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 Vitthal was pure and unmatched. He migrated to Pandharpur and became a desciple of the great sant-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 of them 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 Vitthal'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 Vitthal.
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.
Mukta Bai or Muktai was a Sant in the Varkari tradition. Mukta Bai was born in 1279 in Alandi near Pune and belonged to a Deshastha Brahmin family. She was the younger sister of highly revered Dnyaneshwar (Jnanadev), the first Varkari Sant , but Muktabai is a profound poet-sant in her own right. Mukta Bai wrote forty-one Abhang throughout her life span. "Tati ughada dnaneshwara" is one of her most insightful works, being a conversation with Sant Dnyaneshwar. It is regarded as one of the most significant woks of Marathi literature. According to Mukta Bai, the definition of a Sant is "Sant jene vahave; jag bolane sosave" or a Sant is the one who can digest criticism of people. Jnanadev was the Guru of Sopan and Mukta Bai. All were devoted to Lord Vittal of Purandhpur.
The parents of Mukta Bai were Vittalpanth and Rukma Bai. Vittalpanth was a seeker of truth since a very young age. After his marriage with Rukma Bai, Vittalpanth decided to renounce the world. However, after knowing that he is married, his guru sent him back to his family. This incident brought social stigma to the family and the couple was looked down upon in the community. The couple bore four children, named Nivrithinath or Nivrutti (renunciation), Jnana or Jnanadev or Dnyaneshwar (knowledge), Sopan (stairway), and Mukta (liberation). The people of the village regarded Vittalpanth and his children with contempt and treated them badly. Ultimately, the parents died of a broken heart, leaving the children as orphans. Nivrutti brought up his younger brothers and sister. After the death of Vittalpanth and Rukma Bai the children resorted to begging to earn their living. Yet from this family emerged a spiritual vision of the highest stature.
Nivrutti is regarded as the incarnation of Lord Siva, Jnanadev as the incarnation of Sri Krishna, Sopan as the incarnation of Brahma and Mukta Bai as the incarnation of Saraswati or Adi Sakti. Grahinath was the Guru of Nivrutti and Nivrutti was the Guru of Jnanadev. Dnyaneshwar arrived at salvation or Samadhi at a very early age after which Nivrutti and Mukta started off for a pilgrimage along the River Tapi. Unfortunately, after getting struck in the thunderstorm, Mukta drowned in the river water and subsequently Nivrutti took his salvation at Tryambakeshwar. Nivrutti is believed to have penned down over 375 Abhangas, many of them face disputed authorship owing to different viewpoint and writing style. Dnyaneshwar or Jnanadev was the second brother of Mukta Bai. Nivruttinath, his elder brother instructed him to write a commentary on Bhagavad Gita. To follow his brother’s instruction Dnyaneshwar started writing and by the time the commentary was completed Dnyaneshwar was only 15 years old. Considered masterpieces of Marathi literature, Dnyaneshwar’s 18 chapters are composed in a meter called ‘ovi’. Dnyaneshwar has translated the divine knowledge from Sanskrit to Prakrit (Marathi) to make it available to the commoner.
Younger brother Sopandev attained Samadhi at Saswad near Pune. He wrote the book Sopandevi based on Bhagvad Gita's Marathi interpretation along with 50 or so Abhangas. Once Mukta Bai planned to prepare sweet buns for her brothers. She set off to the village asking for clay plate from the potters. However, confined by the order of the village leader Visoba Chaati, she was barred from getting a clay plate. When the disappointed sister arrived home, her elder brother Jnanadev asked her to prepare dough assuring that the hot plate would be ready soon. Jnanadev then bent down on the ground and heated his back so that her dearest sister could roast sweet buns on his back. Cruel Visoba peeped into Mukta’s house and watched the whole episode with utter astonishment. This incident marked the renunciation of Visoba Chaati as he emerged out as a great Sant who achieved Self- Realization and also became the renowned guru of Sant Namdev.
