Shabari’s Caves at Hampi Dhama
Shabari was a tribal lady and had unflinching devotion for Lord Rama. She took the shelter of great sage Matanga Rsi as her spiritual master. During the last days of sage Matanga, Shabari served him with great attention and care. Pleased by her service, Matanga Rsi blessed her that one day certainly Lord Rama along with His bother Laxmana will come to meet her. Having undeterred faith in the words of her spiritual master, every day, Shabari collected Ber (berries) from nearby forest in great anticipation that Lord Rama will come to meet her. Many, many years passed by (as per the life span of the Treyta yuga) and Shabari become an old emaciated woman, but Lord Rama hadn’t yet come. Undisturbed, Shabari continued with her unalloyed devotional service – picking the Ber (berries) everyday, cleaning her hermitage and sitting place of Lord Rama and Laxmana in great anticipation that They will come! Finally, when Lord Rama and Laxmana reached Kishkinda Ksetra in search of Sita, Lord Rama came and met His most beloved devotee Shabari! Upon having the personal darshans of Lord Rama, her transcendental ecstasy was boundless. But it was her enthusiasm to serve Lord Rama that overtook. She offered Him a sitting place and her prayers, and gathered the ber (berries) to satisfy Rama and Laxmana. Touched by her pure unalloyed devotion, Lord Rama and Laxmana bowed down at her feet. When Lord Rama informed about the kidnapping of Sita, Shabari advised Lord Rama to have alliance with Sugriva who was banished by his brother as the king of Kishkinda, and get back his kingdom, that way his monkey army would help Lord search Sita. Lord Rama then desired to have a tour of Matanga’s ashram. Lord Rama then told Shabari, “You have satisfied Me by the simplicity of your unalloyed love and devotion. Now you can go and join your guru again.” By Lord’s mercy, Shabari understood that her life was perfect and she in meditation, she sat in the sacred fire.
Shabari was a hunter’s daughter and belonged to the Nishadha tribal community. The night before her marriage, she saw that thousands of goats and sheep were brought by her father, which were to be sacrificed for the marriage dinner. Moved by great compassion, during the early hours of the morning, she left her home and ran away in search of a spiritual master. Many yogis and gurus rejected her since she was of low caste. Finally, after days of traveling, she met great sage Matanga Rsi at the foot of the mountain Rsyamuka. She accepted him as guru, serving him with devotion. During the last days of sage Matanga, Shabari served him with great attention and care. Pleased with her service, Matanga Rsi blessed her that one day certainly Lord Rama along with His bother Laxmana will come to meet her.
Many years passed by (as per the life span of the Treyta yuga) and Shabari had become an old woman. She continued to live in the same ashram awaiting Lord Rama. Always meditating on her guru’s words, Shabari waited and waited for the arrival of Lord Rama. Every day, although it was difficult for her to walk, due to old age and infirmity, Shabari would still go out of her ashram early morning and pick ber fruits for Lord Rama. She would pluck a fruit, first taste it, and if it was sweet she would put it in her basket and discard the bitter ones. She wanted to give the good and sweet fruits to Lord Rama. The thought never came into her mind that she should not taste the fruits before they were offered to a deity. Thus collecting a few fruits, Shabari went back to her ashram and eagerly anticipated Lord Rama’s arrival.
Meanwhile, after Sita devi was kidnapped by Ravana, Lord Rama and Laxmana, in separation of Sita, had traversed hundreds of miles and eventually came upon an enormous monster named Kabandha. Kabandha explained to Them that close to Pampa Sarovara, Shabari was waiting for Them, to serve Them.
