Hail the glory of Pandarpur which has lured many a great saint, whose hymns called ‘Abhangs’ still stand testimony for their unparalleled devotion to their great Lord Panduranga. In this glorious place on the banks of river Chandrabaga the Almighty, along with His Consort Rukmini, stood atop a small brick for the sake of his devotee Pundaleeeka. He has remained here for more than twenty eight ‘Chatur Yugas’.
Every divine place can be seen as one where the devotees revel in the bliss born out of singing the Divine Names of the Lord; and Pandarpur is no exception. The Divine Name of ‘Ramakrishna Hari Vasudeva Hari!’ is ever ever reverberating in this holy town. Devotees are delighted to see Lord Panduranga, the enchanter of the whole Universe, wearing the ‘Makara Kundala’ (fish shaped ear stud) in his ears, clad in yellow silk, wearing exquisite ornaments, a bewitching smile playing on His lips and having the insignia of Goddess Lakshmi on His chest, His two palms on His hips, as if awaiting Nama Kirtan of the Sadhus.
The Lord of Vaikunta descended here verily to relish the incessant Nama Sankirtan of the Sadhus and to play his Divine Lilas with the devotees to bring out the greatness of their devotion and deep love for Him. Numerous great Sadhus like Namdev, Tukkaram had immense love for Vittal and spent their entire lives immersed in Nama Kirtan. Undeniably, Lord Vittal is an embodiment of love and devotees offer unstinted love seeking in return, only enhanced love for Him!
Once, there lived in Pandarpur a devotee of Lord Shiva by name Narahari. He was a gold smith. Adept in making wonderful ornaments, he was known for his skill and craftsmanship in the art of jewel-making. Though he lived in Pandarpur, he never had the darshan of Panduranga. He was such a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva that the glorious form of Lord Vittal did not fancy him at all. He would never listen to Vittala Nama Kirtan and would shut his ears if a group of Sadhus engaged in Namakirtan ever passed by his shop. He would never allow anybody to sing the praises of Vittala in his presence and would try to surpass them by his lectures on Lord Shiva.
He visited a small shrine of Lord Shiva situated on the banks of Chandrabaga and offered his worship. He always envied the popularity of Lord Vittal who had a huge crowd of devotees not only from Pandarpur but also from various parts of Maharashtra. When devotees sing portraying Lord Vittal as a dacoit who would never allow anyone to leave Pandarpur before stealing away their devotion-filled hearts, would Narahari, who lived verily in Pandarpur, be spared? The Lord had his own plan of drawing him closer to His lotus feet and making him His ardent devotee.
Once, a wealthy devotee desired to make an expensive girdle of gold studded with precious stones and gems for Lord Panduranga. He approached Narahari and expressed his desire assuring that he would adequately reward him for his befitting skill and craftsmanship. No sooner did he hear that the girdle was for Lord Vittal than Narahari turned down his request. He said that he would never in his life make an ornament for anyone other than Lord Shiva. The rich man argued that this was just a business deal and a business man should never allow his prejudices to intrude on his business. He further asserted that Narahari would be paid sufficiently just as any of his business deals and this would no way shatter his ideals.
As Narahari was very firm in not entering the temple premises of Vittal, he wanted the rich man to bring the measurement of the waist of Lord Panduranga. The rich man went to the temple with great joy and had the priests of the temple measure the waist size of the Lord and came back to Narahari with exact measurement. Narahari made an excellent ornament studded with precious stones and gems of the same size and gave it to his wealthy customer on the promised day. The wealthy man had arranged for a grand pooja on that day and took the girdle to the temple in a big procession.
Sadly, the girdle measured bigger and it slipped out of the waist of the Lord when offered! Crestfallen, the gentleman immediately rushed to Narahari’s shop. Explaining that it measured bigger, he requested Narahari to alter it to the exact size of the idol of Panduranga.
Narahari immediately made the necessary adjustments. But when this was offered to Vittala, the girdle seemed small and it would not fit! The devotee rushed to Narahari. All attempts of Narahari to make the girdle fit Lord Panduranga proved futile.
The devotee felt frustrated. He forced Narahari to visit the Temple and take the measurement himself. Narahari was forced to accept this idea; but he placed a condition that he would not look at Lord Panduranga and that he should be carried inside, as he would have his eyes covered with a piece of cloth. Narahari was carried into the Temple Sanctum Sanctorum. Narahari had never, even in his worst dream, thought of entering the Temple. Though he entered the Temple with an air of indifference, the Lord of the Universe within was highly pleased to see Narahari enter His Sanctum Sanctorum. Is he not an exponent of magical arts and a rasika by nature?
Blindfolded, Narahari entered the sanctum and was all set to measure the Lord’s waist. When he touched the deity, he felt matted hair, the moon and also the third eye on the Lord’s forehead, snake in His neck and the trident in His hand! Narahari was startled. ‘How could it be Lord Shiva?’, he thought and touched again. Overwhelmed with joy he cried out, ‘Oh! this is My dear Lord – Lord Shiva!” and immediately removed the cloth that blinded his eyes. But he was dumbfounded to see the lotus Panduranga standing along with His Consort Rukmini! Narahari was dumbfounded by the divine sport of the Lord. He realized the truth that there was no difference between Lord Vittala and Lord Shiva. He at once earned steadfast devotion to Panduranga. He took the measurement of the icon of the Lord and this time the ornament fit the Lord well.
Adi Sankara, in one of his verses, says that Lord Panduranga is none other than the Nirguna Parabrahman (the formless Brahman) which has assumed a beautiful form by it’s sheer mercy upon the mankind and hence worshipping him would tantamount to the worship of all other deities. Narahari’s story stands as an illustration to this.