Removal of Ego: Mukta Bai was responsible for removing the film of ego from Sant Namdev’s mind. When the siblings first met Namdev in Pandharpur, Namdev was full of ego. Mukta Bai decided to remove false pride from the mind of Namdev. Along with Gora Kumbhar (the potter Sant ), she planned an eye opening lesson for Namdev. She asked the potter Sant to test the pots and he broke the pots on the head of Nivrutti, Jnanadev, Sopandev, Namdev and other Sants present. No one but Namdev reacted and got extremely furious with this gesture. Thus the Sant potter proclaimed all the Sants fully baked, except Namdev whom he proclaimed half-baked. Disappointed Namdev went to Lord Vittal (Lord Krishna) who explained him that since he was seeing god only in Lord Vittal, he was considered half- baked, while the others were aware of the all-pervading Creative Presence. After this incident Namdev went to Visoba Chaati who rendered unto him the complete enlightenment. It is believed that Nivrutti, Jnanadev, Sopan and Mukta Bai are the minor avatars of Lord Shankar, Lord Vishnu, Lord Brahma and Mother Saraswati respectively. Mukta Bai portrayed all the wisdom and enlightenment of Goddess Saraswati. Even though the siblings lost their parents in their younger age, Mukta Bai held together her small family. During her childhood incident when she was refused clay plate by the potters, Mukta Bai – the embodiment of wisdom and power – composed a song describing a Yogi’s true nature. In her wisdom, Mukta Bai says that a true Yogi never loses his control by getting influenced from his surroundings. A Yogi connects this universe with the essence of peace, love understanding and forgiveness.
In her amateur and spiritually infused song, she further explains that rather than communicating with the external world for social unity, one’s connection with his/her inner- self is all the more important. Love, ego, hatred, anger are all different temporary states of mind. In the end, it is chidakasha, only the pure state of awareness matters to one and all. During the yogic practice of self-purification, one has to digest the abuse given by others so as to free himself from his own impurities and also to gain the merits of the good deeds of others. Jnanadev received abuses and insults at the village. Mukta Bai counseled him to see this as divine grace and use it as means to his salvation. Hearing the advice of his younger sister, Jnanadev realized his Parabrahma Swaroop or Divine Form. He became Jnaneshwar or Dnyaneshwar. He then asked his sister to prepare the dough. He knelt down and invoked the yoga Shakti in his body. In this process, his back became very hot and Mukta Bai baked the buns on his back! In this way Mukta Bai awakened the latent Divinity in her brother and helped him manifest it in full form and Jnanadev became a realized being or Sant Jnaneshwar. Mukta Bai was a great Siddha and her Abhangas or bhajans have great meaning. She reveals the secrets of Maha Yoga and how to live a pious life by rising above false emotions, so as to reach out to God.
He was a 13th century Maharashtrian Hindu Sant (Sant - a title by which he is often referred), poet, philosopher and yogi of the Nath tradition whose works Bhavartha Deepika (a commentary on Bhagavad Gita, popularly known as "Dnyaneshwari"), and Amrutanubhav are considered to be milestones in Marathi literature. According to Nath tradition Sant Dnyaneshwar was the second of the four children of Vitthal Govind Kulkarni and Rukmini, a pious couple from Apegaon near Paithan on the banks of the river Godavari. Vitthal had studied Vedas and set out on pilgrimages at a young age. In Alandi, about 30 km from Pune, Sidhopant, a local Yajurveda brahmin, was very much impressed with him and Vitthal married his daughter Rukmini.
After some time, getting permission from Rukmini, Vitthal went to Kashi(Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, India), where he met Ramananda Swami and requested to be initiated into sannyas, lying about his marriage. But Ramananda Swami later went to Alandi and, convinced that his student Vitthal was the husband of Rukmini, he returned to Kashi and ordered Vitthal to return home to his family. The couple was excommunicated from the brahmin caste as Vitthal had broken with sannyas, the last of the four ashrams. Four children were born to them; Nivrutti in 1273, Dnyandev (Dnyaneshwar) in 1275, Sopan in 1277 and daughter Mukta in 1279. According to some scholars their birth years are 1268, 1271, 1274, 1277 respectively. It is believed that later Vitthal and Rukmini ended their lives by jumping into the waters at Prayag where the river Ganges meets Yamuna hoping that their children would be accepted into the society after their death. The couple set out on a pilgrimage with their children to Tryambakeshwar, near Nashik, where their elder son Nivrutti (at the age of 10) was initiated in to the Nath tradition by Gahininath. The paternal great grandfather of Dnyaneshwar had been initiated into the Nath cult by Goraksha Nath (Gorakh Nath). The orphaned children grew up on alms. They approached the Brahmin community of Paithan to accept them but the Brahmins refused. According to the disputed "Shuddhi Patra" the children were purified by the Brahmins on condition of observing celibacy. Their argument with the Brahmins earned the children fame and respect due to their righteousness, virtue, intelligence, knowledge and politeness. Dnyaneshwar became the student of Nivruttinath along with his younger siblings Sopan and Mukta at the age of 8. He learnt and mastered the philosophy and various techniques of kundalini yoga.
