12/09/17 0 Comment
About Ramdas was a noted 17th-century Brahmin saint and spiritual poet of Maharashtra. He is most remembered for his Advaita Vendatist text, the Dasbodh. Ramdas…
सूर्य से दुरी के क्रम में पृथ्वी तीसरा ग्रह हैं, पृथ्वी नाम पौराणिक कथाओं पर आधारित है जिसका सम्बन्ध “महाराजा पृथु” से हैं अंग्रेजी में इसे अर्थ (Earth) के नाम से जाना जाता हैं, “अर्थ” जर्मन भाषा का शब्द हैं तथा इस शब्द का साधारण मतलब ग्राउंड हैं| पृथ्वी ५ वा सबसे बड़ा और सौरमंडल का एकमात्र ऐसा ग्रह हैं जिस पर जीवन हैं|
पृथ्वी का निर्माण लगभग ४.५४ अरब वर्ष पूर्व हुआ था तथा इस घटना के १ अरब वर्ष पश्चात् पृथ्वी पर जीवन का विकास शुरू हो गया था| वैज्ञानिकों की रिसर्च के अनुसार पृथ्वी की आयु लगभग ४ बिलियन वर्ष है और लगभग इसी समय ही पुरे सौरमंडल की उत्पत्ति हुई| पृथ्वी का निर्माण गुरुत्वाकर्षण बल के कारण सूर्य के आस- पास घूर्णन करते हुए गैस तथा डस्ट के सम्मिश्रण से हुआ| पृथ्वी में मध्य कोर, रॉकी धातु और एक ठोस क्रस्ट मौजूद हैं|
वैज्ञानिकों का मानना हैं कि ४ बिलियन वर्ष पहले हमारी धरती का ज्यादातर हिस्सा खौलते हुए लावा के समान था, जो बाद में ठंडा होता गया और धरती की ऊपरी सतह का निर्माण हुआ| उसके पश्चात् पृथ्वी के जैवमंडल में काफी परिवर्तन हुआ तथा समय बीतने के साथ-साथ ओजोन परत का निर्माण हुआ जिसने पृथ्वी के चुंबकीय क्षेत्र के साथ मिलकर पृथ्वी पर आने वाले हानिकारक सौर विकिरणों को रोककर धरती को रहने योग्य बनाया|
पृथ्वी का द्रव्यमान ६.५६९११०२१ टन हैं, पृथ्वी, बृहस्पति के समान गैसीय ग्रह नहीं हैं बल्कि एक पथरीला ग्रह हैं| पृथ्वी सभी चार भौमिक ग्रहों में आकार और द्रव्यमान में सबसे बड़ी हैं, अन्य ३ भौमिक ग्रह- बुध, शुक्र, और मंगल हैं| इन सभी ग्रहों में पृथ्वी का घनत्व, गुरुत्वाकर्षण, चुंबकीय क्षेत्र और घूर्णन सबसे ज्यादा हैं और पृथ्वी न केवल मनुष्यों का अपितु लाखों प्रजातियों का भी घर हैं|
ऐसा माना जाता हैं कि पृथ्वी सौर निहारिका के अवशेषों से अन्य ग्रहों के साथ ही बनी हैं, पृथ्वी का अंदरूनी भाग गर्मी की वजह से पिघल गया तथा लोहे जैसे भारी तत्त्व पृथ्वी के केंद्रीय भाग में पहुंच गए| लोहा और निकिल जैसे धातु गर्मी से पिघल कर द्रव्य में बदल गए और इनके घूर्णन से पृथ्वी २ ध्रुवों वाले विशाल चुम्बक में बदल गई| बाद में पृथ्वी पर महाद्वीपीय विवर्तन जैसे भू-वैज्ञानिक घटनाएं हुई जिनसे पृथ्वी पर महाद्वीप, महासागर तथा वायुमंडल आदि का निर्माण हुआ|
पृथ्वी का अर्धव्यास (त्रिज्या) लगभग ६३७१ किलोमीटर हैं जो कि आकार के आधार पर सौरमण्डल में पांचवा सबसे बड़ा पिंड हैं, पृथ्वी और सूर्य के बीच की १५० मिलियन किलोमीटर की दूरी को एस्ट्रोनॉमिकल यूनिट कहा जाता हैं तथा सूर्य के प्रकाश को पृथ्वी तक पहुँचने में लगभग ८.३ मिनट का समय लगता हैं|
पृथ्वी की आंतरिक संरचना शल्कीय रूप में अर्थात प्याज के छिलको के समान परत रूप में हैं, इन परतों की मोटाई का सीमांकन रासायनिक एवं यांत्रिक विशेषताओं के आधार पर किया जा सकता हैं| पृथ्वी की मुख्य रूप से चार परत हैं इसके सबसे अंदर इसका केंद्र हैं जो की क्रस्ट तथा मेटल से घिरा हुआ हैं, सबसे बाहर की परत भूपटल के रूप में हैं| पृथ्वी का आंतरिक कोर जो के लोह और निकेल से हैं उसका अर्धव्यास १२२१ किलोमीटर हैं, इसका तापमान १०८३०°F अर्थात ६०००°C होता हैं| इसके ऊपर २२१० किलोमीटर मोटी परत हैं जिसका निर्माण भी लोह तथा अन्य विभिन्न रसायनों से हुआ हैं, बाहरी कोर और क्रस्ट के बीच में मेटल वाली सबसे मोटी परत होती हैं| पृथ्वी का बाहरी कोर लगभग ३० किलोमीटर मोटा होता हैं|
पृथ्वी पर भी मंगल और बृहस्पति ग्रहों के समान ज्वालामुखी, पहाड़ और घाटियाँ स्थित हैं, पृथ्वी का लिथोस्फेरे जिसमें क्रस्ट और ऊपरी मेटल हैं, जो के विभिन्न बड़ी प्लेट्स में बटा हुआ हैं और लगातार गति करता रहता हैं, जैसे उत्तरी अमेरिका प्लेट प्रशांत महासागर बेसिन के ऊपर से गुजरता हैं इस समय प्लेट की गति लगभग उतनी ही होती हैं जितनी किसी व्यक्ति के नाखून बढ़ने की| जब एक प्लेट दूसरे प्लेट के मार्ग में आती हैं तो उनके टकराने पर या आपस में घर्षण से भूकंप की उत्पत्ति होती हैं तथा जब कभी प्लेट एक दूसरे पर चढ़ जाती हैं तो पहाड़ो का निर्माण होता हैं|
जैसा कि हम सभी जानते हैं पृथ्वी की आकृति लघ्वक्ष गोलाभ के समान हैं जो धुर्वों पर चपटी हैं, पृथ्वी का सबसे उच्चतम बिंदु माउन्ट एवरेस्ट जिसकी ऊँचाई ८८४८ मी. हैं तथा सबसे निम्नतम बिंदु प्रशांत महासागर में स्थित मारियाना खाई जिसकी समुन्द्र तल से गहराई १०,९११ मी. हैं| पृथ्वी के कुल आयतन का ०.५% भाग में भूपर्पटी तथा ८३% भाग में मैंटल विस्तृत हैं और १६% भाग क्रोड हैं| पृथ्वी का निर्माण विभिन्न तत्वों जैसे आयरन (३२.१%), ऑक्सीजन (३०.१%), सिलिकॉन (१५.१%), मैग्नीशियम (१३.९%), सल्फर (२.९%), निकिल (१.८%), कैलसियम (१.५%), ऐल्युमिनयम (१.४%) से हुआ हैं, इसके अलावा १.२% अन्य तत्वों का भी योगदान हैं| क्रोड का निर्माण लगभग ८८.८% आयरन से हुआ हैं| भूरसायनशास्त्री एफ. डब्ल्यू. क्लार्क के अनुसार पृथ्वी की भूपर्पटी में लगभग ४७% ऑक्सीजन हैं|
पृथ्वी के केंद्र के क्षेत्र को “केंद्रीय भाग” कहते हैं जो कि सबसे बड़ा क्षेत्र हैं यह निकिल और फ़ेरस का बना होता हैं| इसका औसत घनत्व १३ ग्राम/सेमि3 हैं, पृथ्वी का केंद्रीय भाग सम्भवतः द्रव/ प्लास्टिक अवस्था में हैं| यह पृथ्वी का कुल आयतन का १६% भाग घेरे हुए हैं, पृथ्वी का औसत घनत्व ५.५ ग्राम/ सेमि.3 एवं औसत त्रिज्या लगभग ६३७० किमी. हैं तथा पृथ्वी की गहराई में जाने पर प्रति ३२ मीटर में तापमान 1°C.बढ़ता जाता हैं|
पृथ्वी का तल असमान हैं, तल के ७०.८% भाग पर जल हैं जिसमें अधिकांश महासागरीय नितल समुंद्री स्तर के नीचे हैं| पृथ्वी पर लगभग ९७% पानी महासागरों में मौजूद हैं, लगभग सभी ज्वालामुखी इन्हीं महासागरों में हैं|
पृथ्वी पर कहीं विशाल पर्वत, कहीं उबड़- खाबड़ पठार तो कहीं पर उपजाऊ मैदान हैं| महाद्वीप और महासागरों को प्रथम स्तर की स्थलाकृति माना जाता हैं जबकि पर्वत, पठार घाटी निचले स्तरों के अंतर्गत रखे जाते हैं| पृथ्वी का तल समय काल के दौरान प्लेट टेक्टोनिक्स और क्षरण की वजह से लगातार परिवर्तित होता रहता हैं| प्लेट टेक्टोनिक्स की वजह से तल पर हुए बदलाव पर मौसम, वर्षा, उष्मीय चक्र और रासायनिक परिवर्तनों का असर पड़ता हैं| हिमीकरण, तटीय क्षरण, प्रवाल भित्तियों का निर्माण और बड़े उल्का पिंडो के पृथ्वी पर गिरने जैसे कारकों की वजह से भी पृथ्वी के तल पर परिवर्तन होते हैं|
पृथ्वी अपने अक्ष पर निरंतर घूमती हैं जिसकी २ गतियां हैं:-
पृथ्वी का अपने अक्ष पर घूमना घूर्णन कहलाता हैं, पृथ्वी पश्चिम से पूर्व दिशा की ओर घूर्णन करती हैं और एक घूर्णन पूरा करने में २३ घंटे, ५६ मिनट और ४.०९१ सेकंड का समय लेती हैं इसी से दिन व रात होते हैं|
पृथ्वी सूर्य के चारों एक अंडाकार पथ पर ३६५ दिन, ५ घंटे, ४८ मिनट व ४५.५१ सेकंड में एक चक्कर पूरा करती हैं जो पृथ्वी की परिक्रमण गति हैं तथा पृथ्वी की इसी गति की वजह से ऋतु परिवर्तन होता हैं| पृथ्वी की इस गति के कारण ६ घंटे जोड़ जोड़कर ४ सालों में जो एक दिन बढ़ता हैं वो हर चौथे साल फरवरी में जोड़ दिया जाता हैं वही फरवरी का महीना २९ दिन का होता हैं इसी को लिप वर्ष कहा जाता हैं|
पृथ्वी का एकमात्र प्राकृतिक उपग्रह चन्द्रमा हैं और यह सौरमंडल का पाँचवा सबसे विशाल प्राकृतिक उपग्रह हैं जिसका व्यास पृथ्वी का १/४ और द्रव्यमान १/८१ हैं|
पृथ्वी अपने अक्ष पर 23.5° झुकी हुई हैं, सूर्य के चारों और चक्कर लगाते समय भी पृथ्वी अपने अक्ष पर इसी प्रकार झुकी हुई रहती हैं| पृथ्वी के इसी झुकाव के कारण ही मौसम में बदलाव आते हैं, साल में एक समय पृथ्वी का उत्तरी गोलार्ध सूर्य की और झुका हुआ होता हैं जिसके कारण सूर्य का प्रकाश उत्तरी गोलार्ध में बहुत अधिक पहुचँता हैं और यहां ग्रीष्म काल होता हैं| दक्षिणी गोलार्ध और सूर्य की दुरी इस समय अधिक होती हैं इसलिए यहां सूर्य की किरणें तिरछी पड़ती हैं और तापमान कम रहता हैं जिससे दक्षिणी गोलार्ध में शीत ऋतु होती हैं| ठीक ६ महीने के बाद यह स्थिति विपरीत हो जाती हैं तथा वसंत ऋतु के समय दोनों गोलार्द्धों में लगभग समान प्रकाश आता हैं|
पृथ्वी के भूतल के आस-पास एक बहुत सघन वायुमंडल हैं जिसमें लगभग ७८.०९% नाइट्रोजन, २०.९५% ऑक्सीजन एवं १% बाकी अन्य गैस हैं| इन अन्य गैसों में आर्गन, कार्बनडाईऑक्ससाइड, और निऑन आदि हैं, यह वायुमंडल पृथ्वी के जलवायु, मौसम आदि को प्रभावित करते हैं तथा यह वायुमंडल आम लोगों को कई तरह की घातक किरणों से बचाता हैं और इसी के साथ यह वायुमंडल पृथ्वी को मटेरोइड्स आदि से बचाता हैं, दरअसल पृथ्वी की तरफ आते हुए मेटोर्स अक्सर वायुमंडल से घर्षित होते हुए रास्ते में ही जल के समाप्त हो जाते हैं|
Namdev, also transliterated as Namdeo and Namadeva, (traditionally, c. 1270 – c. 1350) was a poet-saint from Maharashtra, India who is significant to the Varkari sect of Hinduism. He is also venerated in Sikhism, as well as Hindu warrior-ascetic traditions such as the Dadupanthis and the Niranjani Sampraday that emerged in north India during the Islamic rule.
The details of Namdev’s life are unclear. He is the subject of many miracle-filled hagiographies composed centuries after he died. Scholars find these biographies to be inconsistent and contradictory.
Namdev was influenced by Vaishnavism, and became widely known in India for his devotional songs set to music (bhajan-kirtans). His philosophy contains both nirguna and saguna Brahman elements, with monistic themes. Namdev’s legacy is remembered in modern times in the Varkari tradition, along with those of other gurus, with masses of people walking together in biannual pilgrimages to Pandharpur in south Maharashtra.
Details of the life of Namdev are vague. He is traditionally believed to have lived between 1270 and 1350 but S. B. Kulkarni — according to Christian Novetzke, “one of the most prominent voices in the historical study of Maharashtrian sant figures” — has suggested that 1207-1287 is more likely, based on textual analysis. Some scholars date him to around 1425 and another, R. Bharadvaj, proposes 1309-1372.
Namdev was married to Rajai and had a son, Vitha, both of whom wrote about him, as did his mother, Gonai. Contemporary references to him by a disciple, a potter, a guru and other close associates also exist. There are no references to him in the records and inscriptions of the then-ruling family and the first non-Varkari noting of him appears possibly to be in the Lilacaritra, a Mahanubhava-sect biography dating from 1278. Smrtisthala, a later Mahanubhava text from around 1310, may also possibly refer to him; after that, there are no references until a bakhar of around 1538.
According to Mahipati, a hagiographer of the 18th century, Namdev’s parents were Damashet and Gonai, a childless elderly couple whose prayers for parenthood were answered and involved him being found floating down a river. As with various other details of his life, elements such as this may have been invented to sidestep issues that might have caused controversy. In this instance, the potential controversy was that of caste or, more specifically, his position in the Hindu varna system of ritual ranking. He was born into what is generally recognised as a Shudra caste, variously recorded as shimpi (tailor) in the Marathi language and as chimpi (calico-printer) in northern India. Shudra is the lowest-ranked of the four varnas and those of his followers in Maharashtra and northern India who are from those communities prefer to consider their place, and thus his, as the higher-status Kshatriya rank.
There are contrary traditions concerning his birthplace, with some people believing that he was born at Narsi Bahmani, on the Krishna River in Marathwada, and others preferring somewhere near to Pandharpur on the Bhima river. that he was himself a calico-printer or tailor and that he spent much of his life in Punjab. The Lilacaritra suggests, however, that Namdev was a cattle-thief who was devoted to and assisted Vithoba.
A friendship between Namdev and Jñāneśvar, a yogi-saint, has been posited at least as far back as circa 1600 CE when Nabhadas, a hagiographer, noted it in his Bhaktamal. Jñāneśvar, also known as Jñāndev, never referred to Namdev in his writings but perhaps had no cause to do so; Novetzke notes that “Jnandev’s songs generally did not concern biography or autobiography; the historical truth of their friendship is beyond my ken to determine and has remained an unsettled subject in Marathi scholarship for over a century.”
Namdev is generally considered by Sikhs to be a holy man (bhagat), many of whom came from lower castes and so also attracted attention as social reformers. Such men, who comprised both Hindus and Muslims, traditionally wrote devotional poetry in a style that was acceptable to the Sikh belief system.
A tradition in Maharashtra is that Namdev died at the age of eighty in 1350 CE. Sikh tradition maintains that his death place was the Punjabi village of Ghuman, although this is not universally accepted. Aside from a shrine there that marks his death, there are monuments at the other claimant places, being Pandharpur and the nearby Narsi Bahmani.
Scholars note that many miracles and specifics about Namdev’s life appear only in manuscripts written centuries after Namdev’s death. The birth theory with Namdev floating down a river, is first found in Mahipati’s Bhaktavijay composed around 1762, and is absent in all earlier biographies of Namdev. Mahipati’s biography of Namdev adds numerous other miracles, such as buildings rotating and sun rising in the west to show respect to Namdev.
The earliest surviving Hindi and Rajasthani biographies from about 1600 only mention a few miracles performed by Namdev. In Namdev biographies published after 1600 through the end of the 20th century, new life details and more miracles increasingly appear with the passage of time. The earliest biographies never mention the caste of Namdev, and his caste appears for the first time in manuscripts with statements from Ravidas and Dhana in early 17th century. Namdev’s Immaculate Conception miracle mentioned in later era manuscripts, adds Novetzke, is a story found regularly for other sants in India. The Namdev biographies in medieval manuscripts are inconsistent and contradictory, feeding questions of their reliability.
The literary works of Namdev were influenced by Vaishnava philosophy and a belief in Vithoba. Along with the Jñānēśvarī, a sacred work of Jñānēśvar, and of Bhakti movement teacher-writers such as Tukaram, the writings of Namdev form the basis of the beliefs held by the Varkari sect of Hinduism. He was thus among those responsible for disseminating the monotheistic Varkari faith that had emerged first in Karnataka in the mid-to-late 12th century and then spread to Pandharpur in Maharashtra.
Namdev and Jñānēśvar used the Marathi language to convey their beliefs rather than using the traditional Sanskrit language that was essentially a buttress for the pre-eminence of the Brahmin priests. Namdev’s style was to compose simply worded praise for Vithoba and to use a melodic device called samkirtana, both of which were accessible to common people. Shima Iwao says that “He taught that all can be saved equally, without regard to caste, through devotion (bhakti) to Vithoba” and that he greatly influenced groups of people who were forbidden by the Brahmin elite from studying the Vedas, such as women and members of the Shudra and untouchable communities.
The earliest anthological record of Namdev’s works occurs in the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh scriptures compiled in 1604, although Novetzke notes that while the manuscript records of Namdev mostly date from the 17th and 18th centuries, there exists a manuscript from 1581 that presents a rarely recounted variant version of Namdev’s Tirthavli, a Marathi-language autobiographical piece. It is evident that the Guru Granth record is an accurate rendition of what Namdev wrote: the oral tradition probably accounts significantly for the changes and additions that appear to have been made by that time. The numerous subsequently produced manuscripts also show variant texts and additions that are attributed to him. Of around 2500 abhangs that were credited to him and written in the Marathi language, perhaps only 600 – 700 are authentic. The surviving manuscripts are geographically dispersed and of uncertain provenance.
Namdev’s padas are not mere poems, according to Callewaert and Lath. Like other Bhakti movement sants, Namdev composed bhajans, that is songs meant to be sung to music. A Bhajan literally means “a thing enjoyed or shared”. Namdev’s songs were composed to be melodious and carry a spiritual message. They built on one among the many ancient Indian traditions for making music and singing. Namdev’s bhajans, note Callewaert and Lath, deployed particular species of Raag, used Bhanita (or Chhap, a stamp of the composer’s name inside the poem, in his case Nama), applied a Tek (or dhruva, repeated refrain) and a meter than helps harmonise the wording with the musical instrument, all according to Sangita manuals refined from the 8th to 13th centuries.
The musical genre of Namdev’s literary works was a form of Prabandha – itself a very large and rich genre that includes dhrupad, thumri, tappa, geet, bhajan and other species. In some species of Indian music, it is the music that dominates while words and their meaning are secondary. In contrast, in Namdev’s bhajan the spiritual message in the words has a central role, and the structure resonates with the singing and music. The songs and music that went with Namdev’s works, were usually transmitted verbally across generations, in a guru-sisya-parampara (teacher-student tradition), within singing gharanas (family-like musical units).
Callewart and Lath state that, “each single song of Namdev is a musical and textual unit and this unit is the basis for textual considerations”. The unit contained Antaras, which are the smallest independent unit within that can be shifted around, dropped or added, without affecting the harmony or meaning, when a bhajan is being sung with music. In Namdev’s songs, the dominant pattern is Caturasra, or an avarta with the 4×4 square pattern of musical matras (beat).
Namdev’s work is known for abhangas, a genre of hymn poetry in India. His poems were transmitted from one generation to the next within singing families, and memory was the only recording method in the centuries that followed Namdev’s death. The repertoires grew, because the artists added new songs to their repertoire. The earliest surviving manuscripts of songs attributed to Namdev, from these singing families, are traceable to the 17th century. A diverse collection of these manuscripts exist, which have been neither compiled nor archived successfully in a single critical edition. The state Government of Maharashtra made an effort and compiled Namdev’s work from various manuscripts into the Sri Namdev Gatha in 1970.
The Adi Granth of Sikhism includes a compilation of 61 songs of Namdev. However, of these only 25 are found in surviving Namdev-related manuscripts of Rajasthan. Winand Callewart suggests that Namdev’s poems in the Adi Granth and the surviving Rajasthani manuscripts are considerably different musically and morphologically, but likely to have evolved from a very early common source.
Of thousands of Abhang poems credited to Namdev, 600 – 700 are probably authentic. The other poems are attributed to Namdev, in a phenomenon Novetzke calls, “anamnetic authorship”. The later compositions and their authors hid the true authorship purposefully and collectively over the 14th to 18th centuries, a period described in Maharashtra culture as the dark age. This was a period of Muslim conquest and repression of Hindus under the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire. The literary works not composed by Namdev, but attributed to Namdev were partly a product of this historical suffering and political situation in Deccan region of India.
Namdev was influenced by Vaishnavite philosophy. His poems sometimes invoked Vithoba, sometimes Vishnu-Krishna as Govind-Hari, but in the larger context of Rama, which states Ronald McGregor, was not referring to the hero described in the Hindu epic Ramayana, but to a pantheistic Ultimate Being. Namdev’s view of Rama can be visualised, adds McGregor, “only as the one true, or real Teacher of man (satguru)”.
Indian traditions attribute varying theosophical views to Namdev. In north India, Namdev is considered as a nirguna bhakta, in Marathi culture he is considered a saguna bhakta.
In Namdev literature, devotion as the path to liberation is considered superior than other alternate paths. Novetzke states that the envisioned devotion is not one way from the devotee to Vishnu, but it is bidirectional, such that “Krishna (Vishnu) is Namdev’s slave, and Namdev is Vishnu’s slave”. To Namdev, mechanical rituals are futile, pilgrimage to holy places is pointless, deep meditation and loving mutual devotion is what matters. Namdev and other sant poets of India “were influenced by the monist view of the ultimate being (Brahman)”, which was expressed, in vernacular language, as the loving devotion not of a specific deity but to this ultimate, according to McGregor. Namdev’s songs suggested the divine is within oneself, its non-duality, its presence and oneness in everyone and everything.
In Namdev’s literary works, summarises Klaus Witz, as with virtually every Bhakti movement poet, the “Upanishadic teachings form an all-pervasive substratum, if not a basis. We have here a state of affairs that has no parallel in the West. Supreme Wisdom, which can be taken as basically nontheistic and as an independent wisdom tradition (not dependent on the Vedas), appears fused with highest level of bhakti and with highest level of God realization.”
