For a Vaishnava every Ekadasi (the 11th day of bright & black fortnight) is a special day. The Ekadasi which falls on the bright fortnight of the Karthika month is very special, it is fondly called Kaishika Ekadasi in South India and has very beautiful story to narrate which glories the service to Sing for the Lord. Kaishiki is a raga in music and ardent devotee of the Lord use to sing this in the service of the Lord. As we progress reading this article you will be able to understand why this ekadasi is related to Raga name.
Sri Varaha Puranam mentions the episode of the glory of this ekadasi. As we all know Varaha Purana is a set of conversation between Lord Varaha and Bhudevi, Once when Earth was stolen and submerged in water, the Lord assumed the form of a Wild Boar (Varaha). The Lord then entered the waters, killing the Demon Hiranyaksha brought the earth from the deluge. Bhudevi, who is the presiding deity was very much upset by this tragic event. She was consoled and comforted by the Lord, keeping Her on His lap. She was very much worried about Her children on the earth and their sufferings gave Her greater sorrow. She desired to know a means (Upaya) for their deliverance from the worldly bondage and then the Lord narrated the episode that took place in the Tiny hamlet called “Thirukkurungudi” near Thirunelveli in Tamil Nadu, assuring her that the sole means of salvation is singing His glory.
There lived a man near Thirukkurungudi who was fondly called “Nampaduvan” (His original name is unknown). He was born in a Chandala family who were known for their merciless nature and activities. But quite contrary to his family behavior he was very pious and deeply devoted to Lord. He use to observe fasting during every Ekadasi day and would travel to Tirukurungdi that night with his Veena in his hand to reach the vincity of the temple of Lord Nambi and remaining at a distance from the temple as he was regarded as untouched and not allowed to enter the temple, he would sing songs in praise of the Lord going around the temple. And as it would dawn he would return back home with his heart filled praising the Lord.
Once during the month of Karthik on a bright fortnight Ekadasi, he observed fasting and as a practice that night started to walk towards Tirukurungudi crossing a dense forest to reach the temple early in the morning. On the way he was encountered by a Brahma Rakshasa who was very hungry and who therefore expressed his desire to eat him up. Nampaduvan would offer his body for the food of Brahma Rakshasa as it would end his worldly suffering. But he prayed to the Brahma Rakshasa to spare him for some time, so that he can go to Tirukurungudi and sing for Lord Nambi to complete his Ekadasi vratha. The Rakshasa was not ready to grant his request, as he would not return having made a false excuse.
Unable to convince the Rakshasa, Nampaduvan talks about Sathya Sankalpam: “The world was created through ‘promises’ and continues to exist as a result of trust in each other.” Nampaduvan pleaded to the Brahma Rakshasa and in the course took 18 oaths that would certainly affect him if did not return.
1. Let me get the sin of a man who is a liar, if I don’t return.
2. Let me get the sin of a person who commits adultery, if I don’t return.
3. Let me get that sin who while eating in the company of a person differentiates in menu being served(i.e. serving inferior or less quantity of food to the guest), he gets a great sin (Papam), if I don’t return.
4. Let me get that sin of a man donates a piece of an earth to a Brahmin and takes it back after some, if I don’t return.
5. Let me get that sin of a man enjoys the company of a woman during her youthful age and subsequently rejects her when she becomes old, if I don’t return.
6. Let me get that sin who having performed ablution rite (Tharpanam) on Amavasya day and then recourse (physical relationship) with his wife the same day, if I don’t return.
7. Let me get that sin who having dined delicious dishes in the house of a host and then showers heaps of abuse on his host, if I don’t return.
8. Let me get that sin of a man who makes a solemn promise that he would give away his young daughter in marriage to a youth but later on breaks his promise, if I don’t return.
9. Let me get that sin of a man who eats without bathing on Shashti, Ashtami, Chaturdashi and Amavasya, if I don’t return.
10. Let me get that sin of a man promises to donate something to another man but he doesn’t keep up his promise. , if I don’t return.
11. Let me get that sin of a person tries to allure the wife of a friend who has helped him in manifold ways, if I don’t return.
12. Let me get that sin of a person who afflicted with lust enjoys the company of his revered teacher’s wife who is responsible for his salvation and so of the company of the wife of a king who endows all worldly pleasure to him, if I don’t return.
