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Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Margazhi Blogotsavam: Day 30: Mangalam!

On the 17th of December, 2019, sudden inspiration struck, giving birth to this concept of a blogathon for the entire month. When I sat down to post the first blog, inspiration struck again, resulting in the series being named #MargazhiBlogotsavam. 


And an utsavam it truly has been – marked by hectic activity and a lot of joy in the celebration. Full of bliss for the one writing the blogs, and, judging from the feedback, equally joyful, for the ones reading them.

Sustaining an activity like this on a daily basis for very long is however not possible. So, like any other festival, it is time to bring the curtains down, albeit temporarily, until the next festive occasion.

Perhaps the daily reading of the stories of devotees has planted the seed of bhakti in your hearts. If yes, it is important you care for that seed, and nurture it well, so that it germinates, takes root, and grows to yield the appropriate fruit. Here are a few suggestions towards this end.
  • Set aside some time everyday – even if it is as little as 10 minutes – to chant the Lord’s Name. In this kaliyuga, when other forms of spiritual practice are not so easy, Namasmaranam is the easiest way ahead. Chant the name of your family deity, or your favourite deity, or a small mantra of your choice (except the Gayatri mantra).
  • Select some small stotram of your favourite/your family deity. Recite it at least once every day, even if you have to read from a book/online site. Over time, when you have learned it by heart, it will become easier to recite even without those aids.
  • For some time every morning and evening, play some bhajans or stotrams in your house. It will help to create positive vibes in the environment, and foster a sense of bhakti in you. If you can, sing along.
  • Devote at least 10 minutes every day to some form of spiritual reading – it could be stories of devotees of God, or the Ramayana, the Mahabharata or the Bhagavatham – whatever is easy for you, and holds your attention.
  • Make it a point to consciously remember God, ask for help, and chant His/Her Name before you begin any important activity, or at random, 5 times in a day.
  • At the end of every important activity, or as a set routine of 5 times in a day, make it a habit to remember God, and say a simple ‘thank you’ for all the things that are going right for you.
  • When you find yourself in a stressful event, PAUSE. Cut your stream of automatic thoughts. Chant your mantra 11 times. Pray for divine guidance. Then return to thinking of how to deal with the event.
  • Keep track of how you talk. Are you always talking on and on? If yes, cultivate more silence in your life. Are you always criticizing others? Are you blaming/finding fault with them all the time? If yes, make a conscious effort to change to a positive way of talking that encourages people. If that is too difficult, just stop expressing your negative thoughts – that itself will lead to a big improvement.
  • Constantly monitor your thoughts. Are you thinking negative thoughts? Does your mind wander thinking of unnecessary things? Are you stuffing your mind with unwanted stuff? Are you getting tense and worrying about things beyond your control? If yes, practice the pause. Examine your thoughts and discard the ones that are of no use to your growth.
  • Take care of what you allow to enter your mind. The outside world is constantly bombarding us with stimuli. When you let it all go unfiltered into your mind, it weighs you down, and you end up feeling tired – both mentally and physically. If you have the ability to filter, do it. If not, cut off the stimulus itself. In other words, spend less time on WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, TV, and mindless gossip.
  • Pay attention to the people around you. If there is someone in need, do what you can to help them, with a sense of gratitude for being given the opportunity to serve.

These few tips that I have given are tried and tested ways to develop a sense of bhakti. I use them too, and that’s why I can confidently pass them on to you. If there is any further guidance you need, do feel free to send me a message on WhatsApp on 98450 66050.

Do also message me if you would like to have the PDFs of two books about the several devotees from across the country – one is the English translation of Mahipathi’s Bhakta Vijay, and the other, called Bhaktamal, is in Hindi.

Through today’s blog post, I want to express my humble pranaams to all of you who have come along and been a part of this #MargazhiBlogotsavam. Thank you for trusting in me, appreciating my efforts, and sending me your thoughts when you felt touched by what I wrote. 


Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Margazhi Blogotsavam: Day 29: He Showed us the Path to the Lord: Sri Ramanujacharya

About 9 kms away from Thirupathur in Tamil Nadu, is a village called Thirukoshtiyur. This village houses the temple of Sowmya Narayana Perumal, and is one of the 108 Divya Desams – holy shrines for the Vaishnava followers.

However, the other important reason for this place gaining importance is because of its association with Sri Ramanujacharya – the Preceptor of the Srivaishnavas, who propounded the doctrine of Vishistadvaita. 


Sri Ramanujacharya
Image courtesy: Anudinam.org
To describe the glory of Ramanujacharya will require a blog series of its own. Today, my attempt is to highlight one incident from his life, which holds a valuable lesson for us all.

Ramanujar is in desperate search of the path to salvation. His well-wishers have advised him to become the disciple of Thirukkottiyur Nambi. So, he travels to Thirukoshtiyur, knocks on the door of Nambi, and says, “I have come to meet you.” But Nambi refuses to accept him as a disciple and sends him back.

Ramanujar makes 17 desperate trips, makes the same request, and is rebuffed 17 times. The 18th time that he visits Nambi, Ramanujar says, “Adiyen Daasan, Ramanujar vanddirken” – “Your disciple Ramanuja has come.”

Now, Nambi opens the door and welcomes Ramanujar. 

Did you notice the difference in the words that encouraged this acceptance? 

Right! As Nambi explains, “Your arrogance has gone. Now let’s talk!”

As desired by Ramanujar, Nambi teaches him the path to salvation. He whispers in Ramanujar’s ears, “Repeat after me the Ashtakshara mantram! Om Namo Narayanaya!” At the same time, the guru warns the disciple, “Remember, you must not reveal this mantra to anyone. If you do so, you will go to hell!”

Trembling with happiness to have learned the secret path to Vaikuntha, Ramanujar leaves the house of Nambi. There is a strange radiance in his face and also a strong resolve. Within the next few minutes, a shout is heard from the top of the temple, asking everyone to gather there.

Hearing the summons, people rush from far and near. They are surprised to see Ramanujar standing on the temple top. The next minute, he proclaims in a loud, steady voice, “Listen to me, everyone! Do you want to know how to go to Vaikuntha? Surrender yourself to God, and repeat the mantra ‘Om Namo Narayanaya’ and you are sure to reach Vaikuntha!” 


Image courtesy: Amar Chitra Katha
Note: Thirukkottiyur Nambi was also called Goshti Purna
Hearing the chant from the mouth of Ramanujar, all the people gathered there begin repeating the chant, delirious with joy at being blessed with this secret. 

Word soon reaches Thirukkottiyur Nambi about the doings of Ramanujar. Furious, he sends word for the disciple and scolds him for having defied the guru’s orders. Carried away in his frenzy, he thunders, “You will go to hell for this sacrilege!” 

Ramanujar has a placid smile on his face. He is least affected by the effects of his actions. Humbly, he bows to the guru and says, “If my action helps a hundred others to attain salvation, I don’t mind going to hell!”

Nambi is stunned into silence realizing the large-heartedness of his disciple. Clasping Ramanujar to his bosom, Nambi declares, “You are Emberumaanaar!” (my lord) and from then on, Ramanujacharya was also known by this name.

Can we imbibe the perseverance of Ramanujar who approached his guru 18 times despite being rebuffed?

When things don’t go the way we want them to, can we introspect, and see where we may be making a mistake instead of blaming the world and the people around us?

Are we aware of ways in which we are being egoistic, and trying to change ourselves?

Like Ramanujar, are we prepared to sacrifice our comfort if our actions can help/benefit others - even those who are not related to us in any way?

Like him, can we develop such a deep sense of surrender to the Lord, realizing He is the sole refuge?


