Douze saints du Maharashtra
Les textes présentés ici, qui illustrent la ferveur pour ces douze dévots (classés par ordre alphabétique) sont extraits du site . Le portrait de trois d’entre eux (Pundalik, Saku et Tukaram) a été mis en scène par Harindranath Chattopadhyay. La ferveur des saints et la bienveillance des personnages les entourant est particulièrement sublimée par l’artiste Raghuveer Mulgaonkar.
- Source principale : Saints of Maharashtra - Devotees of Panduranga Vittala
- Illustrations : Raghuveer Mulgaonkar
- Voir aussi : Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia
Chokha Mela lived in Mangalavedha near Pandharpur in Maharashtra in the 14th century. He was born in the lower cast (Mahar), but his devotion to Lord Vitthala was pure and unmatched. He migrated to Pandharpur and became a desciple of the great saint-poet Namdev. Chokha used to constantly chant the name of Panduranga and clean the temple premises daily. However, he was not allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum due to his birth in the lower cast. One day someone questioned the futility of his devotion to Lord, as he would never be able to see God. Humiliated and deeply hurt Chokha abstained from taking food and wept inconsolably when Panduranga appeared before him, embraced him, took him inside the temple and talked to him. The temple priest was outraged as he felt that the temple was desecreted by Chokha and ordered him to stay across the river Chandrabhaga. Chokha’s pleas fell on the deaf ears and at last Chokha went to stay across the river. However, Lord started to visit Chokha daily and both used to take lunch together. One day the priest was passing by Chokha’s hut when Chokha was taking lunch with Panduranga and Soyara (Chokha’s wife) was serving. Priest could not see Panduranga as his mind was impure. Soyara spilled the curd on Panduranga’s pitambar by mistake. Chokha exclaimed, “Oh! Soyara you have soiled Panduranga’s pitambar”. Priest felt it was a deliberate attempt by Chokha to show his devotion and slapped Chokha across his face. Later he bathed in the river and ferried across the river. The priest was stunned to see Lord Vitthala’s swollen cheek. He realised the intensity of Chokha’s devotion towards Lord. He to Chokha, asked for his forgiveness and requested him to pacify the Lord. Chokha’s prayers and request pacified Lord Vitthala.
Chokha was forced to return to Mangalavedha as the people there wanted to construct a wall in order to separate shudra people from others. While he was working there, he was killed when the wall collapsed and was crushed. Namdev deeply grieved the death of a great Vaishnava devotee, went to Mangalavedha and brought the mortal remains to Chokha and constructed his Samadhi in Pandharpur.
Eknath was the grandson of Sant Bhanudas. Vitthala was their family deity and Eknath also worshiped Vitthala from childhood. As Eknath was born in a family of saints he inherited bhakthi towards Vitthala from his family members. He learnt the sastras from his father till he was about 12. He then wanted to go to a Sadguru and learn sastras under him. Eknath wanted to get a good guru and prayed Vitthala to guide him to one. Vitthobha then came in his dream and asked him to request Janardhana Swami to be his guru. Janadhana Swami was a great yogi; he had his ashram in a forest. Eknath felt that if he informs his parents they will not let him go and so one day went to Janardhana Swami’s ashram without informing them. He joined the ashram and started serving his guru. He served his Sadguru for 12 years. There were several kids like him who had joined the ashram. Some came to study the sastras and were studying them, some came to study Yogabyasam like Yamam, Niyamam, Aasanam, Pranayamam and they studied that. Some were given manthropadesams and they chanted the mantras. Students who learnt the sastras took permission from the guru and left him once they learnt it well enough so that they could go to the outside world and do discourses. Students who learnt Yogabyasam took leave of their guru once they realised that they had now got the siddhi. Those who took manthropadesam from him also took leave of him after realization of those gods. While so many students joined the ashram, learnt what they wanted and left, Eknath was just serving his Guru. Janardhana Swami also dint teach him anything and just asked him to take care of the ashram. Eknath’s daily work was that he would get up early in the morning clean the ashram, milk the cows, take care of the visitors, make food for the sadhus, buy provisions from the village, take care of his gurus’ requirements and then check the accounts before going to sleep in the night. He has only been doing this for the last 12 years in this ashram.
One night, Eknath was checking the accounts as usual. He found that there was 1 paisa missing in the account and he had excess in hand. He was breaking his head to find out what happened. This was because he felt all the work he was doing in the ashram was Guru seva and that he should be correct in that. As he was awake till late in the night, his guru came to see what he was doing. Eknath dint even realize that his guru was standing behind as he was thinking deeply about reconciling the accounts. Janardhana swami understood that he is checking accounts and went back to his place. He again came at mid night to see if he was done with it, but saw that he was still working on it and went back. Around 2am Eknath emotionally shouted “Gurunatha, I found it” as he had reconciled the accounts. Janardhana Swami immediately got up and went to him and asked him what he had seen. Eknath immediately apologized for waking him up and said that an entry for 1 paisa was missing and that he had found it. As soon as the Guru heard this, his eyes were filled with tears and told him that there were so many sishyas who had come here and found so many great things and after serving me for 12 years you are happy that you have found 1 paisa. Janardhana Swami then said that he is now indebted to him for having taken care of him and the ashram for all these years. He then went back to sleep. Janradhana Swami’s deity was Dattatreya and he requested him to give darshan to Eknath and Dattatreya agreed to his request. The next day Eknath went to Godhavari River to have his bath as usual. After completing his bath he would bring water from the river to the ashram. On his way back, Dattatreya gave him his darshan in godly form. The four Vedas stood next to him as 4 dogs. Dharma devata stood behind him as a bull. Eknath on seeing him prostrated to him. Dattatreya then blessed him and Eknath came back to the ashram and started doing his work as usual. Janardhana Swami came and saw what Eknath was doing and he found him boiling the milk. He then thought that he doesn’t look like someone who has had the darshan of god. The state of a person who has realised and seen god would be different and they would be in deep meditation, sometimes crying or smiling and would not look like normal persons to the outside world. Janardhana Swami was now wondering if god had given him darshan or not. Janardhana Swami was now really confused and asked Eknath if had seen anything this morning. Eknath then told him that when he was returning from the river he saw his guru’s deity standing under the tree and that he had worshiped him. Janardhana Swami was further perplexed and told him that there are so many rishis trying to realize god for so many janmas and after having realized god how he could continue with his regular work. Eknath then replied to him that his Guru was everything to him and that he was happy to see this form of god rather than the form he saw in the morning. Hearing this Janardhana Swami was moved. Janardhana swami then asked him to go back to his parents, get married and lead a family life. Eknath hesitated as he dint want to leave his guru but Janardhana Swami told him that he would realize his presence wherever he was. This consoled Eknath and he returned home.
Eknath reached home and his parents were very happy to see him again. He then told them that he went to be a student of Janardhana Swami and that he has now asked him to get married and serve his parents. Eknath then got married and lived with his family. He would spend his day in the service of god. He translated a lot of Sanskrit books in Marathi for the common man to read. Eknath Bagavatham and Eknath Ramayan are even today available and are being widely read in Maharashtra. He conducted discourses every day about god. In the evening he would perform bhajans and kirtans. He has also composed several abhangs. He also sang about saints like Namdev, Gyaneshwar and Janabai. He would invite sadhus to his house for food every day, give them food and only then have his food. As his family was rich he dint have to go for any work and would devote all his time to the service of Vitthala. Eknath’s neighbour was envious with him and was saying everyone that he dint know Sanskrit and was scribbling something in Marathi with out knowing about the grandhas that he is writing about. Eknath never bothered about what others said and would continue to do his work thinking it was Vitthala’s leela. Once while writing about Uddhava in Bagavatha he got in to a transcendental state and fell down. His neighbour saw him in an unconscious state with a note about Uddhava in his hand. He immediately understood that he had underestimated Eknath and waited for him to come back to consciousness and apologised to him and asked him to make him his sishya.
One day when he was reading Bagavatha a 12-year-old boy came to him, prostrated to him and asked him to make him his sishya as he wanted to learn the Vedas from him. Eknath asked him who he was and where does he come from. He replied to him that his parents were no more and that he considered Eknath as his mother, father, Guru and God. He said that he was from Dwaraka and his name was Kandiya Krishnan. Eknath accepted him as his sishya and looked after him as his own son. Krishnan was very smart and a learnt everything easily. He took care of all the needs of his guru and served him well. He did all service to his guru right from washing his clothes, cleaning his pooja vessels, cleaning his pooja room, preparing garlands for his god etc. He would also serve his Guru matha by getting vegetable from the market, bringing water from Godhavari etc.
