anika was a prostitute who lived in a market in the center of a town. She often committed adultery and many other sins. Men were mesmerized by her beauty and youth. Every evening, her house was lit with candles, and she would dress up in all kinds of jewelry and beautiful dresses. Gurbani mentions,
ਸੂਆ ਪੜਾਵਤ ਗਨਿਕਾ ਤਰੀ ॥
Teaching a parrot to speak the Lord's Name, Ganika the prostitute was saved.
ਸੋ ਹਰਿ ਨੈਨਹੁ ਕੀ ਪੂਤਰੀ ॥੨॥
That Lord is the light of my eyes. ||2||
Bhagat Naam Dayv Ji (A respected Hindu saint, whose writings are in Guru Granth Sahib Ji) tell us that Ganika was saved through teaching a parrot to say Lord’s Name. She later became known to be a devotee of God herself. This is how her life changed for the better.
How Did Her Life Change?
One day, a saint came to her house with a parrot in his hand. It is said that the saint seldom went into town, he always stayed out of town. One night it rained heavily, and the saint saw that his parrot was going to die. He loved the bird dearly, as it would recite ‘Raam, Raam’ constantly. He saw the condition of the parrot, picked up the cage, and walked towards town. The saint had some clothes and other belongings with him as well. He kept on walking but saw no help in the distance. It was night, and everyone was in their homes with the doors and windows closed. He was beginning to lose hope.
He reached Ganika’s home and saw that candles are lighted up, and the doors are open. Saying ‘Raam’ he walked inside, Ganika saw him and got happy. She thought, “Despite the stormy rain, there are still customers walking through my door.” She said to the saint, “Come, my love. I have been waiting for you.” Upon hearing these words and looking at the way Ganika was dressed, the saint was surprised. He said, “O daughter, it is raining outside, my hut has been destroyed. I have come with my parrot to seek shelter.” Ganika trembled when she heard the word ‘daughter.’ She got hold of herself and finally said, “You wish to stay the night?” The saint replied, “Yes, my daughter. I wish to stay the night. The soul is a fraction of the supreme soul, and the body is the home for the soul. To care for the body allows one to walk on the path of righteousness. My dear daughter, God has given you means to all the pleasure you have. You must be remembering God all the time, I suppose.”
The saint had a pure heart, but Ganika, whose real name was ‘Chandramani,’ was shivering as she listened to the words of the saint. She was a sinner and asked fearfully, “Are you a saint?” The saint said, “Yes, I am one. My master has made me a saint and given me the task to recite Naam. My master is the One who is the Doer and the Giver, Raam.” Ganika thought, “No good man has ever come to my home before this evening. No man has ever stepped in this house who would stop me from committing sins. The evil-minded would lead another evil mind to commit sins.” She was grateful for this. “You are a saint, a beloved of God. Come in and take off your wet clothes. Wear some dry clothes. This is my first time serving a saint, who knows if I will ever get this chance again.” She gave dry clothes to the saint, burnt some wood and got the saint and his parrot to dry themselves and feel warm. Once they were warm, the parrot started to recite ‘Raam, Raam.’
Ganika Reflects on Her Life
Ganika was amazed by what she saw. She asked the saint, “Would you like some food?” “Yes, my dear daughter! I am hungry, and so is my parrot. As God wishes, I shall get my food. If not today, then tomorrow. Whatever is God’s Will, I shall obey.” “Please accept my offering, but I am a prostitute, and have lived here for 12 years. I am the one who brings temporary happiness into the lives of men. I am a sinner and this is the food from the house of a sinner,” said Ganika remorsefully. The saint saw that Ganika was aware of her sinful acts. He thought now is a good time to give her some advice. He said, “I have accepted your food offering. There is the influence of Maya in this world. Under this influence, people are stuck in the vices of desire, anger, greed, attachment, and pride. People then forget the purpose of life, which is to seek liberation. We forget the recitation of God’s Name.” Ganika replied,
You are right, these men have made me walk on the wrong path. I am a sinner, but I realized my sins the moment you called me ‘daughter.’ Any man, either young or old who has come to my house, has never called me ‘sister’ or ‘daughter.’ I do not even know who my parents are. I have spent my whole life in ignorance. It has been raining for two days, and those men who came for their pleasure, even they didn’t turn up.
Through the conversation, Ganika started realizing many things, and began going through a transformation. The saint spoke,
Every person has a motive or a purpose, and there is greed attached to the motive. For example, my parrot and I were seeking hope, and for this hope, we have walked and reached your doorstep. This greed has two forms, one towards the illusion of this world, Maya, and the other towards God. If a person has this motive to live a good life, he would recite God’s Name and meet the saints of God. He would do service to the community, walk on the path of righteousness and follow the discipline of a Godly man. O daughter, if you were married, you would be serving your husband. Then you would have had children, cared for them, and prayed for your whole family’s well-being. Everyone would have called you a goddess. A person is known by his/her actions, not the body. So, do good deeds. Whatever has happened is in the past. From now on, walk on the path of righteousness. God, who has given this life, will also care for us.
