Thursday, 7 July 2011

Shabari Jayanti

Shabari Jayanti is dedicated to Sabari, an old woman mentioned in the Ramayana, who attained moksha through her devotion to Sri Ram. Shabari Jayanthi 2011 date is February 24. The Jayanti is observed on the seventh day of the Krishna Paksha of Phalgun month in calendars followed in North India. The day is of great significance to the Kol Community.

Sabari, a very old woman, was an ardent devotee of Lord Ram. During his search for Mata Sita in the forest, Sri Ram along with Lakshman reached the hut of Sabari.

The old woman who was overwhelmed with joy had nothing to offer to the Lord. Tears trickled from her eyes and then she remembered about fresh fruits that she had collected the other day.

Sabari was not sure whether the fruits were tasty, sour or poisonous. So she tasted them first a little and threw away all that was sour and not good.

So when she went to get them she realized that she had bitten all the fruits. She did not want to offer the half-eaten fruits to Sri Ram.

Sri Ram who realized this asked Sabari to share the half-eaten fruits. Thus the all knowing Lord proved that it is not the condition or value of the offering that matters but devotion of the devotee who offers it.

After this divine incident, Sabari attained Moksha. Through this divine act, Sri Ram explained to the world that what is more important is devotion and not the value of the offerings.

Story of Shabari
We all know the story of Shabari and Sri Rama. This is the story of Shabari, who did not know God or bhakti or shraddha, how she got Sri Rama's darshan only because of Guru Kripa. This story teaches us gratitude, satsang, selfless service, bhakti, shraddha and saburi

Shabari came from an un-civilized man animal community called Shabara. Since she hailed from this community she was named Shabari. Being an orphan she dint know what mother, father, kith-kin, God, love meant. Her life was spent roaming around, wandering aimlessly, killing animals and eating them when hungry. She did not know how to live like normal humans. She would watch how the animals hunted and ate their prey and she imitated them. [ Our behaviour and habits are more or less related to the kind of company we keep ] One day, as she was wandering around, she came to an unusual place. That place was serene. Everything about that place was divine. The flowers, luscious fruits, birds, wild and domestic animals are playing with each other in harmony........ there she saw an unusual sight. The mother deer was licking her fawn with love and in turn the fawn looking back at mother with gratitude. Shabari was in awe and starts to appreciate. She thought, too bad, all these years I've been killing animals and eating them. Shabari, who did not know how to appreciate, now finds herself appreciating things. She realises that there is something divine about this place which also brought a sense of peace in her, and decides to stay there. As Shabari was exploring this place, she saw three Rishis walk by. Unknowingly her hands folded in reverence. Without their notice she quietly follows them to their ashram. Next morning she saw that the rishis woke up early, so she too woke up early like 3 am , cleaned the ashram area, plucked flowers etc. Shabari, who did not know what serving others was like, was now feeling happy to serve the rishis. Everyday without the rishis's knowledge she would wake up early and keep the ashram clean, plucked fruits and flowers, clean the pathway which was full of thorns. The rishis were surprised as to who is doing this everyday. One day the Guru asks his disciples to go and find out who has been doing this noble deed. The rishis find Shabari and bring her to their Guru Matanga . Guru tells Shabari that he was very pleased with her service and would like to bless her with a boon. Shabari humbly said " I did not do all these things to get a boon, I did it only because I felt happy doing it ". But the Guru insisted on giving her a boon. Shabari says, "If at all you want to give me something, then please allow me to stay here forever. That is all I wish." Guru Matanga was very happy and thought to himself, what a pious soul she is. She started living and serving in the ashram. There, under Guru's guidance she learnt the vedas, shastras. She became a learned person with her Guru's blessings. Time flew by and Shabari became old. She was about middleaged when she first came to the ashram. Now she was about 80 years old.

