Tuesday 10 July 2007

Sambandhar and Appar

WHILE ON A pilgrimage, the twelve-year old Sambandhar and Appar reached Vedaranyam. The main gate of the Vedaranya temple was found locked. It seems that long ago the ancient Vedas took human shapes. They worshipped the Lord in the temple with abhishekam (pouring of water) and puja. On going away, closed the main gate and sealed it. Since then no one had the courage to open it and so a hole was bored through the wall and a side gate improvised for people for coming and going out. When Appar and Sambandhar enquired about the closure of the main gate, the watchman told them this story and suggested that they could go in by the side gate. They did not feel like using that gate and so decided to pray to Iswara for the opening of the main gate. Sambandhar suggested that Appar should pray. It was then that Appar sang a hymn of ten verses. Iswara is fond of Appar’s songs and it seems He was so absorbed in hearing them, that He forgot to open the gate. When the gate did not open even on singing the ninth verse, Appar was overwhelmed with grief and sang the tenth verse saying, “Oh Lord, has not your heart melted yet?” When even that had no effect, he sang the eleventh verse beginning, “Avakkanai Vavalaladar Thittaneer”, the purport of which is, “When Ravana lifted Mt. Kailas with his hands you struck him down with your little finger and inflicted trouble on him for a thousand years. That being so, how will you have compassion for me?” When this was sung, it seems that Iswara regretted the delay and immediately opened the doors.

After entering the temple and worshipping the Lord therein, they came out. Appar requested Sambandhar to pray to Iswara to close the door and when Sambandhar sang only one verse, the doors closed with a bang. On this occasion, Iswara tested Appar by not answering his prayers until he sang eleven songs and favoured Sambandhar by promptly closing the doors when he sang only one song.

On another occasion, it was Sambandhar that was put to a severe test while Appar was readily granted favour. From the time Iswara put him to a severe test at Vedaranyam, Appar felt aggrieved and began worshipping Iswara with greater devotion than ever. Subsequently both Appar and Sambandhar went on a pilgrimage with their respective retinue and reached a village called Tiruveelimalai. At that time the village was in the grip of a famine. Unable to bear the sight of the sufferings of the people they decided to stay in two different Mutts along with their attendants and distribute food to the people. They had of course no money with them and so went to the local temple to pray to Iswara. Pleased with their devotion, Iswara gave them a sovereign each every day. The sovereign used to be kept on the doorstep. The one given to Appar was accepted by the vendors of foodstuffs and the required articles were readily supplied. Food could therefore be given to the people before the afternoon set in. The sovereign of Sambandhar was however below the standard purity of gold and so the dealers offered to take it only at a discount. The attendants had therefore to come back to the Mutt to obtain Sambandhar’s consent, then return to the shop, buy the required articles and then feed the people rather late, by about 2 P.M. everyday.

In due course this delay came to the notice of Sambandhar. On enquiry he found that it was all due to the bad coins he was getting from the Lord daily. He went to the temple and sang ten songs beginning with “Vachiteerave Kachunalguveer”, which means, “Swami, why are you giving me coins which are not pure gold?” Then the Lord who is the embodiment of kindness, said, “Appar is worshipping me with his mind, speech and deed, while you are doing it with your mind and speech only”. Appar was daily cleaning the temple grounds, making them neat and tidy. “It was only to point out the difference that I have been doing like this. Henceforth, I shall give you also good coins. Don’t worry”. And from that day onwards good coins were given.

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