The legend of Lord Rama, the epic Ramayana tells it all, how generous, kind and brave Lord Ram was. Among all the incarnations of Lord Vishnu on earth, he was probably the most patient and peaceful of all. While Lord Krishna is known for his witty and a sharp mind, Lord Rama was brave yet decent. While Lord Krishna played tricks to overpower the enemy, it was mere righteousness and complete honesty that was the strength of Lord Ram.
And it was to this decency that Shabari gave away her heart initially and her family life later. Shabari is the name of one of the most popular devotees of Lord Ram. While the stories of her devotion are popular, there is one which she is the most remembered for. It was all because of her ardent devotion for Lord Ram that Shabari ultimately met Lord Ram, whose mere sight she sought for years.
Shabari Jayanti falls on the Saptami Tithi during Krishna Paksha in the month of Falgun.
The original name of Shabari was Shramana. She hailed from a lower caste family, a tribe known as Shabari. So Shabari was the name of the tribe after which she was popularly known. Shramana showed a keen interest in devotional songs and worship of Lord Ram since her childhood. She used to spend most of her time chanting the names of her lord and singing his praises.
As she grew up, she was married to a man who had a tamasik nature (demonlike attitude). While she was a woman of kind heart, many negative and socially unhealthy habits had overpowered her husband on the other hand. Her husband often tortured people due to which people even avoided Shramana. Thus, her life was all caught up in sufferings.
Tired of the negative attitude of her husband, Shramana decided to abandon him and renounced the materialistic life. Searching for a place such as an Ashrama where she could find devotees of Lord Ram for her company, she reached the abode of Sage Matanga. Sage Matanga was a renowned sage of that time.
Delighted to see the place she went ahead, but did not know that she would have to face obstacles here as well. As they say, a devotee has to face many obstacles before he can attain God. On a similar note, Shabari was not allowed to enter by the caretakers of the Ashram, saying that she was from a lower caste. This disheartened the lady and she sat down outside the Ashrama.
However, sage Matanga came to know about it after some time, he came to her and asked her the purpose of coming to the Ashram. It was then that she expressed her love for Lord Ram and told the sage that she wanted to spend the rest of her life in his devotion. Impressed by the dedication that had been there for years and since childhood in the heart of Shramana, sage Matanga agreed to accept her as a disciple.
It is said that in the Ashram, Shramana often used to go and collect berries and store them for Lord Shri Ram. Her only aim during the stay in the Ashram was to meet Lord Ram once. Her faith also rested upon the words of her Guru, sage Matanga who had said that she would attain her lord one day for sure.
And so it happened. Once while on his way with Lakshman, Lord Ram went to take some rest at the Chitrakoot Hill, where Shabari used to stay. And as she saw Lord Ram in front her, she went speechless but the eyes said it all when the tears of joy rolled down her cheeks. She had attained the highest sought after aim of her life, a life which was no less than a penance.
It is said that as an offering to Lord Ram, Shramana gave the berries after tasting them. Only the sweet berries were offered and bitter ones left aside. While we believe that the first offering out of a food item should be made to one's deity, lest the God be displeased; Shramana's eaten berries also succeeded in winning the heart of her lord. Such was the innocence of Shramana, who is today remembered as Shabari. Every year, her birth anniversary is celebrated as Shabari Jayanti.