Thirupanar was a peasant belonging to the community that played musical instruments or sang in temples. But he was an ardent devotee of Sri Ranganatha Swamy. He was so devoted to lord, that he would forget this physical world and go into deep trance whenever he started singing or praying.
That day, it happened again. He started praying to the lord near the Kaveri River. Soon as he started praying, he got into deep trance again. When Sage Lokasaranga came by, Panar was blissfully unaware. The sage in service of lord had come to draw water for the daily worship at the temple. But, Panar was sitting in the path. Sage tried calling out loudly for the young man to make way, but elicited no response. As it was getting late for serving Sri Ranganatha Swamy, the agitated sage somehow made way and threw a stone to awaken Panar and went about his way to carry out his duties. The stone hit hard and Panar started bleeding in the forehead. Blood started gushing out from the wound, which caused Panar to come back to the physical world. Regretting that he had obstructed the sage’s path, he got up immediately and went back to his hut.
The sage reached the sanctum and was aghast to see that Swamy’s image was bleeding. He tried many things to stop the bleeding but to no avail. He could not perform any service, he intended to and sat there praying to god. Tired he was and soon he fell asleep. In the dreams, he saw Sri Ranganatha Swamy with a wound in the head and bleeding.
The lord said: “The stone you threw at my devotee has hurt me! Go to his hutment and fetch him for me. If he refuses to come, carry him away.”
Lokasaranga was still bewildered by all these developments, ran to Panar’s hutment. He fell at the feet of Panar and sought his forgiveness. He tried to convince Panar in many ways to come to the temple. But Panar vehemently refused saying, his community were not supposed to either touch Kaveri or get inside the temple.
The sage just picked up the boy Panar and carried him into the temple sanctum. He set the boy in front of the Lord. Minute the boy saw the lord, he sang a hymn containing ten verses praising him. After this, saying there was nothing else left for him to do in this physical world, he simply disappeared into the image of Sri Ranganatha Swamy.
When this incident took place in Srirangam is shrouded in mystery. Some say, it took place in 12th Century CE. Others are of opinion, this took place during the reign of Medieval Cholas.
However, Panar was declared an Alwar and was called “Thirupanar Alwar”. It is a tradition in this great Teertha Kshetra to perform the task of carrying a person belonging to the Panar community to the temple every year. This is known as “Muni Vahana Seva”.
In the recent past, CS Rangarajan a head priest of Chilkur Balaji Temple, carried Aditya Parasri, a young man from the Dalit community, on his shoulders and entered the temple complex adorned with floral decorations.