(pronunciation = 'athi-path-thar')
By Swami Sivananda
Athipathar saint was a fisherman born in Nulaipadi near Nagapattinam. It was his practice to let go one fish from his catch daily, as an offering unto the Lord. The Lord wanted to reveal Athipathar's greatness to the world.
Once, it so happened that for many consecutive days Athipathar could catch only one fish. He let it go, in the name of Lord Siva, and went without food.
Another day, Athipathar caught a golden fish, again only one for that day. Athipathar, however, remained steadfast in his vow and let it go, in the name of Lord Siva.
The Lord appeared before Athipathar and blessed this illiterate, fisherman saint!
Not indeed by vast erudition, nor by breath-taking austerities, nor by hearing and talking a lot, but by unflinching devotion alone can God be realized. This humble, simple, fisherman saint has proved that beyond the least trace of doubt. But, look at Athipathar's steadfastness (Nishta)! It is not easy to acquire, unless you have living faith in God. Otherwise, the mind will bring up all sorts of reasons (lame excuses!) for breaking the vow. This supreme faith and devotion is itself the highest Jnana. Only an ignorant man studies books what need is there for a great scholar to study an elementary book on grammar? What need is there for one to whom God is a living presence, to stuff himself with words? Intellect is a help, if it serves faith. It is a hindrance if it shakes it. Devotion is indispensable for attaining God.
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.