(pronunciation = 'eRi-pathar')
By Swami Sivananda
Eripathar was born in Karuvur, one of the main cities of the Chola Kingdom. It was a very sacred place, situated on the bank of the river Ambiravati. On both the banks of this river, saints and sages were doing tapas and were radiating spiritual vibrations. A famous temple was there, too, dedicated to Lord Pasupatheesvarar (Siva) who was showering His grace on the king and the people alike. They were all happy.
Eripathar was daily worshipping Lord Pasupatheesvarar with great faith and devotion. His one aim in life was to serve Siva bhaktas and to offer them every kind of protection. He always carried a weapon, an axe, for this purpose. With the axe Eripathar would punish anyone trying to harm Siva bhaktas. He was doing this by the Lord's own work!
In that city, there lived a Siva bhakta by name Sivakami Andar. He was very regular in his daily worship of Lord Siva. Early morning, one would find him in the garden after bath, collecting flowers, making garlands for taking to the temple and offering to the Lord. This was his routine.
On a Maha Navami day, when all the people were jubilant, Sivakami Andar was rushing to the temple, as usual, with a basket of flowers. At the same time, the king's pet elephant was returning from the river, after its bath. On its back were two Mahouts, and three others were escorting it.
Suddenly, the elephant went mad and began chasing the people. They were running here and there. The mad elephant ran towards Sivakami Andar. It caught hold of him, wrenched the basket of flowers from him, threw it on the ground and ran away.
The flowers were all scattered on the ground. Sivakami Andar was greatly upset. The elephant had destroyed the flowers he had kept for the worship of the Lord. Sivakami Andar chased after the elephant but since he was very aged, he soon fell down exhausted. He was weeping bitterly, crying aloud, "Sivada! Sivada! (a cry expressing agony)".
Eripathar happened to pass that way. He heard Sivakami Andar's pitiable cry and the cause of it.
"Where is that elephant?" asked Eripathar.
He then began to run in the direction indicated by Sivakami Andar. Soon he overtook the elephant and hurled his powerful axe, killing it with one stroke. Then he pounced on the Mahouts and killed them, too.
The news of the elephant's fate reached the king who immediately reached the spot on his horse, surrounded by his soldiers. He could not see who had killed the elephant, for, he could not associate the Siva yogi Eripathar with such an act.
The King began to shout, "Who killed my elephant?"
When someone pointed to Eripathar, immediately the king's wrath vanished, for he knew that if the Siva yogi had done so, there should have been a very valid reason for it.
"He must have killed it in self-defence," thought the king and felt happy that the elephant had done no harm to the Siva yogi.
He then addressed Eripathar, "Oh Swamin, I did not know that you killed the elephant. Definitely, the elephant and the Mahouts must have done some harm to you and you rightly punished them."
Eripathar narrated to the king all that had happened, and said, "Since the elephant and the Mahouts were guilty of Siva-Aparadham, I killed them."
The moment the king heard the expression Siva-Aparadham(sin against Lord Siva) he suffered terrible mental agony. He fell at the feet of Eripathar and said, "O Swamin, for what they have done, the punishment awarded by you is not enough. I have committed a great crime by keeping such an elephant and such Mahouts. Now, I do not deserve a death through your holy weapon, the axe. Here is my own sword. Please be gracious enough to cut off my head with it."
Eripathar was stunned to hear these words. He himself was struck with remorse. "What a great pain have I inflicted on the king! What a noble king he is!" he thought; and, lest the king should execute the punishment on himself, he took the sword from the king.
Eripathar felt that he was the cause for the king's affliction, and in self-punishment, he began to cut his own throat. The king was alarmed. He thought that he would now be guilty of another offence and at once gripped the sword and stopped Eripathar from cutting his own throat.
The Lord's leela was over. A voice was heard in the sky, "Oh noble souls! This is Lord Pasupatheesvarar's leela. It is His wish that His bhakta's sincere and faithful service be recognized by the world."
Immediately, the elephants and the Mahouts got up, as if from deep sleep. Sivakami Andar's flower basket was full. All were amazed and began to sing Lord Pasupatheesvarar's glory.
Eripathar placed the sword at the king's feet and prostrated to him. The king also fell at Eripathar's feet. Both embraced each other in great joy. Eripathar wished that the king should mount his pet elephant. The king did so. Eripathar returned to his place. Sivakami Andar went to the temple with the flowers.
Eripathar continued to serve Siva bhaktas until he finally cast off his mortal coil and reached the abode of Lord Siva.
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.