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The history of Karaikkal Ammaiyar (Peyaar)

On the east coast of Tamizhagam (Tamil lands), in the Chozha lands was the famous town of Karaikkal. Being one of the important ports in those days, it was flourishing in international trade with traders bringing in lots of wealth from distant lands. Dhanadattan, one of the leading traders at Karaikkal, begot a girl child - a boon for his austerities. That child, beautiful like the goddess of wealth, was named Punitavati. She learnt to serve the Lord even as she learnt to walk. When she started talking, her petal-like lips would speak only about the dance of the Lord who transcends the realm of words. Like a bud she blossomed into a fine young girl. She was as beautiful as the flowers at the feet of the flawless God.

Karaikkal Ammaiyar - The History of Karaikkal Ammaiyar (Peyaar)
The Mother from Karaikkal, motherlike for the devotees, has the love of a mother for the Shiva Himself!

A famous trader of Nagapattinam, by the name Nidhipatihad a son called Paramadattan. His relatives came to Dhanadattan with the wedding proposal of Paramadattan for Punitavati. With great pleasure, both the sides agreed to the marriage and selected an auspicious date. The wedding took place in the traditional way that delighted both the families. Dhanadattan didn't want to live away from his only daughter. So, with the consent and support from Nidhipati, he set up a house in Karaikal itself for the couple and provided them with enough wealth. Paramadattan with his efficiency multiplied that money and lived happily with his chaste, loving and devotional wife taking care of the family. She performed well all the duties of a family life and supported devotees who lived as celibates or wandering mendicants by providing them with food and other materials with overwhelming love for the Lord whose form was Love.

One day, some people who had visited Paramadattan, gave him two mangoes. He sent it to his house through his servant. His dutiful wife received and kept them safely in the house. At that time, a servitor of the serpent adorned Lord came to the house with ravenous hunger. Punitavati welcomed him and served him food to satiate his hunger. To compensate for the absence of an accompanying item, she served one of the two mangoes her husband had given to keep as, in her mind, what could be greater than serving the devotee. Blessing her for her service, the devotee, who had good food and the sweet mango which removed his age-related fatigue and hunger, went on his way. After some time, around noon, her loving husband came home. After taking a bath he sat for lunch. She served him with love, the good food she had prepared along with the remaining mango. The exotic taste of the fruit prompted him to ask her to bring the other one also. She walked away from that place as if she was going to get the other mango. But she was anxious. What could she do? She prayed to the Lord who helps His servitors whenever and wherever they plead with Him. By His grace, there appeared a mango of marvellous taste, in her hand. She brought it to her husband. Surprised by the taste of the mango that was more delicious than nectar, he asked her how she obtained that heavenly mango. She couldn't explain because the grace of God is difficult to understand, but she felt that it was not good to stand there without answering her husband. Determined to tell the truth, praying to the pleasing feet of God in her heart, she told him everything. Unable to accept that it was Almighty's grace, he asked her to prove it by getting one more fruit from the Lord. Pleading with the Lord, who meditates in the cemeteries, that if He didn't give her that mango again, her words would be considered false. Immediately a mango appeared in her hands. When the shivering Paramadattan received it in his hands, the mango disappeared. With mixed emotions of fear and respect, he didn't touch her from that point. He planned accordingly and left with the fellow traders saying that he wanted to earn a lot which would need him to travel to faraway lands. He acquired a lot of wealth from his voyages and he eventually settled in the Pandya kingdom marrying a girl of a local merchant. Keeping the memory of Punitavati alive in his mind with respect, he lived there without anybody else knowing about it. He considered her a goddess and named his daughter with his new wife her divine name.

Meanwhile in Karaikkal, his chaste wife expecting his return continued the noble deed of serving the devotees of the Lord. Then one day she came to know that her husband was living in Pandya kingdom after making a lot of money. The relatives decided to take her to him. They went to the town where he lived and informed him in advance about their arrival. With the fear and reverence, he along with his wife and child rushed forward to salute her. The three prostrated at the feet of the Punitavati. He told her that his life was only her blessing and his child had her divine name. Punitavati was shocked and immediately stepped back. To the relatives who were shocked by his deed, he told them that she was not an ordinary human being, she was worth being adored and worshipped, which is why he named his child after her, which is why he saluted her and asked all of them to worship her as well. While the relatives were petrified at his words, the beautiful young lady of excellent virtues prayed to God, who got a blue throat saving the universe from the poison, “With this decision of my husband, let Thy grace give me the form of a skeletal form (pei) that praises you always thereby taking away the beauty obtained by this flesh.” By the mercy of Mrityunjaya, she lost her pretty body and got a skeletal body that is worshipped even today by this world and the worlds above. The relatives who were present there got frightened; they prostrated to Karaikkal Ammaiyar and left. With the spring of knowledge that rises up when the soul unites with Shiva, she composed then the “Arpudha Tiruvanthaadi”, and sang that she became one with the Ganas that praise the lotus petal-like feet of the Lord. She later sang the “Irattai mani malai anthaadi” (20 verses with alternate verses being the same type of poem). With the yearning to enter the range of with Mount Kailash, where the Lord, who destroyed the three forts of Pasas (bonds) resides, she proceeded towards it. People along the way were scared looking at her skeletal form and ran away. But that great devotee simply ignored them saying that when the Lord of lords Himself blessed her why should she bother about what people steeped in the darkness of ignorance thought of that form. She reached the surroundings of the holy peak. Unwilling to put her feet on that abode of the Almighty she ascended the mount on her head.

Shakti, the mother of the Universe, the ultimate devotee who never leaves the side of the Lord, saw in awe Karaikkal Ammaiyar’s devotion and told to the great Lord of great servitors, "What love is this, of that skeletal body that climbs the holy hill with its head!!" The Lord said, "She who comes is like a mother who takes care of Me. She worshipped and obtained this form of fame." In order to bless entire world, the Lord then came to the devotee and uttered with His lips from whither sprang the holy Vedas, "Ammaiye!" (a word meaning mother, this word is also used to refer to women folk in general). Karaikkal Ammaiyar fell down on His holy feet praising, "Oh Lord! My Father!!" The Lord asked her what she wanted. She asked for immortal blissful love for Him, which is the ultimate boon for the devotees. She further asked, "Liberate me from the cycle of birth and death. Even if there is a birth bless me with never forgetting Thee. Also, I want to stay under your holy feet when you dance my Lord!" The Lord gave her the boons she sought and asked her to stay in the state of bliss by singing about Him when He danced in the southern town of Tiruvalankadu. Taking His order Ammaiyar came to Tiruvalankadu walking on her head. When she saw the dance of the Lord transcending the Universe, she sang in bliss the “Mutha narpadhikam” starting with “kongai tirangi”. The dance of Shiva with the matted hair, that is wet with the honey from fresh flowers, put her in a state of eternal happiness, under His holy feet as she sang another TiruppadhikamEtti ilavammikai” and settled in that superior place forever. Let the immortal blissful love of Karaikkal Ammaiyar stay in the mind forever. 

(This highly respected mother lived before saint Tirugnana Sambandhar. It is this great lady who first sang in the construct called padhikam and marked the last hymn of each padhikam with a signature. This has been followed by many later. Hence the padhikams sung by her are called mutha tirupadhikam (elder tirupadhikam).

Guru Pooja: Panguni / Swathi or Meena / Swathi

Har Har Mahadev

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