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Sant Dnyaneshwar

Sant Dnyaneshwar

Sant Dnyaneshwar (1275-1296) (?????????? in Marathi) (also known as Jnanadeva - ???????? or Jnaneshvar - ??????????) was a 13th century rebel saint-poet in Maharashtra, west India. He was a yogi born in a socially marginalized high-caste family. He was the first noteworthy proponent of Bhagawat dharma, a sect of bhakti (devotional worship) tradition in Hinduism. Dnyaneshwar composed Bhavarthadeepika or Dnyaneshwari (???????????), to explain sacred knowledge of the holy book Bhagavad Gita to the masses. He took sanjeevan Samadhi, a yogic path to salvation by giving up life at the young age of 21.


Sant Dnyaneswar was born in a Deshastha Yajurvedi Brahmin family to Vitthal Pant Kulkarni and Rukmini Bai, at Apegaon in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, India. He was the second of their four children. His elder brother was Nivruttinath, and younger brother was Sopandev and his sister was Muktabai.

Vitthal pant, a devoted Brahmin, had earlier left his home to attain a hermit’s life. His guru sent him back to family life. A sannyasi returning to family life was unacceptable to the establishment, and a social boycott was called on this poor family. The couple and children suffered much with the boycott, but kept on with their quest for spiritual knowledge. Unable to bear this social brunt, the couple committed what was perhaps a suicide in the deep waters of River Ganga (the Ganges) as an atonement for their actions. However, that didn’t save the children from social wrath.

Dnyneshwar and his brothers were denied basic needs like food and water. The children continued their path of spiritual knowledge. This knowledge and some uncommon experiences (see note below) from their yogic life finally gave all four children the place they deserved in the society. Sant Dnyaneshwar took sanjivan samadhi at Alandi in Pune District of Maharashtra, India. Work

Sant Dnyaneshwar’s writing is a combination of scholarly intelligence and poetic beauty. He along with Sant Namdeo propogated the warkari tradition, that has beem alive for over 700 years.

His major works include:

The Bhavarth Deepika/Dnyanadevi, popularly known as the Dnyaneshwari, a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita written in Marathi. Dnyaneshwari is one of the three sacred books or Prasthanatrayi of Bhagavata Dharma. (Locally called the Warkari movement.) Nearly a thousand Marathi devotional songs (Abhanga). The Amritanubhava, is the work in which he has stated his own philosophy, also called Chitvilaasavaada. The works of Dnyaneshwar and his siblings have influenced the Marathi culture to this day. The poetry of Dnyaneshwar and Muktabai is still very popular in Maharashtra even after 700 years. Siblings

Nivrutti Nath: Elder brother of dnyaneshwar, Nivrutti Nath was an authority in nath sect. Dnyaneshwar accepted his elder brother as his guru. After Dnyaneshwar, Nivrutti Nath travelled with his sister on a pilgrimage along Tapi river where they were caught in a thunderstorm and Mukta lost in it without a trace. Nivrutti nath took to salvation (Samadhi) at Triambakeshwar. Sopan Deo: Younger brothet Sopan Deo attained ‘samadhi' at Saswad near Pune. Mukta bai: The youngest of the siblings, Mukta Bai (or Muktai / Muktabai) was known for her simple and straight expression of thoughts.

A note on miracles

The stories by believers in Bhagawata Sampradaya (sect) about Saint Dnyaneshwar’s life are full of miracles. These stories mentioned in many scriptures and include : baking bread (puranpoli)on his heated back, making a wall move and making a bull recite vedic hymns. Logic and rational thought have denied such miracles. But it should be noted that yogic texts describe these abilities and say they can be acquired at an advanced stage in yogic practices.

Each of these miracle stories send a powerful spirtual message. From a rational a point view, these stories must be spread by his followers to spread his spiritual messages.


Life of Eknath

Eknath was born in 1533 AD in an illustrious Brahmin family in Paithan (Pratishthaan) in Maharashtra. Suryaji and Rukmini were his parents. His great grandfather, Sant Bhanudas (1448-1513) was a prominent leader of the Varkari sect of devotees. It is said that it was he who brought back the idol of Lord Panduranga from Vijayanagar to Pandharpur.

Eknath lost his parents when he was very young and was brought up by his grandparents, Chakrapani and Saraswatibai. Even as a child, Eknath was disposed to remain in solitude, devoting his time in singing keertan-s on the Lord.

