History of saint Dnyaneshwar Maharaj

Sant Gyaneshwar was one of the most renowned saints of India. He was a contemporary of Sant Namdev. Sant Tukaram showered a lot of praise on him and accepted him as the fountainhead of all saints. The ancestors of Sant Gyaneshwar were Yajurvediya Brahman of the Madyandin branch and they used to live in Aapegaon at the bank of the river Godawari, near Paithan.They were Kulkarni (keeping accounts for the village). His grandfather Govind Pant was an influential person. Govind Pant had a son by the name Vitthal Pant, who was a great scholar, recluse and devotee. Right from his early childhood, he was attracted towards the divine and, therefore, at an early age he sat out on pilgrimage. When he reached Alandi,which is about twelve miles from Pune (the place where Samadhi of Gyaneshwar is located), he stayed there in the Siddheshwar temple. Vitthal Pant looked very knowledgeable and his demeanor was pure and simple. Siddho Pant of Alandi, a Kulkarni of Alandi, therefore, married Rukminibai, his daughter to Vitthal Pant. Vitthal Pant although got married with Rukminibai but was not attracted towards family life. Rukminibai was completely devoted to her husband Vitthal Pant but still she could not change his mind. As the time was passing, Vitthal Pant was getting more and more detached with worldly affairs. He wanted to spend the rest of his life in Kashi. One day, therefore, in the guise of taking a dip in the holy Ganges, he went away to Kashi and there he took Sanyas under the tutelage of Swami Ramanand. On the other hand for twelve years Rukminibai spent her life in austerity and praying fervently before the Lord for reunion with her husband. At last her prayers were answered. It so happened that Swami Ramanand happened to pass through Alandi on his way to Rameshwaram. Rukminibai visited him and prostrated before him. Swami Ramanand blessed her “Putravati Bhav” (be the mother of a son). Rukminibai, however, smiled considering the improbability of this blessing coming true. Ramanand then came to know that her husband had taken Sanyas in Kashi. On further enquiry about the age and looks of her husband, he could guess that it was Vitthal Pant, who had taken Sanyas and now was known as ‘Chetnyashram Swami’. It made him worry, as according to scriptures, one who leaves behind an issueless wife, he, as well as his Guru is considered to have committed a sin. Swami Ramanand, therefore, gave up the idea of going to Rameshwaram; instead he returned to Kashi and asked Chetnyashram Swami, i.e. Vitthal Pant to return to Grihastha Ashram and to live family life with his wife. Vitthal Pant followed the orders of Swami Ramanand, his Guru, and came back to Alandi to live with his wife.