Along with the works of sants such as Jnanesvar and Tukaram, the writings of Namdev are at the foundation of beliefs held by the Varkari sect of Hinduism. He was among those responsible for disseminating the Vithoba faith that had emerged first in the northern Karnataka region in the 12th century and spread to southern Maharashtra. Namdev used the Marathi language to compose his poetry, which made it accessible to the wider public. Namdev’s simple words of devotion and his use melody appealed to common people. This helped spread his message and songs widely. Namdev thus played a role, states McGregor, in shaping the religious base for the “premodern and modern culture of north India”.
Namdev attracted individuals from diverse classes and castes during community-driven bhajan singing sessions. His companions during worship sessions included Kanhopatra (a dancing girl), Sena (a barber), Savata (a gardener), Chokhamela (an untouchable), Janabai (a maid), Gora (a potter), Narahari (a goldsmith) and Jñāneśvar (also known as Dnyandev, a Brahmin). The close friendship between Namdev and the influential Jnanesvar, a Brahmin yogi-saint, is mentioned in Bhaktamal. The songs of Namdev, also called kirtans, use the term loka, which Novetzke states is a reference to “we the people” and the “human world” as a social force.
Namdev is considered one the five revered gurus in the Dadupanth tradition within Hinduism, the other four being Dadu, Kabir, Ravidas and Hardas. Dadupanthi Hindus thrived in Rajasthan, creating and compiling Bhakti poems including one of the largest collection of Namdev’s songs. They were also among the warrior-ascetics of Rajput heritage who became widespread phenomena in the 17th- and 18th-century North India, and were sannyasis who participated in armed resistance to the Islamic Mughal empire, inspired by their Nath yogi heritage and five revered gurus. Like Dadupanth, another north Indian warrior ascetic group, the Niranjani Sampradaya tradition within Hinduism reveres Namdev as a holy person. The Niranjani Vani, which is their scripture just like the scriptures of Dadu Panthi and Sikhs, includes the poetry of Namdev, and is dated to be from the 17th and 18th centuries.
Namdev is one of the revered holy men in Sikhism as well. He is mentioned in Guru Granth Sahib, where Novetzke notes, “Namdev is remembered as having being summoned to confront a Sultan.” There is a controversy among scholars if the Namdev hymns recorded in the Guru Granth of Sikhs were composed by the Marathi Namdev, or a different saint whose name was also Namdev.
Namdev’s legacy continues through the biannual pilgrimage to Pandharpur, near Bhima river, in south Maharashtra. His paduka (footprints) are among those of revered saints that Varkari communities from various parts of Maharashtra carry with a palkhi (palanquin) to the Vithoba temple in Pandharpur, every year in modern times. Namdev composed bhajan-kirtans are sung during the pilgrimage-related festivities.
Mātā Amṛtānandamayī Devī (born Sudhamani Idamannel; 27 September 1953), better known simply as Amma (“Mother”), is a Hindu spiritual leader and guru who is revered as a saint by her followers.
Mātā Amṛtānandamayī is an Indian guru from Parayakadavu (now partially known as Amritapuri), Alappad Panchayat, Kollam District, in the state of Kerala. Born to a family of fishermen in 1953, she was the third child of Sugunanandan and Damayanti. She has six siblings.
As part of her chores, Amṛtānandamayī gathered food scraps from neighbours for her family’s cows and goats, through which she was confronted with the intense poverty and suffering of others. She would bring these people food and clothing from her own home. Her family, which was not wealthy, scolded and punished her. Amṛtānandamayī also began to spontaneously embrace people to comfort them in their sorrow. Despite the reaction of her parents, Amṛtānandamayī continued. Regarding her desire to embrace others, Amṛtānandamayī commented, “I don’t see if it is a man or a woman. I don’t see anyone different from my own self. A continuous stream of love flows from me to all of creation. This is my inborn nature. The duty of a doctor is to treat patients. In the same way, my duty is to console those who are suffering.”
Amṛtānandamayī rejected numerous attempts by her parents to arrange for her marriage. Her life took a different path instead. In 1981, after spiritual seekers had begun residing at her parents’ property in Parayakadavu in the hopes of becoming Amṛtānandamayī’s disciples, the Mātā Amṛtānandamayī Math (MAM), a worldwide foundation, was founded. Amṛtānandamayī continues to serve as chairperson of the Math. Today the Mata Amritanandmayi Math is engaged in many spiritual and charitable activities.
In 1987, at the request of devotees, Amṛtānandamayī began to conduct programs in countries throughout the world. She has done so annually ever since.
In 2014, for the first time in history, major Anglican, Catholic, and Orthodox Christian leaders, as well as Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist leaders (including Amṛtānandamayī), met to sign a shared commitment against modern-day slavery organized by the Global Freedom Network; the declaration they signed calls for the elimination of slavery and human trafficking by the year 2020.
In July 2015, Amritanandamayi delivered the keynote address at a United Nations Academic Impact conference on technology and sustainable development, co-hosted by Amrita University. The event was attended by delegates from 93 international universities. In Amritanandamayi’s address, she requested the scientific community to infuse its research with awareness and compassion, stressing the importance of keeping the aim of uplifting the poor and suffering in mind when undertaking technological research.
Amṛtānandamayī’s form of giving darshana is hugging people. As to how this began, Amṛtānandamayī said, “People used to come and tell [me] their troubles. They would cry and I would wipe their tears. When they fell weeping into my lap, I used to hug them. Then the next person too wanted it… And so the habit picked up. Amṛtānandamayī has embraced more than 33 million people throughout the world for over 30 years.
When asked, in 2002, to what extent she thought her embraces helped the ills of the world, Amṛtānandamayī replied,
“I don’t say I can do it 100 percent. Attempting to change the world [completely] is like trying to straighten the curly tail of a dog. But society takes birth from people. So by affecting individuals, you can make changes in the society and, through it, in the world. You cannot change it, but you can make changes. The fight in individual minds is responsible for the wars. So if you can touch people, you can touch the world.”
Amṛtānandamayī’s darshana has been the centerpiece of her life, as she has received people nearly every day since the late 1970s. Given the size of the crowds coming to seek Amṛtānandamayī’s blessings, there have been times when she has given darshana for more than 20 continuous hours.
In the book The Timeless Path, Swami Ramakrishnananda Puri, one of Amṛtānandamayī’s senior disciples, wrote: “The [spiritual] path inculcated by Amma is the same as the one presented in the Vedas and recapitulated in subsequent traditional scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita.” Amṛtānandamayī herself says, “karma [action], jñana [knowledge] and bhakti [devotion] are all essential. If the two wings of a bird are devotion and action, knowledge is its tail. Only with the help of all three can the bird soar into the heights.” She accepts the various spiritual practices and prayers of all religions as but different methods toward the same goal of purifying the mind. Along these lines, she stresses the importance of meditation, performing actions as karma yoga, selfless service, and cultivating divine qualities such as compassion, patience, forgiveness, self-control, etc. Amṛtānandamayī has said that these practices refine the mind, preparing it to assimilate the ultimate truth: that one is not the physical body and mind, but the eternal, blissful consciousness that serves as the non-dual substratum of the universe. This understanding itself Amṛtānandamayī referred to as jivanmukti [liberation while alive]. Amṛtānandamayī said, “Jivanmukti is not something to be attained after death, nor is it to be experienced or bestowed upon you in another world. It is a state of perfect awareness and equanimity, which can be experienced here and now in this world, while living in the body. Having come to experience the highest truth of oneness with the Self, such blessed souls do not have to be born again. They merge with the infinite.”
Amṛtānandamayī has recorded more than 1,000 bhajans, or devotional songs, in 35 languages. She has also composed dozens of bhajans and set them to traditional ragas. Regarding devotional singing as a spiritual practice, Amṛtānandamayī says, “If the bhajan is sung with one-pointedness, it is beneficial for the singer, the listeners, and Nature as well. Later when the listeners reflect on the songs, they will try to live in accordance with the lessons enunciated therein.” Amṛtānandamayī has said that in today’s world, it is often difficult for people to attain deeply focused concentration in meditation. A person can be aided in reaching this level of concentration with bhajans.
Embracing the World, Amma’s network of charity organizations, provides food, housing, education, and medical services for the poor. This global network exists in 40 countries around the world, and has built and/or supported schools, orphanages, housing, and hospitals throughout India. In the United States, the organization has provided soup kitchens and hot showers for the homeless, books and hospital visits for prison inmates, and support for victims of domestic violence. The organization also raised $1 million in aid for Hurricane Katrina victims. The hospital located on the territory of Amma’s ashram in Kerala offers medical care on a sliding scale, allowing people to pay what they can afford. This is often a minimal percent of the total medical cost.
Following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, the organization provided food and shelter to thousands of people, especially in areas where Indian government aid was inadequate.
Amritanandamayi’s organization has been cleaning the Pampa River and Sabarimala Temple pilgrimage site annually since 2012.
On September 11, 2015, Amritanandamayi donated $15 million USD to the Government of India’s Namami Gange “Clean the Ganges” program for the specific purpose of constructing toilets for poor families living along the Ganges River.
On September 27, 2015, Amritanandamayi pledged that her NGO would dedicate the value of another $15 million USD to toilet construction and other sanitation efforts specifically in the Indian state of Kerala.
On December 9, 2015, Amritanandamayi donated 5 crores of rupees ($736,486) to the flood relief fund established by the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Additionally, at Amritanandmayi’s direction, 500 volunteers from the Mata Amritanandamayi Math helped to rescue victims and distributed food, clothing, medicines, and other essentials.
Sreeni Pattathanam, the Kerala-based head of the Indian Rationalist Association, wrote Matha Amritanandamayi: Sacred Stories and Realities, a controversial critique first published in 1985. The author claimed that all the “miracles” of Amṛtānandamayī were falsified. It was further written that there had been many suspicious deaths in and around her ashram that required police investigation.
On 9 August 2002, Deshabhimani, a Malayalam daily newspaper owned by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), published a similar account, demanding investigation into the same deaths Pattathanam found suspicious. On 24 September 2002, Deshabhimani officially apologised for the report, publishing an article titled “Report that Suspicious Deaths at Amritanandamayi Math Are Growing Was Incorrect”. The article stated: “We now state with conviction that there was nothing suspicious about deaths that happened in the Math. Some of the deaths mentioned in the article did not even take place at the Math.” The article went on to explain that relatives of the deceased had personally contacted Deshabhimani in order to correct the misinformation conveyed in the original article. In several cases, the editors noted the relatives had contacted Deshabhimani to explain they were at the bedsides of elderly kin who had died of natural causes, with no suspicious aspects regarding the passings.
In 2004, the Kerala State Government sanctioned criminal prosecution of Patthathanam, the owner of the publishing company, and the printer of the book on grounds that religious sentiments had been offended and for the libelous statements in the book. The order followed directions from the Kerala High Court to the Home Department for considering an application by T.K. Ajan, a resident of the Mata Amṛtānandamayī Math. CPI leader Thengamam Balakrishnan protested the move against Pattathanam.
On 1 August 2012, a 25-year-old law student from Bihar, Satnam Singh Mann, attempted to barge onto the podium of Amṛtānandamayī at her ashram in Kollam. According to police, he was screaming and reciting words in Arabic. He attacked security guards and then was overpowered by devotees, who handed him over to the police.
1993, ‘President of the Hindu Faith’ (Parliament of the World’s Religions)
1993, Hindu Renaissance Award as “Hindu of the Year” (Hinduism Today)
1998, Care & Share International Humanitarian of the Year Award (Chicago)
2002, Karma Yogi of the Year (Yoga Journal)
2002, Gandhi-King Award for Non-Violence by The World Movement for Nonviolence (UN, Geneva)
2005, Mahavir Mahatma Award (London)
2005, Centenary Legendary Award of the International Rotarians (Cochin)
2006, James Parks Morton Interfaith Award (New York)
2006, The Philosopher Saint Sri Jnaneswara World Peace Prize (Pune)
2007, Le Prix Cinéma Vérité (Cinéma Vérité, Paris)
2010, The State University of New York awarded Amma an honorary doctorate in humane letters on 25 May 2010 at its Buffalo campus.
2012, Amma featured in the Watkins’ list of the top 100 most spiritually influential living people in the world.
2013, Awarded first Vishwaretna Purskar (Gem of the Word Award) by Hindu Parliament on 23 April 2013 at Thiruvananthapuram (India)
2013, Awarded proclamation on behalf of the State of Michigan to Amma commemorating Amma’s 60th birthday, the official proclamation describes Amma as a true citizen of the world and recognizes Amma’s charitable works worldwide.
2014, Chosen as one among the 50 most powerful women religious leaders by The Huffington Post.
Founder & Chairperson, Mata Amṛtānandamayī Math
Founder, Embracing the World
Chancellor, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham University
Founder, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS Hospital)
Parliament of the World’s Religions, International Advisory committee member
President Swami Vivekananda’s 150th birth anniversary celebration committee, India
Member, Elijah Interfaith Institute Board of World Religious Leaders
Amṛtānandamayī’s disciples have transcribed her conversations with devotees and spiritual seekers to create approximately a dozen books of her teachings known as “Awaken Children”. The addresses she has delivered at various international forums have also been published in book form. Beginning in April 2011, a bi-weekly message from Amṛtānandamayī has appeared in the Lifestyle section of the Express Buzz Sunday supplement of the New Indian Express newspaper. She also writes a regular blog in the spiritual publication Speaking Tree.
1999 River of Love: A Documentary Drama on the Life of Ammachi
2000 Louis Theroux’s Weird Weekends – “Indian Gurus” (BBC-TV)
2005 Darshan: The Embrace – directed by Jan Kounen
2007 In God’s Name – directed by Jules Clément Naudet and Thomas Gédéon Naudet
2016 “Science of Compassion – a Documentary on Amma, Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi” — directed by Shekhar Kapur.
Sant Eknath Maharaj, considered the Spiritual successor to the work of Sant Dnyaneshwar and Sant Namadev, was a great Saint from Maharashtra. Sant Eknath was known for His spiritual prowess as well as His immense efforts in awakening people and safeguarding Dharma. Sant Eknath id the author of numerous hymns and books on Bhakti and Spirituality, including the famous Eknathi Bhagwat, the spiritual essence of the Bhagavad Geeta and his magnum opus Bhavarth Ramayan.
During the time of Sant Dnyaneshwar and Sant Namadev in Maharashtra, Devgiri was a prosperous and content kingdom under the king Shree Ramdevrai Yadav. Unfortunately after the death of the king Devgiri fell into the hands of Muslim invaders. The reformative and uplifting work started by Sant Dnyaneshwar and Sant Namdev came to a stop. The war and foreign invasions had taken a heavy toll in the life of the people. People were aimless and resigned to the drudgery of being slaves to invaders. For nearly 200 years, this was the state of the people, the nation and Dharma, till a bright soul took birth to awaken the masses.
Little Eknath had been impressed upon the importance of the Gurucharitra. He was constantly asking others on how he could meet His Guru. The learned men around him were baffled and told him to ask the river Godavari. So the very next day little Eknath went to the river and asked his question with great earnestness and urgency. And the infinitely compassionate mother answered! ‘Your Guru is waiting in the fort of Daulatabad’, little Eknath was told. He promptly left home for Daulatabad!
Janardan swami was the head of the fort of Daulatabad. He used to go on leave every Thursday. It was a fateful day, when 5 year old Eknath who was resolutely climbing the steps of the fort, came across Janardan Swami. Janardan Swami welcomed the boy with the word ‘I have been expecting you’. The Guru always waits and knows when a worthy disciple will come along. Janardan Swami entrusted the task of making preparations for puja to little Eknath, who performed it with great devotion, which pleased the Guru immensely. Janardan swami took young Eknath.
The Devgiri fort was under the Nizam rule. Sant Eknath who lived nearby saw that the people silently suffered the excesses of the rulers, while having resigned to their fate of being enslaved. The people were alive because they were not dead already! Sant Eknath decided that he needed to start a mass movement for awakening the people. He earnestly prayed to the Kulswamini Jagdambamata to manifest and bless the work of awakening the people.
Slowly but surely, the people began to realise that they were living a caged life. Sant Eknath’s efforts bore fruit when the demoralised people started expressing their dissatisfaction against the foreign rulers.
दया तिचे नाव भूतांचे पालन ।
आणिक निर्दाळण कंटकांचे ।।
Meaning : Kindness and compassion for the people |
Strict and fiery towards unjust ||
One fateful day, Janardan Swami was deep in Samadhi, when an attacking army raised an alarm. Eknath Maharaj did not hesitate, despite not being a combatant, he donned the armour and stepped out to fight the invaders. He had only one thought on his mind, that his Guru Janardan Swami’s Samadhi state should not be disturbed. So Eknath Maharaj fought valorously for 4 hours and drove the invaders away.
Eknath Maharaj was lauded for his bravery. He proved that the Guru and Shishya are one! Janardan Maharaj was not informed of anything of this. When Swamiji came to know of this he felt a sense of fulfilment for his disciple. The disciples such as Eknathji Maharaj who can wipe out the difference between a Guru and his disciple and can do the work of Guru are extremely rare so to say.
Eknathji had a tremendous respect for mother tongue. For the sake of uplifting of common people he wrote simple stories, Kirtans or stories of Goddesses, Prayers to Goddesses for fulfilment of desires, on the Art of Dance etc. He also wrote a book on Ramayana to give the people of what Ram Rajya or an Ideal State isSant Eknath writes Bhavarth Ramayan
The historical rendition of the life of Lord Rama was re-written by Eknath Maharaj in a volume comprising of 7 divisions, 297 chapters and nearly 40000 stanzas called ‘Ovis’. Eknath Maharaj endeavoured to explain the spiritual meaning of the life of Rama.
‘Aja’ is Parbrahma or Parmatma. From this came Dasaratha or the 10 sense organs. The personal self (atma) in the form of Ram took birth through Dasaratha. The Avatars or Incarnations of God had the primary object of satisfying the desires and aspirations of Gods. Dasrath had 3 Queens – Kaushalya symbolising beneficent knowledge (Sadvidya), Sumitra symbolising Pure knowledge (Shuddhabuddhi) and Kaikayi symbolising ignorance (Avidya). Kaikayi’s maid Manthara symbolised harmful knowledge (Kuvidya). Ram the Blissful had 3 brothers. Laxman meaning self-knowledge (Atmaprabodh), Bharat meaning sentimental (Bhavartha) and Satrughna meaning self supporting (Nij-nirdhar). Then again Vishwamitra meaning rationality (Vivek) and Vasistha meaning thoughtful (Vichar). From latter two Ram learnt the scriptures as well as the art of war. Ram and Sita symbolise God and His Intelligence. Their unity is absolute.
We are fortunate that Eknath Maharaj bestowed upon us the unadulterated version of Dnyaneshwari. From his Bhavarth Ramayana we can witness the sorry state of affairs of Maharashtra under the Islamic kings; the social, political and economic downfall of the people at the time. Even the religious circles had deteriorated to unprecedented levels of hypocrisy. Sant Eknath Maharaj castigated these charlatans of religion in no uncertain manner. Some of them took lessons from Eknath Maharaj and worked to improve themselves and tried to really work for the upliftment of society. Eknath Maharaj proved to the society that via the medium of ‘Bhakti’ one can be a regular householder as well as spiritually evolved. Eknath Maharaj’s life showed the people that the worldly pursuits can also be Spiritual pursuits. He raised the aspirations of people and instilled pride into them towards Bhagwat Dharma and to build strong characters. However it was unfortunate that before the ideas and teachings of Eknath Maharaj could be properly instilled into the hearts and minds of people, invasions by foreigners diverted the peoples efforts and His efforts were shortlived.
Credit- Hindu Jagr UTI
Tukaram, also referred to as Saint Tukaram, Bhakta Tukaram, Tukaram Maharaj, Tukoba and Tukobaraya, was a 17th-century poet-saint of the Bhakti movement in Maharashtra. He was part of the egalitarian, personalized Varkari devotionalism tradition. Tukaram is best known for his Abhanga devotional poetry and community-oriented worship with spiritual songs known as kirtans. His poetry was devoted to Vitthala or Vithoba, an avatar of Hindu god Vishnu.
The year of birth and death of Saint Tukaram has been a subject of research and dispute among 20th-century scholars. He was either born in the year 1598 or 1608 in a village named Dehu, near Pune in Mahārāshtra, India.
Saint Tukaram was born to Kanakar and Bolhoba More, and scholars consider his family to belong to the Kunbi (Shudra) caste. Despite being from a caste traditionally believed to be the laborers and tilling service providers, Tukaram’s family owned a retailing and money-lending business as well as were engaged in agriculture and trade. His parents were devotees of Vithoba, an avatar of Hindu deity Vishnu (Vaishnavas). Both his parents died when Tukaram was a teenager.
Saint Tukaram’s first wife was Rakhama Bai, and they had a son named Santu. However, both his son and wife starved to death in the famine of 1630-1632. The deaths and widespread poverty had a profound effect on Tukaram, who became contemplative, meditating on the hills of Sahyadri range (Western Ghats) in Maharashtra, and later wrote he “had discussions with my own self”. Tukaram married again, and his second wife was Avalai Jija Bai. He spent most of his later years in devotional worship, community kirtans (group prayers with singing) and composing Abhanga poetry.
According to Ranade, Tukaram’s spiritual teacher was Babaji Chaitanya, who himself was fourth generation disciple of the 13th-century scholar Jnanadeva. In his work of Abhangas, Tukarama repeatedly refers to four other persons who had a primary influence on his spiritual development, namely the earlier Bhakti sants Namdev, Jnanadeva, Kabir and Eknath.
According to some scholars, Tukaram met Shivaji – a Hindu leader who challenged the Islamic Mughal Empire and who founded the Maratha kingdom; Tukaram introduced Shivaji to Ramdas for his spiritual education. Their continued interaction is the subject of legends. Eleanor Zelliot states Bhakti movement poets including Tukaram were influential in Shivaji’s rise to power.
Tukaram died in 1649 or 1650.
Sant Tukaram composed Abhanga poetry, a Marathi genre of literature which is metrical (traditionally the ovi meter), simple, direct, and it fuses folk stories with deeper spiritual themes.
I could not lie anymore,
so I started to call my dog “God”.
First he looked confused,
then he started smiling, then he even danced.
I kept at it, now he doesn’t even bite,
I am wondering if this might work on people.
— Sant Tukaram, Translated by Daniel Ladinsky
Tukaram’s work is known for informal verses of rapturous abandon in folksy style, composed in vernacular language, in contrast to his predecessors such as Dnyandeva or Namdev known for combining similar depth of thought with a grace of style.
In one of his poems, Tukaram self-effacingly described himself as a “fool, confused, lost, liking solitude because I am wearied of the world, worshipping Vitthal (Vishnu) just like my ancestors were doing but I lack their faith and devotion, and there is nothing holy about me”.
Tukaram Gatha is a Marathi language compilation of his works, likely composed between 1632 and 1650. Also called Abhanga Gatha, the Indian tradition believes it includes some 4,500 abhangas, but modern scholars have questioned the authenticity of most of them. The poems considered authentic cover a wide range of human emotions and life experiences, some autobiographical, and places them in a spiritual context. He includes a discussion about the conflict between Pravritti – having passion for life, family, business, and Nivritti – the desire to renounce, leave everything behind for individual liberation, moksha.
Ranade states there are four major collations of Tukaram’s Abhanga Gathas.
Numerous inconsistent manuscripts of Tukaram Gatha are known, and scholars doubt that most of the poems attributed to Tukaram are authentic. Of all manuscripts so far discovered, four are most studied and labelled as: the Dehu MS, the Kadusa MS, the Talegeon MS and the Pandharpur MS. Of these, the Dehu MS is most referred to because Indian tradition asserts that it is based on the writing of Tukaram’s son Mahadeva, but there is no historical evidence that this is true.
The first compilation of Tukaram poems were published, in modern format, by Indu Prakash publishers in 1869, subsidized by the British colonial government’s Bombay Presidency. The 1869 edition noted, “some of the [as received] manuscripts on which the compilation relied, had been ‘corrected’, ‘further corrected’ and ‘arranged’.” This doctoring and rewriting over about 200 years, after Tukaram’s death, has raised questions whether modern compilation of Tukaram’s poems faithfully represent what Tukaram actually thought and said, and the historicity of the document. The known manuscripts are jumbled, randomly scattered collections, without chronological sequence, and each contain some poems that are not found in all other known manuscripts.
Early 20th-century scholars on Tukaram considered his teachings to be Vedanta-based but lacking a systematic theme. Edwards wrote,
Tukaram is never systematic in his psychology, his theology, or his theodicy. He oscillates between a Dvaitist [Vedanta] and an Advaitist view of God and the world, leaning now to a pantheistic scheme of things, now to a distinctly Providential, and he does not harmonize them. He says little about cosmogony, and according to him, God realizes Himself in the devotion of His worshippers. Likewise, faith is essential to their realization of Him: ‘It is our faith that makes thee a god’, he says boldly to his Vithoba.
