Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Sant Damaji Pant

Damaji Panth worked for a Mohamedian king in Bedar. He was in charge of the revenue collection in Mangalvedha and its neighboring towns. As he was faithful to the king he had also given the store houses in his holding. Damaji was very pious and would offer food to yatris and others everyday before taking his meal. He was a great baktha of Vitthal. Suddenly there was a famine and many people and animals died with out food. One day a Brahman came to Mangalvedha from Pandhari looking for some food and he happened to pass by Damaji’s house. As soon as Damaji saw him, he did a namaskar to the Brahman and asked him to have his bath and come home for food. The Brahman came back after his bath and Damaji seated him by his side and all kinds of food were served. On seeing this, the Brahman began to weep and tears started flowing from his eyes. On seeing this, Damaji wondered and asked him what had happened. The Brahman then told Damaji that he and his family have been starving for the last four days and that he was enjoying the food here without giving any to his wife and children. On listening to this, Damaji told him not to worry and that he would provide him with food for a year. Hearing this, the Brahman had his food and then Damaji called his servants and asked them to take two loads of grain to Pandhari and deliver it in his house. The grains were loaded in a bullock cart and they started going towards Pandhari. On seeing the grains the famine struck people in Pandhari immediately pounced on the bullock cart, tore the bags and looted the grains. The Brahman then started crying and the others asked him how he got so many grains in this famine. He then told him of what happened in Mangalvedha and about Damaji Panth. All the Brahmans then hastened and came to Damaji’s house. On seeing the Brahmans Damaji did a namaskar to them and asked them what he could do for them. They then told him that a severe famine has struck them and that they heard about him giving grains to the Brahman and have therefore come to meet him. On listening to them he opened the store house of the king and asked them to take as much grains they needed to their house. The Brahmans then blessed Damaji and took all the grains from the store house. On listening to this all people from Pandhari came to Damaji asking for grains and he gave them all whatever grains that were left in the store house.

The people of Pandhari were all praise for Damaji and held him in high esteem. A Mazumdar (Assistant Tax Collector for Damaji) then wrote a letter to the king of Bedar saying that Damaji had distributed the king’s grains to the poor in Pandharpur. As soon as the king learnt this he was full of rage asked how he did this with out taking his permission and sent his soldiers to demand money from Damaji for the grains. The king also told the soldiers to arrest him if he fails to pay the money. The king’s soldiers then came to Mangalvedha and showed Damaji the royal mandate. Damaji then asked them to arrest him and take him to Bedar. He requested them that on the way he would like to visit the Vitthal Rukmani temple in Pandharpur and the soldiers obliged. On reaching Pandharpur he bathed in the Chandrabhaga and went to the temple, prostrated and told the god that this may be the last time he visit’s him as the king may give him death sentence for his deed. Vitthal on hearing him took the form of Damaji’s servant and wrote a letter in Damaji’s handwriting to the king and went to Bedar before Damaji could reach there. He calculated the value of the grain and took the money with him. He took the bag of money and put the king’s seal in it and told the palace door keeper that he has come from Mangalvedha and would like to meet the king. The king then called him inside and Vitthal saluted the king. He then told the king that he is the servant of Damaji and he gave him the letter written by Damaji which said that he had sold the grains for a huge profit and that he has sent the money through his servant Vithonaik and asked him to send him back with a receipt. The king then felt bad that he had unnecessarily suspected Damaji by listening to the Mazumdar. Vithonaik then told that king that his village was very far and he had to leave early to reach there in time and asked for the receipt. The king then gave a receipt to Damaji and also ordered the Mazumdar to be put in jail. The king then gave garments and ornaments for Damaji to be sent through Vithonaik. Vithonaik took these and left it in Damaji’s house and disappeared.

The king’s messengers in the meanwhile were then bringing Damaji to the court. The king on hearing that Damaji is coming, came and embraced him and told him that he was sorry that he had listened to the Mazumdar and ordered his arrest. He also told him that his servant Vithonaik had given him all the money and that he had sent gifts for him through his servant. Damaji was astonished and said that he had no servant by name Vithonaik and that he had not sent anyone with the money. The king then showed him the letter written in Damaji’s handwriting and also the money that was given by his servant. Damaji immediately understood that it was Lord Vitthal who had come to his rescue. He told that the king was blessed to have a darshan of Vitthal. He then told him that he would like to spend the rest of his life in the service of Vitthal and would like to take leave from the king’s service. Damaji then spent the rest of his life in Pandharpur singing the praise of Lord Vitthal.