Book 2 | Chapter 12 | Nammazhwar corrects Nambi

“Thirumalai, please tell me what you have seen and heard during your travels. Tell me as is, without hiding anything.”

“Are you asking me to narrate here? Things that I say might shock anyone who hears them – even Vayu Bhagavan, the Wind God, Bhooma Devi, the Earth, and Samudrarajan, the Lord of the Ocean.”

Anbil Sri Vadivazhagiya Nambi Perumal temple – img src: divinetraveller.net

At this time, we would also like to bring to the attention of the reader some archaeological facts. About a hundred years ago, in the village of Anbil, in the Lalgudi Taluk of the Tiruchirapalli district, a merchant had wanted to renovate his old house. While digging its foundation, he found metal plaques with a lot of historical inscriptions.

He handed these to Shri RSL Lakshmana Chettiar, who then handed it to two experts in archaeology and Chozha history – Shri Swaminatha Iyer and Shri Gopinath Rao.

These plaques had a lot of details regarding the Emperors of the Chozha dynasty. These included land grants by the Emperor Sundara Chozhan to his Chief Minister Anbil Aniruddha Brahmaraayar. The plaques also had details about the Chief Minister and his family. These details had great archaeological value and confirmed several historical events.

Alwarkadiyaan entered the room, circumambulated his Guru three times and prostrated before him.

“Please give me permission to leave my Vaishnavism and the obligation to serve you right now. I will now convert to the Kaalamugam sect in Shaivism. I will grow a beard, take up a skull, and roam the country. I will use this same staff to break open every Vaishnavar who comes my way.”

“Stop! Stop! I fear you now.”

“Why should you fear? Only Vaishnavites need to fear.”

“But I am still one.”

Nambi was clearly confused.

“Are you the one hailing from the illustrious family that unfailingly served Srirangam Ranganatha Swamy?”

“Yes, I am.”

“I also hear that you went to the Shiva temple today and did pooja there?”

“Yes. That is also true.”

“Sire – please clarify all this to me. You were my Guru, who taught me that Lord Narayana is the only God in this whole wide world.”

“The fact that I went to the Shiva temple is true. But the God that I saw inside was Lord Narayana.”

“How is that possible? “

“Nammazhwar himself has said that one can see whichever God he wants to see, wherever he wants. He never used to hate any of those who worshipped other Gods.”

“I am sorry. I have not heard all of Nammazhwar’s songs. He does make a lot of sense. I also doubted you. Please forgive me.”

“I would like to go and settle down in Thirukkurugur. I would like to spend the rest of my life collating and spreading the thousand songs that Nammazhwar sang. Will you grant me that wish?”

“What leads you to ask me this wish?”

“Earlier this month, I was at Veeranarayanapuram. When I was singing an Alwar Paasuram, the temple priest Ishwara Bhattar was overjoyed and requested me to teach him more such songs. I felt very ashamed that day, that I did not know many more of these beautiful songs. That led me to think that I should spend some time towards this noble purpose.”

“Thirumalai, the Gita says that each one should do what they are supposed to be doing – swadharmam. There will be people born to collate and spread the Paasurams. But for you and me, our dharmam is to serve the Empire. Service to the Emperor is our duty.”

“I have not forgotten our promise. There are just things that make me doubt if we are on the right track. I am also hearing things about you.”

“And what are you hearing?”

“I hear that the Emperor has given you a large tract of land in Anbil, in return for your converting to Shaivism. I also hear that you are going against dharma by traveling across the seas.”

“You should not believe these rumours. It is true that the King has given me land. But do you know that I had become minister at least four years before that? Do you know when our friendship started?”

“The Emperor and I were classmates when we were young. We studied together. At that time, no one thought Sundara Chozhan would become Emperor. But you know the turn of events that led to him becoming the Emperor.

He anticipated several problems if he ascended the throne. He made me promise to be with him as a minister always. He said that he would not take up the throne if I refused. I promised him that day, that I would be with him always.”

“I know about all this. But the rumourmongers on the road do not.”

“I do not care about the rumourmongers. You probably guessed that I did not come to Rameswaram to go to the temple. I just got back from Maathottam.”

“I guessed so, sire.”

“The so-called learned pundits claim that Sundarar and Sambandhar wrote about Maathottam from here. The songs described the place so well that I am pretty sure that the saints must have crossed the sea to go there.”

“Sire, did you go to Maathottam to see the beauty that these poet-saints have described?”

“No. I described all that because I am going to send you there. I went there to meet the Prince.”

“Did you see Ponniyin Selvar?”

“Aha. Anybody who hears the Prince’s name gets enthused so quickly – even you, Thirumalai. Yes. I saw him. I confirmed with him all the news I had been hearing from Lanka.”

“The Prince confirmed that most of Mahendran’s army has been defeated. Several of the army has dropped their arms. Mahendran, himself, has escaped into the hilly regions of Rohana.”

“Why doesn’t the Prince then come back with our army? The whole confusion of sending rations to our troops will also stop.”

