What is Time Travel?
If you want to go from Madras to London you travel by aeroplane. It is covering a vast distance – ie through three-dimensional space. But if you want to travel from 2011 to 1000 AD, the time when Raja Raja Chola built the Big Temple in Thanjavur, you have to travel through time. Or if you want to travel to the future, for example, 2050 then again you have to travel through time.
This concept already exists in the Hindu epic Mahabharata. But it became very popular through the writing of HG Wells and films based on his book, The Time Machine. In recent years we have lots of science fiction TV serials. If we can invent a time machine then we can sit inside and travel back even to the days of Emperor Asoka or the Rig Veda.
One question often asked is whether we would just be observers or whether we could participate in the events that happened 1000 years ago. Suppose I travel back in time with an AK 47 gun and shoot down Raja Raja Chola. What would happen to history as we know it after his death. He had a son by the name of Rajendra Chola. Would he still exist in history after I shot Raja Raja? This paradox is commonly known as the Grandfather Paradox. There are various theories about parallel universes to answer this question.
Two strange miracle stories indicate that our Tamil saints travelled back in time for the sake of their devotees. Not only did they go back in time and but they also interfered with events and changed the course of “history”. There is no such story in anywhere else in Hindu mythology.
I have already mentioned in my article Do Hindus believe in Aliens and ETs? The story of Revati, the episode of Arjuna’s travel to Indraloka (heaven) and Sambandhar reviving a dead person were dealt with in that article. India is full of mysteries and miracles. Just around Chennai there are more than 50 Siddhar Samadhis. Each Siddhar performed a lot of miracles. But what Sundarar and Tiru Gnana Sambandhar did 1000 years ago is baffling.
Often, we hear of stories where a person that was bitten by a snake is revived by a miracle man. At least here we may interpret that the person was bitten by a non-poisonous snake and may have fainted out of fear rather than died. But in the story of Sambandhar and Sundarar, two of the Four Great Saivite Saints, no such interpretation is possible.
This is what happened: Anecdote 1
Sambandhar visited Madras 1300 years ago. He was welcomed by a rich merchant called Sivanesar. Sivanesar was very sad and cried when Sambandhar met him. When the saint asked the reason for his sadness he narrated what happened to his daughter Poompavai several years ago. When she went to pluck some flowers in the garden, she was bit by a snake and fainted. All the efforts to revive her failed and she died. Sivanesar kept the ashes and bones in an urn after cremating her body. When Sambandhar visited Kapaleeswarar temple in Mylapore, Chennai, Sambandhar asked him to bring the urn containing the ashes and bones. The saint sang a hymn beginning with the Tamil words “Mattitta Punnai”. Even before the saint finished the tenth song, the pot broke open and a beautiful twelve year old girl came out and stood before them. She was none other than the girl Poompavai, Sivanesar’s daughter. When he offered her hand to Sambandhar he politely declined the offer by saying that she was like his own daughter because he revived her. The mystery in the story is that Poompavai had grown since her death. This means Sambandhar went back in time and revived her at that point of time and brought her back with full growth to compensate the lost years. Another interesting thing about this hymn is all the important festivals of ancient Tamils such as Onam, Karthikai lamp festival, Arudra day, Thai Pusam, Masi sea bathing and Panguni Uththiram are mentioned in the decad, providing a unique record of their existence.
The second story is about Sundarar reviving a boy who was devoured by a crocodile. There lived a boy called Avinasi Lingam, Son of Gangadharan, in Avinasi, a town in Tamil Nadu. One day Avinasi Lingam went with other boys to a tank to bathe. It was a beautiful lotus tank. Suddenly Avinasi Lingam’s feet were caught by a crocodile and he cried for help. The boy who lived next door to him ran back to town and brought the elders. But Avinasi Lingam disappeared and nobody dared to step in to the tank. The most famous Hindu saint Adi Shankara was also caught by a crocodile, but he came alive after his mother promised him to give him second birth in the way of Sanyasam.
Two years after this incident Sundara visited the Brahmin street where one house was celebrating happily the Punul Kalyanam (Sacred Thread ceremony for the boy), but the opposite house was engulfed in sadness. When he came to know about what happened two years ago, he went straight to the tank and prayed to Lord Siva to return the boy. The crocodile came and spat the boy out. The boy, not only came alive intact but also aged to compensate for the lost two years. This is another instance of Time Travel by a Tamil saint. He went back in time by two years and changed the course of “history”.
The people who wrote about these anecdotes clearly expressed surprise when the boy and the girl were grown to compensate the years they lost in “death”. If it is instant revival we can find many reasonable scientific explanations. Here there is no ambiguity or exaggeration. Sundarar’s miracle decad begins with the Tamil words “Etraan Marakeen Ezumaikkum”. Avinasi is forty kilometres from Coimbatore.
(Please read my article Do Hindus believe in Aliens? Where in I have explained how Hindus view Time. We believe there is more to it than what Einstein had discovered)