Rama, Whose Soft Feet Were Cleansed by the Boatman

नाविकधावितमृदुपद राम्
nāvikadhāvitamr̥dupada rāma
nāvikadhāvitamr̥dupada rāma

Shri Ram, Lakshman and Vishwamitra reached the banks of the river Ganga, the celestial stream that purifies the whole universe. They wanted to cross the river, but the boatman refused to ferry them across. He told Sri Ram that he had heard about the cursed Ahalya’s redemption from her inert condition to that of a sentient human being on Shri Ram’s touch. He surely did not want his boat to be transformed into a lady, as that would mean the end of his livelihood.

He proceeded to tell the Lord that if he insisted on being ferried across, then he would have to insist on bathing Shri Ram’s feet first. He would thus, cleanse himself of all sin. Money was not his motive, and he stuck to his demand. He would settle for nothing less than having the rare honour and blessing of worshipping the Lord’s feet. His words were matter-of-fact, resolute and somewhat strange but full of love. Shri Ram smiled knowingly and assured the boatman that he would not lose his boat for any reason. That was all he needed to hear. He left at once to bring water in a wooden basin, leaving river Ganga intrigued by the strange request that had been placed before the Lord. After all, the Lord’s name alone was sufficient to transport seekers across the ocean of mundane existence. Nevertheless, she joyously splashed herself at Sri Ram’s feet, lost in devotion during this moment of rare benediction.

The boatman proceeded to tenderly bathe the Lord’s soft, lotus feet. He had never known such joy. That day, he was the envy of every man, woman, god and goddess. None was as fortunate as he. Once he had bathed Sri Rama’s beautiful feet, he partook of the water as the Lord’s prasad. He then ferried the Lord across the Ganga.

On the other bank, he got down and prostrated before the Lord, his eyes shining with love and gratitude. Lord Ram attempted to give him a ring as a toll for the ride. There is nothing one can give to a person who has just received everything. The boatman said that his thirst was now quenched and his life fulfilled. Ferrying the Lord across was reward enough, he needed nothing more. The Lord left him with a smile in his heart and with the blessing that he may always have the same genuine devotion.

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Chinmaya Udghosh