The boatman’s love and the passage across the Gaṅgā


jāsu biyōga bikala pasu aisē. prajā mātu pitu jiihahiṃ kaisēṃ..
barabasa rāma sumaṃtru paṭhāē. surasari tīra āpu taba āē.. [2-99-1]
māgī nāva na kēvaṭu ānā. kahai tumhāra maramu maiṃ jānā..
carana kamala raja kahu sabu kahaī. mānuṣa karani mūri kachu ahaī.. [2-99-2]
chuata silā bhai nāri suhāī. pāhana tēṃ na kāṭha kaṭhināī..
taraniu muni gharini hōi jāī. bāṭa parai mōri nāva uḍaāī.. [2-99-3]
ēhiṃ pratipālau sabu parivārū. nahiṃ jānau kachu aura kabārū..
jau prabhu pāra avasi gā cahahū. mōhi pada paduma pakhārana kahahū.. [2-99-4]

When even beasts felt so miserable on being torn away from Him how could His subjects and His father and mother hope to live without Him? Śrī Rāma dismissed Sumantra against the latter’s will and Himself arrived at the bank of the heavenly stream (Gaṅgā) immediately afterwards. He called for a boat, but the ferryman would not bring it. The latter said, “I know your secret; about the dust of your lotus-feet everyone says it is some drug possessing the quality of turning things into human beings. By its very touch a rock was transformed into a charming woman* and wood is not harder than stone. If my boat itself gets converted into a hermit’s wife (like Ahalyā), I shall be robbed of the very means of my subsistence in that my boat will disappear. It is by means of this boat that I maintain the whole of my family; I know no other trade. If, therefore, my lord, you must cross the river, command me to lave your lotus-feet.

  • * The boatman evidently refers here, in his own rustic yet humorous way, to Ahalyā, who had been transformed into a rock by the curse of her husband Gautama and was restored to her human form by the very touch of Śrī Rāma’s feet (vide Bālakāṇḍa, Dohā 210 and the Chaṁdas immediately following it).


pada kamala dhōi caḍhaāi nāva na nātha utarāī cahauṃ.
mōhi rāma rāuri āna dasaratha sapatha saba sācī kahauṃ..
baru tīra mārahu lakhanu pai jaba lagi na pāya pakhārihauṃ.
taba lagi na tulasīdāsa nātha kṛpāla pāru utārihauṃ..

“I will let you board the boat only when I have bathed your lotus-feet; I seek no toll from you. I swear by you, O Rāma, as well as by King Daśaratha, that what I tell you is all true. Let Lakṣmaṇa shoot me with his arrows if he will; but until I have washed your feet I will not, O gracious lord of Tulasīdāsa, ferry you across.”


suni kēbaṭa kē baina prēma lapēṭē aṭapaṭē.
bihasē karunāaina citai jānakī lakhana tana..100.. [2-99-100]

On hearing these words of the ferryman, mysterious though imbued with love, the all-merciful Lord looked at Janaka’s Daughter and Lakṣmaṇa and smiled.


kṛpāsiṃdhu bōlē musukāī. sōi karu jēṃhi tava nāva na jāī..
vēgi ānu jala pāya pakhārū. hōta bilaṃbu utārahi pārū.. [2-99-1]
jāsu nāma sumarata ēka bārā. utarahiṃ nara bhavasiṃdhu apārā..
sōi kṛpālu kēvaṭahi nihōrā. jēhiṃ jagu kiya tihu pagahu tē thōrā.. [2-99-2]
pada nakha nirakhi dēvasari haraṣī. suni prabhu bacana mōhaom mati karaṣī..
kēvaṭa rāma rajāyasu pāvā. pāni kaṭhavatā bhari lēi āvā.. [2-99-3]
ati ānaṃda umagi anurāgā. carana sarōja pakhārana lāgā..
baraṣi sumana sura sakala sihāhīṃ. ēhi sama punyapuṃja kōu nāhīṃ.. [2-99-4]

