Shabari served her Guru Rishi Matanga with devotion for many years since her youth. As years went, Shabari became elderly and thin. She moved slowly and needed help of a cane to walk. However, she got up early everyday at 3am and after her meditation did all the chores and collected fruits and berries for herself and her Guru.
When her Guru, Sage Matanga, was about to leave the world, Shabari was despondent and asked him whether she was qualified to receive God’s grace before he departed the world. Sage Matanga told Shabari that since she was such a pure soul, Bhagavan Rama himself would grant her Moksha (Liberation). He told her to wait for Bhagavan as he would pass by this way in his search for Sita (Rama’s wife). Saying this Rishi Matanga entered Mahasamadhi.
Then the news came that Bhagavan Rama and his brother Lakshman would be walking on the path that led to the town. Shabari had a few days to prepare and so she started to look for the best fruits and berries to offer Rama should she happen to see him. In two days, she had filled several baskets of fruits and berries.
As Bhagavan Rama came towards the town, he avoided visiting all the rich ashrams and temples that had big feasts prepared for him. His brother Lakshman wondered what was going on because they had been walking the whole day and needed to eat.
With Lakshman following, Rama walked straight to Shabari’s small hut. Rama said to Shabari, “Granny, my brother and I are hungry. We have been walking the whole day. Do you have anything for us to eat?” Shabari was ecstatic to see Rama and Lakshman. Giddy with delight Shabari said that she had collected fruits and berries. So Rama and Lakshman sat down. Shabari insisted on feeding Rama with her own hands.
Lakshman was horrified to see that Shabari started to nibble on each berry before putting it in Rama’s mouth with her hands. Some berries Shabari would eat whole. Others, she would taste and give to Rama. Lakshman was even more surprised as Rama accepted Shabari’s half eaten berries and seemed to enjoy it.
Lakshman whispered in Rama’s ear, “Brother she is giving us half eaten berries. First she eats and then she gives to us. She is eating some of the whole berries herself. But we are only getting the ones that she has already eaten parts of. What a way to treat the guests? Don’t you see it?” Rama whispered back to Lakshman, “Yes, I see it. She is making sure that we only get the sweet berries. She is testing each berry. The ones which are bitter, she does not give us but eats them whole. We are only getting the sweetest ones. So eat up brother.”
Rama said to Shabari, “Granny these are best berries I have ever tasted. Certainly, there is nothing as sweet as a mother wanting to give her child only the best and the most tasty things. Thank you Granny.” Shabari was filled with delight at Bhagavan’s words and started to giggle. In the pure joy exploding in her heart, Shabari attained liberation. In this way, Bhagavan taught that purity, sincerity, and devotion makes everything sweet and full of joy and leads to freedom of the soul.
As interpreted by Harsh K. Luthar