Late 20th-century scholarship of Tukaram, and translations of his Abhanga poem, affirm his pantheistic Vedantic view. Tukaram’s Abhanga 2877, as translated by Ranade states, for example, “The Vedanta has said that the whole universe is filled by God. All sciences have proclaimed that God has filled the whole world. The Puranas have unmistakably taught the universal immanence of God. The saints have told us that the world is filled by God. Tuka indeed is playing in the world uncontaminated by it like the Sun which stands absolutely transcendent”.
Scholars note the often discussed controversy, particularly among Marathi people, whether Tukaram subscribed to the monistic Vedanta philosophy of Adi Shankara. Bhandarkar notes that Abhanga 300, 1992 and 2482 attributed to Tukaram are in style and philosophy of Adi Shankara:
When salt is dissolved in water, what is it that remains distinct?
I have thus become one in joy with thee [Vithoba, God] and have lost myself in thee.
When fire and camphor are brought together, is there any black remnant left?
Tuka says, thou and I are one light.
— Tukaram Gatha, 2482, Translated by RG Bhandarkar
However, scholars also note that other Abhangas attributed to Tukaram criticize monism, and favor dualistic Vedanta philosophy of the Indian philosophers Madhvacharya and Ramanuja. In Abhanga 1471, according to Bhandarkar’s translation, Tukaram says, “When monism is expounded without faith and love, the expounder as well as the hearer are troubled and afflicted. He who calls himself Brahma and goes on in his usual way, should not be spoken to and is a buffoon. The shameless one who speaks heresy in opposition to the Vedas is an object of scorn among holy men.”
The controversy about Tukaram’s true philosophical positions has been complicated by questions of authenticity of poems attributed to him, discovery of manuscripts with vastly different number of his Abhang poems, and that Tukaram did not write the poems himself, they were written down much later, by others from memory.
Tukaram denounced mechanical rites, rituals, sacrifices, vows and instead encouraged direct form of bhakti (devotion).
Tukaram encouraged kirtan as a music imbued, community-oriented group singing and dancing form of bhakti. He considered kirtan not just a means to learn about Bhakti, but Bhakti itself. The greatest merit in kirtan, according to Tukaram, is it being not only a spiritual path for the devotee, it helps create a spiritual path for others. Tukaram maharaj was great.
Tukaram accepted disciples and devotees without discriminating gender. One of his celebrated devotees was Bahina Bai, a Brahmin woman, who faced anger and abuse of her husband when she chose Bhakti marga and Tukaram as her guru.
Tukaram taught, states Ranade, that “pride of caste never made any man holy”, “the Vedas and Shastras have said that for the service of God, castes do not matter”, “castes do not matter, it is God’s name that matters”, and “an outcast who loves the Name of God is verily a Brahmin; in him have tranquility, forbearance, compassion and courage made their home”. However, early 20th century scholars questioned whether Tukaram himself observed caste when his daughters from his second wife married men of their own caste. Fraser and Edwards, in their 1921 review of Tukaram, stated that this is not necessarily so, because people in the West too generally prefer relatives to marry those of their own economic and social strata.
David Lorenzen states that the acceptance, efforts and reform role of Tukaram in the Varakari-sampraday follows the diverse caste and gender distributions found in Bhakti movements across India. Tukaram, of Shudra varna, was one of the nine non-Brahmins, of the twenty one considered saints in Varakari-sampraday tradition. The rest include ten Brahmins and two whose caste origins are unknown. Of the twenty one, four women are celebrated as sants, born in two Brahmin and two non-Brahmin families. Tukaram’s effort at social reforms within Varakari-sampraday must be viewed in this historical context and as part of the overall movement, states Lorenzen.
Tukaram was a devotee of Vitthala or Vithoba, an avatar of God Vishnu, synchronous with Krishna but with regional style and features. Tukaram’s literary works, along with those of sants Dnyandev, Namdev and Eknath, states Mohan Lal, are credited to have propelled Varkari tradition into pan-Indian Bhakti literature.
According to Richard Eaton, from early 14th-century when Maharashtra region came under the rule of the Islamic Delhi Sultanate, down to the 17th-century, the legacy of Tukaram and his poet-predecessors, “gave voice to a deep-rooted collective identity among Marathi-speakers”. Dilip Chitre summarizes the legacy of Tukaram and Bhakti poets, during this period of Hindu-Muslim wars, as transforming “language of shared religion, and religion a shared language. It is they who helped to bind the Marathas together against the Mughals on the basis not of any religious ideology but of a territorial cultural identity”.
Mahatma Gandhi, in early 20th century, while under arrest in Yerwada Central Jail by the British colonial government for his non-violent movement, read and translated Tukaram’s poetry along with Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and poems by other Bhakti movement poet-saints.
Saintliness is not to be purchased in shops,
nor is it to be had for wandering, nor in cupboards, nor in deserts, nor in forests.
It is not obtainable for a heap of riches. It is not in the heavens above, nor in the entrails of the earth below.
Tuka says: It is a life’s bargain, and if you will not give your life to possess it, better be silent.
The essence of the endless Vedas is this: Seek the shelter of God and repeat His name with all thy heart.
The result of the cogitations of all the Shastras is also the same.
Tuka says: The burden of the eighteen Puranas is also identical.
Merit consists in doing good to others, sin in doing harm to others. There is no other pair comparable to this.
Truth is the only freedom; untruth is bondage, there is no secret like this.
God’s name on one’s lips is itself salvation, disregarding the name is perdition.
Companionship of the good is the only heaven, indifference is hell.
Tuka says: It is thus clear what is good and what is injurious, let people choose what they will.
— Sant Tukaram, Translated by Mahatma Gandhi
Sant Tukaram (1936) – this movie on Tukaram was screened open-air for a year, to packed audiences in Mumbai, and numerous rural people would walk very long distances to see it.
Santa Tukaram (1963), in Kannada
Sant Tukaram (1965), in Hindi
Bhakta Tukaram (1973), in Telugu
Tukaram (2012), in Marathi
Tukaram’s life was the subject of 68th issue of Amar Chitra Katha, India’s largest comic book series.
Government of India Issued 100 rupees Silver commemorative coin in 2002.
The 18th-century biographer Mahipati, in his four volume compilation of the lives of many Bhakti saints, included Tukaram. Mahipati’s treatise has been translated by Justin Abbott.
A translation of about 3,700 poems from Tukaram Gatha in English was published, in three volumes, between 1909 and 1915, by Fraser and Marathe. In 1922, Fraser and Edwards published his biography and religious ideas incorporating some translations of Tukaram’s poems, and included a comparison of Tukaram’s philosophy and theology with those of Christianity. Deleury, in 1956, published a metric French translation of a selection of Tukaram’s poem along with an introduction to the religious heritage of Tukaram (Deleury spells him as Toukaram).
Arun Kolatkar published, in 1966, six volumes of avant-garde translations of Tukaram poems. Ranade has published a critical biography and some selected translation.
Dilip Chitre translated writings of Sant Tukaram into English in the book titled Says Tuka for which he was awarded the Sahitya Akademi award in 1994. A selection of poems of Tukaram has been translated and published by Daniel Ladinsky.
Chandrakant Kaluram Mhatre has translated selected poems of Tukaram, published as One Hundred Poems of Tukaram.
Swami Vivekananda; 12 January 1863 – 4 July 1902), born Narendranath Datta, was an Indian Hindu monk, a chief disciple of the 19th-century Indian mystic Ramakrishna. He was a key figure in the introduction of the Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga to the Western world and is credited with raising interfaith awareness, bringing Hinduism to the status of a major world religion during the late 19th century. He was a major force in the revival of Hinduism in India and contributed to the concept of nationalism in colonial India. Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission. He is perhaps best known for his speech which began, “Sisters and brothers of America …,” in which he introduced Hinduism at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893.
Born into an aristocratic Bengali family of Calcutta, Vivekananda was inclined towards spirituality. He was influenced by his Guru, Ramakrishna Deva, from whom he learned that all living beings were an embodiment of the divine self; therefore, service to God could be rendered by service to mankind. After Ramakrishna’s death, Vivekananda toured the Indian subcontinent extensively and acquired first-hand knowledge of the conditions prevailing in British India. He later traveled to the United States, representing India at the 1893 Parliament of the World Religions. Vivekananda conducted hundreds of public and private lectures and classes, disseminating tenets of Hindu philosophy in the United States, England, and Europe. In India, Vivekananda is regarded as a patriotic saint and his birthday is celebrated there as National Youth Day.
Vivekananda was born Narendranath Datta (shortened to Narendra or Naren) at his ancestral home at 3 Gourmohan Mukherjee Street in Calcutta, the capital of British India, on 12 January 1863 during the Makar Sankranti festival. He belonged to a traditional Bengali Kayastha family and was one of nine siblings. His father, Vishwanath Datta, was an attorney at the Calcutta High Court. Durgacharan Datta, Narendra’s grandfather was a Sanskrit and Persian scholar who left his family and became a monk at age twenty-five. His mother, Bhubaneswari Devi, was a devout housewife. The progressive, rational attitude of Narendra’s father and the religious temperament of his mother helped shape his thinking and personality.
Narendranath was interested spiritually from a young age and used to meditate before the images of deities such as Shiva, Rama, Sita, and Mahavir Hanuman. He was fascinated by wandering ascetics and monks. Naren was naughty and restless as a child, and his parents often had difficulty controlling him. His mother said, “I prayed to Shiva for a son and he has sent me one of his ghosts”.
In 1871, at the age of eight, Narendranath enrolled at Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar’s Metropolitan Institution, where he went to school until his family moved to Raipur in 1877. In 1879, after his family’s return to Calcutta, he was the only student to receive first-division marks in the Presidency College entrance examination. He was an avid reader in a wide range of subjects, including philosophy, religion, history, social science, art, and literature. He was also interested in Hindu scriptures, including the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Puranas. Narendra was trained in Indian classical music and regularly participated in the physical exercise, sports, and organized activities. Narendra studied Western logic, Western philosophy and European history at the General Assembly’s Institution (now known as the Scottish Church College). In 1881 he passed the Fine Arts examination and completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1884. Narendra studied the works of David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Baruch Spinoza, Georg W. F. Hegel, Arthur Schopenhauer, Auguste Comte, John Stuart Mill and Charles Darwin. He became fascinated with the evolutionism of Herbert Spencer and corresponded with him, translating Spencer’s book Education (1861) into Bengali. While studying Western philosophers, he also learned Sanskrit scriptures and Bengali literature. William Hastie (principal of General Assembly’s Institution) wrote, “Narendra is really a genius. I have traveled far and wide but I have never come across a lad of his talents and possibilities, even in German universities, among philosophical students’ Some accounts have called Narendra a shrutidhara (a person with a prodigious memory).
In 1880 Narendra joined Keshab Chandra Sen’s Nava Vidhan, which was established by Sen after meeting Ramakrishna and reconverting from Christianity to Hinduism. Narendra became a member of a Freemasonry lodge “at some point before 1884” and of the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj in his twenties, a breakaway faction of the Brahmo Samaj led by Keshab Chandra Sen and Debendranath Tagore. From 1881 to 1884 he was also active in Sen’s Band of Hope, which tried to discourage youths from smoking and drinking.
It was in this cultic milieu that Narendra became acquainted with western esotericism. His initial beliefs were shaped by Brahmo concepts, which included belief in a formless God and the deprecation of idolatry, and a “streamlined, rationalized, monotheistic theology strongly coloured by a selective and modernistic reading of the Upanisads and of the Vedanta.” Rammohan Roy, the founder of the Brahmo Samaj who was strongly influenced by unitarianism, strived toward an universalistic interpretation of Hinduism. His ideas were “altered […] considerably” by Debendranath Tagore, who had a romantic approach to the development of these new doctrines, and questioned central Hindu beliefs like reincarnation and karma, and rejected the authority of the Vedas. Tagore also brought this “neo-Hinduism” closer in line with western esotericism, a development which was furthered by Keshubchandra Sen. Sen was influenced by transcendentalism, an American philosophical-religious movement strongly connected with unitarianism, which emphasised personal religious experience over mere reasoning and theology. Sen strived to “an accessible, non-renunciatory, everyman type of spirituality”, introducing “lay systems of spiritual practice” which can be regarded as prototypes of the kind of Yoga-exercises which Vivekananda popularised in the west.
The same search for direct intuition and understanding can be seen with Vivekananda. Not satisfied with his knowledge of philosophy, Narendra came to “the question which marked the real beginning of his intellectual quest for God.” He asked several prominent Calcutta residents if they had come “face to face with God”, but none of their answers satisfied him. At this time, Narendra met Debendranath Tagore (the leader of Brahmo Samaj) and asked if he had seen God. Instead of answering his question, Tagore said “My boy, you have the Yogi’s eyes.” According to Banhatti, it was Ramakrishna who really answered Narendra’s question, by saying “Yes, I see Him as I see you, only in an infinitely intenser sense.” Nevertheless, Vivekananda was more influenced by the Brahmo Samaj’s and its new ideas, than by Ramakrishna. It was Sen’s influence who brought Vivekananda fully into contact with western esotericism, and it was also via Sen that he met Ramakrishna.
In 1881 Narendra first met Ramakrishna, who became his spiritual focus after his own father had died in 1884.
Narendra’s first introduction to Ramakrishna occurred in a literature class at General Assembly’s Institution when he heard Professor William Hastie lecturing on William Wordsworth’s poem, The Excursion. While explaining the word “trance” in the poem, Hastie suggested that his students visit Ramakrishna of Dakshineswar to understand the true meaning of trance. This prompted some of his students (including Narendra) to visit Ramakrishna.
They probably first met personally in November 1881, though Narendra did not consider this their first meeting, and neither man mentioned this meeting later. At this time Narendra was preparing for his upcoming F. A. examination, when Ram Chandra Datta accompanied him to Surendra Nath Mitra’s, house where Ramakrishna was invited to deliver a lecture. According to Paranjape, at this meeting Ramakrishna asked young Narendra to sing. Impressed by his singing talent, he asked Narendra to come to Dakshineshwar.
In late 1881 or early 1882, Narendra went to Dakshineswar with two friends and met Ramakrishna. This meeting proved to be a turning point in his life. Although he did not initially accept Ramakrishna as his teacher and rebelled against his ideas, he was attracted by his personality and began to frequently visit him at Dakshineswar. He initially saw Ramakrishna’s ecstasies and visions as “mere figments of imagination” and “hallucinations”. As a member of Brahmo Samaj, he opposed idol worship, polytheism and Ramakrishna’s worship of Kali. He even rejected the Advaita Vedanta of “identity with the absolute” as blasphemy and madness, and often ridiculed the idea. Narendra tested Ramakrishna, who faced his arguments patiently: “Try to see the truth from all angles”, he replied.
Narendra’s father’s sudden death in 1884 left the family bankrupt; creditors began demanding the repayment of loans, and relatives threatened to evict the family from their ancestral home. Narendra, once a son of a well-to-do family, became one of the poorest students in his college. He unsuccessfully tried to find work and questioned God’s existence, but found solace in Ramakrishna and his visits to Dakshineswar increased.
One day Narendra requested Ramakrishna to pray to goddess Kali for their family’s financial welfare. Ramakrishna suggested him to go to the temple himself and pray. Following Ramakrishna’s suggestion, he went to the temple thrice, but failed to pray for any kind of worldly necessities and ultimately prayed for true knowledge and devotion from the goddess. Narendra gradually grew ready to renounce everything for the sake of realising God, and accepted Ramakrishna as his Guru.
In 1885, Ramakrishna developed throat cancer, and was transferred to Calcutta and (later) to a garden house in Cossipore. Narendra and Ramakrishna’s other disciples took care of him during his last days, and Narendra’s spiritual education continued. At Cossipore, he experienced Nirvikalpa samadhi. Narendra and several other disciples received ochre robes from Ramakrishna, forming his first monastic order. He was taught that service to men was the most effective worship of God. Ramakrishna asked him to care for the other monastic disciples, and in turn asked them to see Narendra as their leader. Ramakrishna died in the early-morning hours of 16 August 1886 in Cossipore.
After Ramakrishna’s death, his devotees and admirers stopped supporting his disciples. Unpaid rent accumulated, and Narendra and the other disciples had to find a new place to live. Many returned home, adopting a Grihastha (family-oriented) way of life. Narendra decided to convert a dilapidated house at Baranagar into a new math (monastery) for the remaining disciples. Rent for the Baranagar Math was low, raised by “holy begging” (mādhukarī). The math became the first building of the Ramakrishna Math: the monastery of the monastic order of Ramakrishna. Narendra and other disciples used to spend many hours in practising meditation and religious austerities every day. Narendra later reminisced about the early days of the monastery:
We underwent a lot of religious practice at the Baranagar Math. We used to get up at 3:00 am and become absorbed in japa and meditation. What a strong spirit of detachment we had in those days! We had no thought even as to whether the world existed or not.
In 1887, Narendra compiled a Bengali song anthology named Sangeet Kalpataru with Vaishnav Charan Basak. Narendra collected and arranged most of the songs of this compilation, but could not finish the work of the book for unfavourable circumstances.
In December 1886, the mother of Baburam invited Narendra and his other brother monks to Antpur village. Narendra and the other aspiring monks accepted the invitation and went to Antpur to spend few days. In Antpur, in the Christmas Eve of 1886, Narendra and eight other disciples took formal monastic vows. They decided to live their lives as their master lived. Narendranath took the name “Swami Vivekananda”.
In 1888, Narendra left the monastery as a Parivrâjaka— the Hindu religious life of a wandering monk, “without fixed abode, without ties, independent and strangers wherever they go”. His sole possessions were a kamandalu (water pot), staff and his two favourite books: the Bhagavad Gita and The Imitation of Christ. Narendra travelled extensively in India for five years, visiting centres of learning and acquainting himself with diverse religious traditions and social patterns. He developed sympathy for the suffering and poverty of the people, and resolved to uplift the nation. Living primarily on bhiksha (alms), Narendra travelled on foot and by railway (with tickets bought by admirers). During his travels he met, and stayed with Indians from all religions and walks of life: scholars, dewans, rajas, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, paraiyars (low-caste workers) and government officials. Narendra left Bombay for Chicago on 31 May 1893 with the name “Vivekananda”, as suggested by Ajit Singh of Khetri, which means “the bliss of discerning wisdom”.
Vivekananda started his journey to the West on 31 May 1893 and visited several cities in Japan (including Nagasaki, Kobe, Yokohama, Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo), China and Canada en route to the United States, reaching Chicago on 30 July 1893, where the “Parliament of Religions” took place in September 1893. The Congress was an initiative of the Swedenborgian layman, and judge of the Illinois Supreme Court, Charles C. Bonney, to gather all the religions of the world, and show “the substantial unity of many religions in the good deeds of the religious life.” It was one of the more than 200 adjunct gatherings and congresses of the Chicago’s World’s Fair, and was “an avant-garde intellectual manifestation of cultic milieus, East and West,” with the Brahmo Samaj and the Theosophical Society being invited as being representative of Hinduism.
Vivekananda wanted to join, but was disappointed to learn that no one without credentials from a bona fide organisation would be accepted as a delegate. Vivekananda contacted Professor John Henry Wright of Harvard University, who invited him to speak at Harvard. Vivekananda wrote of the professor, “He urged upon me the necessity of going to the Parliament of Religions, which he thought would give an introduction to the nation”. Vivekananda submitted an application, “introducing himself as a monk ‘of the oldest order of sannyāsis … founded by Sankara,'” supported by the Brahmo Samaj representative Protapchandra Mozoombar, who was also a member of the Parliament’s selection committee, “classifying the Swami as a representative of the Hindu monastic order.”
The Parliament of the World’s Religions opened on 11 September 1893 at the Art Institute of Chicago as part of the World’s Columbian Exposition. On this day, Vivekananda gave a brief speech representing India and Hinduism. He was initially nervous, bowed to Saraswati (the Hindu goddess of learning) and began his speech with “Sisters and brothers of America!”. At these words, Vivekananda received a two-minute standing ovation from the crowd of seven thousand. According to Sailendra Nath Dhar, when silence was restored he began his address, greeting the youngest of the nations on behalf of “the most ancient order of monks in the world, the Vedic order of sannyasins, a religion which has taught the world both tolerance, of and universal acceptance”. Vivekananda quoted two illustrative passages from the “Shiva mahima strotam”: “As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take, through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee!” and “Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths that in the end lead to Me.” According to Sailendra Nath Dhar, “it was only a short speech, but it voiced the spirit of the Parliament.”
Parliament President John Henry Barrows said, “India, the Mother of religions was represented by Swami Vivekananda, the Orange-monk who exercised the most wonderful influence over his auditors”. Vivekananda attracted widespread attention in the press, which called him the “cyclonic monk from India”. The New York Critique wrote, “He is an orator by divine right, and his strong, intelligent face in its picturesque setting of yellow and orange was hardly less interesting than those earnest words, and the rich, rhythmical utterance he gave them”. The New York Herald noted, “Vivekananda is undoubtedly the greatest figure in the Parliament of Religions. After hearing him we feel how foolish it is to send missionaries to this learned nation”. American newspapers reported Vivekananda as “the greatest figure in the parliament of religions” and “the most popular and influential man in the parliament”. The Boston Evening Transcript reported that Vivekananda was “a great favourite at the parliament… if he merely crosses the platform, he is applauded”. He spoke several more times “at receptions, the scientific section, and private homes” on topics related to Hinduism, Buddhism and harmony among religions until the parliament ended on 27 September 1893. Vivekananda’s speeches at the Parliament had the common theme of universality, emphasising religious tolerance. He soon became known as a “handsome oriental” and made a huge impression as an orator.
After the Parliament of Religions, he toured many parts of the US as a guest. His popularity opened up new views for expanding on “life and religion to thousands”. During a question-answer session at Brooklyn Ethical Society, he remarked, “I have a message to the West as Buddha had a message to the East.”
Vivekananda spent nearly two years lecturing in the eastern and central United States, primarily in Chicago, Detroit, Boston, and New York. He founded the Vedanta Society of New York in 1894. By spring 1895 his busy, tiring schedule had affected his health. He ended his lecture tours and began giving free, private classes in Vedanta and yoga. Beginning in June 1895, Vivekananda gave private lectures to a dozen of his disciples at Thousand Island Park in New York for two months.
During his first visit to the West he travelled to the UK twice, in 1895 and 1896, lecturing successfully there. In November 1895 he met Margaret Elizabeth Noble an Irish woman who would become Sister Nivedita. During his second visit to the UK in May 1896 Vivekananda met Max Müller, a noted Indologist from Oxford University who wrote Ramakrishna’s first biography in the West. From the UK, Vivekananda visited other European countries. In Germany he met Paul Deussen, another Indologist. Vivekananda was offered academic positions in two American universities (one the chair in Eastern Philosophy at Harvard University and a similar position at Columbia University); he declined both, since his duties would conflict with his commitment as a monk.
His success led to a change in mission, namely the establishment of Vedanta centres in the West. Vivekananda adapted traditional Hindu ideas and religiosity to suit the needs and understandings of his western audiences, who were especially attracted by and familiar with western esoteric traditions and movements like Transcendentalism and New thought. An important element in his adaptation of Hindu religiosity was the introduction of his “four yogas” model, which includes Raja yoga, his interpretation of Patanjali’s Yoga sutras, which offered a practical means to realise the divine force within which is central to modern western esotericism. In 1896 his book Raja Yoga was published, which became an instant success and was highly influential in the western understanding of Yoga.
Vivekananda attracted followers and admirers in the US and Europe, including Josephine MacLeod, William James, Josiah Royce, Robert G. Ingersoll, Nikola Tesla, Lord Kelvin, Harriet Monroe, Ella Wheeler Wilcox, Sarah Bernhardt, Emma Calvé and Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz. He initiated several followers : Marie Louise (a French woman) became Swami Abhayananda, and Leon Landsberg became Swami Kripananda, so that they could continue the work of the mission of the Vedanta Society. This society still is filled with foreign nationals and is also located in Los Angeles. During his stay in America, Vivekananda was given land in the mountains to the southeast of San Jose, California to establish an retreat for Vedanta students. He called it “Peace retreat”, or, Shanti Asrama. The largest American centre is the Vedanta Society of Southern California in Hollywood, (one of the twelve main centres). There is also a Vedanta Press in Hollywood which publishes books about Vedanta and English translations of Hindu scriptures and texts. Christina Greenstidel of Detroit was also initiated by Vivekananda with a mantra and she became Sister Christine, and they established a close father–daughter relationship.