The child moved to Nevasa, a village in Ahmednagar district, where Dnyaneshwar began his literary work when Nivruttinath instructed him to write a commentary on Bhagavad Gita. The Dnyaneshwari or Bhavartha Deepika was written down by Sacchidananandbaba from discourses by Dnyaneshwar. By the time the commentary was complete Dnyaneshwar was only 15 years old. Considered a masterpieces of Marathi literature, the Dnyaneshwari's 18 chapters are composed in a metre called "ovi". Dnyaneshwar liberated the "divine knowledge" locked in the Sanskrit language to bring that knowledge into Prakrit (Marathi) and made it available to the common man. He was confident that he would write in marathi in as good or better manner than Sanskrit. Amrutanubhav, written some time after, is difficult and finds fewer readers. Containing 10 chapters and 806 ovi, the basis of this book is non dualism (advaita siddhanta). The seventh and biggest chapter (295 ovi) is the most important. Apart from Dnyaneshwari and Amrutanubhav works like Changdev Paasashti (a collection of 65 ovi addressed to an allegedly 1400 years old yogi named Changdev Maharaj), Haripath and around 1000 "abhanga" (authorship of many is disputed due to differences in writing style) are attributed to Dnyaneshwar.
Nivruttinath was the elder brother of Dnyaneshwar. Nivrutti was an authority on philosophy of the Nath sect. Gahininath, one of the nine Nath gurus, accepted Nivrutti as his disciple and initiated him into the Nath sect, instructing him to propagate devotion to Krishna. Dnyaneshwar accepted his elder brother as his own guru. After the early Samadhi of Dnyaneshwar, Nivrutti travelled with his sister Mukta on a pilgrimage along the Tapi river where they were caught in a thunderstorm and Mukta was swept away. Nivrutti took to salvation (Samadhi) at Tryambakeshwar. Around 375 abhangas are attributed to him but, the authorship of many of them is disputed due to difference in writing style and philosophy. Sopandev was a younger brother Sopandev attained ‘samadhi' at Saswad near Pune. He wrote a book "Sopandevi" based on the Bhagvadgita's Marathi interpretation along with 50 or so abhangas. Muktabai was the youngest of the siblings, Muktai or Muktabai was known for her simple and straightforward expression of thoughts. She could be considered as one of the first poetesses in Marathi along with Mahadamba. There are around 40 abhangas attributed to her. She accepted Yogi Changdev as her disciple. Dnyaneshwar introduced the Varkari Movement (or Vitthal Sampradaya) of Pandharpur (founder of the Varkari movement). The Varkaris soon considered him their teacher and spiritual leader, who initiated his contemporaries associated with the Dvaita (dualism) school of the bhakti movement into Advaita (non-dualism). He strongly advocated jnana yukta bhakti (devotion guided by knowledge). Every Year Around 3 Laks of Devotees Travel from Alandi to Phandharpur in month of June–July (Month Ashad in Hindu calendar). Varkari covers this journey by walk in 18 days, distance Travel from Alandi to Phandharpur is around 228 kilometers. Varkari travel along with Padukas (footwear) of Guru Dnyaneshwar in palkhi (palanquin). For year 2012 the Palakhi was scheduled on Jun 23 from Alandi.
After having composed Amrutanubhava, Dnyaneshwar made a pilgrimage to northern India with Namdev and other Sants . After completing this pilgrimage he expressed his intention to enter into a state of Samadhi because he felt that the mission of his life was complete. It is widely propagated that at the age of 21 on 13th day of the second half of Kartik in Shaka 1218, Dnyaneshwar entered into a permanent state of Sanjeevan Samadhi at Alandi in Maharashtra, India. An account of this incident is described by the contemporary Sant Namdev in a set of Abhangas named as Samadheeche Abhanga (translation: Abhangas of Samadhi). Stories recounted in many holy books of the Bhagawata Sampradaya sect about Dnyaneshwar’s life are full of miracles, such as the baking of bread (mānde, or roti in Hindi) on his heated back, and his making a wall move. Dnyaneshwar wrote the Pasayadan which is a prayer for the general well being of the people. Pasaydan is included in the end of the Dynaneshwari. Mauli Dnyaneshwar maharaj completed his work on Shrimad Bhagavad Gita(Have 700 Vowels in 18 chapters) called as Gyaneshwari or Dnyaneshwari which have 9000 vowels. Pasayadan is an 9 vowels work written at end of Gyaneshwari's 18 Chapter.
