Gurudruh waited patiently looking around in the forests. There had been a rustle of leaves and he was pointing the arrow at the bush waiting….However when Gurudruh looked, there was no movement, obviously it had been a mole or a rat…The animal must have burrowed itself inside the soil…Gurudruh sighed. Gurudruh looked around the forest once more and realized that waiting here was waste of time….He would have to choose some other location.
Reluctantly Gurudruh placed his bow back in his arms and moved on to another place.
As he was walking he heard a melodious chant from somewhere. Gurudruh went towards the sound. He found that it was coming from the temple in the middle of the forest. Gurudruh being a regular in the forest knew the habits of the temple well…Today obviously was a special day for the God that the people worshiped. The temple was thronged with people. ‘Shiva! Shiva! Om Namah Shivaya! Shiva Shiva!’ It was a rhythmic chanting. Gurudruh listened to the chanting for a few seconds…Then he shrugged. He had to go back to his work. Without the hunted animals, his family would not have enough to eat…
Gurudruh moved on. Though Gurudruh went deeper and deer inside the forest, still he could not get enough to eat for himself and his family. Gurudruh knew that going back home with so little food was not an option. So he went deeper and deeper inside the forest.
Though Gurudruh had been a hunter his whole life, he had never ventured this deep into the forest. This part of the forest…somehow Gurudruh could not explain it. But it was different….The trees seemed quieter, the sky seemed darker….Gurudruh brought out his bow and kept his arrow in readiness just in case….
As he walked inside the forest, he saw a tiny pond in the middle of the forest. The pond had refreshing cool water which reflected the multicoloured evening sun….The sun was peeping out of the thick branches of the surrounding trees and overall effect it had was beautiful.
However Gurudruh was a hunter. The matters of scenic beauty just did not enter his mind. Looking at the spot, Gurudruh smiled. It was the perfect place to hunt. Animals invariably came to pond to drink water. The trees would provide the perfect hiding place. Gurudruh planned to hide himself in the branches of the trees and from there he planned to hunt the animals…
Silently Gurudruh checked the place, his hunting instincts kicking in. After studying all the trees, he chose the tree closest to the pond, because it offered the perfect hiding place and because the view from there would cover all the areas of the pond. He was climbing the tree when SCRAT! Gurudruh heard a loud noise coming from his waist. Gurudruh hurriedly got on the branch of the tree and looked at his waist. He cursed himself when he saw his water pouch was torn…
Angrily he looked down and saw that at one place the bark of the tree was sharp He had not seen it and there the bark had scraped his water pouch, the water was leaking…The pouch was already leaking, with the stiches coming apart in seams…Now the bark had finished the job and water began steadily leaking…But then Gurudruh was not worried for today. Atleast he had found a place near a pond…
He waited on the branch of the tree, the water from his pouch steadily leaking and falling below….As he waited, he suddenly remembered the scene from the temple he had seen today. What words were the people there muttering…O Na…va… Gurudruh had never studied books or scriptures in his life. For his way of life that was just not necessary. He could not even properly pronounce the words that he had heard the devotees say…Then he remembered…Shiva…Yes! That is what they had said…Shiva…
Gurudruh being man of the forest never understood devotion or even temples…These men were fools to worship some one more powerful than them! Why should I be like them? I will do the opposite of what they do…To pass his time Gurudruh muttered ‘Vashi! Vashi!’ And sat on the branch of the tree.
Gurudruh’s sharp eyes picked up a rustle of the leaves, as he peered through the tree, he found that the leaves of the trees were obstructing his view. Gurudruh plucked the leaves carefully and threw it down one by one. He was careful not to make a big ruckus, or he would scare away any animal coming towards the pond. He threw the leaves down one by one making as much less noise as possible….The rustling he found was another mole which had entered the burrow.
Gurudruh saw the evening sun setting and slowly darkness gathering around the pond. A chill wind picked up. Gurudruh shivered slightly, but he did not dream of giving up the spot on the tree…All the while he cleared the place of the extra leaves which stopped him from looking around and muttered ‘Vashi! Vashi!’ under his breath, the water from his pouch leaking….
