Bhakta Gora Kumbhar

Potter and clay image is often used in scriptures and literature to describe God's creation of man. Just as potter creates various shapes and sizes of pots from the raw material clay, God creates various shapes and sizes of creatures out of Himself. The potter Gora Kumbhar learnt this aspect through his routine work. He attained great lessons of wisdom by comparing his heart to the raw material clay and himself to the pot.

There is a village called Terdoki in Maharastra. There lived a potter called Gora. His wife's name was Gangabai. They had a one year old boy named 'Vittu'. Gora was a staunch devotee of Panduranga Vittala.For ever he used to chant the name of Pandurnga(Vittobha). He dedicated all his mundane work to the lotus feet of the lord. All his five indriyas were directed to Him. He felt he was speaking through the pranavanada of God for instance.

He carried on his livelihood of pottery but he did that as a yagna when he was mixing the clay he thought about his heart. He felt that just as the clay was hard, his hearts too was hardened with feelings of hatred , jealousy etc. When water was poured on the hard clay , it softened . The same way the water of Panduranga namam softened his hardened heart. When that clay was kept in the middle of the wheel and was rotated, it symbolised the inner conflict of the heart. As the wheel rotated, the clay expanded. Accordingly the heart developed a broader outlook in the presence of God. As the clay was moulded into a shape, the heart was moulded into a purified one. The pot would be given a final touch after it was removed from the wheel. His heart too was given a final touch from any trace of ill feelings. When the pot was heated he could feel the burning away of all petty jealousies within. The pot then was a finished product. He was then a perfect man with a clear understanding of the self.

That day was Gora's son's first birthday. Gangabai wanted to celebrate it on a grand gala state. She made all the preparations. She dressed up the tiny tot. She had to fetch a pile of water. She made Vittu sit at the doorstep before him. Gora was crushing the clay with his feet, chanting the name of Panduranga all the while. His wife's instructions to take care of the baby did not reach his ears.

Gora was in his own sweet world. Externally he was crushing the clay, but his excited voice his hands raised towards God, his engrossed eyes and the rhythmic movements of the feet made one feel he was dancing a celestial song in accordance with a divine music. This is not an ordinary dance. It depicts the union of jeevathma with Paramatma.

Gora was thus lost in his dance. His baby crawled to him and raised his hands to hold him in his hands. He made sounds but they did not reach the ears of otherwise busy father. The boy wanted to touch his father's feet and got into the clay but stepped at once into it. Gora who was not looking down or who was not aware of what was happening, saw neither the son nor felt his body under his feet. He was still dancing in ecstasy, crushing his son all the while under his feet. Vittu struggled for life but ultimately proving the statement 'Dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return' , his dust got blended with the dust around. The bones couldn't see the tragic scene and so they protruded out. The entire clay turned into red colour as if a colour was added to it. Is his ecstasy praiseworthy ? Should he crush his child to pieces when he has to cajole him ? Should he perform his funeral rites, when he is supposed to celebrate his birthday?

Poor Gangabai returned home after the tragic incident. She was totally unaware of it. So she searched all over the house for petty unmovements of the tiny tot ! Unable to find him, she came to her husband to enquire about her child, but he was still in his celestrial dance. Her tensionor her words did not reach him. She gave a jerk to his body and stopped him forcefully.

Gora came back to his senses slowly. He was removing his feet slowly from the clay and Gangabai happened to look down.My God she saw the blood smeared clay! Tears flooded down her cheeks uncontrolled 'Oh my God! what a terrific act ! you drove our only son to death! You made his birthday his deathday. When he should eat all delicious food you made him savour sand. How could you do such a thing?’

The neighbourhood rushed to the spot. They were totally aghast at the untoward incident. They all cursed Gora. They felt there should be limits to his bhakti. He can't drive his only son to death thus ! They treated him as a savage.

Gora pleaded to them with tears, ‘Why will I kill my son? Please try to understand me. I must have done a severe bad deed in my previous janmaa and so, I am facing the consequence of it. Please forgive me.

Still nobody had a soft corner for Gora. They called him a hard hearted stone. He caused misery to his wife, but he had no repentence.

Gora looked around. He looked at his wife who had become mad with grief. He again pleaded 'Why don’t you understand me ! Will any father kill his own progeny ? Will he bring an end to the clan of his family ? I didn't know that he had fallen under my feet. I was lost in my prayer of the lord. I lost the sense of touch. So this misery took place. Our son is named Vittu since he is a blessing of the lord Vittala. Why will I drive him to death ? Why do you curse me thus ? Why don't you sympathise with me?’

They couldn't sympathise with him still , but mutely left the place. Gora was left alone with his wife. He was about to touch her to console her. But she raised her voice against him and said, ‘Don't touch me. You are a hard hearted person. You separated me from my son.

