A wonderful , touching incident. A long one... but very interesting.
( I wept and tears rolled down my cheek after reading this.)
An early morning, many years ago. It was slightly drizzling. Maha Periyavaa was seated in solitude at Kanchi Sri Sankara maTham. After the bhaktas had darshan of him, Swamiji arose to go to his room. Just then an old grandma and a young woman came running and prostrated to the sage. Swamiji sat down again, looking a bit keenly at them.
With happiness crawling on his face, Swamiji said, "adede! is it Meenakshi Paatti? What a wonder you have come in the morning time? Who is near you? Your granddaughter? What name?"
Meenakshi Paatti said, "Periyavaa! I am coming to the maTham to have your darshan for ever so many years. Till today I haven't informed SwamigaL about me. There was no such opportunity. But then, it has come now. This girl standing by my side is my granddaughter born through my daughter. Since she was born in this town, we named her Kamakshi. I had only one daughter, and she closed her eyes twelve
years ago, leaving this girl to my care. Some disease she had. Her husband also died before her due to a heart attack.”
“Since then I am plodding on alone with this girl. I put her in a school. Study didn't get into her head. So I stopped it with her fifth grade. Now she is fifteen years old. My duty will be over once I give her hand to a man!"
AcharyaL listened to her patiently. "I understood when I saw you come here and stand before me in the early morning itself, that you who used to bring pArijAta puS^pam for Chandramouleesvara puja every morning around ten o' clock, have come to me now with a purpose. What is the news?" he said.
Hesitating at first, Meenakshi Paatti began: "Nothing, Periyavaa. A suitable alliance has come up for this girl. The boy is also from this place. School teacher. Sixty rupees salary. Good family. No demand -and- take harassments. They say that both the horoscopes match well. Somehow only you should perform this marriage, Periyavaa!" Paatti prostrated to him.
AcharyaL's tone showed some heat as he chided her: "What? I should perform the marriage? What are you talking?" Within moments he cooled down and said, "Alright, what do you expect me to do?"
Paatti was happy. "It's like this, Periyavaa! I have somehow managed to save five thousand rupees for her marriage. I can complete the marriage within that amount. But then the boy's mother has said compulsively, 'Paatti, whatever or however you do it, you must present a double-stringed, eight sovereign gold chain for the neck of your granddaughter!' I couldn't do anything big by way of jewels-and-bolts for her within my income. I have arranged just a bangle of one sovereign each for each hand of this girl. Only that is possible for me. Where can I go for an eight-sovereign double-stringed chain, Periyavaa? Only you--"
Before she could finish, Swamiji asked her with some anger: "Tell me, you want me to provide her with a double-stringed chain in eight-sovereigns?"
Meenkshi Paatti prostrated to him and rose. Patting her cheeks loudly,she said, "apacAram, apacAram, Periyavaa. I am not coming to say that. A number of rich and big people come for your darshan daily. Could you not gesture to any of them to arrange for the eight-sovereign double- stringed chain?" Paatti asked him longingly.
"What? To gesture to the big people who come for a darshan? There is no such practice. If you want, you seek some other alliance where they don't demand eight or ten sovereigns! Only that is better for you." Swamiji got up.
Meenakshi Paatti said anxiously, "I pray that Periyavaa shouldn't leave me with such advise! This is a very good alliance, Periyavaa. The boy has a sanguine temperament. They got their own girls married with a gift of an eight-sovereign double-stringed chain each. Therefore they desire that the girl coming as their daughter-in-law should also come with a double-stringed chain. Nothing else, Periyavaa. Only you should provide me with guidance in the matter!" Paatti begged the sage.
AcharyaL, who had got up, sat down again. He was immersed in deep thoughts for sometime. Then he started talking with compassion: "Will you do something I suggest now?"
"I will do it definitely. Please tell me what!" Paatti was excited.
"Go to the Kamakshi Amman temple tomorrow with your granddaughter. Both of you pray to her, 'This marriage should take place grandly with the required eight-sovereign double-stringed chain provided. Only you should arrange it, Amma!' and do pradakSiNa of the sannidhi five times. Prostrate before ambAL five times and go home. Pray this way for five days. Kamakshi will arrange the things as you have desired in your mind." AcharyaL blessed them smilingly.
As she prostrated and got up, Meenakshi Paatti said, "What is it Periyavaa, you suggest everything five times!" She asked with eagerness, "If I do it that way, AmbaL Kamakshi will surely arrange my granddaughter Kamakshi's marriage?"
"I am not suggesting the five-times requirement myself. AmbaL has the adulation panca saMkhyopacAriNi. She grants favours happily when she is worshipped in multiples of five." Swamiji said, "I told you only that, nothing else!"
"When do we start this, Periyavaa?"
Swamiji smiled. "It has been said shubhasya shIghram. Today is Friday. Why, you start today itself." He said and bid them farewell.
With her granddaughter beside her, Paatti walked towards Kamakshi Amman temple. Since it was Friday, there was a heavy rush in the temple. Mother Kamakshi dazzled in full splendour due to special adornments of that day. Both of them closed their eyes and prayed as advised by Periyavaa.
