The story of Sabari, who was born in a hunter’s family, but attained the feet of Rama, is an inspiring one, occurring in the Ramayana.
Sabari, though born in a low caste hunter’s family, was, from her childhood, averse to killing animals for pleasure, game, or even for food. When, at her wedding, she realized that animals would be sacrificed for her well being, she ran away, and hid in the forest. Seeking succor, she arrived at the ashram of the sage Matanga, who welcomed her with open arms. She was content performing the menial tasks at the ashram, and spent every minute of the day in the contemplation of God.
When the time came for Sage Matanga to depart from his body, Sabari asked him to give her deliverance too. The sage replied, “Sabari, I am an unfortunate soul, whose time has come, and has to leave just when the lord himself is about to arrive at my doorstep. It is you who are fortunate enough to meet the Lord in his form as Rama, and gain deliverance by his own hands. Stay on in this ashram and wait for the day Rama will arrive here with his brother Lakshmana, searching for his wife Sita. Serve him well and your devotion will bear fruit.” Telling her the story of Rama, the sage departed, leaving Sabari alone at the ashram.
Sabari continued her tasks at the ashram, keeping it ready for Rama’s arrival. She woke up everyday, wondering if this would be the day Rama would arrive. After completing her chores, she would make the place ready for Rama’s arrival, and collect fruits and berries for him to eat if he did come. She tasted every berry and kept aside the best and the sweetest of them for her lord. She spent hours removing the thorns from the bushes along the path and the stones on the path, so that her beloved lord wouldn’t be hurt. Thus, she spent many years waiting for her lord who was on his way to her abode.
Rama and Lakshmana arrived at the ashram while searching for Sita, who had been abducted by Ravana. Seeing the lord in front of her eyes, Sabari felt blessed, and happily welcomed him inside, telling him that she had been awaiting him these many years. Making him comfortable, she offered him the fruits she herself had tasted and found the sweetest.
Lakshmana was shocked to see the old lady offering fruits that she herself had tasted before offering to Rama. However, Rama was happy to accept the sincere offerings, and blessed the old lady for her piety.
Sabari felt that her greatest desire had been fulfilled by meeting her lord, and, asking Rama to give her salvation, she entered the fire. As the old and crooked lady wearing rags entered the fire, she was transformed into a beautiful young woman wearing silken cloth and many ornaments. In this form, she gained deliverance at the hands of the lord, as Sage Matanga had foretold, and joined her lord and her guru in the heavens.
The story of Sabari teaches us the merits of unflinching devotion to the lord. It shows us that no matter our caste or creed, it is always possible to attain the Lord through pure devotion.