Puranic encyclopaedia

by Vettam Mani | 1975 | 609,556 words | ISBN-10: 0842608222

This page describes the Story of Manikyavacakar included the Puranic encyclopaedia by Vettam Mani that was translated into English in 1975. The Puranas have for centuries profoundly influenced Indian life and Culture and are defined by their characteristic features (panca-lakshana, literally, ‘the five characteristics of a Purana’).

Story of Māṇikyavācakar

(MĀṆIKKA-VĀŚAHAR). A devotee and poet who lived in Tamilnāḍu. He is believed to have lived during the period between the eighth and ninth centuries A.D. He was born in Tiruvādavūr in an Ādiśaiva brahmin family. Tiruvādavūr was a village near Madura, the capital of Pāṇḍya kingdom. His father was Śambhupādāśrita and mother Śivajñānavatī. The name given by his parents to Māṇikyavācakar is still unknown. Because he was born in Tiruvādavūr everybody called him Tiruvādavūrār. He became a scholar in his sixteenth year. The Pāṇḍya king called him to his palace and appointed him as his minister. He gave him the honour of the title 'Tennavar Brahmarāyar'. Māṇikyavācakar showed more interest in devotional matters than in matters of the state.

Once when the King was holding his durbar he got information that in one of the eastern ports had landed a set of good war-horses for sale. He sent Tiruvādavūrār to that place. The minister, when near the port of Tirupperundurai, heard a sound of Vedic utterances and he immediately went to the place from where the sound came. He saw Lord Śiva sitting under a tree in the guise of a Guru. Forgetting all state affairs he became engrossed in the meditation of Śiva. Suddenly he developed a talent for poetry and music and sweet attractive poems in praise of Śiva started flowing from his tongue. Śiva was immensely pleased and gave him the name Māṇikyavācakar meaning that every Vācaka (sentence) coming out of his tongue was equal in value to a māṇikya (Ruby). The guru gave him a ruby too. Māṇikyavācakar in the garb of a mendicant joined a troop of Śiva devotees and spent all the money he had for the service of the devotees of Śiva and also for the reconstruction of a dilapidated Śiva temple in Tirupperundurai.

Māṇikyavācakar reached Madura and informed the King that the horses would arrive at the palace on the day Āvaṇi-mūla (Mūla star in the month of Śrāvaṇa) and presented the king with the ruby which his Guru had given him. The king was not satisfied and he imprisoned him. On the Āvaṇi-mūla day at the stipulated time the horses arrived at the palace. The horses were led by strange foreigners. It was Śrī Parameśvara himself who had come as the chief of the horsemen. Māṇikyavācakar was released from jail and he also came to see the horses. The King gave the leader of the troopers a silk shawl as present. The head of the troopers received it by the end of his whip. The King resented this but the troopers went back without any trouble. The horses were put in stables and Māṇikyavācakar went to his āśrama.

At midnight all the new horses in the stables turned into jackals and roamed about in the streets howling loudly and disturbing everyone. After some time they all disappeared. The anger of the king knew no bounds. He imprisoned Māṇikyavācakar again. The servants of the king took him to river Vaigai. That day there was an unusual flood in the river and the city of Madura was submerged in waters. The king then realised his mistake and begged pardon of Māṇikyavācakar. Māṇikyavācakar asked the king to repair the dam in the Vaigai. The king assented to the proposal but to save money the work was entrusted to the citizens of Madura.

At that time there was an old woman in Madura called Vantī. She earned her livelihood by selling sweetmeats. The servants of the king ordered her also to join the work of the dam. She prayed to Paramaśiva and then a young man came to the old woman and offered to work for her in her stead. The young man representing Vantī went to Vaigai and started to work for her. When the king came to inspect the work he found the young man not doing his work satisfactorily and struck him on his back with a whip. A basketful of sand the young man was carrying fell down and the work of the dam was instantly completed. Not only that; all the persons including the king felt as though they were struck. Vantī attained Svarga and Māṇikyavācakar went to Cidambaram. The king repented.

Māṇikyavācakar saw Śiva in person several times. Many wonderful events happened at the Cidambaram temple after the arrival of Māṇikyavācakar there. The King of Laṅkā hearing about the greatness of Māṇikyavācakar brought his dumb daughter to him and she gained the power of speech. The Buddhist saints of Laṅkā came to Māṇikyavācakar and entered into philosophical discourse with him. They became dumb. The king of Laṅkā and his followers became devotees of Śiva.

Māṇikyavācakar sat in his āśrama and composed divine songs. Once Śiva in the guise of a brahmin came there and copied the songs written by him. Even while he was reciting his divine songs to the devotees his soul left his body and merged with that of Śiva.

The divine songs in praise of Śiva by Māṇikyavācakar constitute the eighth Khaṇḍa of Śaivite hymns by name "Tirumurai". They include "Tiruvācakam" and "Tirukkovaiyār". The Tiruvācakam contains 654 verses in 51 hymns and the Tirukkovaiyār contains 400 verses. All these are songs in praise of Śiva sung on different occasions. (Divyacaritam).

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