Sangam literature says one should welcome guests happily, even if one is poor. Ilayankudimara Nayanar showed, through his devotion to Lord Siva's devotees, that this was possible, said Sarala Rajagopalan.
Ilayankudimara Nayanar would serve food to Siva's devotees. While he was rich, this was not difficult. But as time went by, he lost all his wealth and was reduced to living in a thatched hut.
At this time, Lord Siva decided to prove to the world the generosity of the Nayanar even in poverty. So one night He went to Ilayankudimara Nayanar's house, in the guise of a devotee. It was midnight and raining heavily, and the roads were pitch dark.
When Ilayankudimara Nayanar saw the mendicant, who was actually the Lord, he welcomed Him into his hut. The mendicant said He was hungry and asked for food. Ilayankudimara Nayanar was in a fix. He had nothing to offer the visitor. It was too dark for him to go out and borrow from anyone.
Besides, he had already borrowed from everyone in the village and the chances were that no one would lend him anything anymore.
His wife suggested that he go to the field and get sprouted seeds of paddy which he had just planted. So he set out to the field, unable even to make his way because of the rain. Eventually, he brought home the seeds. His wife cleaned them and said she would roast them and make different kinds of dishes, if she had some greens. So Ilayankudimara Nayanar went out again and brought back what he could.
But there was no firewood in the house. Ilayankudimara Nayanar dismantled his thatched roof and asked his wife to use it as fuel. His wife then made different kinds of dishes using the seeds and greens. With the little at their disposal, the couple served the visitor a good meal.
Pleased with the trouble they had taken to serve Him, despite their straitened circumstances, the Lord appeared before them and blessed them.
Even today in a village near Paramakudi, in Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu, two fields are pointed out as the ones from which the Nayanar collected seeds and greens for the Lord.