Arunagirinathar Thiruvannamalai:

 

Prior to the advent of Ramana Maharshi, Tiruvannamalai’s most famous saint was probably Arunagirinatha, a Murugan bhakta who lived at the foot of Arunachala in the fourteenth century.

 

Reliable information about him is hard to come by for the earliest account of his life was not published until the nineteenth century, about 500 years after he died. This version, which has several variations, contains the following principal elements.

 

Arunagirinathar

(pronunciation = 'aruna-giri-naa-thar')

 

The Kaumaras — those who regard and worship Lord Kumara, Skanda, Shanmukha, or Karttikeya as the Supreme Being — are one of the six sects of Hinduism.

Saint Arunagirinathar is revered as one of the foremost among the acharyas (spiritual teachers) of the Kaumaras. He lived at Thiruvannamalai — the Agni Kshetra —one of the Pancha Bhuta Sthalas, which is sacred and famous for many other reasons as well.
As is the case with most of the saints and sages of the past, no authentic record of Arunagirinathar's life is available.

 

Nothing definite is known about his birth, caste, etc. This has naturally led to much speculation about his life. And today, we have a number of versions of Arunagirinathar's life and that too with countless variations in minor details. When one goes through them, one is at a loss to know which is right and which is not.

 

The more one reads, the more confusion is created in one's mind. I say confusion because different authors say different things without any source, basis, or authority, except their love for the Lord and the Saint. Even the few books that I could obtain and go through made me feel that I better leave this subject (i.e. the life of Arunagirinathar) untouched, lest I should add to the confusion which is already there enough.

 

But, at the same time, I could not help writing something about Arunagirinathar's life, as I felt the book would be incomplete without the illustrious Saint's life, especially this being the only English rendering of "Kandar Anubhuti." Hence, I have tried here to collect and consolidate only those versions which have some reliable sources under three headings (listed below) — with, of course, some stress on the view that appeals to me as more intelligible, reasonable, and supported by some kind of evidence.

 

I leave it to the readers to take what appeals to them. Whatever it be, one thing is certain — that Arunagirinathar was a saint of no ordinary attainment as could be assessed from a study of his different works.

 

 

This has come down to us through generations by way of hearsay. This is mostly based on the earliest written poetic work on the life of Arunagirinathar entitled, "Arunagirinathar Swamigal Puranam" by a saintly Swami — Thandapani Swamigal — who also goes by the names of Murugadasa Swamigal and Thiruppugal Swamigal (1839-1898).

 

He composed the puranam about Arunagirinathar about the year 1865. It is as follows:


Arunagiri was born in Thiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, and is believed to have lived in the middle of the fifteenth century A.D. He was the son of a Daasi (a dancing girl) named Muthu and had an elder sister by name Adhi. It is also said that Arunagiri was born to Muthu from the famous mystic saint of Tamil Nadu, Pattinathar, in an unusual manner.


When the boy attained the age of five, he was put to school. At his seventh year of age, his mother passed away. She loved the boy so much that while she was in the death-bed, she entrusted Arunagiri to the care of her daughter (i.e., the elder sister of Arunagiri) with specific instructions not to do anything that would displease him. Arunagiri's sister understood the anxious mental condition of her mother and gave her a word of promise that she would leave nothing undone to please Arunagiri and keep him happy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Arunagiri grew in age, he found the company of women more pleasing than his studies, which he virtually neglected and sought the pleasures of enchanting courtesans. Slowly, he became a confirmed debauch.


His sister, who came to know of this conduct of Arunagiri, tried her best to extricate him from the traps of public women. But nothing could prevent Arunagiri from his infatuated love for women. He must have his ways at any cost.


The poor sister could not do anything drastic, lest she should be harsh to Arunagiri or displease him, which would mean breaking her promise to her mother. Thus, did Arunagiri indulge in sex heedlessly and depleted all the wealth hoarded by his mother.


Slowly, he began to snatch away, one by one, the ornaments of his sister, sometimes with her knowledge and sometimes otherwise. The helpless lady could do nothing except pray to the Lord to save Arunagiri.

 

In the meantime, Arunagiri contracted many diseases and suffered much. Yet he would not learn a lesson. He squandered all his sister's wherewithal and left her a complete pauper. But he would yet demand money from her to satisfy his sexual appetite and if she pleaded helplessness, he would threaten her of sinking before her very eyes.
In spite of her being reduced to this most pitiable condition, she could not imagine displeasing Arunagiri. But, now she was utterly helpless. She grew desparate and said, "Brother! I had been helping you with all that I had. But now I find no means to help you. Yet I cannot think of displeasing you. Brother, tell me what can I do? Well, only one means is left now. Though we are born of the same mother, our fathers are dfferent. Hence, the pleasure that you seek from a woman, you can find with me!"

 

She would have continued, but her throat choked; she became silent.
Lo! These words entered Arunagiri's heart like sharp arrows and shook his very being so fundamentally that he repented with a contrite heart for all his past misdeeds and wept bitterly.

 

And in a moment he decided to put an end to his life as an expiation for all the sins committed by him.


Before his sister could understand as to what was happening to Arunagiri, he ran posthaste, climbed the tower of the Arunachala Temple, repented with an honest feeling, cried aloud the Name of the Lord, "Muruga! Muruga! Muruga!" and jumped down, to put an end to his miserable existence and thereby be freed from his sins.

 

Who can understand the ways of the Lord! Ere Arunagiri fell towards the ground, when there stood the Lord with His outstretched hands and held Arunagiri in His warm embrace. Yet, Arunagiri knew not anything.