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Saturday, 21 December 2019

Margazhi Blogotsavam: Day 5: Karaikal Ammaiyar: The Mother of Shiva

Punithavathi was the daughter of Danadattan, a rich merchant of Karaikal (in present-day Puducherry). From a very young age, she was a devotee of Lord Shiva, worshipping Him and chanting His mantra every day. She grew into a beautiful young woman and was given in marriage to Paramadattan of Nagapattinam. Punithavathi continued her worship and served Shiva devotees who came to her house with diligence. 

One day, Paramadattan sent home two mangoes, with the message that he would eat them at lunchtime. That noon, a Shiva devotee came to their house, and because the afternoon meal wasn’t yet cooked, Punithavathi served him one of the mangoes.

Later, Paramadattan came home, and she served him lunch and one mango. He finished eating it and asked for the second one. Punithavathi didn’t know what to do for there was no second mango to give. She prayed intensely to Lord Shiva for help and the next moment, a mango fell into her hands!

Punithavathi served this mango to Paramadattan who found it much more delicious than the first one. He realized it wasn’t the one he had sent, and asked his wife where she got it from. Hesitantly, she told him the truth. Disbelieving her, he asked her to produce another fruit in front of him.
Pic courtesy: K N Ramesh
Punithavathi said a fervent prayer, and yet another mango appeared in her hands. When Paramadattan touched the mango, it disappeared! Realizing the divine nature of his wife, who could so invoke items through prayer alone, Paramadattan now felt embarrassed to think of her as merely his wife. Making some excuses about going out for business, he left the house.

Punithavathi waited patiently for her husband to come back, but in vain. Some years later, her relatives heard that Paramadattan was living in Madurai, having married again, and that he had a daughter by the second wife. They took Punithavathi to Madurai. When they reached there, Paramadattan, his wife and child came and prostrated at Punithavathi’s feet. Paramadattan told the people gathered around that he could not think of Punithavathi as his wife, but that he considered her as a Goddess.

Accepting his emotion, Punithavathi prayed to Lord Shiva, asking Him to take away her physical beauty, and her appearance changed into a demoniacal form. Lord Shiva called her “Karaikal Ammaiyar” (Ammaiyar means ‘mother’ in Tamil). Flowers rained down from heaven on Ammaiyar, and singing the praises of Lord Shiva, she went away from there.

Drawn by her devotion to the Lord, Ammaiyar decided to go on a pilgrimage to Mount Kailasa. When visiting such a holy place, she did not want to make it impure by placing her feet on that hallowed ground. So, she climbed the mountain using her hands!
The entire story of Ammaiyar in one picture. Image courtesy: K N Ramesh
Pleased with Ammaiyar’s devotion, Lord Shiva offered her a boon. All she wanted was, “A pure, eternal Bhakti to You, O Lord of Mercy! No more births, but if I must be born, let me never forget You! Wherever You dance, let me sing Your praises there, always at Your feet!”

Granting her desire, Lord Shiva sent Ammaiyar to Tiruvalangadu, where he danced as Nataraja, for her joy.

Karaikal Ammaiyar is one of the 63 great devotees, called the Nayanmars, who are famous for their single-minded devotion to Lord Shiva. Ammaiyar is the creator of 2 major works called Arputha Tiruvantadi and Tiru Erattai Mani Malai that continue to inspire Shiva-bhakti till this day.

Can we cultivate devotion as simple and intense and a mind as pure as Ammaiyar’s?

Like her, can we turn to God always, trusting He will care for us?

Like Paramadattan, can we develop the ability to recognize greatness in people around us irrespective of their position in comparison to us?



  1. Truly inspiring. Ammaiyar's devotion is no doubt exemplary, i m also overwhelmed by her husband's wisdom. Lots to learn for misguided, modern day feminists who howl crying "misogyny...& such other words"..
    Thanks for this story. I did not know this.. Looking forward to more such pearls from you.

    1. Yes, I also felt the same about the husband. Thank you for your guidance and encouragement, Vatsala!

  2. Very nice Anu, Thank you so much for these pearls Om Namah ShivayπŸ™

    1. Thank you! My pleasure totally! πŸ™πŸΌπŸ™πŸΌ

  3. Thank you Anu for a wonderful story of karaikkal ammaiyar. Om Namashivaya

  4. Hari Hari ...... Awesome πŸ™πŸ»πŸ™πŸ»πŸ™πŸ»

    1. Thank you! πŸ™πŸΌπŸ™πŸΌ


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