The town of Ilaiyankudi distinguished itself in the history by being the home to one of the celebrated servitors of those who serve Lord Shankara - known as Ilaiyankudimaranar. His heart was owned by the Lord who steals the hearts of those who bow down to Him. He had boundless wealth that he earned by working hard on his farms. He also had a generous heart to go to any extent to serve those who worship the Warrior God who destroyed the three cities that signify the three impurities. He lived a good fulfilling life. When devotees of the Lord with matted hair came to his house, he received them with folded hands. With a welcoming face, sweet words and humility he laid out the red carpet. He would clean their feet with scented water and offer them a comfortable seat. He would serve the devotees, who relish the holy Five-syllables, a sumptuous meal balanced with the six flavours. He lived like Kubera who was blessed by the Lord with limitless wealth.
To show to the world the nayanar’s spirit of service, which could not be shaken even in the paucity of wealth, the God, praised by the Vedas, slowly pushed him into poverty. Though his wealth was depleted, his generosity didn’t shrink even a bit. He sold all his belongings and borrowed through proper means to continue his service to the devotees of the Lord, without the slightest lowering of standards. The Lord, whose nature even Brahma and Vishnu are unable to know completely, paid a visit to the nayanar’s house as a devotee of Lord Shiva. It was a dark night in the monsoon season, a visitor wet in the rain turned up at the nayanar’s house. In the darkness lit by the devotion in their hearts, nayanar and his wife welcomed the guest, who was Light Himself.
Ushering him inside the house, the nayanar gave the guest, who was none other than Digambara (an epithet of Lord Shiva meaning unclothed), dry clothes to change into. He gave shelter to that Lord, who is the Refuge of the worlds. Now the question of feeding the guest arose. The nayanar was worried how they were going to serve a good meal since they did not have food even to feed themselves. Since it was quite late in the night, they could not go out to the village to borrow something to cook the meal. The wife then suggested that the nayanar bring the rice grains seeds they had sown in their fields at noon that day so she could cook a meal using it. These rice grain seeds that were sown were very valuable for farmers. These are those seeds that were used to grow the next crop and were not consumed. But, given the situation and the need to serve the devotee of the Lord, the nayanar was more than happy to take his wife’s suggestion.
In the darkness and rain that night, with only his love for the Lord to show him the way, the nayanar headed to the fields. The whole village was asleep. The rain poured in torrents. The visibility was very poor. But none of these could shake the determination of the devotee. Using his feet to touch and feel his path, he entered the farm. He gathered the seeds that had been pushed to the corners of the field by the rain along with the mud. He filled the basket he had brought and rushed back. His wife washed the mud off the seeds. But, now to cook the food they needed fire wood. That great man, who had already cut down the strong beam of ego, cut a wooden beam of his house to use as firewood. After cooking the rice, that chaste wife was worried about what should accompany the rice in the meal. The nayanar immediately went out again to the land where spinach was cultivated. He pulled out the spinach plant from the roots, like pulling out the plant of the bonds that stick to the soul. His wife then cooked a variety of dishes out of that spinach and showed them to her husband. They then decided to wake the devotee, who is beyond the reach of thoughts, up for having food.
"Please bless me my Lord, by having this simple food that we made out of love", they bowed to Him. To their astonishment, the sleeping guest arose as a beautiful flame of light. Lord Shankara, the Doer of Good, appeared blissfully on the Holy Bull with his consort Parvati. He blessed the couple, "My Beloveds! You, who worshipped my devotees, will come to my world to live blissfully with the lord of wealth (Kubera) serving you". Salutations to that Lord Shiva who is above all. Let the determined service performed by the nayanar to the devotees of the Lord, stay in our minds always.
Guru Pooja: Avani/Magam or Simha/Magha