It is said that those who serve the Lord’s devotees, by whatever means, attain salvation. Once a well-to-do devotee who made it his life’s work to serve the Lord’s devotees was tested by the Lord. Fire was sent down to consume his house and the soil in his fields dried up and cracked, spoiling his crops. Even his cattle died, smitten by disease. Now penniless, the devotee received an unusual guest at his palm leaf hut, built in the ruins of his former estate. Perceiving that this was no ordinary pilgrim, the devotee nevertheless failed to recognise the Lord in disguise. When the visitor asked for food and clothing, the devotee panicked and sought the advice of his wife who encouraged him to fulfil the wishes of the guest at any cost. In the meantime the guest, feigning impatience, shouted, “What, you leave me here unattended and go inside for a leisurely chat with your wife? I have devotees in Kumbhakonam eager to surrender their lives to me. Enough of your hospitality.” And therewith rushed out of the house. The devotee chased after him but found he had vanished. He then made ready to go to Kumbhakonam in hopes of finding the disgruntled guest and make amends. Once there, however, no sign of him was to be found. He went to the Lord’s shrine and fasted for seven days. One night Mahadeva appeared to him in a dream and said: “Remain here always and revel in serving my devotees who are supreme.” The devotee woke up and immediately went in search of a job. Not finding any, he wandered into a less respectable part of town and found himself entering a gambling hall. With the few coins he had left from his former wealth he ventured at the gaming board. When the wager proved successful, he again ventured his winnings and continued to meet with success, becoming wealthy overnight. But what he would now do with his newfound fortune was the test. The following day, he arranged a feast for devotees of the Lord and all who hungered came and partook of the abundance. His family joined him and worked ceaselessly in humbly serving the Lord’s devotees. Food continued to be served until none but a few coins remained. With these he again wagered on behalf of the Lord’s devotees, again meeting with success. While this means of livelihood earned him the title Moorkha (foolish), the purity of heart with which he conducted his otherwise unworthy profession earned him a permanent place in Siva’s abode.
Illustration courtesy of Ramalingar Pani Mandram.