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Dhandi-adigal Nāyanār

Illustration courtesy of Ramalingar Pani Mandram.
Dhandi Adigal of Thiruvāroor, blind from birth, lived in Kamalalayam and was a devotee of Siva. One day sorrowing over his blindness, Dhandi was consoled by a pundit: “Eyes enable us to see forms and aid us in worldly affairs. But great munis close their eyes to experience the ancient light of Brahmam. For you, there is no need to close the eyes”. The pundit continued: “Listen, there is a sacred tank by the Tyageswara shrine. If you can excavate the tank with the Panchakshari on your lips, you shall cross the ocean of repeated births.” Saying this, the pundit initiated Dhandi in the Panchakshari mantra.

Using a suspended rope as a guide, the blind man moved about the tank excavating the mud while faithfully chanting his mantra. He toiled for three long years until, one day, a group of agitators known for their atheism passed by and taunted him saying, “O poor one! Why should you toil like this for no reason?” Dhandi replied, “Siva is pleased by selfless service. There is nothing impossible for the Lord.” The unbelievers mocked him, “O yes! And he can restore your sight, can’t he?” Pained at this abuse of the Lord, Dhandi retorted: “If it pleases the Lord that I see you become blind, He will certainly fulfil it.” In retaliation, the heathen broke the rope and threw the blind man’s tools into the water. Unable to find them, Dhandi came before the Lord that night, “O Lord does it befit You to behold such slander made against You and Your devotees?”

Moved by his devotee’s tears, the compassionate Lord appeared to the local king in a dream: “My devotee Dhandi has been mistreated by the atheists. Summon them tomorrow and punish them.” The king woke in wonderment. At dawn, he rushed to the temple, found the blind man and fell at his feet. He then issued orders that the troublemakers be summoned. When the skeptics appeared at the king’s court the next day, the judges interrogated them. But the group denied all charges. The king said, “If what you say is true, let your testimony be repeated in the presence of the Lord. Each one of you shall take a dip in the sacred tank of Tyageswara temple, then you shall speak before the Lord, pledging your eyesight as a surety on your words. If your words be true then your eyesight shall be preserved but if not, you will lose it”. The skeptics doubtful of any Divinity whatsoever had no fear of Tyageswara which they took to be a mere piece of stone. So they willingly accepted the challenge and plunged into the tank. When they came and stood facing the Lord, they saw that Dhandi’s eyesight had been restored. But even then they took no pains to amend their testimony and, placing their hands on their eyes, they swore against the charges of the king. When they removed their hands from their eyes, they found that they could see no more. The scoffers cried in horror as they were driven from the temple. The king worshipped Dhandi whose chants of Panchakshari resounded in all quarters. Dhandi spent the remainder of his days in loving service to the Lord and, as predicted, attained complete union with Him.

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