The Sagacious Kevat and all Encompassing Lord Ram: Samvad
Kevat samvaad (केवट संवाद) in Ramayan (रामायण) is often discussed in the light of the utter devotion of the Kevat (boatman). He was determined to seek the blessings of the Lord by touching and washing the feet of Lord Ram (पाँव पखारना- a gesture of deep respect). However, a striking facet of this clever Kevat is often not mentioned—his quick-wittedness and intuitiveness, which he exposes in the dialogue.
The situation goes like this: after being banished from the Kingdom for 14 years, Lord Ram, Devi Sita, and his younger brother Lakshman proceed to the jungle. Despite several attempts to stop him by the people of Ayodhya, king Dashrath, ministers and advisers, Lord Ram resolved to proceed ahead with 14 years of exile.
Nishad raj, an old acquaintance of Lord Ram, came running to meet him when he heard that the prince of Ayodhya has arrived in his area. After spending a day there under the tree, Lord Ram requested for a boat to cross the river Ganges. Nishad Raj requested Lord Ram to spend his years of exile in the vicinity to guard and care for him. Lord Ram politely denied saying it was against the principles of vanvaas (वनवास- exile in the forest) and he has to go deep in the jungle and stay on his own.
Nishad Raj calls for the Kevat (boatman) near the river bank. The moment clever kevat sees Lord Ram, he realises the divine opportunity to wash his feet and seek that water as a Prasad (offering of the God). Kevat, high on intuitive power, knew that Prince Ram was none other than the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Since Lord Ram was a prince, and it wouldn't have been easy to touch and wash his feet, Kevat had to find ways not to miss this lifetime opportunity.
To fulfil his desire, Kevat puts a condition of washing Lord Ram's feet before getting on his boat. The reason what he gave compelled Lord Ram to agree with a smile and allow him to go ahead with his condition. This demonstrates the cleverness, intuitiveness and quick-wittedness of the Kevat.
This is how it goes.
मागी नाव न केवटु आना। कहइ तुम्हार मरमु मैं जाना॥
चरन कमल रज कहुँ सबु कहई। मानुष करनि मूरि कछु अहई॥2॥
भावार्थ:- श्री राम ने केवट से नाव माँगी, पर वह लाता नहीं। वह कहने लगा- मैंने तुम्हारामर्म (भेद) जान लिया। तुम्हारे चरण कमलों की धूल के लिए सब लोग कहते हैं कि वह मनुष्य बना देने वाली कोई जड़ी है,॥2॥
(Lord Ram asks boatman to get the boat, but he was reluctant and says that I know your secret power, people say that even the dust of your feet can turn anything into a human being)
छुअत सिला भइ नारि सुहाई। पाहन तें न काठ कठिनाई ll
तरनिउ मुनि घरिनी होइ जाई। बाट परइ मोरि नाव उड़ाई॥3॥
भावार्थ:- जिसके छूते ही पत्थर की शिला सुंदरी स्त्री हो गई (मेरी नाव तो काठ की है)। काठ पत्थर से कठोर तो होता नहीं। मेरी नाव भी मुनि की स्त्री हो जाएगी और इस प्रकारमेरी नाव उड़ जाएगी, मैं लुट जाऊँगा (अथवा रास्ता रुक जाएगा, जिससे आप पार न होसकेंगे और मेरी रोजी मारी जाएगी) (मेरी कमाने-खाने की राह ही मारी जाएगी)॥3॥
(when your feet accidentally touched a stone, it transformed into a beautiful woman. My boat is made of wood which is softer than stone. If my boat turns into a sages wife then my livelihood will be gone, and neither can I take you to the other side. Here the boatman intelligently sites the story of Ahilya)
एहिं प्रतिपालउँ सबु परिवारू। नहिं जानउँ कछु अउर कबारू॥
जौं प्रभु पार अवसि गा चहहू। मोहि पद पदुम पखारन कहहू॥4॥
भावार्थ:- मैं तो इसी नाव से सारे परिवार का पालन-पोषण करता हूँ। दूसरा कोई धंधानहीं जानता। हे प्रभु! यदि तुम अवश्य ही पार जाना चाहते हो तो मुझे पहले अपनेचरणकमल पखारने (धो लेने) के लिए कह दो॥4॥
(This boat is my only source of income and I feed my entire family from this. I will surely take you to the other side my Lord but please let me wash your feet first.)
Lord Ram replies:
कृपासिंधु बोले मुसुकाई। सोइ करु जेहिं तव नाव न जाई॥
बेगि आनु जलपाय पखारू। होत बिलंबु उतारहि पारू॥1॥
भावार्थ:- कृपा के समुद्र श्री रामचन्द्रजी केवट से मुस्कुराकर बोले भाई! तू वही कर जिससेतेरी नाव न जाए। जल्दी पानी ला और पैर धो ले। देर हो रही है, पार उतार दे॥1॥
(Lord Ram says, you do what it takes to save your boat and allow me to go to other side as it’s getting late.)
Lord Ram who helps the individuals cross the ocean of this life and is blessings has power of freeing the individual from the bondage of karmic cycle humbly accepts the conditions laid by the boatman. Lord Ram is all-embracing. He knows no difference between people based on their caste, social status or gender. Lord Ram's life and principles have social inclusion embedded in them. When there is a worldwide discussion on making our societies inclusive, we need to take a leaf out of Ramayan.
After reaching the other side of the river, Lord Ram hugs the Kevat and feels sad that he cannot repay him for his services. At that moment, Devi Sita takes out her gold finger ring, which Lord Ram offers to Kevat. Once again, Kevat displays his intelligence by denying it. He knew that the experience he had of washing the sacred feet of Lord Ram is rare that too for an ordinary boatman like him. Even the most revered sages and kings would not get this opportunity, and he need not be repaid for his services. He has enough money to take care of his family. The insightful Kevat understands the difference between material gain and spiritual bliss, which even most learned people don't understand with such ease.
This is how Kevat replies:
नाथ आजु मैं काह न पावा। मिटे दोष दुख दारिद दावा॥
बहुत काल मैं कीन्हि मजूरी। आजु दीन्ह बिधि बनि भलि भूरी॥3॥
भावार्थ:- (उसने कहा-) हे नाथ! आज मैंने क्या नहीं पाया! मेरे दोष, दुःख और दरिद्रता कीआग आज बुझ गई है। मैंने बहुत समय तक मजदूरी की। विधाता ने आज बहुत अच्छीभरपूर मजदूरी दे दी॥3॥
(the wise Kevat says I have got everything today. Your blessings will free me from any Kind of poverty and grief)
अब कछु नाथ न चाहिअ मोरें। दीन दयाल अनुग्रह तोरें॥
फिरती बार मोहि जो देबा। सो प्रसादु मैं सिर धरि लेबा॥4॥
भावार्थ:- हे नाथ! हे दीनदयाल! आपकी कृपा से अब मुझे कुछ नहीं चाहिए। लौटती बारआप मुझे जो कुछ देंगे, वह प्रसाद मैं सिर चढ़ाकर लूँगा॥4॥
(Hey Lord, this time I don't need anything from you. When you are on your return journey, I will accept whatever you give me.)
The famous kevat and Lord Ram dialogue as enumerated above, apart from the devotion, also brings out beautifully the cleverness, intuitiveness, quick wittedness and a sense of purpose of Kevat, which deserves worth emulation by one and all. Kevat sets an example that if our resolution is firmly winged with the power of good insight , wisdom and wittedness, even God responds.