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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 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! 

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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.
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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. 

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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. 
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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! 

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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! 
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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?



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