Belief is that those who undertake fast, and listen to the Kaisika Puranam, on Kaisika Ekadesi will attain Vaikunta Moksham. It was Kaisika Ekadesi day and the most important Utsavam of the year at the Azhagiya Nambi temple in the Vamana Kshetram of Thiru Kurungudi (a Divya Desam 40kms South West of Tirunelveli).
Parasara Bhattar’s Contribution
Kaisika Puranam, which is a part of Varaha Puraanam, showcases Lord Narayana as the ultimate supreme force. Parasara Bhattar, son of KoorathAzhvaan, took the story of a complex Kaisika Puranam (in Sanskrit) and created the vyakyaanam, in Tamil, in a simple, easily understandable language that was hitherto non existent.
Kaisika Puranam Story
Kaisika Puranam revolves around Nambaduvan, a low caste person belonging to the Baanar family, his unflinching faith in Lord Nambi and how he was instrumental in liberating a Rakshasha from a curse and helping him attaining Vaikunta Moksham. The Kaisika Puranam is also a perfect case study on the values of life and how it is important to keep up one’s promise at the cost of anything, including one’s own life.
Being a low caste person, Nambaduvan was embarrassed to enter the temple during the day (similar is the story of ThirupaanAzhvaar who, born in a ‘lower’ caste, would not enter the Srirangam Ranganatha temple and would sing praise of the Lord from the banks of the Cauvery). Every night, he would walk several miles to the Thiru Kurungudi Nambi temple, and for hours together would stand in front of the temple with a Veena in his hand and sing praise of Lord Nambi. And before dawn, he would leave the temple.
One night, as he was making his way to the temple, a Brahmma Rakshasha stopped him and wanted him for dinner. Undaunted by this sudden turn of events, Nambaduvan, who had the purest of devotion for Lord Nambi, requested the Rakshasha to allow him to go to the temple for a night, so he could keep up his Kaisika Ekadesi Vratha, with the assurance to come back the next morning after singing praise of Lord Nambi, one last time.
Unable to convince the Rakshasha, Nambaduvan talks about Sathya Sankalpam: “The world was created through ‘Promises’ and continues to exist as a result of trust in each other.”
Nambaduvan made 18 promises that night to the Rakshasha. Through these promises, narrated beautifully in the Kaisika Puranam as part of this lengthy discussion between Nambaduvan and Brahmma Rakshasha, one comes to know of the different sins we commit every day in our lives as a result of not adhering to some of the basic values in life.
17promises later and not having got the nod from the Rakshasha, Nambaduvan requests the Rakshasha to let him go to the Nambi temple with this 18th promise:
ச்வர்வ சுவாமியும் மோக்ஷ பிரதான
ஸ்ரீமன் நாராயணனையும், தேவதை களையும்
சமமாக பாவிக்கிறேன் யாவரோருவன்
அவனை போலே நித்ய சம்சாரி ஆவேன்
“If I do not return, I would have committed the biggest sin that exists – that of comparing and equating Lord Narayana with others. And I will become a sinner who will never get Moksham from this cycle of births.”
This extraordinary promise moved the Rakshasha and he let him go. After having spent the entire night (possibly for the last time) in front of Kurungkudi Nambi, he made his way back to the Rakshasha as promised.
Nambaduvan showcases the way to live
On his way back, Lord Nambi, disguised as an old Brahmin, sought the reason for his rushing back much in contrast to his usually slow and thoughtful walk, and on hearing him out condemned Nambaduvan as a fool and offered protection from the Rakshasha.
Nambaduvan rejected this offer, as fulfilling the promise was more important to him than his own life. “I will even give up my life but I will never go back on my word. I have given him a promise and I have to fulfil it. Hence, I will have to go back to the Rakshasha and if he has to take me as his prey, so be it.”
On seeing Nambaduvan, the Rakshasha wondered as to how he could come back, despite being under the threat of being consumed. Even more to his surprise, Nambaduvan came close to the Rakshasha and offered himself as his prey.
