KANNAPPA NAYANAR


Nagan was the king of hunters at Uduppur in Pottapi Nadu. His wife was Tattai. They were
great devotees of Lord Subramanya. By His grace, they had a child, after a long time. It was very
heavy: so, they named him Tinnanar.
Tinnanar was Arjuna in the previous birth, according to Tiru Kalahasthi Puranam.When he
went to worship Siva, to get Pasupatha Astra, and when the Lord came to him as a hunter, Arjuna
did not recognise Him. So, he had to be born as a hunter again and adore the Lord, before attaining
Final Liberation.
Tinnanar was educated according to the huntersÂ’ customs. He became a good archer. Even
when he was young, his father retired, and crowned him king. Though he was a hunter and carried
on hunting as his Dharma, Tinnanar was full of love and would not kill young ones, females,
diseased animals, etc. Spiritually, he had already killed the animals within himself, viz., lust, anger,
greed, vanity, etc.
One day, Tinnanar went out hunting. A pig escaped from its net and was running away.
Tinnanar pursued it accompanied by two others, Nanan and Kadan. The pig was tired and stood
near a tree. It was quickly killed by Tinnanar. They were tired, too, and thirsty. They proceeded
towards the Ponmukali. Tinnanar wanted to climb the nearby mountain. Nanan, too, volunteered to
follow him, saying that on that, the Kalahasthi hill, there was Lord Kudumithevar (God with a
Tuft). Kadan was busy cooking the pork.
Even when he began to climb the hill, there was a definite change coming over Tinnanar,
owing to past Samskaras. He felt that a great burden was being lifted off his shoulders. He was
losing body-consciousness. As he saw the Lord there, he felt supreme love surging in his heart. He
embraced the Lingam and kissed It. He began to shed tears of joy. He felt that the Lord was lonely
there, and that he should thenceforth remain with Him. Again, he thought that the Lord might be
hungry. Though he was reluctant to leave the Lord alone, he quickly came down the hill to fetch
some food for the Lord. He took the best pieces of the pork, tasted them and ear-marked the very
best for Him. In the mean time, he gathered from Nanan that the Lord was worshipped daily with
water, flowers, etc, before the food was offered to Him. So, he began to collect the other articles of
worship. He filled his own mouth with water from the river. Flowers, he gathered and wore them on
his head! He took the pork, bow and arrow and went up the hill again, alone this time.
At the temple, Tinnanar poured from his mouth, the water that he had brought for His
worship. That was his ‘Abhishekam’. Then he decorated the Lingam with the flowers he had
brought on his own head. This was his ‘Archana’. He then placed the pork before the Lord. He went
out and stood guard for Him, at the entrance, lest some wild animals should hurt Him. In the
morning again he went out to hunt and bring fresh food for the Lord.
In the mean time, Nanan and Kadan worried about the change that had come over Tinnanar
(which they thought to be madness). They went and reported the matter to TinnanarÂ’s parents. They
came and tried, in vain, to take him back. They, too, went away.
When Tinnanar left the temple in the morning to get food for the Lord, Sivagochariar, the
temple priest, came there for the usual orthodox worship. He was horrified at the desecration that
some unknown person had done in the temple. He was well versed in the Agamas (rituals of
Siva-worship). He performed the necessary purificatory rites and took bath again and began his
formal worship. He brought water in a holy pot, with a bandage around his own mouth, lest the
breath of his mouth should pollute it. He brought fresh flowers in a holy basket. He brought fruits
and sweets, newly made and unpolluted by anyone tasting it, before the Lord for being offered to
Him. He went home after the worship.
Tinnanar returned with fresh meat. He removed the priestÂ’s decorations, and did the
worship in his own way, and then as usual, stood guard at the entrance.
This went on for five days. The priest was greatly upset about the desecration of the holy
place. He appealed to the Lord to stop it. Lord Siva wanted to show to Sivagochariar the nature of
TinnanarÂ’s supreme devotion. He commanded him in a dream, to hide himself behind the Lingam,
when Tinnanar went to the temple the next day, and watch what took place.
On the sixth day, Tinnanar went out as usual for getting the LordÂ’s food. While returning, he
saw many ill omens, which made him feel that something had happened to the Lord: he was so
unconscious of himself, that he did not think that something could happen to him. He ran towards
the Lord. He was grieved to see blood issuing from the LordÂ’s right eye. The articles he had brought
for the worship dropped from his hand. He wept bitterly. He could not find who had done this to the
Lord. He treated the eye with herbs he knew of. Still the bleeding did not stop. A simple idea
occurred to him: ‘flesh for flesh’. At once, with his own arrow, he took out his own right eye, and
fixed it over the right eye of the Lord. The bleeding stopped. He was very happy. When he was
dancing in ecstasy, he noticed that the LordÂ’s left eye had begun to bleed. But, he had already found
out the remedy. There was only one problem: how to locate the eye of the Lord, when his own eye
had been pulled out. So, Tinnanar planted his foot at the place where the LordÂ’s left eye was on the
Lingam, and began to pull his left eye out, with his arrow.
At once, Lord Siva caught hold of his hand and said: ‘My dear child, Kannappa! Stop
plucking your eye.Â’ The Lord repeated the word Kannappa thrice. Kannappar was thrice blessed.
Tinnanar became Kannappar, because he gave his own eye to the Lord. Lord Siva took him with
both Hands, and kept him on His right side. Kannappar regained his vision and lived as god himself.
Sivagochariar understood the true nature of devotion.
This story has an esoteric meaning, too. Nayanar had conquered all other evils: but, Anava
Malam or egoism had to be killed, too. The wild pig represents this. Supreme Bhakti dawned, the
moment this was killed. In its chase, the seeker is accompanied by good and evil (the two hunters
Nanan and Kadan). Nanan (good) described the glory of the Lord to him: Nanan represents good
Samskaras. Kadan (the evil) had to be left behind. The aspirant with good Samskaras, goes to His
Presence. But, when he has to attain God-realisation, even this has to be renounced. Hence,
Nayanar, when he went to worship Him, went alone. NayanarÂ’s parents (the hidden good and evil
tendencies and worldly desires) tried but failed to take him away from God. The Lord asked the
priest to hide behind Him, while Tinnanar was in front: this means, true Bhakti is far superior to
mere ritual. TinnanarÂ’s readiness to pluck out his own eyes for His sake is total self-surrender or
Atma-Nivedan, the highest peak of devotion which immediately reveals the Lord in all His glory.