There lived a poor couple in Pandharpur. They won the hearts of the people in their town, with their humble nature and philanthropic attitude. They were staunch devotees of Panduranga Vittala, the presiding duty there. Though they led a contented life, they were feeling distressed now and then since they were not blessed with children. So their only wish was to be blessed with one. Very soon God answered their prayers. The wife gave birth to a female child. She was named Sakkubai. She grew up into a beautiful and lovable girl. She imbibed in herself a deep sense of devotion to God. She assisted in the ‘Puja’ at house by preparing flower garlands, sandalwood paste etc., tended the cattle, helped her mother in cooking.

Sakkubai was so sweet that she never hurt anybody or uttered any harsh word against anybody.

There is a beautiful town on the banks of the Krishna River. The town was known for its scenic beauty with green fields, flowering plants and fruit orchards. The fragrance of the flowers filled one’s mind with tranquility while the colourful fruits were feast to the eyes. The town, Karaveerapuram was filled with all the different castes of people. They all complemented one another.

There lived a Pandit in Karaveerapuram. Though the land was bountiful, though the man was well versed in Puranas, though he had enough and to spare he never donated a single pie to the needy. He did not drive away a crow even with his unwashed hand after meals lest any morsel of rice should fall down and the crow might eat it. People had named him ‘Krupanaraya’ (Krupana means a miser). His wife Gayyalibai was a quarrelsome woman and was always insulting people and picked up quarrels with them. She was neither a devotee of God nor helpful in any way to other. The couple had a son whose name was Oaduraya. Neither the father nor the son dared to open their mouth before the tyrant lady.
To put it in a nutshell, Krupanaraya, though a Brahmin, was a cunning, cruel, unfriendly and selfish man. He never cared for others. Being brought up by such cruel parents, one could not expect Oaduraya to be friendly or good-natured. His father had imparted him the knowledge of the Vedas and also unconsciously imbibed in him his bad qualities.

Sum and substance is - On the whole the family was so ill reputed in the town that nobody dared to offer his daughter to the young man. The neighbourhood felt that it was less evil to throw the girl into the well. So the father had to go in search of a daughter-in-law in the neighbouring places.

In his search, Krupanaraya happened to come to Pandharpur and to Sakkubai’s house. He was impressed by the family’s hospitality and especially by the good nature of Sakkubai. He keenly watched her. She brought him water to wash his feet. She helped her mother in the kitchen and also in serving food. Krupanaraya did not think even for a split second what her fate would be if she fell into the hands of his nagging wife. All that he knew was he badly needed a daughter-in-law and there was one who fulfilled well all their requirements without wasting a single minute, he proposed the alliance to her father.

Poor father of Sakkubai had heard about the wealthy Pandit but had not heard about his ill reputation. He too did not bother to think why a wealthy man should seek an alliance from a poor family. He and his wife were thrilled at the offer since they thought that it was a boon from Lord Vittala that their daughter should be married into a wealthy family. When they could not make both ends meet, naturally they would like to see their daughter well placed.
Krupanaraya fixed the ‘Muhurat’ for the wedding and arrived for the wedding with his family. The poor Brahmin made arrangements wonderfully for the bridegroom’s party and the marriage went on a grand gala scale for 5 days. Gayyalibai had brought some presents for Sakku’s parents and some gold jewellery for the bride. The girl’s parents felt their daughter was lucky. They were still in the dark regarding the boy’s family’s ill reputation.

Sakku was taken to her in-law’s house at the age of twelve itself, though her parents wanted her to stay back for some more days. Being impressed by Sakkubai’s pious nature, a saint had taught her a sloka on Krishna, earlier when she was very young. She continued to chant her sloka at her in-law’s house, but the cruel mother-in-law instead of being pleased with it felt that she was shirking her responsibility. In fact she did lots of work. She had to pound paddy, churn the grains, cleanse the vessels, store the water, wash the clothes etc. Still she could never please her mother-in-law. She continuously nagged her, pointing out silly mistakes in her work. She would even blame her mother for not teaching her household duties. She did not serve her proper food too. She would throw a little rice and a bit of other dishes into her plate. It would become stone cold by the time she ate it. Sometimes it would be infested with ants, flies etc. Many days she had to go without food.

Sakkubai never longed for veritable food of the Gods but this was not food even for dogs. She did not mind even that, but could not bear the cruel treatment meted out to her. In her father’s house they were not rich enough but there was always provision for a little charity. A handful of rice was always available to those coming for alms. Here there was so much abundance but she had no liberty to offer alms. In-laws poured insult on her. Should one not have some sympathy, dharma and be charitable? She always resorted to Vittala. She only prayed to God to bless these people with good thoughts and deeds.

Sakkubai’s parents came to see her and were shocked at her pitiable condition. She looked pale and weak, her clothes were worn out, her hair had become ruffled for want of coconut oil. Sakkubai was not allowed to say a proper hello to her mother. Her mother-in-law shouted at her and subsequently at the mother too when she enquired about her daughter’s health. The neighbours asked, ‘Don’t you have a well in your town?’

