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Punitavathi Nāyanār

Punitavathi
Illustration courtesy of Ramalingar Pani Mandram.
When a devotee of the Lord, the fragrant-tressed Punitavathi, was missing a mango, she meditated on the Lord, and lo, by his grace, a fruit appeared in the palm of her hand. With glad heart she served it to her waiting husband who, finding it too sweet to be found in this world, enquired as to where she had got it. She felt it improper to divulge the special grace of the Lord but neither was she given to false speech. She decided it was best simply to recount what happened. Doubting her, Paramadatta said, “If this is due to the grace of the Lord, then procure another by the same means”. To prevent her word from proving untrue, she prayed to the Lord again; forthwith, she found another fruit in the palm of her hand. Her husband received it with great amazement. But an unappeasable fear gripped his heart: “This lady who I call my wife is no ordinary mortal!” From that moment he resolved never to treat her as a wife but as a divine being and so he began to live apart from her.

He made excuses to his kinsmen about doing business in a foreign land and sailed from the nearby port. Years passed and though Punitavathi faithfully awaited him, when he returned he dared not to enter her house but secretly took up residence in a distant city. Time passed and eventually he took another wife with whom he had a daughter. He named the baby girl Punitavathi. In time it was learned by family members that Paramadatta was in the country. They persuaded Punitavathi to accompany them to see him. They bore Punitavathi in a palanquin but en route, having learned of her approach, Paramadatta intercepted her together with his second wife and daughter. When the kinsmen and palanquin bearing Punitavathi met Paramadatta, the latter prostrated before her. All who witnessed it were perplexed. In the presence of the assembly he told her: “By Thy grace alone do I live; the child bears Thy name!” But their perplexity grew even more as he explained that Punitavathi was no mortal but a celestial being. He then prevailed on them to kneel and pay homage before her. Meanwhile Punitavathi prayed to the Lord: “Let this flesh which I bore for the sake of a husband now wither away and let my form become like a skeleton-ghost!” At once her beauty faded and she appeared as a skeleton! Flowers rained from the sky; celestial drums beat; sages and celestials gathered on high; the hosts of the Lord set up a welcoming roar. The kinsmen revered the unusual form and went away in fear while Punitavathi set off towards Kailas. When Uma and the Lord greeted her, he said to his consort: “This is our mother ‘Ammai’, extremely devoted to us. She prayed for this form!” “Ammai, what boons would you like?” The devotee replied in humility: “First, let my devotion to Thee never fade! Let me be free from re-birth! If, perchance, I must be born again, let me never forget Thee! Further, let me sing Thy praise resting under Thy feet as thou dancest in joy, Oh! righteous one!” The Lord said: “May it be according to your wish!”


Reproduced from the May 2012 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.