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Villages around Auroville

The Irumbai Legend

see also: Legend of Kaduveli Siddhar and Auroville



The Villagers' acceptance of Auroville

The warmth and hospitality that the local populace has shown in accepting people of different races, cultures and countries and in allowing the Auroville experiment to take place in their 'backyard', is truly remarkable. This ancient legend perhaps explains why the villagers have shown such tolerance to Aurovilians.

Irumbai is a small village on the edge of Auroville. The village temple is extremely old and is particularly associated with the legend of Kaduveli Siddha, a famous yogi who lived in the area some four to five hundred years ago. According to the legend, Kaduveli Siddha was performing harsh penance sitting under a peepal tree in yogic pose for days. The heat of his body was so intense that the rain gods suffered, no rains came and the people were exposed to hardship and drought. The situation was so bad that it finally came to the ears of the King, who ruled from Edyanchavadi village. No one dared disturb Kaduveli in his penance as he chanted the mantra of Eswara, and soon an anthill started to rise up around him. Finally a temple dancer, named Valli, devoted to the Lord Shiva, decided to do her best to get the attention of the yogi, and to rescue the King and his people from the adverse effects of his tapasya (penance). She observed that occasionally the Siddha would, with his eyes shut, put out his hands to catch and consume the falling, withered peepal leaves. So she prepared some thinly fired apalam (a flat salty wafer made out of green gram dhal), and started placing them in the yogi's outstretched hands, as he tried to catch the falling leaves. Soon he started eating the apalams and getting his taste back. Slowly he grew fatter until finally the anthill broke and he was once more exposed to the rays of the sun. Finally he opened his eyes. Valli was extremely happy and was able to take him back to her house where she kept him happy, dancing for him and learning songs for him. Meanwhile the God of Rain was relieved from the torture he felt from the heat of the yogi's tapasya, the rain fell in plenty, and the people were happy once again.

In order to celebrate this event the King ordered a big Puja to be held at Irumbai temple, which was to be followed by a classical performance by Valli in which she would act out the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva, in the form of Nataraja. During the performance, however, one of her anklets fell off, and she started to lose her balance and rhythm. Kaduveli, who saw the Lord Shiva in Valli, picked up the anklet and put it back on her feet. This exposed him to the ridicule of the King and court for having touched the feet of a dancing girl, and he was heckled and jeered. Furious, he invoked the Lord Shiva to come out of his temple and prove his innocence by causing a rain of stone. Immediately the lingam in the sanctum sanctorum of the temple exploded, and wherever its fragments fell became desert. No greenery will grow around these spots, including a crater at a distance of three kilometres from the village, still to this day known as "Kaduveli".

The King was suddenly frightened and begged the pardon of the Siddha, bowing down to him with all his entourage and pleading with him to quench the effects of his anger and curse. This appeased Kaduveli, who, repenting of his anger, said that what was done was done, but that in the future, people from far-off lands would come and make the desert land green and fertile again.

Today, there are villagers who feel that the Aurovilians are the people from far-off lands mentioned by the Siddha and that the curse is now beginning to leave them.

This story was put together by several Aurovilians, based on a tape-recorded conversation with the temple brahmin at Irumbai.

Auroville Today, July 1989.

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