Saints of Maharashtra
The saints included are Samartha Ramdas, Namdev, Ekanath, Tukaram, Damaji, Chokamela, Akalkot Swami, Gorakumbar and Jnanadev. I have covered Samartha Ramdas, Namdev, Ekanath, Tukaram and Jnanadev.
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 Rama Himself initiated him.
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 names 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.
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 that 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 order 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. 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 trust to be ruled justly and well before God. And thus had come the Gerua banner to Shivaji.
His Preachings and Life
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, a large number of 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 organization in the South, round about Thanjavur, helped Shivaji’s son Rajaram to go to Jinji and carry on the Twenty Years’ War with Aurabgazeb. 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.
(One wonders would Shivaji Maharaj been the same person if it were not for Ramdas. Not only did the Swami motivate, encourage Shivaji to protect his motherland and ask him to rule justly but he also used his disciples to help Shivaji as referred to in the above para. As human beings we need to realize the importance of a good advisor. While I am all for using one’s intellect one cannot know all, we must always try and benefit from the knowledge / experience of the more learned. If you were to compare the quality of Shivaji’s Guru/ advisor with the ones that Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Vajpayee have, you can guess why India as a nation has not lived up to its potential).
Ramdas generally preferred to live in the forest, where he would say, he had better meditation. In his last days, Ramdasdevoted 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 Ramdas, a name that he richly deserved. This great Guru of Maharashtra breathed his last in 1682 at Sajjangad, near Satara, a fortress that 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”.
Namdev of Maharashtra was a saint of mediaeval India. He was not a servant of Lord Krishna, but His companion. Namdev was an Amsa of Lord Krishna.
Namdev was a contemporary of Jnanadev, the famous saint of Maharashtra, being his senior in age by about five years. He was born in 1269 A.D. He came from a family of tailors who were sincere devotees of Vittala of Pandharpur. The family members were observing the Wari of Pandharpur, i.e., going on pilgrimage twice a year on the first eleventh day of the Ashadh and Kartik months. The family originated from a village called Narsibamani on the bank of the river Krishna near Karad, in district Satara. Being a great devotee of Vittala and wishing to improve his material prospects, Dama Setti, the father of Namdev, had moved to Pandharpur a year or two before his son’s birth.
One day, as Namdev’s mother was busy, she asked Namdev to take the place of offerings to Vithoba. Namdev went to the temple, placed the plate of eatables before Vithoba and asked Him to accept the offering. However, when Namdev did not find any evidence of acceptance by Vithoba, he cried so bitterly that Vithoba actually assumed a human form and accepted the offerings gratefully. Namdev’s mother was surprised when her son come back in great joy with an empty plate and explained to her that Vithoba had accepted the offerings by actually consuming the eatables presented in the plate. So the next day, she herself accompanied Namdev (but without his knowledge) to see and verify for herself the correctness of Namdev‘s explanation. The same performance was repeated and the mother had the satisfaction of seeing the lord actually accepting their offerings. Her joy and pride in Namdev was unbounded. She felt grateful to the lord that she was the mother of such a great devotee.
Lord Vithoba his only interest - In other respects, however, Namdev was the despair of his parents, and later, of his wife and other relatives. From the beginning he had no interest in worldly affairs; he neglected studies in school; he would not take interest in his father’s profession as a tailor, or in any other trade. His sole interest was to spend day night in devotion to Vithoba. His parents were getting old; the family prosperity was waning. Therefore, their dearest wish was that Namdev, while devoting a reasonable spare time to his devotions, should help in maintaining the family in comfort.
In the meantime, Namdev married Radha Bai. Radha Bai was a worldly-minded woman. In response to Namdev’s invitation, Vittal attended the naming ceremony of Namdev’s child in the guise of a human being, named the child “Narayana” and gave good gifts on the occasion.
There was extreme poverty in the house of Namdev. Namdev neglected his worldly duties. Namdev’s mother and wife abused Lord Krishna. Under the guise of Dharma Setti of vaikunthapuram and the pretence of past friendship with Namdev, the Lord visited Namdev’s house, gave magnificent gifts to Radha Bai and disappeared.
