Ratnavati lived with her husband Sudhakar on the banks of the river Kaveri. They were faithful devotees of Shiva. A few years after they married, Ratnavati became pregnant. The couple were very happy with the news. Ratnavati’s parents, who lived on the other side of the river, were also happy. Ratnavati’s mother assured her that she would come to her house when she delivered the baby.
Months passed. Ratnavati could sense that the baby would be born in the next few days. She sent a message to her mother to come soon. Meanwhile, Sudhakar got called out of the village on some urgent work. But he was worried about his wife. Ratnavati assured him that her mother would arrive soon to take care of her. Sudhakar left the village reluctantly, promising Ratnavati that he would be back soon.
That evening it started raining heavily. The water level of the river started rising. Suddenly, Ratnavati felt a pain in her stomach. She knew she was going to give birth any moment. She was all alone at home. Her husband was away and her mother had not yet arrived.
She ardently prayed to Lord Shiva to send some help. Just at that moment, her mother walked in. She hugged her daughter and asked her to relax. She quickly arranged some pillows to make Ratnavati comfortable. Soon, Ratnavati delivered the baby. Her mother held her hand throughout, calming her. Once the baby was born, Ratnavati was so exhausted that she slept peacefully. The last thing she saw was her mother tucking the new born baby in thick blankets.
When she opened her eyes, she saw her mother walking inside the house.
“My child, are you all right?” asked her mother anxiously.
“Of course, I’m all right mother. You came in at the right time. I wonder what would have happened if you were not here beside me,” said Ratnavati.
Her mother looked bewildered. “What? The baby is already born! And you say I was beside you! How is that possible? I came just now!”
“What are you talking about? You held my hand the whole time. And then you tucked the child in the blanket,” said Ratnavati.
Her mother looked at the cradle nearby. Indeed, she could see a child sleeping peacefully wrapped in blankets.
“I still don’t know what to say. I have just walked in. The river was flooded, and no boatman was ready to take me to the other shore. I waited until morning. I could cross over only when the rain had stopped,” said Ratnavati’s mother.
Ratnavati was in a daze, “You couldn’t come. Yet I was helped by you…”
“Shiva!” she exclaimed. “It was Shiva who came to me as mother!” she said joining her hands in salutation, tears flowing down her cheeks. “Thayum anavar!” she cried out. (Anavar means the one who came, thayum means ‘as mother’
By this time, Sudhakar too had returned. All of them prayed to Thayumanavar Shiva — Shiva who came as mother. Later, a temple came up to honour Thayumanavar Shiva. This temple can be seen at the base of Rock Fort in Tiruchinapalli, Tamil Nadu.
Retold based on a Shiva legend.