Devi Abirami and her Great Devotee Abiramipattar
The holy town of Thirukkadavur is on the banks of the Cauvery in Tanjore district, Tamil Nadu, South India.
A magnificent temple stands majestically in this holy town. The presiding deity of this temple is Annai Abirami or Aadhi Prasakthi. She showers her blessings on all those devotees who seek her out here.
The Lord who keeps company with her at this shrine is Lord Shiva who goes by the name “Amirthakadeswarar”.
About two hundred years ago, a devotee by name Abiramipatter lived here at Thirukkadavur. His devotion and love for Annai Abirami knew no bounds.
Abiramipatter’s parents had named him Subramaniam. But as he was devoted to Annai Abirami right from his early childhood days, the townsfolk referred to him only as Abirami-Patter.
He undertook the task of calculating and announcing the auspicious days and auspicious times at the temple of Annai Abirami. He often used to sing and dance in praise of Annai Abirami out of his devotion for her.
The town’s folks who were not aware of the truth used to envy him and criticize him saying that he consumed liquor and that he was dancing and singing under its impact. They spoke ill of him.
The King’s Visit
One day, King Saraboji, the ruler of Tanjore district came to offer his prayers at Thirukkadavur.
The townspeople stood in long rows and welcomed King Saraboji and his queen who was brought in a procession atop the royal elephant.
When the king and queen reached the temple doorway, they were welcomed with the “Poornakhumba” by the Brahmin priests. They entered the temple delighted and offered their prayers to Annai Abirami who entranced by her beautiful appearance.
Pattar and the King
At the same time, another spectacle there in the temple surprised King Saraboji. He saw Abirami Pattar sitting in the sanctum, both his hands up folded in prayer and in a deep trance unaware of himself and the surroundings.
When people saw the king coming in a distance, they got up hurriedly and respectfully and offered their greetings. But Abirami Pattar alone seemed to be unaware of the king’s presence. “Who is he?” asked the king.
“Lord, he is Abirami Pattar. He is under the influence of liquor and therefore unaware of your presence and is sitting with scant respect for you”, said the towns-folks enviously. The king did not believe the towns-folks.
He went near Abirami Pattar and looked intently at the face of the innocent devotee. Abirami Pattar’s face was filled with joyful radiance as he was intensely meditating with only the goddess’s face permeating his whole mind.
Annoying the King and Earning the Wrath
The King wanted to test Abirami Pattar, ‘What thithi is it today, Abirami patter? According to your Panchanga calculations, is it the new moon? Or is it the day of the full moon?” he asked.
The question echoed in the ears of Abiramipatter who was in deep meditation entranced by the visage of the goddess. He shook his head slightly. His mind and thought were permeated by the moon-like radiant face of the mother goddess.
So entranced was he by the visage of the goddess that he replied, “Lord, it is not the new moon day today. Today is the day of the full moon”, and returned back to his meditation. King Saraboji became very angry because it was actually the day of the new moon. The moon cannot be seen that night.
“Hey! When the others said you were under the influence of liquor, I did not believe them. But I do now. How will the moon appear today on the day new moon?” asked the king angrily. “Abiramipatter, if the moon does not appear as you predicted, I will order your head to be beheaded tomorrow morning” thundered the king and returned back in wrath to his castle.
The Wrath of the King vs the Grace of the Goddess
When Abiramipatter regained consciousness after a while and after the departure of the king, he realized what had happened and was worried. He was not afraid of losing his life, but he was afraid that his prediction made in the sanctum of the goddess under the influence of her beautiful face would turn out to be not true.
“Goddess Abirami, mother…you are my only salvation! You were the one who made me say it was the full moon. Therefore, it is up to you to prove I am right….”He said and sought refuge at the feet of the goddess. “if I don’t get your blessing, I will throw myself into the flames and die”, he swore in deep devotion.
He dug a deep pit in front of the temple and kindled a flaming fire in the pit. Above the pit, he erected a swing like board hung suspended on hundred strings.
He got on the board and there meditating on the goddess Abirami. “Mother, delivering me or abandoning me up is now in your hands.
By your divine intervention make my words come true and save me. Or else, I’ll fall into this flaming pit and kill myself”, prayed Abiramipatter.
The Devotional Song Anthathi Sung by Pattar
He began his prayer by first dedicating a “kaappu” song to Lord Vinayaga. Then he went on to sing the Abirami Anthathi starting off with the verse that begins “Uthikkunra senkathi ucchith thilagam” which was the first of the hundred songs in praise of Goddess Abirami.
Anthaathi is a kind of Tamil Verse form. It is very difficult to compose an Anthaathi. The last word of verse has also to be the opening word of the next verse.
When he completed singing each song, Abirami Pattar cut off one of the strings that held the board on which he was sitting. His life for the goddess’s blessings moved the heart of the goddess, the mother of all living things. The Sun began setting and darkness began to envelop the World.
The appearance of Devi Abirami
When he had sung seventy-eight songs and had cut off seventy-eight strings and was singing the seventy-ninth song which began “Vizhikke Arulundu…” in all earnestness, Aadhiparasakthi, the goddess of all Worlds, appeared in the skies as Annai Abirami.
The Moon on the No Moon Day
She smiled affectionately at Abiramipatter.
“My son…this drama was enacted by me so that the townsfolk and the people of the World would realize your greatness. As a result of your devotion, this World would see the full moon today”, she blessed.
Then she took off one of her earrings she was wearing(it is known as ‘thaadangam’)and threw it into the skies.
The earrings which spiraled swiftly into the skies emblazoned the World with the light of a thousand moons. Abiramipatter was enthralled by the bounty of the goddess, and delighted by her darshan he went on singing songs in praise of the goddess.
He thanked her through his songs, praised her and reached sublimity by doing so. He did not cut off the remaining strings and went on to finish the hundredth songs of the Abirami Anthathi with the word “Uthikinrave” (arise)
The Return of The King
At the same time, King Sarabjit who was on the balcony of the castle saw the full moon appear in the skies and was surprised. It was a thousand times brighter than usual and that enlightened King Sarabogi.
Realizing that Abiramipatter was a true devotee of Annai Abirami, he rushed to the temple with his wife. Abiramipatter had just finished singing a hundred songs in praise of Annai Abirami including the last song that describes the importance of the composition and was sitting on the board in dazed devotion.
King Saraboji asked him to come down from the board and fell at his feet in worship. “Abirami patter …! I was not aware of the depth of your devotion and spoke ill of you. You must forgive me and the townsfolk”, he begged Pattar.
Abiramipatter laughed like a child and raised the king, “O Lord! I am not angry with you. This is the drama of Annai Abirami who is our savior. Can we fathom her intentions?” he replied.
Then Abiramipatter who entered the temple to thank the goddess. The king, queen and the rest of the people who followed Abiramipatter into the temple offered their prayers to the goddess.
Historical note: King Sarabogi I, referred to in this story, is believed to have ruled Tanjore from 1712 AD to 1728 AD according to inscriptions. Ancient copper plates indicate that this incident could have occurred at about this time.
Let us now sing one of the higly popular song (69th song) of Pattar
thanam tharum, kalvi tharum, orunNaaLum thaLarvu aRiyaa
manam tharum, theyva vadivum tharum, nenchil vancham illaa
inam tharum, nallana ellaam tharum, anbar enbavarkkE–
kanam tharum pooNG kuzhalaaL, abiraami, kadaikkaNkaLE,
Meaning: The slanting sight from the beautiful eyes of the flower-adorned haired mother Abirami will give her devotee; the great wealth, the education, the divine beauty, a mind that never gets depressed and also relatives and friends who never deceive and all these and many more.