From the West, Vivekananda revived his work in India. He regularly corresponded with his followers and brother monks, offering advice and financial support. His letters from this period reflect his campaign of social service, and were strongly worded. He wrote to Akhandananda, “Go from door to door amongst the poor and lower classes of the town of Khetri and teach them religion. Also, let them have oral lessons on geography and such other subjects. No good will come of sitting idle and having princely dishes, and saying “Ramakrishna, O Lord!”—unless you can do some good to the poor”. In 1895, Vivekananda founded the periodical Brahmavadin to teach the Vedanta. Later, Vivekananda’s translation of the first six chapters of The Imitation of Christ was published in Brahmavadin in 1889. Vivekananda left for India on 16 December 1896 from England with his disciples Captain and Mrs. Sevier and J.J. Goodwin. On the way they visited France and Italy, and set sail for India from Naples on 30 December 1896. He was later followed to India by Sister Nivedita, who devoted the rest of her life to the education of Indian women and India’s independence.
The ship from Europe arrived in Colombo, British Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) on 15 January 1897, and Vivekananda received a warm welcome. In Colombo he gave his first public speech in the East, India, the Holy Land. From there on, his journey to Calcutta was triumphant. Vivekananda travelled from Colombo to Pamban, Rameswaram, Ramnad, Madurai, Kumbakonam and Madras, delivering lectures. Common people and rajas gave him an enthusiastic reception. During his train travels, people often sat on the rails to force the train to stop so they could hear him. From Madras, he continued his journey to Calcutta and Almora. While in the West, Vivekananda spoke about India’s great spiritual heritage; in India, he repeatedly addressed social issues: uplifting the people, eliminating the caste system, promoting science and industrialisation, addressing widespread poverty and ending colonial rule. These lectures, published as Lectures from Colombo to Almora, demonstrate his nationalistic fervour and spiritual ideology.
On 1 May 1897 in Calcutta, Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna Mission for social service. Its ideals are based on Karma Yoga, and its governing body consists of the trustees of the Ramakrishna Math (which conducts religious work). Both Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission have their headquarters at Belur Math. Vivekananda founded two other monasteries: one in Mayavati in the Himalayas (near Almora), the Advaita Ashrama and another in Madras. Two journals were founded: Prabuddha Bharata in English and Udbhodan in Bengali. That year, famine-relief work was begun by Swami Akhandananda in the Murshidabad district.
Vivekananda earlier inspired Jamshedji Tata to set up a research and educational institution when they travelled together from Yokohama to Chicago on Vivekananda’s first visit to the West in 1893. Tata now asked him to head his Research Institute of Science; Vivekananda declined the offer, citing a conflict with his “spiritual interests”. He visited Punjab, attempting to mediate an ideological conflict between Arya Samaj (a reformist Hindu movement) and sanatan (orthodox Hindus). After brief visits to Lahore, Delhi and Khetri, Vivekananda returned to Calcutta in January 1898. He consolidated the work of the math and trained disciples for several months. Vivekananda composed “Khandana Bhava–Bandhana”, a prayer song dedicated to Ramakrishna, in 1898.
Despite declining health, Vivekananda left for the West for a second time in June 1899 accompanied by Sister Nivedita and Swami Turiyananda. Following a brief stay in England, he went to the United States. During this visit, Vivekananda established Vedanta Societies in San Francisco and New York and founded a shanti ashrama (peace retreat) in California.[ He then went to Paris for the Congress of Religions in 1900. His lectures in Paris concerned the worship of the lingam and the authenticity of the Bhagavad Gita. Vivekananda then visited Brittany, Vienna, Istanbul, Athens and Egypt. The French philosopher Jules Bois was his host for most of this period, until he returned to Calcutta on 9 December 1900.
After a brief visit to the Advaita Ashrama in Mayavati Vivekananda settled at Belur Math, where he continued co-ordinating the works of Ramakrishna Mission, the math and the work in England and the US He had many visitors, including royalty and politicians. Although Vivekananda was unable to attend the Congress of Religions in 1901 in Japan due to deteriorating health, he made pilgrimages to Bodhgaya and Varanasi. Declining health (including asthma, diabetes and chronic insomnia) restricted his activity.
On 4 July 1902 (the day of his death) Vivekananda awoke early, went to the chapel at Belur Math and meditated for three hours. He taught Shukla-Yajur-Veda, Sanskrit grammar and the philosophy of yoga to pupils, later discussing with colleagues a planned Vedic college in the Ramakrishna Math. At 7:00 p.m. Vivekananda went to his room, asking not to be disturbed; he died at 9:10 p.m. while meditating. According to his disciples, Vivekananda attained mahasamādhi; the rupture of a blood vessel in his brain was reported as a possible cause of death. His disciples believed that the rupture was due to his brahmarandhra (an opening in the crown of his head) being pierced when he attained mahasamādhi. Vivekananda fulfilled his prophecy that he would not live forty years. He was cremated on a sandalwood funeral pyre on the bank of the Ganga in Belur, opposite where Ramakrishna was cremated sixteen years earlier.
Vivekananda propagated that the essence of Hinduism was best expressed in Adi Shankara’s Advaita Vedanta philosophy. Nevertheless, following Ramakrishna, and in contrast to Advaita Vedanta, Vivekananda believed that the Absolute is both immanent and transcendent. According to Anil Sooklal, Vivekananda’s neo-Advaita “reconciles Dvaita or dualism and Advaita or non-dualism”. Vivekananda summarised the Vedanta as follows, giving it a modern and Universalistic interpretation:
Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this Divinity within by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work, or worship, or mental discipline, or philosophy—by one, or more, or all of these—and be free. This is the whole of religion. Doctrines, or dogmas, or rituals, or books, or temples, or forms, are but secondary details.
Nationalism was a prominent theme in Vivekananda’s thought. He believed that a country’s future depends on its people, and his teachings focused on human development. He wanted “to set in motion a machinery which will bring noblest ideas to the doorstep of even the poorest and the meanest”.
Vivekananda linked morality with control of the mind, seeing truth, purity and unselfishness as traits which strengthened it. He advised his followers to be holy, unselfish and to have śraddhā (faith). Vivekananda supported brahmacharya (celibacy), believing it the source of his physical and mental stamina and eloquence. He emphasised that success was an outcome of focused thought and action; in his lectures on Raja Yoga he said, “Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life – think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success, that is the way great spiritual giants are produced”.
Vivekananda was one of the main representatives of Neo-Vedanta, a modern interpretation of selected aspects of Hinduism in line with western esoteric traditions, especially Transcendentalism, New Thought and Theosophy. His reinterpretation was, and is, very successful, creating a new understanding and appreciation of Hinduism within and outside India, and was the principal reason for the enthusiastic reception of yoga, transcendental meditation and other forms of Indian spiritual self-improvement in the West. Agehananda Bharati explained, “…modern Hindus derive their knowledge of Hinduism from Vivekananda, directly or indirectly”. Vivekananda espoused the idea that all sects within Hinduism (and all religions) are different paths to the same goal. However, this view has been criticised as an oversimplification of Hinduism.
In the background of emerging nationalism in British-ruled India, Vivekananda crystallised the nationalistic ideal. In the words of social reformer Charles Freer Andrews, “The Swami’s intrepid patriotism gave a new colour to the national movement throughout India. More than any other single individual of that period Vivekananda had made his contribution to the new awakening of India”. Vivekananda drew attention to the extent of poverty in the country, and maintained that addressing such poverty was a prerequisite for national awakening. His nationalistic ideas influenced many Indian thinkers and leaders. Sri Aurobindo regarded Vivekananda as the one who awakened India spiritually. Mahatma Gandhi counted him among the few Hindu reformers “who have maintained this Hindu religion in a state of splendor by cutting down the dead wood of tradition”.
The first governor-general of independent India, Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, said “Vivekananda saved Hinduism, saved India”. According to Subhas Chandra Bose, a proponent of armed struggle for Indian independence, Vivekananda was “the maker of modern India”; for Gandhi, Vivekananda’s influence increased Gandhi’s “love for his country a thousandfold”. Vivekananda influenced India’s independence movement; his writings inspired independence activists such as Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Aurobindo Ghose, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bagha Jatin and intellectuals such as Aldous Huxley, Christopher Isherwood, Romain Rolland. Many years after Vivekananda’s death Rabindranath Tagore told French Nobel laureate Romain Rolland, “If you want to know India, study Vivekananda. In him everything is positive and nothing negative”. Rolland wrote, “His words are great music, phrases in the style of Beethoven, stirring rhythms like the march of Händel choruses. I cannot touch these sayings of his, scattered as they are through the pages of books, at thirty years’ distance, without receiving a thrill through my body like an electric shock. And what shocks, what transports, must have been produced when in burning words they issued from the lips of the hero!”
Jamshedji Tata was inspired by Vivekananda to establish the Indian Institute of Science, one of India’s best-known research universities. Abroad, Vivekananda communicated with orientalist Max Müller, and scientist Nikola Tesla was one of those influenced by his Vedic teachings. While National Youth Day in India is observed on his birthday, 12 January, the day he delivered his masterful speech at the Parliament of Religions, 11 September 1893 is “World Brotherhood Day”. In September 2010, India’s Finance Ministry highlighted the relevance of Vivekananda’s teachings and values to the modern economic environment. The then Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the current President of India, approved in principle the Swami Vivekananda Values Education Project at a cost of ₹1 billion (US$16 million), with objectives including involving youth with competitions, essays, discussions and study circles and publishing Vivekananda’s works in a number of languages. In 2011, the West Bengal Police Training College was renamed the Swami Vivekananda State Police Academy, West Bengal. The state technical university in Chhattisgarh has been named the Chhattisgarh Swami Vivekananda Technical University. In 2012, the Raipur airport was renamed Swami Vivekananda Airport.
The 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda was celebrated in India and abroad. The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in India officially observed 2013 as the occasion in a declaration. Year-long events and programs were organised by branches of the Ramakrishna Math, the Ramakrishna Mission, the central and state governments in India, educational institutions and youth groups. Bengali film director Tutu (Utpal) Sinha made a film, The Light: Swami Vivekananda as a tribute for his 150th birth anniversary.
Although Vivekananda was a powerful orator and writer in English and Bengali, he was not a thorough scholar, and most of his published works were compiled from lectures given around the world which were “mainly delivered […] impromptu and with little preparation”. His main work, Raja Yoga, consists of talks he delivered in New York.
According to Banhatti, “[a] singer, a painter, a wonderful master of language and a poet, Vivekananda was a complete artist”, composing many songs and poems, including his favourite, “Kali the Mother”. Vivekananda blended humour with his teachings, and his language was lucid. His Bengali writings testify to his belief that words (spoken or written) should clarify ideas, rather than demonstrating the speaker (or writer’s) knowledge.
Bartaman Bharat meaning “Present Day India” is an erudite Bengali language essay written by him, which was first published in the March 1899 issue of Udbodhan, the only Bengali language magazine of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. The essay was reprinted as a book in 1905 and later compiled into the fourth volume of The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda. In this essay his refrain to the readers was to honour and treat every Indian as a brother irrespective of whether he was born poor or in lower caste.
Sangeet Kalpataru (1887, with Vaishnav Charan Basak)
Karma Yoga (1896)
Raja Yoga (1896 [1899 edition])
Vedanta Philosophy: An address before the Graduate Philosophical Society (1896)
Lectures from Colombo to Almora (1897)
Bartaman Bharat (Bengali) (March 1899), Udbodhan
My Master (1901), The Baker and Taylor Company, New York
Vedânta philosophy: lectures on Jnâna Yoga (1902) Vedânta Society, New York OCLC 919769260
Here a list of selected books by Vivekananda that were published after his death (1902)
Addresses on Bhakti Yoga
The East and the West (1909)
Inspired Talks (1909)
Narada Bhakti Sutras – translation
Para Bhakti or Supreme Devotion
Speeches and writings of Swami Vivekananda; a comprehensive collection
Complete Works: a collection of his writings, lectures and discourses in a set of nine volumes
Radhanath Swami (born 7 December 1950) is a guide, community builder, activist, and an acclaimed author. He has been a Bhakti Yoga practitioner and a spiritual teacher for more than 40 years. He is the inspiration behind ISKCON’s free midday meal for 1.2 million school kids across India, and he has been instrumental in founding the Bhaktivedanta Hospital in Mumbai. He works largely from Mumbai in India, and travels extensively throughout Europe and America. In the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), he serves as a member of the Governing Body Commission. Steven J. Rosen described Radhanath Swami as a “saintly person respected by the mass of ISKCON devotees today.”
Richard Slavin was born on 7 December 1950 in Chicago to Idelle and Gerald Slavin, who were children of Jewish immigrants from Russia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania. In 1955, he and his family moved to a suburb of Chicago – Highland Park – located in the beautiful countryside. In 1958, his father opened a dealership selling Ford cars, which did not succeed; however, the car repair shop launched thereafter was quite successful. Despite being well-off, at age 15 Richard chose to work hoping to contribute to his family.
As a child, Richard showed a tendency, which he later called “the traces of my past lives”. He did not prefer eating at the table, but while sitting on the floor, as is customary in India. When his parents forbade him to do so, Richard began to eat at the table standing. He hated the sight of meat and eggs, nauseated at its sight, and often vomited after eating meat; something that took him several years to get accustomed to. From an early age, Richard realized that the materialistic way of life will never bring him satisfaction, and was attracted by poverty and simplicity.
Although his parents were not religious, Richard developed an interest in religion and spiritual themes from his early years. At age 13, he passed the rite of bar mitzvah (a Jewish coming of age ritual) and received instructions from the local rabbi about how to pray. On his thirteenth birthday, his elder brother Marty gifted him the debut album of folk-singing trio Peter, Paul and Mary. In their compositions, they opposed the war and social injustice, but Richard was particularly impressed by their compositions about God.
In 1965, Richard entered the Deerfield High School, where he excelled in studies and made a lot of friends. He was passionate about wrestling, ending up in his school’s sports team and won majority of fights. However, on dislocating his shoulder in a major competition, he decided to leave the sport. In his spare time, along with a couple of friends, he washed cars. Dissatisfied with the conditions of the African Americans and the Vietnam War, he believed in the ideologies of Martin Luther King.
The death of one of his close friends (aged 16) in a car accident made Richard think seriously about the meaning of life. At the same time, following the example of some of his peers, Richard plunged into the hippie counterculture. Keen to understand the deeper meaning of life, he grew long hair and started smoking marijuana. In the summer of 1968, a sense of adventure led Richard to make a hitchhiking journey to California. There, he spent the nights on the beaches and visited the then hippie mecca – Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco.
In 1969, Richard enrolled at the Miami Dade College, where, in search of spiritual experience resorted to LSD and books on religion and philosophy. Completely disillusioned with the materialistic life values of Americans, Richard studied well in college. He questioned the “goodness of American life” that he was taught to believe. Having learnt to play the harmonica, Richard moved from drugs to musical experimentation. After reading several books on Eastern spirituality, he began to practice meditation. On listening to a lecture on transcendental meditation, he chanted the sacred syllable “Om” with greater conviction. This practice did not bring him satisfaction, but helped him realize the need to find a bonafide guru.
In the summer of 1970, after the end of the first year in college, Richard attended a rock festival on the Randalls Island, including performances by Jimi Hendrix and other famous musicians and bands of the time. At the festival, Richard met the Hare Krishnas, who gave him a pamphlet with photos of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. That summer, Richard dropped out of college and along with a couple of his friends, embarked on a hippie trip to Europe.
Richard traveled to Europe with his childhood friend Gary Liss. Being penniless, they stayed with anyone who would take them in, and often survived on just bread and cheese. To cover basic expenses, Richard played the harmonica on the street and collected alms. In Amsterdam, Richard met Hare Krishnas once again and spent some time in a hippie commune. In England, he attended the rock festival Isle of Wight on the Isle of Wight on 30 August 1970 – thereby, witnessing one of Jimi Hendrix’s last performances.
During his travels, Richard read books on Eastern spirituality and the Bible, which he had brought from America. He loved to attend Christian churches and monasteries, and never missed an opportunity to talk with the priests and monks. In Rome, Richard met with Franciscan monks, with whom he had a long conversation about Jesus Christ and the relationship between Christianity and Judaism. Richard and Gary also attended the speech of the pope in the Vatican. They saw the Catholic monks meditating in the catacombs of the monastery, among the skeletons of their predecessors, and heard from one of them the frailty of the material body. After parting from his friend for a while, Richard made a pilgrimage to Assisi, visiting places associated with the life of the great Catholic saint Francis of Assisi.
In Athens, Richard and Gary first made their living by giving blood, and then, together with a Swiss violinist and French guitarist, playing music and collecting alms on the street. After the police forbade them to do so and confiscated their earnings, Richard and Gary went to the island of Crete, where he lived in a cave by the sea. By that time, Richard has little interest in a carefree way of life and ideals of the hippies; he was increasingly drawn to the spiritual life.
One morning, while meditating and praying on top of a rock, Richard heard an inner voice that urged him to go to India. On the same morning, the inner voice directed Gary to Israel. After parting with his friend, Richard hit the road. He had neither money nor a travel plan. But he firmly believed that by hitchhiking eastwards, he could get to the country that has answers to his prayers.
Having met in Athens two hippies, who also sought East, Richard joined them to India by the (then popular among the hippie) route through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Turkey, they were met with great difficulty, because at that time there was raging cholera epidemic. After a narrow escape from bandits in Istanbul, they continued their journey by bus through Ankara to the border with Iran. In Tehran, they arrived during Ramadan. As Richard had developed an interest in Islam, he parted with his friends and stayed for a few days in Mashhad – an important place of pilgrimage for Shia Muslims. In the mausoleum of Imam Reza, Richard met an English-speaking Muslim, who explained the basics of Islam and Muslim customs.
Upon arrival in Afghanistan, Richard spent a few days in Herat, where a poor Afghan family gave him shelter. Here, Richard experienced his first culture shock – watching the Afghans happy, despite miserable poverty. Upon arrival in Kandahar, Richard met on the street, a blind boy who spend long hours singing songs about the love of God. To Richard, this boy seemed the happiest man he had ever met. This meeting left a deep impression on Richard and made him reflect on the nature of happiness. In Kandahar, Richard also experienced the strongest narcotic experience in his life, prompting him to vow never to take drugs. In Kabul, a young Dutch girl tried to seduce him. As sex seemed inconsistent with spiritual quest, Richard rejected her advances, vowing to stay celibate.
In India, Richard arrived in December 1970. Watching cows freely walking around in Delhi, he felt an aversion to meat and became a vegetarian. In Delhi, Richard took part in the “World Conference of Yoga”, which gathered more than 800 gurus, yogis, sages and pundits. Richard met with renowned yogi, founder of the Himalayan Institute, Swami Rama. When Richard asked him for blessings, Swami Rama replied that Richard’s spiritual progress will continue to be based on communion with saintly persons, who will help him to overcome all obstacles on the spiritual path.
Richard also met Swami Satchidananda – known disciple of Swami Sivananda. Swami Satchidananda explained him the basic meaning of yoga and urged him not to look for shortcomings in others, and always focus on the good qualities. Satchidananda blessed Richard that he may “discover the treasure of his heart”. Richard also attended a series of lectures by Indian guru and philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti, who was known for being able to answer any question and to crush any argument. From Krishnamurti, Richard learned that spiritual life cannot be superficial, as being attached to external things and rituals, people often forget the main purpose of spiritual practice – the cleansing of one’s heart.
Last day of the conference was held in Vigyan Bhavana – the largest concert hall in New Delhi. The event brought together more than 3,000 people. The conference ended with the gurus literally fighting over the microphone, so they could convince the audience that their path was the best.
In January 1971, Richard went to the Himalayas in search of a guru. Upon arrival in Rishikesh, he stopped for a few days in the “Divine Life Society” – an ashram, founded by Swami Sivananda. Richard spoke at length with Sivananda’s student, Swami Chidananda, who led the ashram after the death of his guru. Chidananda convinced Richard of the need to practice japa meditation – chanting mantras on rosary. Richard found a secluded spot on the banks of the Ganges, where for eight to ten hours a day he chanted “Hare Krishna” and other mantras. Soon, he met a sadhu, at whose request Richard threw all his western clothes in the waters of the Ganges, and received in return a simple garment of a Hindu ascetic. The sadhu blessed Richard that the Ganges will be prove to be his mother.
Determined to purify his existence, Richard began to practice severe austerities. Every day for a month, from sunrise to sunset, he meditated sitting on a rock in the middle of the Ganges. He only ate raw vegetables, fruits and nuts. When the desire to play the harmonica distracted him from the practice of meditation, he, without hesitation, threw his beloved harmonica in the waters of the sacred river.
In Rishikesh, Richard also became acquainted with a sadhu, who lived in a cave on the hillside. Seeing the sincerity of an American youth, the sadhu taught Richard new techniques of meditation.
Unable to find a guru in the Himalayas, Richard continued to wander in India. For a while, he lived among the Shaivites in Varanasi and among Buddhist monks in Bodh Gaya – the place where Buddha attained enlightenment. Upon arrival in Bombay, Richard saw a poster announcing a series of festivals by the American Hare Krishnas and their spiritual master A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Out of curiosity, Richard went to the Hare Krishna program the same evening, where he heard Prabhupada for the first time. Prabhupada’s lectures made a big impression on Richard, and he attended each night, arriving well before the program began to sit as close as possible to Prabhupada and listen to him. The Hare Krishnas strongly preached to their hippie-countryman, but Richard was not yet ready to listen to them. “He believed that all paths lead to God and did not understand the need to particularly follow Prabhupada and his followers”.
After parting with the Hare Krishnas, Richard continued his wanderings in India, traveling “from ashram to ashram and guru to guru”. Few months later, he was in Mathura – a holy site for Vaishnavas – where according to legends, Krishna was born. The day of his arrival in this holy city coincided with the birth anniversary of Krishna – Krishna Janmashtami. At the time, Richard lived in Vrindavan, close to Mathura, where Hindus believe Krishna spent his childhood. In Vrindavan, Richard stayed in the ashram of famous Hare Krishna guru and Prabhupada’s godbrother Swami Bon, who affectionately named him Ratheen Krishna Das. By that time, Richard looked like a real Indian hermit with his body skinny from poor nutrition and dreadlocks on his head.
A few months later, Prabhupada came to Vrindavan with a group of American students. Listening to a lecture of the Hare Krishna guru, Richard came to the conclusion that the Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy was the most perfect and that Prabhupada was a person, who truly loved God. The sight of Prabhupada singing Bengali bhajans with strong religious feeling left a strong impression on Richard. In his heart, Richard felt that Prabhupada was the greatest of all gurus and saints he met during all his wanderings in India., Prabhupada answered all of Richard’s questions, backing up each answer with scriptural quotations. Richard also felt that Prabhupada walked his talk. However, Richard decided not to join Krishna at that time and remained in Vrindavan after the departure of Prabhupada and his disciples.
In the spring of 1972, the Indian government refused to extend Richard’s visa, forcing him to return to America. After spending a few weeks in a Krishna temple in Amsterdam and in the Radha Krishna Temple in London, Richard returned to his parents, who by then had moved from Chicago to Miami. Soon, he again came into contact with the Hare Krishnas, and went to New York, where he met Prabhupada, who was in town for a few days en route to India. Richard wanted to go back to India, but Prabhupada asked him to stay in America, and assist in the development of the New Vrindaban community, under the guidance of Kirtanananda Swami. Richard followed Prabhupada’s counsel and settled in New Vrindavan, caring for cows and reading Prabhupada’s books in his spare time. Convinced by the philosophy set forth in the books and personal examples of those living in the New Vrindaban community, Richard finally decided to accept Prabhupada as his guru. On 11 February 1973, he accepted shiksha initiation from Prabhupada (via Kirtananda Swami as officating ritvik (priest)) receiving the name Radhanatha das;
The next six years Radhanath never left New Vrindavan, contributing in developing the community. At that time, life there was very austere. In cold winters, the community members carried out without heating and hot water, bathing with ice-cold water. Radhanath strictly followed the Vaishnava spiritual practices, grazed cows and served the temple deities. On 1 August 1976 Radhanath received diksha initiation as a brahmana from Prabhupada(via Vegavan das as officiating ritvik);
In the first half of the 1980s, Radhanath lectured at several universities in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and conducted courses on vegetarian cooking. In early 1982, a community leader – Kirtanananda Swami – offered Radhanath to take sannyasa (the way of life of renunciation). Though hesitant at first, arguing that the honor and respect that is traditionally conferred upon sannyasis will interfere with his spiritual life, Radhanath eventually agreed after persuasion from Kirtanananda and others. The sannyasa initiation ceremony of Radhanatha was held in May 1982 in New Vrindavan. On accepting the vows of lifelong renunciation, Radhanath received the title of “swami”, and since then known as “Radhanath Swami”.
