The priest accepted defeat and offered his property in lieu of the gold fine. The king reminded him about the requirement of offering twelve heads. Om Namasivaya intervened and said that the king could return the property to the priest, adding that the heads were not required by him either. The king returned the property to the priest. Then, miraculously, the dead boy, who had already been cremated, came back to life from the ashes. The priest and all the others who were present offered loving prostrations to Om Namasivaya.
I mentioned in the traditional account of Guhai Namasivaya’s life that he was accompanied on his journey from Sri Sailam to Tiruvannamalai by Virupaksha Devar. He is involved in an alternative version of this Poonamalee story, one that conflates the miracle of the iron pillar in Delhi with the incidents just described. Once the contest had been decided in favour of Guru Namasivaya, the king announced that he would become his devotee and prostrate to him if he could pass a test. The king announced that he would heat an iron bar until it became red hot. Then Guhai Namasivaya would have to hold the bar aloft and proclaim that Saivism was the one true religion. Guhai Namasivaya nodded in the direction of Virupaksha Devar, indicating that he should take up the challenge on his behalf. Virupaksha Devar agreed.
The iron bar was heated and pronounced ready. Virupaksha Devar, though, felt that it was not glowing red enough to convince bystanders that the rod was definitely too hot to hold. Twice the king’s servants declared that the bar was ready, and twice Virupaksha Devar asked them to make it hotter. When it finally became hot enough for him, he picked up the bar, gripped it tightly, held it aloft, and made the required declaration of faith. His hand remained unburnt. Then, in an unscripted encore, he put the red-hot rod in his mouth and swallowed it, without suffering any ill effects.
The satisfied king prostrated to Guhai Namasivaya and announced that he was ready to follow the tenets of the Saiva faith.
The origin of this particular variant of the hot-iron story is not known, but it must have had some currency in Tiruvannamalai at some point since Virupaksha Devar is still known to some people there as ‘Hot-iron-bar Virupaksha’ in honour of his victory in this trial by ordeal.
The next place on Om Namasivaya’s journey was Tiruttani. Lord Kumara, the presiding deity, came in the form of a sangama and accompanied Om Namasivaya to the temple, chatting with him the whole way. When he reached the sanctum sanctorum, the deity appeared in his real form to Om Namasivaya. Om Namasivaya spent a few days there.
He then travelled to Kanchipuram, where he asked Kamakshi, the presiding goddess, ‘How did you embrace Siva in the past?’
She gave him a demonstration of how it had been done. Om Namasivaya, delighted in his eyes, his mind and his consciousness, spent a few days there.
[Kamakshi was doing penance under a mango tree on the banks of a river near Kanchipuram. She was worshipping a lingam made of sand. When a flood came, she hugged the lingam to protect it from the flood.
Kamakshi is the consort of Siva in Kanchipuram. In that particular temple he is known as ‘Ekambaranathan’. Guhai Namasivaya composed a verse that described the experience he had when Ekambaranathan manifested in front of him:
Arunesar, He who shares His form with Mother,
[appearing] once as Ekambaranathan
declared me to be His slave
and placed His feet upon my head
before my very eyes –
yet still I cannot believe
how this could have been.]
From there Om Namasivaya went to some of the towns that hosted the ‘element’ lingams. He had darshan of the akasha [space] lingam in Chidambaram, the prithvi [earth] lingam in Tiruvarur, and the appu [water] lingam in Jambukeswaram. After that he came to Tirtha Malai [close to Tiruvannamalai] and had darshan of the Lord there. Tirthagiriswami, the presiding deity, came in the form of a Virasaiva brahmin, brought food and drink on a plate, fed everybody and entertained them.
Om Namasivaya pointed to a nearby place and asked what it was.
The local people told him, ‘That is the Paramanandaiya Math. It has four gopurams and sixty-four entrances.’
[This math is located between Chengam and Tirthamalai.]
‘If that is so, let us go and have a look,’ said Om Namasivaya.
Paramanandaiya [the head of the math] learned about the proposed visit and said, ‘Those who have taken food from Virasaiva brahmins should not come here.’
