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Poosalar Nayanar

Poosalar Nayanar

Thondai Mandalam was a kingdom of the Pallava dynasty that included present-day Chennai.

Kanchi was the capital of this kingdom and Emperor Kadavarkhoon was reigning over Thondai Mandalam. Within this kingdom, there was a small village called Thiruninravoor.

In that village lived a poor Brahmin priest, an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva. His name was Poosalar.

He performed daily poojas to a small statue of Lord Shiva under a Mahua tree in Thiruninravoor, close to modern-day Chennai.

He lived off the fruits, pooja items, and the little money offered by the villagers who came to pray to Lord Shiva. Sometimes, he would go hungry to feed hungry pilgrims who rested under the Mahua tree.

Poosalar, the poor priest, had an insatiable desire to build a temple for the Lord under the Mahua tree, which was exposed to all extremes of the weather.

Whenever someone offered him money for food, he would talk to them about his desire and ask for contributions to build a temple for the Lord. Even if he managed to get some money, most of it would go towards feeding the pilgrims.

People would laugh and question how a man who did not even have money to buy a square meal, who lived hand-to-mouth, could build a temple. “Impossible,” they would say.

However, no amount of ridicule could deter Poosalar’s spirit.

He thought, “If I can’t raise enough money to build a temple for the Lord, I will instead build a great temple in my mind.”

He had no idea that his mental temple was going to be recognized not only by Lord Shiva but also by the emperor.

Every day, after finishing his poojas to the Lord, he would sit down near the statue, close his eyes, and begin meditating.

In that meditative state, he imagined himself having the necessary funds, going to the market, and buying the required tools.

He would hire the necessary sculptors, skilled craftsmen, and workers, and then supervise their work. He would even shout at them if they were untidy in their work. He would rush them to finish tasks on time and paid them all promptly.

Every day, he would continue from where he left off the previous day.

The temple started growing in his mind. Passers-by did not know what was happening to him but would witness him sitting in utmost serenity, with a blissful smile on his lips.

Poosalar spent time and was very careful to build the temple step by step. He had designed everything in his mind, including the vimana, sanctum, temple pond, compound walls, etc., and executed each detail according to the rules stipulated in the Agama Veda.

At the same time, Pallava Emperor Kadavarkhoon (Rajasimha) was building the Kailasanatha Temple in Kanchipuram, the capital of Thondai Mandalam. A magnificent exhibition of Pallava architecture, this unique temple rose up exquisitely, unparalleled by any other.

It was God’s will that both temples’ construction was completed at the same time.

Having built such an architectural wonder, the King consulted famous astrologers of his land and fixed the date for the consecration of his temple.

Coincidentally, it was the same date and time that was fixed by the priest Poosalar as well.

Since he was in a trance almost all the time, Poosalar was unaware of what was going on in the country and did not know about the King’s plans for the Kanchipuram temple. And because it was being built in Poosalar’s mind, no one was aware of his temple or his consecration plans.

One day, after visiting the temple and making sure all the work had been completed to his satisfaction, the King went to sleep with great peace of mind, knowing that the temple was ready for consecration. Soon he was in deep sleep.

Lord Shiva appeared in his dream. “Oh King, on the date you have chosen for consecration, I have already committed to being at the consecration of the temple built by Poosalar of Thiruninravoor, a great devotee of mine. Could you please move your consecration arrangements to another day? I will be there.” With these words, he disappeared.

The king, awakened with great surprise, waited until morning. He postponed the Kailasanatha Temple’s consecration ceremony to another day.

On the day of the consecration, the king and his entourage went to Thiruninravoor. He asked the people of the village about the Shiva temple and the consecration ceremonies.

No one gave the king the right answer. They replied that there was no such temple in their village.

This confused the king, so he asked the village chief if there was a person named Poosalar. The chief responded by telling him all about Poosalar, his poverty, and his desire to build a temple for Lord Shiva, which did not materialize. The chief arranged to send some people to fetch Poosalar.

The king stopped them and instead asked to be taken to where Poosalar was.

The priest was still in meditation.

Suddenly, Poosalar came out of his meditation and was surprised by the sight of the king and his entourage around him. He was startled and felt a sense of worry that he had done something wrong.

The king said, “Swami, on the direction of Lord Shiva, I am here to witness the consecration ceremony of the temple you built for Lord Shiva, but I could not see a temple anywhere here. Can I see it, please?”

Poosalar nearly fainted. He thought to himself that no one knew about the temple he was building in his mind but here was the King of the land, with details intimated by none other than the Lord for whom the temple was being built.

Tears brimmed in his eyes as he realized that the Lord had recognized his great work. He was speechless for some time and then explained to the King that the temple was built in his mind and nowhere else.

The king and the villagers were amazed and fell at Poosalar’s feet. The king then said goodbye and returned to Kanchipuram, leaving Poosalar to continue with his ceremony.

Poosalar completed the consecration ceremony and continued to perform daily poojas in that temple until he attained the feet of Lord Shiva.

He became known as Poosalar Naayanar, one of the 63 great devotees of Lord Shiva.

Later, the King built an actual temple in the same village. The temple, known as ‘Iruthaya Eeswarar Temple’ (Iruthaya in Tamil means Heart), can be seen in Thiruninravoor (near Chennai). The ‘Kailasanathar Temple’ can also be seen in Kanchipuram.

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