Thanks to mama for the drawing and article….
This happened when Mahaperiava was camping in Kalavai. It was a Sunday. A lot of people had gathered for Dharsanam. The queue was moving. A middle—aged couple prostrated before Periava. Periava looked at them keenly and said, ‘Are you not Baaloor Gopalan? You came about one year ago!. At that time you were mentioning about some problems you were facing. Are you alright now and happy?” –Periava enquired, smiling.
“We are very happy, Periava! As per your advice, we are feeding one ‘Athithi’ (unexpected guest) everyday noon, and from then on all good things only are happening Periava! Cows are not dying like it was happening before; expenditure is well under control, and we save some thing; everything is the fruit of the ‘Athithi Bhojanam’ which we started after your advice, Periava! We are doing it daily.”—-the man replied with tears in his eyes! The lady’s eyes were also full of tears!
“Good! Good! It is alright if you have realized the fruits of ‘Athithi Bhojanam’. But, now that both of you are here, who is taking care of it in Baaloor today?”—-queried Periava.
“ We have made alternate arrangements for today, so it will not stop even for a day!”——replied the lady.
Periava was very glad and said, “ yes! That’s how it should be! One should be firm on that! ‘Athithi Bhojanam will bring so much ‘Anugraha’, and protect the family! A day will come when Parameshwara ( GOD ) Himself will come in an ‘Athithi’ roopa ( disguise ) and take the offering!
Periava was talking in a jubiliant mood! The whole crowd gathered around Him to hear Him talk! Periava indicated to all of them to sit down. All the devotees sat down immediately.
One of the devotees asked Periava, “ Is there so much ‘Anugraha Mahima’ in ‘Athithi Bhojanam’?”
“ Yes, it will lead you straight to ‘Moksha’! It is such a ‘Punya Dharma’! It has done good to a lot of people. Those who have done that and experienced like this Gopalan will tell you its ‘Mahima’!
One of the devotees, by name Ramasethu got up and appealed to Him to elaborate on this topic, for a better understanding by all.
Periava, after asking him to sit down started to talk!
“I think it was 1938 or 39. SriMatam was operating from Kumbakonam. I am going to narrate an incident which happened then. I ask all of you to listen carefully and realize its greatness.”
He stopped for a while and continued, “In a house on the west bank of the ‘Maamaanga Kulam’ ( a famous pond known by that name ), lived a provision store merchant by name Kumaresan chettiar. I remember it very well, his wife’s name was Sivakami aachchi. He belonged to Pallaththur near Karaikkudi. They had no offspring. He had brought a chettiar boy from his place to assist him in his business; the boy also lived with them in the same house.
Kumaresan chettiar was about fifty or fifty five years and his wife, less than fifty. Both of them would always be uttering ‘Siva Namam’. They will not talk anything else. Chettiar had a bullock cart; he will himself drive it, with Aachchi sitting inside. Both of them will come to the river bank (River Cauveri), have bath, and straight come to SriMatam. They will do ‘Namaskaram’ and take the blessing. They were such a loving couple. Now I am going to tell you something more interesting!”
‘Do you know what their daily routine was? Yes! ‘Athithi bhojanam’! Devotees of Lord Shiva used to come there. They would invite all of them (whatever be the number) , make them sit comfortably in the front yard, wash their feet with their own hands, wipe them dry, apply sandal paste and Kumkum, lead them to the inner hall and comfortably seat them.
They never had any cook.Whatever be the number of devotees for lunch that day, the lady herself will do all the cooking. Not only that, they would find out what vegetables, and what items those devotees liked (from them only!), go and buy those vegetables and other items and prepare the food. All of you may wonder how I came to know all these details! There was a person called Sundaram Iyengar, who was devoted to SriMatam, was looking after the accounts of Kumaresan chettiar, who used to keep me informed now and then.
One particular day, it was raining heavily. Chettiar came and looked in the front of the house, for any devotees. There was none. He took an umbrella and went to ‘Mahamaha Kulam’ in search of devotees. He saw one in the Mantapa there. He prayed to him to come and have ‘bhojanam’ in his house. The devotee readily went with him, reciting verses from ‘Thevaram’, as he seemed to be a learned one.
The couple, as was their practice, lead him inside after washing his feet and prostrating. Then they asked him what he would like to have for ‘bhojanam’.
The devotee was hungry, it looked. He got up, went to the backyard and looked there. He saw some good greens (முளைக்கீரை) in plenty. He came back, and told the lady that முளைக்கீரைக் கூட்டு and கீரைத்தண்டு சாம்பார் ( curry made of greens and sambar made of the stems of greens) will do. Chettiar went with a cane basket to pluck greens. The rain had stopped by then. It was getting late, and the devotee felt extremely hungry; deciding to help the chettiar, he went with another basket and started plucking the greens.The lady was observing these two people plucking the greens, from the back door of the house. After plucking sufficient amount, both brought and gave their baskets to ‘Aachchi’. You know what the lady did? She cleaned the greens in the two baskets SEPARATELY, placed them in TWO separate pans, lighted TWO ovens and started cooking them separately! The devotee was surprised to see this! He thought, ‘Both the baskets contain the same greens. Instead of cooking them in one vessel, why this lady is doing it separately in two vessels?’ He was confused!.
After they were cooked , she took off both pans and kept them on the platform. She then took the pan containing the greens plucked by the devotee to the Pooja room and offered to God. The devotee was happy and proud at seeing this. He thought, ‘Oh! I am a big ‘Shiva Bhaktha’; a ‘Sanyasin’, so the lady is offering the greens plucked by ME to the God, understanding that God will accept ONLY that.’ However, he decided to ask the lady about it, at the time of eating!
After finishing the lunch, the devotee asked the lady about his doubt. You know what she answered? “ I was observing both of you, when you were plucking the greens. My husband was doing it, uttering Shiva’s Naamam continuously. Because of that, that basket of greens had been already offered to the God! Hence no need to offer it again!. You plucked it silently. That is why I cooked it separately and offered to God!.”
The devotee was embarrassed and humbled! The couple prostrated before him. He, in turn, blessed them and lauded their Bhakthi and Wisdom.
Periava stopped for some time. The devotees who were listening intently to this wonderful narrative , were all quiet! Periava continued.
“ Do you know what was the fruit of this non-stop ‘Athithi Bojanam’, to the couple? After a few years, they celebrated the ‘Shashtiabtha Poorththi’ (completion of sixty years of age) . On a MAHASHIVARATHRI ‘ day, they attended the four—times—a—day poojas, in the Kumbeshwara Swami’ temple and returned home. The lady said that she felt very tired and went and sat in their Pooja room. Next moment she swooned there itself!. Chettiar got panicky, called her name ‘Sivakami’ and ran to her, and he also swooned near her! That is all. On the same Mahashivarathri day both of them attained Shivaloka Prapthi TOGETHER!.
Do you understand what sort of ‘palan’ ( fruit ) the couple got for their NON—STOP ‘Athithi Bojanam’? On every Mahashivarathri day, I remember them.
When Periava completed the narrative, tears could be seen in everybody’s eyes, so moved they were!. Periava got up and asked them to go and have their meals, as it was already two P.M.
Categories: Devotee Experiences