Om Namasivaya responding by saying, ‘Then, let no one come here’.
The place was soon abandoned, becoming a forest.
Om Namasivaya’s party had a scout who went ahead to look for suitable places to stay.
This person, who had gone to look for a campsite, reported back to Om Namasivaya: ‘Chengandaiamman Temple [in or near Chengam] has all the facilities, and it lies on the border of Chengammavur. However, only those whose ordained life has come to an end will go there on non-festival days.’
Om Namasivaya was undaunted. He asked that his tent be pitched there. When he went stay in it, Kali came up to him and saluted him.
Om Namasivaya asked her, ‘Who are you?’
‘The title give to me is “Chengandai Amman who takes humans as a sacrifice,” she replied.
Om Namasivaya asked, ‘How and why did you get this name?’
She said, ‘I remain meditating on the divine feet in solitude. However, if people come here at any time other than the scheduled festival times, not knowing the consequences of their acts, they all die through the agency of the saktis that surround me. This is how I acquired the name.’
Om Namasivaya asked, ‘Can you assume many forms?’
‘Yes,’ she replied, and showed him many forms.
When Om Namasivaya asked if she could take viswarupa [the cosmic form, or the form of the whole universe], she assumed it.
After this demonstration she became a thirteen-year-old beautifully bedecked girl and said to Om Namasivaya, ‘We shall now be husband and wife’.
Om Namasivaya replied, ‘I am a sannyasin, so this should not happen.’
He refused the invitation.
Then she said, ‘Even if devotees offer poison, it is your duty to accept it. You should spend at least six months here and let me entertain you.’
Om Namasivaya said, ‘This is acceptable’. But then he added, ‘It will be good for your tapas if you can persuade the saktis surrounding you to remain peaceful, without getting angry’.
She agreed to try, received tirtha prasad from Om Namasivaya, and lovingly entertained him and all his party.
That same day Lord Annamalai came in the form of a sangama and said, ‘I live in Tiruvannamalai. My name is Arunachalesan [Lord of Arunachala]. Knowing that you come from Sri Sailam, I have come here to escort you.’
Om Namasivaya told him, ‘I have given my word to Mother here that I will spend six months in her place. I can come at the end of that period. Until then, you should give me darshan every day.’
Arunachalesan agreed and gave him darshan every day.
After six months Om Namasivaya started for Tiruvannamalai. While he was journeying there, Lord Annamalalai appeared simultaneously in the dreams of Tiruvannamalai devotees, asking them to decorate the town and welcome Om Namasivaya with many gifts.
On his arrival Om Namasivaya alighted from his palanquin near the flagpole in the temple. Accompanied by the welcoming devotees, he went to the temple, embraced the Siva lingam and feasted on it fully with his eye of jnana.
Then he blessed it by saying, ‘Annamalai Father, live happily!’ He also went to the Mother’s shrine and blessed Mother Unnamulai. Afterwards, he went and stayed with the sangamas in a place near the temple.
One devotee who came to have Om Namasivaya’s darshan was an eighty-five-year-old leper who was full of devotion to the Guru-linga-sangama. He prayed to Om Namasivaya for relief from his disease. Om Namasivaya looked at him with his eye of grace and gave him vibhuti. Once he had smeared it upon his body, he became free from both his disease and his old age. He turned into a young and healthy youth. All who saw this, including the leper’s wife, were wonderstruck. His wife wanted to look young so that she could remain attuned to her husband. When she mentioned this to him, he took her to Om Namasivaya and informed him of her desire. She saluted Om Namasivaya reverentially and applied the vibhuti that he had given her as an act of grace. She was immediately transformed into a thirteen-year-old girl. Both she and her husband subsequently spent their time in service to the Guru-linga-sangama.
[The manuscript ends abruptly at this point, so none of the subsequent events of Guhai Namasivaya’s life in Tiruvannamalai are recorded. Ramana Maharshi was generally a patient and industrious copier of texts. If further installments had been available, I feel sure that he would have copied them. The most reasonable conclusion for this abrupt ending is that the palm-leaf manuscript of the biography he was copying from was incomplete.]