Chokha Mela did all the work expected of him – working in the farms, removing the dead animals from there, disposing off them etc. Through all the hard work, and the injustice meted out him because of merely his caste, he kept his mind on Lord Vitthal. He composed many poems expressing his anguish at the social norms and prevailing discriminatory casteist systems.
After listening to the discourses and kirtans of Sant Namdev during a visit to Pandharpur, Chokha found his love for Vitthal grow so much, that he moved with his family to Pandharpur. When he went to the entrance of the temple there, he was prohibited from entering it because of his caste. Yet, he cleaned the temple premises every day, and standing outside the temple door, he worshipped his Vitthal from afar.
People made fun of Chokha, and ridiculed his devotion by openly commenting that it had no value, for, he would never be allowed to enter inside the temple. Deeply hurt by these comments, Chokha gave up food and wept tears of frustration and longing to see Vitthal. Lo and behold! Lord Vitthal Himself appeared, embraced Chokha, and took him inside the temple!
|Pic courtesy: Amar Chitra Katha|
The impure eyes of the priest couldn’t see the Lord, but saw only Chokha, in the sanctum sanctorum. The temple had been desecrated, he screamed. He ordered Chokha out of not just the temple, but also the place itself, and banished him to a place across the Chandrabhaga river.
The Lord never disappoints his true devotee. Every afternoon, Vitthal started visiting Chokha’s hut, and eating lunch with him. One afternoon, the temple priest was passing by and hearing voices, peeped inside. He heard Chokha reprimand his wife Soyara for spilling food on the Lord’s clothes. The priest, who could not see the Lord, thought Chokha was taunting him by trying to show off his own devotion to Vitthal. He ran in, and slapped Chokha hard across the face!
Now, by touching Chokha, he felt desecrated himself, and after bathing in the river to purify himself, he went across the river and entered the temple for the evening rituals.
As he looked at the murti of Lord Vitthal, he was shocked! Vitthal’s cheek was an angry red, swollen and imprinted with finger marks, as if He had been slapped! The priest was stunned into a realization of how intense Chokha’s devotion was, and how he lived for and in the Lord Himself! Begging forgiveness, the priest asked the Lord to regain His normal form, but nothing happened. Finally, the priest brought Chokha into the temple and the Lord only obliged when Chokha pacified Him.
Some time later, Chokha was forced to return to Mangalvedh. He was working on the construction of a wall, when the wall collapsed, and he was killed. Sant Namdev went there to bring Chokha’s mortal remains but the disaster had left the dead bodies so disfigured, that no one could be identified. As he searched helplessly, he suddenly heard the murmur of “Vitthal! Vitthal!” emanating from one place. Such was Chokha’s devotion that even in death, his bones were chanting the Lord’s Name!
Chokha’s bones were brought to Pandharpur, and buried in the ground at the bottom of the steps outside the temple’s main gates – the very spot where Chokha would stand and pray to his Vitthal.
Like Chokha, whatever work we do, can we remember God at all times?
Whatever difficulties arise in our lives, can we do our best to face them, with God as our support always?
Can we learn to treat all people alike, whatever their status or class in life?