Tamil Nadu has a lot of poets, siddhars, sages and many wise men who have left behind their experiences as the great wealth that future generations to learn and follow. However, Pattinathar is unique to list of great people that Tamil has as its pride. It would be surprising that Pattinathar was a tycoon who has business all over the world. He was born in an affluent family and yet he turned to be a Sanyasi. Thiruvenkadar, was his name when he became a Sanyasi. This post and the subsequent posts narrate the life of Pattinathar and the incidents that lead him to become a Sanyasi. Pattinathar has given us his experience and wisdom in the form of songs that we will see in these posts. His works include Koyinaan Manimaalai, Thirukazhumala Mummanikkovai, Thiruvidai Marudhur Mummanikkovai, Thiruvegambamudaiyar Thiruvandhaadhi, Thiruvottriyur Orupa Orupadhu. Now let us see how a legendary tycoon of Kaveripoompattinam (Poompuhar) turned into Sanyasi.

Pattinathar, also called Pattinathu Chetty, was born in an affluent tycoon family. His parents were Sivanesan Chettiar and Gnanakalai Aachi. They were so affluent, that in those days it was a customary that kings of the various dynasties and empires who rose to the throne will be crowned by the wealthiest in the country. And for three generations or more, Pattinathar’s ancestors have crowned the kings in the Chera, Chola, Pandya and the Pallava Kingdoms. That would give us an understanding of how wealthy their family should have been. They had a lot of ships that sailed across to various countries in the globe for trade purposes. Pattinathar was born and he was named Swetharanyan. He had an elder sister.

Swetharanyan grew up as kid with lots of love, affection and lenience. He spent most of his time playing and studies was a far distant thing to him. Pattinathar’s father was worried that his son does not study well, but his mother convinced him that they had wealth that would feed more than 10 generations, so why worry about their son not studying. A few years later, Pattinathar’s father died and his mother had to take care of business. Though she was able to manage that, her brother – Pattinathar’s maternal uncle – gave her a helping hand and looked after the business.

Swetharanyan, born in the lineage of traders, instinctively had the skills for trade. He picked up the nuances quickly and wanted to venture into the seas to get more hands-on experience about trade across the oceans. He became well-versed and later he was married to a girl named Sivakalai at the age of 16. In those days, marrying at a young age was practised. Over the years, he grew to be a man who can handle businesses himself and became the wealthiest trader in Kaveripoompattinam. Thereafter he was referred to as Pattinathu Chetty or Pattinathar.

For a long time, the couple did not have a child as the heir to their wealth. They went to a lot of temples but still God did not bles them with a child. They were worried, and Pattinathar’s mother even suggested that he married another girl. In those days, men used to have more than one wife. However, People in those days had a very high respect for their mothers, that they would not rebuke anything against their mother’s words, Pattinathar was not in a position  to show his refusal to his mother’s suggestion, however he expressed clearly his unwillingness and made it clear that he was not willing to think of any other girl as his wife. His mother, honoured his wish and did not talk about that later.

Pattinathar had a dream one night. In the dream, he saw an elderly couple near Thiruvidai Marudhur, who had a young infant and were worried as they were not able to feed for themselves, and feeding and bringing up that infant was worrying them more. Pattinathar heard a divine voice asking him to travel to Thiruvidai Marudhur. He woke up from his dream and the next day Pattinathar and Sivakalai headed to Thiruvidai Marudhur. And when he reached Thiruvidai Marudhur, he saw the same elderly couple that he saw his in dreams. He enquired about them, and they said that they were poor and the child was born at a very later age, and now they are weak to feed for themselves. So they both decided to go and meet Pattinathu Chetty and ask him to adopt the child for which, the elderly couple told, that Pattinathar would give them gold equal to the weight of the infant with which they could manage the rest of their life. Pattinathar and Sivakalai eyes were in tears and they thought that Lord Shiva and Parvathi themselves came as the elderly couple and blessed them with the child.

Then Pattinathar and Sivakalai, took the elderly couple to Kaveripoompattinam and said that they will adopt the child and gave the elderly couple a good amount of wealth for them to survive through their age. Then they planned for the adoption ceremony of the child. Now, Pattinathar’s sister, who thought that the wealth of Pattinathar will automatically be for her family as Pattinathar had no heir, had her dreams shattered by the adoption of this child. She argued and quarrelled with his brother. But Pattinathar made a firm decision that he is going to adopt that child and that child will be his heir. The adoption ceremony went very well in all its grandeur and they name the baby boy – Marudhavanan. They considered Marudhavanan as their own child and showed him a great love and affection.

To be continued in the next post.

More to come, until then…