|Azhwarkadiyan at Rameshwaram|
It looks like we have ignored a very important character, whom we met right at the beginning of this story, Azhwarkadiyan Nambi. We apologize most sincerely for this hindsight both to the Nambi and to our readers. It is however important to get a pardon from the Nambi as he is thoroughly incensed and angry right now.
With his front locks flying wildly, he was furiously surveying the scene that unfolded in front of him at Rameshwaram. With his stout stick up in his arms, he is surrounded by hoards of Saivaites. For a minute, we worry about his fate but the Vaishnavan had assumed the wrathful Narasimha avatar, the most fearful of Vishnu’s ten avatars and was successfully deflecting the Saivaite attack.
Azhwarkadiyan had left Pazhaiarai on the very day he had eavesdropped on Vandiya Devan’s and Kundavai’s conversation at her palace. Travelling towards Southern direction, he briefly stopped at Madurai to learn something important and then was on his way again. Intent on his work, he didn’t even stop anywhere to argue, debate or prove Vishnu’s might to poor ignorant Saivaites.
The day Vandiya Devan left Kodi Karai with Poonguzhali, Azhwarkadiyan reached Rameshwaram. The minute he stepped on the holy ground of Rameshwaram, there was an emotional upheaval in Azhwarkadiyan’ heart and he was ready to unleash all the Vaishnavism that he held holy on the loitering Saivaites, who were only too ready to bait him. All around Rameshwaram, there were many Saivaites who acted as a guide to those who came on a pilgrimage, by taking them to the temple and ensuring that they took a holy dip at all important tirthas. Thinking that Azhwarkadiyan would require guidance, many had approached the Vaishnavan.
“My dear fellow! Come! Come! There are 64 holy tirthas around Rameshwaram. You can bathe in all of them to wash off these unholy Vaishnava marks on your body. Even Lord Rama did penance here to atone for his Brahmahithi dosham (Sin of killing a Brahmin). You too can atone for the sin of wearing these Vaishnava marks on your body.”
“Listen to me. There is rama tirtham, lakshmana tirtham, hanuman tirtham, sugreeva tirtham… They all did holy penance to atone for their sins. You come with me to hanuman tirtham first. I will help you with the right penance and rituals.”
Yet another battar interjected and said, “Don’t listen to any of these people. I will take you to the temple where Shri Rama worshipped the Shiva lingam that is made out of the beach sand. Come with me now.”
Azhwarkadiyan looked around the battars with fury and said, “You foolish people! Stop these nonsensical tales. It would be better if you could go to all these tirthas and wash your mouth.”
“Is that so? Do you think we would become sinners if we utter the name, ‘Rama’, ‘lakshmana’? Don’t you worry! This holy place is called ‘Rameshwaram’ because Rama worship Shiva here to atone for his sins and to that end, even the sin attached to the word ‘Rama’ gets pardoned, thanks to our Lord Shiva.”
“Foolish men! You people still do not know the meaning of this holy place.”
“Is that so? Then why don’t you enlighten us?”
“Shiva got Brahmahathi dosham when he plucked one of the five heads of Brahma. To atone for that sin, Shiva worshipped Rama at this holy place where the imprints of his foot are still there. That’s why this is called Rameshwaram – a place where Shiva worshiped Rama.”
“Just who do you think you are to call us foolish.”
“I dare to call you foolish because you are. And as for me, I am the servant of Namazhwar, who serves our Lord Vishnu. I am Azhwarkadiyan, the one carries a stout stick to break the heads of Saivaites.”
“O! Azhwarkadiyan! Why do you have that bit of tuft in your forehead? Why don’t you shave it away, then it would match the interior of your head?”
“Yes. I am planning to shave off my front tuft at this holy place.”
“Hey! Somebody bring a barber here. Let him come with the sharpest knife in his possession to remove all the hair in his head, root and all…”
“Why do we have to wait for a barber? We can do it ourselves. Does anyone have a sharp knife?”
“Just a moment! I need to tell you people one thing. Once, I used to have a head full of hair. I broke the head of a saivar and took one portion of the hair. Now I only have this tuft. I have sworn to remove this too after breaking the head of a saivar. I couldn’t have come to a better place to fulfill my vow. Come now. Show me your heads. Let me break it and remove this tuft of hair.”
“Adey! Look at the cheek of this Vaishnavan…”
“Do you really think you can break all our heads?”
“Do you really think I am just boasting about my hair then?” asked Azhwarkadiyan and started swinging his stick above his head.
“Catch him! Kill him!” shouted some of the battars though none had the gall to come near the stick wielding vaishnavan. At that moment they heard shouts and hails of a different sort nearby. “Hail! Tribhuvana Chakravarthi Sundara Chola Paranthakar’s esteemed Prime Minister Anirudha Brahmarayar”
The skirmishing battars and the Azhwarkadiyan froze for a moment and looked at the soldiers who were heralding the arrival of the Prime Minister. Azhwarkadiyan was more surprized than all, as he immediately brought his stick down and stood calmly. Standing by the corner street of Rameshwaram temple, one could see the vast expanse of the sea, ships and boats and a busy shore with ships being loaded and unloaded with goods and merchandise.
Soldiers bearing the tiger flag and drum beaters were stationed at the head of the ship on which the Prime Minister was now approaching the shore. It appeared as if he had noted the fight that would have erupted between Azhwarkadiyan and the saiva battars. Standing amidst the warring the saivates, Azwarkadiyan tried to cut a sorry figure. Anirudha Brahmarayar signalled him to come near and asked, “Thirumalai! What’s happening here?”
“Gurunatha! Am I dreaming or is this for real? Lord Krishna is very right about the life being a ‘maya’ indeed.”
“Thirumalai! I thought you were a staunch vaishnavan. Since when did you start following advaita philosophy?”
“Gurunatha! When a scion of a traditional vaishnava family like yourself can become a saivaite, why can’t I become an advaiti?”
“Wait! Wait! Who told you that I have become a saivaite?”
“The saivaite marks on your person.”
“Aha! Thirumalai! You are still giving importance to these mere marks on the body. How does it matter if you mark your forehead with a vertical or horizontal line?”
“Gurunatha! I know nothing in this world. Only you can enlighten me about it.”
“Alright! Then come to the place where I am staying. Do you see that small island over there? Come to the mandapam and meet me.”
“Gurunatha! These skirmishing battars must allow me to come there,” Said Azwarkadiyan pointing towards the battars. The battars who were silently watching the conversation until then, came towards the Prime Minister and said, “Brahmadi Rajare! This Vaishnavan is threatening to break our heads. Please punish him.” The other battars too tried to interject with suggestions about the appropriate punishment to cure his impudence.
“I will take care of his punishment. You can go now,” Said Anirudhar but it failed to pacify them.
“Why can’t we punish him ourselves? We want to remove that tuft of hair on his forehead and wash off the vaishnava marks on his body and give him good dunking in all the holy tirthas of Lord Shiva…”
“What did you say?” Growled Azwarkadiyan with sparks flying out of his eyes.
Anirudhar interjected and said, “Don’t you people worry about it. I will think of an appropriate punishment for him. ” Saying thus, he ordered his soldiers to surround Azwarkadiyan and to bring him to his guest house.