One day Eknath was performing his ancestral rituals. Two outcastes happened to pass by his house and understood that a feast was being prepared. They were discussing that it would be good if they could get this food. Eknath on listening to these discussions called them and gave them the food that was being prepared. They were happy with him, thanked him and then left. The other Brahmans who had come for the ceremony left the place on seeing this. All Brahmans in the village on seeing this started speaking ill about him for giving the food that was prepared for ancestral ceremony to some outcastes before completing the ceremony. They all spoke to each other and decided that Eknath should be punished for this deed of his. All the Brahmans in the village then came to Eknath and asked him how he could do this despite learning sastras. Eknath then said that, he gave them food as they were hungry and that hunger doesn’t have any caste difference and hence decided to feed them. He also said that the sastras say that annadhanam can be given to anyone and that there was no caste discretion on that. They then said that none of the Brahmans in the village would mingle with him and not have any contact with him and his family from now on. Eknath now had to prepare food again for the ceremony and perform the ceremony. Eknath was now worried that he would not be able to feed the Brahmans after the ritual is over as no one would come to his house now. Kandiya Krishnan then told Eknath that if Brahmans were not available the sastras say that they could give it to kurcham (a type of holy dried grass used in religious ceremonies) Eknath then started performing the rituals and when he kept the 1st kurcham, Vitthala came and sat down to have the food. As soon as he came other gods and his forefathers who were called during the ceremony came down and took the food directly. Kandiya Krishnan was watching all these happening and smiling at Eknath. Once it got over, they blessed Eknath by reciting holy mantras and disappeared. His neighbours heard the chanting of holy mantras and thought that some Brahmans from neighbouring villages would have come without knowing what had happened with Eknath and were waiting for them to come out of the house so that they could warn them and advised them not to go to his house. After some time Eknath came out of the house. The Brahmans asked him who had come for the lunch and he was quiet. They then said that they heard some people reciting some mantras. Kandiya Krishnan then asked them what their problem was and said that no one had come. The Brahmans then left and thought that Eknath and Krishnan would have chanted the mantras in some different voices to fool them. It was almost one year since they had given this punishment to Eknath. He then went to the Bhraman Samaj and said that he was ready to do whatever pariharam (doing penance) to clear the mistake he had done by feeding the outcastes. The Brahmans then told him that they would discuss among themselves and come back to him on the same. They got together and started preparing a list of things to be done as per their wish. One said that he has to make a gold cow and gift it to someone. Another one said he has to gift land and another said he has to gift a house. Like this each one came up with whatever they wished and this list was given to Eknath. Eknath then felt that he would use all his wealth and perform the list of pariharams given by the Brahmans. The Brahmans were now happy that Eknath will now gift all his wealth to them and Kandiya Krishnan was thinking how teach them a lesson. Krishnan tried to tell his Guru that they were cheating him and planning to acquire all his wealth in the name of pariharam, but did not agree. The Brahmans were performing the rituals and Eknath was doing the sankalpam. It was noon and a leper came enquiring about Eknath. The Brahmans stopped him and asked him who he was. He said that he came from Triambakeshwar and wanted to see him. They then asked him why he wanted to see him. The leper said that he had come to do some praiharam from him. The Brahmans then told him that they were doing pariharam even for Eknath and asked the leper to do it from them. The leper then said that they would not be able to do it for him and only Eknath could perform prayachittam for him. The leper said that he has done several pariharams from many people and had taken holy dips in many holy rivers but nothing had cured his leprosy. Just then Krishnan came and asked him what happened. The leper said that he went to Triambakeshwar and prayed to Lord Shiva. He said that he then asked him to cure his leprosy failing which he will commit suicide by jumping in the Godhavari River. He then said that Lord Shiva came in his dream and asked him to take the paada theertham (water taken by cleaning the feet of saints) of Eknath and that it was the only cure for him. As soon as he said this, Krishnan told him that it was his Guru whom he was mentioning and took him to Eknath. The ceremonies were still going on and the leper asked Eknath for his paada theertham. Eknath then told him that he was not such a great person and refused his request. The leper then told him that it was Lord Triambakeshwarar who had asked him to do this and that he should not refuse. When Eknath heard that it was the wish of Lord Shiva he agreed to it. The leper then performed paadha pooja for Eknath and consumed the water. As soon as he drank this water his body became normal and leprosy had vanished. The Brahmans there astonished to see this. Krishnan then looked at the Brahmans and asked if they at least now understood the greatness of Eknath. The Brahmans now dint have the guts to continue with these pariharams they were doing and Krishnan was happy that Eknath’s wealth was saved.
There was a Brahman who was very pious. He set out on a yatra to visit all the holy places and wherever he went the deity in that temple would speak to him because of his bhakthi. One day he went to Dwaraka, the deity here (Kalyanarayar) did not give him darshan or speak to him. He felt that Kalyanarayar was not there and it was only the statue that was there. After some time, he thought that he dint have enough bhakthi and that is why god did not speak to him. He decided to be on fast till he gets a reply from him. After fasting for 12 days, Lord Krishna came on his dream and said that he was in Prathistanapuram (now Paithan) doing service to Eknath as his sishya for the past 12 years. He then told him that he can have his darshan if he comes there. He also asked him to do service to Eknath instead of wandering all over India. The next morning the Brahman got up and started going to Prathistanapuram. He reached Paithan and enquired where Eknath’s house was and came to meet him. Eknath was reading Srimad Bhagavadam, the Brahman prostrated to him and asked him where Krishna was. Eknath thought that he was asking about Kandiya Krishnan and told him that he has gone to Godhavari and would be back soon. Eknath thought that the Brahman was related to Krishnan and had come to see him. He also asked him to be seated till he comes back. Krishnan then returned from Godhavari with some water but did not say anything to the Brahaman. Eknath was surprised why both of them dint recognize each other. He then asked the Brahman if he saw Krishnan going inside the house. The Brahman then told him that he was looking for Lord Krishna and not this Krishnan and also explained to him what had happened to him in Dwaraka. Eknath on hearing this ran in to the house searching for Kandiya Krishnan but only the vessels in which he fetched water were there but Krishnan had disappeared. He searched for him all over the house and started crying. He cursed himself for not being able to recognize god when he was there with him. He could not perform any work as everything reminded him of Krishnan only. He went to a Samadhi state and was thinking only about god. The Brahman who came now started serving Eknath.
One day Eknath decided to go on a yatra and he set out on a yatra with few others who joined him. They went to places like Kasi, Prayagai, Vrindavan, Ayodha, Mathura etc. Eknath performed Bhajans and pravachans wherever he went. When the finished the yatra and returning to Paithan with Ganga theertham, they got stuck in a place where there was no water and all of them were thirsty. Even though they had water in hand they did not use that as it was Ganga theertham and that it was supposed to be used only for religious purpose and not for quenching thirst. They then found a donkey lying down in an unconscious state due to thirst and heat. Seeing the donkey dying Eknath felt bad and moved forward to give his Ganga theertham to it so as to prevent it from dying. The others who were with him said that he should not do that as this water was supposed to be used only for religious purpose. Eknath then said that there was no better deed that saving the life of someone and that he would give it to the donkey and save it from death. Hearing this, the others left him behind and started moving forward as they dint approve of his action. Eknath then gave the water to the donkey. As Eknath was feeding the donkey it turned out to be Vitthala. He then prostrated to Vitthala and asked him why he did this leela. Vitthala then told him that he wanted to show the world that Eknath sees every living being in this world as Vitthala and hence did this leela. Eknath then returned back home.
One day a group of people were gambling. A small fight began within them and they started fighting within themselves. One of them tried to stop the fight and asked them not to get angry and fight among themselves. One of them immediately replied that he was not Eknath to be calm and collected and never to get angry for anything. One of them listening to this asked if Eknath really will not get angry for anything. All others said that even the sun may rise in the west but Eknath will never get angry. He then said that if someone doesn’t get angry then he is not human. The others then said that he was not human and that he was god. The guy then betted the whole money they were gambling and said that he would make him angry. The gambler who had betted, had a house near the banks of Godhavari. He went home and the next morning he was waiting for Eknath to come to Godhavari to have his bath. Eknath had his bath and was returning back. The gambler was chewing pan and spited on his head from the terrace of his house on Eknath. Eknath dint even bother to look up to see him, nor did he shout at him and he went back to Godhavari to bath again. When he came back the gambler again spit the pawn on him. Eknath still dint say anything and went back to bath again. Eknath would clean himself and come and the gambler would spit on him, this happened several times and by noon the gambler had finished his entire pan and was also tired standing in the terrace and spiting. Now the gambler came down and was waiting for Eknath to come. This time when Eknath was going back from the river the gambler blocked him and asked him how he had so much of patience and that why he did not get angry with him when he has been spiting on him since morning. Eknath then replied to him that he came to Godhavari to clean his body before performing pooja to God. He also said that one should perform pooja with clean body and mind. When he spited on him, he only dirtied his body and went back to clean it. He then said that if he had got angry and shouted at him, his mind would have become dirty and that it would be even more difficult to clean his mind than cleaning his body. The gambler was moved hearing this and said that he had read about this but never seen this in practice.
Sant Gora Kumbhar
संत गोरा कुंभार
Gora Kumbhar was a potter by profession. He used to make his living by making toys and selling them in the market. He would always think about Vitthala and perform his duties. His heart was filled with love for Pandurang. Gorobha would be chanting and singing the praise of god even when he is stamping and pounding the clay for making toys. He would always forget himself and transcend to a different world while singing about god. He used to make toys like Vitthala, Rukmani, Rama, Krishna; color them and take them to the market place. He was so immersed in the love for god that even in his profession he would only make pottery items that reminded him of god. In the market, he would not say a price for the toys. He would take whatever money is given to him for these and would return home happily. His wife was Tulasi Bai and they had a son by name Hari.
One day Tulasi Bai was carrying Hari and feeding him and telling him stories. Hari refused to eat the food as there was no ghee in it. Tulasi then left him down and gave him the push cart and went out to get some ghee so that he would eat. Gorobha was at time stamping and pounding clay in the pit. There were dark clouds in the sky and a crow flew bye. Hari on seeing this said crow and showed it to Gorobha. As soon as Gorobha saw the crow and the dark clouds, his heart was filled with the thoughts of Vitthala as he too was a dark complexioned one. He then started singing about him and soon he transcended in to a different state as usual. He was chanting “Vitthala Vitthala” and dancing in the pit with his arms up. In few moments rain started pouring in and the kid came running to Gorobha asking him to carry him as he was afraid of the thunders. As Hari came to his dad, he fell in to the clay pit and Gorobha without noticing him continued his dancing and stamping and pounding the clay while Hari was stuck in the pit. Hari got deep in to the pit because of Gorobha’s stamping and pounding and died. Tulasi Bai returned once the rain had stopped and asked Gorobha where Hari was. Gorobha was still chanting and dancing “Vitthala Vitthala” and Tulasi Bai had to stop him and then ask him what happened to Hari. Gorobha then replied to her saying Hari is everywhere; he was still in a different state of mind and thought that she was asking about God. She then told him that she was asking about their son Hari and not the almighty Hari. Only then he came back to normalcy and said that he was playing here a while ago. He then searched everywhere and found his little leg sticking out of the clay pit. Seeing this he removed the kid from the pit and realized that he was dead. Tulasi Bai started crying and shouting at him and also blamed him for the death of her son. Gorobha told her that Vitthala had given them a son and now that he wanted him back and so has taken him back. He also said that even though he had lived only for a few years he had chanted and sang the name of god and so he will attain moksha and asked her not to worry. Tulasi Bai was now furious and said that she had lost her son only because of Vitthala and that she would break the Vitthala statue at home and went to take the axe. As soon as Gorobha heard this he started chasing Tulasi Bai with the axe. When she saw this, she shouted that “Promise on Vitthala, do not touch me” On hearing this Gorobha put the axe down and said that he would not touch her any more. They then arranged for the cremation of Hari and finished the other ceremonies.
