Sage Markandeya once asked Nandikeswara, “Bhagawan! You are always immersed in the thoughts of the blissful image of Shiva. The nectar called the greatness of Arunachala related by you has made me ecstatic. How is it that the Pandyan King Vajrangada having been found guilty of committing sacrilege in Arunachala regained the glory of his wealth by his very devotion to Arunachaleswara?”.
“Also please tell me how Kantishali and Kaladhara incurred Sage Durvasa’s curse but were saved by Arunachaleswara’s grace?”
Arunachalaeswara – the saviour!
“Markandeya! It is because you have unflinching faith in and devotion to Arunachaleswara, that the immortality you have been blessed with has really found a proper expression.”
“I shall tell you the legend relating to the two and also the one relating to King Vajrangada as these legends were responsible for spreading the glory and greatness of Arunachala in the world” said Nandikeswara.
Legend which spread the glory of Arunachala
“Vajrangada”, said Nandikeswara, “was a Pandyan king under whose shade of political reign, the land was as prosperous, peaceful and blooming as a bunch of beautiful flowers. He was a pillar of dharma, protagonist of justice, symbol of solemnity, harbinger of hope, champion of mercy, epitome of equanimity, doyen of decorum, inhibitor of intelligence, wedded to one woman, fountain of virtue and fortune, repository of wealth and an ardent worshipper of Shiva. He had conquered all his enemies and his royal flag fluttered bravely over his vast kingdom from Kedarnath to Rameswaram”.
The turning point – in Arunachala
“There was a turning point in his life”, continued Nandikeswara, “when once he rode an excellent horse and embarked on a hunting expedition to the forest around Arunachala, his exploration of the area and search for a prey led him to sight a beautiful musk deer. As soon as the animal noticed the royal chase, it started galloping and ran round Arunachala, without any knowledge of the consequences of giripradakshina. It completed a pradakshina and fell to the ground.
Strangely enough, the exhausted king who was just behind fell from his horse like one who fell from glory or one thrown out of heavenly height following denudation of fortune (Punya).
For no ostensible reason, the king forgot all about himself for a moment as if pestered by a wild elephant and as though under a sudden planetary spell.
“How did such erosion of strength defying cause overtake me? Where did my horse – the vehicle of my movement – go without leaving a trace?”, the king began to think for himself.
The enigma of the disappearance was beyond his intellectual powers. But at that very moment, he saw a divine light like a conglomeration of lightning emissions. The king saw that the light emerged from the divine forms the horse and the prey had attained after the casting away of their mortal coils.
The two divine forms were looking great and glorious with a crown, ear rings, decorative necklaces, beautiful silk attire and garlands of flowers.
Their glowing pattern of teeth seemed to dispel his ignorance and obvious shock. “King!” they said, “do not grieve. Have no doubt that we have got these divine forms as a result of Arunachaleswara’s grace”.
The king suddenly appeared to recover something of his peace and tranquillity. With folded hands and respectful tone, he asked, “Fortunate ones! Please let me know who you are as you have such great love for me. Is it not the quality of the Mahatmas to protect people in distress?”
Prompted by one of them namely Kantishali, the other, namely, Kaladhara began to relate their life history which the king was anxious to know.
“Rajan!” he said, “In the past, both of us were responsible for dissemination of knowledge. Like Manmatha and Vasantha, we were always together and friendly. Once we went to Durvasa Maharshi’s thapovan which is contiguous to Meru mountain and which is transcending even the reach of mind. In the extensive ashram of great sanctity fit for thapas – an ashram glowing with flowers, we happened to see the beauty of the garden. Despite the fact we were disciplined and endowed with intellectual powers appropriate for engendering philosophical knowledge, we entered the garden to pluck flowers. Influenced by the vibrant place, Kantishali took such violent steps as he walked that militated against the serenity of the atmosphere. I was also carried away by the fragrance of the flowers and thrust my greedy hands into the blooming bunches.”
