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Jagannatha Das Baba: Radha Rani’s mercy during the famine in Varshana

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VarshanaDuring famines like as the Agra Famine of 1838, sadhus are among worst effected. A great who lived in Varshana called Jagannatha Dasa Baba used to keep a store of food grains to offer to sadhus in times of food shortages. He kept medicines in his hut and at times cooked for sadhus. When the famine hit, he did not touch the food stuffs that he had stored in pots – he did not keep them for himself and, at this time, the sadhus were in need.

During the famine, the people of Varshana had no food to offer as madhukari (alms).  Jagannatha Das Baba felt compelled to leave, but, whenever he thought of leaving Varshana, his heart would sink and tears would flow from his eyes. At a young age, Jagannatha Das Baba left his hometown, Vardhaman, to come to Varshana in the hope of having darshan of Radharani. After several days without any food, he resolved to leave.

He bundled up his belongings and started walking, but, before he had gone far, he met a Brajbasi girl that he recognized.

“Where are you going Baba?” she asked

“Somewhere” He replied, with tears in his eyes.

“But why?”

“Why? There is a dearth of madhukari here in your village. How can I live without madhukari?”

“What are you saying Baba? Dearth for you? My mother keeps madhukari for you every day. Why don’t you come? Even today she has kept madhukari for you in the kitchen. Go and take it and do not leave this place.”

Babaji was very hungry. He thought that since the girl’s mother has already kept madhukari for him, he should take it before going anywhere. He went back to his hut and put his belongings there, then went to the girl’s house.

As soon as the girl’s father saw Baba, he said, “Baba, you have come very late. There is no madhukari  now. Why didn’t you come earlier?”

Baba replied, “I have come on the invitation of your lali who told me that her mother has kept madhukari for me in the kitchen.”

“My lali?! But she is not here. She moved to her husband’s house a long time ago. You must have mistaken some other girl for my lali.”

“No, no. It was her, I am sure.”

The Brijwasi smiled. He turned to his wife and said, “See if there is something in the kitchen that you can give Baba to eat. He must be hungry.”

As soon as she opened the door of the kitchen, she shouted, “Oh my God, how wonderful! Who has kept this plate of vegetable, roti, dhal and rice here? I didn’t.”

The girl’s father was surprised, but suddenly a thought came into his mind: “It must have been Radha Rani herself  who invited Baba in the guise of my daughter and who put the plate in my kitchen for Baba. Who else could it be?”

Baba also had the same understanding. He was so overwhelmed with bhava that tears streamed from his eyes. With an intense feeling of gratitude towards Radha Rani, he felt as if he was drowning in the ocean of Her mercy.

The Brijwasi woman gave the plate of food to Baba. It was his habit to accept only pieces of roti as madhukari, but this time, he accepted a full cooked meal, because it was from Radha Rani.

As Baba was leaving the house, both the girl’s parents said, “Baba, do come every day for madhukari”.

Baba was reminded of Shri Krishna’s assertion in the Bhagavad Gita that He Himself takes care of His devotees. He also remembered this story, about a Brahmin who doubted that Shri Krishna personally looks after devotees:

The Brahmin lived on alms and was very devout. He would spend his time reading and meditating on the Bhagavad Gita. Once he was meditating on verse 9.22

“Those who are exclusively devoted to me and always think of me and nothing else, I myself own the responsibility of fulfilling all their wants and protecting them from all ills”

The Brahmin thought that the word vahamyaham, which means “I Myself carry the burden of fulfilling their wants”, was inappropriate. He thought that it should have been karomyaham which means “I arrange for someone to fulfill their wants”. He thought, why should the all powerful Lord Krishna carry this burden on his head? So he struck out the word vahamyaham and wrote karomyaham.

One day, it rained so heavily that the Brahmin could not go out to beg for alms. He and his wife both went hungry. He went out the next day, when the rains had stopped.

Not long after he left, a handsome boy who was carrying provisions on his head and whose forehead was bleeding from a scratch, arrived at the house and said to the Pandit’s wife, “Ma, Pandit ji has sent this Prasad”.

The Pandit’s wife was charmed by the boy’s lovely face and sweet voice but was pained by the sight of blood dripping from his forehead. She said, “My child. Who has hurt you?”

“Pandit ji” he said

“Which pandit ji?”

“Your husband”

“My husband?! He is so simple and kind hearted. Why would he hurt a lovely boy like you?”

“I am telling you the truth Ma. It was your husband who pieced my forehead with the point of a dart.”

“But why?”

“He alone knows why.”

When the Brahmin returned home, his wife told him what had the boy had said. There was no end to Pandit ji’s astonishment, grief and resentment. It did not take him long to understand that the Gita is a verbal image of Shri Krishna and by cutting one of its words with a pen he had actually pierced the body of Krishna.

By himself carrying the food to the house on His head, Shri Krishna demonstrated the literality of the statement that he himself carries the burden of responsibility for fulfilling the wants of his devotees. The Brahmin was so filled with guilt and remorse that he fell senseless on the ground.

As Jagannath Das Baba thought of this story, he said to himself, “If Krishna can be so merciful to his devotees, how can Radha Rani lag behind? She must be even more merciful.”

This story is mentioned in Gaudiya Vaishnav Jivana. Here it is mentioned Banakhandi, a descendant of the family that used to give madhukari to baba was the wealthiest man in Varshana, and perhaps the happiest too.

Source: 'The Saints of Braj' by O.B.L. Kapoor.

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