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Great Indian Leaders

Lives Of Indian Saints
By Swami Sivananda, August 2001

Chapter :

Saints of North India

The saints included in this chapter are Tulsidas, Kabir, The Saintly King Pi Tulsidas, Kabir, The Saintly King Pipa, Narsi Mehta, Dadu, Akha, Milarepa of Tibet, Gorakhnath and Saint Haridas. I have covered Tulsidas, Kabir and Narsi Mehta.


 Tulsidas was born in Rajpur, in the district of Banda in Uttar Pradesh, in Samvat 1589 or 1532 A.D. He was a Sarayuparina Brahmin by birth and is regarded as an incarnation of Valmiki, the author of Ramayana written in Sanskrit. His father’s name was Atmaram Shukla Dube and his mother’s name Hulsi. Tulsidas did not cry at the time of his birth. He was born with all the thirty-two teeth intact. In childhood his name was Tulsiram or Ram Bola.

 Tulsidas’s wife’s name was Buddhimati (Ratnavali). Tulsidas’s son’s name was Tarak. Tulsidas was passionately attached to his wife. He could not bear even a day’s separation from her. One day his wife went to her father’s house without informing her husband. Tulsidas stealthily went to see her at night at his father-in-law’s house. This produced a sense of shame in Buddhimati. She said to Tulsidas, “My body is but a network of flesh and bones. If you would develop for lord Rama even half the love that you have for my filthy body you would certainly cross the ocean of Samsara and attain immortality and eternal bliss”. These words pierced the heart of Tulsidas like an arrow. He did not stay there even for a moment. He abandoned home and became an ascetic. He spent fourteen years in visiting the various sacred places of pilgrimage.

 While returning from answering the call of nature, Tulsidas used to throw the water that was left in his water-pot at the roots of a tree which a spirit was occupying. The spirit was very much pleased with Tulsidas. The spirit said, “O man! Get a boon from me”. Tulsidas replied, “Let me have Darshan of lord Rama”. The spirit said, “Go to the Hanuman temple. There Hanuman comes in the guise of a leper to hear the Ramayan as the first hearer and leaves the place last of all. Get hold of him. He will help you”. Accordingly, Tulsidas met Hanuman, and through His grace, had Darshan or vision of Lord Rama.

 Tulsidas wrote twelve books. The most famous book is his Ramayan-Ram_charit-manas-in Hindi. He wrote this book under the directions of Hanuman. This Ramayan is read and worshipped with great reverence in every Hindu home in Northern India. It is an inspiring book. It contains sweet couplets in beautiful rhyme. Vinaya Patrika is another important book written by Tusidas.

 Some thieves came to Tulsidas’s Ashram to take away his goods. They saw a blue-complexioned guard, with bow and arrow in his hands, keeping watch at the gate. Wherever they moved, the guard followed them. They were frightened. In the morning they asked Tulsidas, “O venerable saint! We saw a young guard with bow and arrow in his hands at the gate of your residence. Who is this man”? Tulsidas remained silent and wept. He came to know that Lord Rama Himself had been taking the trouble to protect his goods. He at once distributed all his wealth among the poor.

 Tulsidas lived in Ayodhya for some time. Then he shifted to Varanasi. One day a murderer came and cried, “For the love of Rama give me alms. I am a murderer”. Tulsi called him to his house gave him sacred food, which had been offered to the lord and declared that the murderer was purified. The Brahmins of Varanasi reproached Tulsidas and said, “How can the sin of a murderer be absolved? How could you eat with him? If the sacred bull of Siva-Nandi-would eat from the hands of the murderer, then only we would accept that he had been purified”. Then the murderer was taken to the temple and the bull ate from his hands. The Brahmins were put to shame.

 Tulsidas once went to Brindavan. He visited a temple. He saw the image of lord Krishna. He said, “How shall I describe The beauty, O Lord! But Tulsi will bow his head only when You take up bow and arrow in Your hands”. The Lord revealed Himself before Tulsidas in the form of Lord Rama with bow and arrows.

