Shivaswami was known in the village for his devotion to Shiva. He would go to the local Shiva temple twice a day. In the morning, he would take with him a pot of milk as an offering to Shiva. In the evening, he would sing songs describing the greatness of Shiva. “Shiva is everywhere. He dwells in our heart and he fills the whole universe,” he would say. His little daughter, Koosu, used to listen to the stories he narrated, and joined him in singing the songs.
One day, Shivaswami had some work outside the village. He called Koosu and explained to her he would be away for a day. “Tomorrow morning, will you take milk to Shiva?” Koosu gladly agreed, and Shivaswami left on his journey.
Next day, Koosu got up early in the morning. She took a dip in the village pond, milked the cow, and left for the temple. There was no one in the temple. She walked inside announcing in a loud voice, “Look what I’ve brought for you, Shiva!”
Just then, a jangama, walked inside the temple. Jangama is another word for a wandering sanyasi (holy man). He had come from a far-off place. The holy man was tired and hungry as he had not eaten for a long time. Overcome by hunger, he collapsed in front of the Shiva Linga. “Shiva!” cried Koosu as she ran to him. She sprinkled some water on his face. The jangama opened his eyes. “Are you hungry, Shiva?” asked Koosu with concern.
“I’ve brought milk for you, Shiva,” she said.
The jangama was too weak to even lift the pot. Koosu herself fed him milk.
Slowly, the jangama regained some strength.
“I’ve a lot of work to do, Shiva,” said Koosu. “I have to run.”
She bowed to the Shiva Linga in the temple and hurried home.
By the time, Koosu reached home, her father had already returned. He was surprised to see his daughter returning with an empty vessel.
“Koosu, did you take milk to Shiva?” he asked.
“Yes, father,” said Koosu, showing him the empty vessel, “Shiva drank all the milk. See, not a drop left.”
Shivaswami was taken aback - Shiva drinking milk! He could not believe it. He thought Koosu was lying or she maybe she was day dreaming. Shivaswami was determined to find the truth.
The next day, it was Shivaratri. He asked Koosu to take milk to Shiva once again. He followed her quietly to find out what she would do with the milk.
On the way, Koosu came across a hungry dog. The dog looked weak. It could hardly walk. It wagged its tail smelling the milk in Koosu’s hands. “Oh Shiva, you are hungry,” cried out Koosu. “See, what I have for you - milk!”
The dog lapped up all the milk. Koosu patted the poor animal with great love.
Shivaswami was stunned to see what his little daughter was doing. “I only talk that Shiva is present everywhere. My innocent daughter actually sees Shiva in everyone,” said Shivaswami to himself.
Koosu turned back and saw her father.
“Father, are you coming to the temple?” she asked.
Shivaswami hugged his daughter, tears welling his eyes, voice trembling. “Yes, Koosu. Lead me to Shiva,” he said, holding her hand.
As Koosu led her father to the temple, Shiva smiled.
This story is inspired by a saying of the Shiva Sharana mystic, Basavanna - ”They drive away a hungry jangama, and offer food to a Linga which does not eat!”