Story of the Two Mangoes - Stories that Wrote Tradition | Milaap

Story of the Two Mangoes - Stories that Wrote Tradition

Most of us already know the story of the ‘three apples’ that changed the world - Eve’s apple, Newton’s apple and Steve Job’s apple. There is no doubt in saying that they changed the world to a great extent. But there are not many who know the story of the ‘Two Mangoes’ that changed the Tamil culture. Both are interesting episodes, based on Hindu mythological events.

March to July is considered to be the mango season down here in the South, and the fruit becomes a favourite dessert for people irrespective of their ages, religion and cultural recognition. One such day, during lunch at the field partner’s office, I sat with all the staff sharing a few pieces of mangoes brought by one of them and was told the story of ‘the two mangoes.’

First story: The Fruit of Wisdom

One day the Vedic Sage, Narada (famous in Hindu traditions as a musical storyteller) came with a mango fruit to Kailash, the abode of Shiva. The family was in a joyous mood where Parvati and Shiva were laughing at the naughty mischiefs of their little children Ganesh and Murugan or Kartikeya. Narada always causes troubles which eventually lead to something good and as always, he created a big nuisance by bringing only one mango.

Narada offering the 'fruit of wisdom' to Shiva and Parvati

Shiva and Parvati thought their sons wouldn’t mind sharing the fruit. But the mischievous Narada said, “this is the golden fruit of wisdom and whoever eats this mango will be granted eternal knowledge and wisdom”. “However, there is a condition to eating this fruit” he warned. With a smirk on his face, Narada continued, “this fruit has to be eaten by only one person.” Shiva and his family were struggling to solve the problem. Shiva thought of an idea and decided that whoever first circles the world should get it. Kartikeya was very happy and jumped onto his vehicle, a peacock, and was soon out of sight. Ganesh remained where he was with a thoughtful expression on his face.

He slowly made his way to his parents and bowed low before them. He then started circling his parents. Shiva and Parvati were perplexed. Ganesh replied, “You, my parents are my universe and my whole world. So if I circle you, it means that I have circled the entire world.” Saying this, he finished his third circle. The happy and proud parents gave the mango fruit to him.

Ganesh was awarded the fruit

When Murugan reached back, he was startled to look at the fruit in his brother’s hand. Feeling deceptive and angry, he left without a word and reached today’s Palani hill, where his parents rushed to pacify him. They called him – ‘Gnana Pazham neeyappa’, which means that you yourself are a bundle of wisdom and that is the reason the hill is called Pazhani (Palani).

Palani festivities

Second Mango Story: Karaikal Ammaiyar

Long ago, during the French rule, the sea-washed Karaikal was the prime port of the Bay of Bengal. A rich and pious merchant, Danadattan, in the city was blessed with a female child. He named her Punithavathi. She imbibed the devotional atmosphere of her natal home in her very veins and even at play she built toy temples and recited Shiva's name. As she grew up into a lovely maiden, her marriage with Paramadattan, a young and rich merchant just like her Danadattan, was solemnised.

Punithavathi offers the magical fruit to her husband

One day Paramadattan was visited by two merchants in the way of business at his workplace. They presented him with two ripe mangoes. He sent them home for his lunch. About this time a devotee of Shiva came to Punithavathi and asked for food. Business people were known for their hospitality to the Saivaite (Shiva) devotees. She fed him well and served him one of the mangoes also. The devotee was very much satisfied and went on his way.

Punithavathi and her husband - a painting at a temple

Punithavathi was in a dilemma. On an impulse, she prayed to Shiva and immediately a mango fell in her hands. This she served to Paramadattan. When he tasted it he was flabbergasted."Well, I don't think there is a fruit as sweet as this in all the three worlds. Are you sure this was the one given by the merchants? He asked his wife. Punithavathi was an image of sincerity and truth. She recounted how she had given away a mango to a hungry devotee. When Paramadattan had asked for it, she had simply gone into the kitchen and prayed to Shiva. His grace was flown into her hands as the ripe mango.

Paramadattan was a complete materialist and could not believe in miracles. He thought his wife must be weaving a tell-tale to hide some misdemeanour. “The Lord gave you the mango? If so, then prove it! Get me another magic mango!" he said without any thought. Faced with an unexpected ordeal, yet sure of her faith in Shiva's grace, Punithavathi began praying to the Lord. When did the Lord fail his true devotee? Sure enough, a third mango - fresh, ripe, uncut - appeared on Punithavathis's hands. Calmly she went forward and placed the fruit in Paramadattan's hands. As the mango touched his hands, it vanished. Paramadattan was frightened. He thought Punithavathi was a divine being and he should not approach her. So he left home at once.

When the parents came to know what had happened, they took Punithavathi to where her husband was. As soon as he saw her, he fell at her feet saying that she was a divine woman and that he did not deserve her. Coming to know his plight, Punithavathi prayed to Shiva to rid her of the youthful and lovely body so that she could spend the rest of her life undisturbed worshipping him. Said that the Lord realized her meaningful need in a world of human affairs which generally tends to desecrate physical beauty, and she was transformed into a crone. But it was as if all her beauty was channelized into her devotional hymns. The verses certainly surpassing loveliness.

Punithavathi portrayed for her devotion as a Shiva devotee

She was the first Tamil devotional poet and composed beautiful hymns on Lord Shiva. She created a new genre called Andhadhi in Tamil. The last word in the first stanza will be the first word in the second stanza. Her name and fame spread far and wide. Even now many temples in Tamilnadu and South East Asia could be seen where her portraits are displayed. Tamils established a Hindu Empire in South East Asia 1800 years ago and Gangaikonda Chozapuram in Tamilnadu has a beautiful, smiling Nataraja statue with Karaikal Ammaiyar praying to him.

The Conclusion

The first story about mango created one of the six famous abodes of Murugan or Kartikeya in Tamil Nadu. The place is filled with people from different places during festivals and festivities. The second story of the fruit created a new set of devotional poems called Panniru Thirumurai containing 18000 poems.  After the Sangam period, a big devotional movement changed the picture of entire Tamil Nadu starting from the days of Karaikal Ammaiyar. It is compared to the big Bhakti movements in Maharashtra with Nivrutti, Gnanadev, Sopana, Muktabhai, Eknath, Namdev, Tukaram and Samartha Ramdas.

Myth is also a tradition that should be taken forward into the future,” Mrs Jyothi told me. Though these are just myths, these stories represent a very important image of Tamil culture. “Believe it or not, there are certain morals that could be imbibed into children through stories of such kinds, and so these are considered important,” she said and gave me the last remaining slice of the mango.

Pictures and images are taken from the internet.