 Tulsidas’s blessings brought the dead husband of a poor woman back to life. The Moghul emperor at Delhi came to know of the great miracle done by Tulsidas. He sent for Tulsidas. Tulsidas came to the emperor’s court. The emperor asked the saint to perform some miracle. Tulsidas replied, “I have no superhuman power. I know only the name of Rama”. The emperor put Tulsi in prison and said, “I will release you only if you show me a miracle”. Tulsi then prayed to Hanuman. Countless bands of powerful monkeys entered the royal court. The emperor got frightened and said, “O saint, forgive me. I know your greatness now”. He at once released Tulsi from prison.

 Tulsi left his mortal coil and entered the Abode of Immortality and Eternal Bliss in 1623 A.D. at the age of ninety one at Asighat in Varanasi.


Kabir was born in 1440 A.D. The probable date of his death is 1519 A.D. as mentioned in Kabir Ka Santi. Kabir died at Maghar near Gorakhpur. He was found lying as a child in the take called Lahar Talao near Kashi on a leaf of lotus. Here he was found by niru, a childless Mohammedan weaver who was going with his wife Nima to attend a function in a neighboring village. They took compassion on the forsaken baby. They took him to their home and there they brought him up as their own child. A Kazi was called in to give the child a name. The Kazi told Niru that the child was a demon and should be killed immediately. A miracle happened. The knife was plunged into the heart of the child. No drop of blood came out. Kabir uttered a verse, which made them understand that he was not ordinary flesh and blood. Then the name ‘Kabir’ was given to the child. The word ‘Kabir’ means ‘great’ in the Arabic language.

Kabir seems to have been of Hindu parentage, though adopted and brought up as a Mohammedan. It is said that he was born of a Brahmin girl-widow, who, to hide her shame, left the child in the lake. But in a stanza, Kabir denies his own conception in a womb. He says that he was not born nor did he dwell in a womb (vide page 122, Vol. VI, of Macauliff’s Sikh Religion). Kabir grew up without food. His adopted parents became very anxious about him. Then he began to drink the milk of a calf that yielded milk daily in a miraculous manner.

The life of Kabir is shrouded in mystery. We know nothing of his early training and career. What has been discovered in the way of his biographical details is very little Beyond the facts that he was a weaver, born of poverty-stricken parents, that he lived at Kashi during the reign of Sikander Lodi, that he was a disciple of the great religious reformer Ramananda, and that he himself was the Guru of a number of distinguished disciples, we know positively nothing about Kabir.

From his early boyhood, Kabir was very much religiously inclined. He was of a reflective disposition. He had very often his mystic moods. Even in his childhood he engaged himself in discussions about god with Sadhus. He received and served Sadhus and Sannyasins with intense devotion and faith. Though his foster-father got him married, Kabir was not attached to home and family. He used to roam about the holy city of Kashi. He earned his livelihood from the loom.

He was loved by Hindus and Muslims alike. He was not of one religion or of one nation. He was the prophet of universal brotherhood. He did not observe the rules of caste. He recognized the higher harmony of Hinduism and Islam. He realized the truth that religion, spirituality, love, devotion, faith and divine life were the monopoly of no one religion, but were common to all religions. Kabir’s religion was a religion of simplicity. His motto was love. His means of salvation was devotion to God and God alone. Kabir’s home was the universe, his brother was mankind and his great father was the Father in Heaven. Kabir did not renounce the world in order to devote himself to the practice of severe austerities and meditation. He was a dynamic Yogi. He worked at the loom, and at the same time, his mind was ever fixed on God.

Kabir was an exponent of Nirguna Bhakti. He had supreme love for all. He was exceedingly kind and compassionate. He was fearless. He never asked anybody to follow him. He roamed about the country singing his songs. He condemned all formalities and ritualism. He made a vehement criticism of conventions. He was a social revolutionary. He also endeavored strenuously for the social, moral and spiritual uplift of the people. That is the reason why he still lives in the heart of all people.

Kabir was a great propagandist in his own way. He tried his level best to bring about concord and harmony among the diversity existing around him. His poetry was full of criticism of the Mullahs and the priests. Kabir not only preached, but lived the life of unity of men and creeds. He used his songs as weapons against the Mullahs and the priests. He did not spare words in the wars he waged against Muslim and Hindu orthodoxy. Kabir was a powerful saint with Self-realization that lent him the authority to
live and preach the Truth without fear or restraint.