The parents tried to take her back home but had to face a flat denial. They were ridiculed for their poverty. Bent with shame, they left Sakkubai mutely to her fate. All they could do was to give her a statuette of Vittala. ‘His will be done’ were their last words. That made it clear for Sakkubai that their doors were closed, rather made to be closed, for her. Till then she had been hoping against hope to be taken away from the family of devils. Now she had no other go. She could still survive there because of her ananya Bhakti in God. Anybody else in her situation would have died.

She knew the gale her mother-in-law would create, if she saw the statuette. So she hid it in her saree folds and continued to do her household chores, chanting or talking to God all the while ! She could not continue this too for long. The suspicious, vicious mother-in-law spied against her and caught her red-handed. She flung the statuette away paying a deaf ear to her pleadings. On top of it, she complained to her son against his wife. The son did not bother to probe into the matter. He only gave her a good thrashing!

Sakkubai’s devotion to God continued to grow on par with the atrocities of the family. When the neighbours sympathized with her, she only said, ‘Vittala is my father, mother and everything. He will take care of me. Don’t you worry.’ She became bony and weak. Somebody dared to bring it to the notice of the father-in-law. It brought no change. It only brought a fresh round of thrashing to her and the neighbours held their head down in shame. They had to leave her alone with her God.

One evening, Sakkubai, accompanied by a neighbour called Shantabai, went to fetch water from the river. There she came across a group of pilgrims on their way to Pandharpur. The devotees had to walk for miles as there were no transport facilities in those days. They enthralled her. She expressed her desire to join them on their pilgrimage. She did not heed to the pleading of her neighbour. The neighbour went back alone and she had to blurt out the truth to her in-laws. The raged mother-in-law and husband came there. They were shocked to see Sakkubai dancing in ecstasy chanting the name of Lord Vittala. They dragged her home by her plait and tied her to a pole. They said she wanted to run away from home.

Nothing could dispel her Bhakti to Vittala. She was not worried about food, sleep, clothes or rest. She was always chanting, ‘Vittala! Vittala! Please fulfil my desire.’

The time was ripe then for Sakkubai to be relieved of her miseries. Around midnight, Lord Vittala disguised himself as a woman, came down. He told her, ‘Dear Sakku ! You are keen on having a darshan of Vittala, aren’t you ? Go ahead. Till you come back, I will look after your work.’ But Sakkubai said, ‘You are kind enough to me but I am helpless. If I go with you, you will be ill treated by my in-laws. I don’t want you to suffer. So you please go ahead and convey pranams to God on my behalf.’ The lady insisted, ‘Instead, you go and you convey my pranams. I will stay in your place and serve your people on your behalf.’ So saying, she untied the ropes of Sakkubai and got herself tied up in Sakkubai’s place. She added, ‘Go happily to Pandharpur and participate in the celebrations. Be rest assured of my help.’ Sakkubai gladly joined the Sadhus.

The Sadhus were surprised at the glow in her face. They were not carried away by her humble words that she was an ordinary woman come to serve the Lord with them. They prayed to her, ‘Oh! You are definitely Goddess Lakshmi Devi. You reside at the heart of Lord Vishnu. You have donned a human form to safeguard us on our pilgrimage. Normally, the Lord is always beside you, but now we see you all alone. Why? Does it mean, we have not purified ourselves totally? You, being a mother, are considerate enough to your children. Please, request God, on our behalf to manifest himself before us.’ They prayed to her thus and they all chanted the Lord’s name. Panduranga Vittala who had already a soft corner for Sakkubai was impressed by their sincere prayer and manifested Himself, with Rukmini before the devotees.

The devotees’ joy knew no bounds. They all prayed to the God and Goddess with folded hands. Sakkubai fell to their feet and did not get up. God lifted her up caressingly, and said, ‘I am pleased with your Jnana and Vairagya. Your difficult times are coming to an end very soon. Please have patience.’ So saying, they disappeared. The Sadhus were grateful to Sakkubai. They knew they had the darshan of God, only because of Sakkubai.

The Sadhus and Sakkubai proceeded on their pilgrimage chanting the name of the Lord all the while. Sakkubai was thrilled when she cited the temple pillars. She had a holy bath in the Chandrabhaga River and had a darshan of God, with flowers and incense. What a feast to the eyes! The God was standing over bricks in a marble floored temple with his hands to his waist. Sakkubai gazed at him from top to toe at His Sankhu Chakra, His broad eyes, His ear studs, His Kaustubhas, His holy garments etc. We forget the troublesome world around us at the sight of the blissful Lord. She offered him flowers, fruits, went round the temple and prayed to him with various slokas. She continued thus for many days.

Back in her house, the in-laws did not untie Sakkubai (God) for a few days as a means of punishment. After a few days, there was a sudden transformation in the husband. He felt sorry for her and untied the ropes and asked her to carry on with her household duties. Sakkubai turned God did every job that Sakkubai used to do. She went to the river to fetch water, cleaned the vessels, washed the clothes and even pounded the grain. When she served food it was like savoring nectar ! How lucky they were to eat food prepared by God Himself. The family ate heartily praising the dishes prepared. But the constant chanting of Vittal’s name irritated Gayyalibai. She ordered, ‘Don’t chant that bad word.’