Adopting a Guru - Greatly mortified, Namdev repaired to Vithoba and complained to Him of his humiliation. He said that he saw no necessity for him to have a Guru as he had intimate relationship with Lord Krishna Himself. Lord Krishna said that Namdev did not really know Him. Namdev denied this. Lord Krishna challenged Namdev and asked him to find out His identity that day. Namdev agreed. Lord Krishna took the form of a Pathan horseman and passed before Namdev. Namdev could not recognize the Lord. Namdev agreed to go to a Guru Lord. Vithoba then advised him to adopt Visoba Khechar as his Guru.
“If you want to be absolutely happy, fill this world with Bhajan and the sacred Name of the Lord. The Lord is the world itself. Give up all ambitions or desires. Let them take care of themselves. Be content only with the name of Vittal. You need not undergo any hardship or penance in order to go to heaven. Vaikuntha will come to you of itself. Do not be anxious of this life or of your friends or relatives. They are like the illusions of a mirage. One has to spend a short space of time here like the potter’s well that goes on rotating even after the potter has left. Make the best of it by keeping the name of Vittal ever in your mind and on your lips and by recognizing Him everywhere and in everyone. This is my experience of life.
He took his Samadhi at Pandharpur at the age of twenty-six in 1295 A.D. Namdev was not an author of any big treatise; but he left behind him a large number of Abhangas or short poems, full with the nectar of Bhakti and love towards God. These are exceedingly sweet. Most of these are lost, but there are extant about four thousand Abhangas, which to this day are a great source of inspiration to all who would read them. Some of the Abhangas are found in the Sikh Adi Granth.
The essence of Namdev’s message is: “Always recite the Name of the Lord. Constantly remember Him. Hear His glory. Meditate on the Lord in your heart. Serve the Lord with your hands. Place your head at His lotus feet. Do Kirtan. You will forget your hunger and thirst. The Lord will be near you. You will attain immortality and eternal bliss”.
Ekanath is a well-known saint of Maharashtra. He was born of Suryanarayana and Rukmini in the year 1533 A.D. at Paithan in Maharashtra. The fire of devotion was kindled in his heart even when he was a boy of ten years. This was all due to his previous Samskaras. The Gita says: “There he regains the understanding acquired in his former body and strives still further for perfection”. (Ch. VI-43)
Once Ekanath heard an Akasa Vani, a voice from the sky, which said: “See Janardana Panth at Devagiri. He will put you in the proper spiritual path and guide you”.
Ekanath immediately proceeded to Devagiri, met Janardana Panth and prostrated at his feet. Janardana accepted Ekanath as his disciple. Janardana was the Dewan of the province of Devagiri. Ekanath lived with his Guru for eight years and served him with heart and soul.
Ekanath had great love for the untouchables He had equal vision. He saw Lord Krishna in all creatures. Once, some Mahars, who were passing by the house of Ekanath, stopped in front of his house as they were attracted by the sweet smell of palatable dishes that were being prepared for the death anniversary of Ekanath’s father. Ekanath at once invited them and fed them sumptuously. He got food prepared again and invited the Brahmins The Brahmins were offended. They said, “O Ekanath, you fed the Mahars first. We will not take food at your home”. Ekanath then invoked his forefathers directly through his power of devotion and fed them in person.
Ekanath was a great devotee. Lord Krishna Himself assumed the form of a poor Brahmin boy, and under the name of Kandia, lived as a water-carrier in the house of Ekanath for a period of twelve years rendering such service as bringing water for the Puja, making sandal-paste for worship, removing the leaves after dinner, etc. After this period, Kandia disappeared miraculously.
Ekanath wrote the Bhagavat, which holds the same place of respect in Maharashtra as Tulsidas’ Ramayan holds in Northern India. It is popularly known as Ekanath Bhagavatam and is found in every house in Maharashtra.
At the age of sixty-six, in the year 1599 A.D., Ekanath passed away. A staunch Bhakta, a great Bhagavata, an ideal householder and a great saint, he still shines as a model for all people.