When Eknath was about 12, he heard about a renowned scholar-saint of that time, Sree Janardanaswami. The Swami was a follower of Dattatreya, and was living in Devgiri (Daulatabad). Eknath walked all the way from Paithan to Devgiri to meet him. He realised at once that the Swami was the spiritual guru he was looking for. Prostrating at his feet, Eknath implored the Swami to accept him as a disciple. The Swami unhesitatingly acceded to Eknath's request, for he could foresee the divine mission that awaited Eknath; and Eknath served the guru faithfully during the entire tutelage.

Janardanaswami taught him Vedanta, Yoga, Mimamsa and other branches of higher learning. He also initiated him into Bhakti Yoga, or the Path of Devotion. It is then that Eknath got acquainted with the works of Sant Jnaneswar, including Jnaneswari. Eknath spent most of his time in deep meditation, besides mastering the scriptures.

On the completion of the discipleship, Janardanaswami advised Eknath to go on a pilgrimage to holy places. It took him, among other places, to Nasik, Triambakeswar, Ujjain, Mathura, Prayag, Varanasi and Ayodhya.

Returning to Paithan, Eknath settled down to a house-holder's life, very much like Namdeo before him. He was fortunate in his wife Girija who was totally devoted to Eknath and his ideals. They had two daughters and one son. (According to another account, they had only one son and one daughter.) Eknath showed to the world that married life was no hindrance to the pursuit of spirituality.

Eknath embraced jal-samadhi in Lakshmi Teertha in the river Godavari on the Krishna Shashti day (sixth day of the dark fortnight) of Phalguna month in the year 1598 AD.

His philosophy and beliefs

In Eknath's philosophy, one finds the doctrines of Vedanta and the tenets of Sufism. People from all creeds thronged to listen to his recitation of the Bhagavata and singing of keertan-s. He abhorred caste barriers. His followers belonged to different castes and callings. Once he offered the food prepared for sraddha (and therefore meant only for the Brahmins) to sweepers. On another occasion, he gave Ganga-jal (holy water from Ganga) to a dying donkey! Such acts, though prompted by compassion, angered the orthodox Brahmins who caused endless trouble to him and his family. However, Eknath remained composed and serene and bore their animus without any trace of rancour or malice against them.

His works

Eknath was a prolific writer. He was a scholar in Marathi and Sanskrit, as also in Arabic and Persian. He also wrote in Hindi, Telugu and Kannada.

Eknath's major work is his Eknathi Bhagavata, a Marathi commentary on the 11th Skanda of the Bhagavata Purana which contains the Uddhava Gita. It is said that it took him three years to complete it.

His other works include Rukmini Swayamvara, Bhavartha Ramayana and numerous abhang-s. His short poems, known as Bharudas, were remarkable literary creations, in that one can read into them both secular as well as spiritual meanings.

Eknath should be remembered for another notable, and noble, deed. Jnaneswar, the author of Jnaneswari, had attained samadhi in 1296. During the nearly 250 years that separated Jnaneswar and Eknath, several interpolations had crept into Jnaneswari, and distorted and corrupted versions were in circulation in Eknath's time. Eknath worked very hard to collect the manuscripts of the original rendition wherever they were available, and produced a critically edited version. In fact, but for Eknath's devoted and untiring efforts, Jnaneswari in its original form would have been lost to posterity.

Given below is a translation of the ovi-s added by Sant Eknath after his research on Jnaneswari-- extracted from the English translation of Jnaneswari by R.K. Bhagwat, Samata Books.

"Eknath, the disciple of Saint Janaardana, corrected with high regard, from the original, the copy (manuscript) of Jnaaneshwaree-Geetaa (then in vogue) in the year Shake 1506 named 'Taarana'. The Scripture was by itself originally perfectly pure, but had meanwhile been rendered inconsistent (incorrect) on account of wrong and unauthorized interpolations made during the course of the day-to-day routine reciting. These have, after a careful research, been corrected (now) and a correct and authentic copy of Jnaaneshwaree has now been prepared from the original. I bow to the spot-less saint Jnaaneshwar, the reading of whose commentary on Geetaa imparts knowledge to the devoted lover of the Scrip-ture. Writing work was completed at the town named Paithan (Pratishthaan) on the bank of river Godavari, on the most auspicious and unique occasion, the Kapila-shashthi, in the month of Bhaadrapada. Anyone who would hereafter interpolate any (unauthorised) Marathi verse of his own composition in this copy of Jnaaneshwaree should be taken as having placed a hollowed shell of a coconut in a dish filled with ambrosia."

His abhang-s

The commencing words of some of his abhang-s are given below:

Anadi Ambika Bhagavati; Chinchechya panavar; Kaivalyacha putala; Kasturi parimal; Kaya hi Pandhari; Maze maher Pandhari; and Sarva sukhachi lahari.

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