Lord Shiva and the Hunter
Kannappar- The Hunter
This is a story on Lord Shiva and his devotee, Thinnanar who is one of the 63 ‘Nayanars’.
Many years ago, there was a mountainous region called ‘Poththappi’ in South India. There were lots of hillocks and tall forest trees in this mountainous region, which seemed to reach out to the skies. In the middle of this region was a village called ‘Uudupoor’ where hunters lived with their families. The chieftain of the hunting community was ‘Nagan’. His wife was ‘Thatthai’.
This couple was childless for many years. This grieved them a lot and they appealed to Lord Muruga. The graceful God, Lord Muruga blessed them with a beautiful baby boy. Since the baby was fat and chubby at birth, they named it ‘Thinnan’(the strong and sturdy one) and brought it up with much love.
Thinnanar grew up learning well all the different forms of the art of hunting. He was able to handle the bow and arrow, the sword, the spear, and the knife with equal skill.
His father was getting old and was unable to go hunting as in his younger days.
So he wanted to make his son Thinnanar, who just turned sixteen, the chief of the hunters. He called for the chief priest of hunters, ‘Devaratty’, and consulted with him. With the blessing and good wishes of Devaratty, Thinnanar was made as to the chieftain.
The next morning, Thinnanar set out his first hunting expedition. He put on the garment made of tiger skin and armed himself with the sword, spear, bow, and arrow. The first hunt was known as the maiden hunt.
Setting out of the new chieftain, on the maiden hunt, was a cause for celebration among hunters. The hunters and their womenfolk were dressed daily. Playing their native musical instruments, they danced, sang, and feasted happily.
Then Thinnanar started out on his hunting expedition with his close friends. Nannan, Kaadan, and other youths. The hunting dogs ran with them close on their heels.
The hunters entered the dense forest and hunted all kinds of animals – deers, rabbits, and wild boars were killed for their food. Wild animals like tigers, leopards, foxes, and wolves that harm men were also killed by them.
When they were hunting thus, a big fat boar cut through the hunting nets, freed itself, and escaped fast. Thinnanar and his two friends Nannan and Kaadan ran chasing after the wild boar.
The boar which ran like lightning reached a grove that was at the foot of a hill. It hid behind a tree. While both Nannan and Kaadan stood exhausted, Thinnanar alone reached it bravely and killed it with a sword. His friends praised him for his brave act.
Then they addressed Thinnanar and said, “Chief, we have come very far from our village. We all are very thirsty and hungry. We shall roast this boar, eat it, satiate our hunger, quench our thirst and then return home.”
“Oh yes, we’ll do that. But then, where shall we go for water?. Asked Thinnanar.
“There is a large hillock beyond the grove over there. At the foot of the hillock runs the ‘river ponmugali’ replied Kaadan.
“All right, we shall go there and you carry the boar there”, Thinnanar ordered and walked ahead. Nannan walked towards the river bank carrying the boar. On reaching the bank of river Ponmugali, they lighted a fire and made preparation to roast the boar.
Thinnanar was attracted by the beauty of the river Ponmugali which bubbled past. On the bank of the river, farther away was a pretty hillock covered with green trees. Thinnanar expressed his desire to go and the hillock.
“You have well-said chief… That hill is known as ‘Thirikkaalaththy where Lord Shiva, resides in the form of Shivalinga. Let’s us worship him who is known here as ‘Kudumithevar’” answered Naanan.
On hearing this, Thinnanar’s heart was filled with a sort of strange, unexplainable eagerness and radiance. He was impatient to go and see Kudumithevar immediately.
He Ordered Kaadan to roast and season the boar and addressed Nannan and said,” Nanna, take me to the place where Kudumithevar is”. With Nannan leading the way, Thinnanar followed, climbing the hill rapidly.
While Thinnanar climbed up and up over the hill, his heart was filled with love for the Lord. With all his links to the world being severed one by one, he seemed an embodiment of love. With Naanan preceding and his love for God, leading him, Thinnanar climbed the hill rapidly.
On reaching the hill summit, he saw Kudumithevar, that is, Lord Shiva in the form of Shivalinga. The beautiful sight made him forget everything else. He forgets himself, the friend stands in beside him and the world around him. He became unaware of everything around him.
