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Lord Rama is considered to be one of the significant deities in the Hindu culture. He is said to be the descendant of the Ikshvaku dynasty and the son of King Dashrath, the mighty ruler of Ayodhya. Every year the Navami tithi during the Shukla Paksha of Chaitra month is observed as Ram Navami, the birth anniversary of Lord Rama. This year the festival will be observed on 20 and 21 April 2021.
Hindus all over the world observe this day with utmost dedication and devotion. They worship Lord Rama and seek His blessings. In addition to this, they also listen to the legends of Lord Rama on this day. One such story is of Shabri and her half-eaten berries. If you haven't heard this popular tale, then scroll down to read on.
Long ago, there lived a hunter. He had a daughter named Shabri. Though she wasn't good in appearance, she was quite religious and spiritual. When Shabri attained the age of marriage, her father found a suitable groom and fixed the marriage. A few days prior to the wedding, 100 goats were brought for sacrifice. During those days, it was a custom for people belonging to the hunter community to sacrifice goats and serve their meat at weddings. Shabri was disappointed at the thought of seeing 100 innocent goats being slaughtered for the sake of her marriage. To save the goats from being slaughtered, she ran one morning. She went deep into the jungle to make sure her villagers could never find her. She wandered here and there until she saw a few Ashramas. She went to the Ashramas and pleaded with the sages to take her in as a disciple and teach her about religion and spirituality.
None of the sage accepted her as she belonged to a low caste. This is when she went to Rishi Matanga, one of the learned sages of all time. She pleaded with the sage to teach and accept her as a disciple. Rishi saw her as a noble pursuit and welcomed her. Seeing this, the rest of the sages protested and asked Rishi Matanga to abandon Shabri. To this, Rishi Matanga replied, "Anyone who wants to gain knowledge should be granted the same. Knowledge never discriminates between high and low caste people."
Shabri had no money and therefore, she said, "But Guruji, I have nothing to give you in the exchange of the knowledge." Rishi replied, "Daughter, you can serve in the Ashrama, look after the cattle and contribute towards the chores of the Ashrama. That will do for you."
Since then Shabri started living in the Ashrama of Rishi Matanga. Every morning she would clean the Ashrama and the utensils and would then feed the cattle. She would cook food and then sit for learning. This continued until Rishi Matanga became too old and his time came. Rishi called Shabri and said, "Today I will be leaving this body. I have taught you everything that you needed to learn. Do you seek more?"
Shabri said, "Guruji, take me with you. Except you, none of the sage accepts me here. What would I do without you?"
Rishi replied, "You shall stay on this earth until Lord Rama visits you. After that, you can leave this body." After saying this, Rishi Matanga took a deep breath and his soul left his body.
After the final rites of Rishi Matanga, Shabri thought "I must wait for Lord Rama to come to my place." Now every day after completing her chores in the Ashrama and feeding the cattle, she would go into the jungle and bring berries. She brought berries to offer to Lord Rama. This continued for years. Shabri grew old but she never gave up on Lord Rama.
When Ravana, the demon king of Lanka, kidnapped Goddess Sita, Lord Rama along with Lakshmana, went on to search for Goddess Sita. This is when they visited the Ashrama of Shabri. She welcomed them and served them berries in a bowl made up of leaves. She said, "Dear Lord, please have these berries. I have brought them for you. For all these years, I have been bringing berries in a hope that one day you will come and I'll serve you sweet berries."
Since Shabri had tasted the berries before serving them to Lord Rama, Lakshman became skeptical. He said, "Brother, the berries are half-eaten. Don't eat them." To this Lord Rama replied, "Lakshman, just look at the innocence of Shabri. She has served only sweet berries to me. Trust me, I have never had such sweet berries in my entire life."
While Lord Rama ate the berries, Shabri just looked at Lord Rama. Soon Lord Rama said that they will be leaving as they need to continue the search for Goddess Sita. Lord Rama then asked Shabri to seek a boon to which Shabri replied, "Lord, I only seek for your blessings. You came, ate my half-eaten berries and considered my devotion pure, I don't want anything else." Lakshman was amazed to see the devotion of Shabri.
After Lord Rama and Lakshman left for their journey, Shabri left for the heavenly abode. Since then, the story of Shabri and Lord Rama is quite famous. People often listen to the story of Shabri and her half-eaten berries with enthusiasm.