“That is not what the Prince thinks, and I agree with him. If the Prince comes back now, Mahendran will come out of the hills and will regroup another army. And there would be another war. Either the people of Lanka would have to become our friends, or we would have to establish a permanent Chozha empire there. One of these needs to happen.”

“Do you know what our forces are doing in Lanka now? They are rebuilding and renovating the temples and monasteries in Anuradhapuram.”

Nambi smirked, “Oho. The Prince is building temples for the Buddhists? I hope he would not convert to their faith also. Do you also approve of this?”

“It does not matter if you or I approve or disapprove of this. You and I can fight over which God is better than the rest. But someone like the Prince, who is the ruler of a Kingdom, needs to take care of all of his subjects, immaterial of religion. I approve of that ideology.”

“After speaking with the Prince, I realise that he is one of the few people who command respect naturally. The entire kingdom is ready to do anything for him. The merchants I met earlier today are willing to give away wealth. The chieftains are ready to give their lives.”

“I met a yogi recently, who said something very profound. He said, in the recent years, Indian rulers have predominantly come from the northern states. He said that there would be an invasion soon from outside of the region. They would come and destroy the temples of the country. They would impact the culture of the country.”

“And at that time, a Prince from the South will emerge and rule large parts of India and protect our culture. I think the time is now, and the Prince is ours.”

“Gurudeva, it seems to me that you are building castles in the clouds. If you had seen all that I have seen and heard in the recent past, you would not be so celebratory. There is danger lurking for the Chozha kingdom.”

“Thirumalai, please tell me what you have seen and heard during your travels. Tell me as is, without hiding anything.”

“Are you asking me to narrate here? Things that I say might shock anyone who hears them – even Vayu Bhagavan, the Wind God, Bhooma Devi, the Earth, and Samudrarajan, the Lord of the Ocean.”

“Hmm. Ok, then. I know of a cave deep inside this island, where no one can hear us.”

Book 2 | Chapter 10 | Rameswaram

“Oho, you think we should wash our mouths for having mentioned the name of Rama? You need not worry about that. When Rama worshipped Lord Shiva here, that dosham was washed away. Hence the name of this city – Rameswaram.”

It has been a while since we spoke about Alwarkadiyaan Nambi. After overhearing the conversation between Princess Kundavai and Vandhiyathevan, Nambi had immediately started on his journey to the South. He had headed towards Rameswaram. On the way, he had avoided all forms of religious debates, since that would delay his journey. On the same day that Vandhiyathevan had reached Lanka, Nambi had reached Rameswaram.

The salty breeze of the ocean blew against his face. He was standing on the beach at Rameswaram. Anger boiled within him. There were several Shaivites surrounding him.

Appane, come! Let us take you to the 64 holy fresh-water wells of this holy city, so that you can wash off all the impure Vaishnava symbols on your body.”

Another said, “Come, I will take you to the holy well where Lord Rama himself got rid of his Brahmahatthi dosham.”

Nambi screamed back, “Shut up all of you. Please wash all your mouths with those holy waters.”

“Oho, you think we should wash our mouths for having mentioned the name of Rama? You need not worry about that. When Rama worshipped Lord Shiva here, that dosham was washed away. Hence the name of this city – Rameswaram.”

“You ignorant Shaivites – you do not even know the origin of the name of this city. Shiva angered Brahma when he destroyed one of his heads, and got the Brahmahatthi dosham. Shiva came to this beautiful land graced by Lord Rama, to get rid of the dosham. This place is called Rameswaram because Shiva worshipped Rama here.”

“Who are you to call us ignorant Shaivites?”

At this point Nambi lost his temper, and started swirling his wooden staff around his head. He laughed hysterically.

“I will break each one of your heads with this staff.”

At that point in time, there was an arrival announcement. Everyone stopped and looked towards where the announcement came from.

The announcement proclaimed the arrival of the Chief Minister of the Chozha Empire – Aniruddha Brahmaraayar.

A craft was just banking onto the shore. The Chief Minister stood majestically observing the commotion that had just stopped.

He looked at Nambi and motioned for him to come near. “Thirumalai, what is the commotion here?”

Nambi looked aghast at the Minister and fumbled for words.

“I am not even sure if I am to believe what I am seeing. Is this real, or is it all an illusion (maya)?”

“Thirumalai, I was always thinking that you were a Veera Vaishnavite. When did you start swerving towards the Advaita philosophy of illusions?”

“If you, who were born in a very conservative Vaishnavite family, can become a Shaivite, why cannot I?”

“Who told you that I had converted, Thirumalai?”

“I see the Shaivite sandal marks on your forehead and body.”

“All that can be explained. Come and see me. I am staying at the mandapam on the island there,” he said, pointing to a small isle nearby.

The Shaivite saints came forward and complained to the minister about Nambi and mentioned their intention to punish him themselves.

“I will take care of this Vaishnavar myself.”

He pointed to his craft and barked orders to his soldiers to capture and bring Nambi to where he was staying.