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TALES OF THE SAINTS OF PANDHARPUR I. PUNDALIK AND THE LORD KRISHNA

TALES OF THE SAINTS OF

PANDHARPUR


I. PUNDALIK AND THE LORD KRISHNA


Once upon a time when the Deccan was but sparely peopled, a forest called the Dandirvan forest grew along the

banks of the Bhima river. The forest took its name from a

certain demon called Dandir who had once lived there. In the middle of it was a village called Pandharpur. It stood upon the banks of the Bhima, where it takes a big curve

known as the Chandra bhaga. It was a sacred spot; for the moon god had bathed there, vainly trying to rid himself of the black marks which Gautama had stamped on his face for helping Indra in his attempt to carry off the lovely Ahalya.

Now in Pandharpur there dwelt a certain Brahman

named Janudeva and his wife Satyavati. Heaven had bless-

ed them with a son called Pundalik, who until he was sixteen years old was all that parents could wish a son to be. At sixteen Janudcva married Pundalik to the daughter of a

neighbouring householder. But the marriage proved the

parents' bane. Under his wife's influence Pundalik began to

ill-treat them. Although they had reached the evening of

life and had earned rest and leisure, Pundalik forced them to

grind the com, to sweep and clean the floors, to ,;ash the

clothes and fetch the water, while he and his wife spent their days in idleness.

One day a band of pilgrims on their way to Benares

passed Pandharpur. When Janudeva and Satyavati saw them, they resolved to join them, for they had no happiness in

their home and were weary of their lives. But when Pundalik's wife heard of their tlight, she said to her husband, "Let us

join the pilgrims also" ; for she did not wish that the aged couple should escape her. Pundalik agreed. He and his wife hired horses and soon overtook the pilgrims who went on foot. The hearts of Janudeva and Satyavati sank within them when they saw Pundalik and his wife overtake them.

Their fears were soon realised. Every evening Pundalik made them groom the two horses and attend to his own wants before he let them go to rest. And in no long time Janudeva

and Satyavati came bitterly to regret that they had ever gone on the pilgrimage.

One night darkness overtook the pilgrims before they had reached the appointed stage, so they resolved to pass the night at the hermitage of a great seer named Kukutswami,

which stood in some woods a little off the main road. The

rishi welcomed and fed them. Soon all the pilgrims wearied with the day's march fell fast asleep. Only Pundalik remained awake. Until dawn came he tossed restlessly from side to side. Suddenly he became aware that a company of heautifnl

women clad in soiled raiment had entered the room. Some of the fair women cleaned and swept the floor, others fetched water, others again \\ashed Kukutswami's clothes.

But th"y moved so silently, that none of the tired pilgrims

even moved in his sleep. Their work done, the heautiful

women went into the great seer's chamber. After seeing him for a moment they carne back and vassed close to Pundalik.

As they did so, he saw that their raiment was no longer

soiled, but was clean and white. A moment latcr and the

strange visitors had vanished in the darkness outside the hut. Ncxt morning the pilgrims would have continued their journey. But Kukutswami insisted that they should spend with him at least one more night. They accepted gladly,

because the woods Were cool and a soft breeze blew acTOSS a

lotus-covcred lake close by. That night the vilglims went 10 sleep as quickly as they had done the previous night. But Pundalik again lay sleepless. Once more he tossed restlessly' until the Eastern sky began to pale. Then the same company

of beautiful but ill-clad women entered the hermitage, swept and cleaned the floor, and after passing into Kukut:;wami's chamber, returned as they had done before in snow white spotless raiment. Pundalik threw himself at their feet and

asked them who they were. "I am the Ganges," said the tallest and fairest among them. "Those with me are the Krishna, the Yamuna, the Godavari, the Bhimaand the other sacred rivers in which pilgrims wash themselves free from their sins. It is the stains of their wickedness that make our garments soiled. But by working for and doing homage to

Kukutswami, our garments lost> their stains and become snow-white as before. But of all the pilgrims who have yet visited the holy places, there is none equal in wickedness to

thee,O Pundalik, for there is no crime so dark as the ingratitude of a son to his parents."

On hearing the words of the tall beautiful woman, Pundalik saw his acts in thtir true light. And before she and her companions had passed into the night, the heart of Pundalik had changed. From the cruellest he beLa me the

most devoted of sons. Next morning he threw himself at the

feet of Janudeva and Satyavati. He implored their forgiveness and prevailed on them to return to Pandharpur. Pundalik and his wife walked by the side of the horses which now bore

Janudeva and Satyavati. After they had returned to their home, no parents Were ever better served than they were by Pundalik and his wife.

Now one day it happened that at Dwarka king Krishna

sat thinking of his early days on the banks of the Yamuna. He remembered his sports with the milkmaids and how they,

and especially his favourite Radha, had wept when he had,

left Mathura. So great was hi~ longing to see the lovely Radha that bv his divine powers he brought her Lack from the dead

to sit ~nce more upon his lap. Just then his queen the stately Rukmani entered the room. Radha should at once have risen

to do her honour, but she remained seated. The queen in a fury left the king's presence, and fleeing to the Deccan hid

herself in the Dandirvan forest. As Rukmani did not return to Dwarka, king Krishna felt alarmed and went to Mathura. thinking that she had fled thither. From Mathura' he went to

Gokula. There he again took the fonn of a child and round him began once more to play the cows and the herd-boys, the calves and the milkmaids. They too joined in the search and even xlount Govardhan freed itself from its foundations and set forth with the gay company to look for Rukmani, all the

king with Govardhan mountain and his maids and cows, his herd-boys and cal\'es crossed the Vindhyas and made his \ray

to the Bhima river. Outside the Dandirvan forest the king left his attendants at a spot still called Gopalpura, or the town of him who guarded the kine. Then wandering through the

woods he searched for Rukmani. At last he found her still tom with grief and jealousy. Her anger yielded to the

caresses of the king. And reconciled they walked hand in hand through the woods until they came to Pundalik's hermitage.

At this time Pundalik was attending to his parents' wants. Even the news that the divine king waited without did not distract him from his duty. He refused to do him homage until his work was done. But he threw a brick out-

side that the yisitor might stand upon it. The king, whose god like mind· knew the hearts of men, forgave the slight to himself and honoured one who so honoured his father and mother. After Pundalik had ended his filial task, he went outside and prostrated himself before Krishna, who was stand-

ing upon the brick which Pundalik had flung to him.

He raised Pundalik and taking him in his arms told him to fear nothing but ever afterwards to worship him under the name of Vithoba or him who stood upon a brick. Pundalik paid heed to the divine command and built a temple in which the

images of Krishna and Rukmani have dwelt side by side unto this day.



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