In 1983, for the first time after many years, Radhanath Swami made a pilgrimage to India, where he met some of his old friends. In 1986, he chose Bombay as his base, where he established the Radha Gopinath Temple. In 1998, he was instrumental in launching the Bhaktivedanta Hospital was established. In 2004, at the initiative of Radhanath Swami, the Radha Gopinath Temple started a charitable mission to distribute free vegetarian meals to children from low-income families enrolled in schools in Bombay. In the 2000s, yet another initiative of Radhanath Swami resulted in “Govardhan Ecovillage”in Maharashtra.
In 1987, Governing Body Commission of ISKCON resolved to expel Kirtanananda Swami from ISKCON. The following year all members of the community close to Kirtanananda Swami – which included Radhanath Swami – were also expelled from ISKCON. In 1994, Radhanath Swami and the Radha Gopinath Temple headed by him were formally accepted back in ISKCON. In the same year, Radhanath Swami became one of the leaders of ISKCON, and began to serve as a member of the Governing Body Commission and an initiating guru. In 1995-2010, Radhanath Swami led ISKCON in Maharashtra (1995-2010), Goa (2002-2010), Daman and Diu (2002-2010), West Virginia (1995-2007), Ohio (1998-2007 ), Kentucky (1998-2007), Italy (2002-present) and Belgaum (1995-2010).
Succeeding to Kirtananda Swami, Radhanath Swami has been instrumental in the guidance of the Radha Gopinath Temple since 1991, which “expanded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams” and is particularly renowned for its “empowered preaching and teaching”. Also known as Sri Sri Radha Gopinath Mandir, the temple was founded in 1986 and joined ISKCON in 1994. The temple is situated in the elite area of Bombay – Chowpatty Beach – and enjoys great popularity. The congregation comprises several thousands of Bombay’s elite. A prerequisite for those wishing to become monk and live in the temple is completion of university education and at least one year of work experience. The monks from the temple of Radha-Gopinath regularly conduct more than 30 cultural programs in University of Bombay. Under Radhanath Swami’s initiative, the temple and its congregation has been breeding ground for many successful projects. The temple has in-house design studio and embroidery unit, where artisans meticulously work with clockwork precision, following briefs by designers, to dress up the deities in the choicest of regal attires.
Based on the Hare Krishna ideology, Radhanath Swami designed the Devotee Care Program in Radha Gopinath Temple, which eventually led ISKCON to emphasize the need for such a program globally. In Radha Gopinath Temple at Mumbai, the program spans diverse aspects such as cultural education and school for children, an orphanage, youth preaching, marriage board, care for monks as well as the elderly, counselling for the householders, credit organization, hospital, farm, annual pilgrimages, drama festivals and ISKCON Food Relief Foundation.
“ Lead by Radhanath, the Chowpatty Temple’s Devotee Care and Relations Program was developed in Mumbai, India in 1986. This Devotee Care and Relations Program established the Bhaktivedanta Hospital, ISKCON Food Relief Foundation, financial aid programs, and many other institutions addressing the physical needs of devotees. In order to address the importance of emotional and spiritual care, the temple is known for developing Grihasta Counseling. This counseling has the “primary purpose to foster trust among devotees,” the program arranges a formal counseling system where experienced devotees help foster the spiritual development of new devotees. The temple also leads a trip to Govardhan Farm, a tropical fruit and bamboo nursery in the Caribbean, advocating for “spiritually healthy” recreation. A model for Devotee Care and Relations Programs around the world, this program serves as an example for developing Devotee Care and Relation Programs in New Vrindaban.”
Launched in 2004, ISKCON Food Relief Foundation – under the brand name “Annamrita” – is the Indian leg of the global Food for Life organization and is considered a “leader in this field”. Inspired by Radhanath Swami and others, it operates the Indian Government’s Midday Meal Scheme meant to improve both nutrition and literacy among school-going children. Since serving 900 meals on its first day of operations, Annamrita has expanded considerably over a decade and, as of 2014, daily serves about 1.2 million meals across 10 states in India from 20 of its high-tech, industrial (mostly ISO-certified) kitchens. The program is funded through public-private partnership, wherein the Government provides the ingredients, while the cooking and delivery costs are jointly covered by the Government as well as private sponsors. The program offers “different menu every day and simple protein-rich food […] cooked in an innovative way along with seasonal vegetables for a wholesome meal”, and has been credited with improving attendance in schools. Although launched for primary and secondary schools, on account of its success, the program has been extended to post-graduate students, hospital patients and NTR canteens. Michelin-starred chef Vikas Khanna is Annamrita’s “Goodwill Ambassador”, who pledged his support and efforts to complement the awareness and fund-raising efforts. Annamrita’s efforts have been recognized by the President of India as well through several awards – to name a few, the D.Y. Patil 2012 Award for “Best Organization in Social Work”, Lifebuoy National Child Health Award 2012 for “Exemplary work in promoting Nutrition”, PP Mohan Shahani Trophy for the “Best Club Partner NGO” by Rotary Club, and Indian Development Foundation’s 2012 “Best Partner Award”.
Emerging from the Radha Gopinath Temple congregation, the Bhaktivedanta Hospital has become a flagship center for holistic health and spiritual care in Mumbai. What started as a dream to provide quality healthcare at affordable cost by a few fresh medical graduates way back in 1986, transformed in the present-day state-of-the-art 150-bed multi-speciality hospital by Sri Chaitanya Welfare Charitable Trust. As a tribute to ISKCON founder A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and by the inspiration of Radhanath Swami, it essentially functions as a “not-for-profit” institution with the motto of “Serving in Devotion”.
In the early days, the doctors conducted medical camps in various areas in and around Maharashtra. These served the medically deprived and needy. Years of dedicated service to thousands of patients led to the launch of 7-bed ‘Sri Chaitanya Clinic’ (or Bhaktivedanta Clinic) in Mira Road, Mumbai in 1992, which eventually led to establishing the 60-bed Bhaktivedanta Hospital in 1998.
Though closed in 2003 due to a labour dispute, it reopened in August 2004 under a different trust. As of 2014, it also includes four ultramodern operation theaters, a 16-bed ICU, 120 consulting specialists and 360 medical and paramedical staff – about half of which are initiated Hare Krishna followers.
The hospital also houses an Ayurveda, Yoga and Rehabilitation Center as well as an exclusive department on Spiritual Care. On the educational front, it includes Institute of Nursing Education, Institute of Paramedical Science and a Certificate Course for Spiritual Care in Nursing. The Bhaktivedanta Cancer Institute, Eye Care/Vision Center, Urology Center and Center of excellence in Heart Care enhance the breadth of services offered. The hospital also has a special team for counselling patients and an impressive palliative care unit.
Community services form one of the core pillars of the hospital, which it extensively pursues. It has medically-equipped mobile vans to attend to eye care, cancer and maternity issues in remote sections of society; on the same lines, it also established the Hamrapur Community Healthcare Center in Wada Taluka, Maharashtra in association with Lions Club. In addition to social initiatives such as the Green Paper Forum, the hospital conducts regular free medical camps such as the Barsana Eye and Dental Camp, Pandharpur Camp, Senior Citizen Camp, School Camp, Cancer Camp and Dialysis Camp.
The annual Barsana Camp, in particular, has been highly successful in that the doctors perform 600-700 free cataract surgeries annually and have even attracted doctors from far-off lands like the US and Britain. Consequently, the efforts led to the founding of the Barsana Health Care Center in Uttar Pradesh.
In addition, the Bhaktivedanta Hospice Center serves those who desire to spend their last days in the holy site of Vrindavan with good medical care. The hospital is also proactive in disaster relief activities such as the Gujarat earthquake relief (2001), tsunami relief (2004), Mumbai flood relief (2005), Mumbai bomb-blasts (2006) and Uttarakhand floods (2013).
In 2014, AmeriCares India awarded Bhaktivedanta Hospital the “Spirit of Humanity Awards” for their work in the category of Oncology, while it also won “Best Multi Specialty Hospital”, “Best Hospital for Wellness & Healthcare”, “Excellence in Hospice & Palliative Medicine” and “Best Teacher” awards in Indo-Global Healthcare Summit & Expo 2014. The Times of India, in association with New India Assurance Co. Ltd., recognized the hospital’s persistent efforts and designated them as “Trendsetter in Quality Patient Care and Safety” in the Healthcare Achievers Awards 2014.
Spread over 75 acres of pristine farmland at the foothills of the Sahyadri mountain in the Wada district of Maharashtra, Govardhan Ecovillage (GEV) is a “model farm community and retreat center highlighting the importance of spiritual ecology: the need for us [humans] to live in harmony with ourselves, nature and the sacred”.Inspired by Radhanath Swami, with its humble beginnings in 2003, GEV was officially inaugurated in 2011, in the presence of Nana Saheb Patil, Ex-secretary of the Agricultural Ministry for the Government of Maharashtra. To bring about holistic, sustainable ecological changes, GEV puts great emphasis on community initiatives such as integrated water conservation and protection, Wadi program, women empowerment, rural health care, food for life, biodiversity park, Vedic culture and educational center and animal shelters. GEV specializes in symbiotic recycling and strives to offer sustainable solutions for community living in issues related to food, water, energy and waste management. GEV is also home to the Lady Northcote Hindu Orphanage.
GEV’s achievements in the area of integrated water conservation and protection were honored with the Skoch 2013 Platinum Award and Order-of-Merit. Its initiative to build houses with Compressed Stabilized Earth Blocks (CSEB), Rammed Earth technique, Cob houses (Adobe bricks) with traditional thatched roofs was awarded 5-star rating by GRIHA (an indigenous rating system for green buildings in India). In recognition of its continued efforts towards environmental sustainability, a Special Jury Award was conferred upon GEV by the India Chapter of the International Advertising Association’s Olive Crown Awards 2013.
On the request of his friend and godbrother Bhakti Tirtha Swami, who was on his deathbed, Radhanath Swami, although initially unwilling, agreed to share his story and wrote his memoir “The Journey Home: Autobiography of an American Swami”. It is the story of how he grew up in a Jewish family in Chicago, Illinois and through his journey of prayer was led through the 1960s counter-culture movement in America into Europe, walking and hitch-hiking all the way through Europe to the Middle East and into India. Along the way, he met many people, who would share their wisdom with him, encouraging him on his search for the truth. He stayed with Yogis in Himalayan caves, in Buddhist Monasteries, Jewish Synagogues, and Christian Churches. He met many teachers and practitioners of spirituality and learned from them, such as the 14th Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa, to name a few. The book chronicles his spiritual quest.“Like many a spiritual autobiography, the external events and details turn out to be the setting for the author’s inner quest. His journey is a humbling, learning to be poor, a series of tests that push the author toward living by faith alone. Like any pilgrim, he does not see all of this along the way, but in retrospect sees how he was being quietly, insistently drawn toward God all the time.”
The book launch of the Gujarati edition was held in November 2011, and was attended by the then chief minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi (in 2014, he became the Prime Minister of India). In his speech at the book launch, Modi emphasized spirituality as the true identity of India and contrasted Radhanath Swami’s spiritual journey with that of personalities such as Mirabai and Vivekananda.
A sequel to Journey Home, The Journey Within, was launched in May 2016.The Journey Within: Exploring the Path of Bhakti, became the New York Times Bestseller in July 2016 under the category of ‘Religion, Spirituality and Faith’.
Radhanath Swami’s lectures have also been thematically published in the form of books, which includes those based on his quotations, such as Nectar Drops and Nectar Stream, and those based on his lectures and teachings such as Evolve, Six Goswamis of Vrindavan, The Wisdom Tree, and The Real You. The book “Soul Wise” (later renamed to “The Real You”) was reviewed on Spirit Sundae, SABC1, South Africa.
Radhanath Swami has a strong global influence and has been globally honored for his humanitarian deeds. He is one of the few members of ISKCON who influenced the movement globally and remains one of the most inspirational and respected spiritual leaders in ISKCON today. He is on the advisory panel of I-Foundation, which is credited with launching the first government-funded Hindu faith school in London.
Radhanath Swami’s interfaith discussion with Cornel West resulted in “greater possibilities for both interfaith and intrafaith dialog […] on Princeton’s campus”. The event is regarded as a model for meaningful exchanges between followers of different beliefs, and was awarded the 2011 Santos-Dumont Prize for Innovation that recognizes “a unique and creative program, event, initiative, or project [on Princeton’s campus] […] which has had wide-reaching impact and visibility”. His interfaith discussions with Francis X. Clooney were also very well received.
“For me as a Christian it was inspiring to hear this great Hindu teacher talk about finding ways to allow ourselves to be motivated and prompted by love of God and by God’s love for us. […] I felt honoured as a Christian to sit in the presence of a great itinerant spiritual teacher. ”
— Rev’d Andrew Willson, University Chaplain at Imperial College, London, His Holiness Radhanath Swami – the Guru comes to town
Radhanath Swami presented ancient spiritual solutions to modern subjugation at esteemed debating society, Oxford Union. The Union’s event, dubbed Malcolm X’s Speech in Oxford — 50 years later, marked the anniversary of X’s acclaimed Oxford address. The event’s aim: to rouse modern thought and contention on a radical approach to preserving liberty. Radhanath Swami put forth ecumenical spiritual truths as means of harmonizing society. Prominent participants included Angela Davis, Dr.Cornel West, Prof. Stephen Tuck and Ben Okri.
Radhanath Swami appeared as the main speaker at a corporate workshop held by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). The exclusive interactive session, deemed Spirituality: Leadership and Management, hosted over 150 of India’s top corporate executives. Radhanath Swami conveyed the value of integrity, humility and simplicity in daily business affairs. Prominent speakers included Piramal Group chairman, Ajay Piramal and Future Group CEO, Kishore Biyani.
Many famous and influential people interacted with Radhanath Swami and expressed their appreciation of his character and work. Among them are Ajay Piramal, Anil Agarwal, Yash Birla and Chetan Bhagat. Renowned yoga teacher, B. K. S. Iyengar and Madhva sect spiritual leader Vishvesha Teertha of Pejavara matha also met him and appreciated his work. Steven J. Rosen described Radhanath Swami as a “saintly person respected by the mass of ISKCON devotees today”.
“He’s a beautiful fellow. He’s got the answer. I’m a spiritual gent and increasingly that’s the level I want to vibrate on.”
Tulsidas also known as Goswami Tulsidas (1532- 1623) was a Hindu poet-saint, reformer and philosopher from Ramanandi Sampradaya in the lineage of Jagadguru Ramanandacharya renowned for his devotion to the Lord Shri Rama. A writer of several popular works in Sanksrit and Awadhi, he is best known as the author of the epic Ramcharitmanas, a retelling of the Sanskrit Ramayana based on Rama’s life in the vernacular Awadhi.
Tulsidas was acclaimed in his lifetime to be a reincarnation of Valmiki, the composer of the original Ramayana in Sanskrit. He is also considered to be the composer of the Hanuman Chalisa, a popular devotional hymn dedicated to Hanuman, the divine devotee of Rama.
Tulsidas spent most of his life in the city of Varanasi. The Tulsi Ghat on the Ganges River in Varanasi is named after him. He founded the Sankatmochan Temple dedicated to Hanuman in Varanasi, believed to stand at the place where he had the sight of Hanuman. Tulsidas started the Ramlila plays, a folk-theatre adaption of the Ramayana.
He has been acclaimed as one of the greatest poets in Hindi, Indian, and world literature. The impact of Tulsidas and his works on the art, culture and society in India is widespread and is seen to date in vernacular language, Ramlila plays, Hindustani classical music, popular music, and television series.
Tulsidas himself has given only a few facts and hints about events of his life in various works. Till late nineteenth century, the two widely known ancient sources on Tulsidas’ life were the Bhaktamal composed by Nabhadas between 1583 and 1639, and a commentary on Bhaktamal titled Bhaktirasbodhini composed by Priyadas in 1712. Nabhadas was a contemporary of Tulsidas and wrote a six-line stanza on Tulsidas describing him as an incarnation of Valmiki. Priyadas’ work was composed around a hundred years after the death of Tulsidas and had eleven additional stanzas, describing seven miracles or spiritual experiences from the life of Tulsidas. During the 1920s, two more ancient biographies of Tulsidas were published based on old manuscripts – the Mula Gosain Charit composed by Veni Madhav Das in 1630 and the Gosain Charit composed by Dasanidas (also known as Bhavanidas) around 1770. Veni Madhav Das was a disciple and contemporary of Tulsidas and his work gave a new date for Tulsidas’ birth. The work by Bhavanidas presented more narratives in greater detail as compared to the work by Priyadas. In the 1950s a fifth ancient account was published based on an old manuscript, the Gautam Chandrika composed by Krishnadatta Misra of Varanasi in 1624. Krishnadatta Misra’s father was a close companion of Tulsidas. The accounts published later are not considered authentic by some modern scholars, whereas some other scholars have been unwilling to dismiss them. Together, these five works form a set of traditional biographies on which modern biographies of Tulsidas are based.
believed by many to be a reincarnation of Valmiki. In the Hindu scripture Bhavishyottar Purana, the god Shiva tells his wife Parvati how Valmiki, who got a boon from Hanuman to sing the glory of Rama in vernacular language, will incarnate in future in the Kali Yuga (the present and last Yuga or epoch within a cycle of four Yugas).
वाल्मीकिस्तुलसीदासः कलौ देवि भविष्यति । vālmīkistulasīdāsaḥ kalau devi bhaviṣyati ।
रामचन्द्रकथामेतां भाषाबद्धां करिष्यति ॥ rāmacandrakathāmetāṃ bhāṣābaddhāṃ kariṣyati ॥
“ O Goddess [Parvati]! Valmiki will become Tulsidas in the Kali age, and will compose this narrative of Rama in the vernacular language. Bhavishyottar Purana, Pratisarga Parva, 4.20. ”
Nabhadas writes in his Bhaktamal (literally, the Garland of Saints) that Tulsidas was the re-incarnation of Valmiki in the Kali Yuga. The Ramanandi sect believes that it was Valmiki himself who incarnated as Tulsidas in the Kali Yuga.
According to a traditional account, Hanuman went to Valmiki numerous times to hear him sing the Ramayana, but Valmiki turned down the request saying that Hanuman being a monkey was unworthy of hearing the epic. After the victory of Rama over Ravana, Hanuman went to the Himalayas to continue his worship of Rama. There he scripted a play version of the Ramayana called Mahanataka or Hanuman Nataka engraved on the Himalayan rocks using his nails. When Valmiki saw the play written by Hanuman, he anticipated that the beauty of the Mahanataka would eclipse his own Ramayana. Hanuman was saddened at Valmiki’s state of mind and, being a true bhakta without any desire for glory, Hanuman cast all the rocks into the ocean, some parts of which are believed to be available today as Hanuman Nataka. After this, Valmiki was instructed by Hanuman to take birth as Tulsidas and compose the Ramayana in the vernacular.
Tulsidas was born on saptami, the seventh day of shukla paksha, the bright half of the lunar Hindu calendar month Shraavana (July–August). Although as many as seven places are mentioned as his birthplace, most scholars identify the place with Rajapur (Chitrakoot), a village on the banks of the river Yamuna, on the border between the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. In 2012 Sukarkhet Rajapur village on Pashka Road near Parashpur Bhauriganj Bajar, currently in District Gonda, Uttar Pradesh, approximately 50 km from Ayodhya, was declared officially by the government of Uttar Pradesh as the birthplace of Tulsi Dasji. His parents were Hulsi and Atmaram Dubey. Most sources identify him as a Saryupareen Brahmin of the Parashar Gotra (lineage), although some sources claim he was a Kanyakubja or Sanadhya Brahmin.
There is difference of opinion among biographers regarding the year of birth of Tulsidas. Many sources rely on Veni Madhav Das’ account in the Mula Gosain Charita, which gives the year of Tulsidas’ birth as Vikrami Samvat 1554 (1497 CE). These sources include Shivlal Pathak, popular editions of Ramcharitmanas (Gita Press, Naval Kishore Press and Venkateshvar Press), Edwin Greaves, Hanuman Prasad Poddar, Ramanand Sarasvati, Ayodhyanath Sharma, Ramchandra Shukla, Narayandas, and Rambhadracharya. A second group of biographers led by Sant Tulsi Sahib of Hathras and Sir George Grierson give the year as Vikram 1589 (1532 CE). These biographers include Ramkrishna Gopal Bhandarkar, Ramghulam Dwivedi, James Lochtefeld, Swami Sivananda and others. A third small group of authors which includes H. H. Wilson, Garse De Tasse and Krishnadatta Mishra gives the year as Vikram 1600 (1543 CE). The year 1497 appears in many current-day biographies in India and in popular culture. Biographers who disagree with this year argue that it makes the life span of Tulsidas equal 126 years, which in their opinion is unlikely if not impossible. In contrast, Ramchandra Shukla says that an age of 126 is not impossible for a Mahatma (great soul) like Tulsidas. The Government of India and provincial governments celebrated the 500th birth anniversary of Tulsidas in the year 1997 CE, according to the year of Tulsidas’ birth in popular culture.
Legend goes that Tulsidas was born after staying in the womb for twelve months, he had all thirty two teeth in his mouth at birth, his health and looks were like that of a five-year-old boy, and he did not cry at the time of his birth but uttered Rama instead. He was therefore named Rambola (literally, he who uttered Rama), as Tulsidas himself states in Vinaya Patrika. As per the Mula Gosain Charita, he was born under the Abhuktamūla constellation, which according to Jyotisha (Hindu astrology) causes immediate danger to the life of the father. Due to the inauspicious events at the time of his birth, he was abandoned by his parents on the fourth night, sent away with Chuniya (some sources call her Muniya), a female servant of Hulsi. In his works Kavitavali and Vinayapatrika, Tulsidas attests to his parents abandoning him after birth due to an inauspicious astrological configuration.
Chuniya took the child to her village of Haripur and looked after him for five and a half years after which she died. Rambola was left to fend for himself as an impoverished orphan, and wandered from door to door begging for alms. It is believed that the goddess Parvati assumed the form of a Brahmin woman and fed Rambola every day.
At the age of five years, Rambola was adopted by Narharidas, a Vaishnava ascetic of Ramananda’s monastic order who is believed to be the fourth disciple of Ramananda, or alternately, the disciple of Anantacharya. Rambola was given the Virakta Diksha (Vairagi initiation) with the new name of Tulsidas. Tulsidas narrates the dialogue that took place during the first meeting with his guru in a passage in the Vinayapatrika. When he was seven years old, his Upanayana (“sacred thread ceremony”) was performed by Narharidas on the fifth day of the bright half of the month of Magha (January–February) at Ayodhya, a pilgrimage-site related to Rama. Tulsidas started his learning at Ayodhya. After some time, Narharidas took him to a particular Varaha Kshetra (a holy place with temple dedicated to Varaha – the boar avatar of Vishnu), where he first narrated the Ramayana to Tulsidas. Tulsidas mentions this in the Ramcharitmanas.
मैं पुनि निज गुर सन सुनी कथा सो सूकरखेत । maı̐ puni nija gura sana sunī kathā so sūkarakheta ।
समुझी नहिं तस बालपन तब अति रहेउँ अचेत ॥ samujhī nahi̐ tasa bālapana taba ati raheu̐ aceta ॥
“ And then, I heard the same narrative from my Guru in a Sukarkhet (Varaha Kshetra). I did not understand it then, since I was totally without cognition in childhood. Ramcharitmanas 1.30 (ka). ”
Most authors identify the Varaha Kshetra referred to by Tulsidas with the Varaha temple on the second entrance of the pilgrimage of Kamadgiri in Chitrakuta.Some biographers believe this Sukarkshetra is the Soron Varaha Kshetra in modern-day Kasganj, while some others believe it to be Paska-Rajapur Varaha Kshetra in current-day Gonda. Tulsidas further mentions in the Ramcharitmanas that his guru repeatedly narrated the Ramayana to him, which led him to understand it somewhat.
