Tuesday, 10 July, 2007

With the Moon in His Crown

THE VENERABLE SUNDARAMURTHY was born in the amsa of Aalaala Sundara, who emanated from the reflection of Lord Siva, the Somasekhara (with moon in his crown). He acquired the friendship of the Kerala king, Cheraman Perumal Nainar, in the course of his wanderings as a pilgrim, and together they both went to Madurai on pilgrimage. The Pandyan king as well as his son-in-law, the Chola king, extended a very warm welcome to them and expressed their happiness at being their hosts. Sundaramurthy worshipped God Sundareswara, the consort of the goddess Meenakshi, and sang hymns in praise of the Lord with his poetic skill. Accompanied by the Chera king he visited and worshipped at the sacred shrines of the south, namely Thirukuttralam, Tirunelveli and Rameswaram. From there he visited the sacred shrine of Thirukkedeswara in Lanka Dwipa (Ceylon) and offered worship. There he remembered Thrisulapuram (Thiruchuli) which is the Muktinagar (city of salvation) and proceeded thither. As they approached that city, the crowds saw them both resplendent as though the sun and the moon appeared at the same time. Sundaramurthy was happy to have the darsan of Lord Bhuminatha and offered worship with the song beginning ‘Oona uyir Puhalai’ and was overwhelmed with devotion. He decided to stay in that holy place for a while, and resided in the Mutt on the bank of the river Kowndinya. One night during his stay there, Lord Siva appeared to him in a dream with a ball in his hand (ball is the symbol of kingship) and a crown on his head, as a youth of incomparable beauty. With a smile dancing on his lips, he said, “We stay in Jyotivana (Kaleswara).” On hearing these words, Sundaramurthy woke up with excitement and recollected the glorious kindness of the Lord who appeared and showered benevolence on him, and narrated the wonderful vision to the Chera king with joy. There and then he sang, overwhelmed with devotion, the Thevara Pathikam commencing with the words, ‘Thondar Adithodalalum’ on Lord Kaleswara.

From there they started to visit the far off holy place, Thiruppunavayil. Even as they started, God Kaleswara (who appeared in the dream of Sundaramurthy) and Amba approached them in the guise of an old brahmin couple. When Sundaramurthy asked them, “Who are you? Where do you come from?” they replied, “We shall talk about that later. First give us food. We are hungry.” Sundaramurthy consented, got the food prepared and looked for the couple, but they were not to be seen anywhere. All the lanes and by-lanes of the village were searched but they could not be found anywhere. They came back to the Mutt only to find that the food had disappeared and the leaves in which the food was eaten were scattered all over the place. Sundaramurthy was wonder-struck and exclaimed, “Ah! What a wonder is this! What can this be except the leela (play) of the Lord of the Universe?” As he arrived at this conclusion he heard an invisible voice: “Where do you intend going without seeing us who reside in the Jyotivana?” Sundaramurthy was wondering where that Jyotivana was and how to go there. The invisible voice once again said, “We are proceeding there on the vehicle of the sacred bull Nandi. You may also come there, following its footsteps.”

Sundaramurthy followed the footsteps, accompanied by the devotees, but suddenly the track disappeared. As he stood there in confusion the invisible voice was heard to say, “Look carefully”. As he followed carefully the footsteps he saw a particular place full of Siva Lingas. There was no space even for a single step forward and he and the other devotees stood there bewildered. Suddenly he saw a narrow footpath and they went along it, on and on until at last they beheld the temple of Kaleswara. They all took their bath in the tank in front of the temple, and as they were thinking of going into the temple, all of a sudden the temple with its tower disappeared.

Sundaramurthy was wonder-struck and sang some songs in praise of the Lord, conveying the idea: “Is this the result of my not having come for worship in your temple before bathing?” At once a whole view of jyoti (light) appeared and the peak view of a temple tower and then the temple itself with its compound wall. He was overjoyed, had a darsan of God, worshipped Him, sang songs in praise of Him, and then proceeded on his pilgrimage. This is a wonderful story. There are many more stories of him.

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