Ananya Bhagavatha Bhaktha
Bhagavatha means a devotee of Bhagawan and we have instances in our scriptures to show that Bhagavatha Bhakthi is as effective as Bhagavat Bhakthi as Bhagawan holds in high esteem His ananya Bhaktha. In Ramayana we find that while Sri Rama had to build a bridge to cross the sea to reach Lanka, Sri Rama’s ardent devotee Sri Hanuman crossed the sea jumping over it chanting Sri Rama’s name. In Bhagavatha Purana, we have the instance of Sage Durvasa trying to destroy King Ambarisha, Lord Vishnu’s ananya bhaktha, in a temper, and thereby incurring the wrath of Sudarsan Chakra, which was guarding the king. Sudarsan Chakra not only killed the demon created by sage Durvasa for destroying the king but also started chasing the sage himself after destroying the demon. Finding no refuge anywhere in the three worlds he surrendered to Lord Vishnu to save himself. Lord Vishnu also pleaded his helplessness to recall the Sudarsan chakra as He was “Bhaktha Paradeena” and was completely bound by His devotee’s ananya bhakthi for Him. Lord Vishnu told Durvasa that only King Ambarisha can save Durvasa from the powerful Sudarshana chakra and asked him to seek forgiveness of the king to save himself. Accordingly a chastened Durvasa ran to the king and fell at his feet seeking his forgiveness and saved himself from the wrath of Sudarsan Chakra.
Here we have the instance of Apputhi Adigal, an ananya bhaktha of Thirunavukkarasar, who is an ananya bhaktha of Lord Siva, getting Moksha through the Grace of Lord. Appudhi Adigal who lived in a holy place called Thingalur was a devotee of Lord Siva and he became an ananya bhaktha of Thirunavukkarasar from the time he heard about the trials and ordeals of Thirunavukkarasar at the hands of the Pallava king and the Jain priests and how he successfully overcame them by the Grace of Lord Siva. From that time he started worshipping Tirunavukkarasar as his Guru even without seeing him. He started chanting "Thirunavukkarasu" only all the time. He named his two sons after him only, as Mootha Thirunavukkarasu and Ilaiya Thirunavukkarasu i.e. senior Thirunavukkarasu and junior Thirunavukkarasu. And also the cows, the cooking vessels and all other things in his house were named after Thirunavukkarasu so that it can help him chant the name all the time. All the charities, he organized like water tents, inns and ponds bore the name of Thirunavukkarasu only and nowhere his name appeared.
Once Thirunavukkarasar was travelling through Thingalur in the course of his visits to various temples. Feeling thirsty, he went into a water tent in Thingalur and had a glass of “Neer More” i.e. spiced up watery buttermilk, there. As he was taking it he noticed the tent bore his name. Wondering who might be doing this, he made enquiries and learnt that the tent was only one of the many charities bearing his name, being run by Apputhi Adigal. Getting directions to his house he went there and halted at the doorsteps. As Adigal came out, seeing a devotee of Lord Siva at his doorsteps, and not recognizing him as the person he worshipped, Adigal was about to prostrate before him as a mark of respect. But Thirunavukkarasar beat him in the act and prostrated before Adigal could. Then he commended Adigal for all the acts of charities he was doing, and then asked why Adigal named them all after somebody else, without giving them his name.
Adigal became very angry to hear his heart’s idol being casually referred to as somebody else. He replied angrily “ Don’t you know the greatness of Thirunavukkarasu?” and started narrating how he got his name from the Lord and how Lord blessed him to triumph over Jains’ subterfuges and finally remarked “ Bearing the signs of Lord’s devotee, you speak about him as somebody. Who are you?” Then also Thirunavukkarasar did not reveal directly his identity but only said “ I am the foolish one who strayed from Lord’s fold to Jains’ company and came back to Lord’s lotus feet, when afflicted with burning pains in the stomach”. Then only it dawned upon Adigal that the person to whom he had been speaking in anger was none other than his Guru whose name he had ben chanting all day. Overcome by shame that he did not recognize him coupled with the guilt that he had lost temper with him, he prostrated once again seeking his forgiveness. He brought out his entire family and again with all of them prostrated once again before him.
He led his Guru into the house. After seating his Guru, he washed his Guru’s feet and sprinkled the washed water on his own head and on the heads of his family members. Then he prayed that Thirunavukkarasar should take food in their house. Thirunavukkarasar agreed and promising to come back for food, went out. Adigal’s wife was ecstatic with joy and prepared an elaborate feast for the honoured guest. When the cooking was over she asked her elder son to get a plantain leaf from their garden. As fate would have it a serpent bid him in his hand as he was cutting the leaf from the tree. He hurriedly cut the leaf, took it to his mother and handed over the leaf and collapsed saying that a snake had bitten him. Adigal tried to revive him but failed. The grief that their valued guest might not take food in their house weighed more heavily in their minds than the grief of loss of their son.
So they rolled the lifeless body of their son in a mat, hid it in another room and suppressing the sorrow got ready to receive their guest. Thirunavukkarasar arrived shortly and spreading the leaf before a seat, they invited him to take food. Before he took food, he wanted to bless them all giving holy ash. As they assembled, he noticed that elder son was missing and so he asked them to call him also. Now Adigal was in a fix and he tried to pass over saying he would not be of use to them then. Thirunavukkarasar guessed from their cheerless faces and strange reply that something had gone wrong and so wanted to know what had happened. Unable to hide the fact any longer Adigal narrated what had happened. Thirunavukkarasar asked them to take him to where they had hid their son. Seeing his lifeless body and overcome with sympathy for him as well as the hosts, he prayed to Lord singing the padhikam starting with “Onru kolaam” (ஒன்று கொலாம்)
The boy got up as if woken up from sleep and seeing Thirunavukkarasar, prostrated before him. Others also joined him, the entire family feeling grateful for Thirunavukkarasar’s kindness in invoking Lord’s Grace to get back Mootha Thirunavukkarasu from the jaws of death. After giving holy ash to them he asked Adigal and his sons to join him in taking food. He stayed with them for a few days and then went on his travels to other holy places. Adigal lived for a few more years, chanting his Guru's name and continuing his good works in Guru's name only, before attaining liberation through Lord’s Grace. Apputhi Adigal's ananya bhakthi for Thirunavukkarasar had elevated him to the revered ranks of Nayanmars, to be counted as one of the holy 63, in the haloed company of his revered Guru.