The previous post of Karaikkal Ammai in cambodia, created quite a few responses. Many wanted to know more about her life and some on her weird features. Had left out that part in the previous post precisely to generate this interest. Her divine songs not withstanding, what better way to showcase her life story and answer all the questions by way of this tower sculpture from Tiruvalangadu temple. (thanks to Mr. V. Subramanian, who has helped me often with interesting verses from rich tamil bakthi literature)
First the sculpture, its a storyboard,showing the three main aspects of her life. From left to right, Her marriage, the mango creating the confusion and then her ascent to Shiva’s heavenly abode - Kailash, on her head!!!
Ok, the detailed story goes thus
( thanks - http://www.geocities.com/shivaperuman/karaikal.html)
In the prosperous town, Karaikkal belonging to the Chola kingdom, Punitavatiyar was born to a prosperous business man Danadattan . She grew to be a beautiful damsel and her beauty was compared to that of Goddess Lakshmi. As she grew up so did her devotion and love for Lord shiva and all his devotees.
In due course of time, she married a eligible businessman Paramatattan of Nagappatinam. They stayed in karaikkal and enjoyed all the pleasures of wedlock. The couple devoted much time in thier devotion to lord shiva and regularly served his devotees with good food and clothes.
Ok, enough of the happy days, paramatattan is given two delicious ( special) mangoes and he sends it to his wife through a servant intending to have it during his lunch. Just at that moment a hungry Saivite saint comes to her door, and since she had’nt yet prepared the side dishes, she served him plain rice with the mango ( since she had two, she must have felt her husband would have one and the other hers and hence gave hers away). The saint had his fill, blessed her and left.
Now, the husband gets back, sits down for lunch, finishes rice, side dishes and the one mango ( must be good eater like me) and since the fruit tasted heavenly, asks for the other one as well. This puts her in a fix and she goes inside as though to bring the fruit, her faith leads her to pray of the scared feet of Lord shiva -and lo behold, by the grace of her Lord , a mango drops into her hands. Full of devotion to the Lord for his infinite grace towards her, she serves the fruit to her husband.
But thats not it, the fruit ( being divine) tastes heavenly and the husband gets wind of something amiss. So he questions her, that this is not the other fruit, as this tastes out of this world. Fearing the worst, she speaks the truth. Her husband refuses to believe her and challenges her to repeat the feat. She goes inside and prays again to her lord and he who never fails his devoted subjects, graces her with another mango. She takes it to her husband but just as he takes it in his hand, it vanishes.
On seeing this he trembles with fear, and realises the godliness of his wife, but then the thought of her diviness, drew him away from her and he realised that he could not live with her anymore. So he tells her some story and goes off on a business trip never intending to return.
He lands in Pandya land, his voyages earning him lots of wealth and he decides to start life afresh. Sees a beautiful lady and marries her. They are blessed with a baby girl and he names her punithavathi in remembrance of his first wife.
she meantime, is still waiting for his return but news soon reaches her of his new life/wife. Her relatives take her to Pandya land, but on seeing her, her husband falls at her feet, saying how can he live with her now that she is a goddess - fit for worship.
On hearing her husband speaking like this, Punitavatiyar worshipped the feet of lord Siva in her mind and appealed to him to take away her physical frame which was united in wedlock to Paramatattan and bless her with the form of a ghost. Her prayers were answered and in front of the relatives and friends she got the form of a ghost. relatives wondered abd worshiped her in fear and left that place.
Punitavatiyar who got a ghostly form by the grace of God says with.’I also became one of the ghosts she sang ‘wonderful Tiru-antathi’. Then praising the qualities of Lord Siva she sang ‘Tiru-Irattai-Manimalai’.
Ever growing in devotion, she started journeying towards Tiruk-kailai, the abode of Lord Siva. Those who saw her went away from her in fear. But she thought thus : “It is sufficient if my Lord knows me, when these people do not know the truth of my having become ghost by the grace of Lord Siva. yet maybe seen in any form”. So thinking she craseed many northern states and turned her steps to kailas, and reached it. Not willing to place her feet on the sacred place, she moved along on her head.
When she thus reached the top of the mountain, Goddess, Uma wondered and asked Lord Siva about the approaching figure’s infinite love towards him. lord Siva said, “she is our devotee. She got ghostly form by my grace on her request to me.
When Punitavatiyar, in ghostly form reached him, Lord Siva called her ‘Ammai’ meaning mother. With joy she cried oh / Father / fell at his feet and worshipped him. From that moment, Punitavatiyar came to be known as the ‘Mother of Karaikkal.’ The Lord asked here what boon she wanted from him. She pleaded with God, “Oh Lord I pray for constant devotion to you. I must not have birth again, then I must be granted remembrance of you without lapse. I wish to stay at your feet always witnessing your cosmic dance”
Lord Siva granted her wishes and said that in Tiru-Alankatu she would see his dance can remain singing happily about him for ever. Accordingly she reached that place Tiru-Alankatu by walking on her head. Seeing the celestial dance of the Lord, she sang patikam(decade) beginning with the words ‘Konkai tiranki’. ‘ Enjoying the dance of the Lord and growing in devotion she sang another patikam, beginning with the words ‘Etti elavam’ How to praise Punitavatiyar who was called as mother by Lord Siva, the Father and Mother of all creation, and who was blessed to be at the lotus feet of Lord Siva for ever witnessing his divine dance? None can describe her ardent love towards Lord Siva.