Sant eknath was a prominent Marathi Sant , scholar and religious poet. In the development of Marathi literature, Sant Eknath is seen as a bridge between the towering predecessors Dnyaneshwar and Naamdev and the equally noble successors Tukaram and Ramdas. Eknath was born sometime around 1530 AD in an illustrious Brahmin family of Pratisthan (Paithan today). They were said to be the Kulkarnis of the village, his real name is Eknath Suryajipant Kulkarni. Sant Bhanudas, who brought back the sacred image of Lord Pandurang, from Vijaynagar to Pandharpur, was Eknath’s great grandfather. Eknath was born under the star sign of ‘Mula’ in the sagittarius constellation, traditionally considered a bad omen for the parents of the child. The omen was borne out for Eknath’s father Suryanarayan and mother Rukmini, who died shortly after his birth and Eknath was brought up by his grandparents, Chakrapani and Saraswatibai. As an orphan, Eknath had to suffer the taunts of other children. He began avoiding their company and found refuge as a child in prayer and other devotional practices.
When about twelve years old, Eknath heard about Janardanswamy. This great scholar lived in Devgiri renamed as Daulatabad by the Muslim rulers of the time. Eager to become his disciple, Eknath trudged all the way to Devgiri. Janardaswamy was amazed by this extraordinarily gifted boy and readily accepted him as his disciple. He taught Eknath Vedanta, Nyaya, Meemansa, Yoga etc. and most importantly, Sant Dnyaneshwar’s works. Janardanswamy was a devotee of Lord Dattatreya, and this meant that Eknath's social and religious outlook consisted of tolerance and kindness toward all fellow beings. The Guru asked Eknath to go on a pilgrimage. He himself accompanied Eknath up to Nasik- Tryambakeshwar. there, Eknath wrote his famous treatise on the Chatushloki Bhagavat. In this Marathi commentary, he explained the significance of four sacred shlokas of the Bhagavat in 1036 specially metered verses known as ovee. After completing his pilgrimage, consisting of various holy places of west and north India, Eknath returned to Paithan. His grandparents were extremely delighted to see him again and implored him to marry. Eknath and his wife Girija were truly made for each other and established an ideal examples of ethical living. In time, the couple was blessed with two daughters, Godavari and Ganga and a son Hari.
Eknath was responsible for the rediscovery of the great work of Dnyaneshwar, the first bard of Marathi literature, the epic poem the Dnyaneshwari, which had been forgotten like many Hindu epics after the grinding Muslim invasions. About 230 years before the birth of Eknath, Dnyaneshwar had written an important commentary in Marathi in verse form on the geat sacred text in Sanskrit Bhagawad Geeta. It was called the Bhawarth-Deepika and it had come to be known as the Dnyaneshwari. During the intervening period between Dnyaneshwar and Eknath, Maharashtra, like the rest of the country, had been ravaged by Muslim invasions. Defeat after defeat had left the people demoralized. The people did not have their epics, their ballads, their poems to turn to, these had all been forgotten in a generation or two. Eknath saw that the need of the hour was a revival of Marathi literature, of the great epics, an education in the old values and if the once popular Marathi-worded Dnyaneshwari could be brought again to the people, they could be uplifted, morally and spiritually.
Eknath devoted himself to bringing about the epic poem's revival. His first task was to locate the "samadhi" of Dnyaneshwar to show to the people that Dnyaneshwar was not a mythological being, but a real man, one of their own. He then devoted a few, hard years in compiling an undistorted version of the Dnyaneshwari. Almost all of Eknath's writings were in verse form in Marathi. Eknath wrote a scholarly and lucid commentary, Eknathi Bhagawat, on the Eleventh Canto of the Sanscrit sacred text, the Bhagavata Purana. The commentary involved 18,800 owees. He wrote the first 25,000 owees of his another major work, the Bhawartha-Ramayana. A disciple called Gavba added 15,000 owees to complete this work. Eknath wrote Rukmini Swayamwar comprising 1,711 owees; it was based on 144 verses from the Bhagawat Purana. His work, Hastamalak, comprised 764 owees, and it was based on a 14-shlok Sanskrit hymn with the same name by Shankaracharya.