References

https://ramanujadasan.wordpress.com/2008/06/04/thirukostiyur-nambhi-thirunakshatram/ 
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Monday, 13 January 2020

Margazhi Blogotsavam: Day 28: For Whom Vitthal Got Tied Up to a Pillar: Sant Sakhubai

Gangadhar Rao and his wife Kamalabai lived in the village of Sinchirunipuram near Pandharpur in Maharashtra. After praying for long to Lord Vitthal, they were blessed with a baby girl, whom they named Sakhubai. From a very young age, Sakhubai was devoted to Vitthal and would sing bhajans in His praise in her sweet melodious voice, enthralling everyone.
Lord Vitthal of Pandharpur
Image courtesy: Vitthal Rukmini Mandir


After she grew up, Sakhubai was married to Krishna Sharma of Gopalpur, who was an arrogant man. Sakhubai’s husband, and in-laws were very cruel to her; they would torture her by beating, give her lot of work that kept her occupied from early morning to late in the night, never allowed her to rest, and gave her very little food to eat. 

Yet, Sakhubai did not harbor any ill-will towards them, nor did she retaliate in any way. She accepted all this as the fruit of some previous birth’s sins. Whatever work she did, it was with the name of Vitthal on her lips and in her heart – and it was only chanting His Name that gave her any solace. Deep in Sakhubai’s heart, a strong desire grew to visit Pandharpur and see her Vitthal of whom people sang such praises. 

One day, when Sakhubai went to fetch water from the pond, she chanced on a group of devotees who were going to Pandharpur. She was desperate to join them, because she wanted to see her beloved Vitthal at least once in her lifetime. When she rushed home and asked permission to go with the pilgrims, Sakhu’s husband was furious. He and his parents beat her, and then, to make sure she didn’t go anywhere, they tied poor Sakhubai to a pillar with strong ropes, locked the room, and left her there to starve. 

In extreme distress, Sakhubai kept crying and calling out to her Vitthal, “All I want is to see You, but I’m tied up here and can’t reach You! Show mercy on me, dear Lord, and let me have your darshan for which I have been thirsting for all these years!” In her agony, she fainted, and yet, kept chanting the name of Vitthal in her mind.

Vitthal rescuing Sakhubai from bondage
Image courtesy: Coimbatore Bhavsar
Suddenly, the room was filled with a divine radiance. A woman looking exactly like Sakhubai appeared, and untying Sakhubai, told her to go to Pandharpur, saying, “I will stay here till you come! Go and have a darshan of your Vitthal! Don’t worry, I’ll manage things here!”

Filled with divine joy, Sakhubai rushed out of the house and made her way to Pandharpur. When she reached the temple, she rushed through the crowds and clinging to her Vitthal, she was lost in the bliss of uniting with Him, and gave up her life then and there.

In the meantime, in Sakhubai’s house, her husband had taken pity on his poor wife and worried that she may die, he untied her. This Sakhubai now carried on with her usual duties, serving her husband and in-laws. The food she cooked seemed to have a divine taste for the family. Strangely, they now felt good-natured towards her.

One day, a neighbor of Krishna Sharma came and told him that he had seen Sakhubai in Pandharpur and that she had passed away there. Krishna was shocked to hear this. “What are you babbling?,” he shouted, “Sakhu never went to Pandharpur. She has been here as usual with us! Come and see with your own eyes,” he insisted and pulled the man to their house.

But Sakhubai was nowhere to be found! Her husband and in-laws looked everywhere in the house and outside, but they couldn’t find her anywhere! Now, finally, they understood why they had been feeling so different towards Sakhu of late. The Lord of Pandharpur had come to his devotee’s rescue! It had been Lord Vitthal Himself who had taken Sakhubai’s place!

Like Sakhubai, can we learn to not react when people behave badly with us?

Can we try to stay focused on our goal, heedless of all the obstacles - physical and emotional - that come in our way?

Can we work towards developing deep faith that the Lord is our sole refuge, and surrender totally to Him?
References

http://coimbatorebhavsar.blogspot.com/2018/08/saints-of-maharashtra-devotees-of_75.html

Bhakt Charitank (Bhaktamal). Gita Press, Gorakhpur


Sunday, 12 January 2020

Margazhi Blogotsavam: Day 27: The Patriot Monk who Put India on the World Map: Swami Vivekananda

On the 12th of January, 157 years ago, was born a child to Vishwanath Dutta and Bhuvaneshwari Devi of Bengal, whom they named Narendra. And as they say, the rest is history.... 

