Thiruneelanakka Nayanar was a devout bhakta of Lord Siva. He lived in Tiruchathamangai, a town in the Chola kingdom. Everyday, he and his wife visited the temple, where he worshipped the deity in strict accordance with Sastraic rules, said Sarala Rajagopalan in a discourse. One day, as usual, Thiruneelanakka Nayanar went through all the elaborate procedures for worship, while his equally devout wife stood by. He meditated upon Lord Siva, while reciting repeatedly the Panchakshara mantra. While he was thus engaged in worship, his wife noticed a spider crawling up the idol. Had a mother noticed a spider crawling up her child, what would she have done? She would instinctively have removed the spider from her child’s body, to keep it from harming her child. Thiruneelanakka Nayanar’s wife was concerned for the Lord, like a mother towards her child. She blew away the spider from the Linga.
Observing this, Thiruneelanakka Nayanar was filled with disgust. He felt she should not have done so, for her breath would have carried droplets of saliva and polluted the Linga. So, Thiruneelanakka Nayanar performed rituals for purification of the idol. But his anger against his wife did not subside and so he left her behind in the temple and went back home. That night, he had a dream in which Lord Siva appeared. Thiruneelanakka Nayanar, to his surprise, found that areas of the Lord’s body where his wife’s breath had reached were saved from the spider’s poison. The remaining areas were covered with boils due to the spider’s poison.
Thus, the Lord showed Thiruneelanakka Nayanar that while he might have worshipped Him with all the relevant mantras, there was nothing the Lord valued more than the kind of devoutness the Nayanar’s wife had displayed.
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