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Pay up the Dues

Meanwhile, the kind-hearted stranger who helped Tukaram with the bag came on the scene. He went to the villagers and introduced himself as Tukaram’s agent. He said those people who had taken chillies on credit should pay up the dues. The villagers said, “We do not know how much he gave.” Then the stranger told them the exact quantity of chillies they had taken and the amounts due. They were left with no option but to pay the amount. Then remained only the rascal who had taken the whole sack of chillies. Tukaram’s unknown helper then said, after taking a rope in his hand, “Pay me or I will hang myself and ruin your whole village!” Then the villagers fell on the rascal, kicked him and cursed him. The latter had no option but to pay the whole amount as the others had done.

Meanwhile, the struggle between this naive businessman and unscrupulous elements continued unabated. Once, a cheat palmed off fake bracelets to him as gold ones. Tukaram had no money so at first he declined the offer. But the trickster convinced him for part payment and gave him the bracelets. When Tukaram went to his debtors and presented the bracelets there was loud laughter all around, as the simple saint had once again been cheated.

But Avalibai could not let down her husband despite his reckless spending to help those in need. She pledged her ornaments and raised two hundred pieces of silver. She advised her husband to use the amount carefully and not waste it on beggars. Tukaram bought salt with the amount and went to Baleghat to sell the commodity and buy sugar with the money and sell it for cash again.

Punishment for ‘madness’

When Tukaram was returning home he found it difficult not to help a poor Brahmin who was sorely in need of two hundred and fifty rupees to ward off debtors. The saint took pity on him and gave him the two hundred and fifty rupees he was carrying. When Tukaram returned to Dehu, the people were convinced that he was ‘mad’. They garlanded him with onions, seated him on a donkey and paraded him through the streets.

Now Tukaram had had enough. He was disgusted with the affairs of the world. He decided to bid goodbye to business. He was 21 then. By then he had lost his wife and son to a famine; both died crying for food. He sought solitude and the companionship of Hari more than ever. He sat in meditation for seven days. Then, according to Mahipati the saint heard a divine voice. Finally, he withdrew to a hill called Bhambhanath and had a vision of Vithal. His brother Kanhoba brought him home. But he lived as a recluse, returning to Dehu in the evening and going back to the hill for the rest of the day to worship Vitthal.

Tukaram’s fame reached the ears of Shivaji. He wanted to hear Tukaram's kirtans. He sent a caparisoned horse, an umbrella and other paraphernalia to make the saint come to him. The saint was greatly saddened at the sight of gold coins and the horse sent to welcome him to Shivaji’s presence. He declined the invitation and advised Shivaji to call himself the servant of Vithoba. Then Shivaji himself went to Lohogaon to listen to Tukaram’s kirtans. Shivaji offered to give up everything to enjoy the bliss of the saint’s company. But Tukaram advised Shivaji to carry on his duties.

Tukaram and Ramdas were contemporaries; they were born in the same year. It is not clear whether they had ever met.

It is widely believed that Tukaram took jalsamadhi to meet his Hari. It is believed that one day, he walked into the Indrayani River. His rug, the cymbals in his hand and tambura fell down and he was never seen again. Thus ended the earthly existence of a saint who endured so much suffering, in the service of God and to make others happy.

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