Image courtesy: Educationworld.in
Naren was bright, full of energy, restless and naughty and yet, could spend hours sitting still in deep meditation. He was also very compassionate, and no wandering sansyasi passed their house without receiving something from little Naren. 
Image courtesy: Amar Chitra Katha
At school, and later at college, Naren was an excellent pupil, and as he got more drawn towards Western logic and philosophy, yet, he was restless with a deep yearning, asking every holy man he met, “Have you seen God?”

This question finally led him to Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa of Dakshineshwar, the only one with an emphatic reply, “Yes! Of course, I see Him! Even more clearly than I see you! You can also see Him!” This last bit was nectar to Naren’s ears, and he began visiting Dakshineshwar more often.

One day, Sri Ramakrishna entered the room full of disciples and sat on his bed as usual. The next moment, he jumped up, shouting, “Ah! My entire body is burning!” When he looked under the mattress, the culprit was found – a silver coin. Guess who had placed it there? Yes, the would-be ‘disciple’ Naren was ‘testing’ the Guru who claimed he couldn’t bear the touch of money!

As he grew closer to the Guru, Naren began to grow more focused on his aim of God-realization. But unfortunately at that time, his father passed away, and the family sank into a financial crisis. Often, Naren would go hungry for days on end, lying about having eaten at a friend’s place so that the meager food could assuage the hunger of his mother and siblings.

Desperate, Naren asked his Guru to pray for his family who directed him to pray at the temple of Ma Kali. Intending to ask for money, Naren rushed there, but when he stood in front of the Divine Mother, however, his mind grew blank, and all he asked for was “Jnyana” or knowledge. The Guru sent him back, but this time, Naren could only ask for “Bhakti” or devotion. When Ramakrishna sent him back to the Goddess for the third time, Naren begged for “Vairagya” or detachment! Shortly after this, Ramakrishna gave him a glimpse of the experience of Samadhi.

Sometime later, the Guru passed away from cancer of the throat, and all his disciples, led by Naren, began living together at Baranagar, wearing the saffron robes that set them out as renunciates – sannyasis. Driven by the urge to know more about his motherland, Naren wanted to travel all over the country.

When he went to Sarada Devi – the Guru’s wife – asking for permission, she was in the kitchen and asked him to pass her the knife to cut vegetables. When he did that, she smiled, and said, “Now I know you are ready for the world! Go, and may you be successful in your chosen mission!” 

How did she know Naren was ready? He had passed the knife to her with the handle pointing at her, and the blade at himself, unconsciously indicating his compassion and concern for others! Indeed, when he later set up the Ramakrishna Mission in 1897, the motto adopted was ‘Atmano Mokshaartham Jagad Hitaayacha’ which translates into ‘For one’s own salvation and welfare of the world’.

Traveling through the whole of India for 2 years, meditating at the confluence of the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean at Kanyakumari, Naren could now see the mission that lay ahead of him. Now known as Swami Vivekananda, he traveled to Chicago for the Parliament of World Religions and was probably the first person to impress such a strong footprint of Bharata Mata on the world map. 

Image courtesy: Vedanta.com
Against all odds, on September 11, 1893, Swamiji made his best-known speech that is celebrated till today all over the world. “Sisters and Brothers of America.....,” he began, and the rest is history. 

Image courtesy: Amar Chitra Katha
After almost 3.5 years of spreading the message of Vedanta in the West, he returned to India, and the first thing he did on landing, was to purify himself by applying the dust of this divine land on his head!

Swamiji set up the Ramakrishna Mission and Math and inspired his disciples both within the country and outside to work as a dedicated band of spiritual social workers. 

Finally, in the evening of July 4, 1902, this great son of Bharata Mata retired to his room, went deep into meditation, and attained mahasamadhi, a few months before the 40th year of his life. 

Image courtesy: Twitter
Like Swami Vivekananda, can we learn to develop a heart that feels, head that thinks, and hands that serve? 

Can we learn more about the greatness of our country and culture, and teach others, too?

Can we take up just one of Swamiji's numerous inspiring quotes, and start practicing it in our lives?