Tukaram was born in 1608 A.D. at a village called Dehu in Pune district. It is about seven miles from Alandi-the place honoured by the Samadhi of Jnaneshwar-and about three miles from the railway station at Shelarwadi on the railway line running from Bombay to Pune. Tukaram came of a well-to-do Sudra family belonging to the tradesman class called Moray. The family had established itself at Dehu for a long time. They had accepted Vithoba of Pandharpur for worship and they had also constructed a temple of their own dedicated to Vithoba. The family members, since many generations, had also accepted the ‘Wari’ of Pandharpur, i.e., the annual pilgrimages to Pandharpur on the eleventh day of the month of Ashadh (June-July) and again on the eleventh day of the month of Kartik (October-November). The childhood of Tukaram was almost uneventful.
As a consequence of the many misfortunes, Tukaram was so much disgusted with life that he left his house and village and disappeared into the Bhamnath forest nearby. For fifteen days he stayed there concentrating on the Almighty without food, water or sleep. After the fifteenth day, he realised his Supreme self and Vithoba visited him in His true form.
Tukaram now began to spend his life more and more in devotional practices, study of the poems and works of Jnanadev, Namdev and Ekanath, gita, Bhagavata, etc., with the result that slowly, but unconsciously, he began to make poems. Then one day, he had a dream in which Namdev appeared with Pandurang, woke him and advised him to make devotional songs. They would not hear of any excuses. Pandurang gave him the necessary inspiration and Namdev told him to complete the one hundred crores of poems which he had intended to make and of which he had completed ninety-four crores and forty lakhs, leaving a balance of five crores and sixty lakhs for Tukaram. The divine art of making poems came naturally to Tukaram and as they were of the nature of Bhakti, the people began to be more and more attracted to Tukaram-more so as he did not seek anything materially for himself or for his own worldly welfare.
Whenever Tukaram began to perform bhajan or Kirtan, people began to flock to the place, and with very few exceptions, people of all classes began to consider him as a saint and treat him with respect. This was of course resented by a small number of people and they tried their best to discredit him; and having failed in this, they sent a report against Tukaram to Rameshwar Shastri who was regarded as a learned Brahmin of the time.
Tukaram tried to convince the Shastri that he was a very innocent person. But Rameshwar was adamant and would not listen to any argument. He told Tukaram finally that he saw, in the poems of Tukaram, a deliberate attempt to explain the principles of the Srutis which Tukaram, as a Sudra by caste, had no right to do; he must therefore stop making poems of that sort in future, and as for the poems he had already made, they should be drowned in the Indrayani river.
Tukaram held all Brahmins in great reverence, and therefore, he immediately brought out of his home all the poems, bound them together, tied a big syone round the bundle, and threw it into the river. Tukaram’s traducers, who were jealous of him, were greatly pleased. Tukaram did not mind their taunts, but he was worried. Here he was, merely singing the praise of God in his poems, and that was not the monopoly only of the Vedas and the Srutis. Moreover, he had been commanded by Panduranga Himself to spread Bhakti among the people through the poems.
Tukaram then sat on the bank of the river Indrayani in constant prayer to Pandurang to show him the correct path. For thirteen days he thus sat unmoved, without water, food or sleep. On the last day, one of Tukaram’s followers, in a dream, saw Pandurang coming to him and telling him, “Go to the river; there you will find the poems of Tukaram floating on the surface intact”. At once the man went to the river and brought to the bank the bundle of poems. Tukaram was moved by the mercy of god and delivered five poems blaming himself for doubting the world of God and for putting Him to so much trouble of having to preserve the poems in water for thirteen days. This, however, was not sufficient for Tukaram who always held the word of a Brahmin as worthly of respect as that of the Holy Scriptures and he had the orders of Rameshwar Shastri not to make poems any more.
