When one thinks of the holy place Pandharpur , mind races to have darshan of Lord Vittala and when the quest to know about his devotees begin , the biography of the great saint Santh Tukaram brings tears .
Santh Tukaram appeared during the year 1608 A.D in a small village Dehu in Poone district which is about 41 kms from Ahobila Mutt, Pune . and seven miles from another important place Alandi—the place honored by the Samadhi of another great saint Jnaneshwar.
Tukaram from his childhood worshiped Lord Vittala of Pandharpur.
His Elders constructed a small temple of their own and dedicated it to Lord Vittala . His family members, since many generations, had participated in the ‘Wari’ of Pandharpur, i.e., the annual pilgrimages to Pandharpur on the eleventh day of the month of Ashadh (June-July) and again on the eleventh day of the month of Kartik (October-November).
When Tukaram was about seventeen years, he lost his parents and about that time, his elder brother left the village and went to Varanasi seeking spiritual salvation.The next few years, were almost cyclonic in their effect for Tukaram.
Taking advantage of his state of mind, the debtors would not repay whatever was due to him and the creditors began to trouble him for the money due to them.
Tukaram tried his hand in several ventures of trade and came back either with empty hands or with a loss as he was a man of simplicity and humane to the core .
He was robbed of everything by confidence-tricksters who gave him gilt brass ornaments in exchange for all the money he had with him.
He was a simple person who could not see others unhappiness people .One occasion, returning home, he came across a poor man along with his family starving. He could not see their plight . He just gave away the profit as well as the principal which his wife had borrowed for some petty business.
Seeing his behaviour , Tukaram was not entrusted with anything valuable when he went far from home.
Tukaram’s wife Jijabai helped him again and again to set up a small shop in his own village, but she was always convinced by Tukaram that serving all the beings , no matter it was fellow human beings , animals , insects etc was his only goal . Tukaram used to sit in the shop doing kirtan and being very kind and honest to his customers. As usual due to his compassion to his fellow humans , he became bankrupt very soon as he never thought of himself and family .
Sant Tukaram saw Lord Panduranga in all creatures. Once he was asked to guard a corn field. He liked this job as it did not hinder with his habit of Namakirtan on Lord Panduranga. The birds would see human presence and fly away without touching the corns. But as Tukaram got immersed in his abhangs, the birds started to feed on the corns. Seeing Panduranga in all the birds, he, instead of scaring the birds away, fed the birds with more corns from the field that he was supposed to guard, thus gaining the wrath of the owner.
During the years 1629 and 1630, the country was facing severe famine. It was most difficult period The promissory notes dues for the family became dead letters of credit as nothing could be realised during the famine.
Tukaram lost his people and cattle .Very upset he went into the Bhamnath forest nearby. For fifteen days he stayed there meditating on the Supreme Lord without any basic needs .
He realised the true knowledge with his penance . The revelation made Tukaram more aware of the purpose of his life .He slowly withdrew his love for his household, wife and relations.
He gathered all the promissory notes and threw them into the Indrayani river, in spite of the protests of his relatives.
He reconstructed the temple which had fallen into disrepair and began to spend his entire time in Naama Kirtan. His mind was now steady fast with total surrender .
As a result of his whole-hearted devotion , Tukaram was rewarded with Guru Upadesh.
As elders say , SathGuru visited Tukaram in a dream. Tukaram describes this, as the greatest event of his life, thus
“The Sadguru came to me in a dream and was really very kind to me, though I had done nothing to deserve it. He met me when I was going to the river for a bath and placed his hand on my head and blessed me and advised me to do Japa …….of Jai jai Ramakrishna Hari. Tukaram’s joy knew no bounds.
Tukaram began to spend his life more and more in devotional practices, study of the works of great saints Jnanadev, Namdev and Ekanath thus getting inspired to pen Abhangs
Whenever Tukaram began to perform Kirtan, people began to flock in large numbers considering him as a realised saint and give him all the respect.
This was resented by a small number of people who sent a report against Tukaram to Rameshwar Shastri regarded as a learned Scholar during those times . Due to his standing in society , he forced Tukaram to stop all those activities which will pull crowds due to his kirtans .He instructed him to stop penning abhangs and, that he had already made, should be drowned in the nearby Indrayani river.
Tukaram held all elders in great reverence,. He was sad . He immediately brought out of his home all the works , bound them together, tied a big stone round the bundle, and threw it into the river in presence of the village elders .
Tukaram’s traducers, who were jealous of him, were greatly pleased. Tukaram did not mind their taunts. He thought , was it a big fault for merely, singing the praise of Lord in his abhangs as advised by Lord himself .
Dejected , Tukaram sat on the bank of the river Indrayani praying to Lord Panduranga to forgive him and show some way out as Naama sanKirtan was his breath . For thirteen long days he thus sat unmoved without water, food or sleep seeking Lords guidance .
On the fourteenth day, one of Tukaram’s followers, in a dream, saw Lord Panduranga advising him to fetch the Abhangs composed by Sant Tukaram floating on the surface which was intact.” .
