Vijay ji’s post on Alvars reminded me of Nayanars. On his request, I am sharing the story of Kannappa Nayanar, his devotion will give you goosebumps.
Nayanars : The Nayanars were ardent South-Indian devotees of Lord Shiva. They are said to be 63 in number. They didn’t know any rules, rituals or ethics. They only knew pure devotion. One such was Kannappa Nayanar. It’s said that he was an incarnation of Arjuna as he fought with Shiva as hunter. His story is as follows :
Tinnanar, known as Kannappar, was born of Nagan, the king of the Vyadhas (hunters), in Uduppur, in South India. King Nagan was a great Bhakta of Lord Subrahmanya. From his boyhood, Tinnanar was well trained in the skill of a hunter and archery and in his prime age, he had to assume the reins of government which his old father bestowed on him. One day, Tinnanar went out for a hunt with some of his followers. Kannappa chased and killed a boar. While his friends roasted it, he went to visit the temple at the top of the hill. When he reached the temple and saw the linga, a remarkable change came over him. He ran toward the linga in ecstasy and began to hug and kiss it, for therein he saw his beloved Lord. He began to cry, weep and shed tears of joy and love towards the Lord
He felt very much for the loneliness of the Lord on the hills without being protected against the animals and others that might do harm to Him, and he decided to keep watch over the temple throughout the night against any danger from animals or evil- doers. On seeing that the Lord was hungry, he at once ran out to prepare meals for the Lord out of the meat he had got by killing the boar. He carefully took the flesh, tasted it and thus selected the pieces which were palatable and roasted them. The remaining portion he threw away as bad. Then he proceeded towards the river to fetch water for the Abhisheka and. he got the water in his mouth. On the way, he plucked some flowers and kept them in the locks of his hair. With these preparations he entered the temple, removed the old flowers that were lying on the Lord by shoe, did Abhisheka with the water in his mouth and decorated Him with the flowers he had on his locks of hair. Then he offered the Prasad of meat to the Lord. Finishing all these, with bow and arrow in his hand he kept a keen watch over the temple by standing in front of the temple throughout the night.
The next day while Kannappa was hunting, a Brahmin priest who came for daily worship of the deity arrived and was horrified to see the desecration of the temple. He noticed the imprint of sandals and the pug marks of dogs inside the temple and the strange flowers on the idol, and the stench of meat everywhere. He performed all the necessary purificatory rites. After finishing the ritual he returned home. Kannappa came back soon after and disturbed everything that the priest had done and performed the rites in his own unorthodox fashion.
This went on for five days, much to the chagrin of the priest. On the fifth night the Lord appeared in a dream to the priest and told him to hide himself if he wanted to see something special. The priest hid himself behind the linga. On the sixth day when Kannappa returned with his hoard of fresh meat he saw a dreadful sight. A stream of blood was gushing out of the right eye of the Lord in the linga. Kannappa ran forward and tried to stem the flow, but it continued unabated. He found some herbs and applied them to the bleeding eye but without any effect.
At last he had a brilliant idea. He plucked out his own right eye with the tip of his arrow and placed it lovingly over the bleeding eye and stanched the wound, but immediately the other eye also began to bleed. This time Kannappa knew exactly what to do, but the problem would be finding the exact spot of the eye on the idol, without his second eye. Then he thought of a splendid idea. He placed his left foot on the bleeding eye to mark the place and put his arrow to his remaining eye.
The Lord could bear this no longer. He jumped out of the linga and caught Kannappa’s hand and said, “Stop, Kannappa!”
Three times he cried thus, and Kannappa was thrice blessed. From that day onward he was known as Kannappa. His sacrifice was equivalent to the one made by Vishnu, the lotus-eyed one who had given his own eye to the three-eyed Lord. Unparalleled was Kannappa’s love, and to this day, poets sing his glory.
The above story of Kannappar is illustrative of the highest degree of devotion and faith that was evinced by the Bhakta towards Lord Siva, even though he was a hunter by caste and never cared for the rituals and austerities by which the Lord should be worshipped. It was only mere love and intense devotion to the Lord that bestowed on him the greatest boon from the Lord, i.e., Self-realisation. It is only a matter of six days that he performed the Puja ceremonies to the Lord in his own way, but the amount of devotion and love he had to the Lord, was boundless.
All Glories to The Three Eyed Lord, Tryambak!
P.s.- The Sources of above story are “LORD SIVA AND HIS WORSHIP By SRI SWAMI SIVANANDA” and “SHIVA – STORIES AND TEACHINGS FROM SHIVA MAHAPURAN By MA VANAMALI”.