Kabir, the poet-saint of Kashi, is one of the most interesting personalities in the history of Indian mysticism. He was an illustrious philosopher-poet. He was a skilled musician and a poet as well. He was a prophet. His songs are wonderful. They are the spontaneous expressions of his spiritual experience and his love. Kabir used homely metaphors in his songs. He sang his religion in popular verse. His verses are repeated, even today, in almost every household in Uttar pradesh and Punjab. Kabir’s doctrines are soul stirring and magnanimous. Some of Kabir’s poems are very mystic.

Kabir’s works are mostly collections of songs composed in the various meters of old Hindi. There are seventy-two works. The most important and famous works are: the KabirBijak, the Suknidhan, Sabdas, Sakhis, Rekhtas, Mangal, Vasant and holi Agams The Kabir Bijak is the great authority on all religious matters and doctrines of the Kabir-panthis.
 Kabir’s language is very simple. His style is beautiful His expression of ideas is very bold. His poetic composition is most natural. Each couplet is pregnant with deep significance. The similies and metaphors are most appropriate. Other characteristic features are depth of feeling and directness of speech. The expressions have emanated straight from Kabir’s heart. Kabir’s skill in compressing a world of sense in a simple couplet is marvelous and unrivalled. His sayings are unparalleled. His poems are soul-stirring and inspiring. There is depth of thought and penetrative insight.

Saying of Kabir (excerpts)
1. If you have no devotion to God, you will not gain anything by pilgrimage. You may roam over the country and yet your heart will be impure. The man who has gone to Varanasi to see Lord Viswanath, but has not destroyed hypocrisy, lust and greed and has no devotion, will gain nothing.
2. The diamond appraiser only can know the value of the diamond Kabir says: only he who has developed devotion can attain god.
3. Have no faith in this perishable body. Remember the Lord by all your breaths; that is the only way to salvation.
4. ‘Virtue’ abides where there is compassion, ‘vice’ where there is greed; ‘death’ where there is wrath, and the lord Himself where there is forgiveness.
5. Have patience; everything comes out in time. The gardener waters the plant daily, but it bears fruit only in season.
6. There is no greater evil than a bad word; it burns everything into ashes. A kind word is, on the contrary, like rain that falls in nectar-like torrents.
7. Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today, nor till the evening what you can do this very moment; for you know not when death may overtake you, upsetting all your plans.
8. He alone is the hero who has all the five senses at his command. He who has no such control never approaches the Lord.
9. Just as sugar toys are made of sugar and sugar exists in all of them, even so, the whole universe exists in Brahman and Brahman in it.


 Narsi Mehta belonged to a vadanagar Nagar-Brahmin family of Junagarh in Kathiawar, Gujarat. He was born of a very poor family. From his very boyhood he had great devotion to Lord Krishna. He lived with his brother. All the time he kept singing songs on Krishna and Gopi Lila and dancing in ecstasy. As he did not care a bit for any of the household matters and as he did not earn anything, his brother’s wife taunted and till-treated him. Narsi Mehta never entertained any idea of earning his livelihood. He had the firm conviction that Lord Krishna would provide him with all his wants. This was due to his previous Samskaras. He was of a happy-go-lucky nature. He did Tapasya at Gopinath, situated on the seaside. He had the Darshan of Lord Krishna through the grace of Lord Siva. He came back to his house and got married. He had a son by name Shyamaldass and a daughter by name Kunwarbai.

 Narsi Mehta was a contemporary of Mira Bai. He had Sakhya Bhav. He would address Lord Krishna in terms of equality. He was a simple-minded, frank Bhakta. He saw Lord Krishna everywhere and in everything. He had Para Bhakti and cosmic consciousness. He composed a poem ‘Hari Mala’ it is said that his daughter’s marriage was conducted by Lord Krishna Himself with great pomp and eclat. Though Narsi Mehta was very poor, rich marriage-presents given to Kunwarbai’s mother-in-law greatly astonished all.

