Sadhguru tells the intriguing story of Malla, the thief who was actually Shiva’s captive devotee.

Sadhguru: Let me tell you of one yogi who lived very close to the place where I was born. I had heard about this person and the phenomena that happened there, but as a youth I did not pay much attention to it. It sort of gave me a kick, but I did not give much more importance to it at that time.

There was a devotee who lived about 16 kilometers from Mysore, on the outskirts of the now-famous Nanjangud. His name was Malla. Malla did not belong to any traditional or know any formal way of worship or meditation. But right from his childhood, if he closed his eyes, he only saw the image of Shiva. Maybe a devotee is not a good enough word for him. There are millions like him. They are prisoners of Shiva. They have no choice. Maybe I also got trapped by him. We did not seek him – too arrogant to seek anything, but trapped by him. Shiva was a hunter. He snared not just animals but human beings too. This was one more.

Malla knew nothing but Shiva, and he grew wild – he did not learn any particular trade or craft. It did not occur to him that it would be wrong if he stopped someone and took whatever he needed from them. So he just did that, and got branded as a bandit.

He became a regular bandit on the forest pathway which people had to use. The place where he used to collect his toll came to be known as Kallanamoolai, which means “a thief’s corner.” Initially people cursed him, but when the end of the year came, every paisa that he had collected from people was spent on celebrating Mahashivaratri. He threw a huge party. So after a few years people recognized him as a great devotee and started contributing voluntarily. Those who did not contribute voluntarily, he had no qualms about encouraging…

Then, two yogis who happened to be brothers came this way, and saw this man who was a bandit but a great devotee. They told him, “Your devotion is fantastic, but your ways are hurting people.” He said, “I am only doing it for Shiva, what is the problem?” They convinced him, took him aside and put him into other systems, and renamed the place from Kallanamoolai to Mallanamoolai. Even today it is called Mallanamoolai. And the Mahashivaratri event that he celebrated evolved into a big institution in that place.

Within about a year-and-a-half from the time he gave up his banditry and sat with these yogis, he attained Mahasamadhi. After they released him like this, these two yogis also sat down and left their body on the same day. Today there is a very beautiful shrine built for these people, still called Mallanamoolai, on the bank of river Kabini.

Editor’s Note: Travel alongside Sadhguru in the book “Himalayan Lust”. Amalgamating Sadhguru’s discourses during yatras to the Himalayas, the book is a blend of the specific and the timeless. It is a chance to make a pilgrimage on the page, travelling through the unpredictable but fascinating terrain of the Master’s words. Download the preview chapter, or purchase the ebook at Isha Downloads.