In the first quarter of the night, when the world was getting ready to sleep, or atleast that is what Gurudruh thought, Gurudruh heard movement towards the pond. He quietly brought out his bow and placed his arrow ready to let go. He knew that he had to rely more on his hearing, then his sight to shoot correctly.
Gurdruh saw a faint silhouette of a deer coming near the pond. As the deer came near, Gurudruh saw a beautiful deer. Gurudruh was surprised with himself…Till now he had never even once felt any animal as beautiful. For him it was just a means of livelihood…Shaking himself, Gurdruh tried to pull himself together and pulled the arrow back and was about to let it go…
Gurudruh had the fright of his life when the intelligent face of the deer looked at him and spoke. ‘Hunter! Please, please do not kill me!’
Gurdruh was shocked…He wondered whether some evil spirit had possessed him…or probably the deer was an evil spirit…Gurdruh sat paralyzed with fear as he kept his arrow tautly on the bow unable to let it go…
The deer saw that Gurudruh was still having the arrow in his hands spoke again, ‘Please have mercy on me! Please do not kill me, hunter!’
Gurudruh decided that he was dreaming. Then he decided that there was nothing wrong in replying when one was in a dream. He said harshly, ‘Why should I let you go? You are after all my food! If I let you go, I and my family would die hungry! No! That is not right, I have to kill you!’
The deer looked at him with tears in its eyes. ‘What you say is true. If you don’t kill me, your family would starve! Then please let me go now! I promise I would come back! Then you can kill me!’
Gurudruh felt this was very funny! He burst out laughing in his coarse voice, ‘You! I have to believe that you would come back?’ Gurudruh almost doubled over laughing, ‘Seriously! If I start believing words given to me by animals I hunt, I would have to remain hungry for the rest of my life!’
‘No!’ The deer said hurriedly as it saw Gurudruh ready to let the arrow fly. ‘You see, I am a mother of a young deer! I am looking for it! Once…once I have met it and told it and my husband everything, I will come to you! I promise!’
Gurudruh could not explain it, not even to himself. But he felt that the deer was speaking the truth. Gurudruh was even more surprised when he found that he put his arrow back…Probably some spirit had possessed him….He was angry with himself for showing weakness, ‘Go!’ He said irritably to the deer. ‘Go fast! Before I change my mind!’
The deer did not wait for a second chance. As soon as the hunter put the arrow down and said ‘Go!’ the deer shot off…
Once the deer went away, Gurudruh sat on the branch of the tree wondering what had overcome him…He was hungry because he had listened to the words of a deer! If anyone came to know about this…he would be the laughing stock of the village….
Angrily Gurudruh plucked the leaves of the tree, moving it aside, to see on both sides more clearly. Now more out of habit, than anything else, he muttered ‘Vashi! Vashi!’ as the water from his pouch leaked…
Another quarter of the night passed.
This time Gurudruh saw another deer from far. It was bigger and looked majestic. Gurudruh could see it was a male deer. He promised to himself that he would make up now for letting that mother deer get away…This deer is as good as dead. Gurudruh thought as he had his bow and arrow in readiness long before the deer came near the pond. The deer bent down to drink the water. But Gurudruh could see that the deer was not drinking water because of thirst…The deer seemed to be looking for someone….
Enough! Gurudruh scolded himself…Thinking like this would lead to his starvation….
Astonishingly this deer also spoke to Gurdruh, ‘Hunter! I know you are hunting for me! But please let me go now! I am looking for my wife and young child. Once I see my wife and child, I promise I would come back!’
Do you think I am a fool? Gurudruh wanted to yell. But somehow looking at the majestic deer, he remembered the tear filled eyes of the mother deer and just could not bring himself to fire the arrow. ‘Go!’ He said unhappily. He had no doubt in his mind that both the deers were never going to come back and that he was making a fool of himself.
Another quarter of the night passed, the water from the pouch was almost empty. Gurudruh was afraid to get down the tree for fear that he would scare away the animals which would come near the pond….He passed his time as before muttering ‘Vashi! Vashi’ and throwing the remaining leaves down.
