~ 86. Shabari Welcomes Rama ~

Heading south, Rama and Lakshmana arrived at Lake Pampa where they found a woman, Shabari. She lived there alone in an ashram that had been abandoned long ago.
"You look hungry," she said. "I can offer you fruit." 
Shabari took a berry and bit into it. "Sweet!" she said, offering it to Rama, who accepted it gladly. 
She bit into another berry. "Bitter!" she said, throwing it away. 
Another berry. "Sweet!" she said, offering it to Lakshmana, who recoiled in disgust.
"Do not judge her, Lakshmana," said Rama. "She offers food with love."
Shabari's berries strengthened Rama in his quest.

Inspired by: Sita: An Illustrated Retelling of the Ramayana by Devdutt Pattanaik
Notes: This story is on p. 164 of the book. In Valmiki's Ramayana, this is the Aranya Kanda (Book 3), sarga 74. The name "Shabari" indicates that she is a member of the Sora (Shabara) tribe; find out more at Wikipedia. The story of the berries does not appear in Valmiki's Ramayana, but it is part of later folk tradition. Pattanaik notes that in the folktales of Odisha, she offers Rama a mango, and in other versions it is a black plum, Indian jamun. In Valmiki's Ramayana, Shabari has waited until she might see Rama, and then she immolates herself, emerging from the fire as a divine being who ascends to haven.

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