Soon after this event, Rameshwar one day passed through the village of Vagholi and came to a village where a Muslim Fakir by name Anagadshah was staying. In Anagadshah’s compound, there was a big fountain throwing cool water all round. Rameashwar, seeing that fountain, was tempted to take a bath in the waters. Anagadshah was annoyed to see a stranger trespassing into his compound and cursed him that all his body should feel a burning sensation inwardly. Immediately Rameshwar began to suffer from the effects of the curse. All his efforts to make his body cool failed, and in despair, unable to bear the pangs, he went to Alandi and sat before the Samadhi of Jnaneshwar and prayed to him to relieve him of the burning sensation in his body. At night he saw Jnaneshwar in a dream. Jnaneshwar addressed him: “You entertain hatred in your mind towards Tukaram, who is the greatest devotee of Vithoba. Go and surrender to Tukaram; all your bodily pains will vanish”. Rameshwar, however, was afraid to go in person to Tukaram. He knew by that time all that had taken place at Dehu and he had come to recognize the greatness of Tukaram and therefore was afraid that Tukaram might curse him. So he sent a letter to Tukaram apologizing and asking for forgiveness. Tukaram had nothing but supreme love towards everybody, towards even his persecutors. On receiving the letter, he sent a reply to Rameshwar in the following verse:
“If the mind is pure, even your enemies become your friends; you have no danger from cruel animals like tigers or serpents. Even poison becomes as beneficial to you as the nectar of heaven. All unhappiness will be converted into happiness and even suffering due to the burning of the body will vanish. You will come to love all creatures as you love yourself; you will entertain equal towards all. Tuka says, ‘Narayan has showered His mercy on me. That is why I feel like this towards all beings’.”
As Rameshwar read the reply and came to the words, “and even suffering due to the burning of the body will vanish”, his body became free of all suffering and thus it was firmly impressed on him that he had done great injustice to Tukaram. From that time Rameshwar became a great admirer and an ardent follower of Tukaram.
By this incident, Tukaram’s name and fame spread far and wide; but he himself remained poor. He was always doing bhajan and Kirtan and he earned nothing. The burden of maintaining the family consisting of himself, wife and children fell on his poor wife. Tukaram was so absorbed in his Bhajan that generally he forgot about his dinner. His wife had to take his food, search for him and serve him wherever he was to be found. Mostly he was found on the Bhamgiri hill. Tukaram’s wife had to undergo many difficulties in maintaining the family; but she was a good though she was apt to lose her temper sometimes. Before his death, Tukaram himself acknowledged her devotion and purity.
Shivaji was a great admirer of Tukram and sent him a large number of costly presents and also invited him to his court. Tukaram refused both the presents and the invitation, saying that he had nothing to do with earthly kings. Then Shivaji himself came to Tukaram and stayed with him for several days and pressed him to accept some presents which Tukaram steadily refused. One day, Shivaji was so much impressed and moved by the praises, songs and bhajan of Tukaram that he, for the moment, wanted to give up his kingdom and take to Bhajan and follow Tukaram. But Tukaram dissuaded him from doing so. He reminded Shivaji of his duty to his subjects, to Hindu religion and to Dharma and finally advised him thus: “In order to realise God, it is not necessary to give up food or water and go to a forest. If the worldly pleasures come to you of themselves, enjoy them by all means, but only in the name of god who dwells in all of us. Do not desire anything and do not give up anything. This is my simple and only advice to you”. Shivaji returned to his court a happier and a more contented man.
He prayed to the Lord that he might be taken away soon to His lotus feet where he could remain worshipping Him continuously forever and anon. When Tukaram’s end was near, he told his friends that he would be going away in a few days. The night before his departure, Tukaram performed a Kirtan which was memorable in many respects. The subject was Harikatha. Tukaram said, “Harikatha is like the union of three holy rivers-God, the devotee and His Name. By listening to it, all one’s sins are burnt off and one is purified. Even the pebbleslying around become holy and fit to be worshipped. Those among you who wish to be fit for heaven should take the holy Prasad. This is the easiest way to attain heaven”. The next morning Tukaram said to his wife, “You will soon get a son called ‘Narayan’ and he will make you happy.
