Shabari – A Devoted Woman
In the forest called Panchavati, there lived a Bheelani named Shramani in the ashram of Sage Matanga, and she also used to be absorbed in devotional activities. As she belonged to the Shabara community, she was also known by another name – Shabari. She remained busy serving the sages who came to the ashram. Sage Matanga had blessed Shabari that Sri Ram would appear before her in that very ashram. Her waiting was long and patience enduring.
Shree Ram, with his brother Lakshman, was wondering in the forest Panchavati in search of his wife Sita. He was going places asking about Sita. He also went to Sage Matanga’s ashram.When Shabari came to know that Sri Ram was due to come there, she went to the forest and started gathering sweet fruits so that she could welcome Shree Ram.
When Shree Ram came to that ashram, she welcomed Ram and Lakshman with utmost love. Her voice became choked due to her intense emotion. She washed the feet of both the brothers, and had them sit on the cushions. Then she offered fruits to Shree Ram. Shabari, all ecstatic, would taste the berries, give sweet berries to the Sri, and throw away other ones. After all, how could she determine which berry is sweet and which one sour unless she tasted them herself?
On account of her deep love, great reverence and intense devotion to the God, Shabari did not even realize that she was feeding him tasted, and therefore defiled berries. Sri Ram too, recognizing the honest, pious and pure heart of Shabari and her feeling of devotion, ate those half-eaten berries with great relish. God cares for only true feelings.
Sri Ram was very pleased with Shabari’s reverence and devotion. Upon Shabari’s request, he preached to her about the Nawadha (Nine Branched) Devotion. It was Shabari who suggested to Ram to go to the Pampa Lake and to cultivate friendship with Sugreev, and told him that he would be successful in the search of Sita with the help of Sugreev. Thereafter Shabari, enveloped in Ram’s devotion, breathed her last, offering herself in the sacrificial fire. As soon as she entered the fire, her body became radiant with a divine light. She became immersed in the God forever.