Once, Thirumazhisai-alwar was stitching some old rags together on the banks of the Gajendra Tank, while being engrossed in the loving contemplation of the Lord. Lord Shiva and his consort, Parvati, were going on their Nandi vehicle by the aerial route to some distant place. Parvati chanced to see Thirumazhisai sitting in a semi-naked state by the side of the tank and said, “My Lord please tell me who this man is and why is he not even acknowledging us even when we are passing in such close proximity to him?”
Lord Shiva, the foremost of the Vaishnavas, instantly replied, “He is a great saint and a Vaishnava of the highest order. He is always engrossed in contemplation of the glories of the Supreme Lord and oblivious to his surroundings due to that.”
Being impressed with the devotion of Thirumazhisai, Parvati said, “If that is so, we should go and meet him and grant him some boon as he seems to have no possessions or a place of dwelling to live comfortably.”
Lord Shiva said, “He is a great devotee of Lord Narayana and does not desire for any possessions or a dwelling. His only desire is to be engrossed in contemplation of the glories of the Supreme Lord and does not want to be disturbed. Therefore, it is not appropriate for us to go there.”
However, Parvati did not relent from her desire to meet the alwar and Lord Shiva agreed to meet Thirumazhisai-alwar to appease Parvati and to test Thirumazhisai-alwar’s steadfastness.
With a trident in the hand, Lord Shiva appeared before Thirumazhisai-alwar along with Parvati and Nandi. Thirumazhisai-alwar was so engrossed in contemplation of his beloved Lord that he did not bother even to look at Lord Shiva.
Thirumazhisai-alwar’s indifference and disregard forced Lord Shiva to speak to him and the following conversation ensued between them:
Lord Shiva: Why are you so indifferent towards us?
Thirumazhisai-alwar: Because I do not need anything from you.
Being startled at the alwar’s reply, Lord Shiva said, “But we have come to confer boons on you.” “I do not need anything,” said the alwar.
Lord Shiva further said, “Let our visit to you not go in vain, please seek something.”
As Lord Shiva insisted, Thirumazhisai-alwar smilingly asked, “Could you please grant me liberation from this material existence?”
Lord Shiva said, “It is impossible for me to do so, only the Supreme Lord Narayana, the slayer of demons, can grant liberation and nobody else in this creation is competent to grant liberation.”
Thirumazhisai-alwar further said, “Could you by any chance delay my death by a few days?”
Lord Shiva replied, “Birth and death of a person is predetermined on the basis of his karma and that is the rule of prakruti (nature). Nobody should interfere with it.”
After silently listening to Lord Shiva’s words, Thirumazhisai-alwar smilingly said, “You seem to be determined to do me a favor. O Shiva please insert this thread into the hole of this needle as that will help me stitch these rags together.”
The sarcastic reply of the alwar annoyed Lord Shiva and he became furious. Lord Shiva opened his third eye to punish Thirumazhisai-alwar and the fire emanating from the third eye of Lord Shiva started to engulf the golden hued mane of Thirumazhisai-alwar.
Even as the fire touched Thirumazhisai-alwar, the alwar, being the manifestation of the Supreme Lord’s Sudarshana, opened one of the eyes on his right toe and immediately a fierce fire that was ten times hotter than the fire that emanated from Lord Shiva’s third eye emanated from the alwar’s toe and began to scorch Lord Shiva and the horizons.
The intensity of the heat was such that Lord Shiva had to summon storm clouds called Pushkala-avarta to douse it. Like sage Durvasa, Lord Shiva realized his mistake and expressed wonder and admiration towards the saint. Lord Shiva also conferred a title, Bhakti-sara or the essence of bhakti, on Thirumazhisai-alwar.
Having thus realized his folly, Lord Shiva took leave of Thirumazhisai and continued his journey admiring the exemplary character of the saint and told his consort Parvati that Vaishnavas of such high order do not succumb to any material pleasures. Therefore they do not need anything or seek anyone and all their needs are met by the Supreme Lord Himself.
Thus ends the glorious pastime involving Thirumazhisai-alwar and Lord Shiva. May all glories be to the lotus feet of Thirumazhisai-alwar and to the lotus feet of Lord Shiva, the foremost Vaishnava.
Read about how Thirumazhisai-alwar humbles the proud Konkana-siddhan in the next post.