“Though you all bear the responsibilities or family life, never forget Pandurang never forget to worship Him and sing his praises. Pandharpur is very near you. It is the Vaikuntha on this earth. Go and worship the Lord there. It is my experience that the Name of the Lord alone will save you at the time of death. All of you have protected and maintained me in your midst for such a long time.
I can never repay you and I am very grateful to you. I shall ever pray to Vithoba to bless you all and take you all to heaven after this life. This is my goodbye to you all and this is my advice to you. I prostrate before you and beseech you with tears never to forget the Name of the Lord. Always do Kirtan and Bhajan of Lord Narayana. Do not be anxious about your material welfare. The lord will look to it. This is all ephemeral. The Lord’s Name is eternal. Depend on it only. Ever sing the praises of the lord. Do Japa of Ramakrishna Hari and He will always save you? This is my last request and advice”.
Thus passed away one of the great saints of Maharashtra with God’s Name on his lips, singing praises of Him. Tukaram left this world in the year 1649 when he was forty-one years old. It is believed that Lord Vishnu sent His own chariot and servants to take Tukaram to His abode.
The name of Saint Jnaneshwar is on the lips of everyone in Maharashtra. He was a born Siddha. He was a Yogi of high attainments. He had control over the elements. His work Jnaneshwari is the crest-jewel of Marathi literature. The simple style, the beautiful illustrations and the apt similes have rendered the book attractive, charming and extremely useful. Janeshwari is to Maharashtrians what the Ramayan of Tulsidas is to the Hindi-speaking people. Jnanadev lived for a few years, but he did wonders. He was a genius, a Yogi of deep spiritual experiences and a sage of supreme order. He boldly criticized his predecessors. He was a great social and religious reformer. He laid the foundation of the great Bhakti movement in Maharashtra. He was a fine poet to boot.
The life history, origin and other particulars of great saints, prophets and world teachers are all very strange and mysterious. Jnanadev was born of a Sannyasin. Kabir was the son of a weaver. He was found in a lake. Sankara was a poor child of Kaladi.
Jnanadev, or Jnaneshwar (Lord of Jnana or knowledge) as he is sometimes called, was one of the ancient saints of Maharashtra. He, and Mukund Rai who lived about a hundred years earlier to him, are the founders of the Bhakti Panth in Maharashtra.
In the thirteenth century, there lived in Apegaon a village accountant called Govindapanth. He had only one son named Vittalpanth. Vittalpanth was the father of Jnanadev. Vittalpanth was pious and dispassionate even from his boyhood. He was fond of pilgrimage to holy places. He was a profound scholar in Sanskrit. His heart yearned for Self-realization. He had a great liking for taking Sannyasa.
Vittalpanth married Rukmabai, daughter of Sridharpanth of Alandi, which is twelve miles from Pune and which contains the Samadhi of Jnanadev.
Vittalpanth was disgusted with worldly life. He went out on a pilgrimage and returned back to Alandi. He wanted to take Sannyasa. His wife and father-in-law were not in favor of his taking Sannyasa.
Vittalpanth went to Varanasi and took Sannyasa from sripad Yati (Ramananda Swami). Rukmabai came to know that her husband had entered the fourth Ashrama of life. This was a great shock to her. She prayed to God fervently for reunion with her husband.
Sripad Yati, the Guru of Vittalpanth, happened to come to Alandi on his way to Rameswaram. Rukmabai approached him and prostrated before him. The Yati blessed her: “You will be the mother of eight sons”. Rukmabai wept bitterly. The Yati said, “O blessed lady! What is the cause of your sorrow?” Then Rukmabai explained everything to the Yati.
The yati thought that the young man who took Sannyasa from him must be the husband of this lady. At once he gave up his idea of going to Rameswaram. He returned to Varanasi, rebuked his disciple and said, “Go back to Grihastha Ashrama and make your wife happy. She wants to serve you. My blessings are with you”.
Then Vittalpanth carried out the orders of his Guru and came back to Alandi and lived with Rukmabai. The orthodox Brahmins of Alandi outcasted him and his wife. They said, “It is against scriptures to take to married life again after taking Sannyasa”. But Vittalpanth thought that he was doing the right thing as he was following the instructions of his Guru.
