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Shri Jalaram Bapa of Virpur is one of the most revered saints of Gujarat. Some two centuries after his birth, his message of service and compassion continues to inspire his devotees throughout the world.

Jalaram was born to Rajbai and Pradhan Thakkar of Virpur on 4th November 1799. (According to Hindu calendar, his birth date is Kartik Sudi Satam, Vikram Samvat 1856). He was the second of three brothers and had three sisters too. It is said that when he was five, he received the blessings of an unknown sage that brought back to him the memory of his previous birth. Since then, he started showing a spiritual bent of mind.

At the age of sixteen, he was married to Virbai of Atkot, upon the insistence of his parents. Jalaram was a generous man and though he was a shopkeeper, handling first his father's and then his uncle's shop, he used to donate lots of provisions to the poor as well as to the ascetics passing by.

He soon came to realize the blessings of the Divine on him. When he wasseventeen, he left his family and visited almost all the holy places of India in a pilgrimage of around one and a half years. On his return to Virpur, he sought a Guru in Saint Bhojalram of Fatepur. Then, with the consent of his Guru, he started a sadavrat (free kitchen) at the young age of twenty.

His wife Virbai was truly his soulmate and helped her husband devotedly. She used to cook for the people arriving at the ashram and he would feed all the hungry and the poor. The travellers on their way to Dwarka, Somnath or Girnar used to stop at his place in droves and availed of his hospitality. When his meagre savings were used up, Virbai handed over all her jewels to raise enough money for feeding the poor. Thus, their good work continued and their fame spread everywhere.

The common people revered Jalaram and called him Bapa (father). They soon started taking vows of donating food to his charity, if he protected them from calamities or saved them from troubles. It was the power of his holy name and his good work, that people always found their prayers answered. Though he continued to remain a modest man throughout his life, he was proclaimed as 'Jala so Allah'. (Jalaram is like God).

Another notable feature was that in his ashram, there were no divisions of caste, race or religion. All people were treated as equal, not only that, even birds and animals were treated with compassion. Jalaram's faith was put to the ultimate test, when God himself came to him in the form of an old ascetic and asked Jalaram to donate his own wife for service. Virbai readily took it upon herself to fulfill her husband's promise and followed the old man. But he left her a few miles away from Virpur. Then a divine voice informed the people of Virpur of Jalaram's test and how he has passed it. Virbai Ma returned to Virpur and continued to support her husband's good work for her lifetime.

Jalaram Bapa's sadavrat in Virpur fed thousands of poor people in times of severe drought. The gates of his ashram were open for one and all. After he left for his heavenly abode at the age of eighty, his daughter's descendants continued the sadavrat in his memory and it functions on a large scale till date. Millions of devotees from all over the world regard Virpur as a place of pilgrimage. Jalaram Bapa's ashram has become a shrine for them and now the charity work of the ashram also encompasses educational and medicinal spheres.

Jalaram Bapa was a saint who preached not by words but by deeds. His life message was very simple : Give food to the hungry and take the name of God. He treated all human beings alike. The Kings and the peasants received food from the same bowl; the Arabs and the British also came to seek his blessings. The faith in his miraculous powers has grown manifold since then and he remains an inspiration to all kind-hearted souls on earth.

Note : Virpur is located in the state of Gujarat on the western coast of India. Rajkot, the nearest major city is located at a distance of 56 kilometers. Trains, buses and private vehicles are available to take devotees to Virpur. It also has scores of guesthouses that meet requirements of all visitors.

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