‘Your son ! Isn't he my son too? Don't I have sorrow on his death.’
‘I don't know all that. I bore him in my womb for nine months. I cannot be as composed as you are.

Gora tried to philosophise. 'Gangabai, please try to understand. We are reaping the consequences of our previous janma's actions. Panduranga provides the fruits of our actions. Our attachment with our son is destined only for a year. He has to be taken away from us and I am made a tool for that. The lord gave us the boy and he took him back. Who are we to question his leela?’

Philosophy never soothes a perturbed soul. She raged against her husband. ‘Hum God ! Never raise His name before me. There is no God as such . It is just a man's creation. It is to seek solace in an external force. Some lazy, irresponsible people talk about janma and karma to hide their inefficiency. God is just a feeling. It is created out of polluted mind.’

Gora couldn't bear her foolish words. He didn't mind being scolded but he couldn't bear the challenge to the very existence of his God. He raised his hand against her to control her. Gangabai, unable to face him cried, ‘Don't touch me ! If you touch me it is as good as punishing your Lord Panduranga.’

That was the ultimatum for him. He could not touch her not only that cursed movement but forever. He took it as a serious matter and so did not touch her even afterwards. Gangabai’s angry words boomeranged on her. Her position was pitiable. Already she was feeling miserable having lost her only son. She could not feel solace in her husband's hand due to her hasty words.

She knew for certain Gora wouldn't go against it. There was no hope of their begetting another child. Their family could come to an end. Days were rolling by into weeks and weeks into months but their condition remained the same.

Gangabai was taken to her mother's place to get over her grief. In the peaceful environment there she hit upon a clever idea. She wanted her younger sister to marry her husband to beget a son for their family. The parents had no objection to it.

Gangabai went back to her husband and expressed her desire. Gora tried to convince her against it. ‘Gangabai, take it as a positive side. Lord Panduranga has relieved us of the earthly bonds. He wanted us to enjoy only platonic love. He has given us ample time to be lost in his prayer. Why do you want to pull me down into the mundane world again?’

Gangabai was adament. Gora had to yield. He wanted to give her solace. Gora and Vimala were united in wedlock. If Gangabai sealed her fate by her hasty words, poor father sealed his second daughter's fate by his innocent words. He told his son-in-law. You are a gentleman. Seeing your good nature, we have given away our second daughter too, to you. I don't have to remind you of your duties. But I only pray this of you. You take care of my second daughter as you take care of my eldest one.

Gora took it as a message of God. He didnot touch Gangabai, so shouldn't touch Vimalabai too!

Gangabai couldn't understand her husband's strange behaviour. Why should he be so indifferent to his new wife? She couldn't bear it anylonger. So one day she questioned her husband. He explained the situation clearly. Gangabai was taken aback. What an irony ? She wanted to undo the wrong done to her through another angle but she had with her own hands driven her sister too into a miserable life. How unforgivable of her. She knew for certain her husband wouldn't go against his promise come what may. He was such a disciplined man.

She thought and thought over it and finally hit upon a plan. When Gora was sleeping on the mat one night, both the sisters would sleep on either side of him and put his hands on their chest. When he got up from sleep he would think he had done it unknowingly and would resign to married life.

Any man might be tempted towards a woman, but not Gora though they were his wives. In the midst of the night, when Gora woke up and saw his hands over his wives he was terribly grieved. A crime is a crime whether it is done knowingly or unknowingly. He wanted to face a punishment for it. So he brought a sword tied it to a pillar and cut both his hands with it. Blood oozed down like a stream, but Gora coolly prayed to God.
The wives were filled with a sense of remorse for the husband. Gangabai's feelings were beyond expression. Whatever she did or said had a terrific counter action. That was the be all and end all of peaceful moments in their life.

Gora alone remained calm. Life on the spiritual path is not a smooth sail. ‘If I lost my hands, it is due to some sins I would have done in my previous janma. You are not to be blamed for that please don't feel bad about it. Don't worry about our financial position. I have only two hands and I lost them, but our God has infinite hands and he will take care of us. He has his own ways and means of helping us. Have faith in him. Put your heart and soul in God. Chant His name’ he consoled his wives.

Will God fail any devotee who surrenders totally to Him ? One day Panduranga came to the door step of Gora as a worker. I am a potter. I belong to Pandharpur. I came in search of a job. Please give me some work. I don't require money. You just give me food and clothing.

Gora was more than delighted 'You look like the lord? Pray to. You have come to extend a timely help to us. I lost my hands. You prepare pots out of my instruments and sell them. We will live with the money we get. We will treat that as God's prasad.

