This is the lunar month of Kartik. This Hindu month is of immense importance to the devotees of both Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva and both these Gods are worshipped with equal fervour in this month.
Kartik month is also known as ‘Damodar Maas’ since, it is in this month that Lord Krishna who, as a child, was tied to a grinding stone by his mother as a punishment for his mischief. He thereby got the name Damodar. While crawling with the grinding stone tied to his waist, he granted salvation to two celestial beings who were cursed to be trees and hence this month is special for Lord Vishnu (Hari).
Similarly, Lord Shiva (Hara) at Somnath granted release to the Moon (Chandra) from a curse on the full moon day of the month of Kartik (Kartik Poornima). He is also believed to have vanquished the Asuras and destroyed their three cities as Tripurantaka on Kartik Poornima. Hence, this month is special for Lord Shiva.
This month being dear to both Hari and Hara, I
want to share a story with you which tells us that Hari and Hara are one and
In Pandarpur, there lived a goldsmith by name
Narahari. He was called Narahari Sonar (meaning goldsmith). Theirs was a family
of goldsmiths and Narahari was also following the family’s profession. He was an
excellent and honest goldsmith who was known for his prowess in making the best
jewelry. In those days there were no machines to make jewelry. All jewelry was
Narahari was a staunch Shaivite. Shaivites are worshippers of Lord Shiva. He
was a fanatic Shaivite that he would not even look at the Gopura (Temple tower)
of Lord Vithoba’s temple which was near his house.
Pandarpur is the abode of Lord Vithoba (Vishnu)
and Goddess Rukmini (Lakshmi) and one always associates Pandarpur with Vithoba
and Rukmini. The shrine of Lord Vithoba is very famous and draws crowds from
all over the world even now.
In those days also, there would always be thousands of visitors to Vithoba Rukmini temple at Pandarpur.
Narahari, however, always prayed to Lord Shiva
at the Mallikarjuna (a form of Shiva) temple situated nearby Vithoba Rukmini temple
but would be careful enough not even to look at the Vithoba temple. During
temple festivals of the Vithoba Rukmini temple he would move to some other village
nearby as he did not want to even hear Vithoba’s names and songs. Such was the
extent of his extreme devotion to Lord Shiva.
One day, a rich landlord from a neighbouring
village came to his shop.
“I heard that you are the best goldsmith in
Pandarpur. I want to get a waistband made in gold embedded with precious
stones. Can you make it?” he asked Narahari.
“Sure, why not?” said Narahari. Tell me for
whose size it is to be made. Have you brought the person so that I can take the
The landlord smiled. “No…no… I cannot bring the
person here” He paused for a while as Narahari looked puzzled. “It is for
Vithoba”, he said.
Narahari became furious as if the landlord had
uttered something unpalatable.
“For that God? No. I will not be able to make
it. You can go to anyone else”, he said rudely, showing the way out to the
The landlord was not the person who would
budge. He did not even get up but started talking calmly to Narahari.
“Look here Narahari, I have been married for ten years and did not have a child till now. After praying to Vithoba, my wife and I have been blessed with a child. I had decided that, to express my gratitude to my God, I would adorn him with the best gold waistband made specially for Him. Therefore I came to you knowing that you are the best Sonar available. Your job is to make the jewel, whether it is for a human being or a God and I think it is wrong for you to treat a customer like this. After all, I am only asking you to make a jewel, not to pray to the God for whom you are making the jewel. Please therefore think again before you tell me to go”
Something in the voice of the landlord made
Narahari to be a bit patient and think.
“What you say is correct” said Narahari. “But I
will need the measurement to make this jewel and I will NOT come to the temple
of this God how much ever you coax me to. It is left to you to decide what to
The landlord thought for a while. “Okay” said
he. “I will go and take the measurement of Vithoba’s waist with a thread and
give it to you and you make the waistband. Is it OK?”
Narahari had no excuse and had to agree. The landlord gave Narahari few bars of gold and some precious rubies and emeralds to be embedded in the waistband which he was going to make.
The landlord then went to the temple and with the help of a thick thread, took the measurement of Lord Vithoba’s waist and returned. He gave the thread to Narahari and told him to make the jewel for the measurement given, as early as possible. Narahari agreed to keep it ready in a week’s time.
The landlord returned after a week to find the
beautiful jewel ready. It was so exquisitely made and the gems embedded on it
made it look so ornate and the landlord could not wait to see it adorn his
beloved Vithoba. He thanked Narahari profusely for having put in his heart and
soul into making this wonderful jewel and paid him the fees promised. He then
hurried to the temple with his wife, child and family.
