Volume 16 - Issue 02
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Posted on: Feb 12, 2018

How Saint Manikkavasagar Melted into Shiva


Many years ago in an informal interaction with late Mrs. Rani Subramaniam, a sincere spiritual seeker from yesteryears, Bhagawan said, “You don't have to read too much! Read whatever is necessary for inspiration.”

Guiding her further, He said, “Different authors will only confuse you with their contradictions. Great philosophical and intellectual discussions are of no use. If you want to read, study the lives of saints. It could be any faith: Christian, Muslim, or Hindu. They have gone on the path. They have done the spiritual journey. Their path is clear. They have known the pitfalls and the obstacles. Their life will indicate all the problems to you and how they ultimately came to be a good example.”

This is exactly what Bhagawan has also told the students time and again. That is perhaps why in every drama staged by the students one always finds scenes from the lives of exalted devotees and servitors of the Lord.

In January, 2016, we started a series “Saints — The Soul of India.” Our first discussion was on Saint Andal. We now offer the second episode in this series, on a saint whose devotion to Lord Shiva has no parallel. His outpourings of love in the form of soul-stirring compositions continue to metamorphose millions of minds, taking them away from everything material to the joy of everything spiritual.

We hope and pray the story of this exemplar devotee Saint Manikkavasagar inspires us to attach ourselves to the Lord more than ever before and experience the bliss that we are perhaps yet to explore.

Presented below are edited highlights of a four-hour radio conversation between Radio Sai's Bishu Prusty (BP) and Radio Sai volunteer Mrs. Lalitha Shekhar (LS).

Part 01


BP: ‘Manikkavasagar’ literally means ‘one whose words are like rubies’. How beautiful is this name!

LS: Of course. How can it not be beautiful when the Ocean of Beauty Himself has actually coined this name?

Prodigious Vadhavooraar Becomes the Powerful Prime Minister

BP: True, the story of Saint Manikkavasagar is so sublime and matchless. He was born in Vadhavoor (a little town 25 km to the north east of the current city of Madurai) to Brahmin parents who were staunch devotees of Lord Shiva.

His initial name was Vadhavooraar meaning, ‘the one who belongs to Vadhavoor’. As a child he was intelligent as well as well-mannered. He spoke softly with everyone and excelled in whatever he did.


By the time he was into his adulthood, his fame had spread to all parts of the town. The charm of his beautiful character impressed anyone who came in contact with him and soon by divine design, the king of the region, Raja Arimardana Pandian too heard about his greatness. So he called him to his palace.

When the king met him and spoke to him, he was so impressed that he immediately appointed him as his prime minister.

The Virtues That Made Vadhavooraar Victorious in Life

LS: Wow! This is so extraordinary. One meeting with the king and he becomes the most important man in his kingdom! This means, definitely there were some absolutely exceptional qualities in his character.

In fact I am reminded of a story that Swami once narrated about him. Apparently one day Vadhavooraar was walking from one city to another and it started raining heavily. It became dark too. He thought that it was better for him to find a place to rest and resume his journey after the rain subsided.

When he looked around, he saw a little house at a distance. When he went near he noticed that the house had a small portico in the front. Since it was not occupied, he went there. It was a good shelter to save him from the rain. He was tired too. So after a while he stretched his limbs and lay down.

The people of the house were possibly sleeping inside. A few minutes passed and he heard a sound. It was the frantic running of a man running in the rain.

Vadhavooraar could relate to the man's plight as a few minutes before he too was in the same position. So immediately he stepped out and called out to this desperate man and welcomed him to join him on the portico.

Actually there was not much space there as it was a small porch. The man wondered how two people could rest there. Seeing his worried face, Vadhavooraar immediately comforted him saying, “This portico may not have enough space for two people to sleep but it has enough place for two people to sit. So don't worry. We will be comfortable.”

Both of them now sat there with ease and Vadhavooraar continued to chant the Lord's name as was his usual practice. Soon they settled down to spend their night in this manner.

Just when they were about to close their eyes, all of sudden they heard the sounds of another man dashing through the waters. He too like the second person was hopelessly searching for some refuge to save himself from the deluge.

Again Vadhavooraar stepped out into the rain and beckoned to this person too to come to the little portico. Seeing this, the second man was a bit perplexed because there was hardly any space for a third person on that porch.

Sensing this, Vadhavooraar told him, “Don't worry. There may not be enough place for three of us to sit here but there is ample space for all three to stand and be protected.”

So saying he gladly welcomed the third person and the three of them indeed spent the night happily in the comfort of each other's warmth and love.

BP: Wow! This is the character of a cultured man. Swami says that culture is concern for others and Vadhavooraar had a heart which knew how to beat for others. This is in fact the most important trait of a man of good character.

LS: So true Bishu. The Dalai Lama once said, “If you want to make others happy, practise compassion. If you want to make yourself happy, practise compassion.” Swami too often emphasises that there is no dharma higher than daya or compassion.

No wonder, the king made him the prime minister instantly. He was indeed a beautiful confluence of intelligence as well as empathy.

The Emptiness Within That Lead Him to The Eternal

BP: Absolutely. But what also made him different from others is that even though now he had power, position, wealth and all the comforts that money can buy, somehow his mind was fixed on achieving something else. He was all the time seeking something beyond the material world.


This feeling of emptiness within was growing day by day and even though he was discharging his responsibilities to the king diligently, he was pining for something higher. This is the time he felt strongly the need for a guru. He wanted someone to guide him and to quench the thirst of his soul.

LS: That is the role of a guru – to take us to God, isn't it?

BP: Correct. Interestingly, during this period, the king entrusted him with a task. In fact he was the man whenever the king had an important job to get done.

The king heard that a group of Arab merchants had come to Thiruperundurai (a small town 100 km from Vadhavoor) and they had beautiful horses with them for sale. The king wanted some of these for his stable. So it was Vadhavooraar's job to select the best ones and buy them for the king.

Vadhavooraar was delighted to undertake this journey for the king because this was one good opportunity to go out. He felt that once he stepped out, he might find the one he had been looking for, have the chance to visit many sacred places on the way and perhaps even meet someone who could give him the answers that his soul sought.

LS: So, this job was a blessing in disguise for him.

BP: Oh yes. For him it was not a journey but a penance. He stopped at every temple on the way. He was carrying with him a lot of gold, money and plenty of resources that the king had given him but his mind was only on Lord Shiva. Finally he reached Thiruperundurai.

LS: This is where Vadhavooraar transformed into Manikkavasagar, right?

BP: Yes, and the way it happened is so magical!

Part 02 | Part 03

- Radio Sai Team

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