CHENNAI: The lives of devotees have been documented in scriptural texts like the Puranas and biographies. What differentiates works like the Bhakta Vijayam from the Puranic accounts is the description of the Lord's intercession in the lives of these devotees to proclaim their extraordinary faith to the world. Besides, their proximity to our times enables the layman to identify with them. They also hailed from all walks of life thus highlighting the fact that only unalloyed devotion matters to God. It was devotion that saints like Meera, Ravidas, Kabir, Namadev and Tukaram had in common.

In his discourse, Sengalipuram Sri Jayakrishna Dikshitar said the Lord felt beholden to His devotees and hence He recompensed their devotion. Even the small devotional act of offering a leaf of the sacred basil at His feet is enough for God to become indebted to His devotee. This fact has been proved in the lives of the saints depicted in the Bhakta Vijayam. When Gopanna (Bhadrachala Ramadas) was engaged in honouring the devotees assembled for worshipping Lord Rama in his house, his child drowned in a tub of hot gruel kept outside the house. One can imagine the agony of his wife when she discovered her lifeless child, but she remained quiet without disturbing the celebrations going on lest the devotees would leave without partaking the feast. Finally, when all had left and Gopanna learnt about the tragedy he could only turn to his preceptor and the Lord. And a miracle happened. The child regained its life a testament to their faith in Lord Rama.

This incident only reinforced their devotion and Gopanna spent all his time and wealth in devotional activities. Even when he was reduced to utter poverty his concern was only how he could continue to perform ceremonial worship. To his luck, he found employment as Tahsildar of Bhadrachalam in the employ of the then ruler of Hyderabad. His honesty earned him the king's trust. Moved to see the temple of Rama in ruins there, he diverted the tax collection to renovate the temple and performed the consecration ceremoniously. Enraged, the ruler imprisoned him and for 12 long years he poured out his agony in moving songs inside the jail. The Lord interceded finally by returning the money His devotee owed to the king.