A year passed by and still Gorobha would not touch Tulasi due to the promise she made on Vitthala. Tulasi was very sad with the demise of her kid and wanted to have another kid but now that was not possible because of the promise on Vitthala. Tulasi now knew that there was no way she would have a kid and then decided that get her sister, Shanthu Bai married to Gorobha in order to have a kid at home. She then made arrangements for the same and the marriage took place in Tulasi Bai’s parent’s house. When Gorobha was leaving after the marriage with Tulasi and Shanthu, their father who knew nothing about the promise came to Gorobha and said that, he should treat Shanthu the same way he treats Tulasi. Gorobha was hesitant as he heard this and seeing his hesitation his father in-law said: “Promise on Vitthala, you should treat Shanthu Bai the way you treat Tulasi Bai”. Listening to this he said Gorobha agreed and returned home. Gorobha then started treating both equally and wouldn’t touch any of them. Days passed by and one day the sisters discussed with in themselves and went in to his bedroom while he was asleep. They sat on either side and touched his hands. He immediately woke up and asked Tulasi Bai, how she could touch him after having put a promise on Vitthala. He then wanted to punish himself for this deed and got his both hands cut in a saw that is used to cut trees. Gorobha now could not do any work and so both Tulasi and Shanthu would make some pottery, sell them and managed to get just enough money for them to eat. Gorobha had earlier taken some loans and now all of them wanted him to pay it back as they knew he could not make toys anymore. They got his house and other properties to be auctioned to recover their money. During the auction, a young boy came there and bought Gorobha’s house, cattle and vessels. The officials then said that the money they got from the sale of these properties was just enough to close the loan and that there was nothing left to give him. Gorobha was happy that he had now cleared his debts. Tulasi Bai now asked Gorobha what they would do now. He then told her that we will go to Pandharpur and Vitthala will take care of us. (Even today in places like Pandharpur, Puri free food is provided to the poor and needy) As they started from the house, the young boy who took this property in the auction came to them prostrated to them and said father and mother you should not leave now. They were surprised at this and asked him why he was saying so and who he was. He then told Gorobha that he is also a potter and that his name was Rangan and he has seen him in the market where he used to sell toys. He also said that he bought this house in the auction only for him as knew that his house was being auctioned and that he didn’t want him to suffer. Gorobha was moved and said this is also Vitthala’s wish and went back inside the house. Rangan and his wife Rukma Bai also stayed with them as Gorobha’s son and daughter in law. From then on Gorobha would sit and perform his chanting and singing happily and Rangan would take care of making the toys and Rukma Bai would help Tulasi and Shanthu on the household activities. Seeing Rangan doing all the work by himself Gorobha offered to help Rangan in stamping and pounding the clay as his legs were fine. Rangan then said that if there is something he wants from Gorobha, it listening to those chantings and bhajans. Gorobha then started singing and Rangan kept his hands in his hips and started stamping and pounding the clay. On seeing this, Gorobha suddenly stopped and asked Rangan if he was really Rangan or his Pandurangan. Rangan, then told him that he sees everyone as Pandurang and that is why he is thinking like this and that he was Rangan only.
Now that Vitthala and Rukmani were here in Gorobha’s house, sadhus like Namdev and others in Pandhari who used to speak to Vitthala realized that Vitthobha was not in the temple for quite some time now. A group of saints and sadhus headed by Namdev started searching village by village, singing his praise. These groups of sadhus were today reaching the village where Gorobha lived. The village people had prepared for their welcome with banners and flags. Seeing this Gorobha asked what was happening and they told him that a group of sadhus from Pandharpur along with Namdev, were coming here today. Hearing this Gorobha was elated and started walking towards the group of sadhus. Nama and Gorobha know each other well as they have earlier met in the Vitthala Rukmani temple several times during ekadasi. Both of them did their namaskars to each other and the bhajans continued. As soon as Nama saw him, he understood that Vitthobha was definitely with him. After the bhajans Nama asked him where was Rangan? Gorobha thought that he was asking about the Rangan at home and told him that he is at home. Hearing this Nama ran to Gorobha’s house, but Vitthala and Rakumai had disappeared from there already. Gorobha then came running behind him and called Rangan. He then asked Tulasi Bai where Rangan was and both started shouting “Ranga Ranga”. Nama then told him that it was Vitthala and Rukmani who had come to his house and served him like his son. Listening to this Gorobha felt bad that he could not recognize him when he was here and that he had committed a sin by asking Vitthobha to do all household work. He then started crying and longing for Vitthala. Nama then consoled him and asked Gorobha to come to Pandhari along with his family to see Vitthala. Once they reached Pandhari, they sat down at Vitthala Rukmani temple for singing the praise of god. The tradition in this temple is that, one of the main bhaktha would distribute jalra to all the bhakthas present there. Today Namdev was distributing the jalras and when he came to Gorobha he tried to give one to him too. As soon as he did this Gorobha’s hands came back like how a leaf springs up from a tree. Tulasi Bai was excited to see this and she ran to Vitthala, held his feet and asked him to give her back her son Hari. She then started telling him that if you can give back hands to your bhaktha why can’t you give me back my son, Hari. She also asked him that during Krishna avatar he gave life to his guru’s son who died 12 years earlier, and if you could do that then why don’t you do it now for your bhaktha. Lot of bhakthas had gathered there to see this and suddenly there was a child crying for his mother. They asked him who he was and when Tulasi Bai saw him, she realized that it was her son, Hari. She ran and embraced him and thanked Vitthala for giving Hari back to her. They then returned to their village happily.
One day in the month of Karthik (November) the Vitthala Rukmani temple in Pandhari was filled with Pilgrims. Janabai had come there with her parents as a pilgrimage to the temple. Sitting at the Mahadwar of the temple, she told her parents that she doesn’t want to go back with them and want to spend the rest of her life in Pandhari worshiping Vitthala. Jani was only 7 years then and the other pilgrims there were astonished hearing what she had to say. Her parents were greatly troubled hearing this. After several attempts to convince Jani, her parents finally left for their home, comforting themselves by thinking about her determination and love towards Vitthala.
Nama happened to see this little girl and asked her why she was alone and enquired about her parents. Jani said that Vitthala is her father and mother and that she has no one other than him. Hearing this, a feeling of compassion aroused in Nama for Jani and he took her home. Nama told Gonai that he found this girl in the temple and that she had lost her parents and we need to take care of her. From then on, she would do all the house hold work in Nama’s house and would call herself the maid of Nama. She used to keep chanting the name of Vitthala whenever she did any house hold work and at night she used to sing about Vitthala and meditate upon him.
One night when Nama was asleep, a fierce wind blew and that carried away the roof of Nama’s hut. Vitthala on seeing this sent his Sudarshana chakra to revolve around his hut so that Nama and his family could sleep. There were heavy rains but not even a drop of water went in to the hut. Vitthala then rebuilt Nama’s hut. When Nama woke up he saw Vitthala’s Pithambaram (Robe) shining outside his hut and he came out and fell in his feet. Nama then asked Vitthala what he was doing so late in the night here. Vitthala then told him that there was a storm and that his roof flew away because of it and he had come here to rebuild it. Vitthala then told Nama that if he had not come in time, his children would have felt the cold and Gonai would have become very angry with Vitthala and spoken to him harshly. On hearing this, Gonai immediately fell at Vitthala’s feet. Jani then came at once and saw that Vitthala was fully wet and rubbed his back with a dry cloth. Vitthala then told Nama that he must be hungry and asked him to eat with him. Gonai then bought some food and Nama, Gonai, Rajai, Nama’s children all sat down to have food with Vitthala. Looking at this Jani was grieved as Vitthala had no pity for her and did not call her. Vitthala immediately stopped eating and told Nama that he is not enjoying the food today and he doesn’t know why. Nama immediately replied to Vitthala that it was because Jani was standing outside in grief and that he is also not enjoying his food because of that. As Vitthala stopped eating every one stopped eating. Gonai gave the plate in which Vitthala had left some food to Jani. Jani then took it happily to her hut. Nama and Vithhal were then sleeping in Nama’s bed. Once Nama was asleep, Vitthala then went to Jani’s hut and told her that he was hungry and that is why he had come to her. Jani then told Vitthala that she dint have anything other than the food he had left earlier, and that she was hesitant to give it to him. Vitthala then told her not to hesitate and asked her to bring it. He then asked Jani to sit beside him and had the food. He then told Jani that he was happy and satisfied with what she had offered. Vitthala then came to Jani and told her to arise as it was time for her to grind the grains. He also told her that he had cleaned the mill and is waiting for her to come. He then asked her to place her hands on the mill and asked her to sing her abhangs. Vitthala then did the grinding by himself and filled the basket with the flour. (This mill is still there in Pandarpur and one can touch and see this when we visit Gopalpur temple) There was still some time left and so Vitthala slept in Jani’s hut. When the dawn began to appear Jani woke up Vitthala and told him that people would be coming to the temple and he has to go there immediately. Vitthala left his necklace and shawl in Jani’s house and went to the temple with Jani’s shawl. When the priest opened the door of temple, he was surprised to see a different shawl on Vitthala. One of the devotee’s said that the shawl belonged to Jani and when they removed the shawl they also found the necklace missing. A group of people then came to Jani’s house and accused her of stealing the necklace and shawl of Vitthala. Jani said that she had not taken any of these. When they searched her house, they found the necklace and the shawl. They then brought her to Chandrabhaga to impale her. They tied her to an Iron rod and she was crying to Vitthala helplessly. The iron rod suddenly turned in to water and all the people who had gathered were astonished. All of them then praised the Jani and prayed and sang about Vitthala.
One day as Jani was singing an abhang, Vitthala started writing it down. Just as he was writing down the abhang, Gyaneshwar entered the temple and noticed Vitthala hiding something. He then asked him what he was hiding and then Vitthala told him that he was writing down the abhang composed by Jani. Gyaneshwar burst in to laughter and asked why he was noting down an abhang that is being sung on his praise. Vitthala then told Gyaneshwar that the verses of Jani are full of love. Gyaneshwar then called Vitthala to Nama’s house. When they reached Nama’s house a lot of saints had already gathered there. Vitthala then asked Nama to call Jani. Jani was doing some house hold work and on hearing this she immediately washed her hands and came there. Gyaneshwar then told Nama about Vitthala writing down the verses of Jani. Vitthala then said: I was happy to write down the verses of Jani and I will bless anyone who reads her verses, and they will not suffer any calamities in their family life.
In the thirteenth century, a small percentage of the society in Maharashtra knew the Sanskrit language and followed the religious and other books written in that language. Most of the people of the society were therefore denied the key to religious books or to knowledge. At such a stage in the history of Maharashtra, there arose a very bright star on the horizon of knowledge, who pledged himself to writing in the language of the people, the Marathi Language. This star was none else but the Saint Dnyaneshwar who was bold enough to go against the traditions of his times of writing in the Sanskrit language and to use Marathi as the vehicle of his preaching. Dnyaneshwar was so very sure about the power of the Marathi language that he writes in Dnyaneshwari that, his highly appreciative readers will surely say that Marathi Language is even sweeter than nectar.
