LORD RAMA ANSWERS A BRITISHER’S PRAYER
It was during the period 1795 to 1799 a British officer called Colonel Lionel Blazehe was Collector of Chengalpattu District . Colonel Lionel on his routine survey had witnessed two cracks to the huge tank in Madurantakam taluk.
The enormity of the problem can be appreciated only when we know of the massive size of the tank. Having an area of 13 square miles and a depth of 21 feet, the breaching of the tank following torrential downpour was any official’s nightmare. Wanting to take preemptive action in the year 1798 the Collector camped at Madurantakam.
During his sojourn the Collector was exploring ways and means to undertake urgent repairs of the breaches if and when they happened. During the course of his inspections, he happened to see a large collection of granite and other stones in the precincts of the LOrd Sri Rama temple near to the tank .
The Collector mentioned to his subordinates that these granite stones could be put to use in restoration of the bunds. Hearing this the temple priests submitted that the stones were meant for constructing a separate shrine for Mother Janakavalli Thayar and since there was paucity of funds, the construction could not commence.
Noticing this the Collector is said to have remarked that where was the need for a separate shrine when more urgent work like repairing the bunds were crying for resources and asked the priests jestingly as to why the Lord was not able to save the tank each year? The priests replied saying that the Lord was always known to answer a sincere prayer from the heart.
Meanwhile , during his stay , the rains came and it poured and in a few days the tank was full to the brim and a rupture seemed imminent. That night a worried Collector camped near the tank hoping against hope that the bunds would hold. The water level had risen alarmingly .In another hour or so of the rain and the lake would breach submerging the whole villages and since rain was still coming down in sheets accompanied by a storms , there seemed little hope of averting the inevitable.
He imagined whether it was the will of the Jesus that he should die in a heathen land,forsaking his beautiful wife and affectionate children in distant England? The moment these thoughts occurred to him, he banished them with guilt-he was the District Collector, responsible for the lives and safety of thousands. They looked up to him with child-like faith, hoping against hope that the fair-skinned “Durai” would somehow work a miracle and save them all from certain death.
But what could he do in the face of Nature’s unrelenting fury? The swirling waters of the lake were looking more menacing by the minute, and the wind had snatched away the umbrella held over his head by a lackey, apparently angered at the Collector’s efforts at protecting his head while thousands innocent villagers were drenched to the skin stretched tightly over their skeletal bodies. He was desperate and could think of no way to prevent the waters rushing out on their terrible mission of destruction.
The pious old priest of the temple, who had spoken of the temple deities reached the Collector’s side and, picking up courage, told the Official that only Lord Rama could save them now, as the situation seemed beyond human intervention. He explained to the skeptical Englishman the immense power of the Lord and His matchless beauty.
In the drenching downpour, despite the shivering , swallowing away many of his words, his broken English, he gave the foreigner an account of the exploits of Lord Sri Rama and of His bridging the vast ocean with the aid of mere monkeys. He narrated about Lord Rama who from a royal family had spent fourteen hard years in the jungle, just to obey an unjust command supposedly from His father and conveyed to Him by a step-mother who was intent on making her own son the heir to the throne.The old Priest said , when we are drowning, we tend to clutch at straws in desperation, especially when nothing else is available to hold on to. The British man was in a similar situation.
Though his strict Christian upbringing and military training prompted only disbelief at the Priest tales, still an image began to form in his mind of a tall, handsome Prince, with a long bow held aloft in His powerful hands, the personification of mercy and righteous conduct, the symbol of sacrifice.
His lotus-like eyes brimming with mercy for all mortals, and accompanied by an equally impressive figure, obviously a younger brother and ever ready to rush to the rescue of those in distress, at a mere call for safety, be it from whichever quarter. And once the image of the bewitching Lord entered his mind, the britisher found it was difficult to shake it off and experienced an extremely pleasurable sensation, even amidst the desperate situation he found himself trapped in.
Still , his mind reluctantly he posed round to the possibility of appealing to this mythological hero for aid, which seemed the only thing left, especially since all other efforts had failed. And once his mind accepted what was hitherto unthinkable for him, he felt unreasonably accepted and prayed in his heart of hearts to Lord Sri Rama to somehow, somehow, lead him and thousands of villagers out of this apparently inescapable end.
“Oh Sri Rama!” prayed the Britisher ,” Please do this, if not for my sake, then for the sake of the thousands who believe in You with all their spiritual might and conviction. I was listening to the stories of Your impossible feats with only half an ear.
However, if it was possible for You to conquer that vast body of waters (lying between You and Lanka) with the mere threat of retribution, it should be no difficult task for You to control the menacing waters of this MadhurAntakam lake and to keep them confined to the inner bunds. I know understand well that these are the words of an ignorant fool who lacks absolute faith in You.He inwardly prayed LORD SREE RAMA .
Do this for me and for the sake of the hundreds of men, women and children who are in danger , and I shall surely build a temple for Your Consort, whom You appear to love dearly. Lord, please do help me!” The Britisher saw a miraculous sight. He saw two warriors bearing bow and quiver guarding the bunds. He went on his knees and prayed, for he knew it was none other than Lord Rama and his divine brother Lakshmana in his heart inwardly . It was indeed strange that nobody else who was a part of the Collector’s team saw the Lord. The awe-struck foreigner, overjoyed by the unbelievable fainted and fell on the sandy silty tank bund with a thud, slipping into unconsciousness, obviously incapable of absorbing the full delight of the divine spectacle.
When he emerged from his trance, Colonel found himself in his comfortable bed in his own quarters . The impossible situation in which he had fainted, the Collector sat up with a jerk and demanded from his subordinates the latest position on the flooding threat, and felt immense relief wash over him when told that the rains had stopped with miraculous suddenness during the night and the lake waters too, poised on the brink, had receded to fairly safe levels. Through a planned opening of the sluices, the water level was brought back to near normal and the threat had blown-over. After a while the vision evanesced the rain stopped.
The Transcendental image of the Lord and His infinite mercy in answering the insincere prayers of an unbelieving foreigner continued to occupy the Britisher thoughts forever, and he used to recount the tale with devotion to skeptical audiences even after his return to England.
The grateful Collector undertook the building of the shrine for Mother Janakavalli thayar and the Sri Rama in the temple came to be known as the Erikatha Ramar (Rama who saved the tank). The edict with the Collector’s name citing him as a benefactor can be seen even today in the Madurantakam temple.
The temple of Madurantakam is situated 50 km from Chennai on the Grand Southern Trunk road leading to Trichy. There is a separate shrine for Sri Periya Nambigal and Sri Ramanujar here in this temple. This is said to be the only temple where Swamy Ramanujar is seen as a Grahastha (married person) and is seen with white clothing instead of saffron, as seen in other temples.The great event of Swamy Ramanujars Panchasamaskara Vybhavam is celebrated during August month .
video credits : chkrman