This is the story of one of the sixty-three Nayanars (Saivite saints) Kannappa Nayanar.
Kannappa Nayanar was born Thinnan , in a place called Uduppur near the present day Srikalahasti to the Chieftain of the hunting tribe, Nagan. Thinnan was born after lot of penance by his parents and so was the apple of their eye. He was a very strong boy and hence the name Thinnan which means strong in tamil. Thinnan was taught all the martial arts by his father and the other elders of his tribe and Thinnan became a skilful archer in a short time.
Nagan felt he was becoming old and the tribe needed a young strong chief and with the consultation of the elders, anointed Thinnan as the next chieftain of their tribe, much to the joy of the tribe . Thinnan discharged his duties well and led the tribe on hunting expeditions successfully.
One day, as Thinnan and his friends went hunting, Thinnan started chasing a wild boar and in the process entered into the forest area which he had not previously entered. He killed the boar and as he was lifting and bringing it, his eyes fell on the beautiful lingam, the form of Lord Shiva in a clearing in the forest. Thinnan was at once drawn mysteriously to the lingam. He could not control his emotions and felt that he should stay back with the lingam.He told his friend Kadan to make a fire and cook the boar. After the meat was cooked, Thinnan placed it before the Lord and offered it to him.
Thinnan could not bear the thought of leaving the Lord as he was overwhelmed by some mysterious bonding with the Lord. He decided to stay back there and told his friend to tell his parents that he had decided to stay with the Lord.
Every day Thinnan would go hunting , catch some prey , cook the meat and offer it to Lord Shiva. He did not have any utensils and so he would fill up his mouth with water and pluck wild flowers and bring them in his matted hair as he would be carrying the meat in his hands. He would spit the water on the Lord thereby ‘bathing ‘ him and place the meat with raw honey in front of the Lord. He would then take out the flowers from his hair and adorn the Lord with it. this went on as a routine.
Now , there was this sage Shiva Kochariyar who was also a staunch devotee of the same Shivalinga and he used to come everyday when Thinnan went to hunt. The sage was aghast at the sight of meat and hurriedly cleaned it the first day thinking that some animal would have had its kill there, but as days went, the sage was at a loss to find who was doing this. He was very troubled that the Lord was being desecrated again and again and the place strewn with bones and flesh as a routine and pleaded with the Lord to help him solve this mystery . The Lord appeared in Shiva Kochariyar’s dream and said ” Do not think that some miscreant is doing this . It is my devotee who is doing this out of the unconditional love he has for me. If you want to see the extent of his devotion , hide behind the bush and see”. The next morning, the sage did as he told and then in a short while appeared Thinnan with his mouth full of water, flowers in his hair and meat in his hands. He did the ritual ‘bathing’ of the Lord and adorned the Lord with the flowers from his hair. The sage watched , horrified. Then Thinnan pleaded with the Lord to accept the meat. He spoke endearing words to the Lord when suddenly, blood started oozing from the left eye of the Lord. Thinnan was shocked. He tried to wipe it with his garment, but the eye bled more. Immediately, Thinnan ran into the forest and brought some medicinal leaves and crushed them and applied it on the Lord’s eye. But the bleeding did not stop. The sage was also watching all this with shock and awe. Then Thinnan did the most daring thing. He picked up his arrow and plucked out his left eye from its socket. Carefully, he placed it in the depression of the Lord’s eye . The bleeding stopped.
Thinnan danced in ecstasy. But the joy was short lived. Now the other eye started bleeding. Thinnan was not so sad now. After all he knew the treatment. But… the predicament was peculiar. If Thinnan took out his right eye also, how would he know where to place it?? Thinnan thought for a while and suddenly lifted his leg and placed it in the Lord’s eye and prepared to pull out his right eye. The sage almost fainted on seeing this and suddenly, the Lord’s soothing voice was heard, “Halt Kannappa, Halt!” called out the Lord, “You are Kannappa now since you have offerred your eye to me!”.
Thinnan’s eyes healed and he was blessed with the appearance of the Lord and so was the sage as he understood the deep rooted love and devotion Kannappan had for the Lord and from then, Thinnan has been considered as one of the 63 Saivaite saints as Kannappa Nayanar.