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Kannappa Nāyanār

Thinnan, the 'steadfast one' had come into the world purely by the intercession of his parents' ardent prayers to Lord Subramanya. So when as a youngster out hunting, he and his companion came across the linga of the Lord, he was immediately transformed in the Lord's presence. Eager to learn how to worship the Lord, his hunter-friend explained what little he knew of Siva worship and Thinnan took it up immediately, offering the yield from his hunting expeditions as oblations. The priest Sivakosariār was less enthusiastic about the unknown devotee and when he came to do rites to Lord Neelakantha, he was aghast to find bone and meat scattered about the shrine. Who could have committed such desecration, he wondered? He shed copious tears and fell to the ground, his mind all awhirl. Then he brushed aside the 'unclean' things, bathed in the river, chanted the hallowed names of the Lord and did all the purificatory rites. Next he bathed the Lord with pure water and offered worship in the prescribed way. His mind now somewhat appeased, he took leave of the Lord.

Kannappa
Illustration courtesy of Ramalingar Pani Mandram.
Meanwhile Thinnan hunted boar and deer, conferring a blessing on them as they were to be offered to the Lord. He kindled a fire and roasted the flesh to the proper tenderness, savouring them on his tongue. Then he mixed the flesh with honey and hurried back to the Lord. He removed the priest's wreaths and began his tried way of adoration, offering meat and addressing the Lord: "This is much nicer than yesterday's. I can vouch for it, having tasted it myself".

For many days, the adoration of the hunter Thinnan and that of the priest alternated thus, much to the consternation of the latter. The priest cried to the Lord: 'How long are you going to tolerate this daily desecration? Be pleased to get rid of the offender!'

That night, the Lord came to the priest in a dream: "Do not think badly of my devotee. His form is all love for me; all his thoughts are about me alone; know his true state". The Lord continued: "The touch of his sandalled foot when it lovingly removes the flowers placed by you on my crown is sweeter to me than the touch of the tender foot of a little babe! Hide yourself behind me and keep watch tomorrow, and I will show you the measure of his devotion." The vision faded and the priest awoke in wonder; he could sleep no more.

Meanwhile, just before dawn, Thinnan left for his hunt as usual. The Lord now set out to disclose to the sage-priest Thinnan's true nature. Blood streamed from the Lord's right eye. What a shock it was to the hunter-devotee when he arrived and saw this. The strong bowman rushed towards his Lord in distress. He saw the blood dripping and his mind whirled in confusion. He tried to wipe the blood away from the Lord's eye but alas it continued to flow. Ah, the sinful wretch that I am! What mischief have I permitted to come to my dear one, the immaculate Lord? In great trepidation, he plucked some herbs, made a concoction and poured the juice on the Lord's eye, but to no effect. Suddenly it flashed in his mind: "It is said that flesh is the cure for diseased flesh. I will pluck out my own eye with my arrow and fasten it on the Lord's eye". With great joy, he did so, and lo, the blood ceased to flow! He rejoiced exceedingly, leaping high and dancing like a madman. But just as suddenly, his joy turned to sorrow, for now the Lord's other eye began to stream with blood. "And yet, why should I grieve? I know the well-tried remedy." Before plucking out his remaining eye, he placed his left foot on the Lord's eye, so he would be able to find his way, and set about to remove his eye with his arrow. But the Lord in his compassion, stretched out his arm and stayed Thinnan's hand: "Wait, wait, Kannappa!"

Meanwhile the priest hiding nearby beheld all this and realised the truth. The celestials rained flowers from on high and the Vedas echoed from above. Could there be anything more glorious? The Lord then blessed his devotee and said, 'Oh Thou blameless, steadfast one, come and abide with me for ever'.


Reproduced from the March 2012 issue of the Saranagati eNewsletter
published by Sri Ramanasramam. The above text has been freely adapted from editions
of Periapuranam, Siva Bhakta Vilāsam (published by Sri Ramanasramam) and other texts.