his devotee, granted him final and everlasting liberation.
Illustration courtesy of Ramalingar Pani Mandram.