Kannappa Nayanar is a staunch Shiva devotee. His life story in Periya Puranam explains how and adversent hunter changed his life in the devotional feeling of Lord Shiva. Kannappa Nayanar was born in the village called Uduppur, the kingdom of Pothappinadu. Nayanar actually known as Thinnanar was born the hunter king named Nagan. Nagan had no children for a long period of time. He had been an atheist and later he came to know that by praying god he will get a child. He prayed Lord Muruga and he got his son Thinnanar. As Nagan became old, he handed over his leadership position to his son. Thinnanar with his correlates went for their first hunt. On the way they got stuck with a pig which escaped from their hands. Thinnanar with his two of his men Nanan and Kadan went behind the pig.
It went behind a tree near Lord Shiva in the Kalahasti hill. They killed it and Thinnanar wanted Nagan to cook the pig as they came too far from their men. Nanan told there was a river ponmukali on the other side of the forest. So Nanan and Thinnanar started to fetch water. On the way they saw the hill of Lord Shiva and Nanan wanted to pray. On climbing the hill Thinnanar's heart filled with love and affection for the Lord. He felt very sorry to see his Lord alone in the wild hill. He wanted to do puja, wanted to feed him with flesh and wanted to water to shower. So he went back to Kadan and brought the good portion of the cooked pig's flesh after tasting them, took water in his mouth and flowers in his hair. He offered this to his Lord. And he accompanied Lord in the night so that his Lord can sleep without the fear of wild animals. Again in the morning he used to go in search of food for his Lord. Seeing his drastic change his friends planned to inform this to his father Nagan. Every day morning Shivakochariyar another Shiva devotee used to visit this hill for the healing herb. When he saw the unholy materials in front of the Lord he felt very bad and he cleaned them, did the puja as usual and went. By evening Thinnanar did he style of worship.
This continued for many days. One day Shivakochariyar wanted to check this and so he waited in the hill itself. Seeing Thinnanar's dedicated prayer Shivakochariyar prayed God to find a solution. Lord appeared in his dreams and said his devotional offerings are much beyond the reach of other devas. In order to prove this, Lord made one of his eyes to bleed, Thinnanar felt unusual that day and he went to the Lord. Seeing the bleeding he tried to heal it but of no use so he plucked one of his eyes with a sharp arrow and placed it. The bleeding stopped and the next eye started bleeding. He started to pluck his second eye also, but after plucking as he could not keep his eye in postion he kept his leg on the eye. Seeing his devotion, Lord appeared and offered him blessings.
The great scholars including thirunyAna champan^dhar, thirun^Avukkarachar, sun^dharar, mANikka vAchakar, Adi shankarar, n^akkIrar and a list which is too long to put, praise one hunter who never learnt any holy scriptures and whose discipline was just to kill - hunt, who became an excellent example of devotion. Simple but unparallaled was his love. It may be difficult even for great scholars to put in words that love which even when one tries to visualise takes them to the peaks of the mountains of devotion. But still one loves to tell his story, hence is this effort.
The land green with the forests and hills having the best that mother nature offers was the kingdom called pothappi n^Adu . In that kingdom was the village called uduppUr , surrounded by beautiful rainfalls. The rocks of that hilltown were smelling with the rotton smell from the bodies of the dead animals put for drying along with the anchored nets used for hunting. Along with the noise of "Kill it ! stone it! stab them !" that the hunting folks generate, one can hear the pleasant sound of dancing deers and jumping waterfalls. Along with the cow-herds that those hunters robbed from others one can see the herds of elephant that challange the roaring of the thunder. For those hunters who never gave place for fear or mercy in their hearts, a courageous supremo by name n^Agan was there. His discipline was crime ; hobby was to kill ; profession to hunt ; valorous in the archery ; well suited for the job he got from his ancestors, but should have done some excellant penance in his previous births for getting assocoiated with a man of marvellous love . His wife, who too came in the family of powerful archers, always seen with the nails of tigers and skin of snakes as ornaments, was called thaththai .