On the North bank of the Godawari river and at about eight miles on the East side of Paithan, there is a village known as Apegaon. The forefathers of Saint Dnyaneshwar were holding the “watan” of Kulkarni in this village. This office was hereditary in that family. From the information available, it can be said that in Shaka 1060 (1138 A. D.), one of the ancestors of Saint Dnyaneshwar, Haripant by name, held this office. After Haripant, Rama-chandrapant, his son, came to the office. After the death of Rama-chandrapant, his son Gopalpant followed him in the office of “Kulkarni”. Ramachandrapant, the son of Gopalpant, next came to Office. Gopalpant’s son Trimbakpant followed him. At that time Jaitrapal was the ruler of the country. He deputed Trimbakpant’s, son Haripant on a mission to subjugate one rebellious Deshmukh in the country. In the battle that followed, however through misfortune, Haripant was slain. Because of the sad demise of his son. Trimbakpant lost all his interest in the worldly affairs and dedicated his life to God. Later on, the great ascetic Gorakhanath, while on pilgrimage, happened to visit Apegaon. He initiated Trimbakpant and accepted him as his disciple. Trimbakpant, who was the great-grand-father of Dnyaneshwar, was the first person in the family of Dnyaneshwar to have a philosophical and religious bent of mind
Trimbakpant’s son Govindpant and Vithalpant the son of Govindpant were respectively the grandfather and father of Dnyaneshwar. The thread ceremony of Vithalpant took place at the age of seven. Thereafter, he very soon completed his study of the Vedas and Shastras and with the permission of his father, he started on a pilgrimage of the holy places. From his childhood Vithalpant was of religious nature. After visiting Dwarka, Prabhas, Sapta-shringi, Trimbakeshwar, Bhimashankar and such other holy places, Vithalpant came to Alandi. Here one Shri Sidhopant, who thought that Vithalpant was a suitable match for his daughter, gave his daughter to Vithalpant in marriage. After the marriage, Vithalpant went to Shri Shaila, Vyankatgiri, Rameshwar, Gokarna and such other holy places in the South and returned to Alandi. From here he went to Apegaon along with his wife and his in-laws. There he bowed down to his parents and stayed with them. After the death of his- father and mother, the responsibility of the whole house fell on Vithalpant; but because of his religious and philosophical bent of mind he could never take keen interest in the household duties and therefore remained aloof from them. When his wife Rukminibai noted this, she informed her parents about it, so they came to Apegaon from Alandi and returned to Alandi along with their daughter and son-in-law.
Vithalpant was often telling his wife Rukminibai that he had a strong desire to go to Kashi and become a Sanyasi. He was therefore, often requesting his wife to grant him permission for the same; but the wife would not give it to him. One morning, however, he saught permission of his wife to go to the river for a bath and after getting out of the house he straight-away went to Kashi (Benaras). There he became a disciple of Shri Ramanandswami and observed celibacy. By and by he told Swamiji that he was all alone and that he had no bondage of the wife or children. He entreated Swamiji to give him Mantra and to initiate him as a Sanyasi. Ramananda-swami took the words of Vithalpant as authentic and after initiating him as a Sanyasi gave him his new name “Chaitanyashram”.
Somehow the news about Vithalpant’s Sanyasa fell on the ears of Rukminibai; but she did not get disheartened. Her devotion to God was firm. She continued her worship of the God as if nothing abnormal had happened. Twelve years rolled on in this fashion. One evening she went to the Maruti temple as usual. There she saw one Swami of outstanding brilliance. As a matter of course, she bowed down to the Swamiji, who blessed her that she may get a son. When Rukminibai heard the blessing, she could not help laughing. Looking to the smile on the face of Rukminibai, Swamiji enquired what was the matter, when Rukminibai told her whole story pointing out how it was now not possible for her to have a child. After listening to the whole story, the Swamiji took pity on Rukminibai and it at once flashed upon his mind that Chaitanvashram, who took Sanyasa at his hand, must be Vithalpant. Swamiji also felt very sorry that because of the belief, which he blindly kept in the words of Vithalpant, a poor lady had to suffer and has been deprived of the pleasures of a married life. The Swamiji immediately decided to abandon his Southward journey and started for Kashi along with Sidhopant and Rukminibai.
After reaching Kashi Ramanandaswami called his disciple Chaitanyashram and placed all the facts before him, when he confessed everything and expressed his sorrow for having given a false account. Thereupon Swamiji reprimanded and ordered him to cast away his “Sanyasa” and begin his family life (Grihastha-shram) again. Vithalpant had no other go but to obey the orders of his Guru and he returned along with his wife and father-in-law to Alandi immediately after taking the orders of his Guru.
In course of time Vithalpant got the first son in Shaka 1195. He was named Nivrittinath. Rukminibai gave birth to three more children after that and they were named as follows: Dnyaneshwar (Shaka 1197) Sopan (Shaka 1199) and Muktabai (Shaka 1201). Vithalpant was already a pious person conversant with the traditions of Indian Philosophy. He was rather averse to worldly life. He, therefore, appears to have named his children according to the maxims of the Indian philosophy. When one gets out of this worldly life (Nivritti) he obtains real knowledge (Dynana), when real knowledge is obtained, he finds the bridge (Sopan) leading to the liberation or Mukti (Muktabai). These steps of obtaining Moksha were as if suggested by Vithalpant by the names of his children.
The children were thus growing in Alandi under the care of Vithalpant and Rukminibai, who were both extremely religious and devoted to God. According to the traditions of the time, when Nivrittinath became due for the thread ceremony, Vithalpant requested the Brahmins to perform the same; but they were all against performing any ceremony, as they said vehemently that it was against the orders of the Shastras, to start a family life after once taking Sanyasa. Vithalpant entreated the Brahmins in various ways and requested them to suggest something for atoning the sin committed by him; but the orthodox element in the Brahmins was not prepared to budge an inch and to give permission for the thread ceremony-Ultimately, they referred to all the religious books and said that, if Vithalpant has got to be free from the great sin committed by him, he and his wife Rukminibai should sacrifice their lives at the conference of Ganga and Yamuna. Vithalpant who was really a Godfearing person, accepted the unanimous decision of the Brahmins and with his wife jumped in the holy waters of the Ganga and Yamuna at Prayag.
The four children were thus rendered destitute at a very young age due to the orthodoxy and uncompromising attitude of the Brahmins of Alandi. At that time Nivrittinath might hardly be about 10 years of age, and the others still younger. We can hardly picture the youngsters plungeed deeply in the sorrow of the loss of their parents; but it is a wonder how all the Brahmins of that time could afford to be so merciless!
Time teaches a person to gather strength. The eldest of Vithalpant’s children, Nivrithtnath, had therefore, to rise to the occasion. He bravely bore the massive grief due the loss of his parents, consoled his two younger brothers and the sister and went to Apegaon to get some support at least from the other relatives of his father; but in the absence of Vithalpant all his relatives at Apegaon shut their doors for these homeless and desolate orphans.
Nirvttinath and Dnyaneshwar therefore started begging alms and -they somehow kept their bodies and souls together.
Completely baffled in this fashion and getting no support from their relatives, all the four children left Apegaon and came to Alandi; but as they were being treated as outcast their minds were not at rest. Paithan was in those days a great seat of learning and a stronghold of the Brahmins. Hence Dnyaneshwar had a feeling that they may try to get a certificate of purity from the learned Brahmins of Paithan. Because of the request of Dnyaneshwar, Nivrittinath along with his brethren came to Paithan all the way on foot, with standing many dangers and fighting with difficulties. All the brahmins of Paithan were looking upon them with scorn. Hence when Dnyaneshwar said that the God was alike in all the living beings, he was asked to make the passing he-buffalo to recite Vedas and it is said that no sooner Dnyaneshwar placed his hand on the head of the animal, then the he-buffalo started reciting Vedas as well as the Brahmins did. The animal continued to recite Vedas for hours together and all the Brahmins collected on the Bank of Godavari to see this miracle. The performance of this miracle made the Brahmins nowhere and they had to accept the greatness and supernatural power of Dnyaneshwar. The result was that ultimately the certificate of purity was granted to the children by the Brahmins of Paithan; but the Thread ceremonies of Nivritti and Dnyaneshwar were never performed!
After performing one miracle Dnyaneshwar went to Newase where another miracle was waiting for him. The mention of Newase is found in Dnyaneshwari, where this exquisite book was written. As these children were entering Newase, they found that one person was lying dead and his wife was lamenting bitterly by the side of his corpse. Dnyaneshwar asked as to what was the name of the person and on being told that it was Sat-chit-ananda, he said that a person bearing that name could never be lifeless. He therefore touched that lifeless body with his nectar like hand and asked the person to get up, when Sat-Chit-Anandababa at once got up as if from sleep. This same Sat-Chit-Anandbaba later on worked as the scribe of Dnyaneshwari, when Dnyaneshwar dictated his great book.
It is reported that this same Sat-chit-Anandbaba had written a book in verse form under the caption of “Dnyaneshwar Vijay”; but unfortunately, that book is swallowed by time and is not available. If this book would have been available, we could have had some authentic information about this great personality as written by his contemporary; but the will of God is otherwise and we must construct the life of Dnyaneshwar by collecting the fragments from various other sources as already said.
From the internal evidence in Dnyaneshwari, this unique criticism on Bhagavad-Gita was completed in Shaka 1212. It will be seen from the life of Dnyaneshwar that he composed this book at a very early age of sixteen. The knowledge of all the philosophical books, which were then in existence, the different theories of life, the knowledge of the customs and manners of the people of his times and all such things which are evident from the book, simply make the readers wonder how a boy of sixteen could acquire so much maturity and knowledge at that age; but as Lord Krishna has himself expressed in Bhagwatgeeta “a very learned person take s rebirth in a great family with all his achievements” and hence he proves to be a prodigy. Hence as believers in rebirth, we might say that the knowledge already acquired by Dnyaneshwar in the previous birth came along with him in his present birth. Though Dnyaneshwari is apparently a criticism on the Bhagwatgeeta, still we find that it is really an in -dependent book expounding the Indian Philosophy. It has only taken Bhagwatgeeta as its base, because it was a known book revered by all. The very fact that the commentary on 700 and odd shlokas of Bhagwatgeeta should expand into over 8,500 ovees goes to prove the independent nature of the book.
