(82) SUNDARAMURTI'S BOND OF SERVITUDE
27th January, 1947
Yesterday, after hearing Bhagavan’s narration of Sundaramurti’s story, which I have mentioned in my letter to you, I was desirous of hearing the story of that devotee’s younger days and so went to Bhagavan’s presence early this morning at 7-30 a.m. Bhagavan had already returned from the hill and was reading some book. There were not many people in the hall at that time. Having made my obeisance, I asked Bhagavan what book he was reading. He replied, “Peria Puranam. I am just going through the story of the younger days of Sundaramurti.” “It is all very interesting, isn’t it?” I asked. “Yes.
Would you like to read it?” asked Bhagavan. “I should very much like to but I do not know Tarnil sufficiently well,” I replied.
“All right. I will tell you the story briefly,” said Bhagavan and, with a smile, proceeded with the story as follows: “Sundaramurti was born in the sacred place Tirunavalur in Thirumunaippadi country in the Siva Brahmana caste called Adi Saivam, to the Siva priest called Chadayanar, alias Sivacharya, and his wife Isaijnaniyar. He was named by his parents Nambiyarurar. One day, while he was playing in the street with a toy cart, the king of the place, by name Narasinga Muniyar, saw him and took a fancy to him. He requested the father, Sivacharya, to let him have the boy. The father agreed and the boy was brought up by the king as his foster son. Even so, the Brahminical customs as regards thread ceremony and vedic instructions were carefully observed and he became well-versed in all the Sastras.
“When he came of age, his marriage with the daughter of a relative by name Chatangavi Sivacharya was decided upon, and invitations were issued to all relatives for the function. Sundaramurti went through the usual premarital ceremonies a day before the marriage, and on the marriage day proceeded properly dressed as the bridegroom, along with his relatives, to the bride’s father’s house in Puttur village on horseback quite early in the morning. On reaching the bride’s house, he alighted from the horse and sat on the wedding seat in the marriage pandal in accordance with the usual custom. There was a blare of music and the arrival of the bride was awaited.
“Just then, Lord Siva approached the marriage pandal in the garb of an old brahmin, and announced, ‘All of you please listen to what I say.’ On their assenting, the old man told the boy, ‘Look here, there is an agreement between you and me. First fulfil it and then marry.’ The boy replied, ‘If there is an agreement let it be so but tell us first what it is.’ The old brahmin told the audience, ‘Sirs, this boy is my servant. I have with me the deed of service executed by his grandfather in my favour.’ Sundaramurti replied, ‘Oh! Madman, enough! We are hearing for the first time that a brahmin is the servant of another brahmin. Go, get away!’ The brahmin replied, ‘I am neither a madman nor a devil. I am not offended at your remarks. You have not understood me at all. Stop this childish talk and come and serve me.’ Sundaramurti then said, ‘Show me the deed.’ ‘Who are you to decide after seeing the deed?’ said the old man. ‘If the people in the audience see the deed and agree that it is true, you should begin to serve me.’ Sundaramurti got very angry and pounced upon the man to snatch the deed from him.
The brahmin however ran away but the boy pursued him, snatched the deed at last, and tore it to pieces. The old man caught hold of Sundaramurti and began shouting. The marriage guests got agitated over that, separated the two and said to the brahmin, ‘You are speaking of arrangements unheard of in this world. Oh! Quarrelsome old man! Where do you come from?’ The brahmin replied, ‘I belong to the village of Thiruvennainallur. Don’t you agree that this boy Nambiyarurar has confirmed his servitude to me by unjustly snatching away the service deed from my hands and tearing it to pieces?’ Sundarar replied, ‘If indeed you are a resident of Thiruvennainallur village, your claim can be decided there, can’t it?’ The brahmin replied, ‘Yes. Come with me. I shall produce the original deed before the Council of Brahmins there and establish my claim that you are my servant.’ Accordingly the brahmin walked ahead and Sundaramurti and all the other Brahmins followed him.
“As soon as they all reached the Council of Brahmins in the other village, the cunning old brahmin filed his claim petition before them to the effect that the boy Nambiyarurar tore up the service deed in his favour. The councillors said, ‘We have not heard anywhere in this world that Brahmins become servants of Brahmins.’ The brahmin replied, ‘No. Mine is not a false claim. The deed that this boy tore up is the deed of service executed by his grandfather to the effect that he and all his successors are to be my servants.’ The councillors asked Sundaramurti, ‘Can you win your case by merely tearing up the deed executed by your grandfather? What do you say?’ He replied, ‘Oh virtuous men, learned in all the vedic lore! You all know that I am an Adi Saiva. Even if this old brahmin is able to establish that I am his servant, you must please consider it a piece of magic, beyond the reach of mental reasoning.