They didn't have a child for a long time. Everybody else washed off their hands saying there is no chance of getting an offspring for them. When everything else fails man thinks of God. His existance is reminded to him then only. Even an athist may believe in God when there is no other go. Out of the desire for a kid n^Agan prayed the son of the God who dances in the cemetries - Lord muruga , the form of His grace. Out of the grace of that six faced Lord muruga, thaththai conceived the kid who is always referred with great respect by the devotees. When the child was born, with the tears of joy flooding away the rain that poured, n^Agan took his son like a huge mountain holding up a dark cloud. He celebrated the occasion with thanks giving sacrifices of animals to Lord muruga, and the entire town was full of joy. That marvelous kid was so powerful that even his father felt him heavy to hold up. So he named the kid thiNNan ( meaning "strong"), amid the roar of the hunting folks.
He grew with the array of ornaments made out of animal bodies decorating his young and strong chest and waist, playing by catching the wildpigs, snakes and wilddogs, with the parents immersed in the sweet of his evolving speech. When he grew up to the age of learning archery, his father found an auspicious day for his first course in archery and made a big announcement through his hunters in all the directions. The hunters from many areas came along with the gems, leather, ivory, honey, favorite flesh varities, fruits and roots to offer to their young boss. With the festivities and sacrifices going on thiNNanAr took the bow that brought the meat food for the Almighty who feeds this entire universe. n^Agan arranged for a heavy feast of, of course, meat. On the seventh day of the festival when the Sun was shining in the middle of the sky, the lion of that forest was given the bow and arrow. He learnt that art, which was his profession too, beyond doubts and inefficiency. Like the cresent that grows he reached his sixteenth age.
By then n^Agan grew old and found it difficult to take up the tremendous task of leading the hunting. With the herds of elephants, deers and tigers increasing the hunters came to their king and told him that they were delaying the hunting that was due for the month. He told them that as he has become old he will send his son with them. They had the feeling of happiness mixed with sorrow and told him that they were missing a nice leader like him but were happy to be working under a mighty young man - his son. n^Agan called the lady who tells the astrolgical important information (called dhEvarAtti ) to propitiate the forest deities as thiNNanAr was to go for his first hunt. Then he went to thiNNanAr to tell him that as he became too old to go for hunting he should take over that position to lead the hunters providing them with prosperity.
He started with the fellow hunters in the morning when even Sun hadn't come up to see the day, with the bow and arrows and valour like that of arjuna . With the sound of the chord in his bow tremouring the animals in all the directions they penetrated into the deep forest with different dreadful arms. With the spies saying the clue on the haunts of the wild animals the hunters rounded up that area to block their escape, and thiNNanAr along with some of his valourous men went deep into the forest. The hunters made heaps of wild animals killed. There came a wild pig, which broke the nets and pits of the hunters with the vengence and leaped away like an arrow escaping the piercing arrows of the hunters. Only threee people were able to chase it to the end, they were thiNNanAr and n^ANan and kAdan , who followed him like his shadow. That pig still escaped their missiles and went far far away from their hunting place to the bottom of the hill of the God, who was dipped there in the worship of three creatures - a spider, a snake and an elephant - that was the sri kALahasti hill. The pig stopped under a tree. The king of the forest thiNNanAr leaped forward, killed it with the dagger he had. They three realised that they had come too far away from their men. thiNNanAr asked kAdan to cook that pig to subdue their hunger while n^ANan told there is a river called ponmukali on the other side of the forest and hill. n^ANan and thiNNanAr set out to bring water. As they crossed through the forest thiNNanAr saw the hill of the Lord on the Bull. Kindled by an unexplainable emotion he went towards the hill. n^ANan told thiNNanAr that on the top of the hill will be the abode of kudumiththEvar (Lord shiva), they can go an' pray there. thiNNanAr put his first step towards the Lord who gives Himself for love.
The culmination of the austerities he did in the previous births came to thiNNanAr as surplus of interest on shiva. He proceded with the exponential growth in the affection towards the Lord, unaffected ever. His pure love and n^ANan lead him over the hill. Even before he could see the Stealer of heart, He stole away his source of birth, the relation to his profession and birth.