Panduranga used Gora's raw material and prepared pots out of that. How lucky they were to be touched and moulded by God. He sold them in Pandharpur. Sanku Chakra were vividly seen on the pots. People bought them crazily.

It was Kartika Suddha Ekadasi day. Jnanadev and Namadev came to Pandharpur to pray to the Lord. They were shocked. There was no life in the face of the lord. They could guess at once, God was not there. He had left Pandharpur to help a devotee of his. They went in search of Him. They saw people carrying home from market brand new pots. They all had Sankhu, Chakra marks on them. They could at once guess what had happened. They went in search of Gora Kumbhar.

Gora gladly invited Jnanadev and Namadev. Jnanadev said they had come to talk to the potter in his house. Gora spoke smilingly . He is a selfless man. He is pure at heart. He just went inside. Wait here. I'll call him. But where is He? The minute He saw Jnanadev and Namadev, God disappeared to his temple.

Gora came back and expressed his surprise. He couldn't understand how He could disappear in so short a time.

Namadev expressed with tears of joy, 'Gora, why will He be here ? How will He limit himself to one place ?

Gor couldn't understand. Then Jnanadev explained. ‘Gora, the man who served you, is no other than our lord Vittala. He couldn't bear to see your suffeing . So he came down to your house. I can't explain in words how lucky you are. You appointed the Lord Almighty as your servant. He mixed clay for you. He made pots. He carried them all the way and sold them. How lucky are those who bought them.’

Gora was moved to tears. He couldn't express a simple word. The three of them remained as statues thinking of the ocean of mercy of the lord.

Jnanadev invited Gora to Pandharpur with his family. Accordingly they followed them. They had a bath in the Chandrabhaga river and visited the shrine. Panduranga welcomed them with smile. Namadeva's joy knew no bounds. He danced in ecstasy. All the bhaktas joined hands with him. Gora too was excited. He too started dancing and unknowingly he wanted to join his hands to clap. Lo! he got back his hands. People around were surprised at the act of mercy of the Lord.

The next day Panduranga manifested Himself before Gora. Rukmini Devi presented Gangabai with her son. Namadev shed tears of joy at such a blessed scene.
Panduranga approached Gora and said, Gora for those who reach to me with a pure heart a marital state is an ideal state. You accept both your wives. You put your heart and soul in prayer you will be blessed. Then he disappeared. Gora as per the message of God, led the life of Grihasta and prayed to God. Finally when the time was ripe joined Paramathma.

everybody was watching, he got from the sky shining anklets, Tambura tala and pitambara. He accepted them with utmost devotion. The sadhus wondered at his bhakti. They praised him for the blessings showered on him by God.

Then Giridharlal wore the silk dhoti tied the anklets to his feet, held the tambura in his hand and sang and danced rasaleela. The sadhus were watching with deep interest. Giridharlal also sang the rasaleela and was engrossed in it. Then the Lord saw to it that the people gathered there witnessed his Rasaleela in this Krishnavatar time. The sadhus and Giridharlal were filled with joy. Then God put an end to his leela and vanished.

The sadhus were so thrilled there prayed to him in many ways and then prayed to the Lord too. Oh God Nobody can praise your leela. Not even Adisesha or Saraswathi or Brahma. In such a case how can we afterall ordinary human beings praise you ? You should bless us with your great kindness. Then Giridharlal took them to his math, offered them food and ate after them and spent time in listening to stories of God.

One day, a viragi came there. Giridharlal gave him a warm welcome offered pranams to him and washed his feet and drank that tirdha. The people in the town objected to it. They said Giridharlal could not be a true brahmin since he serve a Viragi from a cemetery. Giridharlal said that Sanyasi was a devotee of the Lord Vishnu. Moreover it doesn't befit them to insult a great man. Then they challenged Giridharlal, If you have powers to identify him as a great man, then you provide life to a dead body. Giridharlal accepted the challenge.

One day they took him to a dead body, Giridharlal prayed to Krishna in various ways and then looked at the deadbody. He woke up as if from deep sleep and went round Giridharlal. Then the people pleaded to Giridharlal to forgive them. He took as the leela of God.

The people prostrated before God and asked him to teach them how to be blessed, by God and how to be liberated from life. Giridharlal taught them Krishnamantra and asked them to recite it. He said, treat everything as a manifestation of God, develop jnana, bhakti and vairagya control your indriyas use your indriyas for the good of others do your duty sincerely and leave the result to God. Pray to sadhus and accept that tirdhaprasadam. Then you will be liberated from life and you will experience satchitananda! They prayed to him and left.

Giridharlal continued his prayer of God and transformed many people into bhaktas, visited many holy places and finally attained moksha. His disciples too attained moksha.

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