Kewat, The Boatman

Kewat, The Boatman

This is the story of a boat man called Kewat, that figures in the great Epic Ramayana. When Lord Rama was exiled for fourteen years, he left the kingdom of Ayodhya, along with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana. They had to cross the River Ganges at one place. They requested Kewat to ferry them across the river. The boat man first refused to do so because he had heard about Lord Rama touching a stone with his foot and the stone subsequently turning into a woman! (That was the story of Ahilya.) The boatman expressed his concern for his boat also turning into a woman! In that case what would he do for a living? The Lord set his fears to rest and the boatman agreed to ferry them across.

As soon as they alighted from the boat, Lord Rama looked at his wife Sita as if asking her, if there was something they could give to this poor boatman as payment for the ride. Rama being dressed as an ascetic had nothing valuable on his person, to give to the boatman. Sita immediately withdrew a ring from her finger and handed it over to Lord Rama, signalling to him to pass it on to the boatman.

Lord Rama: Here Brother, that is all we can pay you for your kind service. Please accept it.
Kewat: (Shaking his head). No, My Lord! I can not possibly accept this from you.
Lord Rama: Why?
Kewat Because people of the same profession do not charge each other for their services.
Lord Rama Oh!
Kewat A barber never takes payment, when he gives a haircut to another barber.
Lord Rama: So?
Kewat: Even a washer-man never charges a fellow washer-man.
Lord Rama: What are you coming to?
Kewat: Lord, people of the same profession do not charge each other for their services. So how can I charge you?
Laxmana Stepped forward indignantly to express his anger. How on Earth could Lord Rama be of the same profession as this rustic boatman? But Lord Rama silenced Lakshmana with a single look. He looked compassionately at Kewat who was kneeling in front of Him with folded hands.
Lord Rama: Brother, how can you and I be of the same profession? You are a boatman and I a .
Kewat: Lord, both of us do the same work. I ferry people from this shore of the Ganges to the other. You ferry people across the ocean of Samsaara (Bhavsagar) through the journey of life. How can I accept payment from you?

The Lord was so overwhelmed at this passionate outburst from Kewat, that he held out his arms and embraced the boatman.

A devotee need not go out in search of God. God is in search of genuine devotees. If we can show only a slight inclination towards loving God, God shall shower us with His love. If we show the slightest willingness to let God guide us and lead us on, He shall hold the reins of our chariot, like Krishna did for Arjuna and lead our lives to the ultimate goal.