The story of a hunter & Shivaratri – Shiva Purana
In the chapter 40 in Section 4 of Kotirudra-saṃhita of Shiva Purana is mentioned.
Formerly there was a hunter in a forest, Gurudruha by name. He had a large family. He was strong, ruthless and engaged in cruel activities. Everyday he used to go to the forest incessantly and kill deer. There in the forest he committed thefts also in various ways.
Once it was a Shivaratri day. But the wicked hunter, staying in the great forest did not know that. On this occasion he was requested by his parents and wife who were oppressed by starvation, “O forest-roamer give us food.” Thus, requested he took up his bow and started immediately for hunting deer. He roamed here and there in the forest. Due to adverse fate no game was secured by him. The sun too had set and he was greatly distressed. The hunter went near a pond. He stood near the path leading to water thinking that some animal is sure to come here; I shall kill it and go home with pleasure. Thinking thus the hunter climbed up a Bilva tree, taking some water with him. He sat on its branch.
During the first part of the night a thirsty hind came there springing and jumping timidly. On seeing it he was much delighted. He fixed an arrow to his bow immediately in order to kill it. When he did this, some water (that he had with him) got spilt and a few leaves of the Bilva tree fell down. There was a phallic idol of Shiva beneath the tree. Hence this became his worship for the first part of the night. As a result of this his sin was dissolved. On hearing the noise, the hind became frightened. It was much distressed on seeing the hunter.
The hind said: — “O hunter, what is it that you propose to do? Please speak truth before me.” On hearing the words of the hind, the hunter said.” The hunter said: — “My family is starving today.”
I shall satisfy their hunger by killing you.” On hearing these terrible words and seeing that ruthless knave, the hind thought “What shall I do? Where shall I go? Well, I shall use a trick,” thinking thus the hind spoke. The hind said: --
“There is no doubt that I am blessed. You will be happy with my flesh. What greater merit can I have through this body which is in every respect harmful? It is imposible to expatiate on the merit of a person who helps others even if we take a hundred years. But all my infant fawns are in the hermitage. I shall entrust them to the care of my sister or husband and return. O forest-roamer, do not take my words to be lies. Undoubtedly, I will come again to you. The earth stays steady through truth. The ocean is steady through truth. The water flows steadily through truth. Everything is founded on truth.”
When the hunter did not accept its proposal even after being implored thus, the bewildered and frightened hind spoke again: --
“O hunter, listen. I shall explain. I take this vow. After going home if I do not return to you let me be smeared with the sin that these people have viz—A brahmin who sells the Vedas, one who does not offer Sandhya prayers, women who transgress the commands of their husbands and do various rites, an ungrateful person, a person who is averse to Shiva. a person who ill treats others, who violates Virtue, a person committing broach of trust, and a person who deceives others. When the hind made these promises the hunter believed it and said “Go home”.
The delighted hind drank water and went to its hermitage. By that time the first part of the night came to a close and the hunter did not have a wink of sleep. The sister of the hind, not able to see it and so distressed came there in search of that hind. It too was thirsty. On seeing the hind, the Bhilla drew the bow and was about to shoot the arrow. As before, water and Bilva leaves fell on Shiva. Incidentally it became the worship of the second part of the night. It was pleasing to the hunter.
The hind asked “O forest-roamer what are you doing?” After seeing him, the hunter replied as before. On hearing it, the hind said again. “O hunter, listen. I am blessed. My life is fruitful. A service can be rendered through this evanescent body. But my fawns, young ones, are in the house. I shall entrust them to the care of my husband and come again.”
The hunter said: — “I do not agree to what you say. Undoubtedly, I am going to kill you.” On hearing that the hind said on the oath of Shiva. The hind said: --
“O hunter, listen. I shall explain. If a person breaks his words, he forfeits his merits. If I do not return let me be smeared with the sin that accrues to such people who forsake their legally wedded wife and cohabit with another, who transgress the Vedic virtue and follow an imaginary and fictitious cult; who profess to be devoted to Vishnu and censure Shiva, who perform the Kṣayaha rites of their parents on a Sunyatithi day and who add insult to injury.”
Implored by the hind, the hunter said to the hind, “go.” It drank water and delightedly went away to its hermitage. By that time the second part of the night too came to a close without a wink of sleep to the hunter. When the third part arrived, the stag who was bewildered by the delay caused by the hind came there in search of it. The hunter saw it standing on the path leading to water. On seeing the stout stag, the hunter was delighted. He fixed the arrow to the bow and was about to kill it. While he attempted to do this, a few Bilva leaves fell on Shiva as a result of his Prarabdha. In view of this, the worship of the third part of that night became realised due to his good fortune. Shiva’s merciful nature was evident in this.
