History of SAINT MAHIPATI

Mahipati (born 1715 in Tharabad,Tahsil-Rahuri, District Ahmednagar, Maharashtra state India d. 1790) was an author who wrote in Marāthi biographies of the prominent Hindu saints who had lived between the 13th and the 17th centuries in Mahārāshtra, India.[1]

He was a "Brahmin" by birth, and worked for some time as a scribe/record keeper for the local government of the Village Taaharabad in Ahmednagar district in Maharashtra.

Legend

There is a story about Mahipati how turned to writing.

One day, outside his working hours, his superior sent a messenger to his house to ask him to come to the superior's office immediately for some urgent official business. When the messenger arrived at his house, Mahipati was engaged in the worship of God, and asked the messenger to take back a message that he would be coming to the superior's office as soon as he was done with his worship. The messenger insisted, however, that Mahipati should come with him right away. Very reluctantly, Mahipati cut short his worship, accompanied the messenger to the superior's office, finished the urgent business, and let the superior know that he no longer wanted to stay in the secular job and that he preferred to use his pen thenceforth exclusively for writing religious material. Soon after that, Mahipati received one night in his dream both a mantra and a command from the departed spirit of Sant Tukaram to write the life stories of past prominent religious figures in Maharashtra.

Accordingly, Mahipati put together his noteworthy biographical book Bhaktavijaya in Marathi. He also wrote another book titled BhaktaLeelāmrut. Dnyāneshwar, Nāmdev, Janābai, Eknāth, and Tukaram are revered especially in the wārakari (वारकरी) sect in Maharashtra. Whatever information about the lives of the above saints of Maharashtra comes mostly from the works Bhakti-Wijay and Bhakti-Leelāmrut written by Mahipati. Mahipati was born 65 years after the death of Tukaram, (Tukaram having died 50 years, 300 years, and 353 years after the deaths of Ekanath, Namdev, and Dnyaneshwar, respectively.) Thus, Mahipati undoubtedly based his life sketches of all above "sants" primarily on hearsays.

SAINT MAHIPATI

Mahipati was born in 1715 in Thaharabad in Ahmednagar district in Maharashtra. Mahipati was a Rigvedi Deshastha Brahmin employed as the hereditary Kulkarni (accountant) of Taharabad, a small village about 60 kms from Ahmednagar. It was part of the jahagir of a Mohammedan nobleman to whom he was responsible for the collection of the revenue. One day, when he was engaged in worship and prayer in his house, a messenger came to summon him to court on business. Mahipati said that he would attend on the work immediately after finishing his worship. But the messenger would not listen to it; he spoke to him very harshly and said that he was going to take him to the court at once. As there was no help for it, Mahipati left his prayers and taking his bundle of papers, went to the court with the messenger. Feeling humiliated by this incident, he immediately decided and informed his superior that he no longer wanted to stay in the secular job and that he preferred to use his pen thereafter exclusively for writing religious books. Then he returned home and taking his pen from behind his ear, he laid it before the image of Lord Vithal and vowed never to use it again in any official capacity. He resigned the office of village accountant and resolved to spend the remaining years of his life only in the service of God. Thereafter he devoted himself solely to religious activities.

One night Tukaram appeared to him in a dream and inspired him to write the biographies of the saints, in order to save the world. He painstakingly collected the facts and composed the lives of the Maratha saints in simple and charming verses. Mahipati had faithfully recorded the traditions, only writing out in full the abbreviated or condensed facts at his disposal, like ‘expanding a seed into a tree’. Legends and miracles were so inextricably blended in the stories of these saints that a historian like him, striving to sift fact from fiction, had to be gifted like the mythical swan that could separate milk from the water with which it is diluted and drink only the milk, leaving the water behind.

Immediately after that, in one night, Mahipati had a dream in which he had received both a mantra and a command from Saint Tukaram to write the life stories of past prominent religious figures in Maharashtra. Accordingly, Mahipati gathered all the information from different sources and compiled his biographical book “Bhaktavijaya” in Marathi. Mahipati wrote the following books titled: ‘Santa Lilamrita’(1757), ‘Bhakta Vijaya’(1762), ‘Katha Saramrita"(1765), ‘Bhakta Lilamrita’(1774) and ‘Santa Vijaya’(1774). Whatever information about the life of Tukaram is known today is mostly from out of the writings of Mahipati. Accordingly, Mahipati composed his noteworthy biographical book Bhaktavijaya in Marathi and also another book titled Bhakta Leelamrut which are more informative and exhaustive.