A Sanyasi returning to Grihstha Ashram was unheard of and unacceptable to the society those days. This was considered as bringing disrepute both to the Sanyas Ashram as well as to the Grihstha Ashram. As a result, Vitthal Pant was subjected to social criticism and harassment in various ways. Not only this, the Brahmans boycotted them from their society. Vitthal Pant, however, became more and more serious, quiet and studious, as the society kept on discarding them. He started spending all his time in bhakti, studying the scriptures and in contemplation. He was not concerned with the criticism by the society. Rukminibai also spent her time in serving her husband. In due course this couple was blessed with three sons and a daughter; Nivratinath was the eldest of the siblings, Gyandev (Gyaneshwar) was second, Sopandev the youngest son and Muktabai their only daughter. In those circumstances this posed a greatproblem before Vitthal Pant to look after his family. At times he did not even get alms and survived on water alone. Even then they lived with satisfaction without ever complaining to the Lord. By the grace of the God all their children were extremely sharp and the father, Vitthal Pant himself was a devout scholar. The children, therefore, started learning the scriptures from a very young age. When Nivratinath was seven years of age, his father requested the Brahmans of Paithan to perform his sacred thread ceremony but they refused. A dejected Vitthal Pant lived in Tryambakeshwar for six months, where Shri Gahaninath, an Acharya of Nath-Sampraday initiated Nivratinath. Vitthal Pant and Rukminibai left Alandi and sacrificed their lives at the confluence of the rivers Ganges and the Yamuna at Prayag by taking Jal-Samadhi (immersing oneself in water) leaving their children in the shelter of Lord Vitthal. They thought that the Brahmans would take pity on their sons at least then and perform the sacred thread ceremony. Gyaneshwar was very keen on wearing the sacred thread in order to fulfill the desire of his parents, who had sacrificed their lives for this purpose. This had a great impact on the Brahmans of Alandi. They became sympathetic towards the children and advised them to go to Paithan telling them that if they, i.e. the Brahmans of Paithan, agree to their thread ceremony, they shall abide by it. The children sat out on a journey to Paithan doing Kirtan on the way. In Paithan the Brahmans called for a meeting, where it was decided that these children can not be purified except that they prostrate before everyone including cows, be it a dog, a Chandal (a wretch), or anyone else, without caring for their laughing at them and thus devote themselves to the ‘Ananya (undivided, single-pointedly) bhakti of the Lord’. All the four siblings were satisfied with this decision of the Brahmans. While they were about to return to Alandi, some mischievous persons started teasing them. They asked Gyaneshwar about his name and when he replied that his name was ‘Gyandev’, one of them pointed out towards a buffalo standing nearby and taunted, ‘Here this buffalo is the Gyandev, who carries the load of all wisdom through out the day. Tell us whether you are also like him’. Gyaneshwar replied, ‘Yes, there is no difference between us. It is the same soul that is there in him and me.’ On hearing his answer one of them whipped the buffalo twice and taunted Gyaneshwar that he would have borne the pain of those whips. Gyaneshwar said yes and showed his back where the whip-marks were clearly visible. Not satisfied, one of them remarked, if this buffalo and you are one, ask this buffalo to recite scriptures like you. Gyaneshwar put his hand on the back of the buffalo and the buffalo uttering “AUM” started reciting Veda-mantras. Seeing this miracle taking place in front of their eyes, the scholars and Brahmans of Paithan were flabbergasted. They realized that they were not standing before some ordinary persons but before Mahatmas. Similarly, once at the house of a Brahman in Paithan, on the occasion of sraddh ceremony (ceremony in honor and for the benefit of a deceased relative) on invocation by Gyaneshwar, the deceased relatives of that Brahman appeared bodily and accepted the food. Such miracles and extraordinary powers of Gyaneshwar attracted a lot of people towards Gyaneshwar.. The Brahmans of Paithan also vouched for their purity and gave them the letter of authorization for their thread ceremony. After this for some time they stayed in Paithan, where they used to bathe in the river Godavari, talk about Vedanta, recite the name of God, study the scriptures and show the path of bhakti to the people of Paithan. In Paithan itself Gyaneshwar studied many scriptures. From Paithan they proceeded to Nevase via Arley. While in Nevase, for a few days they visited Alandi. This time people of Alandi received them with great respect and honor. From Alandi they returned to Nevase. “Gyaneshwari”, the most famous work of Gyaneshwar, which is a commentary on Srimadbhagvad Gita, was composed here in Nevase. As told by Gyaneshwar, it was jotted down in writing by Sacchidanand, who was given life by Gyaneshwar after he was declared dead. He had completed Gyaneshwari in 1347 Vikram Samvat at the age of fifteen.

Chang Dev was a famous yogi who had managed to defy death by his yogic powers for four hundred years. He used to live in Khandesh at the bank of river Tapi. He was proud of his yogic attainments. He had acquired occult powers and used to ride a tiger with a serpent as a whip. Chang Dev had heard of Gyaneshwar making a buffalo recite Veda-mantras. He, therefore, had curiosity to see Gyaneshwar. He sent a letter to Gyaneshwar, who agreed to meet him. In the evening Chang Dev rode on his favorite tiger and drove it towards Gyaneshwar. Gyaneshwar was sitting on a wall, with his elder brother Nivratinath. When Gyaneshwar saw Chang Dev riding a tiger, he asked the wall to move towards Chang Dev. Chang Dev was astonished to see this miracle. He was humbled. Muktabai said to Chang Dev that for attaining salvation, the first step is sincere devotion. Devotion will lead to Vairagya, which in turn would lead to Gyana. After completing Gyaneshwari, Gyaneshwar with his brothers and sister went on pilgrimage. Nivratinath, Sopandev, Muktabai and famous saints like Narharisonar and Chokhamela accompanied him on this pilgrimage. They went to Pandharpur and with the permission of Lord Vitthal took Namdev along with them. Lord Vitthal had given the hand of Namdev in Gyaneshwar’s hand asking him to take care of Namdev, saying that Namdev is extremely dear to Him. With this group of saints, Gyaneshwar visited Ujjain, Prayag, Kashi, Ayodhya, Gaya, Gokul, Vrindavan and Girnar. On the way they propagated Hari-bhakti, asking people to wake up from slumber and to devote their time in attaining the goal of life. This historical pilgrimage had a lot of importance in the life of Gyaneshwar. In the entire country the fame of Sant Gyaneshwar and his companions reached to every nook and corner. They also had passed through Marwar and Punjab. On returning from the pilgrimage, Sant Namdev had organized a big festival in token of the completion of this pilgrimage. Gyaneshwar returned to Alandi from Pandharpur. At the time of his departure, Namdev fell at the feet of Sant Gyaneshwar, who embraced him and said that ‘you (Namdev) are the crown of all the devotees and you have made this place auspicious by your presence’. Gyaneshwar accepted his elder brother Nivratinath, as his Guru. His Guru-bhakti (devotion to his Guru) was of the highest order. He has stated at one place that ‘I shall lay my body as dust at the feet of my Guru’. Nivratinath was initiated in the yoga-tradition of Gorakhnath. Gyaneshwar’s sadhana, therefore, was influenced by the principles of Nath- Sampraday.

