(pronunciation = 'ari-vaat-taayar')
By Swami Sivananda
There once lived in Kannamangalam in the Chola kingdom a rich Vellala by name Thayanar. He was leading the life of an ideal Grihastha (householder) of whom the saint Thiruvalluvar has sung, "He will be placed among the Gods in heaven who in this world follows the law of the householder's life.
Thayanar was a great devotee of Lord Siva. His devotion took the form of a daily offering to the Lord of food prepared with red rice, a sauce made of red herb, and mango pickle. He considered this as an act of great devotion to the Lord. The Lord was highly pleased with Thayanar's devotion. He wanted to put it to the test, in order to manifest it to the world in all its glory.
So by the Lord's will, poverty struck Thayanar. Thayanar got himself employed and earned his wages in kind (red rice). He himself would not eat this red rice, but lived on the inferior khar rice. The Lord tested him further.
All the fields in the place grew only red rice. But, Thayanar would not touch it. His wife cooked for him some green leaves from their garden. Thayanar was content and was intent on his usual offering to the Lord.
The Lord put His devotee through more severe tests. Even the green leaves withered away and there was nothing left. Thayanar was not at all perturbed. He happily lived on mere water. His mind was full of the bliss of the worship of the Lord and he felt neither hunger nor thirst.
One day, Thayanar (now emaciated and weak) was taking his usual offering to the Lord, followed by his wife. He stumbled on the way and fell down. The offering he had spilt on the ground.
Thayanar was greatly upset. He began to weep bitterly, "Oh Lord, today the food intended for You has been spilt on the ground. What great sin have I committed to deserve this? Please forgive me. Have mercy on this poor creature. You are omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. If this is true, You must be present here also. Kindly come and accept the offering here. If You do not eat this, I will give up my life."
With these words, he began to cut his throat with an Arival (sickle). Hence, the name Arivatayar Nayanar.
Lord Siva was highly pleased with his devotion. His Lila was over. He at once stretched His hand and caught hold of Arivatayar Nayanar's, thus, preventing him from cutting his own throat. Arivatayar Nayanar did not realize what was happening. At that time, he heard the sound of someone biting a mango pickle.
Arivatayar then understood the Lord's Lila, sang His glories and danced. Lord Siva and Mother Parvathi appeared before him and blessed him, "Oh noble soul, I am immensely pleased with your devotion. You and your chaste wife will soon come to my abode and live happily there forever."
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.