A collection of Indian tales of wit, wisdom, humour, bravery, devotion and lots more...

Tag: Vithoba

Gomai – Saint of Pandharpur

This is a story from Bhaktavijayam written by Shri Mahipati in the 18th century. Mahipati lived between 1715 and 1790 AD in Ahmednagar district. It is said that in a dream, he was commanded by Sant Tukaram to write the biographies of the saints of the Deccan region and as a result, this book by name Bhaktavijayam was written. The title translates to ‘Victory of Devotion’, very aptly, for in almost all stories we see that pure devotion and love are only needed to reach God.

This story is about an old lady by name Gomai on whom Krishna showered His blessings in reciprocation of her pure Bhakti (devotion).

Gomai was an old widow who was an ardent devotee of Lord Krishna. She lived in a village which was at a distance from Pandharpur. She was a very poor lady who was too old to do work and had to beg for her food from door to door. She had no one to call her own. Though she was very poor, she was extremely fond of Lord Vittala and had a life-long desire to visit Pandharpur and see Lord Vittala and Goddess Rukmayi (Mother Rukmini).The temple of Vittala (also called Vithoba) was very well known and is visited by lakhs of devotees even to this day.

Her desire to visit Pandharpur was like a fire raging within her heart and she wanted to see Vittala at least once in her life time.

Finally, one day she left for Pandharpur. She carried a small bag in which there was a fistful of grains she had got as alms. Trudging slowly, she reached the village which was on the banks of Bhima River (also known as Chandrabhaga). Pandharpur was on the opposite bank and one had to cross the river by ferry to reach Pandharpur and visit the temple of Vittala.

To the dismay of Gomai, the river was in spate and there was heavy demand for the ferry boat service. Taking advantage of the situation, the men operating the ferry boats were making huge money, overcharging the passengers who were anxious to reach Pandharpur before nightfall.  

Gomai was not having any money and when she tried to board a ferry, the boatman pushed her rudely that she almost fell into the water. With great difficulty she balanced herself and told the ferry man that she could give some grain as the charge to use the ferry.

“Get away” shooed the ferry man, laughing scornfully at her. “I don’t take grain. Give money if you have or else don’t waste my time”

One after another all the men operating the ferry boats refused to take Gomai as she did not have money to pay them.

Gomai’s hope was shattered. Here she was, with not a paisa in her hand and this river in spate was between her and her Vittala. She waited and waited, with her hope ebbing away. As she had feared, the last passenger also boarded the ferry and it looked like the ferry service was over for the day. The sun was almost setting and Gomai had lost all hope.

“Krishna, Vittala” she said bringing the image of Krishna in her mind’s eye, closing her eyes. “I am so unlucky that I cannot see you even after coming this far” she said to him. Tears streamed down her cheeks. She was lost in thought, all alone on the banks of the Bhima.

Her thought was interrupted by a sweet voice.

 “Ma, O Ma!” said the voice. “You want to cross the river, do you?”

Gomai opened her eyes and to her surprise, a young fisherman was standing in front of her. He was dark and had very handsome features and an adorable smile.

Before she could collect herself, he asked again, “Do you want to cross the river Ma?”

“Yes, Yes” said Gomai eagerly nodding her head. “I want to reach Pandharpur to see my beloved Vittala.” Then, she suddenly realized that there was no ferry and was puzzled.

The young fisherman, as if understanding her doubt said, “Don’t you worry Ma.  I will carry you on my back and swim across. Come on!”

Gomai was hesitant. “I do not have any money my boy” she said. “How will I pay you?  Also if you swim with me on your back my clothes will get wet. I don’t have another set of clothes” she said pitifully.

“Never mind Ma!” said the young fisherman. “I don’t take money. I just help the poor and needy. And don’t you worry about getting wet. I will skillfully take you across the river without your clothes getting wet”.

Without waiting for her response, he lifted Gomai on his shoulders and entered the swirling waters of the Bhima and before she knew it both of them were standing on the other bank and she could see the view of the temple tower of her beloved Vittala. It was as if she had been magically transported to the other bank. When she asked him how he transported her so quickly that too without wetting her clothes, the young fisherman, with a mischievous smile said, “That is my trick. I often do this for pilgrims who don’t have money for the ferry boat”.  

She was overcome with joy and profusely thanked the young fisherman and could not resist herself from giving him some grain she was carrying.  

“Take this my boy!” she said. “You have brought me across the river so swiftly and with so much care”.

The young fisherman flashing his enchanting smile again said, “Ma, tomorrow is Dwadashi. Give this grain to someone in need tomorrow in the name of Vittala. I take your leave now.” (People fast on Ekadashi day – 11th day of the fortnight of the waxing and waning moons and break the fast on Dwadashi -12th day)

So saying he walked away fast and disappeared in the crowd. Gomai was so happy that she could make it to Pandharpur at last and she went to the temple for the evening Aarti and worshipped Vittala fully satisfied.