Jnaneshwar, Namdev, Janabai, Eknath, and Tukaram were held in high esteem especially in the varkari sect in Maharashtra. Mahipati was born 65 years after the death of Tukaram, (Tukaram having died 50 years, 300 years, and 353 years after the deaths of Ekanath, Namdev, and Jnaneshwar, respectively.) , Mahipati undoubtedly based his biographical sketches of all the above saints mostly on hearsays, traditions and legends. An English translation of Mahipati's BhaktaVijay was published at the instance of Dr Justin E. Abbott.

A great religious upheaval swept through Maharashtra from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century. It was not the work of a single person or class of people, but of saints who sprang more often from the lower castes of the society, such as tailors, gardeners, potters, goldsmiths, shopkeepers and even Mahars, other than Brahmins. He was an author who wrote in Marāthi the biographies of the prominent Hindu saints who had lived between the 13th century from Saint Jnaneshwar and to the 17th centuries in Maharashtra. Some of such saints struggled against the exclusive spirit of caste domination and asserted the dignity of the human soul as being independent of the accidents of birth and social rank. They emphasized that faith (Bhava) and devotional love (Bhakti) were superior to other forms of worship such as the performance of rites and ceremonies, self-mortification and fasts, penances and pilgrimages. They upheld the sanctity of family life against the traditions of celibacy and asceticism. They addressed the people in their own native tongue, Marathi, and opened the hidden treasures of classical Sanskrit to all during this period. When they came in contact with a militant religion like Islam, they faced their troubles with fortitude and conquered them, not by fighting or resistance but by quiet resignation to the will of God. They recognized the essential identity of Ram and Rahim and worked for a reconciliation of religions through mutual trust and tolerance. They considered neither knowledge nor yogic powers, health, wealth, children, possessions, not even Mukti (freedom from birth and death) as desirable in itself; what was desirable was to have always full of love for God and faith in His works. They were emphatic in their assertion that they were able to see God and talk to Him. They had an intense realization of the presence of God in their hearts, in much more realistic way than what this world appeared to their senses.

The saints cannot be accused of miracle-mongering. Samarth Ramdas and Jnanadev said that miracles did not constitute spirituality and such stories could not be the basis for spiritual greatness. Spiritual greatness involved realising the knowledge of the self (Atma-jnana). Referring to the myth of Changdev and Jnaneshwar, the former riding a tiger with a serpent in his hand and the latter making a stone wall move through the air like an animate object,--indicated only the rebuttal of Changdev’s views and Changdev was advised not to exhibit miracles by Jnanadev’s sister, Muktabai who became Guru for Changdev.SRI VITHAL OF PANDHARPUR: Most of these saints belonged to the Sampradaya (sect) of Vithala or Vithoba with its spiritual center at Pandharpur, a town on the banks of the Bhima river in the Solapur district of Maharashtra. The Sanskrit name Vishnu has become Vithu in the Kannada and Marathi languages, and the suffixes ‘ba’ and ‘la’ have been appended to the name of ‘Vithu’ to indicate tenderness and reverence.

Another name of the deity is Panduranga (white-complexioned one), which is an epithet of Siva. There is a temple of Siva in the town, which is also known as Pandurangapura; and it was customary for the pilgrims to visit it before going to the temple of Vithoba. But due to increased importance of Vithoba, this tradition was forgotten in later times. Thus Panduranga became identical with Vithoba.

PUNDALIK: Another name for Pandharpur is ‘Paundarikakshetra’ or ‘Pandhari’ which owes its origin to Pundalik who is believed to have been the founder of the cult of Vithoba in the Maratha Mythology.

