There once was a forest sage named Guha. He and his followers worshipped god as nature. One day some Brahmanas (priests) came to Guha’s forest. They placed a statue of Shiva under a tree and came there each day to worship; returning to their nearby camp at night. When the Brahmanas had gone for the day, Guha would come and kick the statue of Shiva saying, “God is a tree and you are only a big hunk of stone.”
Guha kicked Shiva each and every night until one day the rainy season took hold and flooding kept the Brahmanas from coming to worship Shiva as they stayed safely in their encampment. Guha remained unperturbed – he crossed the swollen river with the intention of giving that hunk of stone a good kick!! Because the flooding had kept a pack of wolves from hunting, when they saw Guha, they gave chase. Guha ran until he came to the tree under which sat the statue of Shiva. He quickly climbed the tree, escaping the wolves, but they kept watch through the night.
Guha was hungry, so he picked some nuts from the tree, but they were too green to eat, so he threw them down and they hit the statue. Guha shivered through the night, trying to keep warm. His shivering shook water on the statue and he cursed and grumbled all night long. By morning, the wolves had left but the Brahmanas had returned, now able to cross the ebbing river. Guha, after a sleepless night, descended from the tree in a wild mood – his matted hair and fierce appearance frightened the Brahmanas and they ran away, never to return.
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Guha left the area as well and years later, was bitten by a snake and died from the poison. As Yama, the god of death came for his soul – Guha, in death as in life, put up quite a struggle against authority! Suddenly, Yama and Guha found themselves in front of Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati. Shiva said, “Yama, this soul is mine, he is my most dear devotee.” Yama retorted, “Shiva, this man has killed and committed other sins, his soul is mine.” Shiva replied, “Once, this Guha spent the night in great discomfort to himself to protect me from wolves. He fed me food he needed himself. He chanted all night and showered me with water. He chased away those who only loved me superficially.” Yama smiled, “Guha is indeed your devotee – his soul is yours.” Shiva returned Guha to his body.