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Appudhi-adikal Nāyanār

Illustration courtesy of Ramalingar Pani Mandram.
Appudhi Adikal’s love for the Saivite saint Tirunavukkarsar (Appar) was so great that he named his children, cows, cooking vessels, wells and ponds—indeed everything in his house—after the great saint. Appudhi had never seen him but chanted his name and his verses every day. One day while Tirunavukkarsar was roaming about the land, he chanced upon the village of this devoted soul. Thirsty from his long journey in the midday sun, the saint approached the village well and was curious to find the name ‘Tirunavukkarsar’ inscribed all over the shed covering the well. The humble sage, not revealing his identity, inquired of the villagers who it was that was doing service in the name written on the shed walls. They told him that it was one Appudhi Adikal who performs homa each day for the sake of the world, and that it was he that had built the shed over the well. Inquiring of Appudhi’s whereabouts, in short order the sage arrived at his doorstep.

When Appudhi heard there was a devotee of the Lord at his door, he was overwhelmed with joy. Without knowing that this was the great ‘Appar’ whom he had been worshipping all these years, he prostrated before the visitor while the latter prostrated in like manner. Tirunavukkarsar asked why, instead of the name of the donor, there was ‘another name’ written on the shed of village well? Appudhi replied indignantly, “Is the name of the great saint who triumphed over the Jains just another name for you? Do you not know how, by the Lord’s power, Appar was saved by a floating rock when once tossed into the ocean? You are clothed in holy garb yet your words lack reverance.” Seeing Appudhi’s sincereity, Tirunavukkarsar answered humbly: “I am the one of deluded mind who was restored to the true faith through a colic induced by the Lord’s grace.” Hearing this, Appudhi Adigal realized that the sadhu standing before him was none other than his own beloved Tirunavukkarchar. He folded his palms in adoration as tears streamed from his eyes, and he fell prostrate on the ground before the saint’s lotus-feet. The saint returned the adoration and lifted up his devotee. Overwhelmed with joy, Adigal began to sing and dance and ran about announcing to his kinsmen just who was in their midst. All gathered round and prayed for the saint to enter the family home.

Appudhi and his wife washed the saint’s feet and sprinkled the gathering with the thirtam. They then set about to prepare food. They asked their eldest son whose name was Muththa Tirunavukkarsar (‘eldest Tirunavukkarsar’) to fetch some banana leaves on which the food could be served. As the boy cut banana leaves in the back garden, he suddenly encountered a venomous snake which bit him on the hand. Knowing his fate, the boy rushed in to deliver the leaves but, lest he disturb the auspicious event, said nothing about his snakebite. But when the parents discovered their loving son lifeless with the wound on his hand, they knew what had transpired. Though heavy of heart, they continued in their preparation without making any mention of the tragedy to their guest. But before having his food, Tirunavukkarsar wanted to bless the couple and their children with the holy ash and asked where the eldest son was. Adikal, unwilling to tell of the inauspicious accident, only said, “He won’t be of use now”. “What has happened?” the saint inquired. Unable to conceal it any longer, Appudhi Adikal burst into tears and confessed that their son, bitten by a poisionous snake, lay dead behind the kitchen. Appalled by the news, Tirunavukkarsar rushed to the body of the boy and, sprinkling holy ash over him, pleaded in prayer to the Lord to bring the child back to life. As the lifeless body began to stir, the family and villagers were amazed. All returned to the house and Tirunāvukkarasar suggested that the feast continue. The sage asked Adikal and the children, including the resuscitated youth, to have food along with him. After staying with them for several days, the great poet left for Tiruppazanam to recite hymns on the Lord where he adored the devotion of Appudhi Adikal in one of the hymns of the Thevarum.

Reproduced from the March 2013 issue of the Saranagati eNewsletter
published by Sri Ramanasramam. The above text has been freely adapted from editions
of Periapuranam, Siva Bhakta Vilāsam (published by Sri Ramanasramam) and other texts.

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