Sri Rama started on his fourteen years of exile to the forest along with Seeta and Lakshmana, to keep up his father Dasaratha’s promise to Kaikeyi. He met Guha, the tribal chieftain and asked him to arrange for a boatsman (Kevat) to take them across the river Ganga. Guha sent for the Kevat and asked him to take them across the river. But the Kevat refused saying that unless Rama let him personally wash His feet, he would not allow them to enter the boat. Guha angrily asked him why. The Kevat told him that he had heard that by the touch of the dust of the Lord’s feet, an inert and hard stone had transformed into a woman. His boat was made of softer material and if it comes in contact with the dust of Rama’s feet, surely and definitely it would also get transformed into a woman. Not only he would lose the boat which helped in his livelihood, but he would also have to look after another woman along with maintaining his family! That would not be possible for him at all. Guha was wonderstruck at his innocence. Lord Rama smiled and agreed to His feet being washed.
The Kevat brought a small plate and asked the Lord to place His feet in them. The Lord put His right foot on the plate. There wasn’t much space for His left foot in the plate. The Lord looked at the Kevat. It would be difficult for Him to balance Himself with both His feet in the small plate! The Kevat looked up and asked the Lord to place His hand on his head, and then place His left foot in the plate. In doing so, He would be able to maintain His balance! The Lord understood the humble and simple desire of the boatsman. All that he wanted was Bhagavan’s hand on his head as a sign of blessing. Rama placed His hand on Kevat’s head and put both His feet on the plate. Kevat was overwhelmed, and with eyes brimming with tears, he lovingly washed the Lord’s feet using the waters from Ganges. When the Lord was about to place His feet on the ground and enter the boat, Kevat stretched out his hand for the Lord to place His feet on his palm, and then enter the boat! What a great devotee and what a blessing!
Rama, Seeta and Lakshmana got into the boat and the Kevat took them across the river onto the other side. They stepped out of the boat and the Lord had to give him something for rowing them across. The Lord looked at Seeta and she removed her ring from her finger and gave it to Rama. Rama offered the ring to Kevat for taking them across the river. Kevat politely declined the offer saying that there is no “give and take” between two people in the same profession! The Lord was surprised and asked him how both of them were in the same profession?
The Kevat very beautifully told the Lord, “I ferry people across the river. You ferry people across the ocean of samsara! Are we both not in the same profession?”
Every one there was surprised and amazed at the Kevat’s knowledge and devotion. He requested the Lord that on his return journey back from the forest after fourteen years, he should be again given the fortune of rowing them back to this side which the Lord promised.
The Kevat had ferried the Lord to and fro across the river. It was now the responsibility of the Lord to ferry the Kevat across the river of life!!
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