If specific examples are to be cited we might point out that in the sixth canto of Bhagwatgeeta there are only 47 shlokas while the commentary thereon runs into 497 ovees. Similarly, the number of ovees in the tenth canto is 1124. Similar figures about the extent of other cantos could be given for comparison, but it is not quite necessary to prove the aforesaid fact.
Dnyaneshwari is not important only from the point of view of philosophy, it also is a very good example of poetry full of imagination. The use of language is also unique. The words and phrases used are so very appropriate that nobody has been able to suggest so far a substitute for any one of them. The figures of speech like simile, metaphor etc. are met with very often in the book. They are not only appropriate but they show profuse knowledge on the part of the author. The language used is so captivating that any reader will agree to the statement made by Dnyaneshwar that he will get a certificate from his appreciative readers that the Marathi language is even sweeter than the nectar.
Gnyaneshwar is a Yogi. He appears to be well-versed in all practices of Yoga. Whenever he has spoken of Yoga and its practices he appears to be speaking with so much confidence that we feel that he is speaking not from heresay but from his personal experience. The ultimate live Samadhi, that Dnyaneshwar took, to put an end to his life, shows also that he had full knowledge of the practice of Yoga.
Along with Yoga, Dnyaneshwar has not neglected other ways of devotion like “Bhakti” and worship of the idol of the God. He has done enough justice to all these whenever necessary and has also described their importance in human life.
From the point of view of the development of Rasas. Dnyaneshwari is not wanting. In the eleventh canto when Lord Krishna shows to Arjuna the whole universe, we see the development of different Rasas like Rowdra, Bhayanaka, Shanta etc. This also shows that Dnyaneshwar had studied the books on literary criticism that were existing at his time.
Dnyaneshwari is supposed to be the basic book of the. “Warkari” sect. Every “Warkari” who recognises God Vithal as his God revers this book unequivocally. In all the lectures of these people they will be constantly referring to “Ovees” from this highly revered book. Apart from the followers of the Warkari Sect, every student of the Marathi Literature has got to peep into this book. No student of Marathi literature can say that his study is complete without the study of Dnyaneshwari. Other great Marathi Saints like Namdeo, Eknath, Tukaram, Ramdas have always mentioned Dnyaneshwari with reverence, and have taken pride in stating that they have been the followers of Dnyaneshwar. Most of the Marathi poets who wrote on religious subjects have made free use of the similes, ideas and quotations from Dnyaneshwari, and even acknowledged that they got inspiration to write their books after reading it.
As Bhagwatgeeta was the source of inspiration for writing a criticism to many Marathi poets, similarly there have also been many books in Marathi for explaining the philosophy of Dnyaneshwari. As nearly 700 years have elapsed since the composition of Dnyaneshwari, its language has become obscure at certain places, some of the words used therein cannot be understood by the modern generation, hence the modern generation is mostly not able to read or understand Dnyaneshwari without a commentary or a guide.
The two miracles, in Dnyaneshwar’s life, one of making the he-buffalo repeat Vedas and the other of bringing to life Sat-chit-Anandbaba have already been referred to. A few more can be narrated here.
At Paithan once a Brahmin wanted to perform the Shraddha (death anniversary) of his father. So Dnyaneshwar requested the Brahmin to make all the preparations and after going there invited all the forefathers for lunch. At other places these ancestors are supposed to come, but they are not visible. However, here they remained physically present and enjoyed the feast.
In Alandi there was a Brahmin named Visoba Chati. He was very orthodox and used to ridicule the Sadhus and sages. Once Nivrittinath expressed his desire to Muktabai to eat “Mande” which are required to be baked on a frying pan. So Muktabai went around the village for buying a pan; Vosoba, who was wicked, had informed all the potters in the village not to give the pan to Muktabai and hence she could not get it in the whole village. She came home empty-handed and was sobbing, because she thought that Nivrittinath, her eldest brother, would get annoyed at this. When Dnyaneshwar knew about this he consoled Muktabai and by the power of Yoga, he kindled the fire inside his stomach and told Muktabai to bake the “Mande” on his back which was as red hot as the frying pan.
One Yogi, Changdeo by name, was said to be fourteen hundred years old. By his Yogic power he had subdued all fierce beings like the tiger and the serpent. After knowing the power of Dnyaneshwar he started for a visit to him. He rode on a tiger and was using a serpent as a whip. At that time Dnyaneshwar and his brethren were sitting on a compound wall outside their house. When they were told that Changdeo was coming to them on tiger backs they made the wall itself to move and thus went forward to receive Changdeo. When Changdeo found that Dnyaneshwar was having control over inanimate objects as against his control on living beings, he was completely subdued and knew his folly in underestimating the power of Dnyaneshwar. He at once fell at the feet of Dnyaneshwar and became his disciple.
A number of such other miracles are narrated under the name of Dnyaneshwar; but they need not all be listed over here. The miracles already referred to are enough to show the supernatural power of Shri Dnyaneshwar.
After composing “Amritanubhava”, Dnyaneshwar went to visit the holy places along with Namdeo and other saints of his time. In his Abhangas known as “Tirthawali” Namdeo has given a graphic description of this their visit to the holy places from which we know that Dnyaneshwar had visited many holy places of his day.
After completing their visits to the holy places, Dnyaneshwar felt that the mission of his life was over. He therefore, expressed his intention to take live Samadhi. When all his colleagues knew about this they felt sorry that this ocean of knowledge was leaving them; but Dnyaneshwar was firm on his decision. Ultimately, on the 13th day of the second half of Kartik in Shaka 1218 Dnyaneshwar Maharaj took live Samadhi at Alandi. An account of this heartrending incident is graphically pictured by Namdeo in his Abhangas known as “Samadheeche Abhanga”. After setting of this Sun of Knowledge, pitch darkness spread before the eyes of Dnyaneshwara’s brothers and sister. After the departure of Dnyaneshwar, they also therefore decided to end their existence in this world and within a year’s time from the Samadhi of Dnyaneshwar Maharaj they all left this perishable world. Thus ended the tragic life of all these four children of Vithalpant, whose only fault was that he did not observe the traditional sequence of the Ashrams.
There was a dassi by name Shyama in the town of Mangalvedha which is about fourteen miles from Pandharpur. Shyama had a beautiful daughter by name Kanhopatra. She was so beautiful that there was no match to her beauty in this world. While she was young she learned the art of singing and dancing. Shyama, asked her daughter to come with her to see the king so that he would give some money and ornaments to her. Kanhopatra then said that she would not come to the kings durbar. She also said that she would only marry someone who is more beautiful than her.
One day a group of pilgrims who were going to Pandhari were passing by singing the praise of god. When Kanhopatra saw them, she made a namskar to them and asked them where they were going. The pilgrims then replied to her that they were going to Pandhari to see lord Vitthala. She then asked them to describe his glory to which they said that even lord Brahma and others were unable to describe his glory and that his beauty exceeds that of Lakshmi a billion-fold. Kanhopatra then asked them if she goes as a suppliant to the lord will he accept her. The saints then told her that he will definitely accept her and she then went home and told her mother that she is going to Pandhari and left with them taking a vina in her hand. She joined the pilgrims in singing the praise of lord and reached Pandhari. She had the darshan of Vitthala and decided to be in Pandhari. She would always remain in the great door of the temple and sing his praise.
One man who had come from Bedar saw her and went and told the king about her and her beauty. On hearing this, the Mohamedian king sent his guards to go get Kanhopatra from the temple of Pandharpur. The guards arrived at the temple gates and told Kanhopatra the king’s orders and that if she failed to listen to them, they would have to take her forcefully. She then told them that she would visit Vitthala for one last time and come back with them to the king. She went in and prayed to Vitthala and told him that if he abandons her now the whole world will blame him for this. As she pleaded with Vitthala, he removed her soul and united it with him. He took Kanhopatra in his lap and she died on his lap. Vitthala then asked the priest to bury her corpse at the southern gate of the temple. As soon as they buried her a tarati tree sprang up immediately in that place and everyone were surprised. We can till date see this tree in Vitthala Rukmani temple in Pandharpur. Meanwhile the king’s guards who were sitting in the main gate of the temple asked the priest what happened to Kanhopatra. They told them that she now got united with Vitthala and is no more. The guards then asked them to show her corpse to which the priest told them that it has changed in to a tree. The guards didn’t believe what they said and arrested the priest and took him to king. The priest then offered coconut and bukka from the temple to the king as Prasad and told him what happened. When the king took the coconut, he saw a hair in the coconut and asked the priest how this came in the coconut offered to god. The priest was afraid and confused how it had come. He then decided to tell the king that it was Vitthala’s hair. The king dint believe this and asked him if it was true. The priest then told him to come to Pandhari and see it for himself and also gave it in writing. The king then decided to come to Pandharpur and visit the god to check if what they described about him was true. He entered the temple paid his respects to the god and went to god’s bed chamber and looked at the god. He then saw god’s brilliant crown, beautiful curly hair, his lotus eyes, his crocodile ear rings and the kaustubh around his neck. The moment the king saw this he became repentant and told the priest that he had seen the lord just the way they had described him. He then prostrated before the god and embraced his feet and said that Kanhopatra’s fortune is supreme in getting united with Vitthala.
Lord Narayana asked Uddhava to make an avatar in this world to bring people in to bhakti cult. There was a pious tailor by name Dhamaji in the village of Pandharpur. Every morning he would bath in Chandrabagha and then go to the temple to worship Vitthala and only then have his food. His wife Gonai, was also pious and dutiful. They dint have a child and one day Gonai asked her husband to pray to Vitthala and ask for a child. Dhamaji then went to the temple, prostrated and told the lord that his wife desires for a son. That day Vitthala came in his dream and told him that he has given him the gift of a son, and when at sun rise if he goes to bath in river his son will come floating down the stream. He told this to his wife and the next morning Dhamaji came early to Chandrabagha, he quickly had his bath and finished his prayers. Just then he noticed a shell floating down the river and he opened it and found a baby inside. He took the baby and went home to show it to Gonai. They then named him as Namdev.