References

https://www.vedanta.com/store/vivekananda_bio.htm

https://belurmath.org/swami-vivekananda/

Saturday, 11 January 2020

Margazhi Blogotsavam: Day 26: The Brother of Sita: Prayagdas

A poor widow lived in Janakpur with her only son Prayagdas. On the day of rakshabandhan, all the other lads in the village sported colorful raakhis. Prayagdas was sad. No one to tie a raakhi to him! Crying bitterly, he asked his mother why he didn’t have a sister too. Poor mother couldn’t bear to see her little one’s anguish.

“Who says you don’t have a sister? You do! Her name is Sita!” she said.

“Then why doesn’t she come and tie me a raakhi?” wailed Prayagdas.

“She lives in faraway Ayodhya with her husband Ram. She is busy taking care of her family there, how can she come here?” consoled the mother.

“If she can’t come here, I’ll go to see her then,” insisted Prayagdas.

The mother dissuaded him, saying Ayodhya was very far away, and that he could go there when he grew older. But Prayagdas now had a goal in mind and wouldn’t give in. At dawn the next day, he woke up early, got ready, and was about to leave, when he suddenly realized he must take a gift to give his sister after she tied him the raakhi.

There was nothing in that poor, dilapidated home. He remembered that his mother had 2 dhotis. He took one of them and washed it clean. It was torn in places – he tied tiny knots to hide the tears and folding it neatly, carried it away with him.

As he walked on and on, he felt tired and sat under a tree in the forest and fell fast asleep. When he woke up, he found himself in the town of Ayodhya! Now he had no address for his sister’s house. So, he began asking people there to guide him to the house of his sister Sita and brother-in-law Ram. People told him, “Here in Ayodhya, there is a temple of Ram and Sita. We don’t know of any house for them.” 

Shri Ram and Sita in Kanak Bhavan temple in Ayodhya
Image courtesy: Tripadvisor.com
Prayagdas insisted that his sister lived in a house and not a temple. Determined to find her, he searched high and low. Finally, tired beyond words, he sat under a tree on the outskirts of the town. “Perhaps they didn’t want to acknowledge me in broad daylight because I’m poor,” he thought, “Maybe now that it is dark, they will come in search of me,” he hoped.

After a while, a bright light woke Prayagdas from his slumber. He could see a decorated elephant coming his way. A man and woman got down from the elephant and rushed to him. The man said, “Prayagdas, this is your sister Sita.” Prayagdas was sceptical. “No, I don’t think so!” he declared. “Why do you say so?” the man asked.

“Is this the way sisters greet their brothers? If she was really my sister, she would hug me and cry her eyes out!”

No sooner had he said this, than the woman ran to Prayagdas and embraced him lovingly. With tears in her eyes, she asked how he was, and how their mother was in Janakpur. She tied a raakhi on the hand of Prayagdas, and stood smiling at him with a lot of love.

Seeing the opulence of the couple, Prayagdas was ashamed of his gift. But how could he not give anything? So, with tears in his eyes, he pushed the dhoti he had brought into the woman’s hands. In a soft voice, she said, “I know that mother has only 2 dhotis. You give this back to her as a gift from me.”

Just as miraculously as they had come, the divine couple disappeared, leaving Prayagdas below the tree, lost in a world of inner ecstasy.

The next morning, a saint passed that way, and recognized that this child was caught in the throes of a deep spiritual experience. He took Prayagdas with him to the nearby ashram. A little while later, two ladies came there with plates of food. “This is the prasad from the Satyanarayan pooja in our house. Please partake of it. We will come back later for the plates,” they said and went away.

Prayagdas and the saint ate the Prasad. When the plates were empty, they realized they were made of gold! Despite waiting for the whole day, no one came to claim the plates. The saint told Prayagdas, “Child, you take these plates with you. They will be of help to your family.” But the child had no desire for the gold. Neither did the saint. So, throwing the golden plates into the stream flowing nearby, the two devotees of Sita Mata made their respective ways home.

Can we aspire to the innocent bhakti of little Bhakt Prayagdas?

