In which Mandavya Maharishi gets spiked
It was a cloudy day, and the sage sat in a meditative trance outside his hermitage. He is in a yogic trance, meditating on the blue necked one. So deep that, he was on earth only physically. His eyes were half open, but did not see. His ears were wide open, but did not hear. And what could be the spate of the spoken word. Ofcourse it was silent. The mind was elsewhere.
The three thieves who had just robbed the Royal treasury were hiding behind the low wall of the hermitage. One of them went and scouted the area for a hiding place. And one went to check on the yogi, while the third guarded the loot.
“The backyard has a store room. We can hide there safely.”, said the one who had gone to scout the hermitage. “The yogi is so deep in trance, that he did not even notice me”, said the other. The three of them hustled the loot into the back room, and waited for the night to arrive.
The royal guards had been following unknown to three plunderers, and had seen them running in the direction of the hermitage. Half of a dozen of them now were in front of the hermitage. The leader of the group stepped up to the Rishi, and asked politely – “Did you see a band of robbers running by this direction, O Kind Sir?”. The Rishi of course did not respond, since it was just his body there. His senses were not in function. The squad leader ordered his men to search the hermitage. And they caught the thieves red-handed.
The guards went back to the king and narrated the tale. The only mistake, and a grave mistake at that, was the fact that, they said, the thieves were hiding in the hermitage of an old man, and the old man did not speak a word. The king did not investigate who the old man was. Whether he was Rishi. Whether he was a learned one. The King ordered the sage to be hoisted on the spike. This was the punishment of earlier times, reserved for grievous crimes such as loss of trust, colluding with thieves, thievery, murder etc. This was Impalement. Spikes driven into your body and through a wooden log and hoisted high into the sky.
And so the guards brought back the Rishi, who was still in Yoga Nidhra did not notice a thing. He was cruficied. Nails driven through him. He did not flinch a bit. He was hoisted. He did not notice that either. Three days later, they brought him down, and he was still living and in perfect condition. What can pain do to a body, when the soul is so deep in meditation. Meditating on the Mighty one, at that.
The king came running, when he heard of this. He had realized that, it was some great person to whom he had mistakenly given this punishment. They brought the sage down. The royal doctors painstakingly pulled out each spike carefully. And they did successfully, all but one in the nape of the neck. If they removed that, it could be death for the rishi. Too close to the jugular they said.
The Rishi chose this moment to come back to consciousness. The king fell at his feet, seeking forgiveness. Sages were wise ones. They had a huge heart. He pardoned the king.
It was then he realized the single remaining spike on his back. He smiled and said, “Oh, there is one remaining. Never mind, it will help me carry my flower basket, when i go to gather flowers for the Lord.”
This is how the great Mandavya Maharishi became to be called Aani Mandavaya Maharishi.
Aani in Sanskrit (and in a few Dravidian languages such as Tamil as well) means “Nail/Spike”.
Acknowledgement: I am recounting this from a lecture recording called Vidhura Needhi by Shri R.B.V.S.Manian, The lecture was hosted in Kumbakonam a few years back.