In my previous posting about the schedule of pujas and cultural programmes for the 2012 Arunachaleswarar Mahashivaratri Festival, I mentioned that as part of the cultural programme there would be a puppet dance/show iside the Big Temple Cultural Hall (near Rukku the Elephant) on February 20th from 7.30 to 8.30 p.m., based on the life of the Nayanar Tiru Kurippu Thonda. Below is the story of this great Saivite saint as appears in the Periapuranam.
Tiru Kurippu Thonda Nayanar
In a part of Kanchi, there lived a devotee of Lord Shiva, born in the community of washermen, hereditarily dedicated to the Lord’s service; his heart was full of love and his conduct was exemplary. He did the service of washing for the residents of the city – he was regarded as “the great launderer”. His glory could not be described in words. To the devotees of the Lord who melted at the mere mention of His name, he would with great joy, render the “washing service”. When he washed away the dirt in the garments of the Lord’s devotees, he did really wash off the three kinds of blemishes, that had accrued through the past births of his.
One chilly day, the Lord, to show to the world the real glory of this Saint, came until him, in the guise of a poor old man, dressed in a filthy rag. Beholding Him, the Tondannar, divined his intent and pleased joyfully: “Sire, how it is that you look so weary? Please give me your garment, to be washed by me”. The Lord replied: “It is true that this cloth has become too filthy to be worn; yet, it is the only protection I have against the biting chill air; I cannot abide the night’s cold. If you assure me that you will return this cloth, duly washed, before dusk, you may take it and do your work quickly”. The washerman promised to return the cloth before twilight and the Lord handing over his garment reiterated: “Remember that If you fail to return the garment in time, you would be harming this body of Mine”.
The Tondannar went to the ghat, soaked the dirty cloth in water; then put it inside a boiling vat; and after the dirt was removed wrung the garment hard, squeezing out the water in it. Now when he was at the last stage of washing, it began to rain hard, as the Lord willed it.
Recalling his assurance to the devotee, the Tondannar was nonplussed. Seeing no sign of the rain abating, he thought: “The time limit is now past. I have harmed the devotee’s body. For this evil, the only remedy is to shatter my own head on the washing rock”. When he was about to do so, the soft lotus hand of the Lord bearing the impress of the bangle of His gracious consort, rose by the rock and held up his head!
The showers of rain now gave place to showers of celestial flowers and the Lord with His consort mounted on the mighty Bull and gave darshan from on high. When the Tondannar’s hands folded in adoration, the Lord said: “We have now shown to all the worlds the nature of your unique service. Come and abide with me for ever in Sivaloka.” With this, the Lord returned to His own shrine!
To read The Puranam of this Nayanar as English poetry go to this link here.