Tukaram was moved by the mercy of Lord and thus in ecstasy he delivered Abhangs blaming himself for doubting the word of Lord and putting Him to so much trouble of having to preserve the poems in water for thirteen days.
By this divine incident, Tukaram’s name and fame spread far and wide. Materially he remained poorer but spiritually richer . He was always in Naama sanKirtan and he earned nothing.Whatever LORD arranged was his meal and wherever he moved he comforted himself under trees , ashrams , temples no matter where he was . It was Naama sankirtan always .
The great Maharashtra King Shivaji was a great admirer always supporting his devotional services .
Tukaram always advocated Saguna Bhakti in the form of repeating His Name and in the form of singing LORD’s praises. He said Bhakti was the higher form of devotion and service was even higher than Mukti.
Many wonderful events have occurred in Sant Tukaram’s life. His fame spread throughout the land, but he himself remained unaffected by all that. He knew the exact time when he would depart from this world. He grew weary of living and thought his time was being wasted in attending to the wants of the body when it should have been better utilised in Kirtan, Bhajan and praise of Vithoba.
He prayed to the Lord that he might be taken away soon to His lotus feet where he could remain worshiping Him continuously for ever and anon.
Once Tukaram’s told his friends that he would be going away to meet Vittala in a few days. No one believed his words .Finally that day arrived . He called all the villagers for a Akhanda sankirtan . The night was splendid . Many came to hear his kirtans and the last kirtan before was memorable in many respects as the subject was Harikatha.
Tuakaram continued ..my brothers and sisters …
“Harikatha is like the union of three holy rivers—Lord, the devotee and His holy Name.
By participating in this kirtan one’s sins are burnt and one is purified.
And my children ….
Even the pebbles lying around here become holy and fit to be worshiped.
“Though you all bear the responsibilities of family life, never ever forget our Lord Panduranga.
Never forget to worship Him and sing his praises.
Pandharpur is very near you.
It is the Vaikuntha on this earth.
Please Go and worship the Lord there. It is my experience that the Name of the Lord alone will save you at the time of death.
All of you have protected and maintained me in your midst for such a long time. I can never repay you and I am very grateful to you.
I shall ever pray to Vithoba to bless you all and take you all to heaven after this life. This is my goodbye to you all and this is my advice to you.
I prostrate before you and beseech you with tears never to forget the Name of the Lord. Always do Kirtan and Bhajan of Lord Narayana.
Do not be anxious about your material welfare.
The Lord will look to it.
This is all ephemeral. The Lord’s Name is eternal.
Depend on it only, live and sing the praises of the Lord.
Do Japa of Ramakrishna Hari and He will always save you.
This is my last request and advice to you.”
The Lord’s Name is eternal rest all is ephemeral
Thus passed away one of the great saints of Maharashtra with Lord’s Name of his lips, singing praises of Him.
Tukaram left this world during the year 1649the second day after the Holi festival . Every year the day of his disappearance popularly known as Bheej is remembered at the banks of the river dehu .
Thousands of devotees assemble near to this holy place
This place is located inside Military area. We were fortunate to be here unexpectedly during our Pandharpur yatra few years back .
The vehicles had to be parked before one enters the military area . From the parking area, the temple is about 3-4 kilometres.
Most of the devotees join singing bhajans holding Tulasi pots on their hand, some playing tambura , kartaal etc.
It is usual practice of the devotees to fast on that day and have prasadam only after taking Sant Tukaram’s blessings.
Along with us, other devotees joined and within no time, the bus was jam packed. The bus was however parked at a distance of about one kilometer. The entire place was charged up in devotional fervor.
A devotee was singing Abhangs and was so glad to share the meanings and the essence of the various teachings of Santh Tukaram which am reproducing ….
Pandavas were sent to exile in the woods but they held Lord Vittala in their hearts. Pralhada was tortured by his father but still he meditated on Narayana in his mind. Sudama, a brahmin, was afflicted by poverty but he did not forget Narayana. Tukaram Maharaj says,
O Lord Vittala we should not forget you even at the time of being under the mountain of miseries…
A donkey that is made to have bath in a sacred river does not become a horse. He, who does not have a pure mind, does not listen to any good advice.
Even if a sweet juice is fed to a snake, there won’t be any reduction in its poison.
There are many who proclaim themselves as saints. How can we accept unless we see their behaviour.
There appears a stream of water only for a while after it rains.
Later not a drop of water is seen.
A particle of snow appears like a diamond as long as it does not meet a hammer.
Dogs barking at an elephant develop pain in their mouths. The elephant is least affected by this. Monkeys mocking at tiger invite disaster for their lives. Tukaram Maharaj says, he who mocks at saints will lose his face.
A monkey puts its hand in a vessel containing peanuts. After taking peanuts in its hand it cannot take out its hand as the mouth of the vessel is not big enough.
The monkey for the sake of handful of peanuts does not go away and is caught.
A parrot sits on a string laid by the hunter. The string inverts its position and so is the parrot. Due to high voltage fear the parrot firmly grasps the string and forgets that it has two feathers to fly away.
