Markandeya said: Lord Nandikesvara! I have listened with great joy to your narration of the glory of Arunachala. Kindly narrate the story of Vajrangada, the Pandya King.
          Nandikesvara replied: Son of Mrikandu! It is on account of your steadfast devotion to the Lord of the bhutas (Siva) that you have become immortal (chiranjivi). Listen. In days of yore there lived a Pandya King named Vajrangada. He always followed the dharma and was just, dignified, skilful, patient, calm, humble and intelligent. He was a great devotee of Siva. After conquering his enemies he ruled over all the kingdoms from Kedara (in the Himalayas) to Setu (in the extreme south). Once he set out hunting, riding a noble horse and entered a forest which extended as far as Arunachala. Seeing a fine civet cat he desired to capture it and urged his horse towards it. The cat fled around the Sona Hill. When the horse followed it the king fell down overpowered by weariness like a person who is thrown out of svarga after enjoying the fruits of his good deeds. He said to himself, “How did I, for no reason at all, lose my strength? Where is the horse which carried me? It is not to be seen.”
          Pondering thus he became confused and bewildered. At that moment there appeared a light in the sky like a flash of lightning. Even as he looked at it the cat and the horse left their bodies on the earth and rose into the sky in the form of celestial beings. The king stood looking at them in wonder. They showed their bright forms as if to remove the darkness of his confusion and addressed him, “O King, do not grieve over the loss of your horse and the civet cat. Know that we both have been thus transformed by the grace of the Sona Hill.”



At this the king was relieved and asked them humbly with folded hands, “Who are you? How did this happen? Please tell me.” Upon this one of the celestial beings turned to the king and said, “O King, we were in our previous lives vidyadharas known as Kaladhara and Kantisali. Once both of us went to the remote woods on the Meru Mountain where Durvasa was practising austerities. “Kanthisali roamed about noisily hither and thither in a garden of flowers. I was attracted by the fragrance of the flowers and began to pluck them. At that moment, the extremely irritable sage Durvasa who was seated on a tiger skin under a Shandiya tree and glowing by virtue of his austerities like a blazing fire, looked at us with anger. We trembled. He said: ‘Who are you who have brazenly trespassed into my hermitage and are destroying my garden? Even the sun and the moon dare not set foot in this sacred forest meant for my austerities. It is reserved for the worship of Siva alone. The wind shall not blow in it, nor shall bees enter it. Of the two who have defaced my garden, one shall be born as a horse and carry others. The other who was enamoured of the fragrance of flowers shall become a civet cat at the foot of a hill.’ In this manner he cursed us.         
         “On hearing this curse we were thoroughly frightened and fell at his feet and begged, ‘O Sage! Kindly forgive us for trespassing into your territory. We in our ignorance plucked the flowers. Save us.’
          “On hearing our plea, Sage Durvasa, his anger now appeased, took pity upon us and mercifully said that the curse could be lifted only by circumambulating the Arunachala Hill. He further told us that once upon a time when Mahadeva was sitting in state with Indra, Upendra, the dikpalakas and others adoring him, a nymph named Nandana offered Him a fruit. Gajanana and Shanmuga, being boys, both desired to have it. But their father said, ‘I shall give it to him who goes around the world and comes to me first’. Hearing this Skanda hastily started going round the world. Vinayaka, on the other hand, went round the Arunachala Hill and quickly came and stood before his father. The latter appreciated Vinayaka’s intelligence and affectionately kissing him gave him the fruit. He also bestowed upon him the power to fulfil the desires of his devotees. Turning next to the devas and others in the assembly, Siva declared: He who circumambulates with devotion the Sona Hill which is verily my form, becomes like me (saroopya). He becomes the Lord of the entire world and reaches the highest state. “Having fallen into the curse of the extremely irate sage and being tormented by the black (kalakuta) poison of his curse we took birth as a horse and a civet cat on earth.”

Kaladhara continued:
          “This Kantisali was born as a horse in Kambhoja and became your mount. I became a civet cat and roamed about the foot of this Hill. We were fortunate enough to circumambulate it as a result of your desire to hunt. You are a noble soul. But, as you circumambulated on a mount, you met with this misfortune. As we went on foot we regained our old state. O Indra among kings! Although we were born as animals we were liberated by your help. We shall now go back to our region. May Arunachala bless you.” Thereupon, with folded hands, the king made his obeisance to Kaladhara and Kantisali who were about to return to their celestial region, and said: You have been released from your curse. What about my fate? When I think about it I feel distressed.
          When he spoke thus Kaladhara and Kantisali said, “Listen carefully to what we have to say about your Liberation. Make the mind pure, control it and surrender it to Siva who is the cause of the creation, sustenance and destruction of the world. You have clearly realized from what happened to us that the Lord of the Arunachala Hill is a repository of compassion and that His glory is infinite. Circumambulate the Arunachala Hill on foot. Worship the Lord of Arunachala with flowers smeared with the fragrance of civet. Build quandrangles and towers at the temple of Arunachala according to your means. Your desire will be fulfilled. You will then become superior to Puru, Mandhara, Nabhaga, Bhagiratha and other sages.” After uttering these words they departed and Vajrangada became a staunch devotee of Lord Arunachala.

