Devotion has no caste, creed, high, rich or poor. Just a river flows with a singular aim to meet the ocean, devotion seeks to meet the Almighty. A beautiful example such devotion and devotee is Mata Shabari. Derived from the word सबर meaning patience, Shabari devotion indeed was the patient wait for Shri Ram.
Shabari was a tribal woman belonging to a hunter clan. Although born into a hunter family, she resisted their violent ways. She was more inclined towards the spiritual ways and wanted to enlighten herself through them. Once, when her father attempts a sacrifice of animals for her marriage, she runs away as she did not want to be the cause of their death. After wandering for many days in the forest, she meets Rishi Matang who gets a vision of Shabari’s greatness and how she would be remembered for her devotion in the future times. He accepts her as his disciple and gives her the task of maintaining the premises of the peaceful hermitage.
Years pass by, and Shabari serves her guru patiently. The time comes when Rishi Matang prepares to go the heavenly abode. Shabari seeks permission to accompany him. But Rishi Matang says that she could come to him after she meets Shri Ram who would come in search of his wife. He mentions that Shri Ram is none other than Bhagwan Vishnu and by getting to serve him, Shabari could fulfil her life mission. Following her guru’s advice, Shabari awaits Shri Ram.
With eagerness to serve Shri Ram when he comes, Shabari would daily go to the forest and pluck flowers for laying on Shri Ram’s feet. She would pick up the wild berries and keep aside the sweetest of them, after tasting them. Such simple and pure was her devotion that she did not understand that tasted ones were not to be offered to God. Her intention was only to see that Shri Ram had the tastiest fruits to eat and nothing else.
Pure devotion makes God come to the door of the devotee. The day comes when Shri Ram and Lakshman arrives at her ashram. Shabari is elated and lays flowers for him so that the thorns do not prick his legs. She offers hospitality in her simple hut and gives him the tasted wild berries to eat. Shri Ram is overwhelmed at her innocent devotion just as mother wants to feed her hungry child.
Lakshman is concerned as how could the berries be accepted as they are already tasted. But Shri Ram clears the doubts of Lakshman saying that he would accept them as Shabari’s intention and devotion is totally pure and unconditional. Later, Shabari guides Shri Ram the path to Rishymuk Mountain to meet Sugriv.
Pleased at Shabari’s devotion, Shri Ram then explains to her, the knowledge of Bhakti known as Nava Vidha Bhakti. Shabari with her life fulfilled, transforms herself into a divine light and reaches her guru’s abode. Shabari’s service to Shri Ram was only for a very little time, yet her selfless service and innocent devotion was special to Shri Ram like no other devotee. By eating the tasted berries of Shabari, Shri Ram proved that when devotion is pure, faults do not stand a chance.
Shabari stands as an embodiment of patience in devotion. She proves that faith makes everything possible. It’s just that one needs to have complete patience and trust in God, which will make all the difference.