It was a thick forest with no civilized population.
But even there by the Grace of Mahadeva, there appeared a Shivaligam, in the midst of the thickets.
A hunter passing by once noticed it. He did not know what it is but he had the gut feeling that it is the living symbol of the Divine.
As a realist suffering all the pangs of life, he knew it was very uncomfortable to live without a shelter, it was unbearable to go without water for bath and drink and so he presumed that even the greatest of beings would die if he goes without food.
So he did all that he could do to make the deity comfortable immediately.
He built a hut of dried leaves and twigs to house the lord.
He used his chappals to clean the deity and the surrounding..
He did not have any vessels.
So he went to the nearby brook, cleaned his mouth and filled in with as much water as he could and brought it to the lot and spat it on the idol so that the Lord could be clean.
He did this for three of four times as abhishekam ( he did not know the word) and again brought water in the same way for the deity to drink.
He adorned the deity with wild flowers.
The food he could offer was the raw meat of the beasts he killed and he did it by softening it with bites of his own sharp teeth so that the great god could eat with relish.
This routine continued for days.
He never thought he was doing a great thing..
He was just looking after his guest in the forest.
The lingam had three marks for its eyes and they used to shine brilliantly.
One day the lord could not contain Himself.
As is His wont he started giving heartburn to a true friend.
One fine morning the hunter saw that one of the eyes of his friend had become lusterless and it was bleeding profusely.
The hunter thought. " I have two eyes to see. This God has to see the entire world. So he will do better with one more eye. Hie eye should not be lost".
Without hesitation, with the sharp edge of his bow, he extracted his own eyeball and placed it where the Lords eye was bleeding .
The bleeding stopped.
The hunter was blissfully happy.
But his only slight disappointment was that the loss of one eye would affect his capacity to bring food to the friend.
His travails did not stop there.
On another morning he saw the second eye of the Lord bleeding.
He was at his wits end.
He could offer his second eye, but after that who will bring water and food to the God?
However he made his final decision. With dexterity he extracted his own second eye and now without any capacity to see, he groped with his hands and found out the lord's bleeding eye and placed his second eye there.
Then he thought. " Now there is no way for me to bring water and food to the lord.
All I have is my body.
Let me lie down before the lord and offer myself as his final supper."
Waiting for the god to receive his mortal body as food, the hunter just lied down before the Sivalingam.
Even for the hardened heart of the stone that the Sivalingam was , this self-sacrifice was too much.
The lord appeared before the ignorant but faithful hunter in his Divine form and blessed him and gave him a place in the array of the sixty three nayanamaars, who are considered as the foremost devotees of Shiva..
He is Kannappa Nayanaar.
THIS HAPPENED IN KALAHASTI
Srimat Shankarabhagavat paada in his Shivananda lahari alludes to this incident at sloka 63
मार्गावर्तितपादुका पशुपतेरङ्गस्य कूर्चायते
भक्तिः किं न करोत्यहो वनचरो भक्तावतंसायते॥६३॥
॥श्रीमत् शङ्करभगवत्पाद विरचिते शिवानन्द लहर्याम्॥
mārgāvartitapādukā paśupateraṅgasya kūrcāyate
bhaktiḥ kiṁ na karotyaho vanacaro bhaktāvataṁsāyate||63||
||śrīmat śaṅkarabhagavatpāda viracite śivānanda laharyām||
what is there that sincere devotion cannot do?
The footwear that war worn out through wandering in the forest was all that the hunter could find to clean and adorn the body of Shiva
the water filling the mouth was used by the hunter to offer divine abhishekam to Shambu the vanquisher of the three worlds (puraripu.. the enemy of Tripuras)
Pieces of meat, which the hunter tasted first to see whether it would suit the Lords palate became the naivedyam or holy offering of fresh food for Shankara
And that obscure hunter became the greatest devotee of the Lord of Lords Parameshwara..