Nine forms of Bhakti exist: to listen to devotional works, to sing devotional songs, to remember God, to – serve the sacred feet, to worship God, to praise God, to have the attitude of a servant of God, to have an attitude of a friend of God, and to pray to God from within. Among the paths to reach God, the path of Bhakti, the wise say, is the most important.
There lived a tribal couple, Naga, and Datta, in the village called Vudumuru in Pothappinad. They were childless for a long time. By the grace of Lord Subrahmanya, a son, Tinna, was born to them. He learnt archery from his father. Once when he, along with his friends, Nama and Kama, went hunting for boar, he accidentally had Darshana of Sri Kalahastheeswara and attained Mukti (became liberated).
We shall now take a brief look into his previous birth and of his deeds of bravery in the Dvapara Yuga.
The story of Arjuna’s severe penance to seek from the Lord the powerful Pasupathaastra in order to destroy enemies and to uphold the dharma of Kshatriyas serves as the origin to the story of Tinna’s life.
Just as we learn about the moral and social values from the lives of the serpent-devotee and the elephant- devotee, we learn about ethical values from the life of Tinna.
We come to know from Goddess Parvati‘s utterances the truth that Mukti was destined for Arjuna only in the subsequent birth as Arjuna was fulfilling his duty as a warrior and had no other thought other than vanquishing enemies. We are to understand from what the Primordial Shakti (Goddess Parvati) had to say regarding the two boons sought by Arjuna: one was to obtain the Pasupathaastra and the other was to attain Mukti. The manner in which Arjuna was granted the Pasupathaastra in Dwapara yuga and the manner in which Tinna was granted liberation in Kali yuga have unmistakable parallels from which we can glean the connection between Arjuna’s life and Tinna’s life.
Arjuna, the third of the five Pandavas, began his severe penance on Mt. Indrakeela to seek the Pasupathaastra from Lord Siva. To test Arjuna, Lord Siva, and his consort Parvati took the forms of a hunter and his wife and transformed the demon (rakshas) Mookasura into a boar. Mookasura, in the form of a boar, created havoc close to the place where Arjuna was in penance.
Arjuna took notice of the movements of the wild boar and in anger immediately sent an arrow towards the boar. Just then, the boar was hit by another arrow, from Lord Siva, in the form of the hunter. Hit on both sides, the boar turned and twisted several times before falling dead.
Each claiming the boar as his prize catch, Lord * Siva and Arjuna entered into a fight. Soon the fight, with bows and arrows, grew into a ferocious battle and left the devas and rishis bewildered. A stage came when Arjuna’s quill became empty of arrows. Angered evermore, Arjuna challenged Lord Siva to a hand fight. Pleased with Arjuna and not wishing to delay further, Lord Siva revealed his true Self and said, “O Arjuna! I am pleased with your bravery and fearlessness. Seek a boon from me.” Arjuna, surprised and happy at the sight of the divine couple, fell prostrate at their feet saying, “Ah! You have come in this form to test my devotion and strength.”
Lord Siva asked Arjuna to seek a boon. Arjuna sought Pasupathaastra as the first boon and Mukti as the second boon.
The divine couple blessed Arjuna and said, “O Phalguna! Out of the two boons that you seek, you will be granted the Pasupathaastra and taught how to use it. However, you shall not be granted liberation in this birth, as you are engrossed in waging battles with your kith and kin. Therefore, you shall be born in the next birth as a hunter in a forest in the South. As a hunter, you would come across my linga swaroopa. Thereafter, love, affection and devotion would grow in you and you would serve me with dedication. You would then be granted liberation.” So saying, the divine couple vanished.
Thus, we come to know that the tribal hunter Tinna born in Kali Yuga was none other than the great Kshatriya Arjuna of the Dwapara Yuga.
Lord Siva appearing in Tinna’s Dream
Let us now know the manner in which Tinna worshipped Lord Siva, about the offerings he made, about how his actions were despised by a Brahmin devotee of Siva, and finally about how he attained Mukti.
Tinna led the life of a hunter. Once, as part of his worship of Vana devata (Goddess of forests), he set out to hunt for an animal to be sacrificed to the Goddess. In his wanderings, he came into the Bilwaka grove and stumbled upon Sri Kalahastheeswara.
Surprised and saddened to find Sri Kalahastheeswara at such a remote place, Tinna wondered how long the Lord would have gone without food. He immediately set about catching small creatures in the Neighborhood and offered the raw meat to the Lord. He offered water brought from the nearby Suvarnamukhi river along with the raw meat. This went on for some time. One day he was pained to see that his offerings were not accepted by the Lord. Pleading repeatedly to the Lord to partake his offerings, he fell asleep exhausted. The Lord woke up Tinna and accepted his offerings. Tinaa was very happy and ate what was left. This went on for some time.
How these events caused displeasure to a Brahmin devotee of Siva and how Lord Siva subjected Tinna to a .est will be described below:
In sharp contrast to Tinna’s devotion to Lord Siva, the brahmin devotee purified himself by bathing in the Suvamamukhi river, clothed himself with a fresh ochre robe, wore a rudraksha mala (a rosary), bathed the Siva linga with water from the river and worshipped Lord Siva with all the necessary materials.
He was pained to see meat in the vicinity of the Siva linga and pleaded with the Lord for an explanation failing which he would sacrifice his life.
Lord Siva consoled the devotee saying, O bhakta! Tinna serves me food everyday with great devotion. If you wish to know the sincerety of his devotion, you may test him.” The Brahmin devotee was overcome with joy at hearing his prayer answered. Wishing to test Tinna’s-devotion, he hid himself in a corner and waited to observe Tinna’s activities closely.
Soon Tinna came there. He brought meat and a mouthful of water from the Suvarnamukhi river. Placing the food before the Lord, he apologised for the delay in bringing the food and requested the Lord to accept his offering. There was no reply. Repeated requests were of no avail. Tinna saw tears streaming down the eyes of the Lord. Immediately, Tinna proceeded to make a paste of leaves and seeds of medicinal plants and applied it on the Lord’s eyes. Soon, instead of tears, blood started streaming down the eyes of the Lord. On seeing this, Tinna swiftly took an arrow from his quill, gouged his eyeball, and placed it on the Lord’s eye.
The Brahmin devotee watched the turn of events with awe. To prove Tinna’s devotion further, Lord Siva had blood streaming down the other eye too. Tinna unhesitatingly gouged his other eyeball and placed on the Lord’s eye, guiding himself with the help of right foot placed on the linga. In joy, he exclaimed, “O Lord! From now on, your vision is my vision!” Immensely pleased with Tinna’s sacrifice, the divine couple appeared before him and praised his single-minded devotion. Turning to the Brahmin devotee, Lord Siva said, “O Brahmin! Are your doubts cleared now? Do you not see how sincere his devotion is? Do you know who he. really is? He is none other than Arjuna, the Pandava, in the previous birth. In the previous birth he desired to attain Mukti and so he took this birth and is being liberated.” The Brahmin devotee realising his mistake said, “O Lord! Today my ego and pride have been destroyed. I am fortunate to have your darshan and have nothing else to seek in life.”
Lord Siva comforted the Brahmin devotee and said, “From now on, you shall be one with me. You shall be liberated.” So saying the divine couple vanished.
This is the story of how Tinna came to be Bhakta Kannappa for offering his eyes to the Lord. Even today, one can see a stone image of Bhakta Kannappa in the Sanctum Sanctorum of Sri Kalahasthi temple.