Vajrangada attains Salvation
Markandeya said:
          Bhagavan! I have listened to your nectar-like story. I have also listened to the story of the vidyadharas. How long and in what manner did Vajrangada worship Siva? How did the Lord of Aruna bless him?
          Nandisa replied: Vajrangada abandoned the idea of returning to his kingdom and erected a dwelling for himself near Gautama’s ashram at the foot of the Aruna Hill. His army consisting of elephants, cavalry, chariots and infantry and his advisers, ministers, commander-in-chief, friends, relatives and servants came to see him. He received them with a steadfast mind, stopped them outside the city and surrendered his entire wealth to the Lord of the Sona Hill.
          Along with his advisers, he engaged himself in the worship of Siva. He crowned his son Ratnangada king.
He worshipped the Lord of Sona with the numerous articles sent by the latter. He dug ponds around the hill, created gardens and gifted lands to brahmins. As the country around the Aruna Hill is an arid area, he dug hundreds of ponds and built numerous reservoirs. He invited his subjects who were with him to join him in his worship and service of the Lord of Sona.
          He took delight in worshipping the Lord of the Aruna Hill in the company of Agastya who had arrived with his wife Lopamudra. Everyday after bathing in the tanks he performed puja to Arunachala. He went round the Hill on foot twice daily, repeating the Lord’s name the while. He celebrated the Karthikai Deepam festival in a grand manner on the full moon day of the month of Kartika.
          He anointed the Linga of Arunachala with fragrant water kept in golden pots and scented with fragrant flowers and camphor. He celebrated festivals every month in a befitting manner as laid down in the agamas. He laid the giripradakshina path (a distance of about eight miles) and made it fit even for anga-pradakshina. While going around the hill, with great devotion he would exclaim, “O Lord of the Aruna Hill, Ocean of Compassion! Lord of Apitakuchamba, my obeisance to Thee!” and become immersed in an ocean of bliss.
          The Lord mounted on Nandi, accompanied by the Goddess Uma, rishis and Sivaganas hailing His glory appeared before the king. On seeing the God of Gods, Vajrangada fell at His feet with all the limbs touching the ground (ashtanga vandanam). Overcome with joy he folded his hands respectfully and said, “Lord of the devas! Kindly forgive the offences committed by me, an ignorant man weighed down by his karma.” When he prayed very humbly in this manner the Lord of the Aruna Hill, the embodiment of the ocean of mercy, said:
          “Child! Fear not! You are blessed. I assumed eight forms solely for the sake of all beings. In your previous life you were Purandara (Indra) living on the Kailasa mountain. Being arrogant you forgot me. In order to correct you, I made you undergo physical suffering which made you realise your folly and feel contrite. You prayed for liberation which is the source of true bliss. I bid you be born on earth as Vajrangada and obtain my grace. Therefore you were born in this place which is sacred to me. As you were ignorant you were instructed by the vidyadharas and others. You are now my great devotee. I am pleased with your worship and service. I shall now instruct you.
          Listen. “This world of moving and stationary beings is made up of my eight forms, namely ether, air, fire, water, earth, sun, moon and jivas. I, as Time, bring together objects, jivas and way of action (gati). As for me, I transcend the fundamentals (tattvas); there is nothing beside me who am Siva.
          “Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, Indra and other devas are but waves which have arisen from me. Vani, Lakshmi, Ksharna, Sraddha, Prajna, Svahav, Svadha and others are but a shadow of my unlimited powers. Goddess Gowri, the Mother of the world, represents my divine illusion as maya. It is through Her that the universe appears and disappears. Creation, sustenance and destruction take place through Her. I display out of my freewill, this wonderful world which is like a picture. Your delusion has disappeared. You shall, by my grace, hereafter investigate the truth. You are not separate from me even as the waves are not different from the sea. Therefore you obtained a kingdom. You shall enjoy these luxuries as tokens of my grace. Afterwards you shall become Purandara again and enjoy celestial luxuries for a long time. Finally you shall unite with me.” Saying this Siva disappeared. King Vajrangada continued to worship the Lord of Sona and finally merged in Him.
          I have thus described to you the glory of Siva, the importance of devotion and the benefits of circumambulation of the Hill. What more is necessary? Circumambulation of the Sona Hill is more meritorious than a hundred horse-sacrifices. Further, the circumambulation of this Hill is more meritorious than all austerities. When it is made at auspicious times it will confer immeasurable benefit. There is no other place except Arunachala, no God except the Lord of the Aruna Hill. On hearing Nandikesvara speak thus, the son of Mrikandu (i.e. Markandeya) shed tears of joy and became immersed in a sea of bliss.


[The Glory of Arunachala]