The most important contribution of Gyaneshwar was to promote and propagate Narayani bhakti-Vishnu Upasana through Nirgun Gyanadhara (dedication to formless God). He said scriptures state that ‘Narayan’ is the essence of all Japa (recitations) and the Truth. He showed the royal path of the recital of the name of Narayan. Together with this, he also propagated the yoga tradition. He considered all creatures to be one and that they all have a right to achieve salvation. He encouraged people to develop a feeling of amicability amongst all creatures. He pulled people out of darkness to have a glimpse of

Self in the light of Gyana.

Gyaneshwar lived for twenty-one years three months and five days and took live-Samadhi in Vikram Samvat 1353 in the month of Margshirsh on the Krishna-Trayodashi day. Within one year thereof all his three siblings also left this mortal world for their heavenly abode. Sant Gyaneshwar had taken Samadhi in Alandi. Sant Namdev was present at that time. He has described this incidence in 250 Abhangas (verses). These are the words of a saint and, therefore, to disbelieve them would be a great sin. Namdev has stated that before taking live-Samadhi, Sant Gyaneshwar went to Pandharpur on Ekadashi (the eleventh day of the fortnight); Nivratinath, Sopandev and Muktabai and others accompanied him. Gyaneshwar took bath in the river Chandrabhaga, visited Bhakt Pundalik and then visited the Vitthal temple. He expressed his desire to take Samadhi before the saints present over there. They were saddened; Namdev got very upset. Lord Vitthal appeared before Gyaneshwar and said to him ‘You are Gyana personified’ and then embraced him. ….All the saints accompanied Gyaneshwar to Alandi. Pandharinath (Lord Vitthal) also accompanied them and initiated the process of Samadhi. Saints and Bhakt present over there took bath in the river Indrayani and then worshipped the Lord. They started doing the Kirtan. The atmosphere all around got filled with the name of thedivine. The Lord in person took all the saints and devotees with him to the temple of Siddheshwar-Shankar. Sopandev caught hold of the feet of the Lord. Nivratinath was in a supra-conscious state of mind and Gyaneshwar holding the feet of his Guru Nivratinath was engrossed in the contemplation of Self. Namdev and the saints were in a state of shock. Namdev’s body had become numb due to crying. Nivratinath got out of trance for a little while. He stroked the face of Gyaneshwar, embraced him and then blessed him for his auspicious departure. Lord Vitthal put sandal mixed with saffron on the forehead of Gyaneshwar, put a garland on his neck and took Gyaneshwar in a cave under the shadow of Ajan-tree by the side of the Siddheshwar temple. One hand of Gyaneshwar was held by Nivratinath and the other by the Lord Pandharinath. It was a divine and heart-piercing scene. Nivratinath and Lord Pandharinath came out of the cave and the mouth of the cave was covered with a piece of stone. Sant Gyaneshwar established a holy harmony between Gyana, bhakti, Tapa and Karma. He was a great saint, yogi and Atm-gyani (a great exponent of esoteric knowledge).

Some of his sayings are:

All the four Vedas, Six Shashtras (Scriptures) and Eighteen Puranas, all of them sing in praise of the Lord alone; Certainly Gita is not meant for the exercise of the brain, it is an instrument to win over the self;

Remembrance of the name of the Lord destroys all sins in a moment;

All the effort made in Japa or Tapa etcetera is a waste without bhakti;

This world has no meaning without the Lord;

Pleased with my Gyaneshwari Yagya, the Lord may give me only this much that the wicked may give up their ill-feelingss and be inclined to do good to others;

All creatures develop amicability towards each-other; the darkness of sins may end and the world be enlightened with the knowledge of the Self and every creature be blessed with what it craves for.