Brahmma Rakshasha attains Moksham
By now, the Rakshasha had changed his mind. He did not want Nambaduvan’s body anymore. He rather directed Nambaduvan to share the fruits of the entire songs that he had thus far sung in praise of Lord Nambi. After several exchanges, where Nambaduvan repeatedly offered himself as the prey and Rakshasha continued asking for the fruits of the songs, the Rakshasha explained the reason for his current Rakshasha status – He was a Brahmin by name Soma Sharma in his previous birth. His arrogance, as the all knowing, led him to miss a mantra in a Yagna and he was cursed to this current Rakshasha form by the Devas. And that only the purest of the Nambi devotees had the power to relieve him from his curse - and why he wanted to listen to Nambaduvan’s praise of Lord Nambi.
Back to its glory days
Over the last decade, the Kaisika Natakam in Thiru Kurungudi has seen a revival back to its old glory thanks to the efforts of Anita Ratnam (TVS Group), the trustee of Arangam Trust, who orchestrated and brought together the Bavupillai Bharatanatyam troupe (led by Kalaimamani B. Herambanathan) all the way from Thanjavur to present this dance drama every year on the Kaisika Ekadesi night.
Gopi, an amateur artiste working as a Junior Assistant at Sastra University in Thanjavur, played the powerful role of the Brahmma Rakshasha with ease. While the entire portrayal of the Brahmma Rakshasha was exemplary, it was the last scene- where he pleads with Nambaduvan to relieve him from the curse of his previous birth and to help attain moksham- that brought tears to the eyes of the devotees and received non stop applause and appreciation, one that continued long after the Kaisika Natakam ended (Gopi has now specialized in the role of Brahmma Rakshasha with this being the 10th year of his performance at the Thiru Kurungudi temple. Interestingly, Gopi has also been playing the role of ‘Hiranyakashipu’ for the past 5years at the annual Bhagavatha Mela in Melattur Village near Thanjavur).
Equally commendable was the performance of Dr. Sumathi Sundar, who played the role of Nambaduvan. She matched Gopi scene for scene and was especially impressive in the portrayal of the Sathya Sankalpam- the 18promises of Nambaduvan, where she captured the imagination of the audience with a pleasing display.
M.A. Arunodhaya too impressed in the role of Lord Nambi disguised as a Brahmin.
Clock had ticked to 230am, but it was not time to leave yet. The devotees stayed back after the Kaisika Natakam to watch an outstanding ‘Araiyar Sevai’ performance by Araiyar Bala Mukundan of Srivilliputhur. His Abhinayam of the Periya Thiru Mozhi Paasuram:
அக்கும் புலியின் அதளும் உடையார்
அவர் ஒருவர் பக்கம் நிற்க, நின்ற பண்பர் ஊர்போலும்
தக்க மரத்தின் தாழ் சினை ஏறி, தாய் வாயில்
கொக்கின் பிள்ளை வெள் இறவு
showcasing Thirukurungudi’s greatness drew great appreciation from the devotees who watched his sterling performance in absolute silence. Also, the Araiyar, through this Abhinayam, brought out an important historical information relating to the Thiru Kurungudi temple - that of Lord Shiva being alongside Kurungudi Nambi.
He followed it up with the Abhinayam of the Thiruvoi Mozhi Paasuram:
எங்கனயோ, அன்னைமீர்காள் என்னை முனிவது நீர்நங்கள் கோலத் திருக்குறுங்குடி நம்பியை நான் கண்டபின்
சங்கிநோடும் நேமியோடும் தாமரைக் கண்களோடும்
செங்கனி வாய் ஒன்றினோடும் செல்கின்றது என் நெஞ்சமே
As he performed this Abhinayam, one could visualize the beautiful Thirumeni of Lord Nambi, part by part. Araiyar Sevai was followed by the recital of the Kaisika Puranam.
While Thiru Kurungudi temple is home to Kaisika Puranam and this traditional Kaisika Natakam has been revived to its past glory, it would be a worthwhile exercise for Anita Ratnam to consider taking the Kaisika Natakam to more Divya Desams in Tamil Nadu. For the story of Kaisika Puranam and Nambaduvan’s righteous way of life holds great relevance in this fast paced modern day money making world where trust and ‘holding on to promises’ seem to have taken a back seat.
Presenting the Kaisika Natakam in a lot more temples could go a long way in re-instilling, in us, the sense of values that Nambaduvan showcased to the world several centuries ago.
How to reach Thiru Kurungudi
Take a train to Valliyur (on the Tirunelveli - Nagercoil route) - Kanniyakumari Express, Ananthapuri Express from Chennai. One can reach the Nambi temple in 30minutes by bus from Valliyur