This time he saw a female deer come towards the pond. He was elated. The mother deer had kept her promise…But this deer seemed to be different…No matter…Gurudruh brought out his bow and arrow for the third time.
As usual this deer spoke to him, ‘Hunter! Have you seen my brother and sister-in-law? I have found their child and have it with me. The child needs to see its parents immediately.’
Gurudruh had had enough. This time he was not going to be a fool…
The deer saw with widened eyes as the hunter meant to kill it. ‘Hunter! Please do not kill me! If my brother and sister do not know where their child is, they would never know any peace…Think about the young baby deer. Please hunter, just let me go now! I promise I would be back, after telling them everything…’
Gurudruh slapped his head hard. He wanted to punch through something. But he knew that it was the right thing to let the deer go…He wished that whatever was possessing him would go away. He did not want to start feeling sorry for killing animals. Despite everything he let the deer go away….The deer skipped away….
The last quarter of the night started. With nothing better to do, Gurudruh continued what he had been doing, the last few drops of the water from his bag was falling down drip by drip…The last part of the night was almost over, when Gurudruh had the shock of his life….
Coming towards the pond were one…two….three…no, four deers! Gurudruh blinked wondering whether he was hallucinating. The faint light of the skies confirmed that indeed four deers were walking towards the pond. Picking up the bow and arrow had become second nature to him….now Grudruh found that he was so surprised that he could not pick up the bow and arrow….
The four deers came before him. Gurudruh saw that the first three were the deers he had already met. The fourth deer was a baby deer. It was walking in between its mother and father.
As the four deers saw the hunter, they bowed to him. Gurudruh still did not know what to say….Gulping he stared at the four deers, when the mother deer spoke first, ‘Great hunter! Thank you so much! You trusted me and let me go! I have finished my duties and here I am. I will keep my part of the bargain!’
The aunt deer spoke next, ‘Yes hunter! It was because you let me go, I was able to make the child meet its mother and father! I have come to keep my promise!’
The father deer spoke majestically, ‘We all have completed our duties! You can do what you wish for!’
The baby deer spoke last, ‘Great hunter! I do not have any family other than those here! Take my life too! I also want to go, where they are going!’
Stunned, Gurudruh never drew his bow and arrow. The last quarter had passed, when Gurudruh jumped from the tree and ran towards the four deers.
‘Who are you?’ He asked in a tone of wonder. ‘You are not deers, who are you?’
Gurudruh blinked when the four deers vanished from there. Standing in their place, was a beautiful dark three eyed God. Gurudruh could not explain it but he felt a feeling of bliss coming over him. He felt like he was free…He was free….
The God smiled lovingly at Gurudruh, ‘Son! Your worship today, cannot be equal to anything that has ever been done in my name!’
Gururuh looked bewildered, ‘Worship? I…’ Gurudruh shook his head in wonder, ‘I did not do any worship to you, my Lord!’
The God smiled, ‘You cleansed me with water, chanted my name, worshiped me with my favourite leaves, and fasted for the entire night…This is the most perfect worship I have ever seen!’
Gurudruh thought back and stumbled back to the base of the tree he had just got down. He realized that it was the ‘Bilva’ tree. [In Hindu mythology it is believed that the Bilva leaves are Lord Shiva’s favourite leaves] Below it was a small linga…now covered from the leaves he had thrown the whole night…. The linga was wet…from the water of his pouch…Gurdruh felt understanding come over him Vashi! Vashi! when repeated again and again became Shiva! Shiva!
Gurdruh fell on the feet of Lord Shiva. ‘Lord! You have given moksha to a hunter like me! For that I would always be grateful to you!’
Lord Shiva smiled, ‘You are certainly worthy of it! You did all this on the one day, which I consider sacred. It is Mahasivarathri! For this Gurudruh, you shall attain salvation! You shall always be a part of me, in my world! Come with me!’
Peace and understanding came to the hunter as he followed the three-eyed blue God to Kailash….
- From Shiva Purana