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Karaikkal Ammaiyarர், which means "the revered mother from Karaikkal", one of the three women amongst the sixty three Nayanmars, is one of the greatest figures of early Tamil literature. She was born at Karaikkal, South India, and probably lived during the 6th century. She was a great devotee of Lord Shiva.

Long ago, sea-washed Karaikal was the pride of the Bay of Bengal in trade. The rich and pious merchant Danadattan of this city was blessed with a female child. He named her Punithavathi.She imbibed the devotional atmosphere of her natal home in her very veins and even at play she built toy temples and recited Shiva's name. As she grew up into a lovely maiden, her marriage with Paramadattan was solemnised.Her father endowed her with enormous wealth. That pleased Paramadattan who entered his married life happily.

One day Paramadattan was visited by two merchants in the way of business at his workplace. They presented him with two ripe mangoes. He sent them home for his lunch. About this time a devotee of Shiva came to Punithavathi and asked for food. She fed him well and served him one of the mangoes also. The devotee was very much satisfied and went on his way.

When Paramadattan was having lunch that day, Punithavathi placed a mango in his plate. Since it was sweet Paramadattan asked for its pair.Punithavathi was in a dilemma. On an impulse she prayed to Shiva and immediately a mango fell in her hands. This she served to Paramadattan.When he tasted it he was flabbergasted."Well, I don't think there is a fruit as sweet as this in all the three worlds. Are you sure this was the one given by the merchants? He asked his wife.

Punithavathi was an image of sincerity and truth. She recounted how she had given away a mango to a hungry devotee. When Paramadattan had asked for it, she had simply gone into the kitchen and prayed to Shiva.His grace was flown into her hands as the ripe mango.Paramadattan was a complete materialist and he could not believe that miracles do still happen. His wife must be weaving a tall tale to hide some misdemeanor!"The Lord gave you the mango? Indeed then prove it! Get me another magic mango!" Faced with an unexpected ordeal, yet sure of her faith in Shiva's grace, Punithavathi began praying to the Lord. And when did the Lord fail his true devotee? Sure enough a third mango, fresh, ripe, uncut, appeared on Punithavathis's lotus like hands. Calmly she went forward and placed the fruit in Paramadattan's hands. Even as the fruits touched his hands, it vanished.Paramadattan was frightened. He thought Punithavathi was a super- normal being and he should not approach her. So he left home.

Reaching the adjacent Pandyan land, he settled down and married another girl. When a female child was born to them, he named her Punithavathi.When his Karaikkal relations came to know of this they requested him to take back his first wife. But he would not. Coming to know his plight Punithavathi prayed to Shiva to rid her of the youthful and lovely body and make her ugly so that she could spend the rest of her life undisturbed worshipping Shiva at Tiruvalankadu.A strange request indeed! The Lord realized her meaningful need in a world of human affairs which generally tends to desecrate physical beauty.Punithavathi was transformed into a crone but it was as if all her beauty was channelized into her devotional hymns. Her verses are certainly of a surpassing loveliness.

The lady of Karaikal exemplifies the best in Indian culture. When called upon to be a housewife, she was a perfect wife and hostess.However, when she found that her husband did not care to honour either out of love or of dread, she turned her sight inward and spent her life in a mood of aspirational surrender. No harsh words escaped from her, nor bitterness. The world is never hateful for those who have realized the nectarean joy of Shiva consciousness.