Arrival of Lord Rama: Then Rama and Laxmana came to Pampa Sarovara. There, They saw some caves on the banks of the lake and a little straw hut. There, sitting on the ground on a small kusha grass mat was an old emaciated lady. That lady, was indeed, Shabari. Even though hundreds of other yogis were waiting to receive Lord Rama in their ashrams, Lord Rama went only to Shabari’s ashram because of her sincere devotion. She was wearing just a bark of tress, her hair was matted, she was constantly with tears in her eyes chanting the holy names of Lord Rama. When she saw Rama and Laxmana, she immediately recognized Them, because by the grace of her guru, she was meditating on Rama coming for many, many years with such anticipation, eagerness.
Srila Rupa Gosvami, tells that the price of Krishna consciousness is this eagerness. And to cultivate this feeling of separation makes us very, very eager. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
yugayitam nimesena chaksusa pravrsayitam
sunyaitam jagat sarvam govinda-virahena me
Feeling your separation Govinda, the whole world is like a dreary void and each moment is like a yuga. But in that eagerness of separation, how much intensely he was chanting the holy names of the Lord, how intensely he was eager to serve the Lord! Shabari had such faith in her Guru. She knew that Rama would come. Years and years and years passed and she sat there just doing her meditation and doing her seva and now the fruit of all of her prayers, of all of her sadhana, had manifested. She had a chance to personally serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead. After offering her dandavat pranam, she offered Him a sitting place and offered Him prayers and gathered some of the forest fruits to satisfy Rama and Laxmana.
On seeing her most beloved Lord Rama, Shabari became ecstatic and said, “There were so many exalted yogis waiting for your darshan, but you came to this unworthy devotee. This clearly shows that you will neither see whether a devotee lives in a palace or humble hut, whether he is erudite or ignorant neither see caste nor colour. You will only see the true Bhakti. I do not have anything to offer other than my heart, but here are some berry fruits. May it please you, my Lord.”
Saying so, Shabari offered the fruits she had meticulously collected for Lord Rama. When Rama was tasting them, Laxmana raised the concern that Shabari had already tasted them and therefore unworthy of eating.
To this Lord Rama said, “I have tasted many types of food, but nothing equals these ber fruits offered with such devotion. You taste them, then alone will you know. Whomsoever offers a fruit, leaf, flower or some water with love, I partake it with great joy.” So in her enthusiasm to serve Rama, she will take each little fruit and take a bite of that and if it was bitter, she would put it aside for her to eat later and if it was sweet she took it out of her mouth and present it to Rama. Now according to the standards of deity worship, this is very offensive, but because of her love Lord Ramacandra accepted the saliva of her mouth as the sweetest part of the fruit.
Lord Krishna tells in Bhagavad-Gita chapter 9 verse 26, “Fruit, flower, water, even a leaf, if it’s offered with love I will accept it.” It is the love that makes everything sweet for Krishna. Shabari was so poor, she did not have nice plates, she didn’t have nice house, she didn’t have nice food, but she had love.
Then Lord Rama narrated to her the incident of Sita’s kidnapping. Shabari said, “Across this Pampa Sarovar is Rishyamukha Mountain where Sugriva lives. Sugriva is one of the chiefs of the monkeys. He has been exiled from his kingdom and his wife Ruma has been abducted and is being held captive by his brother Bali. No one in the world can understand what Sugriva is going through better than you, and no one in the world can understand what you are going through better than Sugriva. If you help him to get his wife and his kingdom back, then he will search the entire earth over and over again, relentlessly, until he finds Sita and brings her back. And his minister Hanuman is the most empowered transcendental person who can do anything.”