He saw Him; He drank through his eyes that wonderful sight; It flowed over his heart; He lost all the controls over him; He fled to the Lord over that flow of love, embraced Him, kissed Him. The happiness manifested through every pinch of his body. It fell as falls from his eyes. Felt very anxious, "Oh my Lord ! In this dense forest with a whole of wild animals moving around there is nobody to guard you here !! Oh ! You are alone ! bad ! bad!!". Not able even to realise his bow falling down that man of unmeasurable love asked n^ANan, "Who would have done this offering to the Lord with the green leaves and flowers ?". n^ANan said, "Once when I came with your father for hunting, we saw a priest bathing Him and ornating with flowers. I think he should have done that today too ". thiNNanAr understood the worship that that God of kALahasti likes, to be this. He worried, "Oh ! my Lord is alone ! There is nobody to feed him with meat and flesh ! How can I leave Him alone ? What can I do ? I must get him good flesh to eat !!".
He will start to get some meat, but will rush back to Him. Again will go, but run back to Him again. Like the cow that doesn't leave the calf away, he stood in front of Him unable to take his sight away. He would say, "My Lord ! I will get you the best meat to eat", but immediately will worry, "How can I go when you are alone here ? But I am not able to stand here too when you are hungry." Finally consoled himself and went with determination to bring the required things for the Lord who requires actually nothing. With all the lust for other things burnt and only the love for the Lord who burnt the lust remaining, he went into the blooming garden on the bank of the river ponmukali. kAdan came to them then to tell that the pig is roasted and ready, they all can have their food. n^ANan conveyed him that thiNNanAr after seeing the Lord was no longer feeling as the leader of the hunters but rather feels as the slave of that Lord. kAdan was shocked to hear this. thiNNanAr without bothering about anything else, took the best portions of the pig's body in an arrow, cooked it well, tasted them by having them in his mouth to pick out the best ones and collected such tasted flesh in a bowl of leaf.
His companions decided, "He has gone crazy ! After tasting the best flesh portions he took it out ! He is heavily hungry for sure, but doesn't speak even. He doesn't give them to us also ! We will bring n^Agan (his father), and others to find out what to do" and left the place. Unperturbed, he took the flesh in his hands, water from the river in his mouth to anoint the Lord, beautiful wild flowers inserted in his hair to offer to the Lord. He rushed to the top thinking that the Lord will be too hungry by then. On the head of that Lord who appeared on His own, he removed the flowers with his footwear, bathed Him with the holy water he had in his mouth ! He ornated the Lord with the flowers he had in his head, saluted Him, and offered the taste tested food he had brought for the God. He was not satisfied. He wanted to bring a lot more for the Lord to eat. Worshipping this great unimaginable devotion with folded hands Sun went down that day. That fearless man feared that some animals may come and hurt kALahsti Lord in the night. So he stood alert right next to Him with his bow and arrow. Let his name be remembered always who stood as the guard to the God who guards the whole universe all the times. He left from there prostrating the Lord the next morning when the Sun was just to rise to hunt the food for Him .
As he left for hunting, there came the sage by name shivakOchariyAr , who worship that Healing Herb on the hill in the way that is said in holy scriptures. He was shocked at the sight of strewn bones and flesh in front of the Lord. He screamed, "it should be the act of those dreadful hunters", he concluded. He cleaned the altar carefully, took bath in the river and came back fast. As the unholy materials entered there he consecrated His abode continued his pUja performing the anointing, flower worship, light worship and chanting of His fame. After prostrating many times that peerless param he returned back to his hermit.