The all-compassionate Lord smilingly said, “Do that which may prevent the loss of your boat. Bring water at once and lave my feet; we are getting late, take us across.” The same gracious Lord, by uttering whose Name only once men cross the boundless ocean of mundane existence, and for whose three strides the universe proved too small*, thus importuned an ordinary boatman. Though bewildered by the Lord’s words, the celestial river (Gaṅgā) rejoiced on beholding the nails of His toes. On receiving Śrī Rāma’s command the ferryman brought a wood basin full of water. In great joy and with a heart overflowing with love he proceeded to bathe the Lord’s lotus-feet. Raining flowers on him all the gods envied his lot and said there was none so meritorious as he

  • * There is an allusion here to the Lord’s Descent as a Dwarf and to His subsequently assuming colossal dimensions and measuring the earth and heavens in a couple of strides. The same Lord who had assumed the form of a Dwarf in the Satyayuga now appeared as Śrī Rāma; hence the two are identified by the poet. It is further mentioned in the Purāṇas that Brahmā (the Creator) laved the foot of the Lord when it reached Brahmaloka (the highest heaven) after measuring the heavens and it was this water which flowed through the heavens and later on reached the earth in the form of the river Gaṅgā. It is also gathered from the Purāṇas that the river, like all other rivers and mountains etc., is presided over by a goddess of the same name and it is this deity who is represented here as mystified by the Lord’s behaviour as an ordinary human being depending on a boatman for being taken across the stream. When, however, the boatman bathed the feet of the Lord with the water of the holy river, the goddess took no time in recognizing the source of her waters and rejoiced to discover the Almighty Lord.


pada pakhāri jalu pāna kari āpu sahita parivāra.
pitara pāru kari prabhuhi puni mudita gayau lēi pāra..101.. [2-101]

Having laved the Lord’s feet and drunk of the water in which they had been immersed alongwith the other members of his family, he thereby transported the souls of his deceased forbears across the ocean of metempsychosis and then gladly took the Lord across the Gaṅgā.


utari ṭhāḍa bhaē surasari rētā. sīyarāma guha lakhana samētā..
kēvaṭa utari daṃḍavata kīnhā. prabhuhi sakuca ēhi nahiṃ kachu dīnhā.. [2-101-1]
piya hiya kī siya jānanihārī. mani mudarī mana mudita utārī..
kahēu kṛpāla lēhi utarāī. kēvaṭa carana gahē akulāī.. [2-101-2]
nātha āju maiṃ kāha na pāvā. miṭē dōṣa dukha dārida dāvā..
bahuta kāla maiṃ kīnhi majūrī. āju dīnha bidhi bani bhali bhūrī.. [2-101-3]
aba kachu nātha na cāhia mōrēṃ. dīnadayāla anugraha tōrēṃ..
phiratī bāra mōhi jē dēbā. sō prasādu maiṃ sira dhari lēbā.. [2-101-4]

Getting down from the boat Sītā and Rāma stood on the sands of the Gaṅgā alongwith Guha and Lakṣmaṇa. The ferryman too got down and fell prostrate before the Lord, who felt uncomfortable at the thought that He had given nothing to the ferryman. Sītā, however, who could read the mind of Her beloved lord, took off Her jewelled ring with a cheerful heart. The gracious Lord said, “Take your toll.” But the ferryman clasped His feet in great distress. “What have I not already received, my lord? The fire of my errors, sorrows and indigence has been quenched today. I worked for my livelihood for a long time; it is only today that God has given me an adequate and handsome return. By your grace, my compassionate Lord, I want nothing now. While returning, whatever you bestow on me I shall thankfully accept that boon.”


bahuta kīnha prabhu lakhana siyaom nahiṃ kachu kēvaṭu lēi.
bidā kīnha karunāyatana bhagati bimala baru dēi..102.. [2-102]

