25. Appuddi Nayanar
In devotion to the Guru, Appudi Nayanar excelled. He was an ardent Siva Bhakta. He was leading the ideal householder’s life. He belonged to a Brahmin family in Tingalur in the Chola kingdom.
Appudi had heard of the glories of Tirunavukkarasar or Appar. He had heard of how God’s grace made the stone float and how Appar rode on it and floated on the sea and went to a place of safety. Even though he had not seen Appar, he had taken him as his Guru, and literally worshipped Appar. He knew that Lord Siva Himself, out of compassion for the spiritual aspirants, appeared as the Guru. He meditated on the lotus feet of the Guru. He had named all his children ‘Tirunavukkarasu’: and all the household articles had also been named after the Guru. He had erected a number of water-sheds, for the service of pilgrims, and had named all of them after the Guru. Thus had he ensured that he would constantly remember the Guru, and experience his grace.
Appar himself passed through Tingalur one day. He went into one of the water-sheds. He was surprised to see his own name everywhere. He found out from some other pilgrims that the shed had been erected by Appudi and went to meet him. Appudi received the Siva Bhakta (though he did not know who it was) with great devotion. Appar said: ‘Oh noble soul, I have heard a lot about your greatness and glory. I wanted to pay my respects personally to you. Please tell me, why have you named the water-shed after somebody, and not yourself.’ Appudi was upset at this casual reference to the blessed name of his Guru. He said: ‘Oh friend, though you appear to be a Siva Bhakta, you do not seem to know Tirunavukkarasu Swamigal, who through the grace of the Lord withstood successfully all the persecutions of the Pallava king and re-established Saivism. Have you not heard how the king tied him to a stone and threw him into the sea, and how he floated back to the shore? Who are you?’
Appar was very much moved by Appudi’s devotion and replied: ‘I am that humble soul who fell a victim to severe colic and then took shelter under the Lord’s Feet. I am that humble soul who, due to the grace of Lord Siva, got cured of that disease and returned to Saivism.’ Look at the difference between the two descriptions! Appudi remembers the glory of Appar: whereas Appar chooses to recall his own failing (to preserve his humility) and the Lord’s supreme saving grace.
As soon as he heard this, Appudi understood that the Siva Bhakta was none other than Appar and was overjoyed. He worshipped Appar, along with his wife and prayed to Appar to accept his Bhiksha (food). While their son had gone to the garden to bring a banana leaf, for Appar to use as his plate, the boy was bitten by a cobra. The son of a Nayanar: he was also a great devotee of the Lord! He ran to the mother eager to fulfil his duty. He handed the leaf to his mother and immediately fell down dead. Appudi did not want to let this disturb his worship of Appar Swamigal: and, therefore, hid the corpse. He invited Appar to have his meal. Appar sat down and blessed Appudi and his wife with Bhasma, and then called for their son. Appudi tactfully replied: ‘He is not in a position to come.’ Appar sensed that there was something wrong and asked Appudi to tell him the truth. Appudi informed him what had happened. Immediately Appar got up and asked Appudi to lay the corpse in front of the temple: and he himself sang a song. A miracle took place. The boy got up, as if from sleep. All were happy, except the parents of the boy. They regretted that this incident had caused some delay in Appar having his meals! Such is the nature of true devotion. Appar immediately took his meals and blessed the family.
Appar lived in Appudi Adigal’s house for some time. Appudi gained the grace of the Lord, by his wonderful devotion to his Guru, Appar Swamigal.