Touched by her pure unalloyed devotion, Lord Rama and Laxmana bowed down at her feet. Rama wanted to see the ashram of Matanga Rsi. So Shabari gave him a tour. Laxmana and Rama were walking beside her and she showed them that this is where they performed their yajnas – because in Tretayuga yajna was the yuga dharma – and it was still burning even though over a decade had passed since they left. She said, “These are the flowers that they made into the garlands to decorate their beloved Lord.” And the garlands were still fresh and fragrant. She said, “All the sages they just wore tree barks and here is the place where after washing their clothes they would dry them,” and there were tree bark hanging and they were still wet from being washed. Because of their love and their devotion to Rama, everything was still fresh as it was years and years before when they left it, just so that Rama could see it. Lord Rama and Laxmana were so happy by the simplicity of Shabari.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur tells that the first principle of true devotional service or bhakti is simplicity. Simplicity means without duplicity. It means to have no ulterior motives. It means to really deeply be satisfied with what’s really important – the opportunity to serve. For a devotee just the chance to serve, whether we have millions or billions of dollars, or whether we are living on a piece of straw on the bank of a lake wearing tree bark, it really doesn’t make much difference.
That value in life is simplicity. That makes us so dear to Krishna. King Prataprudra, even though he was the king of the entire domain of Orissa, he had a simple heart. He was happy serving Lord Caitanya whether he was sweeping the street or ruling over armies and treasuries. And it was the simplicity of his heart that made him so dear. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu gave us this message.
Lord Rama told Shabari, “You have satisfied me by the simplicity of your love and devotion. Now you can go and join your guru again and all of your god brothers and god sisters.” By his grace Shabari understood that her life was perfect and she in meditation, she sat in the sacred fire. Suddenly she was consumed by the fire, but she had such faith that a moment later she had a spiritual body and she came out from flames. She was no longer emaciated with matted hair. And then with the permission of Rama and Laxmana she returned to join her Guru in the loving service of the Lord, which was her only desire.
When Rama came to meet Shabari, her joy was not in seeing Rama; her joy was in serving Rama. ‘Don’t try to see Krishna; try to serve Krishna so that He is happy to see you.’ Yes, she was seeing the Supreme Absolute Truth, the personality of Godhead face to face, but her joy was in serving him and in pleasing him.
Shabari’s Cave is near Pampa Sarovar in Hampi is the place where Shabari lived and perform her tapasya (austerities). There is actual spot where Lord Ramacandra and Laxmana came and sat, and partook ber (berries) picked by her.
Hampi is a village in northern Karnataka, 13 km from the town of Hospet, and is identified with the historical Kishkinda, the Vanara (monkey) kingdom mentioned in the Ramayana. At Hampi there are many important sites related to Ramayana, namely Shabari’s cave and sacred Pampa Sarovar; Anjaneya Hill which is the Birthplace of Hanuman Ji; Yantrodharak Anjaneya Temple where Hanuman first saw Lord Rama and His brother Laxmana; Rsyamuka hill were Sugriva took shelter and lived for several years when banished by his elder brother Vali from his kingdom Kishkhinda; Maalyavant Raghunatha Swamy Temple where Lord Rama and Laxmana stayed for 4 months during the rainy season after Sugriva had been coronated on the throne; Kodanda Rama Temple where Sugriva was crowned as the King of Kishkhinda; Sugriva’s cave where Sugriva hid the jewels of mother Sita while she was been taken away by Ravana, and other places.
Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu visited Hampi during His South India tour as mentioned in Sri Caitanya Caritamrta Madhya-lila 9.316. Lord Nityananda also visited here during His travels.
The town of Hospet has nice accommodations available and has a railway station. It is in Bellary district and is 376 km from Bangalore, 385 km from Hyderabad and 266 km from Belgaum.
Places in and around Hampi:
1. Shabari’s Cave
2. Pampa Sarovar
3. Anjaneya Hill – The Birthplace of Hanuman Ji
4. Sri Malyavanta Raghunatha Swamy Temple
5. Sri Kodanda Rama Temple
6. Sugriva’s Cave
7. Yantrodharak Anjaneya Temple
8. Rsyamuka Hill
9. Matanga Hill
10. Sri Vijaya Vitthala Temple
11. Sri Purandara Das Mandapa
12. Sri Hazari Rama Temple
13. Bala Krishna Temple
14. Sri Ugra Nrsimhadeva Temple
15. Hemakuta Hill
16. Sri Virupaksha Temple
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