Tulsidas later came to the sacred city of Varanasi and studied Sanskrit grammar, four Vedas, six Vedangas, Jyotisha and the six schools of Hindu philosophy over a period of 15–16 years from guru Shesha Sanatana who was based at the Pancaganga Ghat in Varanasi. Shesha Sanatana was a friend of Narharidas and a renowned scholar on literature and philosophy. After completing his studies, Tulsidas came back to his birthplace Rajapur with the permission of Shesha Sanatana. Here he found that his family was no more, with his parents dead. Tulsidas performed the Shraddha ceremony (which deals with giving offerings to the ancestors) of his parents. He started living in his ancestral home and narrating the Katha (“story”) of Ramayana in Chitrakuta.
There are two contrasting views regarding the marital status of Tulsidas. According to the Mula Gosain Charita and some other works, Tulsidas was married to Ratnavali on the thirteenth day of the bright half of the Jyeshta month (May–June) in Vikram 1583 (1526 CE). Ratnavali was the daughter of Dinbandhu Pathak, a Brahmin of the Bharadwaja Gotra, who belonged to Mahewa village of Kaushambi district. They had a son named Tarak who died as a toddler. Once when Tulsidas had gone to a Hanuman temple, Ratnavali went to her father’s home with her brother. When Tulsidas came to know this, he swam across the Yamuna river in the night to meet his wife. Ratnavali chided Tulsidas for this, and remarked that if Tulsidas was even half as devoted to God as he was to her body of flesh and blood, he would have been redeemed. Tulsidas left her instantly and left for the holy city of Prayag. Here, he renounced the Grihastha (householder’s life) stage and became a Sadhu (Hindu ascetic).
Some authors consider the marriage episode of Tulsidas to be a later interpolation and maintain that he was a bachelor.They include Rambhadracharya, who interprets two verses in the Vinayapatrika and Hanuman Bahuka to mean that Tulsidas never married and was a Sadhu from childhood.
After renunciation, Tulsidas spent most of his time at Varanasi, Prayag, Ayodhya, and Chitrakuta but visited many other nearby and far-off places. He travelled across India to many places, studying different people, meeting saints and Sadhus and meditating. The Mula Gosain Charita gives an account of his travels to the four pilgrimages of Hindus (Badrinath, Dwarka, Puri and Rameshwaram) and the Himalayas. He visited the Manasarovar lake in current-day Tibet, where tradition holds he had Darshan (sight) of Kakabhushundi, the crow who is one of the four narrators in the Ramcharitmanas.
Tulsidas hints at several places in his works, that he had met face to face with Hanuman and Rama. The detailed account of his meetings with Hanuman and Rama are given in the Bhaktirasbodhini of Priyadas. According to Priyadas’ account, Tulsidas used to visit the woods outside Varanasi for his morning ablutions with a water pot. On his return to the city, he used to offer the remaining water to a certain tree. This quenched the thirst of a Preta (a type of ghost believed to be ever thirsty for water), who appeared to Tulsidas and offered him a boon. Tulsidas said he wished to see Rama with his eyes, to which the Preta responded that it was beyond him. However, the Preta said that he could guide Tulsidas to Hanuman, who could grant the boon Tulsidas asked for. The Preta told Tulsidas that Hanuman comes everyday disguised in the mean attire of a leper to listen to his Katha, he is the first to arrive and last to leave.
That evening Tulsidas noted that the first listener to arrive at his discourse was an old leper, who sat at the end of the gathering. After the Katha was over, Tulsidas quietly followed the leper to the woods. In the woods, at the spot where the Sankat Mochan Temple stands today, Tulsidas firmly fell at the leper’s feet, shouting “I know who you are” and “You cannot escape me”. At first the leper feigned ignorance but Tulsidas did not relent. Then the leper revealed his original form of Hanuman and blessed Tulsidas. When granted a boon, Tulsidas told Hanuman he wanted to see Rama face to face. Hanuman told him to go to Chitrakuta where he would see Rama with his own eyes.
At the beginning of the Ramcharitmanas, Tulsidas bows down to a particular Preta and asks for his grace. According to Rambhadracharya, this is the same Preta which led Tulsidas to Hanuman.
As per Priyadas’ account, Tulsidas followed the instruction of Hanuman and started living in an Ashram at Ramghat in Chitrakuta. One day Tulsidas went to perform the Parikrama (circumambulation) of the Kamadgiri mountain. He saw two princes, one dark and the other fair, dressed in green robes pass by mounted on horsebacks. Tulsidas was enraptured at the sight, however he could not recognise them and took his eyes off them. Later Hanuman asked Tulsidas if he saw Rama and his brother Lakshmana on horses. Tulsidas was disappointed and repentful. Hanuman assured Tulsidas that he would have the sight of Rama once again the next morning. Tulsidas recalls this incident in a song of the Gitavali and laments how “his eyes turned his own enemies” by staying fixed to the ground and how everything happened in a trice. On the next morning, Wednesday, the new-moon day of Magha, Vikram 1607 (1551 CE) or 1620 (1564 CE) as per some sources, Rama again appeared to Tulsidas, this time as a child. Tulsidas was making sandalwood paste when a child came and asked for a sandalwood Tilaka (a religious mark on the forehead). This time Hanuman gave a hint to Tulsidas and he had a full view of Rama. Tulsidas was so charmed that he forgot about the sandalwood. Rama took the sandalwood paste and put a Tilaka himself on his forehead and Tulsidas’ forehead before disappearing.
In a verse in the Vinayapatrika, Tulsidas alludes to a certain “miracle at Chitrakuta”, and thanks Rama for what he did for him at Chitrakuta. Some biographers conclude that the deed of Rama at Chitrakuta referred to by Tulsidas is the Darshan of Rama.
In Vikram 1628 (1572 CE), Tulsidas left Chitrakuta for Prayag where he stayed during the Magha Mela (the annual fair in January). Six days after the Mela ended, he had the Darshan of the sages Yajnavalkya and Bharadvaja under a banyan tree. In one of the four dialogues in the Ramcharitmanas, Yajnavalkya is the speaker and Bharadvaja the listener. Tulsidas describes the meeting between Yajnavalkya and Bharadvaja after a Magha Mela festival in the Ramcharitmanas, it is this meeting where Yajnavalkya narrates the Ramcharitmanas to Bharadvaja.
In Priyadas’ biography, Tulsidas is attributed with the power of working miracles. In one such miracle, he is believed to have brought back a dead Brahmin to life. While the Brahmin was being taken for cremation, his widow bowed down to Tulsidas on the way who addressed her as Saubhagyavati (a woman whose husband is alive). The widow told Tulsidas her husband had just died, so his words could not be true. Tulsidas said that the word has passed his lips and so he would restore the dead man to life. He asked everybody present to close their eyes and utter the name of Rama, on doing which the dead Brahmin was raised back to life.
In another miracle described by Priyadas, the emperor of Delhi, Akbar summoned Tulsidas on hearing of his bringing back a dead man to life. Tulsidas declined to go as he was too engrossed in creating his verses but he was later forcibly brought before the Akbar and was asked to perform a miracle, which Tulsidas declined by saying “It’s a lie, all I know is Rama.” The emperor imprisoned Tulsidas at Fatehpur Sikri, “We will see this Rama.”Tulsidas refused to bow to Akbar and created a verse in praise of Hanuman and chanted it (Hanuman Chalisa) for forty days and suddenly an army of monkeys descended upon the town and wreaked havoc in all corners of Fatehpur Sikri, entering each home and the emperor’s harem, scratching people and throwing bricks from ramparts. An old Hafiz told the emperor that this was the miracle of the imprisoned Fakir. The emperor fell at Tulsidas’ feet, released him and apologised. Tulsidas stopped the menace of monkeys and asked the emperor to abandon the place. The emperor agreed and moved back to Delhi. Ever since Akbar became a close friend of Tulsidas and he also ordered a firman that followers of Rama, Hanuman & other Hindus, should not be harassed in his kingdom.
Priyadas narrates a miracle of Tulsidas at Vrindavan, when he visited a temple of Krishna. When he began bowing down to the idol of Krishna, the Mahant of the temple named Parshuram decided to test Tulsidas. He told Tulsidas that he who bows down to any deity except their Ishta Devata (cherished form of divinity) is a fool, as Tulsidas’ Ishta Devata was Rama. In response, Tulsidas recited the following extemporaneously composed couplet
काह कहौं छबि आजुकि भले बने हो नाथ । kāha kahau̐ chabi ājuki bhale bane ho nātha ।
तुलसी मस्तक तब नवै धरो धनुष शर हाथ ॥ tulasī mastaka taba navai dharo dhanuṣa śara hātha ॥
“ O Lord, how shall I describe today’s splendour, for you appear auspicious. Tulsidas will bow down his head when you take the bow and the arrow in your hands. ”
When Tulsidas recited this couplet, the idol of Krishna holding the flute and stick in hands changed to the idol of Rama holding the bow and arrow in hands. Some authors have expressed doubts on the couplet being composed by Tulsidas.
Tulsidas composes one of his works. Statue at Manas Mandir, Chitrakuta, Satna, India.
Tulsidas started composing poetry in Sanskrit in Varanasi on the Prahlada Ghat. Tradition holds that all the verses that he composed during the day, would get lost in the night. This happened daily for eight days. On the eighth night, Shiva – whose famous Kashi Vishwanath Temple is located in Varanasi – is believed to have ordered Tulsidas in a dream to compose poetry in the vernacular instead of Sanskrit. Tulsidas woke up and saw both Shiva and Parvati who blessed him. Shiva ordered Tulsidas to go to Ayodhya and compose poetry in Awadhi. Shiva also predicted that Tulsidas’ poetry would fructify like the Sama Veda. In the Ramcharitmanas, Tulsidas hints at having the Darshan of Shiva and Parvati in both dream and awakened state.
In the year Vikram 1631 (1575 CE), Tulsidas started composing the Ramcharitmanas in Ayodhya on Tuesday, Ramnavami day (ninth day of the bright half of the Chaitra month, which is the birthday of Rama). Tulsidas himself attests this date in the Ramcharitmanas. He composed the epic over two years, seven months and twenty-six days, and completed the work in Vikram 1633 (1577 CE) on the Vivaha Panchami day (fifth day of the bright half of the Margashirsha month, which commenrates the wedding of Rama and his wife Sita).
Tulsidas came to Varanasi and recited the Ramcharitmanas to Shiva (Vishwanath) and Parvati (Annapurna) at the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. A popular legend goes that the Brahmins of Varanasi, who were critical of Tulsidas for having rendered the Sanskrit Ramayana in the Awadhi, decided to test the worth of the work. A manuscript of the Ramcharitmanas was kept at the bottom of pile of Sanskrit scriptures in the sanctum sanctorum of the Vishvanath temple in the night, and the doors of the sanctum sanctorum were locked. In the morning when the doors were opened, the Ramcharitmanas was found at the top of the pile. The words Satyam Shivam Sundaram (Sanskrit: सत्यं शिवं सुन्दरम्, literally “truth, auspiciousness, beauty”) were inscribed on the manuscript with the signature of Shiva. The words were also heard by the people present.
Per traditional accounts, some Brahmins of Varanasi were still not satisfied, and sent two thieves to steal the manuscript. The thieves tried to break into the Ashram of Tulsidas, but were confronted by two guards with bows and arrows, of dark and fair complexion. The thieves had a change of heart and came to Tulsidas in the morning to ask who the two guards were. Believing that the two guards could be none other than Rama and Lakshmana, Tulsidas was aggrieved to know that they were guarding his home at night. He sent the manuscript of Ramcahritmanas to his friend Rai Todar Mal, the finance minister of Akbar, and donated all his money. The thieves were reformed and became devotees of Rama.
Around Vikram 1664 (1607 CE), Tulsidas was afflicted by acute pain all over his body, especially in his arms. He then composed the Hanuman Bahuk, where he describes his bodily pain and suffering in several stanzas. He was relieved of his pain after this composition. Later he was also afflicted by Bartod boils (Hindi: बरतोड़, furuncles caused by pulling out of the hair), which may have been the cause of his death.
The Vinaypatrika is considered as the last compositions of Tulsidas, believed to be written when Kali Yuga started troubling him. In this work of 279 stanzas, he beseeches Rama to give him Bhakti (“devotion”), and to accept his petition. Tulsidas attests in the last stanza of Vinaypatrika that Rama himself signed the manuscript of the work. The 45th stanza of the Vinaypatrika is sung as the evening Aarti by many Hindus.
Tulsidas died at the Assi Ghat on the bank of the river Ganga in the Shraavan (July–August) month of the year Vikram 1680 (1623 CE). Like the year of his birth, traditional accounts and biographers do not agree on the exact date of his death. Different sources give the date as the third day of the bright half, seventh day of the bright half, or the third day of the dark half.
Twelve works are widely considered by biographers to be written by Tulsidas, six major works and six minor works. Based on the language of the works, they have been classified into two groups as follows–
Awadhi works – Ramcharitmanas, Ramlala Nahachhu, Barvai Ramayan, Parvati Mangal, Janaki Mangal and Ramagya Prashna.
Braja works – Krishna Gitavali, Gitavali,sahitya ratna, Dohavali, Vairagya Sandipani and Vinaya Patrika.
Besides these twelve works, four more works are popularly believed to be composed by Tulsidas which include Hanuman Chalisa, Hanuman Ashtak, Hanuman Bahuk and Tulsi Satsai.
The five major works of Tulsidas apart from Ramcharitmanas include–
Dohavali literally Collection of Dohas, is a work consisting of 573 miscellaneous Doha and Sortha verses mainly in Braja with some verses in Awadhi. The verses are aphorisms on topics related to tact, political wisdom, righteousness and the purpose of life. 85 Dohas from this work are also found in the Ramcharitmanas, 35 in Ramagya Prashna, two in Vairagya Sandipani and some in Rama Satsai, another work of 700 Dohas attributed to Tulsidas.
sahitya ratna or ratna Ramayan (1608–1614), literally Collection of Kavittas, is a Braja rendering of the Ramayana, composed entirely in metres of the Kavitta family – Kavitta, Savaiya, Ghanakshari and Chhappaya. It consists of 325 verses including 183 verses in the Uttarkand. Like the Ramcharitmanas, it is divided into seven Kands or books and many episodes in this work are different from the Ramcharitmanas.
Gitavali literally Collection of Songs, is a Braja rendering of the Ramayana in songs. All the verses are set to Ragas of Hindustani classical music and are suitable for singing. It consists of 328 songs divided into seven Kands or books. Many episodes of the Ramayana are elaborated while many others are abridged.
Krishna Gitavali or Krishnavali literally Collection of Songs to Krishna, is a collection of 61 songs in honour of Krishna in Braja. There are 32 songs devoted to the childhood sports (Balalila) and Rasa Lila of Krishna, 27 songs form the dialogue between Krishna and Uddhava, and two songs describe the episode of disrobing of Draupadi.
Vinaya Patrika, literally Petition of Humility, is a Braja work consisting of 279 stanzas or hymns. The stanzas form a petition in the court of Rama asking for Bhakti. It is considered to be the second best work of Tulsidas after the Ramcharitmanas, and is regarded as important from the viewpoints of philosophy, erudition, and eulogistic and poetic style of Tulsidas. The first 43 hymns are addressed to various deities and Rama’s courtiers and attendants, and remaining are addressed to Rama.
Minor works of Tulsidas include-
Barvai Ramayana literally The Ramayana in Barvai metre, is an abridged rendering of the Ramayana in Awadhi. The works consists of 69 verses composed in the Barvai metre, and is divided into seven Kands or books. The work is based on a psychological framework.
Parvati Mangal literally The marriage of Parvati, is an Awadhi work of 164 verses describing the penance of Parvati and the marriage of Parvati and Shiva. It consists of 148 verses in the Sohar metre and 16 verses in the Harigitika metre.
Janaki Mangal literally The marriage of Sita, is an Awadhi work of 216 verses describing the episode of marriage of Sita and Rama from the Ramayana. The work includes 192 verses in the Hamsagati metre and 24 verses in the Harigitika metres. The narrative differs from the Ramcharitmanas at several places.
Ramalala Nahachhu literally The Nahachhu ceremony of the child Rama, is an Awadhi work of 20 verses composed in the Sohar metre. The Nahachhu ceremony involves cutting the nails of the feet before the Hindu Samskaras (rituals) of Chudakarana, Upanayana, Vedarambha, Samavartana or Vivaha. In the work, events take place in the city of Ayodhya, so it is considered to describe the Nahachhu before Upanayana, Vedarambha and Samavartana.
Ramagya Prashna literally Querying the Will of Rama, is an Awadhi work related to both Ramayana and Jyotisha (astrology). It consists of seven Kands or books, each of which is divided into seven Saptakas or Septets of seven Dohas each. Thus it contains 343 Dohas in all. The work narrates the Ramayana non-sequentially, and gives a method to look up the Shakuna (omen or portent) for astrological predictions.
Vairagya Sandipini, literally Kindling of Detachment, is a philosophical work of 60 verses in Braja which describe the state of Jnana (realisation) and Vairagya (dispassion), the nature and greatness of saints, and moral conduct. It consists of 46 Dohas, 2 Sorathas and 12 Chaupai metres.
Kalyan Swami (1636–1714) was a noted 17th-century swami. Though Shree Samarth Ramdas Swami and a hermit and a proficient disciple Shree Kalyan Swami were separate by the body, they were persons of superhuman power internally united. Shree Kalyan Swami devoted himself in the feet of Shree Samarth entirely. This pair of mentor and disciple is a peak of Indian culture. The place of Hanuman in Ramayan the same part is played by Shree Kalyan Swami in the biography of Shree Samarth Ramdas Swami.
Shree Kalyan Swami is called Patta_Shishya (successor and chief disciple) of Shree Samarth Ramdas Swami.
A person by name Krushnajipant Kulkarni of Bhagur village who was Deshastha Rugvedi Brahmin and his clan was Kaushik who was married and gave birth to a child but by misfortune, his wife and the child died in a short period. By this incident, the at best of his youth Krishnajipant left for pilgrimage after disposal of belongings of the village. After visiting many places of plgrimage he arrived at Kolhapur for a glimpse of Mahalakshmi and lived there in the worship of Goddess. Every day, he reads the holy scripture Durgasaptashati.
There was one gentleman Barawajipant Kulkarni in Kolhapur. His sister had to be married. He was anxious about it. By priamass Krishnajipant and Barawajipant met. Krishnajipant accepted the request of Barwajipant and agreed to marry his sister named Rakhmabai. Besides it, he expressed his desire of pilgrimage after some time. Accordingly, marriage ceremony of Krishnajipant and Rakhumabai took place.
With blessings of Ambabai of Kolhapur, the married couple gave birth to a son who was named Ambaji. The birth year of Ambaji may be 1636. The second son born after Ambaji was named Dattatreya. They have one sister as referenced in some places.
After some years of marriage life, Krishnajipant left for pilgrimage. Afterwards he became ascetic in Kashi. His mention is not available in after history. Afterward these sons and their mother came to brother’s home.
Arrival of Shree Samarth Ramdas Swami in Kolhapur and Meeting of Mentor and Disciple
Generally, it was the year 1645. After 12 years’ travel and pilgrimage of India Shree Samarth Ramdas Swami returned to his workland. After 12 years’ pilgrimage, Shree Samarth has decided something and the decision was of Dharmasansthapana (Update of Dharma).
There have been his discourses in various places to lead the society to the religious and right path. With bright speech, harsh asceticism, deep study, succulent narration etc. a huge crowd was present at discourses(Kirtans). The same discourses were going on in Kolhapur also. Brawajipant was also present to hear these discourses. He decided to become a disciple of this holy man Shree Samarth. He requested Shree Samarth for this purpose. Shree Samarth also agreed to give his favor(Anugrah) after his evaluation.
Shree Samarth Ramdas Swami came to the house of Bawajipant on decided day. There was the auspicious atmosphere in the house. There was festoons and rangoli in the house. Barwajipant was mostly delighted on the arrival of Shree Samarth. Shree Samarth made Barawajipant disciple by giving him favor(Anugrah). Barwajipant requested Shree Samarth to accept teachers fees(GuruDakshina) as a tradition. But Shree Samarth wanted nothing as he valued gold and soil at the same rate. He refused. But Barwajipant insisted and requested him so much. Then Shree Samarth said if you want to give then give me Ambaji for purpose of Shreeram. Samarth asked Ambaji about his religious work. Samarth being impressed by the beautiful handwriting of the boy Ambaji, he requested that the boy is given to him.
After this incident, Ambaji, Dattatray and their mother went with Samarth Ramdas Swami. During their travels, Samarth told Dattaray Swami to stay at Shirgaon. Shree Dattatreya Swami, whose dates were 1638-1714, is said to have been a sweet singer and was therefore often given that part of the devotions in which the praises of the gods are sung. He became the Mahant of the math at Shirgaon near Satara, and, unlike his brother, he was married. A copy of the Dasbodh which he wrote has been found at Gwalior, where his great-great-grandson, Aba Maharaj, established a math about 1853, which is still in operation. It is this copy of the Dasbodh.
Only Ambaji went with Shree Samarth Ramdas Swami. It is his meeting with Samarth Ramdas Swami that changed the course of his life Ambaji, later known as Kalyan, became a man of large physique, many stories being told of his fearlessness and physical powers.
From a young age, Ambaji had been a devoted disciple of Sri Samarth Ramadas, a renowned saint of Maharashtra. The Master was very happy with the way his disciple was progressing spiritually. Day and night. He had great devotion for Shree Rama. His heart yearned for the Lord’s darshan. Samarth Ramadas Swami knew about this. He also knew that Ambaji was a worthy vessel, fit to receive a vision of the Lord Ambaji immersed himself in service to the Guru. Although Shree Samarth Ramdas Swami tested him in many difficult situations, he never failed and was therefore often held up as an example before the others. Eventually, Ambaji became the favorite disciple of Samarth.
Shree Samarth Ramdas Swami started Rathyatra of Lord Ram on the occasion of Ramnavami. There was a huge tree on the way Rathyatra. Also, there was a deep well close to the tree. The branches of the tree extended right over the mouth of the well. Shree Samarth Ramdas Swami realized that the time was ripe for Ambaji to experience a vision of God, and he created a situation accordingly.
Samarth Ramadas called Ambaji and said, “Do you see that branch extending right over the well? Can you climb up to it?”
“Sure, Gurudeva,” Ambaji replied.
Samarth Ramadas continued, “I want you to take a saw with you when you climb, and when you reach the branch, cut it off with the saw.”
Without the slightest hesitation, Ambaji tied his dhoti tightly, took a saw and started climbing. As he climbed, Ramadas shouted to him from below, “When you reach the branch, lean over it facing the trunk of the tree, and start cutting the branch.”
On hearing this, the other disciples started laughing amongst themselves. They thought that if Ambaji followed the Guru’s orders, there could be no greater fool than he in the whole world, for he would surely fall into the well. But Ambaji had no doubts in his mind. He called back, “As you wish, O Gurudeva.”
As Ambaji reached the branch and started sawing, Gurudev asked, “Ambaji, aren’t you afraid that you will fall into the well? The fall could kill you.”
“Not at all!” said Ambaji. “What dangers could possibly befall someone who has a great Satguru like you? Everything will be taken care of.” He continued sawing, and when he had cut halfway through the branch, the whole branch suddenly gave way, and with a huge crash, Ambaji fell into the well.
The road became free. Rathayatra started with joy.
The disciples became greatly perturbed and were sure that Ambaji must have died. As they were about to rush towards the well, Ramadas asked them to remain where they were and to sit calmly.
When Ambaji fell into the well, he prayed fervently to Lord Rama to grant him Divine darshan. As he reached the bottom, Lo! the Lord appeared before him in all His glory. All the water and the broken branch disappeared. He felt himself landing softly like a feather in the Lord’s arms. Beholding the Lord’s radiant form, he prostrated at His Lotus Feet, shedding tears of joy and gratitude. The Lord smiled at him, filling his heart with infinite love and grace.
After some time, Samath Ramadas asked his disciples to follow him to the well. Everyone was anxious to know about Ambaji’s condition. Gurudeva called down the well, “Ambaji, how are you?” Ambadas replied, “I am in bliss, O Guru!”
The disciples helped to pull Ambaji out of the well. Falling at his Guru’s feet, Ambaji cried, “O Satguru, it was you who made it possible for me to see the Lord. Your grace is boundless! How can I ever repay your love and grace?” On hearing Ambaji’s words, the other disciples were wonderstruck.
