Shiva and Parvati listen to Bhagavatam!


Poonthaanam (1547-1640) was a great devotee of Sri Guruvayoorappan (Lord Krishna). His devotion filled works in Sanskrit and Malayalam are very well known. People loved him for his beautiful Bhagavatam discourses. Once he happened to visit the Kottiyoor Shiva temple which is kept open only for a few days in a year. Rest of the time the temple is closed. On reaching the temple, Poonthaanam bathed in the holy waters there and worshipped the Lord. He decided to stay there for a few days.

Every day he recited Bhagavatam in front of the deity and the devotees who gathered there to listen to his devotional discourses. He was rendering the 10th Canto of Bhagavatam which recounts the glorious leelas of Lord Krishna. He came to the 60th chapter wherein there is a beautiful conversation between Lord Krishna and Rukmini:

“Krishna playfully and teasingly asks Rukmini why she wanted to marry Him, a simple rustic who grew up looking after cows and was no match for her when compared to the other suitors. She definitely had better choices like King Sisupala, Salva, Jarasandha, etc. Hearing these harsh words, Rukmini gets totally upset and faints. The Lord then consoles her saying He knows her devotion to Him but only wanted to test her. This is the gist of the chapter.”

After finishing the recitation, Poonthaanam placed a bookmark at the end of the chapter, so that next day he can start with the next chapter. Next day, to his utter surprise, he found the bookmark at the beginning of the same 60th chapter. Nevertheless, Poonthaanam read the same chapter for the second time and again kept the bookmark at the end of the chapter. But again the following day also, the bookmark was back at the beginning of the 60th chapter. This kept repeating for the rest of the days. He did not know what was happening. It was the last day to close the temple for the year. Poonthaanam finished the discourse again on the 60th chapter and was returning from the temple when he realized that he had left the Bhagavatam book in the temple. He hurried back; crossed the river and reached the entrance to the temple, which was closed. He was all alone.

Wonder of wonders! He heard someone reciting the same 60th chapter from inside the temple. He could not enter the temple since it was closed. He then looked through the keyhole and saw Lord Shiva Himself sitting inside the temple and reading from Poonthaanam’s Bhagavatam book! Mother Parvati and Shiva’s attendants were sitting and keenly listening to it with their eyes filled with tears of devotion. Poonthaanam was wonderstruck! He stood there and heard the recitation. After concluding the chapter, Lord Shiva asked Parvati Devi how His narration was. Parvati smiled and replied that His narration was good, but it was not as good as Poonthaanam’s! Nothing to compare his rendering.

Lord Shiva acknowledged and endorsed her saying that it was very true, and further added that He also reveled in Poonthaanam’s rendering of the Bhagavatham. He told Parvati that He also liked to hear the Bhagavatam from Poonthaanam, and especially this ‘Krishna and Rukmini’ episode. That was the reason why He placed the bookmark again and again at the beginning of the same topic every day! Hearing this, Poonthaanam, who was standing outside was totally overwhelmed and in an ecstatic mood of sheer bliss uttered the divine name of Krishna loudly. When he looked back again, Lord Shiva and Mother Parvati had disappeared.

Poonthaanam left the temple feeling extremely blessed and fortunate to have had the darshan of Lord Shiva and Parvati, and also that the Lord had listened daily to his rendering of the Bhagavatham.

Krishna! Krishna! Mukunda! Janaardana! Krishna! Govinda! Naarayana! Hare!
Achyuthaananda! Govinda! Maadhava! Sachidaananda! Naarayana! Hare!
                       [From Jnanappana by Poonthaanam  Nambudiri]

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