Nama grew up as a pious kid and always used to go to the temple with his dad. One day Dhamaji went to the market and so he sent Nama to the temple with the offering to be given to Vitthala. His mother told him to show this to Vitthala and come back home. Nama came to the temple, prostrated before the god and worshiped the god. He then placed the plate of food that he had brought and asked the god to have the food. Nama was under the impression that god always really eats whatever is offered to him. He waited for the god to eat. He then thought that the god was angry as he was late. He then told the god that his father had gone to the market and hence he was delayed. He then started crying asking the god what wrong he had done and why the god was not taking his offerings. Seeing Nama’s pure love god appeared in front of him embraced him and then ate the offering given by Nama. The god then told Nama not to tell this to any one. Nama then came home and returned the empty plates. Gonai asked him what happened to the food and he said that god ate it. The next day when Dhamaji came back Gonai told this to him. Dhamaji and Gonai dint believe this and they asked Nama how is it that god ate, lets go to the temple now and show us how that happened. They both went to the temple worshiped the lord and then made the offering. Nama then asked Vitthala to come and take the offerings. Vitthala answered to him that he would not be visible to his father and would be visible only to him. Nama then pleaded the god to show himself to his father too and Dhamaji could also see the god having the food. They then went home and Dhamaji told the whole story to his wife.
Nama grew up and was then married to Rajai and had a child named Narayan. Nama would never bother about work and would always be in the temple singing about Vitthala. After Dhamaji’s death Gonai, Rajai and the children dint have good dress to wear and hardly had even one meal a day. Rajai was complaining about this to Gonai and Vitthala on hearing this came as Keshav Seth to meet them. He went to their house and said that he is a friend of Nama and has come to meet him. Rajai then said that Nama is not there and asked him to come later. She also said that there is no food for people at home but Nama always brings Saadhus to have food at home. The god then said that his name was Keshav Seth and that he knew that Nama was suffering from debts and not having any money so he bought some gold coins to be given to him. On hearing this Rajai, asked him to come in and be seated. The god then asked Rajai not to trouble Nama and gave her a bag full of gold coins and left their house. Gonai had gone out to get some grains and was not aware of this. On her way back she went to the temple and complains to god that Nama has not been taking care of the family and only spends time in the temple. She then shouts at Nama and brings him back home. When they reach home they see that Rajai has cooked many dishes and a fest was ready at home. They were all wearing new dresses and ornaments. Nama seeing all this wealth felt sad and asked his mother how this had come. Gonai told him that she was not aware of this. He then asked his wife Rajai and she did not utter a word about that. Jani, Nama’s servant came in and told him what happened. Hearing this tears flowed from Nama’s eyes and asked god why did he take this trouble for him. He then called the brahmans and distributed all the wealth to them.
Once upon a time in 5th or 6th century there was a devotee of Lord Vishnu, called Pundalik. He was living with his wife and parents Janudev and Muktabai, in a dense forest called Dindirvan.
Pundalik was a devoted son but soon after his marriage he began to ill-treat his parents. To escape from this misery, the parents decided to go on a pilgrimage to Kashi. When Pundalik’s wife learnt about this, she also decided to go. She and her husband joined the same group of pilgrims on horseback. While the son and his wife rode on horseback, the old couple walked. Every evening when the party camped for the night, the son forced his parents to groom the horses and do other jobs. The poor parents cursed the day they decided to go on a pilgrimage.
Soon the party reached the ashram of the great sage Kukkutswami. There they decided to spend a couple of nights. They were all tired and soon fell asleep-except Pundalik who could not sleep. Just before daybreak he saw a group of beautiful, young women, dressed in dirty clothes, enter the ashram, clean the floor, fetch water and wash the swami’s clothes. Then they entered the inner room of the ashram and came out in beautifully clean clothes and passing near Pundalik, they vanished.
Next night he saw the same sight again. Pundalik threw himself at their feet and begged them to tell who they were. They said they were Ganga, Yamuna and other holy rivers of India in which the Pilgrims bathed and washed off sins. Their clothes became dirty by the sins of the bathing pilgrims. “And because of your ill-treatment of your parents”, they said: “You are the greatest sinner.”
This brought about a complete change in him and he became the most devoted son. Now the parents’ rode the horses while the son and his wife walked by their side. By their love and affection, the son and his wife urged the parents to give up the pilgrimage and return to Dindirvan.
One day it so happened that Lord Krishna, the King of Dwarka, while feeling lonely, was reminded of his early days in Mathura. He particularly remembered his sports with the milkmaids, the cowherd boys, and his love, Radha. Though she was dead, he longed to see her again. By his divine powers he brought her back to life and seated her by his side. Just then his queen, Rukmini, entered the room. When Radha did not rise to pay her respect, Rukmini left Dwarka in anger and hid herself in Dindirvan forest. Later, Lord Krishna set off in search of Rukmini. He first went to Mathura, then to Gokul. He met the milkmaids and cowherd boys. They too joined in the search. They went to Mount Govardhan in her search.
At last they reached the banks of the river Bhima or Chandrabhaga in the Deccan. Krishna left his companions at Gopulapura, and he himself entered Dindirvan forest alone in search of her. At last he found her and managed to calm her. Krishna and Rukmini came to Pundalik’s ashram.
But at that time Pundalik was busy attending to his parents. Though he knew Lord Krishna had come to see him, he refused to pay his respect to the god before his duty towards his parents was done. He, however, threw a brick outside for lord Krishna to stand upon. Impressed by Pundalik’s devotion to his parents, Lord Krishna did not mind the delay. Standing on the brick he waited for Pundalik. When Pundalik came out and begged God’s pardon and requested Him to remain there for the devotees, Lord Krishna replied that far from being displeased, he was pleased with his love for his parents. Since then Lord Krishna is present as Vithoba, Vitthala or God who stood upon a brick…
Ramdas was one of the greatest saints of the world. He was the inspirer of Shivaji. He was born of Suryaji Panth and Renuka Bai in Jamb, Maharashtra, in 1608 A.D. His original name was Narain. Ramdas was a contemporary of Sant Tukaram. He was a great devotee of Hanuman and Lord Rama. He had Darshan of Lord Rama even when he was a boy. Lord RamaHimself initiated him.
As a boy, Ramdas acquired some knowledge of the Hindu scriptures and developed a liking for meditation and religious study. One day he shut himself in a room and began to meditate on God. When his mother asked him what he was doing, Ramdas replied that he was meditating and praying for the good of the world. His mother was surprised at the precocious religious inclination of the boy and felt happy.
When Ramdas was twelve years of age, all arrangements were made for his marriage. He sat in front of the bride. There was a screen between the bridegroom and the bride. When the priests chanted “Sawadhan!” (be alert), Ramdas bolted away from the place and disappeared within the twinkling of an eye.
For twelve years Ramdas stayed at Nasik on the banks of the Godavari. He used to get up very early in the morning, go into the Godavari river, and with his body half-immersed in water, recite the sacred Gayatri Mantra till about noon. Then he would go around for alms. He first offered the collected food to his Deity Sri Rama and then took it as Prasad. After resting a while, he used to attend religious discourses in the various temples of Nasik and Panchavati. Ramdas also studied Sanskrit and copied in his own hand the Ramayana of Valmiki.
Ramdas did Purascharana of the Rama Mantra of thirteen letters Sri Ram Jaya Ram Jaya Jaya Ram thirteen lakhs of times at Tafali, near Nasik, on the banks of the Godavari. After the Purascharana was over, once again Ramdas had Darshan of Lord Rama. It is said that Ramachandra ordered Ramdas to visit holy places such as Nasik, Haridwar, Kasi, etc.
Ramdas sprinkled over a dead body holy water uttering the name of Rama and the dead body was restored to life. Ramdas had to do this, because he had blessed a woman who had just lost her husband.
Ramdas was an Advaitin and a Bhakta in one. He had this very noble quality that he never hated any religion or nation. His main object was to spread the Hindu religion throughout India.
Ramdas had not visited Pandharpur, as he had not known the existence of this holy place. One day, the tradition says, Lord Panduranga Vittal, in the form of a Brahmin, with a batch of three hundred pilgrims, appeared before Ramdas and asked him whether he had any objection to see Lord Krishna. Ramdas replied in the negative. Panduranga then took Ramdas to Pandharpur, and when the Bhaktas approached the temple, the Brahmin disappeared. Ramdas then knew that it was none other than the Lord that had brought him to that holy place. He entered the temple, and to his great surprise, found Sri Rama standing alone on a brick.
Ramdas addressed the Deity thus: “O Lord, what are You doing here alone? Where is Your brother Lakshmana and Your consort Sita Mata? Where is Maruti and where are the monkey hordes?”. On hearing these words, the image at once transformed itself into Sri Pandarinath. Ramdas then praised Panduranga for His kindness, prostrated before Him and sang songs of joy for getting His rare Darshan. Ramdas now felt doubly convinced that the several incarnations of the Lord were but His several forms and preached that everyone should respect and worship the One who took care of one and all in the world. Ramdas then worshipped Panduranga to his heart’s content and became a frequent visitor and Bhakta of Panduranga Vittal also. In Pandharpur, Ramdas came in contact with Tukaram and other saints of Pandharpur. In his pilgrimages, Ramdas observed and studied the social, political and economic conditions of Indians and their utter helplessness in life.
It is said that Sri Rama ordered Ramdas to go to the banks of the Krishna and help the cause of Shivaji, the incarnation of Siva and founder of the Kingdom of Maharashtra. Ramdas came to the Krishna and went about preaching from Mahabaleshwar to Kolhapur. He established eleven principal seats of Maruti which emphasized the importance of physical development. He installed the shrines of Sri Ramachandra at Champavati and introduced Sri Rama Navami Mahotsava and the procession of Sri Rama’s chariot. It was at the place called Singanvadi that Shivaji became the disciple of Ramdas.
Shivaji placed the sandals of his Guru on the throne and acted as regent of the kingdom under the orders and guidance of his Guru and adopted as ensign the flag of orange colour. There is a beautiful and romantic incident current in the Maharashtra country about Shivaji’s adoption of the Gerua flag and his ruling the kingdom in the name of Saint Ramdas.
One day Shivaji saw, from the terrace of his palace, his Gurudev Ramdas going about the streets with his begging bowl. Shivaji was surprised and could not understand why his Guru should beg when he himself had already placed all his resources at the disposal of his Gurudev. However, Sadhus are difficult to understand. Shivaji therefore called for his companion Balaji, wrote a small chit and asked him to give it to Guruji when he came to the palace. About noon, Ramdas came to the palace with his bowl and Balaji prostrated before Gurudev and placed the chit at his feet. Briefly, the chit conveyed that Shivaji had made a gift of his whole kingdom to Gurudev and he humbly solicited his Gurudev’s blessing. The Guru smiled and told Balaji that it was alright. Next morning Ramdas called on Shivaji and asked him what he proposed to do with himself as he had disposed of his kingdom.
