Kannappa Nayanar or 'Kannappa' was one of the 63 Nayanmars or holy Saivite saints, the staunch devotees of Lord Shiva. The Periyapuranam compiled by Sekkizhar and also the Tiruthhthondar Thogai by the poet-saint Sundarar enlists the 63 Nayanars. He is the Arjuna in the Pandavas.
Birth and Life
Kannappa Nayanar is also known as Thinnappan, Tinnappan, Thinnan, Kannappan, Kannappa Nayanar or Nayanmar, Kannan, Bhakta Kannappan and Dheeran. He was born in a hunting family in Uduppoor (modern Vutukuru) near Sri Kalahasti, in present day Andhra Pradesh. He was named Thinnan or Dheeran by his parents.
Thinnan was a staunch devotee of the Vayu linga of SriKalahasti which he found in the forest while hunting. Being a hunter, he did not know how to properly worship Lord Shiva. It is said that he poured water from his mouth on the Shiva lingam which he brought from the nearby river Swarnamukhi. He also offered the Lord whatever animal he hunted, including swine flesh. But the Lord accepted his offerings since Thinnan was pure at heart and his devotion was true. Once, Lord Shiva tested the unshakable devotion of Thinnan. With his divine power, He created a tremor and the roof-tops of the temple began to fall. All the sages ran away from the scene except for Thinnan who covered the linga with his body to prevent it from any damage. Hence he was named thereafter as Dheeran.
Thinnan noticed that one of the eyes of the Shiva linga was oozing blood and tears. Sensing that the Lord's eye had been injured, Dheeran proceeded to pluck his one eye out with one of his arrows and placed it in the spot of the bleeding eye of the Shiva linga. This stopped the bleeding in that eye of the linga. But to complicate matters further, he noticed that the other eye of the linga has also started oozing blood. So Thinnan thought that if he were to pluck his other eye too, he would become blind to exactly know the spot where he has to place his own second eye over the bleeding second eye of the lingam. So he placed his great toe on the linga to mark the spot of the bleeding second eye and proceeded to pluck out his other and only eye. Moved by his extreme devotion, Lord Shiva appeared before Thinnan and restored both his eyes. He made Thinnan as one of the Nayanmars and he was called as Kannappan or Kannappa Nayanar.
When Arjuna was meditating on Lord Shiva for Pasupathastra, to test him Lord Shiva entered that forest as an animal hunter and due to word war between Lord Shiva and Arjuna, a battle took place between both and finally impressed by Arjuna's efforts, Lord Shiva gave him the Pasupathasthra. However, for not recognizing Lord Shiva, he is born again as a devotee in the Kali Yuga as Kannappa Nayanar and finally got liberation.
- Bai, Lilli. Kannappa Nayanar Puranam. (in Tamil) 1990. Archive.org