On hearing the noise, the stag asked, “what are you doing?” The hunter replied “I am going to kill you for the sake of my family.” On hearing this, the stag was delighted in his mind. Immediately he spoke to the hunter. The stag said: --
“I am blessed that I am well-nourished and enough to satisfy your needs. Of a person everything is useless if his body is of no avail. If a person does not help others though he is capable of it, all his efficiency is vain. He will fall into hell after death. But I must entrust my young ones to the care of their mother. I shall console them and return again.”
Thus requested the hunter was much surprised in his mind. With his heap of sins destroyed and with a purified mind he spoke these words. The hunter said: --
“O stag, every animal that came here has gone after promising in the manner that you have done now. They have not yet come. You too are in distress now and want to go under a false pretext. How, then, will I have my livelihood?”
The stag said: --
“O hunter, listen, I shall explain. I do not utter lies. The entire universe including the mobile and immobile beings is steady, thanks to truth. The merit of a liar melts away in a trice. Still O, hunter, listen to my truthful promise. If I do not come again, let me have the sin of these activities viz: —in having sexual intercourse at dusk, in taking food on Shivaratri day, in perjury, in misappropriation of Trust funds, in neglecting Sandhya prayers, in not uttering Shiva’s name with the mouth, in not helping despite the ability, in breaking cocoanut on Parvan days, in taking forbidden food, in taking food before worshipping Shiva or without applying Bhasma.”
On hearing these words, the hunter said “Go and return quickly.” Thus, permitted by the hunter, the hunter drank water and went away. All these animals who had promised in good faith, met at the hermitage. Hearing the news of one another in its entirety they decided that they should go because they were bound by the promise. They consoled the fawns and became eager to go back. The senior hind spoke to its mate “O stag, without you, how can the young fawns stay here? O lord, it was I who promised at the outset. So, I shall go. Both of you stay here.”
On hearing those words, the junior hind spoke “I am your servant. Hence, I go. You shall stay here.”
On hearing it, the stag said— “I am going there. Both of you stay here. Infants are guarded and looked after by their mothers.”
On hearing the words of their husband, the two hinds did not consider it righteous. They lovingly told their husband, “Fie upon that life in widowhood.”
Then all of them consoled their fawns and entrusted them to the care of their neighbours. They went to the place where the hunter was waiting. The fawns too seeing all these followed them thinking. “Let what befalls them happen to us as well.”
On seeing them, the delighted hunter fitted the arrow to bis bow. Water and leaves of the Bilva tree fell on Shiva again. Thanks to that, the worship of the fourth part of the night too became auspiciously performed. Thereafter his sins were reduced to ashes in a trice. The senior hind, the junior hind and the stag said— “O excellent hunter, make our body purposeful. Be merciful to us.”
On hearing their words, the hunter was surprised. Thanks to the power of the worship of Shiva, he acquired perfect knowledge inaccessible to others. The deer are blessed. Though devoid of knowledge they are ready to help others by offering their own bodies. What have I achieved despite being born as a human being? I have nourished my body by torturing others. I reared my family by committing many sins every day. Alas! what will be my fate after committing all these sins? Sins have been committed by me ever since my birth. What goal shall I attain? “Fie, Fie upon my life!”
Acquiring perfect knowledge thus, he withdrew the arrow and explained— “O excellent deer! you are all blessed. You can safely go back.”
When he said this, Shiva became delighted. He revealed his form that is worshipped and honoured by the good. Touching him mercifully Shiva spoke lovingly to the hunter, “O hunter, I am delighted at this Vrata. Ask for the boon you wish to have.”
On seeing Shiva’s form, the hunter became liberated in a trice. He fell at Shiva’s feet saying, “Everything has been attained by me now.” Shiva, delighted in his mind, gave him the name Guha. Glancing at him mercifully he gave him a divine boon. Shiva said: — “O hunter, listen. Have your capital at Shṛngaverapura and enjoy divine pleasures at your will. Your race will flourish without any calamity. O hunter, certainly lord Rama praised even by the gods will come to your house. He will make alliance with you. Co-operating with my devotee, your mind indulged in rendering service to me, you will attain salvation rare to others.”
In the meantime, having viewed Shiva, the deer bowed to him and attained liberation from their birth as deer. They attained divine bodies, ascended the aerial chariot and went away. Released from curse at the very sight of Shiva they attained heaven.
The auspicious Vrata shall be performed by those who wish for beneficence. Shivaratri Vrata is divine and it always yields worldly pleasures and salvation.