SHRI JALARAM BAPA (1799-1881 A. D. )
The saying goes – Guest is god-'Athidhi Devo Bhava'. That is why among Indians, it is a tradition, whether there be sufficient food for the family members or not, but whoever comes to the house at the meals time, are first fed. Feeding all, and especially the poor, are not only a humane but also a spiritual act as per Indian thinking.There is no greater meritorious act than feeding the poor and hungry. Actually allaying the hunger of whosoever he is, whether he is rich or poor, is a highly meritorious act indeed.
Virpur in Saurashtra is very famous. It was the place of birth of one of the great saints of recent times, namely Sri Jalaram. He had sanctified the place by his devotional and spiritual sadhanas. Feeding the people was one of the routine daily chores in his life, besides his other devotional exercises. He used to delight himself allaying the hunger of people. "It is Narayana, the lord himself I am feeding" – that was his bhavana and belief. Even today in the Jalaram Ashram at Virpur, thousands and thousands of people are fed daily. The kitchen is run there at all times of the day. What is fed there is 'Prasad', which not only fills the stomach and nourishes the body, but also nourishes the soul. Jalaram termed this mass feeding by the name 'Sada Vrat', that is an all-time and every day duty, which he undertook as his principal Sadhana.
Jalaram was born in Virpur in the year 1799, on the seventh day of the Kartika month. His father was Pradhan Thakkar and mother was Rajbai. At his sixteenth year, Jalaram was married. His wife's name was Virbai.
Jalaram's uncle Valji, who had no children, had always loved Jalaram. He asked Jalaram and his wife to stay in his house, as members of his own family. He had a grocery shop of his own, and made Jalaram to attend to it. Jalaram was working very sincerely at the shop. But here his charitable deeds continued as ever.
Many miraculous events happening in Jalaram's life brought a tremendous change in his mind. His spiritual yearning, which was dormant in him so far, burst forth in a new blaze. It made him completely restless. His uncle, who noticed this, thought that it was good and advisable to send him on a pilgrimage to some of the holy places. Jalaram visited Ayodhya, Kasi, Badrinath and several other sacred places. He also visited Fatehpur and took Diksha from one saint named Bhojalram.He sought also the Guru's blessings to start ' Sadavrat'.
Jalaram started the Sadavrat at his 20th year. He just started it with forty measures of grain. The very first guest to his Sadavrat was a saint. The guest saint blessed Jalaram and gave him the idols of Sri Rama, Lakshman and Sita and told him that he should offer worships to the idols daily. On the third day itself after Jalaram started the worship of the idols, he got a vision of Hanuman, Jalaram got a temple constructed and installed the idols gifted to him by the saint, along with the idol of Hanuman also.Jalaram was doing the daily worship of the idols till his very last day, with the deepest devotion.
For his Sadavrat, the inflow of the people was increasing day by day. Jalaram's gentle and hospitable nature, combined with his humility, used to win the admiration for all. But his means were meager and limited to meet the ever-increasing expenses for the daily mass feeding of the visitors and the pilgrims. He used to work very hard in the field" to make both ends meet", to keep the "Sadavrat" ever going on without any slackening. But his ever-lasting faith and dependence on Lord Sri Rama guided him throughout.
Inspired by his insatiable desire to feed the poor and needy, many became his devotees, and used to serve him, helping in the 'Sadavrat'. Mulubha Thakore, Jam Saheb and many others, who experienced Jalaram's grace, gave contributions to his Ashram. Whenever there was any shortage in the ashram, help used to come from unknown sources. His wife always stood by his side with total devotion and used to toil all the time in the Ashram- services and kitchen work.
The maharajah of Dhrangadhara presented two big grinding stones for use in the kitchen, which are still there. The Nawab of Junagadh donated some land for the Ashram.
Jalaram stood the test of time, wavered. One day an old sadhu came. He appeared greatly fatigued and tired. Jalaram welcomed him and offered to serve him. The visitor made a strange request. He said" I do not want your food. I have no one to attend to me, if you really want to help, you give away your wife and send her along with me to serve and attend on me." Jalaram after consultation with his wife offered Virabai to him. The sadhu left the place along with Virabai. They reached the outskirts of a forest. The sadhu asked her to wait there for some time and said he had a little work to attend to and would come back soon. He left with his 'Danda' and 'Jholi' asking her to keep watch on them while he would be away. As he walked along in to the forest, Akash vani was heard saying "Virabai, my child ! you are a great sati. Your husband Jalaram is matchless in his charity; he excels even Sibi and Karna. He is my dearest devotee. I bless you both always. Go back to your husband, install my Danda and Jholi in your Ashram, and worship them. Go on serving your husband and people. That is your worship to me. I shall be ever with you." The Danda and Jholi were installed in Virpur and they are worshipped even now. Jalaram and his wife thus stood the severest test of God, passed through it unscathed and earned the fullest Grace of God.
Jalaram had one daughter. She was married to Bhaktiram of Kotdapitha. She had one son Hari Ram. In the year 1881, Jalaram Bapa took his Samadhi. At Virpur, the Sadavrat goes on still, in a most magnificent way.