 After the death of his wife and son, Narsi became free. He began devoting all his time to worship and singing of Bhajans. He became an Ativarnashrami. He broke down all caste rules and observances. He held Kirtan everywhere, even in the house of sweepers and men of inferior caste. The other Nagar-Brahmins hated Narsi and also outcasted him. They refused to admit him in one of their feasts. Another miracle happened now. A Dom or a man of inferior caste was found by the side of each Brahmin. The haughty Nagar-Brahmins were cowed down. They began to show respect to Narsi. They openly admitted and declared that Narsi Mehta was a great Bhakta.

 The world has not produced a Bhakta greater than Narsi in this Yuga. Narsi’s devotion was of a unique nature. He has pointed out to the world the true path of devotion. That is the reason why he still lives in our hearts, why his inspiring song “Vaishnava Janatho Thene Kahiye” that gives a fine description of a true Vaishnava, is sung even today by all the Bhaktas.

 Glory to Narsi! Glory to Hari! Glory to His Name!

Chapter :

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[24] Comment(s) Posted
  1. Comment By - Mohan Pujar Date - 15 Apr 2016 Time - 6:16AM
  2. Chokha Mela`s devotion to Lord Vitthala is unparalleled. Being untouchable everyday he used to sweep outside premises of the Vitthala`s temple in Pandharpur while continuously chanting "Vitthal, Vitthal". But he was never allowed entry into the temple. One day while he stood outside the temple chanting holy name one devotee said, "Chokhya, why do you chant God`s name unnecessarily, when you are never going to get his darshan." On hearing his words Chokha started to weep inconsolably saying, "Oh Panduranga, what sin did I commit to be born in this caste? Unless I get your darshan, my human birth will be wasted." God is hungry for pure mind and devotion. He was pleased with Chokha`s pure devotion, He came out of sanctum-sanctorum at midnight, hugged Chokha and took him inside the temple. Chokha was extremely happy. He prostrated at the holy feet of God, who put the Ratnamala in Chokha`s neck. While both talked in sanctum is an to run, the priest overheard it, as he was sleeping inside the temple behind sanctus sanctorum. He could recognize Chokha`s voice but not the other voice. He realized it was Lord Panduranga. He was stunned, dismayed and felt very jealous of Chokha. Next morning he asked Chokha about it, who admitted that he spoke to Lord at night. Terribly upset he said, "Chokhya, you have polluted our temple. You must leave Pandharpur immediately. Otherwise, I will tell everyone that you polluted the temple." Poor Chokha, he didn`t want to disturb others, so he left Pandharpur, crossed river Chamdrabhaga and started to live on the other bank of river peacefully. Such was his pure devotion that Panduranga started to visit him across the river.

  3. Comment By - Mohan Pujar Date - 13 Apr 2016 Time - 3:14PM
  4. Samarth Ramdas had young boy namely Madhukar as his disciple, whose native place was far away from Sajjangad. Madhukar used to accompany Samarth wherever the latter went and asked for Bhiksha in five homes after uttering Five shokas from Manache Shlok. Once when both were touring Maharashtra, Madhukar went for Bhiksha, while Samarth rested in Hanuman temple. The first house which Madhukar visited belonged to a person who was well-versed with astrology. As soon as he saw Madhukar, he came out and said, "Why do you want Bhiksha, when you are doing to die tomorrow?" After hearing this Madhukar started to tremble with fear and came to Samarth running. He was running a high fever. Samarth asked him why he looked panicky and Madhukar told him everything. Samarth asked him to sleep. Madhukar started to rave in fever, "Oh, mother, father, how I can I see you? You are far away, while I am going to die tomorrow. What shall I do?" The whole night he was raving. Samarth woke up in the morning and asked him to take bath. Madhukar said, "Samarth, why do I need to take bath, when I am going to die today?" Samarth said, "No problem. Take bath and die." Thereafter, Samarth took Madhukar in his lap and bathed him with utmost affection. After sometime Samarth said, "Madhukar, eat some rice gruel." Madhukar said, "Samarth, where is the need to take rice gruel when I am going to die today?" Samarth said, "Oh no. You can take rice gruel an then die." Samarth made him to drink rice gruel. Thereafter, Samarth himself took bath, completed his worship of Lord Ramachandra had rice gruel and lay down. He told Madhukar, "Madhukar, I could not sleep the whole night because of your raving. Now I want to sleep a while. Be a guard here, do not leave this place under any circumstances." No sooner, Samarth slept, Madhukar saw two terrifying black men with staff in their hands coming close to him. But they asked him to come towards them. Madhukar realized the instruction of Samarth and he refused to go near them. They repeatedly called him, but he stubbornly refused to go near them. After some time, Samarth woke up and asked him, "Oh Madhukar, how are you alive? Were not you supposed to die today?" Madhukar bowed and touched the holy feet of Samarth and said, "Samarth, I know you have saved me from death." Samarth said, "OK. Then go and bring Bhiksha from the same house, which you visited yesterday." Madhukar was scared. Seeing him, Samarth said, "Don`t worry, the bad time has already passed." Madhukar went to the same home and chanted Manache shloka. The owner came out and was stunned to see Madhukar, alive and healthy. He said, "It appears that your Sadguru is quite powerful, it appears." Madhukar took him to Samarth in Hanuman temple. After meeting him, Samarth said, "Are you a professional astrologer?" He said, "It is not my profession. It is just my hobby." Then Samarth said, "In that case, you should not be using your skills on young boys like Madhukar. You could tell these prophecies to old people who have lived their lives and completed their responsibilities." The person was ashamed, asked for forgiveness of Samarth and left. Such was the prowess of Samarth Ramdas, who ward off the death of his beloved disciple.