Our adorable hunter till the Sun comes up in the sky kept hunting for deers, wild pigs and other animals. After that he cooked the hunted flesh in the fire he created with the wood from the forest. To provide the maximum tasty food to the Lord he tasted the cooked meat to select the exotic pieces. Like the ghee that is given to the tongues of flame in the sacrificial rites that reaches the dEvAs, the food he tasted was enjoyed much by the Lord. The hunter poured honey to the food he selected, to make it more tasty. He took the materials for worship like the previous day, went with the wealth of great love, worshipped the Wonder who never incarnates, as he did the previous day removing the flowers offered in the sage's worship, fed the Lord with the deer flesh. He forgot sleeping in the night, guarding Him was his prime concern ! Goes for hunting during the day time to feed Him !! When he goes for hunting the sage comes for worship, who is wounded by the presence of unholy things in the altar, removes them, consecrates and performs the prayer. This continued for many days. Meanwhile n^ANan and kAdan brought his father and others, but none of their efforts were fruitful to get back thiNNanAr. When one is in deep love for the luminous feet of the Lustless God, what force in the world can seperate them ? Isn't it brave to go for bliss instead of spiky happiness and miseries ?
While our n^AyanAr worshiped the Lord of gods in the way he knew, the sage shivakOchariyAr was so desperate to find a solution to this probelm. He prayed to the Lord to show and remove the person who had been doing the misdeed. To explain the true love of n^AyanAr, the Nameless praised by thousands of sacrad names appeared in the dream of the sage and told him, "Don't think that he is a miscreant. His form is full of my love, his mind minds me only and his deeds are the delightful for me. The water he spits on me is more sacrad than ga.nga , the flowers he offers taking from his head are holier than that are offered by dEvAs. It is all because of His love. You can see the excellence of his devotion tomorrow, if you hide and see". With the feelings of fear mixed wonder the sage was awake for the rest of the night, as the Sun rose in the east he bathed in ponmukali worshipped the Lord kAlahasti Ishwarar , and hid behind.
On that seventh day morning of his worship of the Lord, as usual thiNNanAr brought the unusual materials of worship with unprecedented love. The n^AyanAr who was rushing feeling that he had been already late, saw some bad signs on the way. He ran even faster fearing what happened to his fruit like God. To show shivakOchariyAr the affection of n^AyanAr, the Lord was having one eye bleeding out of His three. With the bow and food falling apart, stricken in gloom, petrified in the shock thiNNanAr saw that bleeding. Tensed he ran to Him, tried to stop the bleeding, but it didn't. He fiercefully started to find out which miscreant did this sin. He couldn't trace anybody or any animals throughout that area. He came with a broken heart, cried holding His feet. He set out to search and bring the herbs to heal the wound of that Healer. He went as a wind to wrap the entire forest and squeezed the saps of the medicines. No effect ! If it was a real wound it should have got cured, but the Consealer conscieved something to be shown !
When he was worrying about his inability to find any solution, he remembered an old saying "flesh for flesh". He immediately pluck one of his eye with the sharp arrow to paste it on His. He jumped from the ground to the sky, appreciated himself for the brave deed when it stopped the bleeding from His eyes. Is he trying to define an upper limit for devotion ? While the rich and the R^ishis come to Him asking for something, how is this person able to pluck his eye in a moment and give it to the Lord and dance ? He might have come in the tradition of killing animals, but by his deeds he is far far above the sacrad people in the heaven. But the Lovely Lord desired to show the limitlessness of devotion. As the bleeding stopped in His right eye, it started from His left. After being in the shock for a moment n^AyanAr told to himself, "Now I know the medicine. I have one more eye. That should cure this" (!!). But when he was about to pluck the eyes he realised the difficulty of placing the eye in position once he took off the other eye too. So he held his hard but hailable foot on His eye as a mark, and raised the arrow to take his other eye off. No w
ords are sufficient to explain this. If it is said "He is sysnonymous with bhakti ", who knows whether that is sufficient ? The Lord Himself was not able to bear this great action, not just appeared, but came holding his hands to stop from plucking the other eye, shouting, "Oh halt kaNNappa!, Halt kaNNappa!!, halt kaNNappa!!!". The sage of great wisdom saw the great love of the devotee and the grace he got for that. The Lord accepted the flesh as a fruit only due to the presence of such a sacrificial love. Can there be anything more covettable, after the Omniscient blessing him immediately, "Oh ! Uncomparable ! Stay to my right.". Let the devotion that is kaNNappa n^AyanAr stay in the mind.