Legend says that Pundalik was an ungrateful son in his early life. Unable to bear his ill-treatment, his parents joined a band of pilgrims on their way to Banaras. When their daughter-in-law heard of it, she insisted on going with them. Pundalik and his wife rode on horseback, while the parents went on foot. In the evening the poor old parents were forced to groom the two horses. One night, the pilgrims stopped at the hermitage of a great sage named Kukutaswami. Wearied with the day’s march, all fell asleep, except Pundalik. As he was awake, he saw a group of beautiful women clad in soiled clothes enter the hermitage. They swept the floor in the hermitage, fetched water and washed the sage’s clothes. After their work, they had darshan of the sage; and when they came out, their raiments became spotless, clean and white. Pundalik threw himself at their feet and asked them who they were. They replied that they were the river Goddesses, Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati, in whose waters thousands of people bathed and that their clothes became soiled because of the pilgrims’ sins, but they got purified themselves by serving the sage, Kukutaswami, when their garments became snow-white as before. They considered Pundalik the worst sinner due to his ingratitude to his parents. On hearing this, Pundalik felt deeply pained, became remorseful and repented for his dereliction of duty towards his parents. He then met his parents and implored the forgiveness of his parents and persuaded them to return home. He became a completely changed man and spent all his time in extending his filial duty to their service in a more devoted manner.

The sage Narada, in his wanderings in the holy Mandesh country, came to the dense forest of Dandakaranya on the bank of the Chandrabhaga (Bhima) river and there he observed the unswerving devotion of Pundalik to his parents. He reported about this filial commitment to Lord Krishna who came down from Vaikunth (heaven) to greet Pundalik; but even God’s arrival did not distract the latter from his duty. He did not even turn his head to look at Him, but tossed a brick (vit in Marathi) towards Him and asked Him to stand on it and wait for him till he finished his service to his parents. Lord Krishna placed His hands on His sides and stood motionless on the brick. He was soon joined by Rukmini, Lord’s Consort and all the host of sages. Seeing Pundalik’s spirit of Bhakti, the Lord of Heaven was pleased to remain at Pandharpur, making the town a second heaven. And there He stands to this day and always, with His hands on His sides and is worshipped as Vithoba (He who stands upon a brick). Most of our information about these saints is derived from the writings of the poet Mahipati who passed away in 1790 and merged with Lord Vithoba.

THE VARKARIS: Lakhs of people, mostly Varkaris from Maharashtra and the neighboring States, would gather at Pandharpur on the eleventh day of the waxing moon in June-July (Ashadha suddha Ekadashi) and in October-November (Kartik suddha Ekadashi) every year. The varkaris are a sect of devotees who worship Vishnu in the form of Vithal and Rukmini. As per the tradition, the disciples would be wearing garland of Tulsi beads and putting marks of white clay on their faces. They would also maintain saintly conduct till the visit to Pandharpur temple was completed. Thus they were called varkaris (kari means one who undertakes and vari means a periodical pilgrimage). The varkaris come from all castes and classes. were committed to pursue their professions like the rest of the people. They lead a simple life of God-consciousness and practice saintly virtues like tolerance towards people and exhibit compassion.

They would be trekking on foot from eight to twenty days, helping each other, singing together, chanting the glories of God, "Vithoba, Rakhumai", and camping together in a vast sea of humanity outside the gates of Pandharpur to be welcomed by its citizens. All these had created a strong feeling of unity among the Marathi speaking people. this large gathering all ideas of ‘mine’ and ‘thine’ and pride of family and caste are forgotten; people embrace one another and make prostrations with love to all. The culture of Maharashtra has thus been kept alive through the centuries.

The role played by the saint-poets in building the temple of Maratha mysticism had been aptly described by woman saint poet, Bahinabai in a famous abhanga. The earlier saint-poets not only moulded the religious thought of Maharashtra but also prepared the way for the arrival of Shivaji Maharaj. Maharaj those days was making efforts to establish Hindu Kingdom which was secular and egalitarian in approach and also based on fairness. Samarth Ramdas was his inspirer and his Guru. Ramdas disliked distinction based on caste, creed and sex and preached that all human beings were equal. Shivaji had once made a gift of his whole kingdom to Samarth Ramdas, his Gurudev. asked Shivaji to rule the kingdom in his (Ramdas's) name and to think that the kingdom did not belong to himself but treat it as a trust to be ruled justly on behalf of God. Shivaji placed the Sandals of his Guru on the throne and acted as regent of the kingdom the orders and guidance of his Guru.