Manikkavasagar Story

Manikkavasagar, the author of "The Thiruvaachakam" (the great Upanishad in Tamil), is said to have been born in Vadhavoora, a village seven miles from modern Madurai, on the banks of river Vaigai. He was the illustrious minister of Pandinaadu. 

Once, Manikkavasagar was given money by the Pandiyan King to buy horses for the cavalry. But he used the money to renovate the dilapidated temple at Thiru-p-perunthurai. He knew that the cavalry is in urgent  need of remounts. But, when he arrived at Thirupperunthurai, he saw that the temple was in more urgent need of renovation. So he diverted the money for the renovation of  the temple, an act well within his powers of discertion. He was not misappropriating the state funds.If anyone was in the wrong, it was the king who was in the wrong. Manikkavasagar was put into prison.This was the reason why Lord Shiva chose to teach the king, the evanescent nature of faith in power based on an army. It was therefore that he made the howling jackals turn into cavalry horses. Lord Shiva reached Madurai with the horses. The king was pleased and he released Manikkavasagar.On the same day,  (midnight) all the cavalry horses turned into howling jackals. The message reached the king through his soldiers. 

Whereupon, the king threw Manikkavasagar into prison. Mundane justice was satisfied,the ends of the law of karma was fulfilled. But divine law had been forgotten by the king. Lord Shiva made the perenially dry Vaigai rise in devasting flood. The king had to be taught a lesson  and Manikkavasagar too had to learn a lesson - an elementary lesson in the service of god. Pandiyan king ordered every family in Madurai to send one man for each family to help to throw embankments to contain the waters of Vaigai. Prisoners, who were the first people to be pressed into service in such emergencies even in those days would not have been spared by Pandiyan. So, Manikkavasagar was there with his basket frantically throwing hods of mud into the hungry waters of the Vaigai.

An old lady Vanthi, who used to sell "Pittu" could not send anyone from her family to throw embankments to contain the waters of Vaigai.The lady was a disciple of  Lord Shiva . So, Lord Shiva planned to help the old lady and he appeared as a labourer  infront of her.She, being a poor lady said that she will give him "Pittu" instead of money if he is ready to throw mud into Vaigai river. He accepted  to carry mud in his head and throw it into the waters of Vaigai. He was very lazy used to sleep after eating "Pittu". The Pandiyan King came to know about Vanthi's servant through his soldiers. He ordered his Soldiers to bring him . Then the king started beating him on his back.Immediately, Lord Shiva, who was the servant of Vanthi disappeared after throwing a basket of mud into Vaigai. The king then realised that it was Lord Shiva who came as servant to rescue Manikkavasagar. Thus Lord Shiva taught the Pandiyan king - a  much  needed lesson in righteous kingship. 

To commomerate this historical incident,'Avani Festival'is celebrated every year in the month of 'Avani'. This is another important festival next to 'Chithirai Festival'