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Pattinathar – The Merchant Turned Sanyasi then Guru to a King

Once there was rich merchant by the name of thiruvengadar. Born into wealth and taking over his family’s business, there was nothing he was left wanting for. Thiruvengadar later got married,and when there was a delay in getting a child, adopted a child from a religious saiva family that spent all their wealth serving Saiva ascetics.

In the business of travelling by sea to various ports all over the world, Thiruvengadar, and later through his son amassed great wealth, from the trading of pearls , spices etc.

One day Thiruvengadar had sent his young son to a trade via the seas and he came back with bags of goods. Opening the bags, Thiruvengadar was enraged to find nothing but stacks of dried cow dung.

He admonished his young son and went to complain to his wife.
Angrily kicking the bag of dried cow dung cakes, he was surprised to find that some of them had broken apart , revealing valuable gems and diamonds.

Realising his mistake he asked for his son, who had vanished mysteriously leaving behind a small box. Opening the box he saw a note and a needle, an eyeless needle. The note said, Even a broken needle will not accompany you at death.

Shattering his materialistic illusion and realising the truth about his greedy lifestyle up til then, Thiruvengadar gave up all his wealth, his wife and all his possessions, and had with him only his loincloth as he became a wandering Sanyasi.

People who knew him from his previous life as a merchant called him , Pattinathar (Man from the City). Visiting many Shiva temples, he sang many poems, with the sole desire for Moksha.

One of it, on the sound of the conch shell..

The first feeds us with milk,
(they used to feed a baby with milk on a conch shell)

The second shackles us with women of dense locks;
(they would blow the conch shell during marriage)

The third is sounded to announce our death.
(blowing of conch shell at the funeral)

How much, Oh, how much is the weal of worldly life?

Once as he was going around begging for food, a female relative, offered him poisoned appam ( a type of food) as he was thought to have disgraced their entire family by becoming a Sanyasi..

Pattinathar threw the poisoned appam on her roof uttering “than appam thannai sudum, ottapam veetai sudum” meaning , one’s own deeds will burn them , this appam will burn thy house..The house immediately caught fire.

As he travelled, he sang many hymns in search of moksha such as;

My mother got tired carrying me and giving me birth.
My legs were aching being in many mother’s womb.
Even lord brahma got tired of writing my fate again and again.
Oh Siva of Irupaiyur, please save me from being born again..

Later on, at Ujjain, the abode of Mahakaal, The King Badragiriyar had imprisoned Pattinathar when he had said all women are of fickle mind which offended the Queen. Later in the Night, the King found that his Queen was indeed having an affair with his Captain.

He released Patthinathar, falling at his feet and asking to become his disciple, for which he gave up his throne.

As fate would have it , and often the case, Bagirathar would attain Moksha before his Guru, and Pattinathar lamented to Shiva who told , where in his travels , he tastes wild sugarcane that is sweet , there will be his place of Moksha.

Finally he reaches Thiruvottiyur ( North Chennai ) , where he tasted sweet sugarcane at last. Playing with the cowherd kids at the seashore, where they would cover him in a mount of sand and he would appear in another mount.

Twice they would do this. At the third time, they would cover him in a mount of sand, this time he would not re-appear. Removing the sand of mount, they would instead find a Shiva-Linga, Pattinathar having merged with his Lord. It is where his Samadhi now is.

  • References kadilla-oosi blogspot

– Senthil Shree Kumar

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