The Lord as well as Lakṣmaṇa and Sītā did their utmost; but the ferryman would accept nothing. The All-merciful Rāma, therefore, dismissed him after bestowing on him the boon of unalloyed devotion.


taba majjanu kari raghukulanāthā. pūji pārathiva nāyau māthā..
siyaom surasarihi kahēu kara jōrī. mātu manōratha puraubi mōrī.. [2-102-1]
pati dēvara saṃga kusala bahōrī. āi karauṃ jēhiṃ pūjā tōrī..
suni siya binaya prēma rasa sānī. bhai taba bimala bāri bara bānī.. [2-102-2]
sunu raghubīra priyā baidēhī. tava prabhāu jaga bidita na kēhī..
lōkapa hōhiṃ bilōkata tōrēṃ. tōhi sēvahiṃ saba sidhi kara jōrēṃ.. [2-102-3]
tumha jō hamahi baḍai binaya sunāī. kṛpā kīnhi mōhi dīnhi baḍaāī..
tadapi dēbi maiṃ dēbi asīsā. saphala hōpana hita nija bāgīsā.. [2-102-4]

The Lord of Raghu’s race then bathed in the Gaṅgā and after worshipping a newlymade clay image of Śiva bowed His head to the Deity. With joined palms Sītā addressed the celestial river (Gaṅgā), “Mother, pray accomplish my desire, that I may return with my husband and His younger brother and worship you.” In response to Sītā’s prayer, steeped as it was in the nectar of love, the following happy utterance came from the holy stream: “Listen, O Vaidehī (Videha’s Daughter), beloved Consort of Śrī Rāma (the Chief of Raghu’s line): who in this world is not aware of Your glory? People become masters of the heaven’s quarters the moment You look at them and all supernatural powers wait upon You with joined palms. By addressing an humble prayer to me You have done me a favour and exalted me. Yet, O venerable lady, bless You I must, just in order to fulfil my speech.


prānanātha dēvara sahita kusala kōsalā āi.
pūjahi saba manakāmanā sujasu rahihi jaga chāi..103.. [2-103]

With Your beloved Lord and His younger brother You shall safely return to Ayodhyā. Every wish of Your heart shall be accomplished and Your bright glory shall spread throughout the world.”


gaṃga bacana suni maṃgala mūlā. mudita sīya surasari anukulā..
taba prabhu guhahi kahēu ghara jāhū. sunata sūkha mukhu bhā ura dāhū.. [2-103-1]
dīna bacana guha kaha kara jōrī. binaya sunahu raghukulamani mōrī..
nātha sātha rahi paṃthu dēkhāī. kari dina cāri carana sēvakāī.. [2-103-2]
jēhiṃ bana jāi rahaba raghurāī. paranakuṭī maiṃ karabi suhāī..
taba mōhi kahaom jasi dēba rajāī. sōi karihau raghubīra dōhāī.. [2-103-3]
sahaja sanēha rāma lakhi tāsu. saṃga līnha guha hṛdaya hulāsū..
puni guhaom gyāti bōli saba līnhē. kari paritōṣu bidā taba kīnhē.. [2-103-4]

Sītā rejoiced to hear these benedictory words of goddess Gaṅgā and to find her favourably disposed. Then the Lord said to Guha, “Go home.” The moment he heard this his face turned pale and there was great agony in his heart. With joined palms Guha addressed the Lord in pathetic terms: “Hear my prayer, O Jewel of Raghu’s race; let me remain with you, my lord, and show you the road; after serving you for a few days I shall prepare a beautiful hut of leaves for you in whichever forest, O Lord of Raghus, you may go and take up your abode. Thereafter I swear by you, O Chief of Raghus, to do as you bid me.” Perceiving his natural love Śrī Rāma took him with Him and Guha felt much joy in his heart. Then Guha summoned all his kinsmen and having gratified them sent them away.