  5. Comment By - Mohan Pujar Date - 13 Apr 2016 Time - 1:50PM
  6. There are, once again, two versions to Meera’s final communion with her Supreme Lord Krishna. In one version, the following took place on Krishna’s JanmAshtami at the temple of Ranchchorji (Krishna). There was much happiness all around in the temple of the Lord. The light of the lamps, the sound of the bhajans and the energy from the devotees’ ecstacy had the air. With Ektari in one hand and cymbals or chiplya in the other the great tapasvini was singing ecstatically with her Giridhar Gopala smiling in front of her closed eyes. Meera stood up and danced singing a song ‘Mere Janama MaRAna ke sAthee’ (meaning: O Lord, my friend during my life and thereafter in death), and when the song ended, Kumbha gently approached her and requested her to come back. Meera said, ‘RAnaji, the body is yours and you are a great devotee, but my mind, emotions and the soul are all HIS. I do not know what use am I to you in this state of mind’. Kumbha was moved and he started singing with her in unison. Meera rose up abruptly, stumbled and fell at the flowers which were offered at the holy feet of GiridhAri. ‘Oh, GiridhAri, are you calling me, I am coming’. While Kumbha and the rest of the devotees watched in awe, there was a lightning which enveloped Meera and the doors of the sanctum sanctorum closed on their own. When the doors opened again, Meera’s saree was enveloping Lord Krishna’s idol and her voice and the flute accompaniment were the only sounds that could be heard. In the second version, Meera was invited back to Mewar by the RAna just as she had reached Dwaraka. Reluctant to leave her Krishna, Meera asked permission to spend the night at the temple of Ranchhorji. The next morning her lifeless body was found lying at its feet. It is believed that her spirit entered the deity during the night.%0d%0aHistorians and scholars put this date at 1546 A.D. All in all, the supreme devotee Meerabai reached her true abode, the Vaikuntha to be with Lord ShriHari forever, never to return to this mortal world filled with transient joys and long-lasting sorrows. But before leaving this world of Maya, she set the highest standards of pure mind, total and unconditional devotion and complete surrender (Sharanagati) to the Lord Krishna, the Monarch of Kaivalyadham.

  7. Comment By - RAMESH LAXMIKANT ADWANT Date - 25 Aug 2015 Time - 4:20AM
  8. It was really interesting to read the lives of great saints of Maharashtra. The present culture is a reflection of the great past. Your effort is laudable. The only problem for the rational thinking people is whether the miracles mentioned are really true. But it is true faith and a sense of total surrender that can explain the miracles probably or one must be born in a culture and experienced the life to understand the great lives of the saints.I am really moved at times and become speechless when I listen to the Bhajans written by these saints. I would be happy to know more about the bhakti cult of Maharashtra.

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