References
Bhakt Charitank. Bhaktamal by Nabhadasji. Gorakhpur Press


Friday, 10 January 2020

Margazhi Blogotsavam: Day 25: The Tailor Rescued by Jagannatha: Parameshti

Parameshti was a tailor living in Delhi. His physical appearance was forbidding – he was very dark and hunch-backed but as if to make up for that deformity, he was blessed with a great talent for tailoring and embroidery.

Now Parameshti was a great devotee of Lord Jagannatha, and would keep chanting His name, and singing bhajans in praise of his dear Lord. He was one of those rare souls who could see God in everyone, and so, he was always kind to other people.

The Baadshah of Delhi had heard of Parameshti’s skills with the needle. Once, he called the tailor and gave to him a beautiful cloth that had been specially prepared using threads of gold, and embedded with little diamonds, pearls and rubies. He ordered Parameshti to stitch 2 pillows for him using the special cloth.

Parameshti returned home and set to work. As usual, he was chanting the Name of Jagannatha while working. It was the day when the holy rathyatra of Lord Jagannatha was being held at Puri in faraway Odisha. 


Image courtesy: Jagaran Josh.com
When he had finished preparing the pillows, Parameshti noticed a divine glow emanating from them. It reminded him of his beloved Jagannatha. Was a mere human being to enjoy this pillow? Wasn't his Lord truly deserving of such a beautiful pillow? Lost in the experience of His divine glory, Parameshti mentally offered one of the pillows to the Lord!

After a while, when he came out of his trance, Parameshti looked around and found that there was only one pillow! He was worried about what the Baadshah would say. But honest man that he was, he took that single pillow to the Baadshah and handed it over, and narrated all that had happened.

Naturally, the Baadshah was enraged. He ordered his guards to throw Parameshti into the jail and laughed, “Now let us see if your Jagannatha comes and frees you from prison!”

With his supreme faith, Parameshti accepted this turn of events as the Lord’s will.

That night, the Baadshah had a terrible dream in which a fierce-looking man was beating him up and shouting, “Will you dare to imprison the Lord’s devotee? Go and see how Parameshti is faring in prison!” Terrified, the Baadshah woke up in severe pain and found gashes on his arms as if he had been really whipped. He did as told and when he reached the jail, he was dumbstruck at the scene that
greeted his eyes. 

The gates to the prison were wide open! All the guards had fallen asleep! In the cell where Parameshti had been confined, the door was wide open! The bonds that had been tied around Parameshti’s hands and legs had come undone, and he lay in a relaxed posture, in deep slumber! 

The Lord never forsakes his true devotee! What the Baadshah had challenged out of ego, had come to pass in reality. His eyes were opened to the devotion of Parameshti. He then ordered the release of the tailor, brought him to the court, and rewarded him.

After this incident, Parameshti the tailor left Delhi and was never heard of again.

Can we try to develop a devotion as deep as that of Parameshti? 

Like him, can we seek to always offer the best of everything we have, to God?
Reference

Indian saints and sages By Prof. Shrikant Prasoon 



Thursday, 9 January 2020

Margazhi Blogotsavam: Day 24: Sri Venkateshwara's Two Beloved Devotees

One of my blog readers, Smt. Soumya had suggested that I write on Annamacharya, the great composer-saint of Andhra Pradesh. As I got down to researching the topic, I realized there was too much information to fit into one post. Then, I stumbled upon two other bhaktas of Sri Venkateshwara at Tirumala, and felt impelled to tell their stories. So, putting aside Saint Annamacharya for now, let’s move on to Kuruvanambi and Ananthalwar.

Kuruvanambi

Kuruvanambi was a potter living in Tirumala. He made pots for use in the Venkateshwara temple. Although devoted to the Lord, he was busy in his pottery; so he never got time to go to the temple.

King Thondaiman was a great devotee of Sri Venkateshwara. He would visit the temple every day and offer the Lord flowers made of gold.

One day, as he finished his prayers, he was shocked to see that his golden flowers had been moved aside! Instead, occupying pride of place were some mud flowers! 