Ganika served the saint and fed bread to the parrot. She then touched the feet of the saint. The company of a saint has reformed her for the better. This is why Gursikhs tell us to keep the company of good souls and those who are connected with God, so they can help connect us to God as well. The whole night, Ganika and the saint spoke about God and Dharam (religion). The next day, the sun was out, and the sky was bright. As the saint prepared to leave, Ganika made a request, “O Saint, please bless me and give me the parrot. I will listen to it reciting ‘Raam, Raam’ and I will teach the parrot. It would be best if you could stay back as well.” “Alright, my dear daughter, as you wish. Take the cage, and take care of the parrot. I am returning to my hut. If I continue to stay here, then people will slander us. I will leave,” the saint said and left Ganika’s house.
Ganika Became a Great Devotee
The parrot would recite ‘Raam, Raam’ and Ganika would say, ‘Say Raam, Ganga, Raam Raam!’ Ganika was so engrossed in this task that day and night she would teach the parrot to recite ‘Raam, Raam.’ She no longer indulged in adultery, and men stopped coming to her house. The current of ‘Raam, Raam’ was vibrating in the whole house. She would go many days without food, but would still recite ‘Raam, Raam.’ Seeing Ganika’s devotion, God was pleased. To call Ganika back to God, a plan was made. God sent a snake to the house. The snake entered the house and bit the parrot, the parrot then died. When Ganika put her hand into the cage, the snake bit her as well. She fell to the ground. At that point, her soul left the body. On leaving this world, conch shells were blown, bells rang aloud, drum sounds were echoed, and flowers were showered upon Ganika as she entered the heavens. Bhai Gurdas Ji mentions in their Vaaran (Ballads written by Bhai Gurdas Ji, known to be the key to unlocking the wisdom of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji),
ਗਨਿਕਾ ਪਾਪਣਿ ਹੋਇ ਕੈ ਪਾਪਾਂ ਦਾ ਗਲਿ ਹਾਰੁ ਪਰੋਤਾ।
Gankaa was a sinful prostitute who wore the necklace of misdeeds around her neck.
ਮਹਾਂ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਆਚਾਣਚਕ ਗਨਿਕਾ ਵਾੜੇ ਆਇ ਖਲੋਤਾ।
Once a great man was passing by who halted in her courtyard.
ਦੁਰਮਤਿ ਦੇਖਿ ਦਇਆਲ ਹੋਇ ਹਥਹੁੰ ਉਸ ਨੋ ਦਿਤੋਨੁ ਤੋਤਾ।
Seeing her bad plight he became compassionate and offered her a special parrot.
ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮੁ ਉਪਦੇਸੁ ਕਰਿ ਖੇਲਿ ਗਇਆ ਦੇ ਵਣਜੁ ਸਓਤਾ।
He told her to teach the parrot to repeat the name of Raam. Having made her understand this fruitful trade he then went away.
ਲਿਵ ਲਾਗੀ ਤਿਸੁ ਤੋਤਿਅਹੁਂ ਨਿਤ ਪੜ੍ਹਾਏ ਕਰੈ ਅਸੋਤਾ।
Each and every day, with full concentration, she would teach the parrot to say Raam.
ਪਤਿਤ ਉਧਾਰਣੁ ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮੁ ਦੁਰਮਤਿ ਪਾਪ ਕਲੇਵਰੁ ਧੋਤਾ।
The name of Lord is the liberator of the fallen ones. It washed away her evil wisdom and deeds.
ਅੰਤਕਾਲੁ ਜਮ ਜਾਲੁ ਤੋੜਿ ਨਰਕੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਨ ਖਾਧੁਸੁ ਗੋਤਾ।
At the time of death, it cut away the noose of Yama - the messenger of death she did not have to drown in the ocean of hell.
ਗਈ ਬੈਕੁੰਠਿ ਬਿਬਾਣਿ ਚੜ੍ਹ੍ਹਹਿ ਨਾਉ ਨਰਾਇਣੁ ਛੋਤਿ ਅਛੋਤਾ।
Due to the elixir of name (of the Lord) she became totally devoid of sins and was lifted to the heavens.
ਥਾਉ ਨਿਥਾਵੇ ਮਾਣੁ ਮਣੋਤਾ ॥੨੧॥
The name (of the Lord) is the last refuge of the shelterless ones.