Nov 26, 2020 – Kaishika Ekadasi
Google’s auto correct is making it difficult for me to write “Kaishika”… it keeps correcting it to “Kaushika”. While am glad in a way that Maharishi Vishwamitra’s name prior to his becoming a Maharishi (Maharaja Kaushika) is known to Google, today happens to be “Kaishika” Ekadasi. There is a beautiful backstory to this day. Sharing it here.
“நம்பாடுவான்” Nampaaduvan – Thirukkurungudi
Many centuries ago, there lived a man at Thirukkurungudi known as “Nampaaduvan”. His real name is unknown. He was born in a Chandala family. In today’s terminology he would be a Dalit. While his family’s profession was to cremate dead bodies Nampaaduvan was deeply devoted to Bhagwan Sriman Narayana. He would keep a fast on every Ekadasi day.
He would go near the Thirukkurungudi temple early morning on Dwadasi (the day after Ekadasi) and play his veena, singing songs in praise of Sriman Narayana. Once during the month of Krittika on Dwadasi as always he went to the temple early in the morning. But this day, he was accosted by a Brahma Rakshasa who was very hungry. Obviously the Brahma Rakshasa wanted to eat him to quell his hunger !
Nampaaduvan requested the Brahma Rakshasa to give him some time to complete his morning routine, that of singing songs for his beloved Sriman Narayana. He said that he would sing his songs and come back to be eaten by the Rakshasa. The Rakshasa was not ready to grant his request. He said that Nampaaduvan was just finding a way to escape being eaten. Nampaaduvan then took 18 different oaths to convince the Rakshasa that he would return.
The Brahma Raksha was pleased with Nampaaduvan’s sincerity and was convinced about his promise to return. He let him go to the temple and sing his songs as usual.
On the way back after singing his songs, Nampaaduvan was met by a person who asked him, where he was headed. Nampaaduvan said he was going back to the Brahma Rakshasa so that he can satisfy his hunger. This stranger immediately tried to stop him from going to the Rakshasa saying he is a cannibal and doesn’t follow the rules that human beings do. Nampaaduvan refused to listen to him and was adamant to keep up his promise.
The legend says, this stranger was Sri Varaha Perumal, the 3rd avatar of Mahavishnu.
Nampaaduvan found the Brahma Raksha at the same place and offered his body as food for him. But the Rakshasa changed his request. He didn’t want to eat Nampaaduvan but wanted all the “punya” (loose translation “merit”) that he had accumulated by singing songs to Sriman Narayana to be transferred to him. The Rakshasa in a previous birth had been a Brahmin who made grievous mistakes and hence was born as a Rakshasa.
Nampaaduvan was moved and agreed to transfer the Punya of one song that he had sung that morning in the Kaishika Raga to the Rakshasa. Just the transfer of the Punya accrued by singing one song helped the Rakshasa to be redeemed of all his earlier karma !
Nampaaduvan’s story is narrated by Sri Varaha Perumal to Sri Bhoomi Devi. It is mentioned in the “Sri Varaha Puranam”. Every year the whole episode with all the Sanskrit shlokas is read out in all the Maha Vishnu temples on Kaishika Ekadasi. The story is enacted on stage at Thirukkurungudi where the event actually took place.
- Nampaaduvan despite being born in a “Chandala” family, can relieve a Rakshasa from his Karmic bond. So “caste” as described by the invaders of India and used effectively by successive Indian political parties to garner votes is actually just a division of the society by profession. No caste is “upper” or “lower”.
- Most of the Hindu Gods and Saints are “non-Brahmins” … so much for Brahmin supremacy !! For e.g When Dalit devotee Thirupaann Azhvar was slighted by a priest, the door of the Sri Ranganathaswamy temple at Srirangam did not open. They remain closed until he was carried into the temple by the priest himself. Infact this ritual was recently re-enacted in 2018 – a Dalit devotee was carried by Brahmin priest into the Sri Ranganathaswamy temple. Thirupaann Azhvar is worshipped as the highest Vaishnavite saint, an Azhvar.
- The biggest learning for me is, transformation of one self is possible at any stage. The Rakshasa was paying for his mistakes but he realised the way out was not to eat Nampaaduvan but to ask for a small portion of his “punya” to relieve himself of his Karma. He goes against his Rakshasa nature and is transformed. Likewise, Nampaaduvan’s job as a chandala does not reduce his “punya” in any way ! He prays to his favourite Bhagwan and collects more than enough “punya”. So his “caste” does not matter.
- Hinduism focuses on Karma and Moksha … not on “God”. We pay our dues by being re-born constantly till we are transformed (enlightened) and gain Moksha. Its like the school system, you repeat the same class till you clear the exams.
#KaishikaEkadasi #HinduTraditions #SthalaPurana