(pronunciation = 'amar-neethi')
By Swami Sivananda
Amarnithi was a Vaishya by caste. He belonged to Palaiyaarai in the Chola Kingdom. Palaiyaarai was a very fertile place, surrounded on all sides by gardens and green fields. In those days this place was very famous.
Amarnithi was a trader in gold, diamonds, silks and cotton goods. He used to import these goods from foreign countries and was selling them at reasonable prices. He earned money honestly and became rich. Though he was engaged in worldly activities, his mind was always fixed on Lord Siva. He was an ardent Siva bhakta. Amarnithi would invite Siva bhaktas to his house and worship them. He would give them Kowpeenam (special cloth), etc., and feed them nicely and send them away happy with other gifts.
Amarnithi used to visit the sacred temple of Thirunallur during festivals and worship Lord Siva with intense faith and repeat the Panchaakshara Mantra ('Aum Namah Sivaaya') daily with bhava. Not being satisfied with this visit during festivals only, he wanted to settle down there once for all, always enjoying the Lord's darshan, and feeding Siva bhaktas. So he left Palaiyaarai and migrated with his family and relatives, to Thirunallur. He built a beautiful mutt there to accommodate Siva bhaktas who visited the temple. Daily he used to invite Siva bhaktas and offer Kowpeenam, etc.
Lord Siva was highly pleased with Amarnithi's Kowpeena charity and extreme kindness to Siva bhaktas that He wanted to show to the world His bhakta's greatness and also shower His blessings on Amarnithi
So, one day Lord Siva in the guise of a brahmachari, with beautiful matted locks on his head, sacred ashes on his forehead, with a staff on his shoulder, appeared before Amarnithi's mutt. Two kowpeenams and a small ash-bag were tied to one end of the staff. The brahmachari had a charming face. His eyes were glittering. He walked gracefully into the mutt. Amarnithi, with extreme joy, welcomed him and worshipped him.
The brahmachari said, "Oh friend, you are a noble soul. People are highly praising your Kowpeena charity. I have come to you for darshan."
Amarnithi begged of him to take bhiksha. The brahmachari readily agreed and said, "I shall go to the river and return after finishing my bath and nitya karmas. Rain may drench my kowpeenams. So, please keep this dry kowpeenam safely with you, and I shall come back for it. The kowpeenam is very precious, as you already know. So, please keep it safe."
The brahmachari went away, and Amarnithi kept the kowpeenam safely inside the house. But, the Lord willed that it should disappear!
Soon after the brahmachari came back after his bath, he asked for the dry kowpeenam as rain had drenched the kowpeenam he had on the staff. Amarnithi could not find it. He prayed hard to the Lord. Yet, he could not find it.
Amarnithi approached the brahmachari, trembling, with another kowpeenam, and explained his predicament to the brahmachari. But, the brahmachari was in no mood to take any explanation. Amarnithi offered much wealth, etc., in compensation. But, the Brahmachari said, "What have I to do with all this wealth? All these are of no use to me. I only need a kowpeenam."
And, in saying so, the Lord in the guise of the brahmachari, uttered a very great truth. He continued, "I have got another kowpeenam. However, you can give me another of the same weight."
Amarnithi was greatly relieved when he heard this. He brought a balance (weighing scale). He put the kowpeenam on one side and another piece on the other. The brahmachari's scale went down. Whatever Amarnithi put on his side, the brahmachari's scale was heavier.
Amarnithi was amazed. He understood that it was God's own Lila. All of Amarnithi's wealth could not equal the brahmachari's kowpeenam! How could it? Lord Siva's kowpeenam represents the Vedas. The fibres of His kowpeenam represent the shastras.
Amarnithi was on the horns of a dilemma. He fell at the brahmachari's feet and asked him to allow himself, his wife, and his child to be weighed against the brahmachari's kowpeenam. The brahmachari agreed. Amarnithi got on the scale with his wife and his child, saying, "If I have truly served the Siva bhaktas, with faith and sincerity, let this scale be equal in weight to the other one."
Immediately the two scales were equal. The merit of Amarnithi's selfless service of the Siva bhaktas was equal to the merit of Lord Siva's kowpeenam.
The people who witnessed this were wonderstruck. They prostrated before Amarnithi and praised him. Devas from the heaven showered Parijatha flowers. The brahmachari disappeared and Lord Parameswara and Mother Parvathi appeared on their rishabha (bull) before Amarnithi, his wife and child. The Lord blessed them, "I am immensely pleased with your whole-hearted and sincere service of my bhaktas and with your kowpeena charity. You three will come to my abode and live there happily forever."
On account of the Lord's grace, the balance itself turned into a celestial car (vehicle) in which Amarnithi, his wife and his child attained Siva's Abode.
Sekkilaar, and G. Vanmikanathan. Periya Puranam A Tamil Classic On The Great Saiva Saints of South India. Ed. Dr. N. Mahalingam. Chennai: Sri Ramakrishna Math, 2000.
Sivananda, Swami. Sixty-Three Nayanar Saints. World Wide Web edition. India: Divine Life Society, 1999.