Overjoyed on seeing the Lord, he embraced the Shivalinga and danced and sang with happiness.
Suddenly a thought stopped him and made him worry. The Lord resides alone here in this dense jungle, where wild animals like elephants, leopards, tigers, wolves, and foxes too, live.
Many dangers await him in this wild forest. He worries further that the Lord does not seem to have eaten anything. May the Lord be hungry,…He wondered.
“Naana?.. Come, we shall bring some meat for Kudumithevar”, said Thinnanar and started down the hill. He came down to the foot very reluctantly, unwilling to distance himself from the Lord.
Kaadan had chopped the boar into small pieces, seasoned them, cooked them, and had them all ready to eat.
Not wasting even a minute, Thinnanar picked up the meat pieces with the sharp point of his arrow and cooked them over the fire again.
Then he bit on the pieces of meat, tasted them, and selected the tastiest and tenderest of them. He then gathered them on a large teak leaf.
He plucked some wildflowers and inserted them in his hair. He waded into the river ponmugali and filled his mouth with clean water. With the bow in one hand and the meat wrapped up by leaf in the other hand, he climbed up the hill swiftly.
Both Naanan and Kaadan, who were watching these strange acts of their chief, became very worried. Thinking that their chief had gone insane, they left for their village to inform Thinnanar’s father.
Thinnanar who climbed the hill and reached Kudumithevar’s place was worried that the Lord might be very hungry. He used his footwear clad feet to remove the flowers which were on the Shivalinga and spat the water that he had brought in his mouth on top of Shivalinga. He took out the flowers that he had inserted in his hair earlier and adorned the Shivalinga.
Then, placing the meat that he had brought in front of the Lord and said,” Load, I brought this meat as I thought you might be hungry. Please, do eat it”.
At that moment… A wondrous incident happened. All the meat on the leaf vanished in a fraction of a second. Lord Shiva was moved by the affectionate gesture of his devotee, who was a personification of love.
Therefore, he accepted his devotee’s offering and consumed the meat with great happiness. Thinnanar was overjoyed on seeing this.
At the same time, the sunset over the horizon and dusk set in. Thinnanar thought that the kudumithevar would be in danger from wild animals during the night.
He decided to do something about this. So, he armed himself with the bow and arrow in one hand and the sword in the other hand, and kept guard the whole night, walking side to side and front to behind of Kudumithevr.
When the sun rose the next morning, Thinnanar went down the hill for hunting in order to bring food for Kudumithevar.
After his departure, an anthanar (Brahmin Priest) by the name Sivakosariyar came to the hill. He used to come there every morning and perform Shiva pooja to Kudumithevar according to Agama rules.
When he approached the Shivalinga to perform pooja, as usual, he saw leftovers of meat and bones scattered all over the place. The sight pained him. He thought that some senseless hunters must have done these wicked deeds in a holy place like this and prayed the god to forgive them and then he cleaned the area and did the shiva pooja as usual and then left for home.
Little later the Thinanar returned hurriedly. He removed the flowers and leaves placed by the anthanar, with his footwear. And as before, spat the water in his mouth over the linga, decorated him with flowers, and fed him with the meat. Then he kept guard over the Lord all through the night. He did not sleep even a wink.
Five days passed like this.
Sivakosariyar was very much devoted to Lord Shiva. That someone wicked should spoil his pooja and litter the sanctuary with meat and bones hurt him very much. He went to sleep, very disturbed.
Lord Shiva appeared in his dream and said, ”My devotee, you need not worry. The man who performs pooja for me with meat and the rest is not an ordinary hunter. He is very much devoted to me.
..His heart and soul are filled with love and devotion for me…
…The water he brings in his mouth and spits over me is more holy than the waters of the river Ganga. When his footwear clad feet touches me to clean me, I feel more joy than when my dear son Muruga kicked me with his tender legs. His loving words are more powerful than the Veda mantras….”…
“Tomorrow morning, after finishing your pooja, hide from his view. I will show you the strength and power of his love”.
Sivakosariyar woke up with amazement. He was eager to see the devotee of whom Lord Shiva spoke in his dream. Yet, he waited patiently for dawn, then got up and went to the hill.
