Born a Vaisya in the Pandya kingdom at Madurai, the great Moorthiyār made it his daily mission to offer fresh sandal-paste to the Lord. But one day the city was conquered by a Karnataka king. The new king sought to crush the Saivite religion and saw to it that implements of worship of Lord Siva such as sandalwood were not available. In despair, Moorthiyār searched everywhere to procure sandalwood for his daily offerings. Finally he had the idea to grind his own arm on the millstone where he made sandalpaste and offer it to the Lord. When the Lord saw this, he took pity on the saint who had by now ground away the flesh of his arm all the way to the bone. He spoke to Moorthiyār and told him that he alone was destined to be king, and with these words, restored the saint’s injured arm. That night the foreign king died in his sleep and the next day, ministers sent the palace elephant blind-folded through the streets of the city with a garland in its trunk. In accordance with ancient custom, the man the elephant garlanded would be anointed king. The blind-folded elephant marched through the crowds but only when he found Moorthiyār did he raise the garland and place it around the devotee’s neck. Moorthi ruled long and justly and restored worship of the Lord to Madurai.
Illustration courtesy of Ramalingar Pani Mandram.