She stayed over in a Chavadi (public guest house) and the next day morning also had Darshan of Vittala and Rukmayi and then, remembering the words of the fisherman, went out to give the grain she had to someone who was hungry. To her dismay, one after another all the persons to whom she offered the grain mocked at the humble offering and turned away.

She was feeling extremely sad that she had neither paid the young fisherman anything, nor was able to give the grain to anyone. While she was pondering thus, an old man came near her and said “Today is Dwadashi. I am poor and have nothing to eat. If you can spare me something to eat, I shall be extremely grateful”

 An overjoyed Gomai immediately put her hand into the bag and took out the grain. She noticed some cow dung cakes nearby and swiftly took them and lit a fire and roasted the grain on it and offered to the man. He took them with a grateful look in his eyes. “You also eat with me”, he told Gomai and she gladly ate some roasted grain with him. When the grain got almost over, an old lady approached them. The man acknowledged her arrival and said to Gomai “She is my wife. She must also be hungry. Give her some grains too”

Gomai was worried since she knew that there was not much grain left in the bag. She put her hand into her bag and lo and behold! There was enough and more grain. An elated Gomai took the grain and roasted some for the old lady which the lady ate with great relish. After they had finished eating, the man and the lady just disappeared into thin air in front of Gomai.

 It was then that she realized that they were indeed Lord Vittala and Goddess Rakumayi.

This is the story of Gomai as narrated by Shri Mahipati and this story once again reinforces the truth that to see God what is needed is pure love and devotion and nothing else.

You can read another story of Saint Narahari Sonar, also from the Bhaktavijayam here.

Narahari Sonar – The saint-poet

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 the same.

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 hand- made.

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 measurement?”

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 landlord.

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 do”.

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 Vithoba.

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 him.

“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 short….”

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 himself.

“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 beloved Shiva??

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.

The Story Of Pundalik

In ancient times, in present day Maharashtra, in a place called Dandivana, there lived a pious couple Janudev and Sathyavathy. They had a son by name Pundalik. He was a very smart boy and also pious like his parents and worshipped Lord Krishna. He also loved his parents.

When Pundalik attained marriageable age, his parents got him married to a suitable girl. After marriage Pundalik’s attitude towards his parents changed drastically. He started treating them very badly and disrespecting them.  He expected them to do all the household chores while his wife also did not say a word against what he did, or rather she sided him. She enjoyed life while the old couple were slogging at home. Pundalik also forgot Krishna altogether.

The parents were thoroughly vexed and frustrated. They decided to go to the holy city of Kashi and spend the rest of their lives there. They were making preparations to go when Pundalik and his wife came to know of it.

“Why should your parents go to Kashi and live peacefully huh?” said Pundalik’s wife. “Who will do the house work of sweeping and mopping and washing vessels if your mother goes? And who will do the odd jobs your father does?”

Pundalik nodded his head in agreement. He could not prevent them from going. He thought for a while and said, “You are right my dear. We will do one thing. We will also go with them and then they will be compelled to come back with us. Pack our things also”

“But I will not be able to walk such a long distance. And your parents will be riding our horse…” Pundalik’s wife said complainingly.

“Don’t worry my dear. You ride on the horse. Let them walk. They are used to hard life” said Pundalik.

So they both joined his parents on the tour and while Pundalik’s parents trudged along with barefoot on the harsh road, Pundalik and his wife happily rode the horse with not a bit of remorse. The other group members were aghast but no one had the guts to talk to Pundalik as he had become very arrogant and had nothing but harsh words for others.

In those days since people undertook pilgrimage by foot or on horseback or carts, they used to halt for the night at places open for the public to rest or at times in ashrams which were inhabited by holy men. Sometimes they would halt for a few days at one place and then proceed.

Thus, after travelling for many days, the group of devotees including Pundalik’s family reached Kashi. They visited the places to be seen and soon it was time for them to return. For the entire duration of the trip there was not a kind word from Pundalik and his wife towards his parents. On the return trip also, the daughter in law happily rode on the horse while the old parents had to walk

After travelling for a few days, the group reached a big village and decided to halt at the ashram of a sage Kakkut Muni for a couple of days. The ashram was on the banks of the Ganga and all the members were very tired.

