Valmiki Ramayana

Story of Shabari

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

In his ashram, one tribal devotee of Ram, named Shabari, used to stay. She used to keep the place clean and tidy, and along with that she also performed her jap -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 Ram for meeting whom she was waiting for a 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 Ram, your tapasya -austerities - and spiritual longing for Ram would not go in vain. Sri Ram is sure to visit this ashram. This I can say on the basis of my spiritual power."

" Therefore, after my departure, I plead you to wait for Ram's arrival. Hence take charge of this ashram and live in peace and as a devotee of Ram. 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 ashram. Soon everyone left her. The birds, the flowers, the shrubs and occasional domesticated animals became her friends. But she had full faith in the words of her Guru Matang. When he had said Sri Ram would come to that ashram, 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 Ram to come. Every day this was her routine. Every day she thought "Ram would definitely come today!" In these days of eager wait and expectation of seeing her Ram, 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 Ram 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 ashram and collecting fruits for Ram.
One day, at last, Sri Ram arrived in the ashram. Pleasure of Shabari knew no bounds. The long- awaited desire was fulfilled. Falling at the feet of Ram she said, "O Ram, I cannot describe your kindness in words. When so many great sadhaks (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 Ram was happy in eating the same fruit that had been tasted by Shabari herself, lest the fruit should be sour or bitter!
Laxman, 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 Ram 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 Ram, then Laxman bowed down at the feet of Shabari and said, "O mother, your love for Ram will be remembered for ever in this world. I bow down in reverence to the great devotee of Sri Ram."

Then Shabari inquires about the purpose of their hard journey. Ram 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 Sugreev and the great Ram-devotee monkey Hanuman would be of great help in their search of Sita.

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