MaaRa NERi Nambi is one of the disciples of Swamy Alavandhar and was born in Aani Aayilyam at PaaNDya Desam. Today 23rd of June 2012, is his Thirunakshatram.
Swami Alavandar’s disciples were priceless gems. Perianambi, Thirukoshtiyur Nambi, Thirumaalaiyaandan and Peria Thirumalai Nambi were the chief disciples.
Swami Alavandar had another disciple by name Maaraneri Nambi. The other disciples were all high-caste Brahmans whereas Maraneri Nambi belonged to a caste which was in the lowest rung of the social ladder at that period.
Alavandar did not discriminate between his disciples and he loved Maraneri Nambi more than the other disciples. Although mARanEri nambi was not privileged to learn vedas,he acquired the same knowledge(of brahman)through the grace of AcArya.
Peria Nambi and Maraneri Nambi were of the same age. They became thick friends. They would discuss their teacher’s words and each friend would contribute to the other’s learning.
Once Alavandar was suffering from a painful disease called the carbuncle. Carbuncle, known as the King of Boils, Rajapilavai, in Tamil, is caused due to inflammation of tissues in the back and neck. The shooting pain emanating from the fast-spreading boil would be unbearable. Antibiotics and painkillers were unknown in those days and it is difficult for us even to imagine the kind of pain the disease inflicted on its victims.
One day Maraneri Nambi went to Alavandar’s house. He insisted that he should see his Guru. Alavandar was hesitant. But Maraneri was adamant. So he was let in. Alavandar tried to cover his pain and welcomed him with a smile. He thought that Maraneri had come there to clear his doubts in his lessons.
Maraneri came into the room and prostrated at his Acharya’s feet.
“Today I have come to you with a desire. I have set my mind on that object. And I can’t live without that. You have that with you. Can you give that to me?”
“It’s yours Maraneri. Whatever it is.”Said swami alavandaar.
Maraneri asked his guru to gift the Rajapilavai disease which I have now, along with the pain, the suffering and all the after-effects.
But Alavandar refused saying it as ridiculous.
Maraneri nimbi said “What is ridiculous, Acharya? You are our Guru. You have a hundred disciples. A thousand people come to you every day to listen to your words. Even the Lord who sleeps forever in the temple is looking forward to see you every day. How can you afford to be confined to your bed? And by your kind, wise words you are removing our pains. Pains which have been following us for millions of births. How can you suffer in pain, Acharya?
I am a low-born worm. By accepting me as your disciple you made a gift to me which is worth more than the whole universe. Now, please.. I beg of you.. please allow me to do my part. If you refuse to give your disease then I will have no option than to die at your feet. It’s your call.”
Alavandar melted. He poured the water on his hand and chanted the appropriate mantra.
Thus He took on himself the cancerous growth on the body of Swamy AlavandhAr as AchArya prasAdham due to his matchless Guru Bhakthi.
Alavandar was happy and sad at the same time. Happy that he had such a loving disciple and sad because he was forced to give so much of pain and suffering to such a nice man.
Alavandar’s recovery was quite dramatic after that day. A week later Maraneri Nambi was down with carbuncle. It is said that he suffered for three months from shooting pain. Whenever he was in pain he would only chant the name of his Gurudeva.
Because his Guru’s blessings were fully on him and because the Lord was moved by his selfless love Maraneri Nambi recovered from the disease sooner than the usual time.
Maraneri Nambi separated from his relatives who did not understand him, and lived separately .
After Alavandar ascended to His divine abode, Maraneri Nambi became physically sick and was struggling alone. Periya Nambi took him under his care withoutlooking at their caste difference, and gave him food from his own home.
When Maraneri Nambi was in his final stages of his life, he asked Periya Nambi that his body blessed by Swamy AlavandhAr should not be entrusted to his avaishnava brethern and begged Periya Nampi to perform his last rites.. He told Periya Nambi ” purOdAsaththai nAykkidAdhE nOkki aruLa vENum ” – Giving my body to my relatives would be like giving the sacred ghee offered in the yagas to a street dog.
After Maraneri Nambi left this world, Periya Nambi followed his words and performed all the final rites for him standing inhis son’s stead. Many brahmins became very upset that an acharya and Brahmin such as Periya Nambi performed final rites for a low caste person and refused to interact with him. RaamAnujA Questioned his AchAryan ,Periya nambi about the appropriateness of a Brahmin (Periya nambi) performing apara KriyAs (Last rites)for some one of lower caste. Periya nambi cited the instance of Ramachandran performing last rites for a bird (Jataayu), that Yudishtra had performed final rites for a low caste person Vidhura and conceded that he is not loftier than Raamachandran and that MaaranERi Nambi was not lower in glory than JatAyu. Periya Nambi also asked Raamaanuja , his dear disciple, to reflect upon the inner meanings of Swamy NammAzhwAr’s ThiruvAimozhi(TVM) paasurams NedumARkkadimai (TVM 8.10) and PayalumsudaroLi (TVM 3.7),celebrating the greatness of the BhaagavathAs.
Though Ramanuja was satisfied with his answer, the rest of vaishnavas in Srirangam were not. They decided to isolate periya nambi. Once when Ranganathar was taking a procession, the temple car came to a complete halt at the entrance of Periya nambi’s house and refused to move. Only after Periya nambi was given the theertham and the aaraadhana, the car allowed itself to proceed. It took Sri Ranganathar to demonstrate the greatness of Periya nambi and Maraneri nambi.
pdf Source: Thanks to Shri Kasturi Rangan