God in the guise of Sakkubai did not pay heed. Gradually, in the divine presence, there was a sea change in the family. They could not utter any bad word against Sakkubai.

The real Sakkubai there in Pandharpur was praying to God bountifully! One fine morning, when she felt she had prayed to God to her heart’s content, said, ‘Oh God! Let me join you!’ Then her Jeevathma joined Paramathma in the form of a Jyothi. The other devotees, who witnessed this scene, took her physical body to the Chandrabhaga River side and performed the funeral rites there. One of them went back Karaveerapuram to report the news.

Goddess Rukmini Devi was perplexed at the situation. God promised to stay back in her place till she returned. How will Sakkubai go back now? So she appeared, in the dream of those devotees and said, ‘My Lord is in Sakkubai’s house. So you please bring the mortal remains of her. Keep it a secret.’

The devotees shared their dream among themselves and secretly brought back the mortal remains of Sakkubai. Those mortal remains were chanting the name of the Lord. They collected them in a golden platter and placed them humbly before the goddess. She was pleased with their actions, manifested herself before them and said, ‘You will be blessed by My Lord.’ Sakkubai came back to life when Goddess Rukmini touched her. She stood praying to God.

Goddess Rukmini blessed Sakkubai and said, ‘Oh Sakku! My Lord, being impressed by your love is serving your in-laws in your form. So please go back to your house and release him. You chant the name of the Lord and transform your in-laws and others around you. Finally you will be liberated.’

Accordingly Sakkubai hastened to her village. She met God at the riverbed with a pitcher of water. She fell to His feet and thanked Him profusely. ‘Oh God! What a great sinner I am! I made you do the menial jobs at home! Please forgive me! I am also thankful to you for sending me to Pandharpur. Please see to it that I visit your holy place every year.’
God told her fondly, ‘Don’t you worry. Your ananya bhakti in me, made me do your household jobs. Your family members will become my devotees through you.’ He gave her prasad and disappeared.

Sakkubai arrived at home with the pitcher of water. Just then one of the pilgrims stepped into her house to convey the tragic demise of Sakkubai to her in-laws. He couldn’t believe his eyes. He narrated what he saw in Pandharpur.

The mother-in-law couldn’t believe her ears since Sakkubai was with them, serving them as humbly as ever, all the time. Sakkubai narrated what happened. ‘An old lady untied me and sent me to Pandharpur I served the Lord there to my heart’s content and when I came back half an hour ago, she gave me this pitcher of water and left.’

The in-laws and her husband could guess at once it was nothing but God’s Leela! How great was Sakkubai and how mean were they! They were so cruel to the Almighty Himself! They pleaded to Sakkubai to forgive them.

Sakkubai had no ill feeling towards them, she only said,’ You had punished me only for my good. In fact, I should thank you, since because of the ill treatment meted out to me, I prayed more sincerely to God’ They made her sit and asked her to enlighten them.

Sakkubai spoke thus – ‘You are elderly people, but still since you have asked me, let me tell you what little I know. This physical body of ours is mortal. The children, wife, husband, house, properties all are but temporary. The world around is Maya, but we devote our entire time and attention on these. Instead if we divert atleast one-tenth of that time and attention on God, we will attain Moksha. We are blessed to be born as human beings. We should utilize this opportunity in a proper way. God is Omnipresent, Omnipotent and Omniscient. We should learn Jagat Midhya, Brahma Satyam and pray with sincere heart to God. Owing to our Karmas, if we fall a prey to our Indriyas and lead the life of a sinner we will be born again and again. We may not don the human form again. So we should seek a Sadguru’s feet and be enlightened by him. So let us go, to Pandharpur and seek the Sadguru there.’

They all left for Pandharpur, had the darshan of God and sought the presence of the Sadguru. Sakkubai pleaded on behalf of her husband and her in-laws to enlighten them. He was pleased with her faith in him and initiated them into a mantra on Lord Sri Krishna.

He added, you are blessed by being related to Sakkubai, but still learn one principle appreciated by God. ‘Service to Humanity is service to God. Treat the Sadhus as incarnation of God, serve them sincerely, pray to God whole-heartedly, feel God in everything and everybody around you.’

They came back to Karaveerapuram and were leading a pious and peaceful life henceforth. Sakkubai’s name and fame spread far and wide. Sadhus flocked together to get her blessings.

Thus Sakkubai with her ananya Bhakti transformed all those people who came in contact with her. That’s why our elders tell in ‘Satsangatve Nissangathwam’.

Totally polluted brains of her in-laws were changed; many more came unto the path of spirituality. Sakkubai, as long as she lived, prayed to God throughout, taught the people around, visited Pandharpur regularly and participated in the special occasions there. Along with her, the Lord blessed her entire family and her associates. They attained Moksha after their death.

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