In Barsana there is a place called Piri Pokhar. As we walk from Piri Pokhar to Prem Sarovar, we see a small and old chabutra or platform in the adjoining forest. The platform is called Gulab Sakhi-ka-chabutra. Even today people bow down to it as they pass by.
Gulab Sakhi was a poor Muslim who lived in Barsana, the abode of Radharani, since his birth. Since childhood he had rolled in the holy dust of Barsana, breathed the air of Barsana charged with bhav and bhakti and enjoyed the company of the Brajwasis of Barsana.
He was very humble and simple at heart. Though illiterate, he was a good sarangi player. He played sarangi regularly at the time of kirtan in the temple of Radharani. He had a daughter that was seven or eight years old, whose name was Radha. She danced while he played sarangi in the temple. Her dance was enchanting.
Sriji Mandir, Barsana (P.C. Rajasthan Patrika)
For the service he rendered in the temple, he was paid a small salary of eight or ten rupees. But he would get Radharani’s prasad as well, which was enough for him and his daughter. He was happy and content. There was nothing else that he wanted.
He loved his daughter very much. He was so satisfied with his service to Radharani through his music and her dance at the temple, both morning and evening, that he felt as if he was living in the highest paradise. He never thought about how his daughter would get married one day and his paradise would come to an end.
But his daughter came of age and had to be married. The Goswamis of Barsana all loved his daugther. They often said “Gulab! Radha has come of age. Why don’t you see to her marriage?” The Goswamis decided to raise money for her marriage and asked him to look for a suitable boy. Radha was married. She went with her husband and Gulab was left alone.
Gulab was no more the old happy and cheerful Gulab. Cruel fate had cast its darkest shadow upon him. He not only lost his cheerfulness, but also his sleep and appetite. For three days and three nights he sat at the door of Radharani’s temple, weeping. He only wept and sighed and cried “Radha! Radha!” The Goswamis thought he would go mad. They tried to console him but in vain.
On the third day at midnight when he was lying at the door of the temple with his eyes closed, he heard the voice of his daughter. She said “Baba! I have come. Will you not play sarangi so I can dance?”
It is difficult to say whether Gulab was sleeping or awake, but he saw with his eyes closed that his daughter danced as he played sarangi. That night her dance was much more enchanting and the jingle of the ornaments she wore around her ankles was much more pleasing to the ear and captivating to the heart than usual. It was so because it was not really his daughter. Gulab realized this, because the transcendental jingle of the anklets of Radharani had opened his physical as well as spiritual eyes. He looked at Her with eyes wide open and wet with tears and said, “Lali!” As he wanted to say something more, moving towards Her with his heart full of affection, She ran towards the temple and he ran after Her.
After this Gulab was never seen anywhere. The Goswamis thought that he perhaps could not bear the separation from his daughter and had committed suicide. They constructed the chabutra, already mentioned, in his memory.
One day, when a Goswami, who was a pujari of Radharani’s temple, was returning home after performing aarti and putting Radharani to sleep, he heard someone from behind a cluster of trees in the adjoining forest, calling “Goswami Ji! Goswami Ji!”
He turned around and said, “Who is that?”
“Your Gulab,” came the reply, and Gulab came out of the forest.
Goswami was surprised to see him. He said, “Did you not die?” Gulab told him the whole story about Radharani’s appearance to him as his daughter and added, “She had kindly accepted me as Her sakhi. I have just come after playing sarangi for Her as She lay down to sleep. Here is Her prasadi paan.”
Radharani and her dasi (atist unknown)
Gulab gave the paan to Goswami Ji. He was surprised to see that it was the same paan that he just offered to Radharani. From this time on, Gulab became known as Gulab Sakhi.
The only thing Gulab did to win over Radha’s heart was that he wept at Her door and cried, “Radha! Radha!” But how could that melt Radha’s heart? Wasn’t She aware that he was crying for his daughter and not for Her?
It is difficult to answer this question. Radharani is all-merciful. When the ocean of Her mercy swells is crosses all barriers of scriptural rules and regulations.
It may also be observed that Gulab was humble, pure in heart and free from all kinds of offenses. Radharani’s mercy flows more easily towards those who are pure in heart. He did not practice any jap or tap or any other sadhana. His life itself was a silent sadhana.
He could never think of giving up his service to Radharani, and he was completely surrendered to Her. Everything that belonged to him, including his daughter was, for him, a means for Radha’s service. After the departure of his daughter, he was crying for her not because of attachment for her as his daughter, but because she was to him an indispensable means for his service to Radharani. How could Radharani prevent Her mercy from flowing freely towards a surrendered soul like him?
From The Saints of Vraja by Dr. O.B.L Kapoor