His other works were the Shukashtak (447 owees), the Swatma-Sukha (510 owees), the Ananda-Lahari (154 owees), the Chiranjeewa-Pad (42 owees), the Geeta-Sar, and the Prahlad-Wijaya. He introduced a new form of Marathi the religious song called Bharood, writing 300 of them. He also wrote 300 religious songs in the Abhang form. He was also a preacher, and gave many public discourses. Eknath initiated in Maharashtra a movement called Wasudewa Sanstha. It involved house-to- house visitations by individuals known as Wasudewa, who, standing in front of peoples' houses, spread religious messages through bhajans (ballads). Eknath was one of the earliest reformers of untouchability in Maharashtra, working as he was in the late Middle Ages. In times when Brahmins even avoided the shadow and the voice of an untouchable, he publicly showed courtesy toward untouchables and frequented them. Once he saved the life of a Mahar child, rescuing it from the scorching heat ,the child was wandering in the hot sand of the Godavari . The Brahmins of the village got angry at Eknath imparting his touch to the body of a backward. In an act meant to mollify them, he famously took a bath in the same river to wash away the impurity, hoping they would see the inhumanity of their taboos. His poems appeal their readers to treat each fellow being with kindness and humanity, as a brother, as a sister. This appeal also included birds and animals and plants. One of his most loved poems says, every soul you meet is your God. Eknath’s teachings may be summarized as "Vichar, Uchchar and Achar" i.e., purity in thought, speech and action. His works, verses and preachings kindled hope among the people at a time when they needed it most. Certain religious poets had dealt with the question of their own death by resorting to a "samadhi". Here the poet took his own life by immersing himself in a body of water, such as a lake or a river. Following the example of his idol, Dnyaneshwar, Eknath embraced "jalsamadhi" (water samadhi) in the sacred Godavari on Krishna Shasthi day of Phalguna in the year 1599AD.
Sant Tukaram was a prominent Varkari Sant (Sant) and spiritual poet during a Bhakti movement in India. Tukaram was born in the small village of Dehu in the West Indian state of Maharashtra to Bolhoba and Kanakai a couple belonging to the lower Sudra class. His real name is Tukaram Vhilhoba Aambe. Rather, in accord with another tradition in India of assigning the epithet "Sant" to persons regarded as thoroughly santly, Tukaram is commonly known in Maharashtra as Sant Tukaram.He is known as Bhakta Tukaram to southern Indian people. He had two other brothers. Despite their lower class status the family was well to do and enjoyed good social standing in the village. Tukaram's troubles started with the illness of his father, due to which he had to start supporting his family at the tender age of thirteen. Shortly thereafter, both his parents died. Tukaram's problems only mounted; death of his family members and economic hardship seemed to plague him. Scholars assign various birth years to Sant Tukaram: 1577, 1598, 1608 and 1609 CE. The year of Sant Tukaram's death —1650 CE— is much more certain. Tukaram was married twice, his first wife Rakhumabai died in 1602 in her early youthdue to starvation during a famine, his second wife Jijabai or Avali as she was called, was much younger than his first had been and had little patience with his devotion and for God and she nagged him continuously. Sant Tukaram and his second wife, Jijabai had three sons: santu or Mahādev, Vithobā, and Nārāyan.
Sant Tukaram was initiated without any intermediaries as the other Sants usually were. He dreamt that he was initiated by the Lord Hari himself dressed as a Brahman. Tukaram continuously sang the praises of the Lord, he sang it in the form of abhangs which he wrote. These were in his mother tongue Marathi. The abhangs express his feelings and philosophical outlook. During his 41 years, Tukaram composed over 5,000 abhangs. Many of them speak of events in his life, which make them somewhat autobiographical. Yet, they are focused on God, Pandurang, and not Tukaram. His abhangs became very popular with the masses of common people. It was this very popularity that caused the religious establishment (the high caste Brahmins) to hate and persecute Tukaram. as, he was causing them to lose their power over the people.
