Once upon a time, there lived a sage named ‘Veda’. He used to perform austerities in one of the old temples to please Lord Shiva so that Shiva could bless him with his darshan. His prayers and rituals went on till noon every day, post which he used to leave for nearby villages to beg for alms.
The same temple was visited by another devotee, Bhilla, who was a hunter. After hunting daily, he used to offer his food first to Lord Shiva. In doing so, he had to set aside all the offerings done by Veda so he could make place for his offering.
Although both, Bhilla and Veda worshipped at the same temple, they had never met. By the time Bhilla used to reach the temple, Veda had already left for the village. Every day, when Veda came back, he would find his offering scattered all around, obviously not in place where he had put. Bewildered at the vista, he then decided to find out the culprit behind it.
So, one day, instead of leaving for village after the ritual, he hid himself behind the tree. However, that day Bhilla took longer than usual.
As soon as he showed up, Lord Shiva appeared before him and said, “I have been waiting for you, why are you late?”
“My Lord, it took a while to find the hunt today” replied Bhilla; his heart filled with joy at the darshan of Mahadev.
“Are you tired?” asked the Lord.
“No Mahadev! After seeing you, all my tiredness has vanished” saying that, Bhilla offered his hunt to Shiva, which he gracefully accepted. And with the Lord’s blessings, he soon left from there.
Veda who witnessed this from a distance, rushed to Lord Shiva in fury.
He asked Lord, “In spite of performing tapasya for many years, you never appeared before me. But you appeared before a cruel hunter. I am infuriated at this. Why such partiality? If you don’t answer my question, I am going to break the Shiva lingam.”
Lord Shiva smiled gently and simply replied, “Do it if you must, but wait till tomorrow.”
And so Veda decided to wait. Next day when Veda entered the temple to offer his homage, he found blood on the linga. He carefully washed it, however few traces were still left. Later when Bhilla came with his hunt, he found those traces. Instantly a thought crossed his mind that he was responsible for it and decided to punish himself. In fit of rage, he started hurting himself with his arrow and soon started to bleed.
Seeing his greatest devotee in pain, Lord Shiva could no longer hide. He appeared right in front of both his devotees and addressing Veda, he said, “You see the difference? You gave me your offerings. This man gave me his soul.”
Veda got all his answers. Both Bhilla and Veda bowed down before Shiva. Shiva disappeared.
The place where Bhilla used to worship Lord Shiva is a famously known as Bhillatirtha.