of Holy Lives
the Guest Be Your God!’
was raining heavily throughout the day in Ilayankudi. That
remote village in Tamil Nadu had not seen such a heavy downpour
for a long time. Maran was confined to his house. He had had
just a glass of water that morning; nothing more throughout
the day - not because he was on some fast, but there was nothing
to eat. It was late in the evening now. Across the room lay
his wife. Theirs was a life devoted to the service of Lord
Shiva and his devotees. Before entertaining a sannyasin for
the day, neither of them ate anything. But there was no visitor
that day yet. When they themselves had nothing to eat, the
heavy downpour proved a blessing in disguise: no one could
possibly visit their house now.
was a devoted farmer. There was a time when he reaped rich
harvest from his field. Both he and his wife loved to entertain
guests. Satisfied by a sumptuous meal and their loving hospitality,
the guests left the house with a cheerful face and kind words
for them. Sannyasins would assemble in front of his house
awaiting his arrival from the field. When Maran was back home,
his wife would be ready with food for more people than necessary.
He would wash his face, hands and feet, apply sacred ash on
his forehead and prostrate before the sannyasins along with
his wife. They would then feed them with great devotion. The
sannyasins would leave after expressing their gratitude and
blessings in the name of Shiva. Maran and his wife would eat
then, considering the food as prasad.
that was past. Maran was in poverty now thanks to repeated
crop failure. More than his hunger that day, it was his inability
to feed a sannyasin that disturbed Maran more. Amid flashes
of lightning and thunder, Maran heard a knock on the door.
He and his wife went to the door with an earthen lamp in hand.
‘Shivo’ham’ - there stood before them a sannyasin. They welcomed
him. ‘I am hungry,’ said the visitor. ‘I was told that a devoted
farmer lives here, so I came here straight.’ ‘You did well,
holy one,’ said Maran. He gave the drenched visitor a new
ochre cloth and made him comfortable. ‘Be seated, holy one;
food will be ready in a moment.’
looked at his wife, who said there was nothing to cook. She
had borrowed from others many a time. Now she did not know
what to do. Maran suddenly thought of something and rushed
to his field, covering his head with a basket. In that dark
night he waded through knee-deep slush, retrieved with difficulty
a fraction of the paddy he had sown that morning and rushed
back to his house. His wife wondered what they would do for
firewood. Maran removed the wooden beam that supported a major
part of his house and hacked it to pieces. He then got some
greens from the backyard. His wife cooked the rice grains
and made some dishes from the greens. The rain intensified
in the meanwhile. As his wife spread a leaf for the guest,
Maran invited the sannyasin for food. There was a flash of
lightning - not from outside but inside the house. The sannyasin
vanished and there stood Shiva, His luminous form lighting
up the room. He said, ‘You didn’t care for your own hunger,
My dear, but retrieved the sown grains from the field for
a sannyasins’s sake. Come here, My child, with your wife.
You will be with Me for eternity. All the gods will be at
your service.’ Both Maran and his wife merged in the luminous
form of their Lord.
Mara Nayanar is adored as one of the sixty-three Shaiva saints
of Tamil Nadu.