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Story Of Sant Tukaram And His Wife Jijabai

Through this story Sant Tukaram Maharaj showed his wife Jijabai the true meaning and value of unwavering devotion.

Jijabai was cross with her husband Sant Tukaram. Bhakti seemed to be his only occupation. He never stuck to any job but spent his time in singing songs in praise of Bhagavan Panduranga. Their family continued to be poor as ever. While others admired his devotional songs, Jijabai was concerned not knowing where their next meal would come from. She chided Tukaram: ‘Our children are hungry. Your Vitthala is the cause of all our hardship. It beats me how instead of blaming Him, you are singing His praises?’

Tukaram was born in Dehu (Maharashtra) in a Varkari family, devoted to Bhagavan Panduranga for generations. But his ancestors had not neglected their family and ran a grocery business. Tukaram’s mind did not settle on anything other than singing praises of Bhagavan Vithal. But that did not prove ‘resourceful’ in any way. Jijabai was sick of admonishing her husband for his callousness. A friendly grain merchant happened to just visit them. He told Jijabai, ‘Don’t be angry with your husband. I have a proposal: He need not move about doing work. Let him sit on a mound in my paddy field and keep singing, now and then just shooing away birds with a stick. I shall give your family enough paddy in return.’ Jijabai considered the proposal a godsend and urged Tukaram to accept it. ‘Panduranga, may Your will be done,’ exclaimed Tukaram and set about his new job.

The vast paddy field was almost ready for harvest. Its ripe grains, the vast blue sky for background and a flight of parrots flying towards the field — nothing more was needed to kindle the divine in Tukaram. Crows, sparrows and other birds followed suit and had a feast of the grains. Deeply engrossed in singing, Tukaram was all joy watching the birds happily feast. He forgot that he was there precisely to prevent that. The field too appeared to him to be Bhagavan’s playfield and the birds, His creation enjoying a feast. Not satisfied with what he saw, Tukaram took some grains from a nearby heap and strew them around as a bonus for the birds. Sated with a rich repast, the birds approached Tukaram and surrounded him. They even started repeating the songs after him.

In the meanwhile the merchant’s farmhands arrived for work. Tukaram’s devotional songs and the flock of birds impressed them too, but not for long. When they saw a major portion of the field already ‘harvested’, they reported the matter to the merchant.

Incensed at this, the merchant rushed to his field. The birds flew away immediately. ‘What, my dear sir,’ he told Tukaram. ‘I wanted to feed your family, but you have instead ruined my prospects.’ Never liking Tukaram, a farmhand suggested to the merchant that Tukaram be tied to a post and thrashed. The merchant had the good sense not to do that, but Tukaram stood before him a culprit. Tukaram said, ‘Let the harvest take place. If there is a shortfall in the usual produce, I shall make good of it.’ However, he did not have a solution, but depended on Bhagavan Panduranga to bail him out.

Learning of the event, Jijabai arrived at the scene. Her disappointment gave way to a spontaneous outburst at her husband: ‘All these days your bhakti stood in the way of our family’s survival. Today it has crossed all its limits. Don’t you know that devotion to one’s duty is real devotion? Your bhakti has proved such a great loss to the merchant. Will you at least now give up your Vitthala? Will you not take that ungrateful wretch to task?’

Tukaram smiled and said, ‘He who grew the produce in this field came again as birds and ate them. It is He who inspires you to extol the virtues of karma in preference to bhakti. He is again my transgression and the punishment that is to be meted out to me. Owning Him, disowning Him or taking Him to task? All that is moonshine.’

The farm hands were busy harvesting the produce, the merchant supervising them. ‘We shall get mere straw this time,’ they remarked as they went about threshing. But surprise was in store for them: Heaps and heaps of paddy were piling up, greatly exceeding the previous year’s yield.

The merchant asked Tukaram in amazement: ‘How did this become possible?’ Tukaram replied, ‘If my Krishna dipped His hand in the Yamuna and sprinkled the water, thousands of stars would come into being — what to speak of these paddy grains?’ The merchant: ‘But you have such a Krishna under your beck and call. What sadhana did you perform to accomplished this?’ Tukaram: ‘I just sing His names. I never curse anyone — either Him, others or myself. I don’t know of anything else.’ Jijabai stood with her head bowed down, as if to salute Bhagavan, whom she had blamed all along for their family’s plight.

The merchant not only gave Tukaram the promised quantity of paddy, but also the entire excess produce. Jijabai cooked and cooked and fed the poor in the place. Tukaram’s family soon returned to a hand-to-mouth life. But Jijabai did not blame Bhagavan Vittal anymore. Her being too was now filled with the Vittal.