There once lived in Kannamangalam in the Chola kingdom a rich Vellala by name
Thayanar. He was leading the life of an ideal Grihastha (householder) of whom the saint
Tiruvalluvar has sung:
He will be placed among the gods in heaven who in this world follows the law of the
householder?s life.
Thayanar was a great devotee of Lord Siva. His devotion took the form of a daily offering to
the Lord of food prepared with red rice, a sauce made of red herb, and mango pickle. He considered
this as an act of great devotion to the Lord. The Lord was highly pleased with Thayanar?s devotion.
He wanted to put it to the test, in order to manifest it to the world in all its glory. By His Will,
poverty struck Thayanar. Thayanar got himself employed and earned his wages in kind (red rice).
He himself would not eat this red rice, but lived on the inferior khar rice. The Lord tested him
further. All the fields in the place grew only red rice. But, Thayanar would not touch it. His wife
cooked for him some green leaves from their garden. Thayanar was content and was intent on his
usual offering to the Lord. The Lord put His devotee through more severe tests. Even the green
leaves withered away and there was nothing left. Thayanar was not at all perturbed. He happily
lived on mere water: his mind was full of the bliss of the worship of the Lord and he felt neither
hunger nor thirst. One day, Thayanar, now emaciated and weak, was taking his usual offering to the
Lord, followed by his wife. He stumbled on the way and fell down. The offering he had, was spilt on
the ground. Thayanar was greatly upset. He began to weep bitterly: ?Oh Lord, today the food
intended for You has been spilt on the ground. What great sin have I committed to deserve this?
Please forgive me. Have mercy on this poor creature. You are omnipotent, omniscient and
omnipresent. If this is true, You must be present here also. Kindly come and accept the offering
here. If You do not eat this, I will give up my life.?With these words, he began to cut his throat with
an Arival (sickle). Hence, the name Arivattaya Nayanar.
Lord Siva was highly pleased with his devotion. His Lila was over. He at once stretched His
hand and caught hold of Nayanar?s, thus preventing him from cutting his own throat. Nayanar did
not realise what was happening. At that time, he heard the sound of someone biting a mango pickle.
He understood the Lord?s Lila, sang His glories and danced. The Lord and Mother Parvathi
appeared before him and blessed him: ?Oh noble soul, I am immensely pleased with your devotion.
You and your chaste wife will soon come to My Abode and live happily there.?