In course of time, four children were born to Vittalpanth and Rukmabai-Nivritti in 1273 A.D., (three sons and a daughter). Nivritti is regarded as an incarnation of Siva, Jnanadev as an incarnation of Hari, Sopan of brahma and Muktabai of Sarasvati.
On one occasion, Vittalpanth went with his children to Tryambakeshwar, near Nasik, situated in the vicinity of the source of the river Godavari. As they were going round the Brahmagiri Mountain, they met a tiger. Vittalpanth hurried away with his children, but missed Nivrittinath. Nivrittinath entered the cave of Jnaninath. Jnaninath initiated Nivritti into the mysteries of Yoga and gave him all his spiritual wealth. Some day later, Nivritti joined his father and younger brothers.
Nivritti became a disciple of Jnaninath, who himself was a disciple of Gorakhnath. Gorakhnath was a disciple of matsyendranath who received spiritual instructions from lord Siva Himself. Nivritti and Jnanadev studied Vedas under their father. They now made great progress in the study of spiritual books.
Vittalpanth, on his return to Alandi, was treated as an outcaste by the Brahmins. He and his family members were put to a great deal of hardship and humiliation. Other children of the village would not mix with their children in play.
The sons attained boyhood. The parents wanted to perform their holy-thread ceremony. The Brahmins declined to perform it. They said, “A Sannyasin should not lead the married life. The scriptures do not allow the performance of the thread ceremony of a Sannyasin’s children. Sons born of a Sannyasin cannot have the right of wearing the thread. They cannot be considered as Brahmins. You and your wife have violated the sacred laws of the scriptures. There is only one Prayaschitta for you both. You both should give up your lives in the Triveni of Prayag”.
Vittalpanth and Rukmabai left Alandi and sacrificed their lives at the confluence of the Ganga and the Yamuna at Prayag. They thought that the Brahmins would take pity on their sons at least then and perform the thread ceremony. Nivritti was then about ten years, Jnanadev about eight and the youngest about five years.
Jnanadev was very keen on wearing the holy thread in order to fulfill the desire of his parents who had sacrificed their lives even for that purpose. He purpose. He again approached the Brahmins of Alandi. The Brahmins now were moved to pity when they saw the helpless condition of those boys. They said to them, “Bring a letter of authorization from the learned Brahmins of Paithan. We will then perform the thread ceremony for you” The boys went to Paithan and saw the learned Brahmins. They recited the Vedas. The Brahmins said, “You are not entitled to recite the Vedas. Stop the recitation now. You are the sons of a Sannyasin who came back again to his Grihastha Ashrama”. Jnanadev replied, “Anybody may recite the Vedas. Even this buffalo may recite”. He placed his hand on the back of the buffalo and immediately the buffalo recited the Vedas for one hour, from the point where Jnanadev had left, with correct rhythm and intonation. The Brahmins were struck with wonder and awe. They said, “These are not ordinary boys. They are the very incarnations of Shankar, Vishnu and Brahma”. Really the boys were born Siddhas. Even then the Brahmins refused to perform the thread ceremony, though they admitted the greatness of the boys. The buffalo of Paithan died at Ale in the district of Pune. There is a Samadhi for this buffalo. This Samadhi exists even now.
The boys stayed at Paithan and taught the Gita to the people. Jnanadev performed many miracles. A Brahim had to perform the anniversary of his father. The Brahmins did not turn up. Jnanadev brought the Pitris themselves to earth from the heaven. He brought to life a dead man. The man’s name was Sachidananda Pava.
Jnanadev wrote Jnaneshwari, his wonderful commentary on the Gita, at the age of thirteen. The book was completed in 1212 at Nevasa, a town on the banks of the Pravara river in the district of Ahmednagar. The actual writer was Sachidananda Pava. Jnanadev’s commentary on the Gita is considered as one of the best. In a big assembly of Sanskrit Pundits in Varanasi, Jnanadev was elected as the president.
