Refer the earlier post on the horse sculpture of Aavudayaar koil - we had mentioned about the legend connected with the origins of this temple. Today we are to see a lovely panel depicting this and the interesting happenings in the life of saint Manikkavasagar, the author of “The Thiruvaachakam”. Thanks to Arvind for spotting this panel in Paapanasam Paalaivananadhar temple and Geetha Madam for helping in getting the finer details.
The whole Panel to start with.
Lets see the story from the start. Manikkavaasar was born in Vadhavoora, a village near Madurai, on the banks of river Vaigai. He was named Vadhavoorar. Even a child he exhibited extraordinary intelligence and by the time he was sixteen, his prowess reached the Pandya King - Arimarthana Pandya. Seeing his divine intelligence he was appointed as minister in the famous Pandyan Kings court and given the title Thennavan Brahmaraayan. Though he was adept minister, he was always feeling slightly aloof and didnt want to take part in the normal pleasures of such a post. He seemed to searching for inner peace.
Once, the King’s Generals complained that their cavalry horses were all aged and sick and need to be replenished and that a consignment of pure bred horses had just landed down south in Chola Kingdom. The King requested his minister to take as much funds from his treasury and proceed in haste to secure the horses. ( apparently he loaded the funds for the purchase on a camel - but couldn’t spot it in the panel - is this a camel ? Dont think so)
Just as Brahmarayan was proceeding towards the port, he passed through the temple town of Tirupperunthurai, he felt a strange peace and heard the chanting of Shiva’s name. He was so drawn to it, that he followed it to see where it was originating. Thereupon he came across a heavenly site, of a seated Shiva - as Guru, teaching his learned people, the essence of all his teachings. Immediately, he felt that this was the end of his journey. He prostrated to the teacher and asked him to make him one with him. Shiva too accepted him and on that, he uttered verses that were so beautiful to hear that he was anointed maanikka vaasar ( maanikkam - ruby, vaasar - speech or speaker) by Shiva himself. Having become one with Shiva, Manikkavaasar gave up all his belongings including the King’s wealth to Shiva. Shiva accepted and asked him to use the funds for Godly purposes. Having noticed that the temple at Tiruperundurai was in need of repairs and renovation, he spent all the money on building a beautiful temple.
Days passed, and the King was growing impatient that his minister hadn’t returned with his horses. Meanwhile, his spies began bringing him news that the horses were never bought and all the funds had been misappropriated. The King sent his trusted men with his ring, to implore on his minister to make haste and bring the horses, but having seen the Lord’s brilliant face, the minister didn’t even want to look at the message. Shiva himself read the message, along with a precious jewel, sent back the messenger saying on an auspicious day, the horses will come to Madurai.
As the days went by, the King’s ministers constantly fed information to the King, that there were no horses bought and all the funds were used by Manikkavaasar to rennovate the temple. Hearing this, the King flew into a rage and put Manikkavasar behind bars and started torturing him.
Shiva decided to teach the King a lesson and when auspicious day came, he converted all the howling jackals / foxes in the forest into high breed horses, his bootha ganas ( assistants ) into horsement and himself mounted the lead horse dressed as a commoner and led them into Madurai. The King was overjoyed and gave him a present of a very expensive robe - the rider non nonchalantly extended his whip and took the robe, put it on his horse and went away. The king was very happy and he released Manikkavasar immdly and took him back with full respects.
Lets look at the panel now. Notice the lovely depiction of the majestic horses.
We also see the detailing of the present being taken on his whip
All is well, the King is very happy. He takes his minster back, but my nightfall, Shiva’s play starts. The horses are transformed back to jackals and they bite all the remaining horses in the King’s stables.
The message reached the king through his soldiers, whereupon, he threw Manikkavasagar into prison again.
Seeing this, Shiva again decided to teach the King a lesson. He caused the Vaigai river to rise in devasting flood. The distressed Pandiyan king ordered every family in Madurai to send one man for each family to help to throw embankments to contain the waters of Vaigai.
An old lady Vanthi, who used to sell “Pittu” could not send anyone from her family to throw embankments to contain the waters of Vaigai.The lady was a disciple of Lord Shiva. As much as she reasoned with the King’s soldiers they would not accept to consider her plight.
So, Lord Shiva planned to help the old lady and he appeared as a labourer infront of her.She, being a poor lady said that she didnt have any money to afford a labourer. For which Shiva replied that his only wage would be what Pittu feel loose ( Pittu is steamed rice and normally would stay in the shape of its mould with some loose shavings fall away - Shiva wanted to be paid only the shavings). However, try she may, all her Pittu would not stay firm and hence Shiva in the guise of the labourer had his fill of it. After such a heavy meal, he felt sleepy and went of to sleep. Notice the detailing in the sculpture, Shiva’s hand seem to be placed on his tummy to show how full he is and how casually he has used the wicker basket ( used to carry sand) as a pillow.
The Pandiyan King was inspecting the bund works, and was shocked to see one portion with no work done on it. He rushed there to see Vanthi’s servant sleeping and woke him up and asked him to start work. As Shiva started towards the bank with his headload, the King landed a good lash of his cane on his back - the impact was felt through every living being.
The Lad, threw his headload on the embankment and it filled up everything miraculously. The flood abated and the Lad vanished. A divine voice of shiva was heard, saying Manikkavasar is his devotee and he had played with both him and the King….This event is celebrated every year during Avani.