A great devotee of Lord Siva by name PUNITHA (which means ‘One with sacred feelings and thoughts) lived in Karaikkal (the town near the present day city of Pondicherry) with her husband.


Her husband was a businessman. One day he received two mangoes of an especially tasty variety as a gift from a friend. He sent him through a servant to his house to eat after his lunch.


A devotee of Siva, who was travelling by foot, visiting various temples, came to Punitha’s house that day evidently very hungry and tired.



The lunch was not yet ready but the devotee-guest was evidently too hungry to wait. So, Punitha served him just plain rice with curd. Since no side dish was ready, she gave him one of the mangoes, which she thought was her share.


The guest relished the meal and after thanking her profusely, went away. A little later, the husband returned home for lunch and when he ate the mango, he found it so delicious that he decided to have the other one also for himself. So, he asked Punitha to bring the other one too.


Punitha did not dare to tell him what she did with the other fruit. So she went to the puja room and ardently prayed to Lord Siva to help her: She found a mango materialising in her hand!


The husband who tasted the divinely materialised could immediately sense that it was not one of the two sent by him. So, he asked Punitha to tell the truth on oath. She confessed what had happened.


The husband could not help believing it and yet wanted her to get one more fruit to confirm it. Punitha prayed for one more fruit to prove that she was not lying.


Lord Siva obliged her once more! When her husband saw this, he was dumb-founded and afraid to treat Punitha as an ordinary woman and wife.



So soon afterwards, he left her ostensibly on a long business trip and after some months settled in a distant city and got a second wife too. A daughter was born whom he named Punitha in respect and honour of his saintly first wife.


When Punitha came to know of this, she went to her husband’s place with her parents to live with him. But when he saw her, he fell at her feet saying that he was very unworthy of being the husband of such a saintly person.


Punitha immediately prayed to Lord Siva for the removal of her youthfulness and physical charms which she maintained only for the sake of her husband: she instantly became a bag of bones and skin and looked like a ghost to the astonishment of people around her!


She travelled to the Himalayas and when she neared Mount Kailas, the abode of Siva, she felt it to be such a sacred place that she climbed it on her head - not daring to touch it by her feet!



This extraordinary devotion moved the Lord; and with great love and affection he asked, "Amma, what do you want?"



She asked for the constant awareness of the Lord’s omnipresence and of the fact that life was but his play symbolised by the form of the dancing Siva (Nataraja). This boon was granted. Since the Lord called her "Amma" (Mother) she was thenceforth known as Karaikkal Amma. Her idol is found in the temple of Siva in Thiru Alankadu to day near the idol of Nataraja in the sanctum sanctorum.

O. P. Vidyakar