There lived a pious Brahman who owned a number of cows. The cow named Bahula, was his favourite one among all. She was most sincere and kind and had given birth to a young calf recently. As usual on that day Brahmana sent out all his cows for grazing. Bahula too headed for the grassland. She wanted to have a few quick mouthfuls and return to her young calf to feed her. Unfortunately, she strayed into the deep forest while grazing. Suddenly she noticed a tiger before her getting ready to pounce upon her. Realising she will be devoured by the tiger, her eyes widened and began shedding copious tears. She thought of her hungry calf waiting for her back home and pleaded with the tiger, “ Let me go home and feed my calf for one last time, and then you can eat me” Bahula begged. The tiger took pity on Bahula and asked her return as quickly as possible after feeding the calf , as he was very hungry.
Bahula hastened home. She fed her calf her milk for the last time and told Brahmana, what had happened. After listening the tale, Brahmana said “O Bahula! If you die what will happen to your young calf ? Instead, let me offer myself to the tiger.” But Bahula was adamant. She explained to the Brahmana that she had promised the tiger to return and she cannot go against her word. Saying thus she returned to the tiger. Brahman and little calf too followed behind her. When they reached the jungle, Bahula gladly offered herself to the tiger. Instantly, the tiger changed shape and the brilliant form of Lord Shri Krishna appeared in place of the tiger. Krishna said “ I am so pleased with your truthfulness and integrity and from now on, this forest will be known as Bahulavan”
In another version of the same tale found in Skanda Purana, a story is narrated about King Kalash of Yadu clan. Once King Kalasha, invited all the sages from his kingdom for a feast. Sage Durvasa too was invited for the feast, but some one played a prank and served meat on his plate. Angered by the prank, Durvasa cursed King Kalasha that he would roam the forest as a tiger hunting for meat. The King pleaded with the sage and Durvasa relented and revealed to him that he would be freed from the curse when a cow named Nandini would lead him to a Shiva-linga worshipped by Bana the asura.
King Kalasha in the form of a tiger wandered for years in the jungle looking for the cow. One day he found a cow grazing in the forest and seized her. Nandini the cow realised her death was near and pleaded with the tiger to allow her to feed her calf one last time and promised to return to him. The tiger agreed to her request and Nandini did return as promised. The tiger then explained to Nandini about the curse and solicited her help to free himself from the curse. The holy cow led him to the Shiva-linga and the King regained his human form. King Kalasha from then on worshipped the Shiva-linga, which eventually came to be known as Kalasheshvara-linga at Hatkeshvara temple in Saurashtra.
Story Collected by : Vidya Kamat
Text source: Narrated by Dr. Shreekant Bahulkar also see Skanda Purana VI. 49.3ff
Location : Pan India
Image source: Wikipedia