Shivaji prostrated himself before Ramdas and said that he would be very happy and consider himself blessed if he should spend his life in his Gurudev’s service. Then Ramdas said: “Take this bowl and let us go on our rounds”. So Ramdas and Shivaji went around Satara begging. The people reverently bowed before the pair and gave them alms. The pair returned to the river. Ramdas prepared his simple meals and Shivaji partook of what was left after his Gurudev had finished his meals. Then Shivaji, with a smile, asked his Gurudev what he was going to do with him after reducing him to a beggar. Ramdas knew that the opportunity had come to set up a lofty ideal for the king.
Ramdas asked Shivaji to rule the kingdom in his (Ramdas’s) name, to take the Gerua Chaddar for his banner and defend its honour with his life, and to think that the kingdom did not belong to himself but treat it as a trust to be ruled justly and well before God. And thus had come the Gerua banner to Shivaji.
Ramdas spent several years in visiting holy places of pilgrimage. He erected several Hanuman temples in Maharashtra. When he returned from his pilgrimage, somebody told Ramdas that his mother was pining for him, and that she had lost her eyesight on account of extreme sorrow arising out of his separation. Ramdas immediately went to see his mother. He made prostrations to his mother. His mother was exceedingly pleased to meet her son after an absence of many years. Ramdas touched the eyes of his mother. She got back her lost eyesight through the Yogic power of her son.
Ramdas’s ways were very peculiar. He appeared to the outside world as a mad man. He had a small bow. He used to have, by his side, many stones with which he pelted every object he saw. To men really interested in his teachings, he gave the Mantra Sri Ram Jaya Ram Jaya Jaya Ram.
Ramdas had eleven hundred disciples, of whom three hundred were women. The women disciples were also expert preachers and were virtuous. Ramdas sent his disciples to all parts of India to spread the Hindu religion. His disciples and Mutts in the North directly or indirectly helped Shivaji and his work. Ramdas’s organisation in the South, round about Thanjavur, helped Shivaji’s son Rajaram to go to Jinji and carry on the Twenty Years’ War with Aurangazeb. When Ramdas visited Thanjavur, Venkoji, who was the step-brother of Shivaji, became his disciple. Ramdas appointed Bhimaswami, his direct disciple, as the Mahant of the Thanjavur Mutt.
Ramdas generally preferred to live in the forest, where he would say, he had better meditation. In his last days, Ramdas devoted his time partly to literary activities and partly to the systematic building up of his disciples and Mutts, both in the North and in the South. The literary works of Ramdas such as Dasabodh, Manache Shlok (verse addressed to the mind), Karunashtakas (hymns to God) and Ramayana (describing only the conquest of Lanka by Sri Rama and the vanquishing of Ravana) are very popular. It was as a tribute to Ramdas’s extraordinary patience and determination in rehabilitating the Hindu religion in India that people named him Samartha (all-powerful) Ramdas, a name which he richly deserved. This great Guru of Maharashtra breathed his last in 1682 at Sajjangad, near Satara, a fortress which was given to him by Shivaji for his residence.
Ramdas repeated the Rama Mantra with his last breath. At the time of his departure from the world, a dazzling light emanated from his body and Ramdas was absorbed in the image of Lord Rama.
The last instructions of Ramdas to his disciples were: “Do not think much of your bodily wants. Have Satsang with devotees. Keep the image of Lord Rama in your heart. Repeat the name of Lord Rama always. Annihilate lust, greed, anger, hatred and egoism. See Lord Rama in all creatures. Love all. Feel His presence everywhere. Live for Him alone. Serve Him in all beings. Make total and unreserved surrender unto Him. You will always live in Him alone. You will attain immortality and eternal bliss.”
The supreme sadhana to attain bhagavan is through prema bhakti. “What is the use of money, tapas, education without pure prema” says the bakti sampraday. So to reach God and attain divine bliss one should leave all the worldly possessions and indulge in pure Prema bhakti which will surely lead to Krishna darshan. A person who earnestly cries for God with real thirst is surely a blessed soul.
There was a small village near Pandharpur called “Sinchirunipuram” and there lived a rich man named Gangadar Rao who was a great devotee of lord Vitthala. He was an honest, truthful and straightforward man involved in numerous bhagavat sevas. His wife kamala Bai was also a great bhakta. The couples were childless for many years. One night lord Vitthala blessed them in a dream, saying that soon they would get a beautiful girl child. Both were happy with this and they praised lord Vitthala and chanted many hymns on him. Soon kamala Bai gave birth to a girl child and she was named Sakhubai. At a very young age Sakhubai started singing bajans and at times due to divine ecstasy she used to dance and shed tears. Everyone was amazed on seeing her bhakti, beauty and on hearing her melodious voice.
One day Sakhubai was playing with her friends; building small sandcastles. At that time Vitthala disguised as an old man came over. He wore anklets in his legs, thulasi malas around his neck and carried a chipla and tanpura; and came there singing “Panduranga Vitthala Pandarinatha Vitthala”. He came near to Sakhubai and walked over the sandcastles she had built; completely destroying them and stood as if he did nothing. Sakhubai got angry and shouted, “Swami, I spent a lot of time in building a beautiful sand house, why did you walk over it. I will not let you go till you answer me.” The old man answered, “My child, on singing lords name I was engrossed and was lost in it. I didn’t notice it and walked over it by mistake. I will build you a better house than this.” Sakhubai seriously said: “you talk sweetly and politely but you have done a great mistake. Just imagine, if you have walked over us instead of these small sandcastles what would have happened to us.” Vitthala replied mischievously, “I apologize. Why are you not leaving me for such a small mistake?” Sakhubai replied, “this may be a small thing for you but it is a marvellous thing for me.” Vitthala then said: “ok, I surrender, you punish me.” Sakhubai immediately said: “You should handover your tanpura to me.” Vitthala pretended as if he was not willing to give the tanpura. Sakhubai begged him and finally got hold of it. Her face blossomed like a lotus after getting the tanpura; she didn’t know to play it however. Vitthala on seeing this taught Sakhubai tuning and playing the tanpura. Vitthala blessed her, raising his arms, “My child, you have to render songs in praise of the lord daily with this”. He initiated her with the Ashtakshara Japam and asked her to chant repeatedly and said she would get darshan of lord Vitthala for whom she longed so much. Vitthala narrated the Gajendra moksha to make her realize the essence of Ashtakshari. Sakhubai looked at the old man so gracefully and returned the tanpura to him and asked him to forgive her. Then Sakhubai eagerly asked, “where are you going and when will you come back?” Vitthala happily said: “My child, I am going to Pandharpur and I will come back in five days.” At first her eyes sparkled hearing the name of Pandharpur and then became sad that he was leaving. Vitthala then said: “don’t worry child, I will come back and tell you about Pandharpur” saying so he went away. Days went by, Sakhubai waited anxiously for the old man, but he didn’t return. As years passed her thirst for Vitthala began to grow more and more.
She by then attained the age of marriage, but she only wanted to marry Vitthala. She was not attached to anything and she had lost her heart to Vitthala and didn’t want to marry anyone else. But finally, Sakhubai was forced to marry Krishna Sharma. He was not a good soul and was very arrogant and miserly. She however served her husband with great love and respect. Whenever possible, she would sing, dance, meditate on Vitthala and shed tears and would be in a state of ecstasy. Without knowing about Sakhubai’s prema bhakti towards Vitthala, Krishna Sharma thought that she had become insane. Her mother-in-law also tortured Sakhubai by beating her and giving her a lot of household chores. But despite all this; while milking the cow, cleaning the house, cooking and moping the house she would always be in thinking and chanting about Vitthala.
One day she went to the pond to fetch water thinking all the while of Vitthala. At that time, a group of bhaktas came that way. She was delighted to see them and asked them, “Where are you going?” They said: “We are going to Pandharpur to see the lotus-feet of our Vitthala. Who are you?” On hearing the very mention of Pandharpur her heart leapt out in great happiness and tears rolled out of her eyes. Sakhubai asked: “Pandharpur, my name is Sakhubai, shall I come along with you? I too want to touch the lotus feet of Vitthala on ekadasi day with you sadhus.” All were surprised on Sakhubai’s bhakti. They said: “Surely there is no problem taking you with us. But you should get permission from your husband.” That very moment Sakhubai with great eagerness ran to the house to seek permission from her husband. But her husband was unwilling to send her. He said: “Sakhubai, be patient, it is not possible to allow you to go to Pandharpur suddenly. We shall go together on an ekadasi day.” But Sakhubai again asked, “Today I met great bhaktas, going along with them and serving our beautiful Vitthala would be a great pleasure. Please let’s both go along. If you cannot come, at least let me go.” But Krishna Sharma was so stubborn and he didn’t let her go. Her heart was broken and she burst out into tears and pleaded him. Krishna Sharma’s face became red with anger and he began to beat her and dragged her to the next room and tied her to a pillar. Her in-laws too slapped her.
Sakhubai with extreme pain and distress prayed to Vitthala, “Prabu, Pandarinatha, Prananatha, I don’t know anything about shastra or about worldly matters. I am just bound in the tides of samsara and swirling in it. O lord, show mercy on me and take me to your lotus feet. My eyes want to see you alone.” Just then there was a bright radiance in the room, a lady came in and she totally resembled Sakhubai and told her that she was Maya Sakhubai. Now Sakhubai couldn’t believe her eyes. She explained her situation to Maya Sakhubai. Maya Sakhubai said: “I have come here to help you have darshan of Vitthala. He will welcome you with his beautiful eyes, sweet smiling face, his lotus feet and both his hands will be ready to embrace you; this will surely make you blissful.” Sakhubai was thrilled, but out of concern said: “If I leave you alone here you will have to face lot of difficulties.” Maya Sakhubai said: “Don’t worry nobody can identify me, I will manage everything. You start immediately and enjoy the darshan of our divine Vitthala.”
Everything seemed like a dream, she could hardly believe it, but her eyes sparkled and with great joy she ran towards Pandharpur. As she kept nearing Pandhari the joyous singing of “Vitthala Vitthala, jai jai Vitthala, Panduranga Vitthala” was heard by her.