Namdev of Maharashtra was a Sant of medieval India. He was not a servant of Lord Krishna, but his companion. Namdev was an Amsa (part) of Lord Krishna. Namdev was a contemporary of Jnanadev, the famous Sant of Maharashtra, being his senior in age by about five years. He was born in 1269 A.D. He came of 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 (June-July) and Kartik (October-November) 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. Namdev, from his very childhood; was like Prahlad. At the age of two, when he began to talk, the first correct word he uttered was 'Vittala', and since then, he continued with the repetition of that sacred name incessantly, without any help or instruction from others. He found great pleasure when every day his mother Guna Bai took him to the temple of Vithoba for offering worship to the Deity. His next step was, when at the age of about seven, he prepared a pair of cymbals and spent his time in dancing and singing, doing Bhajan, to the neglect of everything-food, studies in school, rest, sleep, etc. His devotion to Vithoba was so innocent and sincere that he used to treat Him sometimes as his dearest brother or as his playmate.
One day, as Namdev's mother was busy, she asked Namdev to take the plate 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 came 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.
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 and 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. So, Namdev was sent to the bazaar one day to sell a few pieces of clothes. But Namdev was innocent of the tricks of the trade. To him, such things as prices, and money and its value, were unknown subjects. He went to the bazaar with the clothes, because his father forced him. He sat there on a stone doing bhajan, entirely forgetting that he had gone there to sell the clothes. After a few hours the sun set and it was time for him to go to the temple for the evening devotional performance. Then only he remembered that he had not sold the clothes and that he would get a thrashing from his father. He was impatient to go to the temple. He therefore sold all the clothes to the very stone on which he was seated, i.e., he kept the clothes on the stone, appointed another stone as a guarantee that the first one would pay the money the next day, and went to the temple.
Namdev's father was furious on hearing his son's adventures and asked him to bring forth Dhondya (which means a stone and which is also used as a proper name among certain classes of people of Maharashtra) who had guaranteed the money. The next day Namdev went back to the bazaar, found that the clothes had vanished during the night and took the second stone (Dhondya) home, as it refused to pay the money, and locked it in a room. He then went to the temple and narrated all the events to Vithoba and explained his difficulties also. When Namdev's father asked him to show him Dhondya who had guaranteed the money, Namdev replied that Dhondya had been kept in a closed room in the house and ran to the temple. When the father opened the room to demand the money, he found, to his surprise, a lump of gold. Great was the father's joy; but Namdev was quite indifferent to it. He only praised God for saving him from a thrashing. Thus it went on. When Namdev was about twenty years of age, he met the great Sant Jnanadev at Pandharpur. Jnanadev was naturally attracted to Namdev as a great devotee of Vithoba. That he might benefit from the company of Namdev, he persuaded Namdev to go with him to all the holy places on pilgrimage. Namdev did not want to go, as that would mean separation from Lord Vithoba of Pandharpur. However, wiser counsel prevailed and Namdev was induced to go on pilgrimage. This was the most important period in the life of Namdev. Practically from this time, the two great Sants almost never separated till death parted them. The pilgrimage extended to all parts of India and almost all the holy places.
On the way, several miracles are reported to have been performed by both Namdev and Jnanadev. Once Namdev and Jnanadev reached the desert of Marwar. Namdev was dying of thirst. They found out a well, but the water was at such a low depth that it was impossible to get it by ordinary means. Jnanadev proposed to assume the form of a bird by his Laghima Siddhi and bring the water up in his beak. But Namdev proved superior to him. He prayed to Rukmini. The level of the water rose miraculously to the surface. The well is seen even today at Kaladji, ten miles off Bikaner. Namdev and Jnanadev came to Naganathpuri. Namdev started Bhajan in the temple. There was a huge crowd. The temple priests were not able to enter the temple and so became angry. Namdev went to the western gate of the temple and spent the night in doing Kirtan. The image of the temple itself turned to his side.
A Brahmin of Bidar invited Namdev to do Bhajan in his house. Namdev went there with a large number of devotees. The Sultan mistook them for rebel troops and sent General Kasi Pant against them. The general reported to the Sultan that it was only a religious party. The Sultan ordered that Namdev should be arrested and prosecuted. He asked Namdev to rouse a butchered cow to life or embrace Islam. An elephant was sent to crush Namdev to death. Namdev's mother requested her son to embrace Islam to save his life. But Namdev was prepared to die. Namdev raised the dead cow to life. The Sultan and others were struck with amazement. Namdev won the admiration of the Sultan and his party. Namdev and Jnanadev met Narsi Mehta at Junagarh; Kabir, Kamal and Mudgalacharya at Kashi; Tulsidas at Chitrakut; Pipaji at Ayodhya; Nanak at a place in the Deccan and Dadu, Gorakhnath and Matsyendranath in other places.