What can I say of such a claim?’ The councillors told the brahmin, ‘You must first prove to us that he is your servant. To decide an affair of this nature, three things are needed, custom, written evidence and oral evidence. Should you not produce at least one of these three items?’ The brahmin replied, ‘Sir! what he tore up is only the duplicate copy; the original deed is with me.’ The councillors demanded the production of the original deed, and gave him an assurance that it would not be torn up by Sundaramurti. The old man took out the original deed from the folds of the cloth around his waist, and showed it to them. The village karnam (village officer) who happened to come there unexpectedly then, was asked to read it. He bowed before the councillors, opened the folds of the original document and so as to be heard by all, he read it out aloud as follows: ‘I, Adi Saiva by caste and Arurar by name, residing in Thirvennainallur village have executed this deed of service gladly and out of my own free will, undertaking to do service by me and by my successive descendants, to pitthan (mad man) residing in Thiruvennainallur village. (Sd.) Arurar.’ “The witnesses to the deed were those very councillors, and they all identified and confirmed that the signatures were their own. The councillors asked Sundaramurti to verify if the handwriting in the deed was his grandfather’s. The man pretending to be a brahmin said, ‘Sir! This is a mere boy.
How can he identify his grandfather’s writing? If there is any other paper available, containing his grandfather’s writing, please send for it, and compare.’ They all agreed, and the relatives of Sundaramurti searched, and produced a paper containing his grandfather’s handwriting. The councillors compared the two papers, and confirmed that the writings in the two papers agreed. They told Sundaramurti, ‘Boy! There is no way of escape for you. You have lost. It is your duty to do service according to this old man’s orders.’ Sundaramurti was stupefied at this and said that he would obey the order, if fate had decreed that way.
They had compassion on the boy, and had still some doubts about the brahmin, and questioned him, ‘Sir! This deed says that you belong to this very village. Can you show us where your ancestral house and property are?’ The brahmin pretended surprise, and said, ‘What! You are all of this village, so learned, so intelligent, so elderly --- does not even one among you know my house? How surprising are your words! Come with me then!’ So saying, he led the way, and they all followed. They all saw the God in disguise enter the Siva’s temple called ‘Thiruvarul Thurai’ in the village, and were stupefied.
“Sundaramurti thought, ‘The brahmin who made me his servant has entered the temple of my God Parameswara! What a wonder!’ So thinking, he followed alone eagerly the footsteps of the brahmin and entered the temple with great desire and shouted, ‘Oh brahmin!’ At once Lord Siva appeared in the company of Goddess Parvati, seated on the sacred Bull, and said, ‘My son! you are Aalaala Sundara, one of my Pramatha Ganas (chief attendants). You were born here as a result of a curse. You requested me to have you as My own, wherever you might be, even during the period of the curse.
I therefore made you My servant here.” Thus Bhagavan narrated to us the earlier story of Sundaramurti. He continued: “As soon as Sundaramurti heard those words of the Great Lord, he was overjoyed like the calf that hears the mother’s call. With his voice trembling with emotion and eyes filled with tears of joy, he made prostrations to Him, and with folded hands said, ‘Oh Lord! You are gracious to my worthless self, hold me fast to you like the cat holding on to its kitten, and make me your own. What gracious kindness!’ and praised Him. The Great Lord was pleased and said, ‘My son! Because you have disputed with me, you shall have the name of ‘Van Thondan’.
The service to be rendered hereafter by you to me, is to worship me with flowers of verses. Compose verses on me, and sing them.’ With folded hands, Sundaramurti said, ‘Oh Lord! You came in the guise of a brahmin, and preferred a claim against me, and I contested and argued with you, not knowing your greatness. You are the great Lord that gave me recollection of my past, and saved me from falling into worldly actions and behaviour and getting drowned therein. What do I know of your limitless great qualities, and what shall I sing of them?’ Ishwara said, ‘You already called me Pitthan, madman. Therefore, sing of me as the Mad Man’. So saying, he disappeared.
Sundaramurti immediately sang the “Sri Padikam”, commencing with the verse ‘Pittha pirai sudi’. His story is full of such strange experiences,” said Bhagavan.
I asked, “Is he named Sundaramurti as the result of the recollection of his past?” “Yes, yes! No other reason is to be found in his story!” replied Bhagavan.
For more on Sundaramurti Nayanar, please also see http://www.shaivam.org/nachundh.html and Spiritual Stories told by Bhagavan