The episode of Shabari in the epic Ramayana has been a well known story of devotion and often cited as an example of gods craving for nothing except devotion, irrespective of caste and/or gender. Much has been written and shown when it comes to Shabari. An elaborate version is found in the Indian Vaishanava literature of the 17th and 18th century. Many verses have been devoted by writers to highlight devotion of saints, and one such detailed episode was written by one Priyadas somewhere around 1712.
According to this version, a young Shabari leaves her people, when she learns that her marriage would result in the slaughter of many innocent animals for the wedding feast. She decides to leave her folks and seek shelter in the ashram of sage Matanga. While Shabari desires to serve the sages, she keeps herself away from them as she was conscious of her low birth. She would silently work all night by removing pebbles and thorns from the paths that led to the lake and often deposit bundles of firewood outside the huts of the sages at night. In the morning the sages would wonder who was doing such favours to them.
One night under the instructions of the sage, the ‘thief who was stealing the merits of the sages’ was caught and brought to the sage. A terrified Shabari was at the feet of the sage, but the sage was moved by the devotion of Shabari. Sage Matanga instructed his disciples that she might be a low-born, but none can equal in her devotion and that she would stay in the ashram. This however, didn’t go down well with many of the sages as they see it as an insult to them.