The ongoing biography of Lord Shree Swaminarayan from the August 2005 edition of Shree Ghanshyam Vijay.
The Devotion of Shepherd Haja’s Wife
After disseminating His divine bliss to the devotees in Kundal, the Almighty Lord Shree Swaminarayan travelled to Sarangpur and remained at the royal court of Jeevakhachar. A dozen bharvadans (wives of those in the shepherd tribe) came for the darshan of the beloved Lord. According to the customs of their tribe, they were all wearing heavy silver jewellery. After prostrating before the Lord, they all sat down in the assembly. Shree Hari thought to Himself, ‘The ladies who have come for My darshan are all illiterate. They have not studied any of the scriptures nor have they heard the preaching of My sants. What is the level of their understanding about My glory? Let me test their devotion.’ Shree Hari addressed the ladies, “I want to hold a grand festival soon. To achieve this, I will need a lot of money. If you give Me all the jewellery that you are wearing, I will have sufficient funds.” Most of the ladies started to worry about how they should respond to Shree Hari’s request. However, the shepherd Haja’s wife immediately started taking off her jewellery. She had a thick choker around her collar, anklets, earrings, a large silver necklace, a nose ring, and many other articles of jewellery. She removed all her ornaments and placed them before the Lord. She said, “Maharaj! You are welcome to take everything I have.” Shree Hari wanted to test the devotion of Haja’s wife so He asked, “If you give Me all your jewellery, will your husband not be angry with you?” She replied, “Maharaj! He too is Your devotee. The poor man will be pleased. We are only donating back to You the wealth that You have given to us. We have not done anything great by that.” Shree Hari became pleased to see the true understanding of Haja’s wife and asked, “From whom did you learn this true devotion?” The lady replied, “Maharaj! I do not understand anything. All I know is that You are the supreme Lord and we must do as You say. You are only asking for what You have given to us. If we do not give it to You, we would be considered as being ungrateful for the grace You have bestowed upon us. We are merely enjoying the wealth You have given to us.” Shree Hari became extremely pleased and said to the entire assembly, “Devotees! This lady seems like a simpleton, but just look at her understanding. Who would have taught this morality to her? Her understanding is greater than many of the great scholars. This is what happens when the good deeds of numerous previous lives come together. Only then can such unsurpassed devotion exist within an individual.”
Whilst Shree Hari was talking, the shepherd, Haja arrived. Shree Hari said to him, “Haja! Your wife is very devoted. She has removed all her jewellery and given it to Me.” Haja immediately replied, “She has given back to You what was Yours in the first place. What is the great deed in that?” The understanding of Haja was equal to that of his wife. Shree Hari said, “My dear Haja! I just wanted to test the devotion of you both. You can take back all the jewellery.” Haja replied, “Maharaj! We cannot take back what we have given to You. If we take it, we would be committing a sin. So Lord! Have mercy on us and do not make us perform such a wrongful deed.” Shree Hari said, “Haja! In accordance with My command, you must take back the articles. I have sanctified them. There is no reason why you cannot take them back.” Haja hesitated, but then complied with Shree Hari’s command. The entire assembly witnessed that Haja and his wife were ready to donate all that they had to the Lord. They had to confess that although they looked like simpletons, their understanding was like that of great scholars.The Loving Devotion of the Disciples of Surat
The devotees of Surat became impatient for Shree Hari’s darshan and consequently travelled all the way to Sarangpur. They brought many articles of worship with them. As soon as they arrived, Shree Hari started to make arrangements for their accommodation. However, the devotees pleaded, “Maharaj! Have mercy on us and allow us to perform adoration to You first. We can eat and rest later.” Sensing the eagerness of His devotees, Shree Hari granted permission.
The devotees presented Shree Hari with richly embroidered clothing and a matching grand headdress. Garlands of flowers were placed around His neck and sandalwood paste, mixed with fragrance and saffron was applied to Shree Hari’s forehead. The devotees had brought lots of delicious sweets to offer to the Lord. They placed all the food at Shree Hari’s lotus feet. They then performed aarti using wicks soaked in fragrant camphor. Finally, they placed the headdress on Shree Hari’s divine head. The headdress was so wonderfully decorated, even a golden crown would have seemed inferior.Gangama’s Priceless Cloth
Just then, Gangama from Jetalpur arrived at the assembly. She had brought a piece of course cotton cloth that was eight feet long. Gangama presented the cloth to the Lord. Shree Hari immediately tied the cloth over the headdress He was wearing. Superficially, the previous headdress looked superb. A devotee said, “Maharaj! The cloth that You have wrapped around the headdress does not look good. Take it off.” Shree Hari smiled and said, “You will not understand. You think this cloth is worthless. However, in comparison with the headdress, this cloth is priceless. The love with which the cloth was made cannot be described in words. The headdress only looks good outwardly, whereas this cloth is made of love. This Gangama is a devotee from the time of Ramanand Swami. She has looked after Me like her own son. That is why I call her ‘mother’. She has spun these fine threads with her own hands and weaved this cloth for Me. Therefore, this course cloth is more precious than diamond necklaces.” The devotees sitting in the assembly realised that they wrongfully placed more importance on external beauty, but articles made with sincere love was infinitely more precious.