He performed the Shivapooja as usual and took cover behind a tree, as the Lord had told him to. Lord Shiva wanted the whole world to know the unbound love that Thinnanar had for him.
On the sixth day, Thinnanar came up the hill rapidly, as usual, with meat, flowers, and water. His only thought was that the Lord would have to be fed immediately.
When Thinnanar approached the Shivalinga, he stood still in shock. The sight he saw made him tremble with grief. Blood was flowing from the right eye of the Shivalinga.”
When he saw this, Thinnanar cried aloud with concern, his heart beating faster. He went running towards Kudumithevar and not knowing what to do, he fainted. Then, consoling himself, he got up and went near the Shivalinga.
He was furious that some wicked people or animals should have hurt and wounded Kudumithevar. Drawing his sword, he ran in all directions, looking for the culprits. But there was no one around.
He embraced the Shivalinga affectionately and began to weep, “Lord, who did this wicked deed to you? What shall I do now?” he cried. Then he ran nearby and plucked medicinal leaves and applied them to the bleeding eye, but the bleeding did not stop.
Then he remembered a saying that was common among hunters,” skin can be replaced only by skin.” Wasting not even a second, he took out a sharp arrow. He plucked his right eye with the arrow and fixed it to the bleeding right eye of the Lord.
How amazing…The flow of blood stopped. Thinnanar was overjoyed.
He jumped about in happiness as the Lord’s affliction had been cured.
But, Thinnanar had another test waiting for him.
The Lord wanted to test him further. As a result, blood started flowing copiously from the left eye of the Shivalinga.
Thinnanar was shocked for a moment to see it. But, he did not worry and weep as before, because now he knew the cure for the malady.
He decided to pluck his eye and fix it on the Lord. But there was a small problem. He was left only with one eye and if he plucked it off, he would be sightless.
Then how would he fix the plucked eye in the right place of the Lord? Thinnanar thought for a second, and then he found a way.
He raised his left leg and placed his food close to the bleeding left eye of the Lord, for identification. Then, taking his sharp arrow out, he began to dig and pluck his left eye.
The anthanar Sivakosariyar’s heart began to tremble on seeing this blood-curdling scene. His hair stood on end. Uttering the Lord’s name, “Siva-sivaa….Siva-sivaa.. “He joined his hands in prayer.
Lord Shiva who is an embodiment of kindness was moved by Thinnanar’s act of pure love. The next instant… He extended his hand from within the Shivalinga. Lord Shiva’s handheld on to Thinnanar’s poised hand. “Stop, kannappa…stop… My ardent devotee… stop, kannappa..” said Lord Shiva in his thunderous voice.
Shivakosariyar’s body shivered on seeing this rare and wondrous sight. Coming out and uttering the Lord’s name “Ohm Nama Shivaya. Ohm Nama Shivaya”, he lifted his hands above his head and worshiped the Lord and his great devotee.
Devas showered flowers from the skies. The Shivaganas chanted, “Harahara…Sivasiva, Harahara Sivasiva”, in accompaniment. “Kannappa, I am moved by your devotion. Henceforth, you will remain on my right side as my personal guard forever”. said the Lord.
Shiva affectionately unified Thinnanar, with himself. From then on Thinnanar came to be known as “Kannappa Nayanar”.
Kannappa Nayanar had expressed his love for the Lord through very difficult feats. Feats were not easily possible for any of Lord Shiva’s devotees. And he had achieved this in mere six days and had attained the lotus feet of Lord Shiva.
Many poets have sung in praise of his rare feats. Ways and means that were considered unholy, dirty, and ugly by our Hinduism, were handled with love by Kannappa Nayanar and therefore he was able to receive God’s blessing.
Though he was a hunter by birth and illiterate, his heart and soul were filled with pure love for Lord Shiva. This was the reason why he was graced with God’s love so soon.
Note: The Place where Kannappa Nayanar worshiped Lord Shiva is presently known as “Sri Kalahasti”, a popular pilgrimage center. This place where thousands flock to worship Lord Shiva is close to Tirupathi, a famous pilgrimage center of Lord Vishnu.