Image courtesy: https://ksr-ugc.imgix.net/
The King was angry. Who dared to offer clay flowers to the Lord! And why did the Lord prefer them over his golden flowers?

That night, Sri Venkateshwara appeared in Thondaiman’s dream. “The clay flowers were offered by my dear devotee Kuruvanambi who is a potter,” he declared.

The King went to meet Kuruvanambi and what a strange sight met his eyes! The potter had prepared a murti of the Lord with his potting clay, and offered flowers made from the same clay to the murti! Moved by the devotion of Kuruvanambi, King Thondaiman touched his feet and got constructed a shelter for him.

This place, called Kuruva Mandapam, can be seen even today as one walks to Tirumala. It stands as a silent reminder that the Lord looks only at one’s bhakti, and not the richness of offerings made to Him. 

Path to Tirumala temple.
Image courtesy: 
temple.dinamalar.com
Ananthalwar

The great Srivaishnava Acharya Ramanuja was visiting the Tirumala temple. Sad to see the badly maintained temple, he called an assembly of the holy men of Tirumala, and asked, “Which one of you will take up the noble task of serving Sri Venkateshwara every day?”

Everyone kept silent, for life in the Hills was difficult and beset by the dangers of wild animals and disease-carrying insects. Only Anantharya stood up and said, “With your blessings, I will happily take up this service.” Delighted, Ramanujacharya embraced Anantharya and declared, “You are the Aanpillai (truly the man)”.

Ananthalwar (as he came to be known for his deep devotion) settled down on the Hills, and began serving the Lord. He decided to create a garden to grow flowers for the Lord’s worship, and a lake to provide water for the garden.

There was no one to help him except his pregnant wife. Undeterred, the couple began the exhausting work. Ananthalwar dug up the mud and filled it into baskets. His wife carried the baskets and threw the mud away.

A little boy came there, and offered to help Ananthalwar, but he refused, and sent the boy away.

After some time, Ananthalwar noticed that his wife was returning sooner than before. He asked if she was throwing the mud somewhere closer than he had indicated. She told him a small boy was helping her, and was taking the basket from her at the halfway point. 

Image courtesy: Divyadesam.com
Ananthalwar was furious. He had promised Ramanujacharya to do all the work without any outside help! How dare his wife accept help! And even after being sent away, the naughty kid had managed to hoodwink his wife! 

Raging, Ananthalwar chased the child, but in vain. Frustrated, he threw the crowbar in his hands at the boy, and it hit the boy’s chin. The boy ran and disappeared into the temple, and banged the door shut. 
Image courtesy: Divyadesam.com
A little later, when Ananthalwar went to the temple to worship the Lord, he had the shock of his life! Blood was oozing out from the Lord’s chin! At once he realized that the boy who came to help him was none other than his beloved Venkateshwara Himself! 

Image courtesy: Divyadesam.com
Agonized beyond words, weeping tears of pain, babbling profuse apologies to the Lord, Ananthalwar lovingly rubbed some pacchaikarpuram (camphor) on the Lord’s chin to heal the wound. From that day, as ordained by the Lord, His chin is adorned with camphor in memory of his bhakta’s loving action.

And even today, as you enter the Tirumala Venkateshwara temple, you can see the crowbar that Ananthalwar hurled at the Lord. It stands as a silent reminder of all the Lord withstands for the love of His devotees! 
Image courtesy: Blog.triptirupati.com

Like Kuruvanambi, can we offer the best within ourselves to the Lord?

Can we learn to give up our pride like King Thondaiman?

Like Ananthalwar, can we rise up to the challenge of doing the Lord’s work?
Can we learn to stay true to our word even in difficult conditions?


References

https://www.sohamtimes.org/2011/03/darshan-of-the-lord/

https://www.speakingtree.in/blog/the-authentic-atma-bandhu-soul-mate http://itihasapuranam.byethost31.com/page/4/?i=1

http://acharya.org/ar/ananthalwar.html

https://kazhiyurvaradanblog.in/2015/01/04/the-divine-crowbar-at-the-entrance-of-tirumala-temple/

https://www.quora.com/Why-does-Lord-Venkateswara-keep-camphor-on-his-chin