13. Let me get that sin of a man who marries two girls to be impartial to both of them but then evinces greater pleasure in the company of one rejecting the other, if I don’t return.
14. Let me get that sin of a man who divorces his chaste wife, if I don’t return.
15. Let me get that sin of a man who causes obstruction to the cattle that are afflicted with thirst to drink water, if I don’t return.
16. Let me get that sin of killing a Brahmin, addiction to liquor, stealing gold & breaking a vow which are heinous crimes. if I don’t return.
17. Let me get that sin of the one who worship only other deities and not Sri Vasudeva who is easily, if I do not return.
18. Let me get that sin of the man who equates Lord Narayana with other deities and is born in the world again and again, If I breach of this promise.
All these promises did not convince or satisfy the Brahma Rakshasa, but the 18th one totally convinced him about the certainty of Nampaduvan’s return. We therefore have to understand that the last sin is the greatest sin of all sins. The Brahma Rakshas finally agreed to Nampaduvan and bade him farewell so that he may fulfill his vow and come back to him.
Accordingly Nampaduvan went to the vicinity of the temple and sang songs in praise of the Lord, and as it dawned having completed the vow pertaining to Ekadasi (i.e. spending sleepless night) Nampaduvan surrendered to the Lord. He then hurriedly started to return to the Rakshas. Seeing him pass by an Old man (Lord Nambi in disguise), questioned him “Hello, where are you going so hurriedly?” Nampaduvan replied to him in a pleasing manner – “I to fulfill my promise to a Brahma Rakshasa who wanted to have me as his food. I have to hurry, If I don’t find him where I met him before I would fail on my promise. I will have to go in search of him and offer my body as food for him.”
That old man desired to test his mind on hearing his steadfast resolve. He said “He is a Rakshasa by birth, He is not righteous minded like Vibeeshana, but a worst criminal. You cannot escape from his cruel clutches if caught, as he is a cannibal. Don’t go there, but take this alternative route to escape from his clutches.” Though exhorted by that man, Nampaduvan refused to listen to him and was very adamant for keeping his promise. Having hurried Nampaduvan found Brahma Rakshas at the same place and offered his body as a carcass (meat) for him. The Brahma Raksha being moved by Nampaduvans rightoueness and remembering his previous birth narrated his previous life history. He was a Brahmin by name Somasarma in his former birth and had committed all sorts of blunder while performing a vedic Yagna/sacrifice. He then was afflicted by a fatal disease in the course as a result he was given a birth of a Brahma Rakshasa. Having given a detailed account of his previous life the Rakshasa knelt before Nampaduvan to grant him the merit of singing just one song in the praise of the Lord. Moved by the plight of the Brahma Rakshasa and not having any attachment to the fruits of him singing for the Lord, Nampaduvan gave the merit/Punya of one song, which he sang that day morning which was in the raga named “Kaishika”. The Brahma Rakshas was relieved of his bond and later being liberated and Nampaduvan was elevated to the highest order!
This is the story narrated by Sri Varaha Perumal to Sri Bhoomi Devi. The whole episode as found in “Sri Varaha Puranam”, is taken up by Sri Parasara Bhattar for an elaborate commentary in Tamil. Every year the whole episode with all Sanskrit shlokas and commentary of Sri Bhattar is read out in all the Vishnu temples especially at Thirukkurungudi where the event actually took place. This is enacted on the stage even today. Those who take part in the festival or who hear the episode will be rid of their sins and will adorn Sri Vaikunta.
What do we understand from this episode? Somasarma though a Brahmin became a Rakshasa, but Nampaduvan though a Chandala was able to expiate him of all his sins. Hence caste is not a criterion for us to revere a person. Deep devotion to the Lord, knowledge of the Lord and a total renunciation of all worldly pleasures are the only criteria. The caste is physical and it does not belong to the soul. In such case consideration of the caste for devotion & devotees of the Lord is an offence. Be it Nampaduvan, Thukaram, Chokhamela, Vibhishana, Vishwamitra, Sri Vishnuchitta and ThondarAdiPodi Azhwar, they are parama bhagavathas! Let us learn from this Kaisika purana to not differentiate between the devotees of the Lord and that Singing to the Lord is a greater service!!
Original Post by Sudhir Chavhan