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Story Of Umapati Sivacharya

This story of Umapati Sivacharya is in which he gives liberation to Pethan and a thorny bush, which then appear in the sanctum of Chidambaram temple.

Umapati Shivacharya was a jnani who lived in Chidambaram (Tamil Nadu). Being in a spiritual trance most of the time, he was not given to traditional observances expected of a Brahmin. Thinking that he deliberately flouted Hindu religious norms, the local Brahmins were angry with him. They forbade him from living in the village and entering the famous Nataraja temple.

Shivacharya lived in a small hut outside village limits. A low-caste man named Pethan Samban supplied to him his basic needs and also took care of him in a general way. One day when Pethan was carrying to the hut a bundle of firewood on his head, Bhagavan Shiva as Nataraja Himself met him on the way in the guise of a Brahmin in charge of the temple. He wrote a verse on a palm leaf and asked him to hand it over to Shivacharya.

Shivacharya was overwhelmed with the first line of the Tamil verse: ‘A note from the servant of devotees, the Lord of Chidambaram’. A divine thrill passed through his body as he read the verse: ‘A note from the servant of devotees, the Lord of Chidambaram, to one who has set up a new establishment, namely Umapati Sivacharya. You are to initiate Pethan, disregarding his caste and to the surprise of all people.’

Overwhelmed with joy, he initiated Pethan into sannyasa. In due course he also gave him nayana diksha, transmission of spiritual power through the eyes. Immediately after this, Pethan vanished into a holy light. Shivacharya himself was immensely surprised at this and marvelled at Pethan’s wisdom.

Shivacharya’s enemies observed the sacrificial offerings he had used for the initiation and complained to the king that Shivacharya had burnt Pethan to death for some transgression.

When the king came there to investigate, Shivacharya showed him the verse the Lord had given him and said that immediately after initiation Pethan merged into a divine light.

The king was surprised. He wondered if Shivacharya could likewise give deliverance to a nearby thorny bush. Shivacharya gave nayana diksha to the bush. And lo, the bush too immediately disappeared into a pure light! The king was astonished and said, ‘This must be some black magic. You said you got this note from Nataraja. Let’s go to the temple and ask Him.’ When Shivacharya pointed out to the king the ban imposed on his entry into the temple, the king said it would not matter since he himself was accompanying Shivacharya.

Hearing this the entire town assembled at the temple to see what was in store for Shivacharya. When special lights were waved to the Lord on the king’s arrival, everyone was amazed to see Pethan and the thorny bush on either side of the Lord.

Everyone was astounded at Sivacharya’s greatness. The scholars and brahmins fell at Shivacharya’s feet and asked to be pardoned. They brought him back to the village with due honour.