The Skandapuranic legend centering round Vighneswara is doubtless known to many but is narrated here not only in the interests of accuracy and authenticity of the anecdote but also to include it as part of a fairly comprehensive series of legends that throw light on the greatness of Arunachala and to focus attention on the need of mortals to emulate the glorious examples of great ones who have drawn succour and solace from Arunachaleswara. But what is perhaps delightfully strange and greater still is the fact the abode of the immortal Arunachaleswara is verily situated amidst a whole multitude of mortals in Bhu-loka, in India, in Tamil Nadu and indeed in Thiruvannamalai!
Although the great Vyasa wrote the Puranas in time of immemorial antiquity and the Puranas like Skanda have lived with us ever since, the greatness of Arunachala which baffled even Brahma and Vishnu in the beginnings of creation – has remained a profound secret and the knowledge of its inimitable powers and the dissemination of its knowledge have suffered some kind of mysterious imprisonment!
Once in the court presided over by Mahadeva, the hall was adorned by Astadikpalakas, Mahendra, Vishnu, Yama and a host of other great ones. At that time, the presiding deity of Nandanavana made over a pink fruit to the Lord as a symbol of salutation and worship.
The fruit was very attractive and naturally attracted the attention of young Vighneswara and the youthful Shanmukha. Both of them wanted the fruit. They approached their father and asked for the fruit.
Mahadeva covered that fruit with his hands and told the seekers, “I will give this to one who completes faster than the other the pradakshina of this earthly world encircled by mountains”.
In Mahadeva’s words, according to Skaanda-
“Imaam samasthaam prithviem……
Yo vaama pradakshine-kartumeeshte
Mahadeva thus set a test of eligibility for both Vighneswara and Shanmukha to receive the fruit. As soon as he heard it, Shanmukha, sporting a smile on his face, embarked on an expeditious journey round the world.
But what did Vighneswara do?
“Lambodarastu devasya Shonashailaakrithehe pituhu Pradakshinam thathaha krithwaa purastadava tat kshanaat”
The Sage quotes Nandikeswara as stated above in the latter’s narration of legend to Markandeya:
Vighneswara completed a pradakshina of his father likening it to a pradakshina of Arunachala as the mountainous form was his own father’s form!
Mahadeva, pleased with the shrewd achievement of Vigneswara, gave him an affectionate hug and also the fruit willingly.
“From this day”, said Mahadeva giving him a boon, “you will be the Lord and presiding deity to confer blessings for fulfilment of one’s desires.
As Mahadeva’s radiance spread round the court hall, he addressed all those present and said, “This Arunachala is verily my inanimate form. Whoever undertakes pradakshina of the mountain with devotion will attain my own form. Whoever gets pain in the feet as a result of such a giripradakshina will get princely and permanent spiritual elevation.”
Prompted by Shiva’s edict on the secret path for spiritual and material progress, all the Devatas undertook pradakshina of Arunachala and fulfilled their desires and aspirations.
Durvasa on Arunachala
Although Durvasa Maharshi cursed Kaladhara and Kantishali – the Vidyadharas who transgressed the limits of his ashram discipline – he himself consoled them with revelation of the secret of their redemption from animal form. Durvasa told them that they would resume their original form by a pradakshina of Arunachala.
“Despite the animal form of a horse and musk deer,” Durvasa said “you will be instinctually prompted by Vajrangada, the Pandyan King, to make a pradakshina of Arunadri.”
If the story of redemption of the two makes interesting reading, the legend about the Pandyan King inspires an an-thrilling conception of the greatness of Arunachala.