Continuation from Early life of Thinnanar
The culmination of austerities from his previous births came to fruition and Thinnan’s interest in Shiva increased. Interest turned to affection with each step he took towards the hill abode. Now pure love and Nanan lead him over the hill. Even before he saw that Lord who steals hearts, the Lord stole Thinnan’s cause of birth, his relation to his profession and verily his birth thus breaking all his bonds.
Now he saw Him! He drank through his eyes that wonderful sight of Kudumithevar. His heart was brimming with love. He lost control over himself. He ran to the Lord, overflowing with love, he hugged and kissed Him. Ecstasy was oozing out of every pore in Thinnan’s body. Then anxiousness overcame him “Oh my Lord! Alas! In this dense forest full of wild animals, there is nobody to guard you! You stand all alone! This cannot be!” Thus spoke Thinnan who did not even realise his bow slipping away. He asked Nanan ``Who could have come and offered these green leaves and flowers to the Lord?” Nanan replied “Once when I came with your father for hunting, we saw a priest bathe the Lord and adorn him with flowers. Perhaps he would have done the same today.” Thinnan understood the kind of worship that was being performed thus far for the God of Srikalahasti. He was worried “Oh! My Lord is alone! There is nobody to even feed him meat! How can I leave Him here alone? I must get him some good animal flesh to eat!”
Thinnan would turn around to get some meat, but would rush back to see his Lord. He would repeat this just like a cow that does not want to let its calf out of its sight. One moment he would say “My Lord! I will get you the best meat to eat.” But the very next moment he would worry “How can I leave you alone here? But I am unable to stay here too for, you are hungry.” Finally, He consoled himself and went with determination to bring the things required for the Lord who needed nothing. With desire for other things burnt and only the love for the Lord who burnt Desire Himself remaining, he went to the garden on the banks of the river Swarnamukhi. Kadan came there to inform them that the boar they had hunted had been prepared well and was ready to be eaten. Nanan informed Kadan about the state Thinnan had slipped into after seeing the Lord – he was no longer the leader of the hunters, but rather a slave of Lord Kudumithevar. Kadan was shocked. Thinnan then went on to select the best portions of the boar’s body on an arrow, tasted each piece in order to select the best ones and collected them in a leaf bowl.
His companions decided that Thinnan had gone crazy and said to themselves “He tasted the best portions of the meat but did not eat them, instead he collected them in a bowl. He must be hungry for sure. Neither does he eat the food prepared not does he let us eat. Let us bring Nagan (his father) and others to find out what is wrong with him.” Thinnan was least bothered about what was happening around him. He took the flesh pieces in his hand, water from the river in his mouth to anoint the Lord and took beautiful flowers to offer, by inserting them into in his own hair. He rushed to the top of the hill worried that the Lord would be very hungry. He removed the old flowers from the head of Lord Kudumithevar with his foot. Then he bathed Him with the holy water from his mouth. He adorned the Lord with the flowers he had brought in his hair. He bowed to the Lord and offered the carefully selected food he had brought along. Yet he was not satisfied. He wanted to offer the Lord a lot more to eat. The Sun who witnessed one of the greatest outpouring of devotion went down with folded hands. The fearless Thinnan now feared that some wild animal may come and hurt the Lord Srikalahasti. So, he stood vigilant all night beside Him with his bow and arrow. Thinnan would forever be remembered as one who stood guard over the Lord who guards this whole creation eternally. When the sun rose early next morning, he prostrated and went out to hunt for the Lord.
As Thinnan left for hunting, the regular devotee Shivagocharya, who worshipped the Lord on that hill in the way enjoined by the holy scriptures, came for his daily worship. He was shocked at the sight of strewn bones and flesh in front of the Lord. He cried in horror “This must be the work of those dreadful hunters!” He cleaned the altar carefully. Then he bathed in the river and returned. As items prohibited in the scriptures had been used at the altar, he had to consecrate the place and resumed his daily worship of anointing the deity, offering flowers, lighting lamps, and chanting his name. He prostrated many times in front of the peerless Lord and returned to his hermitage.
