24. Apputhi Adigal
(pronunciation = 'appoothi adigal')
By Swami Sivananda
In devotion to the Guru, Apputhi Adigal Nayanar excelled. He was an ardent Siva bhakta and led the ideal householder's life. He belonged to a Brahmin family in Tingalur in the Chola kingdom.
Apputhi Adigal had heard of the glories of Thiru-navuk-arasar (Appar) Nayanar. He had heard of how God's grace made the stone float and how Appar rode on it and floated on the sea and went to a place of safety. Even though Apputhi Adigal had not seen Appar, Apputhi Adigal had taken Appar as his Guru, and literally worshipped Appar. He knew that Lord Siva Himself, out of compassion for the spiritual aspirants, appeared as the Guru. He meditated on the lotus feet of Appar. He had named all his children "Thiru-navuk-arasar" and all the household articles had also been named after Apputhi Adigal's Guru. He had erected a number of water-sheds, for the service of pilgrims, and had named all of them, also, after his Guru. Thus, Apputhi Adigal had ensured that he would constantly remember his Guru and experience his Guru's grace.
Appar himself passed through Tingalur one day. He went into one of the water-sheds. He was surprised to see his own name everywhere. He found out from some other pilgrims that the shed had been erected by Apputhi Adigal and went to meet him.
Apputhi Adigal received the Siva bhakta (though he did not know who it was) with great devotion. Appar said, "Oh noble soul, I have heard a lot about your greatness and glory. I wanted to pay my respects personally to you. Please tell me, why have you named the water-shed after somebody, and not yourself?"
Apputhi Adigal was upset at this casual reference to the blessed name of his Guru. He said, "Oh friend, though you appear to be a Siva bhakta, you do not seem to know Thiru-navuk-arasar Swamigal, who through the grace of the Lord withstood successfully all the persecutions of the Pallava king and re-established Saivism. Have you not heard how the king tied him to a stone and threw him into the sea, and how he floated back to the shore? Who are you?"
Appar was very much moved by Apputhi Adigal's devotion and replied, "I am that humble soul who fell a victim to severe colic and then took shelter under the Lord's Feet. I am that humble soul who, due to the grace of Lord Siva, got cured of that disease and returned to Saivism."
[Look at the difference between the two descriptions!] Apputhi Adigal remembers the glory of Appar, whereas Appar chooses to recall his own failings (to preserve his humility) and the Lord's supreme saving grace.
As soon as he heard this, Apputhi Adigal understood that the Siva bhakta was none other than Appar and was overjoyed. He worshipped Appar, along with his wife and prayed to Appar to accept Bhiksha (food). Appar accepted.
Apputhi Adigal had a son who was sent to the garden to bring a banana leaf, for Appar to use as his plate. While foraging for the banana leaf, the boy was bitten by a cobra. The son of a Nayanar he was also a great devotee of the Lord! He ran to the mother eager to fulfill his duty. He handed the leaf to his mother and immediately fell down dead. Apputhi Adigal did not want to let this disturb his worship of Appar Swamigal and, therefore, hid the corpse. He invited Appar to have his meal. Appar sat down and blessed Apputhi Adigal and his wife with Bhasma, and then called for their son.
Apputhi Adigal tactfully replied, "He is not in a position to come."
Appar sensed that there was something wrong and asked Apputhi Adigal to tell him the truth. Apputhi Adigal informed Appar of what had happened.
Immediately Appar got up and asked Apputhi Adigal to lay the corpse in front of the temple. Appar, then, sang a song to Lord Siva.
A miracle took place. The boy got up, as if from sleep. All were happy, except the parents of the boy. They regretted that this incident had caused some delay in Appar having his meals! Such is the nature of true devotion.
Appar immediately took his meals and blessed the family.
Appar lived in Apputhi Adigal's house for some time. Apputhi Adigal gained the grace of the Lord, by his wonderful devotion to his Guru, Appar Swamigal.
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.