As all of them were in deep sleep, in the middle of the night, the sound of anklets awoke Pundalik. Still very sleepy, he opened his eyes and noticed that three young women who were extremely beautiful, but wearing very dirty and filthy clothes came in to the ashram. They went around and swept and mopped the other rooms and washed the sage’s clothes, cleaned the kitchen and did all the chores and went out of the ashram and what surprised Pundalik was that their clothes had become spotlessly white while going! Pundalik could not believe his eyes. It seemed to be a mystery. Pundalik decided to watch the next day also and the same thing happened once again.

The third day Pundalik could no longer contain his curiosity and as they were preparing to exit, he got up and went to them.

“Pray may I know who you are and the mystery of you clothes becoming spotlessly white?” he asked them.

The three maidens looked at each other and one of them spoke. “We are the three rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswathy”, said she.

“People who commit lot of sins come to us and have a dip in our waters and we cleanse them of the sins taking them upon us and that is why our clothes become dirty. When we come here and serve the sage by doing his chores wholeheartedly, the sins carried by us are removed and therefore our clothes become white once again” said another.

“And you are one of the worst sinners since you have been continuously wounding the hearts of your parents, who are the very cause of your existence in the world!” said the third and giving him a despicable look, the three left the ashram.

Pundalik was shocked to hear someone accuse him straight on his face and he had no reply to the accusation. He felt deeply ashamed of himself. He could not sleep a wink after the incident. Memories of his parents showering affection on him when he was a child and memories of his crude rude behaviour haunted him so much that he got up feeling very restless and despondent.

It was very early in the morning and Kakkut Muni had got up to perform his austerities. As he was going out of the ashram, he noticed Pundalik and sensing that something was wrong, beckoned him to come near.

“What is the matter son?” he asked softly. “Are you not keeping well? It looks that you have not slept!” said he.

Pundalik was on the verge of crying. He poured out his heart to the Muni and told him about the incident of meeting the three maidens and about how bad he had been behaving towards his parents over the past few years.

“I have realised now that I have been senseless all these years and how much pain I have caused to my dear parents. Will I ever be rid of those sins in this life?” he sighed. The pain on his face reflected the turmoil that was going on in his mind.

Kakkut Muni looked at him with compassion. “Come my son”, he said as he took him along to the river bank.

“What the maidens told you was true” he said. “They come and serve me like my daughters to get rid of the sins they acquire and you can also get rid of your sins only by serving your parents wholeheartedly”

“But Sire” said Pundalik, “What will my parents think of me if I suddenly change? Will they believe me?”

“Why not Son?” said Kakkut Muni. “Parents are the only ones who love their children unconditionally. Even now, for all the hatred showered by you, they have only love and affection for you and not a shred of hatred”

That moment changed Pundalik’s life forever. He decided that from that moment his life would be only for serving his parents.

That morning his parents were in for a pleasant surprise. They could not decipher how this change happened overnight but nonetheless they were too happy to have their delightful son back.

Pundalik’s wife was also surprised, but Pundalik made her see that he meant what he said. She had no way to disagree and soon fell in line with him.

Pundalik became so much dutiful to his parents that it became the talk of his village and soon started spreading much beyond.

Lord Krishna in the form of Panduranga was watching this and wanted to show case this devotion to the world.

One day, he came as a young man to Pundalik’s house. By this time, Pundalik’s parents were very ill and needed help for every need of theirs. Pundalik was happily catering to their needs. When the Lord came to Pundalik’s house, Pundalik was busy massaging his father’s feet as was his practice  when his parents went to sleep every day.

Lord Krishna called out to Pundalik from outside.

“Who is it?” cried Pundalik from inside, continuing to do what he was doing.

“I am Vitthal” said Krishna. “I have come to see you. May I come in?”

Pundalik could see from the opening of the door that it was indeed the Lord of the Universe in the form of a young lad, dark hued, wearing fish shaped earrings, with a beautiful sandal Tilak on his forehead, dressed in his resplendent yellow silk, standing outside. But Pundalik was only half done with his duty to his father and could not receive Krishna.

The floor was wet outside and Pundalik took a brick and threw it outside. “Please stand on it my Lord” said he. “I will finish my duty to my father and come”

Vitthal, with a smile on his lips and hand on his hips, stood on the brick waiting for Pundalik to come and receive him.

Pundalik finished his job and when his father slept, he came out and welcomed the Lord.

“I am sorry, I could not receive you earlier” he said with sincere apology.

The Lord smiled. “Your parents are your first gods Pundalik” he said. “Your service to your parents is your prayer and it will reach me. I am so pleased by your devotion that I want to give you a boon. Tell me Pundalik, what do you want?”

Pundalik thought for a moment and said calmly, “Lord, please stay here for the benefit of mankind. Please stay in this place and bless those who come here!”

Vitthal was pleased and said “So be it”.

And from that day onwards, Vitthal with his consort Rukmini has stayed there which is the present day Pandharpur.

 

 

 

 

 

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