On entering Pandhari she ran straight into the temple and she finally had darshan of Vitthala and her happiness knew no bounds. She was stunned and screamed with extreme happiness. She drank the nectar of his beauty. She then ran towards him and touched his face, embraced him and her soul rested on his lotus feet and was totally consumed and she became one with him. All were surprised and shocked on her intense bhakti and a few bhaktas who witnessed all the happenings came back to the village and narrated the unbelievable divine incident to Krishna Sharma; he immediately went home to check on the Sakhubai who he thought was there all along, but found that she had vanished now. Krishna Sharma was at first surprised to find her missing, but he soon realized this divine leela of lord Vithoba, and cried at his great loss and misfortune of not having known about his wife’s greatness. Thus Sakhubai who was completely immersed in gopi bava got relief from samsara as she totally desired and happily united with the lord.
Savata Mali (born in the 13th century) was a Hindu saint. He was a contemporary of Namdev, and a devotee of Vithoba.
For financial reasons, his grandfather, Devu Mali, moved to the Arangaon/Aran-behndi, which is near the Modnimb, Solapur district. Devu Mali had two sons, namely, Parasu (Savata’s father) and Dongre. Parasu married Nangitabai; they lived in poverty, but remained devoted Bhagwat followers. Dongre died at young age. In 1217, Parasu and Nangitabai had a son, whom they named Savata Mali.
Having grown up in a religious family, Savata married a very religious and devoted Hindi from a nearby village named Janabai. While working in his fields in the village of Aran, Savata Mali used to sing about the glory of Vithoba. They believed that Vithoba came to him since Savata Mali was unable to make a pilgrimage to the temple of Vithoba. He angered his wife once when he ignored his visiting in-laws because he was so busy in his bhakti, but Janabai’s anger was swiftly cooled down because of Savata’s kind and peaceful words.
Savata died in the Hindu calendar year Shaka 1250 (c. 1328 AD). A temple dedicated to him exists in Aran.
Shri Tukaram or Tukoba (1609-1650) was a seventeenth century saint, who constantly sang the praises of Lord Vitthala, or Krishna in what is today western India. It was the constant singing about God which led Tukaram to compose the 5,000 abhangs for which he is most famous. The abhangs are unique in the world of literature and are often called poems, but they don’t have the artful imagery associated with poems. The abhangs express Tuka’s feelings (whether elation or frustration) and philosophical outlook. While they are focused on God, many of them include brief mentions of events in Tukaram’s life, which make them somewhat autobiographical.
In his life, he patiently faced many difficulties but was steadfast in his devotion. At one point, his disciple, Shivaji Maharaj offered him diamonds and opals, but they were refused as they would become an impediment to his devotion.
Tukaram’s writings had pervasive influence on Marathi language, culture, literature, and spirituality. His followers say that his devotional accomplishments are so colossal that to describe them, many future generation of translators and commentators will have their pens occupied for centuries to come. In a sense, Tukaram is a saint-poet who belongs more to the future than to a specific historically bound past.
Tukaram was born in Dehu, a lively village on the banks of the holy river Indrayani, in approximately 1608 to two well-to-do devotees, of Lord Vithala: Bolhoba and his wife, Kanakai. Dehu, near modern day Pune. He was one of three brothers.
During the time of Saint Tukaram, Muslims reigned in southern India and were constantly at war with each other. The rulers enjoyed the privileges of stolen royalty while their warriors plundered villages.
Despite the difficult political situation, Shri Tukaram’s childhood was spent in comfort and luxury. His troubles started with the illness of his father, due to which he had to start supporting his family at the tender age of thirteen.
Soon after Shri Tukaram’s parents died, severe drought and famine struck his village during which his wife and son died of starvation. These relentless hardships convinced Tukaram of the temporary nature of earthly pursuits. In a mood of quiet prayer, he climbed Bhamgiri Mountain to seek solace from the Lord. Although attacked by the snakes and wild animals, he was determined to stay there until he had found the eternal truth. After fifteen days of seclusion, fervent prayer and calls for his Lord’s attention, Shri Tukaram received Lord Vitthala’s audience. Pleased by Tukaram’s bhakti, Lord Vitthala bestowed upon him the eternal truth and love of Godhead.
Shri Tukaram states in his Abhangas that he received the guru mantra containing the holy names of Krishna, Ram and Hari – names of God in the Maha Mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare; Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama hare. (Hare is the vocative form of both Haraa and Hari).
Tukaram has revealed through his renowned devotional writings that he received his Mantra through the medium of a dream from a divine personality he called “Raghava Chaitanya, Keshava Chaitanya.” Scholars and historians cite evidence that Saint Tukaram had some mystical connection with Chaitanya Mahaaprabhu. Gauriya Vaishnavas (followers of Lord Chaitanya) believe that Shri Chaitanya Mahaaprabhu initiated Shri Tukaram by way of this transcendental dream. Shrila Prabhupada writes in his introduction to Shrimad Bhagwatam: “Saint Tukaram, after initiation by the Lord, overflooded the whole of Maharashtra province with Sankirtana movement, and the transcendental flow is still rolling on in the southwestern part of the great Indian peninsula”.
As Tukaram’s meditation on Lord Vitthala became increasingly more profound, he began writing and reciting verses called abhangas, which encapsulated the essence of ancient shrutis and shaashtraas. As Shrila Prabhupada writes in the foreword to Songs of Vaishnav Acharyas, “Songs composed by acharyas are not ordinary songs. When chanted by pure Vaishnavas, who follow the rules and regulations of Vaishanava character, they are actually effective in awakening the Krishna Consciousness dormant in every living entity.
Saint Tukaram continuously sang the Lord’s praises in his mother tongue of Marathi, composing over 5000 abhangas. Many of these are reflections of events in his life, which make them somewhat autobiographical. However, there is an unmistakable clear focus of Lord Pandurang (Vitthala), Lord of Pandharpur.
Shri Tukaram regularly went on Sankirtana pilgrimage from Dehu to Pandharpur, along with thousands of his followers. Along the way he would stop and enlighten the crowds, which would increase from village to village. Always crying out to the Lord with his loving abhaNgas, Tukaram used his Bhakti poetry to encourage everyone to take up a God centred life.
Shri Tukaram’s public discourses focused on offering one’s daily life as service to the Lord. Tukaram worked for the enlightenment of the society and emphasized Sankirtana, chanting of the Lord holy names, rather than ritualistic observances or the mechanical study of the Vedas. Singing, dancing, Saint Tukaram and the crowds he drew would happily walk over two hundred kilometres to PanDharpur.
Shrila Prabhupada writes, “Tukaram Aachaarya became very famous in Maharashtra province and he spread the Sankirtana movement all over the province. The Sankirtana party belonging to Tukaram is still very popular in Bombay and throughout the province of Maharashtra, resembling the GauRiyaa Vaishnav Sankirtana parties in chanting of the holy name of the Lord, accompanied by Mridanga and Karataalas”.
Saint Tukaram knew and taught that a human being can never attain happiness if there is no place for God. He wrote, “Look at my experience. I made God my own and He gave me the answers to my questions whenever and wherever I put them to Him.”
Saint Tukaram was several centuries ahead of his time. With utmost compassion, he anticipated the spiritual anguish of modern man. He would invoke divine love within his audiences, immersing them in deep emotions for God.
Several events in Saint Tukaram’s life deeply affected his spiritual writings and teachings. One incident involved a scholar named Rameshwar Bhatta, who was surprised to find the essence of the Bhagwat Gita being presented in the Marathi language with such eloquence. The envious scholar believed that Tukaram’s birth as a non-Brahmana disqualified him from elucidating the essence of the Vedas. Tukaram responded: “You might think these are my verses, but no, this is not my own language. Nor is it my own skill; it is God who makes me talk. It was Lord Vithoba Himself who ordered me to versify.”
But Rameshwar Bhatta was not convinced of Shri Tukaram’s purity of heart. Backed by a local militia, he ordered Tukaram to sink his verses in the sacred river Indrayani. Laughing and humiliating Shri Tukaram in public, Raameshwar announced to the crowd that if these devotional works were the outcome of divine order, then Lord Vitthala Himself would save the books form being destroyed.
Tukaram collected all his abhanga books, tied in a heavy stone to the bundle and with full faith tossed his entire collection of bhakti writings into the Indrayani River. One night, thirteen days later, Lord Vitthala, dressed as a child visited Saint Tukaram. The Lord told him that He had been safeguarding the books underwater and that they would resurface the next day.
Some followers of Shri Tukaram received similar divine messages. Word spread and next day a large crowd gathered on the banks of the Indrayani. To the crowd’s astonishment and Raameshwar Bhatta’s dismay, the books were floating on the surface.
With exuberant excitement and enthusiasm, people retrieved the sacred books – which were completely dry – and respectfully returned them to Saint Tukaram. His abhangas were protected by Lord Vitthala Himself, Tukaram was free to preach and so he continued with his devotional discourses and Kirtana.
Shri Tukaram’s reputation eventually reached King Shivaji, who sent a messenger bearing valuable gifts, such as lamps, horses and gems. Tukaram politely refused the gifts and responded to the King with four of his abhangas. In one of the verses, Shri Tukaram complained to King Shivaji: “You seem to provide me exactly the things that do not interest me.” King Shivaji was astounded by Saint Tukaram’s attitude of renunciation. So later, the King decided to travel to Lohgaon, near Dehu, to see Shri Tukaram and seek his saintly association and advice. When the King presented more gifts, Tukaram said: “What use is this treasure to me; I want only Lord Vithoba. Your gesture shows your generosity but to me these gifts are like pebbles.” Shri Tukaram politely asked King Shivaji to recite the names of God and become servant of Lord Vithoba.
Saint Tukaram’s passing was remarkable. During the night before he left this world, the saintly devotee prepared for his departure by chanting the holy names without stop.
He extended an invitation to his family, friends and followers who had gathered there: “I am going to Vaikuntha. Come along with me.”
It is said that after Tukaram announced his imminent departure, Shri Garuda landed on the bank of the Indrayani to carry him to the spiritual world.
No one understood Tukaram’s invitation. He affectionately embraced his fourteen intimate followers and his surviving son named, Mahadev Vithoba.
They all came forward and paid their final respects to Shri Tukaram, who then cast a look at his second wife, Jijabai and said to all, “Bid farewell to me now and return home. Its high time I responded to Vithoba’s call in Vaikuntha. Vithoba has been waiting for quite some time now. It’s time for me to leave and I beseech all for their blessings. Vithoba has come through for me at the end and Tuka will now disappear.”
Shri Tukaram peacefully proceeded to board Garuda. The huge celestial bird flew to the spiritual sky, leaving behind a scene of hundreds of weeping and grieving devotees. He left this material world in his self-same body, singing the holy names of the Lord, just as Dhruva Maharaj had done in a previous age.