From that day Ambaji came to be known as Kalyan (auspicious one). He was one of the foremost disciples of Sri Samarth Ramadas. The faith and devotion of Ambaji towards his Guru is surely a great source of inspiration for all disciples who are seeking the Supreme Truth.
This incident happened at village Masur in district Satara of Maharashtra.
Shree Kalyan Swami was the chief disciple of Shri Samarth Ramdas Swami. One day, in order to put the latter to the test, Shree Samarth Ramdas Swami did a miracle. He called together all his disciples and showed them a great swelling on his thigh from which he was suffering much pain, and he told them that if any, of them, would suck the matter from it he would recover, but otherwise, he would die. All professed great sympathy, but as he called on them one by one to perform this service, “they all with one accord began to make excuses.”
But when he came to Shree Kalyan Swami and asked if he were willing, this disciple replied that he had made an offering of his life to him and therefore he would do anything. Then he applied -his lips to the swelling, uncovered the cloth on swelling. As he did so instead of the lump there was a large and sweet mango!
Everyone was astonished, and Shree Kalyan Swami became chief of the disciples.
Once Samarth Ramdas Swami with Shree Kalyan Swami wondering on surrounding places on fort Sajjangad, a strong current of wind came and Shawl wore by Samarth Ramdas was flown.
Samarth exclaimed “O Kalyan, Shawl is flown away!”
Suddenly without giving a second thought, Kalyanswami jumped from this place in the air to hold his shawl. Kalyan Swami was at the top of the fort. He caught the Shawl. And where he fell down is now known as Kalyanswami Mandir/ Temple.
To protect his Master’s cloth from dirt Shree Kalyan Swami has taken risk of life only because of belief on his lotus feet.
This place can be seen on Sajjangad. It is called as ‘Kalyan Chhati Smarak’.
Shree Samarth Ramdas Swami used to live in Sajjangad (a fort in Maharashtra, India), along with his disciples. The fort did not have a supply of water, so one of the disciples, Shree Kalyan Swami, would do the satsevaa (service unto God) of bringing up pots of water from the village at the foot of the fort. This activity would occupy most of his day, leaving him little time for spiritual studies. The other disciples used to study throughout the day, learning the holy books from Shree Samarth Ramdas Swami through question-answer sessions and discussions. Yet, Shree Kalyan Swami was their Guru’s favorite. The disciples could not understand why this was so and was a little envious of Kalyan. Shree Samarth Ramdas Swami was quite aware of their feelings.
One day, while teaching the disciples, Ramdas Swami asked them a difficult question. No one could answer it. Just then, Kalyan was passing by so the Guru called him and asked him the same question. To everybody’s surprise, Kalyan knew the correct answer!
The other disciples asked Ramdas Swami, “How is this possible? Kalyan has hardly ever studied with us. How could he answer such a difficult question?” Ramdas Swami replied, “He is the only one who actually practices what the holy books teach. Daily he does satseva in the true sense, with the attitude (Bhaav) that he is doing it for God Himself. Only intellectual knowledge about the Holy texts is not enough.” The disciples quickly understood their mistake. All of them were proud of their intellect (knowledge), but Shree Kalyan Swami had an intense love for God and hence God Himself gave the answers through him.
Shree Samarth Ramdas Swami frequently tested the loyalty of his disciples. One day he took a sword in his hand, and, clad only in a loincloth, he said that he would kill anyone who bowed before him. No one dared to approach him; and he, therefore, withdrew into the forest, the report spreading about that he had gone mad.
About a month later Shree Kalyan Swami arrived at Sajjangad after completion of his writing work and immediately went to his guru, putting red powder upon his forehead and betel leaves in his mouth. In spite of the Shree Samarth Ramdas Swami’s threat, Shree Kalyan Swami bowed before him and then the saint, throwing away his sword, embraced the disciple, saying that he alone was a true follower.
Shree Samarth Ramdas Swami once departed into the forest without taking his food; and, after waiting till sunset, Shree Kalyan Swami tied the food in a cloth and set out to find him. He found the Koyana river in full flood, but, without hesitating, he swam across and continued the search. He finally found two men with torches and they brought him to the Shree Samarth Ramdas Swami, who was immensely pleased with this evidence of Shree Kalyan Swami’s devotion.
This incidence happened in rainy season at the cave of Ram Ghal. Shree Samarth Ramdas Swami arose in the middle of the night, calling for Pan Supari(one kind of leaf). The disciples were unable to find any. Since he was unwilling to eat the nut fragments without the leaves, Shree Kalyan Swami started out in the pitch dark to go to a neighboring village, where he could procure some leaves; but he had gone only a short distance when he stepped upon a black snake, which turned and bit him. Shree Kalyan Swami fell down and became unconscious. Shree Samarth waited for a long time and went out to search Shree Kalyan Swami; had fallen.
He prayed to Shree Bhairavnath, a deity for Shree Kalyan Swami. Running his hand over Shree Kalyan Swami’s body from head to foot, he said, ‘Kalyan, arise’; and the latter got up. He would have started out again, had not the Shree Samarth Ramdas Swami told him that the leaves were no longer necessary.
The outstanding disciple of Shree Samarth Ramdas Swami was Shree Kalyan Swami, the mahant of the Domgaon math, and there are more references to him than to any other disciple. All accounts agree upon his intense devotion to the Swami and assert that Shree Samarth Ramdas Swami trusted him as he did no other. Kalyan Swami spent the 33-year period 1645 to 1678 with Samarth. Ramdas had many disciples, of whom Shri Kalyan Swami was the chief.
During this period Kalyan Swami transcribed the literature of Samarth Ramdas Swami. Together they completed the book Dasbodh in Shivthar Ghal, Manache Shlok and others. The books take the form of the conversation between guru and shishya. Samarth’s other writings were written by Sri Kalyan Swami.[clarification needed] 250 of Kalyan swami’s handwritten texts are available at Dhule.
Shree Kalyan Swami remained with Shree Samarth Ramdas Swami from 1645 until 1678, during which time he copied a great many of the Swami’s poems, and also aided in the supervision of the other disciples and maths. During this period Kalyan Swami transcribed the literature of Samarth Ramdas Swami. Together they completed the book Dasbodh in Shivthar Ghal, Manache Shlok and others. The Dasbodh the most important scripture of Samarth sect is narrated by Samarth Ramdas Swami and written down by Shree Kalyan Swami. The books take the form of a conversation between guru and shishya. Shree Kalyan Swami was able to make a complete copy of the Dasbodh in a single night. Samarth’s other writings were written by Shree Kalyan Swami. 250 of Kalyan swami’s handwritten texts are available at Samarth Vagdevata Mandir, Dhule.
He used to keep the papers folded safely in square pieces of silk tied up with silk thread. He always carried in his shoulder bag paper sheets, and fountain pen as well as ink pot of various colors. All the 7751 verses of Dasabodh were written in his neat handwriting. These manuscripts are still worshiped in the Domgaon Math which was under his charge. Shree Kalyan Swami recorded the holy songs in manuscript form. The saint is the author of numerous books associated with Samarth Ramdas Swami.
It is mentioned in old scriptures like ‘Dasvishramdhaam’ that Shree Kalyan Swami was ‘Yog-bhrashta’ ascetic. प्राप्य पुण्यकृतां लोकानुषित्वा शाश्वती: समा:। शुचीनां श्रीमतां गेहे योगभ्रष्टोऽभिजायते॥41॥
Meaning: He who has fallen from yoga, obtains the higher worlds (heaven etc.) to which men of meritorious deeds alone are entitled, and having resided there for countless years, takes birth in the house of pious and wealthy men. (41) (Shrimat BhagavadGeeta Chapter 6 Shlokas 41)
He was also well known as Yogi who performed numerous yoga exercises daily. Shree Kalyan Swami was called ‘Yogiraj’ by Ramdasi sect and devotees. His sketch is in ‘Yogmudra of Garbhasan’ He practiced 1200 Surya namaskar daily. Every day Shree Kalyan Swami brought water to bathe Shree Samarth Ramdas Swami from the river Urmodi in large copper pots. These copper pots are now at Sajjangad. His body was reportedly very strong. He wore garments such as kundals, bhasma and mudrika.
It was Shree Kalyan Swami ‘s custom to take his disciples apart and tell them the story of the Shree Samarth Ramdas Swami’s life,—a story that he could interpret better than most of the other disciples. Therefore, this large work of four published volumes has a flavour that is lacking in some of the other accounts, because it gives us the story of Samarth Ramdas Swami as remembered by his leading disciple.
Kalyan Swami died on Aashadh Shuddh Trayodashi in 1714 at Paranda district Dharashiv (Osmanabad). It is called Yoga-Antha (Samadhi by Yogic Power of oneself/by one’s own will) His funeral was held at Domgaon near Paranda. The ashes of Samarth Ramdas Swami and Kalyan Swami were mixed by Keshav Swami after his death.
In the year 1714, the ashes of Shree Samarth Ramdas Swami were dug up from Vrindavan at Chaphal and taken to Kashi by Shree Keshav Swami. At the same time, Shree Kalyan Swami had left his earthly body using Yogbal(Yogic Power) in Paranda. After telling Ramkatha, he sat in Garbhasan & entered into Samadhi. His last work was held at Domgaon near Paranda on the bank of river Seena. When Shree Keshav Swami came to Domgaon which is on the way of Kashi, he heard this sad news. The ashes of both sages were taken to Kashi at the same time. The ashes of Samarth Ramdas Swami and Shree Kalyan Swami together were deepened by Shree Keshav Swami in holy Ganga river. It was singularly fitting that the ashes of the most loyal disciple should have gone with the ashes of his master to their last resting-place.
Shree Kalyan Swami left his heavenly abode on Adhik Aashadh Shuddh Trayodashi in 1714 A.D. at Paranda district Dharashiv (Osmanabad). Shree Kalyan Swami Punyatithi (Death Anniversary) Domgaon in Osmanabad is observed on the 13th day during the waxing phase of moon in Ashadha month. It is the death anniversary of the great saint and disciple of Samarth Ramdas Swami. As per Marathi Calendar, it is the Ashadha Shukla Paksha Trayodasi Tithi.
The Samadhi temple of Shree Kalyan Swami at Domgaon is 250 years old.. In Shree Kalyan Swami’s Domgaon math, fourteen miles from Kurduvadi, there are a number of interesting relics, which include an original copy of the Dasbodh, which is said to be by Samarth Ramdas Swami and scribed by Shree Kalyan Swami., corrected by Shree Ramdas Swami, and now published by the Dhulia Sabha. There is also a copy by Shree Keshav Swami, Kalyan’s disciple who became the mahant at Umbraj; and in this math are the idols of Rama, Sita, and Maruti which Shree Samarth Ramdas Swami gave to Shree Keshav Swami. Among other articles is a piece of the red blanket worn by Shree Keshav Swami, his worn-out betel-nut wallet, and a pair of sandals that are supposed to have belonged to Shree Samarth Ramdas Swami. Chanting ‘Mala’ is preserved there. Shree Kalyan Swami’s tomb was built in 1773, fifty-nine years after he left his earthly body, and is located in a beautiful spot. Upon the tomb Sanskrit verses have been inscribed and may be translated as follows:
Shree Kalyan Swami did not compose a great many poems himself but encouraged his followers to do so, and one disciple named Samaraj Kalyan wrote poems in praise of ShreeRama and Shree Kalyan Swami. Another disciple was Shivram, of the Apachanda math near Gulbarga, who is said to have made several copies of the Shree Dasbodh. Although he wrote some poetry of his own, his chief claim to fame is that he was one of the succession to which Atmaram belonged, who wrote the massive biographical study of Shree Samarth Ramdas Swami called ‘DasVishramdham’ of which there are about 16,000 verses. This succession included Ramdas, Kalyan, Shiva, Ramchandra, Atmaram. Another disciple named Shama had a literary gift, and four of his poems have been found, two in praise of the sadguru and two in praise of Shree Kalyan Swami. One of his disciples was Annajl Bhalkikar, who was mahant of the Bhatambare math. He was unmarried and died of cholera while returning from a pilgrimage to Pandharpur. The extent of Shree Kalyan Swami’s influence may be gleaned from the fact that forty-three mahants are listed as his followers, trained and initiated by him.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur, (2 September 1838 – 23 June 1914), born Kedarnath Datta (Kedarnath Datta, Bengali, was a prominent thinker of Bengali Renaissance and a leading philosopher, savant and spiritual reformer of Gaudiya Vaishnavism who effected its resurgence in India in late 19th and early 20th century and was hailed by contemporary scholars as the most influential Gaudiya Vaishnava leader of his time. He is also credited, along with his son Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, with pioneering the propagation of Gaudiya Vaishnavism in the West and its eventual global spread.
Kedarnath Datta was born on 2 September 1838 in the town of Birnagar, Bengal Presidency, in a traditional Hindu family of wealthy Bengali landlords. After a village schooling, he continued his education at Hindu College in Calcutta, where he acquainted himself with contemporary Western philosophy and theology. There he became a close associate of prominent literary and intellectual figures of the Bengal Renaissance, such as Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, and Sisir Kumar Ghosh. At 18, he began a teaching career in rural areas of Bengal and Orissa until he became an employee with the British Raj in the Judicial Service, from which he retired in 1894 as District Magistrate.
Kedarnath Datta belonged to the bhadralok community of Bengali intellectual gentry that lived during the Bengal Renaissance and attempted to rationalize their traditional Hindu beliefs and customs. In his youth, he spent much time researching and comparing various religious and philosophical systems, both Indian and Western, with a view of finding among them a comprehensive, authentic and intellectually satisfying path. He tackled the task of reconciling Western reason and traditional belief by dividing religion into the phenomenal and the transcendent, thus accommodating both modern critical analysis and Hindu mysticism in his writings. Kedarnath’s spiritual quest finally led him at the age of 29 to become a follower of Caitanya Mahaprabhu (1486–1533). He dedicated himself to a deep study and committed practice of Caitanya’s teachings, soon emerging as a reputed leader within the Caitanya Vaishnava movement in Bengal. He edited and published over 100 books on Vaishnavism, including major theological treatises such as Krishna-Samhita (1880), Caitanya-sikshamrita (1886) Jaiva-dharma (1893), Tattva-sutra (1893), Tattva-Viveka (1893), and Hari-nama-cintamani (1900). Between 1881 and 1909, Kedarnath also published a monthly journal in Bengali entitled Sajjan-toshani (“The source of pleasure for devotees”), which he used as the prime means for propagating Caitanya’s teachings among the bhadralok. In 1886, in recognition of his prolific theological, philosophical and literary contributions, the local Gaudiya Vaishnava community conferred upon Kedarnath Datta the honorific title of Bhaktivinoda.
In his later years, Bhaktivinoda founded and conducted Nama-hatta – a traveling preaching program that spread theology and practice of Caitanya throughout rural and urban Bengal, by means of discourses, printed materials and Bengali songs of his own composition. He also opposed what he saw as apasampradayas, or numerous distortions of the original Caitanya teachings. He is credited with the rediscovery of the lost site of Caitanya’s birth, in Mayapur near Nabadwip, which he commemorated with a prominent temple.
Bhaktivinoda Thakur pioneered the spread of Caitanya’s teachings in the West, sending in 1880 copies of his works to Ralph Waldo Emerson in the United States and to Reinhold Rost in Europe. In 1896 another publication of Bhaktivinoda, a book in English entitled Srimad-Gaurangalila-Smaranamangala, or Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, His life and Precepts was sent to several academics and libraries in Canada, Britain, and Australia.
The revival of Gaudiya Vaishnavism affected by Bhaktivinoda spawned one of India’s most dynamic preaching missions of the early 20th century, the Gaudiya Matha, headed by his son and spiritual heir, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. Bhaktisiddhanta’s disciple A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami (1896–1977) continued his guru’s Western mission when in 1966 in the United States he founded ISKCON, or the Hare Krishna movement, which then spread Gaudiya Vaishnavism globally.
Bhaktivinoda wrote an autobiographical account titled Svalikhita-jivani that spanned the period from his birth in 1838 until retirement in 1894. He died in Calcutta on 23 June 1914 at age 75. His remains were interred near Mayapur, West Bengal.
Kedarnath’s birth in 1838 occurred during the period of the history of Bengal marked by the emergence and rising influence of the bhadralok community. The bhadralok, literally “gentle or respectable people”, was a newly born privileged class of Bengalis, largely Hindus, who served the British administration in occupations requiring Western education, and proficiency in English and other languages. Exposed to and influenced by the Western values of the British, including the latter’s often condescending attitude towards cultural and religious traditions of India, the bhadralok themselves started calling into question and reassessing the tenets of their own religion and customs. Their attempts to rationalize and modernize Hinduism in order to reconcile it with the Western outlook eventually gave rise to a historical period called the Bengali Renaissance, championed by such prominent reformists as Rammohan Roy and Swami Vivekananda. This trend gradually led to a widespread perception, both in India and in the West, of modern Hinduism as being equivalent to Advaita Vedanta, a conception of the divine as devoid of form and individuality that was hailed by its proponents as the “perennial philosophy” and “the mother of religions”. As a result, the other schools of Hinduism, including bhakti, were gradually relegated in the minds of the Bengali Hindu middle-class to obscurity, and often seen as a “reactionary and fossilized jumble of empty rituals and idolatrous practices.”
Kedarnath was born on 2 September 1838 in the village of Ula (presently Birnagar) in Bengal, some 100 kilometers north of modern-day Kolkata. Both his father Ananda Chandra Dutta and mother Jagat Mohini Devi hailed from affluent Kayastha families.
From the time of Caitanya Mahaprabhu (1486–1533), the paternal Datta lineage were mostly Vaishnavas and counted among their ranks Raja Krishnananda, an associate of Nityananda Prabhu. Kedarnath’s mother Jagan Mohini Devi (born Mitra) was a descendant of Rameshwar Mitra, a prominent zamindar (landowner) of the 18th century. In his autobiography, Svalikhita-jivani Kedarnath refers to his father Anand Chandra Dutta as a “straightforward, clean, religious man” and describes his mother as “a sober woman possessed of many unique qualities”.
Kedarnath was the third of six children of Anand Chandra and Jagat Mohini, preceded by older brothers Abhaykali (died before Kedarnath’s birth) and Kaliprasanna, and followed by three younger siblings: sister Hemlata and brothers Haridas and Gauridas. Homely as a baby, Kedarnath evoked particular affection of his mother who prayed for his survival.
Prior to his birth, financial circumstances had forced his parents to relocate from Calcutta to Ula, where he was born and grew up in the palace of his maternal grandfather, Ishwar Chandra Mustauphi, a prosperous landowner famed for his generosity.
From the age of five, Kedarnath attended the village school in Ula. Later, when an English school opened there, he showed such keen interest in the English language, attending the classes during lunch, that the headmaster of the school convinced Anand Chandra to let the boy study there. At the age of seven Kadarnath was transferred to another English school in Krishnanagar.
In the following years, Kedarnath’s family faced a series of calamities. All three of his brothers died of cholera, soon followed by their father Anand Chandra. The financial situation of his widowed mother worsened as his maternal grandfather Ishwar Chandra incurred huge debts due to the oppressive Permanent Settlement Act and ended up bankrupt. In 1850, when Kedarnath was 12, in accordance with the upper-class Hindu customs Jagat Mohini married him to a five-year-old Shaymani Mitra of Ranaghat, hoping to sever Kedarnath’s connection with the ill fate of his own family with the good karma of the in-laws. Soon after the wedding, Ishwar Chandra died, leaving the entire responsibility for his troubled estate on the widow with two young children. Kedarnath recalls:
Everybody thought that my mother had a lot of money and jewelry, so no one would help. All her wealth was lost except for a few properties. There was so much debt and I was full of anxiety. I was unqualified to look after the affairs of the estate. My grandfather’s house was huge. The guards were few and I was afraid of thieves at night so I had to give the guards bamboo sticks to carry.
These hardships made young Kedarnath question the meaning of life and ponder over reasons for human sufferings. He felt unconvinced by conventional explanations and started doubting the reality of the many Hindu gods and goddesses worshiped in village temples. Exposed to contradictory views ranging from religious beliefs to tantric practices, exorcism, superstitions and avid atheism, Kedarnath found himself in a state of disappointment and philosophical confusion. It was at that time that an encounter with a simple old woman who advised him to chant the name of Rama that unexpectedly made a profound impact on him, planting the seed of Vaishnava faith that he maintained throughout his life.
New challenges and responsibilities caused Kedarnath to visit Calcutta for the first time. The trip, albeit short and unpleasant, further developed his curiosity for European life and customs. Back in Ula, he continued struggling to maintain the property inherited from his grandfather, which took a toll on his education. Finally, in 1852 his maternal uncle, Kashiprasad Ghosh, a famous poet and newspaper editor, visited Ula and, impressed with the talented boy, convinced Jagat Mohini to send Kedarnath to Calcutta to further his studies. In November 1852, leaving his mother and sister behind in Ula, Kedarnath moved to Ghosh’s house on Bidan Street in the middle of Calcutta.
Calcutta was a multicultural city, very different from Kedarnath’s experience. A graduate of the prestigious Hindu College of Calcutta, his maternal uncle Kashiprasad Ghosh was a champion of Westernisation, editor of the English language Hindu Intelligencer journal that propagated the ideas of the bhadralok, and a patriotic poet praised even by the British.
Kedarnath stayed with Kashiprasad Ghosh until 1858 and became steeped in the lifestyle of the bhadralok and immersed in studying a wide range of Western philosophical, poetic, political, and religious text. Kedarnath studied at the Hindu Charitable Institute between 1852 – 1856 and met one of the leading bhadralok Hindu intellectuals of the time, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar (1820–1891), who became his tutor, mentor, and a lifelong friend.
While excelling in his studies, especially in the English language and writing, Kedarnath started writing his own poems and articles. Exposed to and influenced by the views of the famous acquaintances of Kashiprasad who frequented his home: Kristo Das Pal, Shambhu Mukhopadhyay, Baneshwar Vidyalankar and others – Kedarnath started regularly contributing to the Hindu Intelligencer journal of his uncle, critiquing contemporary social and political issues from a bhadralok viewpoint. Eventually Kedarnath felt confident enough in his studies and in 1856 enrolled in the Hindu College, Calcutta’s leading school, where for the next two years he continued his studies under Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar in the company of remarkable classmates such as Keshub Chandra Sen, Nabagopal Mitra, as well as the elder brothers of Rabindranath Tagore: Satyendranath, and Ganendranath. Becoming increasingly involved in the intellectual values of the bhadralok community, Kedarnath along with his classmates started taking public speaking lessons from a famous British parliamentarian and abolitionist George Thompson (1804–1878). At the same time, Kedarnath published his first major literary work, a historical poem titled The Poriade in two volumes that earned him both a name as a poet and some income.
Kedarnath’s health deteriorated due to poor drinking water and the challenging environment of Calcutta. He made regular visits to his mother and sister in Ula for recovery and convalescence. However, when in 1856 a violent outbreak of cholera wiped out the whole village of Ula, killing his sister Hemlata and barely sparing his mother, Kedarnath took her along with his grandmother to Calcutta for good. The devastation of Ula marked a turning point in Kedarnath’s attitude to life. He writes:
At that time I was seventeen years old and I had to face terrible hardships. There was no money. I could hardly speak to anyone. Everyone thought that my mother had a lakh [100,000] of rupees, no one believed that we were poor. I saw no hope. My mind became apathetic, the house was empty. I had no strength and my heart was dying of pain.
Finding himself disoriented, he sought shelter and solace in his friendship with the Tagore brothers. There he overcame his crisis and started moving towards a religious rather than social and political outlook on life. Along with Dvijendranath Tagore, Kedarnath started studying Sanskrit and theological writings of such authors as Kant, Goethe, Hegel, Swedenborg, Hume, Voltaire, and Schopenhauer, as well as the books of Brahmo Samaj that rekindled his interest in Hinduism. At the same time, Kedarnath daily met with Charles Dall, a Unitarian minister from the American Unitarian Association of Boston posted to Calcutta for propagating Unitarian ideas among the educated Bengalis. Under Dall’s guidance, Kedarnath studied the Bible and the Unitarian writings of Channing, Emerson, Parker and others. While developing a fascination for the liberalism of Unitarian religious teachings, the young Kedarnath also studied the Qur’an.