One day she learns that her Guru is going to give up his mortal body and go to the heavenly abode. Guru calls all his disciple and says that he would like to give each one a  boon. He personally calls each disciple and grants their wishes. However, Guru Matanga feels sad that none of them asked for Guru's feet/ be with the Guru forever. It was finally Shabari's turn. She humbly says " When I first came here you asked me the same question. My answer is still the same, what it was that day." Guru was very touched and thought to himself, she is the right heir to my fortune.  He calls her and says, from today onwards the only word that should come from your mouth is  " RAMA ". The obedient Shabari asked her Guru if there were any rules and regulations to saying this word" Rama ". Guru kindly says, " You can say this name whenever you feel like, how many ever times you feel like". Shabari asks , " what is the meaning of the name Rama? " Guru says, "this name will come looking for you and knock at your door one day." This is none other than God himself, who will come to seek your darshan. Shabari starts crying in gratitude, thinking what did I do to deserve this. From that day onwards every breath of Shabari uttered only RAMA. Everyday she would go to the forest and pluck fresh flowers and fruits, thinking what if Rama comes to my door today. She would tell all the passerby that my Guru has told that Sri Rama is going to visit me. By and by twelve years passed. Everyday without fail for twelve years, Shabari went to the forest and plucked fresh flowers and fruits for Rama. Such was Shabari's bhakti/devotion and shraddha in her Guru. Now,over 90 years old she thinks, my soul is going to leave the body very soon. How long are you going to keep me waiting for your darshan Lord Rama. She says, " my Guru has told me that Sri Rama will definitely come, hence I will not allow the soul to leave this feeble body till then. Around that time Rama comes to Chitrakoot searching for his beloved Sita and knocks at Shabari's door. Her happiness knew no bounds. She served Shri Rama to her heart's content. When Sri Rama askes her,"Shabari what boon would you like". Shabari says, " With my Guru's blessing I was blessed to have your darshan today. I do not desire anything else now. Please give me the permission to give up my mortal body." Thus, she gives up her mortal body and joins her Guru.


On their way southwards Rama and Laxmana passed through many difficult terrain. The forests were sparsely populated. Occasionally one encountered an ashrama of a sage with a small village around it. One such ashrama belonged to rishi Matang whose heart grieved for the lowly and downtrodden.

In his ashrama, one tribal devotee of Rama, named SHABARI, used to stay. She used to keep the place clean and tidy, and along with that she also performed her japa -repeating the holy name of GOD, did her ritualistic worship by offering flowers etc., and sang many songs in the glory of the Lord. Her chosen ideal was Rama for whose meeting she was waiting for long time.

Years passed by; Rishi Matang became old. When he was on his death-bed, he called Shabari near him and said, "Look, O devotee of Rama, your tapasya -austerities - and spiritual longing for Rama would not go in vain. Sri Rama is sure to visit this ashrama, this I can say on the basis of my spiritual power. Therefore, after my departure, I plead you to wait for Rama's arrival. Hence take charge of this ashrama and live in peace and as a devotee of Rama. Your efforts would be rewarded in due course of time." So saying the rishi passed away.

Simple hearted, poor, and belonging to lower caste, Shabari did not know much about running the ashrama. Soon everyone left her. The birds, the flowers, the shrubs and occasional domesticated animal became her friends. But she had full faith in the words of her Guru Matang. When he had said Sri Rama would come to that ashrama, she could not disbelieve those words.

Hence Shabari used to clean the place early in the morning, collect fruits, and would wait looking at the distant road for her Rama to come. Every day this was her routine. Every day she thought "Rama would definitely come today!" In these days of eager wait and expectation of seeing her Rama, she forgot all about her rituals, worship, japa or songs! She forgot about day and night, month and year as well as the seasons. Rains were replaced by the winter, winter turned into summer of scorching heat, but Shabari had lost her interest in everything. For her the sun rose with the definite hope that her Rama would come that day and she would be able to serve him.

These long years of wait turned Shabari into an old woman. Her eye sight became dim and the hearing was affected. She had no remorse. She continued to keep her tiring body busy in her routine of cleaning the ashrama and collecting fruits for Rama.

One day, at last, Sri Rama arrived in the ashrama. Pleasure of Shabari knew no bounds. The long awaited desire was fulfilled. Falling at the feet of Rama she said, "O Rama, I cannot describe your kindness in words. When so many great sadhakas (rishis and munis and yogis), cannot seek your Grace even in many births, you have come to me so soon."

So saying she washed the holy feet of her chosen ideal and offered him berries which she had collected from the forest that morning. And the beauty of the relation between the true Bhakta and the Lord was such that Rama was happy in eating the same fruit that had been tasted by Shabari herself, lest the fruit should be bitter!

Laxmana, with tears rolling down his cheeks, was silently observing the pure love between God and the devotee. Until now he used to think that there was nobody on the earth or heaven who loved Rama as dearly as he did. But today Shabari proved him wrong. When tears dried down in the eyes of Shabari, when her voice was not choking, when she lifted her eyes from the holy feet of Rama then Laxmana bowed down at the feet of Shabari and said, "O mother, your love for Rama will be remembered for ever in this world. I bow down in reverence to the great devotee of Sri Rama."

Then Shabari inquires about the purpose of their such hard journey. Rama recounts the sad tell of kidnapping of Sita, etc. Reflecting upon the facts, Shabari directs them to go further southwards to Pampa lake and to Kishkindha where the monkey king Sugreeva and the great Rama-devotee monkey Hanuman would be of great help in their search of Sita

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