Our hunter hunted for deer, wild pigs and other animals till the sun was up in the sky. He then gathered wood from the forest and lit a fire to cook the meat. He tasted every piece that he had carefully selected to ensure that the Lord was offered only the best. He poured honey over the food he selected to enhance its taste. Just like the previous day, he took all the materials for worshiping the Lord. He took them along with the greatest offering to the Great God who never incarnates - love for Lord. Again, just like the previous day, he cleared the flowers that were offered by the sage. He fed the Lord the tastiest deer meat. Like clarified butter offered to the tongues of fire in sacrificial rites is enjoyed by the Gods, so to the food tasted by Thinnan was enjoyed by his Lord. At night, he did not sleep so that he could stand guard over his beloved God. This continued for a few days. Thinnan would go hunting during the day and the sage would come consecrate the place and perform his worship. Meanwhile Nanan and Kadan brought Thinnan’s father and others to persuade him to return. But they could not convince him. No force in this world could take him away from the luminous feet of the Greatest God. He was brave to choose divine bliss over intermittent happiness of this world.
While our Nayanar worshipped the Lord of Gods in the way he knew, Shivagocharya found it to be a problem and was desperate for a solution. He prayed to the Lord to reveal the person who was desecrating the place daily. To illustrate the true love of the Nayanar, the Nameless Lord who is praised with thousand sacred names, appeared in the dream of the sage, and said “Do not think of him as a miscreant. His form is full of love for Me, his mind thinks only of Me and his deeds are delightful to Me. The water he spits on Me is holier than the waters of the Ganga, and the flowers he takes out from his head and offers are more sacred than those offered by the Gods. All his deeds are out of pure love. You can see this highest form of devotion tomorrow if you hide yourself in the temple.” With feelings of fear and wonder mixed, the sage could not sleep for the rest of the night. He left his hermitage the next day as soon as the sun rose. He bathed in the Swarnamukhi and worshiped Lord Srikalahastishwar as he did daily. But, today he did not return home, instead, as per the Lord’s instructions he hid inside the temple waiting for the “miscreant”.
The sequence of events of worshipping the Lord with meat had happened over six days. On the seventh day, as usual the Nayanar gathered his usual items of worship. Today Thinnan was clearly in a rush and had a strange feeling of being late. He saw some bad omens on the way and ran faster fearing some calamity had struck his Lord. To show Shivagocharya the affection of the Nayanar, the Lord made His right eye bleed. When Thinnan came, the bow and food fell from his hands, he was gripped with panic and gloom. He was petrified to see the Lord’s eye bleeding. He ran to Him and tried to wipe the blood, but the bleeding would not stop. He took his bow and tried searching for the perpetrator, but there was no trace of humans or animals. His eyes were overflowing with tears now and he was wailing. He set about searching for herbs in the forest to treat the Lord’s eye. But as expected there was no effect. If it was a real wound, it would have shown signs of healing by now, but the Greatest Concealer of all was concealing something small in order to reveal a greater thing.
While he was thinking about how he could help the Lord’s bleeding eye, Thinnan remembered an old saying “eye for an eye” (Oonukku Oon idavendum). He immediately took his sharp arrow and plucked his eye and put it in place of the bleeding eye of the Lord. He was ecstatic and was beside himself with joy for, his deed had stopped the blood. Was he setting the standards for devotion? While the Gods and even the Rishis come to Him to ask for boons, here was this human who just gave his eye to the Lord and was dancing in joy. He was merely from a hunting tribe, yet his deed was more sacred than that of heavenly beings. The Beautiful Lord wanted to show the world the ultimate devotion. As the bleeding stopped in His right eye, His left eye started bleeding. The Nayanar was momentarily shocked. But now he knew the remedy and said to himself “I know the medicine for this. I have another eye. That should cure this!” But when he was about to pluck his eye out, he realised the difficulty of rightly placing it on the form of the Lord once he lost sight completely after gorging the remaining eye. So, he lifted his leg and placed his foot to mark the eye on the Lord’s form. He raised his arrow to take his other eye out. Words cannot describe this act, yet if we said “He was verily Bhakti'' would it be sufficient praise? The Lord Himself was not able to bear this great deed. He appeared on that very spot, holding the Nayanar’s hand to stop him from plucking his eye. He cried out loud “Oh Halt Kannappa ! Halt Kannappa!! Halt Kannappa!!!” The sage of great wisdom who was hiding in the temple, witnessed the great love of the devotee and grace he received for that. The Lord accepted meat as an offering only because of the devotion which was on the plane of sacrificial love. “Oh! Peerless! Stay to my right always” thus blessed the Greatest God. Was there anything greater to beget than the blessing of the Omniscient? Let the devotion that took the form of Kannappa Nayanar stay in our minds.
Guru Pooja : Thai / Mirugasirisham or Makara/Mrigasirsha
Har Har Mahadev