Dire financial strain and obligations to maintain his young wife and aging mother caused Kedarnath to look for employment. Finding a well-paid job in Calcutta – especially a job compatible with his high ethical values – was nearly impossible. After a few unsuccessful stints as a teacher and incurring a large debt, Kedarnath along with his mother and wife accepted the invitation of Rajballabh, his paternal grandfather in Orissa, and in the spring of 1858 left for the Orissan village of Chutimangal.
In Chutimangal, Kedarnath Datta was able to begin his career as an English teacher – first at the local village school, and then, after passing a qualification examination, at a more prestigious school in Cuttack. As early as in 1860, Kedarnath already served as the headmaster of a school in Bhadrak. His financial situation considerably improved, allowing him to dedicate more time to studying, writing and lecturing. This established Kedarnath as a prominent intellectual and cultural voice of the local bhadralok community, and soon a following of his own formed, consisting of students attracted by his discourses and personal tutorship on religious and philosophical topics.
In August 1860 his first son, Ananda Datta, was born, followed by the death of his young wife ten months later. Widowed and with an infant on his hands at twenty-three, Kedarnath soon married Bhagavati Devi, a daughter of Gangamoy Roy of Jakpore, who would become his lifelong companion and the mother of his other thirteen children. After a short tenure at a lucrative position as the head clerk at the Bardhaman revenue collector’s office, Kedarnath felt morally compromised as well as insecure with the position of a rent collector, settling for a less profitable but more agreeable occupation as a clerk elsewhere.
These external events, as well as the internal conflict between morality and need, moved Kedarnath towards a deeper introspection in search for a more personal and ethically appealing concept of God as accepted in Christianity and Vaishnavism. Marking this period of his life is Kedarnath’s growing interest in Gaudiya Vaishnavism and particularly in the persona and teachings of Caitanya Mahaprabhu (1486–1533). Kedarnath tried to acquire a copy of Caitanya Caritamrita and the Bhagavata Purana, principal scriptures for Gaudiya Vaishnavas but failed. However, his kindled interest in Caitanya’s teaching and example of love for Krishna, the personal form of God, coupled with Caitanya’s grace and ethical integrity became the decisive moment in his life and mission.
This period was also marked with Kedarnath’s budding literary gift. Taking advantage of the tranquility of his new clerical job, he composed Bengali poems Vijanagrama and Sannyasi, lauded for their poetic elegance and novel meter that incorporated the style of Milton and Byron into Bengali verse. He also authored an article on Vaishnavism as well as a book Our Wants.
As Bhagavati Devi gave birth to Kedarnath’s second child, daughter Saudhamani (1864), the need to secure a more stable income for his growing family made Kedarnath seek a job with the British government.
In February 1866 Kedarnath Datta received, with a friend’s help, a position with the Registrar’s office as a “Special Deputy Registrar of Assurances with Powers of a Deputy Magistrate and Deputy Collector” in Chhapra, Saran district of Bihar. In colonial Bengal, a job at the executive government service, staffed mostly by the bhadralok (except for the topmost management tier occupied by the British), was the most coveted achievement that ensured one’s financial security, social status and protected retirement. During the next twenty-eight years, Kedarnath rose through the ranks of civil service from sixth grade to second grade, which entailed wealth, respect, and authority. Kedarnath gradually established himself with the British authorities as a trustworthy, responsible and efficient officer and a man of integrity. The course of his government service took him and his growing family to almost twenty different locations in Bihar, Bengal, and Orissa, which allowed him to study different cultures, languages, and religions. He also soon revealed himself as a linguistic savant, within a short time learning Urdu and Persian that were required for his government duties. He also mastered Sanskrit for his Vaishnava pursuits, enough to be able to read the Bhagavata Purana with traditional commentaries and to write his own Sanskrit poetry.
While Kedarnath’s health suffered from prolonged bouts of fever and colitis, he took advantage of the paid sick leave to visit Mathura and Vrindavana – sacred places for Gaudiya Vaishnavas.
His interest in Caitanya Vaishnavism grew. He found a copy of Caitanya’s biography Caitanya Caritamrita by Krishnadasa Kaviraja and a translation of Bhagavata Purana in 1868 after an eight-year search. He became increasingly appreciative of the philosophical sophistication and ethical purity of Caitanya’s teaching but struggled to reconcile it with the prevalent perception of Krishna, Caitanya’s worshipable God described in the Bhagavata Purana, as “basically a wrong-doer”. He came to the conclusion that both faith and reason have their respective, mutually complimentary places in religious experience, and neither can be ousted from it altogether. Kedarnath describes the transformation he went through while reading the long sought-after scripture:
My first reading of Caitanya Caritamrita created some faith in Caitanya. On the second reading, I understood that Caitanya was unequaled, but l doubted how such a good scholar with so high a level of Prema could recommend the worship of Krishna, who had such a questionable character. I was amazed, and I thought about this in detail. Afterward, I humbly prayed to God, “O Lord, please give me the understanding to know the secret of this matter.” The mercy of God is without limit and so I soon understood. From then on I believed that Caitanya was God. I often spoke with many vairagis to understand Vaishnava dharma. From childhood the seeds of faith for Vaishnava dharma had been planted within my heart and now they had sprouted. I experienced anuraga (spiritual yearning) and day and night I read and thought about Krishna.
Accepting Caitanya as the final goal of his intellectual and spiritual quest, Kedarnath soon started delivering public lectures on his teachings, culminating in his famous speech The Bhagavat: Its Philosophy, Ethics, and Theology – his first public announcement of the newly found religious allegiance. In The Bhagavat, delivered in masterful English but directed at both the Western cultural conquest and the bhadralok it influenced, Kedarnath attempted to reconcile modern thought and Vaishnava orthodoxy and to restore the Bhagavata to its preeminent position in Hindu philosophy. His newly found inspiration in the teachings of Caitanya and Bhagavata made Kedarnath receive his next job transfer to Jagannath Puri as a blessing – Puri was Caitanya’s residence for most of his life, and the shelter of the principal Vaishnava shrine, the Temple of Jagannath.
Following the annexation of the state of Orissa by Britain in 1803, the British force commander in India, Marquess Wellesley ordered by decree “the utmost degree of accuracy and vigilance” in protecting the security of the ancient Jagannath temple and in respecting religious sentiments of its worshipers. The policy was strictly followed, to the point that the British army escorted Hindu religious processions. However, under the pressure of Christian missionaries both in India and in Britain, in 1863 this policy was lifted, entrusting the temple management entirely to the care of the local Brahmanas, which soon led to its deterioration.
When Kedarnath was posted to Puri in 1870, he was already known for his honesty and integrity and was consequently given the charge to oversee law and order in the busy pilgrimage site, as well as providing thousands of pilgrims with food, accommodation, and medical assistance on festival occasions. The government also debuted Kedarnath as a law enforcement officer to thwart the Atibadis, a heterodox Vaishnava sect that conspired to overthrow the British and was led by a self-proclaimed avatar Bishkishan – task that Kedarnath successfully accomplished.
However, while busy with governmental assignments, Kedarnath dedicated his off-duty time to nurturing the newly acquired inspiration with Gaudiya Vaishnavism. He started mastering his Sanskrit under the tutelage of local pandits and absorbed himself in intense study of Caitanya Caritamrita, Bhagavata Purana with commentaries by Shridhara Swami, as well as seminal philosophical treatises of the Gaudiya Vaishnava canon such as the Sat Sandarbhas by Jiva Goswami (c.1513–1598) Bhakti-rasamrta-Sindhu by Rupa Goswami (1489–1564) and Baladeva Vidyabhushana’s (−1768) Govinda Bhashya commentary on the Brahma Sutras. Kedarnath also started searching for authentic Gaudiya Vaishnava manuscripts and writing prolifically on the subject of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, authoring and publishing Datta-kaustubha and a number of Sanskrit verses, and commenced a major literary work of his life, Krishna-Samhita.
Soon Kedarnath formed a society called Bhagavat Samsad consisting of the local bhadralok, who were eager listen to his intellectually stimulating and insightful exposition of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. This brought him at odds with the local pandit, who criticized him for lecturing on Vaishnava topics while lacking a proper Vaishnava initiation, or diksha, the tilak markings, and other devotional insignias. Even though Kedarnath was already following Gaudiya Vaishnava spiritual discipline like harinama-japa, or chanting the Hare Krishna mantra on beads, their opposition prompted Kedarnath to seriously aspire for finding a diksha-guru and taking initiation from him.
While Kedarnath Datta was able to favorably influence many bhadraloks hitherto skeptical towards Gaudiya Vaishnavism of Caitanya, he felt in need of assistance. When his wife gave birth to a new child, Kedarnath linked the event to the divinatory dream and named his son Bimala Prasad (‘” , the mercy of Bimala Devi”). The same account mentions that at his birth, the child’s umbilical cord was looped around his body like a sacred brahmana thread (upavita) that left a permanent mark on the sk as if foretelling his future role as religious leader. In the early 1880s, Kedarnath Datta, out of a desire to foster the child’s budding interest in spirituality, initiated him into harinama-Japa. At the age of nine, Bimala Prasad memorized the seven hundred verses of the Bhagavad Gita in Sanskrit. From his early childhood, Bimala Prasad demonstrated a sense of strict moral behavior, a sharp intelligence, and an eidetic memory. He gained a reputation for remembering passages from a book on a single reading, and soon learned enough to compose his own poetry in Sanskrit. Bhaktisiddhanta’s biographers write that even up to his last days Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati could verbatim recall passages from books that he had read in his childhood, earning the epithet “living encyclopedia”. Bimala Prasad later became known as Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati.
By the end Kedarnath’s tenure in Puri his family already had seven children, and his oldest daughter, Saudamani, 10, had to be married – which, according to upper-class Hindu customs, had to take place in Bengal. Kedarnath took a three-month privileged leave from his duties and in November 1874 went with his family to Bengal.
After leaving Puri for Bengal, Kedarnath Datta decided to establish his growing family at a permanent home in Calcutta, called by him “Bhakti Bhavan”, which afforded him more freedom in his traveling, studies and writing.
In 1880 Kedarnath and his wife accepted diksha (initiation) into Gaudiya Vaishnavism from Bipin Bihari Goswami (1848–1919), a hereditary descendant from one of Caitanya’s associates, Vamsivadana Thakur, which formalized his commitment to the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya. Later he developed a strong spiritual connection with a renowned Gaudiya Vaishnava ascetic Jagannatha Dasa Babaji (1776–1894), who became his principal spiritual mentor.
In 1885 Kedarnath Datta formed the Vishva Vaishnava Raj Sabha (“Royal World Vaishnava Association”) composed of leading Bengali Vaishnavas and established at his own house the Vaishnava Depository, a library and a printing press for systematically presenting Gaudiya Vaishnavism by publishing canonical devotional texts, often with his translations and commentaries, as well as his own original writing. In his endeavors to restore the purity and influence of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, in 1881 Bhaktivinoda began a monthly magazine in Bengali, Sajjan-toshani (“The source of pleasure for devotees”), in which he serialised many of his books and published essays of the history and philosophy of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, along with book reviews, poetry, and novels. In January 1886, in recognition of Kedarnath’s significant role in reviving Vaishnavism through his literary and spiritual achievements, the local Gaudiya Vaishnava leaders including his guru Bipin Bihari Goswami conferred upon him the honorific title Bhaktivinoda; from that time on he was known as Kedarnath Datta Bhaktivinoda or Bhaktivinoda Thakur.
On 4 October 1894, at the age of 56, Bhaktivinoda Thakur retired from government service and moved with his family to Mayapur to focus on his devotional practice, writing and preaching. In 1908 Bhaktivinoda formally adopted the lifestyle and practice of a Babaji (Vaishnava recluse) at his house in Calcutta, absorbed in chanting the Hare Krishna mantra until his death on 23 June 1914. His remains in a silver urn were interred at his house in Surabhi-Kunj.
From 1874 till his departure in 1914 Bhaktivinoda wrote profusely, both philosophical works in Sanskrit and English that appealed to the bhadralok intelligentsia, and devotional songs (bhajans) in simple Bengali that conveyed the same message to the masses. His bibliography counts over one hundred works, including his translations of canonical Gaudiya Vaishnava texts, often with his own commentaries, as well as poems, devotional song books, and essays – an achievement his biographers attribute in large part to his industrious and organized nature.
Krishna-samhita published in 1879 was Bhaktivinoda’s first major work. Composed in Sanskrit and Bengali, the book was intended as a response to severe criticism of Krishna by Christian missionaries, Brahmo Samaj, and Westernised bhadralok for what they saw as his immoral, licentious behavior incompatible with his divine status in Hinduism. The critics drew upon the perceived moral lapses in Krishna’s character to further their propaganda against Hinduism and Vaishnavism, challenging their very ethical foundation. In defense of the tenets of Vaishnavism, Bhaktivinoda’s Krishna-samhita employed the same rational tools of its opponents, complete with contemporary archeological and historical data and theological thought, to establish Krishna’s pastimes as transcendent (aprakrita) manifestations of morality. In particular, he applied what he termed adhunika-vada (“contemporary thinking”) – his methodology of correlating the phenomenal discourse of the scripture with the observable reality. The book evoked an intense and polarized response, with some praising its intellectual novelty and traditionalism while others condemned it for what they saw as deviations from the orthodox Vaishnava hermeneutics. Bhaktivinoda recalls:
Some thought the book was a new point of view. Some said it was good. The younger educated people said the book was nice, but no one fully understood the essence of the work, which was to show that Krishna was transcendent (aprakrita). Some thought that my interpretations were strictly psychological (adhyatmika). But they were incorrect. There is a subtle difference between what is transcendent and what is psychological, which few understood. The reason behind this mistake is that no one had any understanding of transcendence (aprakrita).
Unabated by the criticism, Bhaktivinoda saw Krishna-Samhita as an adequate presentation of the Gaudiya Vaishnava thought even to a Western mind, and in 1880 sent copies of the book to leading intellectuals of Europe and America. Soon Bhaktivinoda received a favorable response from an eminent Sanskrit scholar in London Reinhold Rost and a courteous acknowledgment of the gift from Ralph Waldo Emerson. This became the first foray of Caitanya’s theology into the Western world.
In 1886 Bhaktivinoda published his another important and, probably, most famous work Caitanya-siksamrita, which summarizes the teachings of Caitanya and includes Bhaktivinoda’s own socio-religious analysis. Along with it came his own Bengali translation of the Bhagavad Gita with commentaries by Visvanatha Chakravarti (ca.1626–1708), Amnaya-sutra, Vaishnava-Siddhanta-mala, Prema-pradipa, his own Sanskrit commentaries on Caitanya-Upanishad and Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s Siksastakam as well as two parts of Caitanya-caritamrita with his own commentary entitled Amrita-pravaha-bhashya [“A commentary that showers nectar”].
In Jaiva-dharma, another key piece of Thakur’s writing, published in 1893, Bhaktivinoda employs the fictional style of a novel to create an ideal, even utopian Vaishnava realm that serves as a backdrop to philosophical and esoteric truths unfolding in a series of conversations between the book’s characters and guiding their devotional transformations. Jaiva-dharma is considered one of the most important books in the Gaudiya Vaishnava lineage of Bhaktivinoda, translated into many languages and printed in thousands of copies.
At the request of his son, Lalita Prasad, in 1896 Bhaktivinoda wrote a detailed autobiography called Svalikhita-jivani that covered 56 years of his life from birth up until that time. Written with candor, Bhaktivinoda described a life full of financial struggle, health issues, internal doubts and insecurity, and deep introspection that gradually led him, sometimes in convoluted ways, to the deliberate and mature decision of accepting Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s teachings as his final goal. Bhaktivinoda did not display much concern for how this account would reflect on his status as an established Gaudiya Vaishnava spiritual leader. It is telling that he never refers to himself as feeling or displaying any special spiritual acumen, saintlihood, powers, or charisma – anything worthy of veneration. The honest, almost self-deprecating narrative portrays him as a genuine, exceptionally humble and modest man, serving as the best exemplar and foundation of the teaching he dedicated his later life to spreading. The book was published by Lalita Prasad in 1916 after Bhaktivinoda’s death.
Bhaktivinoda also contributed significantly to the development of Vaishnava music and song in the 19th century. He composed many devotional songs, or bhajans, mostly in Bengali and occasionally in Sanskrit, that were compiled into collections, such as Kalyana-kalpataru (1881), Saranagati (1893) and Gitavali (1893). Conveying the essence of Gaudiya Vaishnava teachings in simple language, many of his songs are to this day widely popular in Bengal and across the world.
In 1886 Bhaktivinoda attempted to retire from his government service and move to Vrindavan to pursue his devotional life. However, he saw a dream in which Caitanya ordered him to go to Nabadwip instead. After some difficulty, in 1887 Bhaktivinoda was transferred to Krishnanagar, a district center 25 kilometers away from Nabadwip, famous as the birthplace of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Despite poor health, Bhaktivinoda began to regularly visit Nabadwip to research places connected with Caitanya. Soon he came to a conclusion that the site purported by the local Brahmanas to be Caitanya’s birthplace could not possibly be genuine. Determined to find the actual place of Caitanya’s past but frustrated by the lack of reliable evidence and clues, one night he saw a mystical vision:
By 10 o’clock the night was very dark and cloudy. Across the Ganges, in a northern direction, I suddenly saw a large building flooded with golden light. I asked Kamala if he could see the building and he said that he could. But my friend Kerani Babu could see nothing. I was amazed. What could it be? In the morning I went back to the roof and looked carefully back across the Ganges. I saw that in the place where I had seen the building was a stand of palm trees. Inquiring about this area I was told that it was the remains of Lakshman Sen’s fort at Ballaldighi.
Taking this as a clue, Bhaktivinoda conducted an investigation of the site by consulting old maps matched against scriptural and verbal accounts. He concluded that the village of Ballaldighi was formerly known as Mayapur, confirmed in Bhakti-ratnakara as the birth site of Caitanya. He soon acquired a property in Surabhi-Kunj near Mayapur to oversee the temple construction at Caitanya’s birthplace. For this purpose, he organized, via Sajjana-tosani and special festivals, as well as personal acquaintances, a hugely successful fundraising effort. Noted Bengali journalist Sisir Kumar Ghosh (1840–1911) commended Bhaktivinoda for the discovery and hailed him as “the seventh Goswami” – a reference to the Six Goswamis, renowned medieval Gaudiya Vaishnava ascetics and close associates of Caitanya who had authored many of the school’s theological texts and discovered places of Krishna’s pastimes in Vrindavan.
Kedarnath started a traveling preaching program in Bengali and Orissan villages that he called Nama-hatta, or “the market-place of the name [of Krishna]”. Modeled after the circuit court system, his Nama-hatta groups included kirtan parties, distribution of prasad (food offered to Krishna), and lectures on the teachings of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, traveling from village to village as far as Vrindavan in an organized and systematic way. The program was a big success, widely popularizing the teachings of Caitanya among the masses as well as attracting a following of high-class patrons. By the beginning of the 20th century, Bhaktivinoda had established over five hundred nama-hattas across Bengal.
Prior to Bhaktivinoda’s literary and preaching endeavors, an organized Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya was virtually nonexistent, as was a single, overarching Gaudiya Vaishnava canon in a codified form. In the absence of such theological and organizational commonality, claims of affiliation with Gaudiya Vaishnavism by individuals and groups were either tenuous, superficial, or unverifiable. Bhaktivinoda Thakur attempted to restore the once strong and unified Caitanya’s movement from the motley assortment of sects that it came to be towards the end of the 19th century, choosing his Sanjana-tosani magazine as the means for this task. Through his articles dealing with the process of initiation and sadhana, through translations of Vaishnava scriptures, and his through commentaries on contemporary issues from a Vaishnava perspective, Bhaktivinoda was gradually establishing, both in the minds of his large audience and in writing, the foundation for Gaudiya Vaishnava orthodoxy and orthopraxy, or what a Vaishnava is and isn’t.
Gradually Bhaktivinoda directed criticism at various heterodox Vaishnava groups abound in Bengal that he identified and termed “a-Vaishnava” (non-Vaishnava) and apasampradayas (“deviant lineages”): Aul, Baul, Saina, Darvesa, Sahajiya, smarta Brahmanas, etc. Of them, the Vaishnava spin-off groups that presented sexual promiscuity to be a spiritual practice became the target of choice for Bhaktivinoda’s, especially pointed attacks. A more tacit but nothing short of uncompromising philosophical assault was directed at the influential jati-gosais (caste Goswami) and smarta-brahmana who claimed exclusive right to conduct initiations into Gaudiya Vaishnavism on the basis of their hereditary affiliation with it and denied eligibility to do so to non-brahmana Vaishnavas. Bhaktivinoda’s contention with them was brewing for many years until it came to a head when he, already seriously ill, delegated his son Bhaktisiddhanta to the famous Brāhmaṇa o Vaiṣṇava (Brahmana and Vaishnava) debate that took place in 1911 in Balighai, Midnapore and turned into Bhaktisiddhanta’s and Bhaktivinoda’s triumph.
Although his Krishna-Samhita made it into the hands of some leading intellectuals of the West, a book in Sanskrit had very few readers there. Despite this obstacle, in 1882 Bhaktivinoda stated in his Sajjan-toshani magazine a coveted vision of universalism and brotherhood across borders and races:
When in England, France, Russia, Prussia, and America all fortunate persons by taking up kholas [drums] and karatalas will take the name of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu again and again in their own countries, and raise the waves of sankirtana[congregational singing of Krishna’s names], when will that day come! Oh! When will the day come when the white-skinned British people will speak the glory of Shachinandana [another name of Chaitanya] on one side and on the other and with this call spread their arms to embrace devotees from other countries in brotherhood, when will that day come! The day when they will say “Oh, Aryan Brothers! We have taken refuge at the feet of Chaitanya Deva in an ocean of love, now kindly embrace us,” when will that day come!
Bhaktivinoda did not stop short of making practical efforts to implement his vision. In 1896 he published and sent to several academic addresses in the West a book entitled Gaurangalila- Smaranamangala, or Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, His life and Precepts that portrayed Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as a champion of “universal brotherhood and intellectual freedom”:
Caitanya preaches equality of men …universal fraternity amongst men and special brotherhood amongst Vaishnavas, who are according to him, the best pioneers of spiritual improvement. He preaches that human thought should never be allowed to be shackled with sectarian views….The religion preached by Mahaprabhu is universal and not exclusive. The most learned and the most ignorant are both entitled to embrace it. The principle of kirtan invites, as the future church of the world, all classes of men without distinction of caste or clan to the highest cultivation of the spirit.
Bhaktivinoda adapted his message to the Western mind by borrowing popular Christian expressions such as “universal fraternity”, “cultivation of the spirit”, “preach”, and “church” and deliberately using them in a Hindu context. Copies of Chaitanya, His Life and Precepts were sent to Western scholars across the British Empire, and landed, among others, in academic libraries at McGill University in Montreal, at the University of Sydney in Australia and at the Royal Asiatic Society of London. The book also made its way to prominent scholars such as Oxford Sanskritist Monier Monier-Williams and earned a favorable review in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society.
Bhaktivinoda’s son who by that time came to be known as Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati inherited the vision of spreading the message of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in the West from his father. This inspiration was bequeathed to Bhaktisiddhanta in a letter that he received from Bhaktivinoda in 1910:
Sarasvati! Because pure devotional conclusions are not being preached, all kinds of superstitions and bad concepts are being called devotion by such pseudo-sampradayas as sahajiya and atibari. Please always crush these anti-devotional concepts by preaching pure devotional conclusions and by setting an example through your personal conduct. Please try very hard to make sure that the service to Mayapur will become a permanent thing and will become brighter and brighter every day. The real service to Mayapur can be done by acquiring printing presses, distributing devotional books, and sankirtan – preaching. Please do not neglect to serve Mayapur or to preach for the sake of your own reclusive bhajan. I had a special desire to preach the significance of such books as Srimad Bhagavatam, Sat Sandarbha, and Vedanta Darshan. You have to accept that responsibility. Mayapur will prosper if you establish an educational institution there. Never make any effort to collect knowledge or money for your own enjoyment. Only to serve the Lord will you collect these things. Never engage in bad association, either for money or for some self-interest.
In the 1930s, the Gaudiya Math founded by Bhaktisiddhanta sent its missionaries to Europe, but remained largely unsuccessful it is Western outreach efforts, until in 1966 Bhaktisiddhanta’s disciple A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami (1896–1977) founded in New York City the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). Modeled after the original Gaudiya Math and emulating its emphasis on dynamic mission and spiritual practice, ISKCON popularized Chaitanya Vaishnavism on a global scale, becoming a world’s leading proponent of Hindu bhakti personalism.