In ancient days, there lived a rich merchant named Dhanadatta in Karikal in South India. He had no child. He worshipped Lord Siva. He had a daughter through the grace of the Lord. The child was called by the name Punitavati. Punitavati came to be later on called by the name Karikal Ammaiyar also. She is counted as one amongst Nayanars (the famous Siva Bhaktas of South India).
Punitavati was very intelligent, beautiful, pious. She chanted the names and praise of Lord Siva. She applied holy ash to her forehead.
She married Paramadatta, the son of a rich merchant at Nagapattam. Paramadatta also was beautiful and intelligent. He possessed good character. He lived in his father-in-law’s place with the permission of his father.
Punitavati used to feed with intense devotion and joy, the Bhaktas day and night and hear them singing the names of Lord Siva. She always remembered the utterance of the Vedas: “Let the guest be a God unto you—Atithi devo bhava”. She and her husband took the food that remained after serving the devotees, as if it were nectar.
One day, a wandering mendicant came and gave two ripe mangoes to Paramadatta. Paramadatta gave them to his wife and attended to his business. A devotee came and asked Punitavati to give him something to eat as he was very hungry. The food was not ready. So she gave him one of the mangoes and some milk.
Paramadatta returned home and took his food. Punitavati served him with mango fruit that remained. Paramadatta found it very delicious. He asked her to bring the other fruit also. She prayed to Lord Siva. Immediately, a mango fell into her hands. It looked exactly like the one served before. She gave it to her husband. He found it a thousand times more palatable than the first one. He asked Punitavati: “My beloved Punitavati, where did you get it from?” She narrated everything. Paramadatta said: “Get me another”. Punitavati got another mango in the twinkling of an eye.
Paramadatta was struck with awe and wonder. He understood that his wife was a beloved devotee of Lord Siva. He reflected within himself: “I am a great sinner. I have treated a great devotee of Lord Siva as my servant. I cannot consider her as my wife any longer. It will be a great sin to leave her alone. But what to do now?”
He was in a dilemma. Finally, he resolved to part from her. He told his wife that he was going out on professional business. He obtained her permission and proceeded to Madurai. He settled there and married another wife. The second wife gave birth to a daughter. Paramadatta named her Punitavati.
Punitavati was anxiously awaiting the return of her husband at the promised time. She had no news of him. She became very miserable and unhappy. After some time, she came to know about the whereabouts of her husband. She proceeded to Madurai and met her husband.
Paramadatta welcomed her with intense joy and prostrated at her feet. He said to his wife: “I am a worldly man. I am passionate and greedy. You are a goddess. I cannot take you now as my wife. Pray, pardon me”.
Punitavati replied: “My lord, I have preserved my youth and beauty for your sake only. As you do not want me, I shall seek my Lord Siva now.”
She distributed all the jewels to those assembled around. She worshipped the pious Brahmins and shook off all the flesh by the power of Yoga and looked as a mere skeleton. She marched northward.
She came to Mount Kailas. She thought it a sin to walk with one’s feet in the holy Himalayas. She moved on her head through the power of her austerities.
Parvati asked Lord Siva: “Who is that person, O Lord, who is coming towards us?” Lord Siva replied: “That pious woman is My Mother, who nourished My devotees”.
Lord Siva got up, moved a few steps forward, welcomed Punitavati and said: “My dear Mother, are you keeping fit?”
Punitavati fed the devotees like a mother. The Lord makes no distinction between Himself and His devotees. He has said: “The devotees form My heart and I, theirs. They do not think of anyone other than Me and I other than them”.
The supreme Lord abides in the hearts of all beings. Therefore, the guests deserve worship. The Srutis declare: “Atithi devo bhava—Let the guest be your God”.
Photo👇Karikal Ammayar Temple @ Karikal