“Great Nandikeswara!” said Sage Markandeya, “I had the pleasure of listening to your narration of the legend about Vidyadharas (Kantishali and Kaladhara) – a legend which can be likened to the lunar disc throwing light on the ocean of greatness called Arunachaleswara. However, how did King Vajrangada attain salvation? How did he worship Arunachaleswara? How did the great Lord bless the fallen king after he was usurped of the vehicle?”
“King Vajrangada” explained Nandikeswara, “gave up desires of returning to his capital and decided to stay at the foot of Arunachala. Then his entourage comprised of chariots, horses, the army and his men followed the track of his horse and succeeded in reaching his place. Joined by his priest, minister, subservient kings, commanders-in-chief and friends, the king verily looked a picture of courage and glory. He welcomed the army enthusiastically and arranged the army camp just outside the precincts of Arunachala with great devotion; he dedicated his treasury and the wealthy areas to the seva of Arunachaleswara”.
“Prompted by his priest”, continued Nandikeswara, “the king, joined by his minister, raised a thapovan (hermitage) near Gautamashram itself and began spending his time in assiduous Shiva Puja”,
He started worshipping Arunachaleswara with the various offerings sent by his son Ratnangada whom he had stationed in the capital. He constructed tanks full of water all round Arunachala and raised Agraharas endowed with plenty of resources and gifted them to Brahmins. In the land enflamed by the thejas of Arunachaleswara in the form of the fiery pillar, he had hundreds of canals constructed. The far-sighted king nominated the most beautiful ladies among his entourage for the service of Arunachaleswara (since beauty in an attribute of God)”
“Even Agastya Maharashi and Lopamudra Devi who happened to visit the royal thapasvi immersed in the puja of Arunachaleswara praised him. Every morning, the king used to take a bath in the nine sacred (tank) waters known as “Nava-theerthas” and worship the Paapanashana and Pravaleswara lingas beside Durga, the dispeller of difficulties as Mahishasuramardini. There was not a moment that he did not propitiate in a variety of ways Arunachaleswara in the form of linga worshipped by Brahma and Vishnu”.
Giripradakshina thrice in the mornings!
“The king” continued Nandikeswara , “would get up well before sunrise and after the morning dip would walk around Arunachala three times chanting the Shivapanchakshari mantra during the pradakshina. On special occasions like Karthika Poornima (Full moon day in the lunar month of Karthika) consistent with the lunar light, he would arrange, as part of his puja service to the consort of Parvathi, Deepostava or festival of lights celebrated in all the three worlds. There would be Sahasrakalashaabhiseka with the holly water rendered unique by the fragrance of scents, white lotus, camphor and the like. Every month there would be a ritualistic flag-hoisting ceremony followed by the theerthotsavams and car festival, the glory of which spread across the universe. Giripradakshina came to be known as a necessary part and embodiment of Iswara puja. He extolled the greatness of the Lord with such expressions as Arunachaleswara, the Ocean of the Kindness and adorned by Arunamba”.
As the king offered archanas in various ways for the three years, but bereft of desires, Arunachaleswara was pleased with his devotion manifested himself before him. The Lord was not alone. Seated as he was on his vehicle, the Vrishabhavaahana, he was adorned by Parvathi and accompanied by Brahmasrshis like Vashista, Maharshis like Narada and a host of others in the retinue whose resounding expressions of “Jai” caused reverberations of the auspicious nature. Arunachaleswara’s august presence looked as if he replied with ripples in the ocean of kindness and he was a picture of glory the seemed to melt all the sins of the universe”.
“King Vajrangada’s joy knew no bounds and he at once fell flat on the ground in total surrender and prostration before the Lord. His ecstasy evident from his broad smile was such that verily one felt as though he washed and worshipped the Lotus Feet of Arunachaleswara with the lustre of his teeth!”
“The greatest among Gods!” King Vajrangada prayed, “Kindly absolve me of all the sins of transgression I might have committed to this day from ignorance”.
“Great devotee!” said the kind Arunachaleswara, Lord of the Universe, prompted by the sincere prayers of Vajrangada, “Have no fear! I have eight forms of manifestation. They have been created for the liberation of all the living creatures. In the previous incarnation although you were the Mahendra, you had the mortification of ignoring me and suffered veritable immobility. Your pride vanished in a moment. Having been humbled by the arrest of bodily movements, you prayed for divine enlightenment which brings all kinds of wealth. I willed that you should be born as kind Vajrangada in Bhu-loka in order to earn my grace. This sacred land viz., Arunachala became my abode because of its greatness. You have also gone through punishment owing to your ignorance and have become my great devotee. Now that you have worshipped me day and night I am pleased with your devotion and am inclined to enlighten you on the mysteries of the this universe.”
“The whole universe – both animate and inanimate”, said Arunachaleswara, “glows from the eight -fold manifestation of the earth, water, fire, air, space, sun, moon and Atman. I assume the role of the destroyer and exterminate all things and living beings. I am Shiva who transcends everything. But anything different from me or transcending me exists nowhere whatsoever. The knowledgeable ones say that Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, Mahendra and others are projections of the ocean of my infinite bliss of knowledge. Goddesses like Saraswati, Lakshmi, Bhumi, Shraddha, Prajna, Swaaha and Swadhaa constitute my creative energies. This Parvathi is the Shakthi or creative force called maya, the creator of Universe. Through her the worlds get destroyed during deluge and resurrected again. Armed with the power of this Shakti, I bring about the mystic spectacle of the origin, protection and destruction of the whole creation. Of my own free will and volition, I see the picture of this strange universe. Hence get over bonds of attachment from my grace and proceed to explore the greatness of the Atman”.
“Just as the wave is not different from the ocean” asserted Arunachaleswara, “Your Atman is not different from myself. Therefore, be a great king from my blessings and enjoy the blissful ruler ship of Earth which is one of my manifest forms. Like Mahendra, you will reign long and have divine comforts and eventually attain my own form without doubt”.
“Markandeya!” said Nandikeswara. “As Arunachaleswara blessed Vajrangada and disappeared, the king attained fulfilment by Shiva puja alone. I have related to you the propensity for devotion and personality of devotees of Shiva and the permanent benefits of pradakshina of Arunachala. In short, a single pradakshina of Arunachala brings bigger results than a hundred Aswamedha yagas of a tall order”.
“Arunagiri pradakshina undertaken during transition times such as Vishuvat-punyakalam, Uttarayana and Dakshinayana punyakalam, Sankramanas. Vyatipata and Vydruti will bring infinite results”.
Concluding, Nandikeswara said, “There is no kshetra or place of sanctity better than Arunachala. There is no deity bigger than Arunachaleswara and there is no thapas greater in the world than pradakshina of Arunachala:
Na-api pradakshinaat – anyat – vidyatebhyadhikam thapaha”
As Nandikeswara narrated the greatness of Arunachala, Markandeya felt ecstatic and shed tears of joy. He looked as though he was deeply immersed in the illimitable ocean of bliss.