This is another story narrated to me by my mother, who is as drowned in religion and spirituality as is possible for anyone to be. Most small stories in Hindu mythology have to do with a devotee getting into some kind of trouble, and a God/Goddess rescuing him/her. This is one such story.
Hundreds of years ago, in a small village called Thirukkadaiyur in Tamil Nadu, lived a man called Subramanya Iyer. He was the temple priest at the Abhirami Devi temple in the village, and an ardent devotee of the Goddess Abhirami herself. He lived a life of great solitude and spent all of his time meditating on the Goddess. He rarely had the time or the inclination to talk to and converse with the people of the village and would sometimes smile or mutter (chant the Goddess’s name) to himself, with the result that a section of the village population began to dislike him and branded him a madman. Iyer carried on with his life and meditation, oblivious to these feelings of hostility and derision.
It happened on a dark, moonless (amavasya) night. The priest was, as usual, sitting in the temple and singing praises of the Goddess, along with a few of the villagers, when the King, in all his royal glory, happened to pass by. Seeing Iyer sing with such devotion, the King asked the villagers who he was. The villagers, seeing now their chance to play a small prank on the priest, said, “O King, he is the temple priest, Subramanya Iyer, and a great and wise man he is too. It is said that he knows the answers to all the questions in the world.” The King, who was curious to see for himself the extent of this wisdom, went up to the priest and asked him what day of the month (tithi) it was. Iyer, still wrapped up in his thoughts of the divine glowing face of the Goddess, answered, “It is pournami (full moon)”. The villagers tittered, and the King annoyed, asked him the same question again, to which, unfortunately, the priest gave the same answer. The King was now furious, “This priest has deliberately insulted me by telling me twice that it is pournami tonight when everyone knows today is amavasya! Seat this madman on a swing held by ropes, light a fire beneath it, and lower the rope every few minutes, so that by morning, the earth is rid of this excrescence!”
Seated on the swing of death with the roaring fire beneath him, Subramanya Iyer realized that only the Goddess herself could save him now, and once again started singing her praises, calling for help. Far above the earth in the mountains of Kailash, the Goddess opened her eyes. Her devotee was in trouble, and she had to get him out of this fix. So she called Chandra, the moon, and asked him to take his place in the sky immediately. Chandra, terrified of the Goddess, stammered, “Devi, today is amavasya, and if I shine now, all nature will be thrown out of balance; please reconsider”. She glared at him and then nodded; Chandra disappeared. The Goddess thought for a moment, then unclasped one of her earrings and threw it into the sky, and there it stayed, shining with its cool, soft light, exactly like the full moon.
Down below, on the earth, the King, pacing restlessly in the palace courtyard, was suddenly enveloped in dim moonlight, and having looked up, stood there uncomprehendingly for a few seconds. When he finally understood, he roared at his guards, ran to Subramanya Iyer, who was completing the 79th verse in praise of the Goddess, put out the fire, and fell at the priest’s feet, full of regret and remorse. “I have misjudged you, O Iyervaal! Look, the Goddess Abhirami herself has made it a pournami and made the moon appear in a dark sky, all for you. From now onwards, you shall be known as Abhirami Bhattar.”
Thus Subramanya Iyer came to be known as Abhirami Bhattar, and the verses he had sung at the gates of death, along with 21 other verses, came to be known as the Abhirami Andadhi. He also composed the Abhirami Padhigam, which, along, with the Andadhi, is said to be equivalent to the Devi Bhagavatam.