Maṇimēkhalai

Book XV
[Maṇimekhalai feeds the Poor]

Aṟavaṇa Aḍigaḷ continued to relate the further story of Āputra. The cow that for seven days from birth fostered the child Āputra, had taken birth as a result of its own good deeds at Dhavaḷamalai in Śāvakanāḍu where a Rishi by name Maṇimukha was living his austere life. In its new birth it had horns and hoofs of gold, and had a plentiful yield of milk even before it had calved, which it made use of for feeding human beings.

Seeing this phenomenal occurrence, the Rishi who understood the past, present and future, declared that the cow would give birth to a hero from out of a golden egg.

Āputra, till he gave up life in Maṇipallavam for the purpose of doing charity to all living creatures, had never lost thought of the cow that had saved him from death and brought him up during the first seven days of his existence, and, as a consequence, he appeared again on earth, as the Rishi had predicted.

He came into existence like the very Buddha himself on the full moon of the month of Vaiśākha. Though it was not the season of the rains, there was a drizzle of holy water as at the appearance of the Buddha himself.

All the holy ones in the Cakravāḷa at Puhār struck with wonder at the appearance of these good omens, and not understanding the cause thereof, went down to the hall where the statue on the pillar was accustomed to giving explanations of such phenomenal occurrences. The statue sure enough gave them the explanation that the phenomenon that caused them surprise was due to the appearance of Āputra in another birth, and directed them to the sage Aṟavaṇa for further details of his history.

The king of [149] Śāvakam at the time, Bhūmicandra by name, had for long been exercised in mind because he had not the fortune of an heir. In one of his visits to the Rishi he was presented with the child that was born of the cow, and he since then, brought it up as his own.

‘That boy has now come of age and he is ruling over the land.’

Addressing Maṇimēkhalai, the sage said:

‘While the great river Kāvēri flows with water and provides the land with that much-needed element, living beings suffer for lack of food for some cause as yet not understood. Therefore there is no use that you keep this boon unused as if the Gods should keep the vessel containing the celestial ambrosia, after they had taken their fill, unused for others.’

On hearing this Maṇimēkhalai paid her obeisance to the sage, and assuming the form of a bhikṣuṇi, and with the bowl in her hand, passed into the streets.

Immediately on seeing her, there gathered round her a crowd, much like the crowd that had collected round Yaugandharāyaṇa when he assumed the disgusting disguise of a man suffering from disease, and entered the streets of Ujjain for the purpose of releasing Udayana, his master, from the prison into which Pradhyota the king had thrown him.

The people wondered that this comely damsel who had found a hiding place in the heart of Udayakumāra should thus have made her debut in the royal streets of Puhār with the begging bowl in her hand.

At this moment Maṇimēkhalai declared that the first handful of alms she would receive should be that the best among the chaste women of the locality should offer to her.

Kāyaśaṇḍikai gave the immediate reply that, among women of chastity who could compel the clouds to rain, the most excellent one was Adirai and that they were then in front of her house.

‘Go into her house and accept alms from her first.’ [150]