Dictionary Of Hindu Religion | Sketches
Shree Pandharpur is glorified as the Bazaar of Naam. The most favorite of the presiding deity, Paandurangaa is Naam Keertan. There have not been as many Bhakt for any other deities as there have been for Paandurangaa. The icing on the cake is the fact that these great devotee-saints have belonged to different castes, creeds, races and sects - a standing example to show that the Lord does not distinguish based on such mundane worldly classifications. This is the sketch of a Bhakt by name Chokamelaa...
Long ago, in the holy Kshetra of Pandharpur (in present day Mahaaraashtra), there lived a great devotee of Lord Shree Paandurangaa (who was none other than Lord Shree Krishn himself) by name Chokamelaa. Shree Chokamelaa's hailed from a slum and as was customary those days the inhabitants were not permitted to enter the temple. Though Lord Paanduranga saw no difference between his devotees based on their birth, color, race, wealth, region or religion, the selfish world did. To the Lord, the only thing that mattered was the depth of one's devotion.
The friends, relatives and neighbors of Chokamelaa led lives without any values, orderliness or sense of direction. They ate whatever they wanted; slept whenever/wherever they wished and were addicted to all sorts of bad habits such as alcoholism. Like a beautiful lotus that blooms in a stinking marsh, Chokamelaa though, led the life of a pure Vaishnav. He would wake early in the morning, have a bath, wear Tulasee Maaalaa and Gopee Chandan and chant the divine names of the Lord. As he was not permitted to enter the temple of Lord Shree Paanduranga, he stood near the compound wall and sang the divine names joyfully.
Constantly, he advised his kith and kin to mend their ways and about how it was very easy to win the grace of God by simply chanting his Divine Names. Though they all mocked at him in the beginning, gradually his purity and goodwill won their hearts and they gave all their vices. Following his example, all of them woke up early in the morning and accompanied him to the temple where they all stood outside the compound wall chanting the Lord's glorious names. Lord Paanduranga Himself relished every Naam they chanted, much more than the Poojaa offered by the priests. Thus Chokamelaa too, had transformed the entire slum. They were all a group of pure-hearted Bhakt now.
Naturally, this was not liked by the priests of the temple. Though Chokamelaa and his group did not in any way interfere with the temple proceedings, the priests hurled abuses at them and told them that they had no right to worship to God. As is the nature of any Saadhu, Chokamelaa too, did not want to argue with the priests or fight with them. He thought if that was the way that Paanduranga wanted it, he would stay at home and worship the Lord.
From that day onwards, Chokamelaa stopped going to the temple. He would stay at home and meditate upon the Lord. He saw all the Poojaa in his mind’s eye itself. The experience was blissful.
Time came when Paanduranga decided to enact his Divine play. One night, after the priests had completed the Poojaa and locked the temple, Paanduranga came to Chokamelaa’s humble abode. Chokamelaa's joy knew no bounds. He cried thinking of the Lord's compassion and totally lost himself in the happiness.
The Lord told Chokamelaa that he would fulfill any wish of his. Chokamelaa immediately replied "Lord! There can be no greater thing to wish for, than your Darshan. Now that you have blessed me with that, I beg of you to show me your temple. I have never been inside even once in my lifetime".
In a flash, the Lord took him inside the sanctum sanctorum of the temple and they talked with each other all night long. The conversation was so fascinating that time flew away and it was morning already. The priests opened the doors of the temple and were shocked to find Chokamelaa inside the sanctum sanctorum. They cursed him and took him to the King. "This man who hails from the slum has entered the temple. Your majesty should punish him appropriately" they said. Chokamelaa replied, "I did not go there on my own. How could I have gone inside after the door was locked? The Lord himself took me inside".
Nobody was willing to believe his words and they all alleged that he was a magician. The king, without proper enquiry, punished him by banishing him from Pandharpur. He ordered that Chokamelaa should not live inside Pandharpur and that none from the town should have any contact with him. Chokamelaa silently accepted this also as the will of God. He put up a hut on the opposite banks of the river Chandrabhaagaa and continued with his life as before. He and his wife would fast on Ekaadashee day and on Dwaadashee day, they had the most special visitor one can ever wish for to have a meal at their abode – the Lord himself. This became a routine affair.
On a particular Dwaadashee day, Chokamelaa was seen beating and cursing his wife. The priests from the temple who had come to the river witnessed that scene and felt sorry for the poor woman. " You have lost all your respect and commitment. Is this the way to serve the Lord? You have committed a great sin by spilling curd on his robe, careless woman!" Chokamelaa screamed.
These words of Chokamelaa shocked the priest. They told each other "Oh! What is he saying? He is saying that the Lord has come to take food in his place. How can that be? He is definitely mocking at us. The punishment has not taught him a lesson. He has become more arrogant! We should report him to the king again."
Saying so, they went to the temple and opened the doors. What they witnessed was the most unbelievable sight. The robes of the Lord were drenched in curd. They could not believe their own eyes. "Chokamelaa was right after all. Lord Paanduranga had been to his place. Oh! What a blunder we have committed by insulting and ill-treating a true Mahaatmaa. Let us all go and seek his pardon. Only then the Lord will accept us” they all said in one voice and rushed to Chokamelaa's hut. They all narrated the happenings and fell at Chokamelaa’s feet. Chokamelaa though, was embarrassed by this act of the priests. He said with tears in his eyes, "O Great Priests, I am just an humble servant of Paanduranga. Please do not fall at my feet. I am speck of dust".
The entire town and the king realized the greatness of Chokamelaa and hailed his Bhakti. The Lord had once again enacted a divine play to make the world understand true devotion.
There is nothing greater than the Bhakti of a Bhakt.
Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 10/01/13