The parrot is caught ultimately. Tukaram Maharaj says that it is not surprising if creatures without brains behave like this. It is surprising to see human beings forgoing their greatest interest for a pittance.
Earn money through an honest business.
Spend money for noble cause by maintaining equanimity of mind. Work for others’ welfare. Dont say harsh words for others. Consider others’ ladies like your mother and sisters.
Show kindness to all beings.
Rear cows and other cattle. Make possible arrangements for drinking water at remote places for quenching the thirst of people.
Dont harm others. He, who abides by the above teaching, spreads good name of his parents all around.
The virtue of renunciation that is required for realising Panduranga is also acquired through such actions..
A creeper of nectar will bear fruits of nectar. This will also result in continuous rise in the seeds of nectar. Like this association with good people results in all round increase of happiness. From a seed originates a tree.
From a tree countless seeds originate.
Who would like to be crucified on a cross of sandalwood? Similarly none would like to remain tied in the chain of gold. Similarly whatever knowledge one gains is a burden if that raises one’s ego.
A dead tiger filled with stuff appears like a tiger. Actually it is not a tiger. A coin with gold plating is not a coin of gold. This fact is clear if it is observed closely. A monkey dances as per the training of its master, it does not have any talents of its own.
Tukaram Maharaj says, he who keeps stock of absurd virtues has to suffer embarrassment.
The best worship of Lord Vittala can be performed by the mind. There is no need of instruments and implements for performing a puja.
The purpose of worship is to understand the mind, to understand the truth.
The final benefit or loss will be caused by the mind.
Mind is the seed that gives birth to the tree of action.
Tukaram Maharaj says, let us be equanimous in happiness and misery.
There is no discrimination for devotees in the eyes of the Almighty. He is waiting for those who have devotion in their minds.
He eats coarse grain offered by Vidura.
He protects Prahalada in the house of demons.
He helps Rohidas to dye clothes.
He helps Kabir to weave cloth.
He helps Sajan Butcher selling meat.
He helps Sawata Mali in petty agricultural operations.
He helps Narhari in performing chores of a goldsmith.
He helps Chokhamela for grazing cattle.
He drives the chariot of Arjuna.
He eats with great love dry food offered by Sudama.
In the homes of milkmen he does the task of maintaining cows
He acts as a doorkeeper for King Bali. He repays loan of Yekoba.
He takes birth as a human being for the sake of Rishi Amba.
He drinks a glass of poison for Meerabai.
He becomes a low breed person to pay off loan of Damaji.
He carries earth for Gora Kumbhar.
He repays loan of Narsi Mehta.
He is still standing on a brick for Pundalik.
Parents of Pundalik are great to have such a great son.
Thanking Supreme Lord for the wonderful company , we joined the ocean of ecstasy relished by great devotees of Lord Vittala …
Tukaram’s abhangs was being played everywhere through the sound systems. There is another arc with the beautiful words “ JNAN,BHAKTI,VAIRAGYA TUKARAM”. The crowd reminded us of Brahmotsava celebrations in Tirumala.
Amidst the sea of devotees more than a lakh of devotees ready to witness that miracle which happens every year at noon. A big cut-out of Lord Pandurangan from a distance attracted everyone’s attention.
On the way, we could have sparsham of Tukaram’s padhukas which were placed in a palanquin. Unmindful of the scorching heat and clasping each other’s hands we proceeded to Tukaram’s Samadhi mandir. On the left side, we have darshan of Indrani river which was witness to the various incidents in Tukaram’s life flowing peacefully.
Many pilgrims were purifying themselves in the water. This river which flows past Alandi, brings Jnanadev’s blessings too along with her to this place. Pilgrims who have a holy dip are benefited with Jnanadev and Tukaram Maharaj’s grace.
Sant Tukaram like Nammazhwar was the only person who left to SriVaikuntam with this mortal body. Elders reveal Lord arranged Garuda vahanam and singing the praises of the Lord , while everyone was watching, Sant Tukaram embarked on the Garuda vahanam and ascended to Srivaikuntam.
He promised his followers that on every disappearance day which falls on the second day after Holi ,popularly known as Bheej, he would come from Vaikuntam exactly at noon in the form of a gentle breeze to this place and bless the devotees. Because of the gentle breeze, the leaves of the tree which was a witness to the incident gently move and the leaves fall.
To enable the assembled devotees who stand far away from the tree, the temple authorities have tied a red flag as an indication. When the breeze gently blows, the red flag moves which can be witnessed by everyone. The assembled devotees continuously sing the abhangs and as noon approaches, the fervor and intensity of the bhajans increases. Words cannot describe the sight. One has to personally witness this incident. We were there … to receive Our Bhaktha Tukaram’s blessings …What a journey it was ..
Sadhu Satsangh ki Jai ..
Bhaktha Tukaram ki Jai
Adiyen Ramanuja dasan
Pics/ Videos :
Credits to all Lord Vittala devotees who uploaded in social media /Google pics