From bad to good

He was a disappointment to his parents. But, once he learned the error of his ways, he decided to change himself.

This time, let’s go to Pandharpur in Maharashtra for the story of Pundalik. He is now considered a saint, but Pundalik was a disappointment to his parents, as a young man. He got into bad company and gambled away his parents’ wealth and property. Even after his marriage, Pundalik did not change his ways. His disappointed parents decided to leave him and go to Kashi. Pundalik’s wife wanted to go with them, but they convinced her to stay back.

Soon after this, Pundalik found that he had run through the money his parents had saved. Now, his friends began to avoid him, neighbours taunted him, and people refused to even acknowledge him. This made Pundalik realise the error of his ways. When he suggested to his wife that they move to another place so that he could find some work, she counselled him to first find his parents and beg their forgiveness. “They are old and cannot walk fast,” she said. “We can find them before they reach Kashi.”

Sea-change

Pundalik and his wife, therefore, set out to follow his parents’ footsteps. They caught up with the older couple, who were overjoyed at their son’s transformation. As the family travelled, they stopped for a few days near Sage Kukkuta’s ashram.

One day, early in the morning, Pundalik saw three beautiful women in dirty clothes cleaning the area. Once the ashram was clean, the women’s clothes also became clean. Pundalik walked up to them and asked who they were. “We are the three holy rivers,” replied one. “Ganga, Saraswati and Yamuna.”

“Please tell me why you are cleaning the sage’s ashram,” Pundalik asked.

“Millions of people wash away their sins in our waters,” they replied, “and we get rid of all the accumulated impurities by coming to this ashram.” Knowing all about his misdeeds and his repentance, the goddesses advised him to seek the sage’s help and disappeared after blessing him.

When day broke, Pundalik approached Sage Kukkuta, who counselled him to look after his parents and wife. Pundalik decided to settle at Pandharpur. He built a small house and, along with his wife, began to care for his parents. In a few years, his devotion to his parents became a byword even among the gods. So, Lord Vishnu decided to bless Pundalik and came down to earth.

When he reached the house, Pundalik was massaging his father’s legs as the old man slept. When Vishnu called out for Pundalik, he replied, “My lord, forgive me. I cannot disturb my father now. I will attend to you as soon as I can.” Pundalik threw a brick for the lord to stand upon.

Once his father was sleeping soundly, Pundalik came out and apologised, but Vishnu was pleased with his single mindedness and offered him a boon. “Please stay on earth and bless all your devotees,” was Pundalik’s reply. And so Vishnu stayed on at Pandharpur as Vitthala, or the one who stands on a brick.

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