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God In The Poor – Story Of Sant Eknath

Sant Eknath was a sixteenth-century saint born in Paithan, Maharashtra. Eknath’s father’s shraddha was to be performed that day. Khandya (Bhagavan Sri Krishna in disguise as servant boy) swept and mopped up the house, filled the vessels with water from the nearby river and began cooking. The aroma from the dishes filled the place and also wafted across to the opposite hut, housing a low-caste family. The woman told her husband, ‘Ah, how sweet! How tasty the dishes should be! Are we ever destined to eat such food in our lifetime?’ Her voice wafted back to Eknath’s house. Eknath was moved. ‘Khandya,’ he called out. ‘Serve the cooked food to those people in the hut. You are such a nice cook. Won’t you, my boy, cook all over again? Let us be done with the purificatory ceremony after the brahmin guests arrive. You can then begin.’ Khandya joyfully served the food to those hapless low-castes, whose joy knew no bounds. Eknath was immensely gratified to have satisfied their desire.

The brahmin guests arrived and heard what happened. Incensed at the transgression, they told Eknath, ‘That’s sacrilegious. How could you feed those low-castes before finishing the shraddha ceremony?’ And they left the place immediately. Eknath was downcast. Khandya smiled and said, ‘Why do you worry, sir? You know the mantras. Do the purificatory rites yourself.’ ‘True, but there are no brahmins to eat from the leaf-plates meant for Bhagavan Vishnu and Vishwadeva.’ ‘Don’t worry, Bhagavan Vishnu Himself will come here to accept your offerings. And with Him will come not Vishwadeva, but Vishvanatha Himself. Not only that; your father, grandfather and great-grandfather will also personally accept your offerings.’

Eknath was stunned at the boy’s firmness, but went about the purificatory ceremony all the same. Khandya started to cook again. After the ceremony, plantain leaf-plates were spread and wooden seats arranged for the divine beings and ancestors. Khandya’s prediction came true: Bhagavan Vishnu, Vishvanatha and Eknath’s father, grandfather and great grandfather — all came and accepted the offerings.

Eknath couldn’t still understand his servant’s greatness. He thought it was the power of his mantras that had effected the miracle. Eknath was still sorry he couldn’t feed the brahmins on the shraddha day. He called them again and said, ‘I would like to atone for my sin with a bath in the Ganga. Kindly help me perform the sankalpa (solemn resolution) to undertake the journey to North India.’

When the sankalpa was about to begin, they had a strange visitor. A leprosy-afflicted old brahmin came there and told Eknath, ‘I am a devotee of Bhagavan Panduranga. After days of supplication to Him, He appeared in my dream yesterday and said, “Eknath fed some low-caste people during his father’s shraddha. The merit accrued to him by that noble act is unequalled. Request him to offer you that merit. If he does that, that will cure you of your disease.” That’s why I came running here. Will you kindly offer your merit to me?’

As a mark of offering his merit to the old man, Eknath poured into his outstretched hands the water meant for sankalpa. The water forthwith transformed into the sacred Ganga water, containing offerings usually made in the holy river. The old man was cured immediately. The brahmins too were cured — of their bigotry and sense of superiority. Eknath’s greatness was now clear to them.