“Then, under the bilva tree,” continued Kaladhara, “Durvasa Maharshi, who was a pile of thapas seated on a tiger skin, admonished us with lips trembling with rage that knew no bounds like a ravaging fire. His fiery frame and fierce-looking face made even the earth look small and insignificant like a mustard seed. His anguish and thejas made him look like an apostle of dharma. The fact that he was annoyed was obvious from his eyes”.
Addressing us he said :
“Hey sinners! Who are you two who have been so proud and guilty of grave derelictions? You will be consumed by the fire of my eyes burning with rage”
“Even the sun and Moon” he said “do not step into this sacred and unearthly thapovan of mine. This garden has been exclusively dedicated to the puja of Maheswara. Even air does not move in this place. Insects do not reach the flowers”.
“This sinner who committed sacrilege by trespassing into this sacred land”, cursed Sage Durvasa, “shall be reborn as a horse to serve as a vehicle for others”.
“The other who was carried away by the fragrance of flowers” he similarly cursed, “shall take the form of a musk deer and fall into a mountainous valley”.
“As soon as we came under the spell of Durvasa’s curse, our pride vanished and fell at his feet in total surrender for pardon. ‘Your curse’, we said to him, “is intense and insurmountable. Please tell us when we will be absolved of it”.
“The great Sage looked at us and our repentant frame and he was moved. With kindness and tranquil mind, he at once showed readiness to bless us. He said to us, “you will not be able to get rid of the curse anywhere. Only a giripradakshina of Arunachala can redeem you from the curse and confer peace on you”.
Durvasa continued, “Carried away by your pride and greed for flowers, you have been punished by me. The curse will come to an end by Arunachala pradakshina. Although you will be born as animals, you will get the yoga of Arunadari pradakshina through the Pandyan King Vajrangada”.
“We took our birth as horse and deer overcome by the overpowering spell of Durvasa’s curse engendered by our sin”.
“King Vajrangada!” continued Kalandhara, “My friend Kantishali took his birth in Kambhoj as a horse and became your vehicle. I also took my birth as a deer and had been moving about in this mountain region with the same airs attributable to my previous propensities and perceptions, Dharmatma, as a result of the pretext of hunting which pulled you to this place, we both had the good fortune of completing the pradakshina of Arunachala. However, because you used a vehicle for the pradakshina, you became week and suffered from this kind of unusual experience. On the other hand, as we moved with our legs firmly on the ground, the benefit of giripradakshina restored our original form to us. Rajendra ! It is because of you that we have been redeemed from our animal form and helped to recover our higher world. You shall always be blessed”.
With folded hands the king asked Kaladhara and Kantishali who started to leave for their loka, “Due to the glorious spell of Arunachaleswara, you have attained salvation. How will I be blessed? This thought has been plaguing my mind. I feel that the life force (prana) is leaving my body. God alone is the strongest force”.
Path to salvation
“We will enlighten you on the path for salvation”, said both Kaladhara and Kantishali, “Listen carefully; first banish all worries from your mind and then concentrate with all the equanimity of mind on that Ocean of Kindness, namely, Arunachaleswara who wields the powers of creation, protection and destruction and also as the Omnipotent who can confer blessings. You have yourself seen how as a result of the glory of this God we recovered our divine form that of animals. You will do well to walk around the hill on foot. Worship Maheswara, who is fond of deer, with the fragrance of white lotus flowers. Dedicate all your wealth for the renovation of the sanctum sanctorum, gopuram and the structures all round this Jyotirlinga temple. You will soon be elevated to an exalted state in the same way as Manu, Maandhaa, Naanbhaaga and Bhagiratha”.
“As the King was listening to them”, said Nandikeswara, “the two Vidyadharas rose to their loka at once. Vajrangada, bereft of doubts, placed his firm faith in Arunachaleswara and concentrated in his prayers on the Lord”.