Paatti had an arcanA performed in her granddaughter's birth star and secured the prasAdam.
Then they both prayed to Amman about the eight-sovereign double- stringed chain and went around the inner courtyard clockwise five times. Then they prostrated to AmabaL five times as Swamiji had suggested. With faith in heart, they went back home.
On Saturday morning, Paatti started from her house with her granddaughter. Collecting the coral-jasmine flowers, she hurried to Sankara maTham. There was a heavy rush in the maTham. Meenakshi Paatti was standing in the queue some twenty or thirty bhaktas behind. She heard what the person before her was telling his neighbour with concern. 'Today is the day of the anushA star.
PeriyavaL's birth star. So Swamiji has taken up a vow of silence today. He wouldn't talk to anybody. Only mukha darshan.'
Anxiety got hold of Meenakshi Paatti. She worried, 'I thought of reminding Periyavaa about the eight-sovereign double-stringed chain, but it seems that won't be possible now.' When they got near Periyavaa, they prostrated to him. That para brahmaM was sitting with no sign of life in him. Paatti paused, yearning that he would ask something about the chain. Swamiji's assistant told her a bit sternly,
"Paatti, move away please! Periyavaa adopts a vow of silence today. He won't talk. See, how many people are waiting behind you!"
She made her way towards Kamakshi Amman temple, along with her granddaughter. As advised by Periyavaa, they performed the panca saMkhyopacAra worship on that day and got back home. Maha Swamiji continued the vow of silence on the following two days also. Paatti and her granddaughter could only have a darshan of the sage at the maTham. Paatti started worrying, 'Four out of five days has gone by since Periyavaa's advice but nothing happened! Will Mother Kamakshi open her eyes and bless me or not?' She could only grieve within herself.
It dawned on Tuesday. Sri Kanchi maTham was very brisk on that day. A bhajan troupe from Arani was immersing the maTham in bhaktic ecstasy.
AcharyaL came and sat in his usual place. There was such a maha tejas in his face! He had dissolved his vow of silence. There was a large crowd waiting for PeriyavaL's darshan. A middle-aged maami in the queue prostrated to Swamiji happily as her turn came. Happiness was writ on her face. She submitted the things she had brought--a large bunch of rastaLi bananas, un-shorn coconuts, sweet lemons, oranges, pumpkins, and chubby raw-bananas--and prostrated again.
Swamiji smiled to himself as he glanced at the items kept before him.Then he narrowed his eyes and looked keenly at the woman. "Aren't you Ambujam, wife of Needamangalam landowner Ganesa Iyer? You came two months back. Told me something, feeling sad. Looking at the way you have come now with a large banana bunch, it seems that your problems would have been solved by the grace of Kamakshi, right?"
Ambujam prostrated again and said, "True, Periyavaa. My only daughter Mythili was made to stay away from her husband's home for the last three years. Two months back I came running to you, reported this humiliation and wept. It was you who advised me to do five circumambulations and five prostrations for five days and perform ablution and worship in the Kamakshi Amman temple of this town. I
completed them with extreme care, and what a wonder, fifteen days back, my son-in-law Radhakrishnan who works in Jamshedpur Tata Steel Plant came over himself and took his wife Mythili back with him. It's all that Kamakshi's grace and your blessings, Periyavaa!" Tears of joy filled her eyes as she spoke.
Swamiji said, "Besh, besh, very glad. Let the dampati rest in prosperity! By the way, where did you get such a big bunch of bananas? Looks massive!" Swamiji's laughter rolled by like thunder.
Ambujam said smilingly, "This bunch was harvested from our own banana bed, Periyavaa; which is why it is so big!" She spoke with humility. Showing happiness, Swamiji ordered her, "Alright, only Amma Kamakshi has rejoined your daughter and son-in-law. So you offer this big banana bunch to Her and distribute the fruits to the bhaktas who visit the shrine."
Ambujam said, "No no, Periyavaa. Let it remain in this sanctum. I have an identical bunch to offer to AmbaL. Now I seek your leave to have a darshan of AmbaL, complete my prayers and get back here." She prostrated. "BeshA! After completing your prayers you must take food in the maTham and then only should get back to your place. Remember it!" Swamiji gave her his consent to leave him.
There was not much crowd in Kamakshi Amman temple on that day. It was eleven in the morning. As it was later than usual, Meenakshi Paatti hurried to the temple with her granddaughter. She halted at the shop selling archana packs, and told her granddaughter, "Hey Kamakshi! Today is the day of completion. So we shall do everything in five numbers as told by AcharyaL. What you do, get five archanA packs with five coconuts, five bananas, betel leaves, nuts, etc. and come back running!" and gave her the required money.
The granddaughter bought the things as ordered. Paatti performed the arcanAs to AmbaL and prayed Her with tearful eyes, 'Amma Kamakshi, I am completely depending on You only! I have no refuge except You and SwamigaL. Only you should arrange for the eight-sovereign double- string chain and complete my granddaughter's marriage in a fitting manner.' As Paatti sobbed, her granddaughter was also moved and wept. Then they started going round the inner courtyard from left to right. They were on their fourth round.