When feeding of Brahmins was done by Namdev at the end of his pilgrimage, Vittal and Rukmini became the cooks and servers. They ate out of the very plate which Namdev used. Namdev gained much, during the pilgrimage, from the society of Jnaneshwar and from Nivritti who was Jnaneshwar's elder brother and Guru, and was able to look on this world with a wider vision as the manifestation of God. As we saw earlier, Namdev's world began and ended with the Deity 'Vithoba' of Pandharpur and he would not recognize any other Deity as the symbol of God. The pilgrimage lasted about five years and during this period Jnanadev advised Namdev to adopt a Guru so that he might be in a position to realise completely the manifestation of the all-pervading God and thus fulfil his own mission in life. Again Namdev hesitated as he thought that such action might alienate his loyalty and devotion to Vithoba. He plainly said that as long as he had the love of Vithoba, he had nothing to desire except constant devotion to Him. In fact, Vithoba was his Guru. It was, however, clear to Jnanadev and other Sants in the company that Namdev's view was rather narrow in the sense that he thought God was centred in the Deity of Vithoba of Pandharpur and they wanted him to acquire the wider vision which they themselves had attained.
One day, in such company, Gora, another Sant and a potter by trade, was asked to ascertain which of them were half-baked, i.e., had not realised Brahman. Gora took a small, flat wooden board such as he used to prepare or test the pots and began to pat on the head of everybody. When he came to Namdev and patted on his head, Namdev cried aloud thinking he was hurt. Immediately, all the others in the company began to laugh saying that Namdev was only half-baked and had not become fixed in his spiritual position. 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.
Visoba Khechar was one of the disciples of Jnanadev and was living at the time at a village called Avandhya. Namdev proceeded to the village immediately and arrived there at about noon. He took shelter in a temple in order to take some rest. There in that temple he saw a man sleeping with his feet on the Deity Itself. Namdev was shocked, woke up the man and rebuked him for this sacrilege. The man was no other than Visoba himself. Visoba replied, "O Namdev, why did you wake me up? Is there a single spot in this world which is not permeated by God? If you think that such a spot can be found, kindly place my feet there". Namdev took the feet of Visoba in his hands and moved them to another direction, but the Deity was there. He then moved Visoba in still another direction, but the Deity was there too! Namdev could not find any direction or spot where he could place the feet of Visoba without treading on the Deity. God was everywhere. Having realised this great truth that God had permeated the whole universe, Namdev surrendered himself to Visoba gratefully and humbly. Visoba then below.
"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 wheel which 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. "Pandharpur was established on the banks of the river Chandrabhaga as a sort of boat for people to cross safely this ocean of life. Pandharinath is standing there as the boatman-in- charge to take you to the other side; and the most important point is that He does this without asking for any fee. In this way He has saved crores of people who have gone to Him in surrender. If you surrender to Him, there is no death in this world." After initiation by Visoba, Namdev became more philosophical and large-hearted. His temple was no longer the small narrow space on the banks of the Chandrabhaga, but the whole world. His God was not Vithoba or Vittal with hands and legs, but the omnipotent infinite Being.
A few days after Namdev had adopted Visoba as his Guru, he was sitting at a place doing his Bhajan. In the meantime, a dog came to the spot and ran away with the bread he had prepared for his midday meal. Namdev ran after the dog-not with a stick in his hand, but with a cup of Ghee; and he addressed the dog thus: "O Lord of the world! Why do You want to eat the dry bread? Take some Ghee along with it. It will taste much better". Namdev's realisation of Atma was now complete and overflowing. After Namdev had returned with Jnanadev from the long pilgrimage, the latter expressed his desire to take Samadhi at Alandi. Namdev therefore accompanied the party to Alandi as he could not part with Jnanadev. He was with Jnanadev to the last moment. He then accompanied the party until the other brothers, Nivritti and Sopan, and their sister Muktabai, left the world. Namdev has left behind a detailed account of the ends of these four Sants in beautiful poems. Namdev was so shocked by these events which occurred within a short space of one year that he himself was left with no desire to live in this world. 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".