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Arivattaya Nāyanār

Illustration courtesy of Ramalingar Pani Mandram.
On the banks of the Kaveri in the town of Kannamangalam lived one Nāyanār. He was deeply devoted to Lord Siva and made a vow to offer Him daily a meal of cooked red rice along with greens and tender mango. He said that if he did not receive some indication that the Lord had tasted the offerings, then he would assume they had not been pleasing to the Lord, in which case, he would be obliged to make an end of his life by cutting his throat with a sickle (arivāl).

The Lord was evidently willing to go along with the demands of his servant for each day after Nāyanār made his offerings, crunching and chewing noises could be heard in the temple. Sixteen years passed this way till one day, the Lord decided to test his devotee. He decreed that a famine should strike the Chola land and waited to see what Nāyanār would do. As the devotee’s crops failed, he offered what little rice he had to the Lord while he and his wife subsisted on the coarse grain left over in the field. When the coarse grain ceased to be available, his wife, steadfast in her love, fed him on simple greens or gave him water to drink. Finally, even though the drought was unbearable, Nāyanār put the last available offerings in a basket and, carrying it on his head, walked towards the temple. Following him, his wife invariably slowed her pace due to physical weakness caused by long fasting. When Nāyanār turned to urge her on, he inadvertently tripped on a stone and stumbled to the ground, scattering the offerings which fell into a deep crevice in the sun-parched earth. Well out of reach, Tayanār laid face down and contemplated the futility of the moment. Uttering his final prayers, he drew out his sickle and put it to his throat. As he made ready to fulfill the promise he’d made long-ago, the weapon was mysteriously snatched from his hand. Just then crunching and chewing sounds could be heard rising up from the deep crevice. As Nāyanār lifted his gaze, the Lord emerged from the fissure and appeared before him. Nāyanar and his loving wife fell prostrate before Him, rejoicing at His graciousness. The Lord declared: “For your noble act you two shall dwell forever in our own blessed abode”. As He vanished from their sight, the landscape around them transformed. The cracks in the ground closed up and bright green vegetation sprouted in all directions whilst a gentle rain fell from above. This hallowed spot became known as the place where ‘the Lord dwelt relishing the offerings of devotees’ and Nāyanār came to be known as ‘Arivāttāyanār’ (Sickle Nāyanār), a name hallowed to the present day.

Reproduced from the February 2014 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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