"Paatti... Paatti... Paattee!" Meekakshi Paatti looked back at the loud call from her granddaughter and chided her angrily, "Why do you cry so loud? What have you lost to raise such a noise?"
"Nothing lost Paatti, but something gained! Please come here, I shall show you!" She took her grandma to a corner, opened her right palm and showed her something. It was a severed, double-stringed chain with a front.
"Where did you find that?" Paatti asked with surprise. Her granddaughter said, "As I was coming behind you with a bowed head, my eyes chanced on this chain. I took it at once, and no one had noticed me! This chain is severed Paatti. Check if it is original or just a coated one." Paatti took the chain in her hands to guess its weight.She said, "Looks like sovereign, Kamakshi! May be eight or eight-and-a- half sovereigns. This has been granted to us by Kamakshi herself backed by the blessings of Periyavaa.
Alright, let us go out first!" She packed the chain inside the edge of her sari and hurriedly came out, forgetting to complete her fifth circumambulation.
It was one in the afternoon. Four or five people were waiting for the darshan of AcharyaL in the maTham. Meenakshi Paatti prostrated to the sage with her granddaughter and got up. Swamiji looked at her and laughed. She was confused whether to tell Swamiji about the chain or not.
Swamiji forestalled her. "Today you should have completed your panca saMkhyopacAra pradakSiNa in order. But then it was not completed because of a vastu that came to the hand of your granddaughter! That sudden delight did not allow you to do more than four pradakSiNas. You came hurriedly, thinking that Kamakshi has given you Her pUrna anugrahah. What, am I right?"
Paatti was shocked. She became insensate, and swallowed her words as she spoke: "SwamigaL shouldn't mistake me. Once that (object) came to the hand of my granddaughter, I assumed that AmbaL Herself had dropped it for my granddaughter to take. In that sudden delight I totally fogot that I had to make one more pradakSiNa."
Periyavaa said relentlessly, "Only that you forgot. You did not forget to get the vastu weighed at Rangu Patthar's shop. Or get the severed portion melted in the furnace to rejoin." He clinched his talk with the words, "Let it go. When you weighed it, was it exactly eight sovereigns?"
Paatti and her granddaughter were stunned. "All you said now is satyam, Periyavaa!" said Paatti.
Swamiji asked her calmly, "Tell me in fairness. To whom does that padaarthah belong?"
"To AmbaL Kamakshi."
"Tell me yourself, can you take it secretly and pack it inside the edge of your sari?"
"A mistake... nothing else but a mistake! Should excuse me. I have done it inadvertently." Paatti was genuninely repenting. She placed the doublestringed sovereign chain on the brass plate that was found before Swamiji, her hands shaking. Swamiji laughed.
It was now two in the afternoon. Swamiji asked Meenakshi Paatti and her daughter to sit before him. It was at that time that Ambujam AmmaL, wife of Needamangalam Ganesa Iyer, who had taken leave in the morning, came back full of sorrow and prostrated to the sage. Her eyes were shedding tears profusely. Swamiji saw this and said affectionately, "adAdA, why do you shed tears Amma?"
Ambujam Ammal wiped her tears and replied, "It is like this, Periyavaa. Two months ago when I did the five days seva in the Kamakshi Amman temple I prayed to AmbaL earnestly that I would offer Her my eight-sovereign double-stringed chain if she united my daughter and son-in-law, who were then separated. AmbaL has united them. I went to the temple to offer my chain.
It slipped from my neck and fell down somewhere. I searched everywhere anxiously but the chain could not be found. What can I do now, Periyavaa?" She started wailing.
Swamiji turned his face to Meenakshi Paatti and looked meaningfully. Paatti prostrated to him and got up briskly. She took the double- stringed sovereign chain from the brass plate before the sage in her hand. She turned to Ambujam and said holding up the chain, "Amma Ambujam. Check if this is the double-stringed chain you lost."
Ambujam took the chain from her hand and checked. "The same, the same chain, Paatti. How did it come here? Looks very wonderful!" Paatti narrated everything that happened to them in the same breath.
Ambujam Ammal hugged Meenakshi Paatti. "Paatti, you don't worry at all! I am informing you this before our AcharyaL. I shall arrange for a new doublestringed chain in eight sovereigns for your granddaughter! Her marriage will be performed grandly. This double-stringed I have prayed to offer to AmbaL.
This evening I shall take you and your granddaughter Kamakshi to the jewellery shop in this down and get her an eight-sovereign double- stringed chain. In addition, I shall give you five thousand rupees for the marriage expenses."
Swamiji was sitting as the prat^yakSa kAmAkshi, witnessing this scene.
Everyone prostrated to AcharyaL. He looked at Meenakshi Paatti and said, "Today you and your granddaughter did not do the five pradakSiNas. Go in the evening, do five pradakSiNas and five prostrations, and have a darshan of AmbaL." Saying this he bid them farewell.
It is not possible to narrate in words the happiness and ecstatic shiver that Meenakshi Paatti and her granddaughter experienced at that time.