After doing Puja and other rituals, the
landlord requested the temple priest to adorn Vithoba with the waistband. The
priest tried to tie the band around the waist of Lord Vithoba and fasten the
hook, but it was a tad too short that the ends of the waistband could not be
hooked and therefore Vithoba could not be adorned with the waistband. The
priest told the landlord to go back to the goldsmith and add a link to the
waistband so that it would be a little longer and would fit the waist of
The landlord, though disappointed, could not
help it and went back to Narahari and told him that the band was tight. Narahari
was also puzzled since he had made it exactly as per the measurement given to
“How come there has been a flaw in my work” he
thought to himself. However, he apologized to the landlord and told him to come
the next day so that he could add a link to one side of the waistband to make
it a little longer.
The landlord came the next day and checked if
the link was added and satisfying himself took the waistband to the temple. “It
will surely fit my Vithoba” he thought to himself.
This time also the landlord was in for a surprise. The waistband which was only a wee bit short the day before, had become extremely long and loose and was sliding down the thighs of the ‘Murti’ of Vithoba.
Both the priest and the landlord and his family
were shocked this time too.
The landlord could not help but exclaim his
surprise aloud. “Oh Vithoba! How can this be? Yesterday it was only little bit
The priest felt bad for the landlord and said
to him, “I think the measurement was not taken properly. Do not worry. Go back
to the goldsmith and bring him in person to take the measurement”. He did not
know that Narahari had made the jewel.
The landlord was feeling very sad and silently
walked back from the temple once again to Narahari’s place.
“What happened now?” asked Narahari in an
irritated tone. The landlord sadly told what had happened and requested
Narahari to come personally to take the measurement of Vithoba.
You can imagine how furious Narahari was. “I
CANNOT AND WILL NOT COME TO THAT TEMPLE” he yelled angrily.
The landlord was not the one to give up so
easily. He calmly pleaded, then argued, quarreled with Narahari and finally
made him accept to come to the temple of Vithoba to take the measurement
“But one condition” said Narahari wanting to
have the last word. “I will only come blindfolded to the temple and you will
have to lead me to your God to enable me take the measurement. I do not want to
see your God even by accident. Are you agreeable to this?”
The landlord was waiting for this moment and
gladly agreed to the condition.
So Narahari took a thick black cloth and made
the landlord blindfold him by tying the cloth tightly across his eyes. He held
the hand of the landlord and proceeded to the temple of Vithoba walking slowly.
Finally they reached the ‘garbagriha’ (sanctum) of Vithobha, with Narahari
standing exactly facing Vithoba ready to measure him.
Since he had no idea of the ‘Murti’ of Vithoba,
he was groping about the ‘Murti’ trying to locate the waist of Vithoba. But he
thought he felt a tiger skin. He moved his hands a little further up and he
felt something like a “Rudraksha”. “Am I imagining?” thought Narahari. Tiger
skin and Rudraksha belonged to his Lord Shiva and he thought he was measuring
Vithoba. He paused for a moment and again felt the upper part of the ‘Murti’
and what was that? He felt a slimy thing like a snake and also felt water
droplets fall on his hands. Wasn’t that Ganga from the matted locks of his
He was overcome with curiosity and without a thought removed his blindfold and there was Vithoba smiling at him.
Narahari immediately shut his eyes tight.
“Wrong, wrong, forgive me Lord Shiva” he
mumbled hurriedly and put on his blindfold once again.
“Tighten the blindfold further” he said in an
angry tone to the landlord as the landlord obeyed not knowing what was
happening to Narahari.
Narahari once again tried to measure the waist,
now that he had seen a glimpse of the “Murti” but once again, he felt a snake
like a belt and a deer skin. He thought he heard the strains of the Damru
(Shiva’s drum) “dum dum dum dum” along with the rhythmic jingle of anklets.
Getting goosebumps, he immediately removed the blindfold and there was Vithoba smiling at him once again, just as a dad would play Peekaboo with his kid. Narahari did not close his eyes this time, as he could not resist looking at the endearing smile of Vithoba and the longer he stared at Vithoba, he could not decipher if it was Shiva or Vithoba he was seeing, as the ‘Murti’ appeared to him both as Shiva and Vithoba.
That was his moment of realisation!
Realisation that Vithoba and Shiva were one and the same. Narahari felt so ashamed of himself.
“What an idiot I have been!” he lamented. “Oh! Vithoba, not knowing you are the same as my Shiva, how many years I have missed seeing your beautiful face! What an ill-fated destiny I have had, not to see your lotus feet whilst living so near to your abode! Forgive me O’ Lord!”
Saying thus he fell flat at the feet of Vithoba who was still smiling sweetly as if amused. Tears were streaming from the eyes of Narahari. His heart was throbbing with bliss and out of the bliss poured out beautiful lines of poetry. All the people who were witnessing this were awestruck as Narahari Sonar described his experience through a beautiful song.
Narahari became “Sant Narahari” and his life
changed drastically after this event. He composed many devotional hymns on
Vithoba and became his staunch devotee.
It is said that Sant Narahari bid goodbye to this world in 1311 but his songs live on. Narahari’s story is found in the Marathi text “Bhakta Vijaya” written by Mahipati, in the 18th century. This text contains the biographies of poet saints who lived between the 13th and 17th century.