Nivritti, Jnanadev, Sopan and Muktabai went on a pilgrimage and visited Pandharpur, Prabhasa, Dwaraka, Ayodhya, Mathura, Hardwar, Varanasi, Kanchi, Ujjain, Tirupathi, Rameswaram, Madurai, Gokaran and other places. Namdev accompanied them.
Jnanadev lived for about six years after he had completed Jnaneshwari Gita.
Jnanadev met Chang Dev. Chang Dev was a famous saint who had managed to defy death by his Yogic powers for a thousand and four hundred years. He used to live at Vateshwar. He was very proud of his attainments in Yoga. He had Bhuta Siddhi or complete control over all living beings. He used to travel on a tiger with a serpent as whip. Chang Dev had a curiosity to see Jnanadev. He started with a large number of disciples, riding on a tiger with a serpent as whip. Jnanadev and his brothers saw Chang Dev coming in all pomp. Jnanadev asked the wall on which he was seated to move forward to welcome Chang Dev.
Chang Dev witnessed this great miracle performed by Jnanadev. He was humiliated. He quietly got down from the tiger. Made prostrations to Jnanadev and accepted him as his Guru.
Mukta, a mere girl of fourteen, gave instructions to chang Dev, an old man of a thousand and four hundred years. She said, “O Chang Dev! Listen. If you want to attain salvation, the first step is sincere devotion. Devotion will bring Vairagya. Vairagya will lead to Jnana. Therefore your aim should be Jnana and your first foot must be on devotion”.
Jnanadev had full control over the elements. When there was no vessel to prepare food, his sister prepared bread on his back. Jnanadev is regarded as an Avatara of Lord Krishna.
Nivritti was really the Guru of Jnanadev. Nivritti asked Jnanadev to write an independent book embodying all his experiences in Jnana. Jnanadev wrote Amritanubhava that contains the highest experiences of Jnanadev in 800 couplets.
Jnanadev made it known to his friends and brothers that it was his desire to enter into Sanjivani Samadhi or Samadhi while alive. This he did at Alandi on the 13th day of the dark half of the Kartik month, about the end of October 1296, in his twenty-second year. He drew up all the Prana to the Brahmarandra and gave up the physical body. If anybody reads the Gita written by him by the side of his Samadhi, all his doubts will be cleared.
All the other brothers and the sister also left the world within a short space of less than eight months. Sopan entered into Samadhi on the banks of the river Karha at Saswad, which is at the bottom of the hill Purandhar, near Pune. Chang Dev attained Samadhi in a village called punatamba. Muktabai dissolved herself in the five elements at the age of eighteen, when there was a big storm. Nivritti entered into Samadhi at Tryambak that is at the source of the Godavari.
Thus passed the four great souls. When a period of twenty-five years, they broke down the bigotry of the Brahmins of the period, raised them from the darkness of ignorance, firmly established the path of Bhakti and Jnana, made people realise that all were equal and it was the actions which counted for the glory and excellence of a man and not the accident of birth or the mere study of the Vedas and Vedanta. Among Jnanadev’s followers were Namdev, a tailor; Namdev’s maid-servant Jani; Narahari, a goldsmith; Chokamela, a Mahar; Sena, a barber; Gora, a potter; Savanta, a gardener; and Bhagu, a Maharin, who were all respected as great devotees of Krishna.
Jnanadev was the founder of an institution called Warkari Sampradaya, which is still alive in all its glory in Maharashtra. It is called “Wari to Pandharpur” All who have accepted this wari undertake to go to Pandharpur on Ashadh Ekadasi (June-July) and Kartik Ekadasi (October-November) days every year. They must visit Pandharpur at least once annually, if not on both these days. It is considered so very sacred that except in the event of physical illness, they continue to go to pandharpur year after year through the whole life and from generation to generation.
May you all draw inspiration from the life of Jnanadev! May you all soar high in the realms of knowledge by studying carefully Jnaneshwari and Amritanubhava! May the blessings of Jnanadev, a rare Siddha Yogi, be upon you all! May you all visit his place of Samadhi in Alandi during his anniversary day and receive the blessings of the saint who still feeds, in secrecy, his devotees with the nectar of immortality!!