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The night was calm and serene. That night there was a religious discourse by Tukaram. People from all the surrounding villages had gathered to hear the discourse. Shivaji Maharaja was also present. People would forget themselves when listening to the discourses of Tukaram. It would be so enchanting.
At last Tukaram sang the mangala. Shivaji Maharaja got up from his seat, moved a step or two and bowed down at the feet of Tukaram. "Blessed I am by the nectar of your words. I realized that this kingdom and my rule over it are all insignificant compared to Sankeertana (glorification) of Lord Vittala. Maharaja, release me from the barren responsibility of this sword and armor. I too would like to spend the rest of my life in the Sankeertana of Vittala. Teach me the Nama-Sankeertana."
Sant Tukaram, saint among saints, was neither happy nor surprised at the words Of Shivaji Maharaja. On the other hand he was very much hurt. "How could it be? What would happen if Shivaji were to abandon his sword and adorn his hands with Tamboora!"-Tukaram thought. Patting Shivaji on the back, he said, "Up, up! Only Samartha Ramadas can be your worthy Guru. He will tell you what your next course of action is to be. See him, and follow his advice. He is your real guide and Guru."
Known everywhere as Samartha Ramadas, Narayana was born in the village Jamb, on the bank of river Godavari in Aurnangabad district. The Shanbhog of that village was Sooryaji Pant Thosar. His wife was Ranoobai. Sooryaji Pant worshipped the Sun God. Gangadhara Pant was the eldest son of Sooryaji Pant. Narayana was born next to him.
Narayana took birth on Sri Ramanavami, that is, the ninth day of the month of Chaitra in the year 1530 of Shalivahana Era (1608 A.D.). It was this Narayana who later became the famous Samartha Ramadas.
Narayana was growing as the darling son of his parents in Jamb. Unlike his brother Gangadhara, Narayana was very mischievous. There was no end to his pranks.
Disgusted with his mischievous son, his mother once said, "How long can you go on like this, Narayana?"
"What else can I do, mother?"
"Narayana, have you ever given thought to your future?"
"That is all right Ma, I will now think over it."
'"What do you do next, my son?"
"Let me think over it, mother."
"Think over what?" She asked him again.
"Think over this world. About the future of this universe."
Ranoobai laughed at her son's words. "He is always mischievous she thought and kept quiet.
Narayana would get over his mischievous tendency when he is married, some said. In those days, it was customary to perform marriage of boys by the age of 8 or 10. Why not find a suitable bride for Narayana? - Thought his parents. But Narayana declared, "I shall not marry". Narayana would run away from the spot, whenever people raised the topic of his marriage and hide himself somewhere.
One day he was hiding in the temple of Lord Anjaneya, outside the village. He did not know how long he was hiding. His thoughts were enveloped in Lord Anjaneya. Life-long celibate Hanuman was the devout servant of Sri Rama.
Hanumanta - unsurpassed in intellect. Anjaneya, who had traced Seeta, wife of Sri Rama. Mighty Maruti! The very idol of Maruti inspired Narayana. "I must also lead a life of celibacy, life-long Brahmacharya. I must also become strong and sturdy, like Hanumanta," he thought. Born on Rama- navami, Narayana saw from his mind's eye the purpose of his life, by the darshah of Maruti.
From that day onwards Narayana was a changed man. All these days he was talkative. He suddenly became mum. He appeared to be thinking over something always.
Brother Gangadhara got married. Father Sooryaji Pant died. Mother Ranoobai began worrying about the future of her son Narayana: "My son seems to have lost even his power of speech. He has become dumb. What should be done now?"
"All will be right, if you celebrate his marriage" - well wishers told her.
People had suggested such a remedy earlier when Narayana was very boisterous. Now he had become very sober and silent.
Now also people suggested the same remedy.
Ranoobai also agreed to this. But her son would kick a row if anybody raised the subject of his marriage.
One day, Ranoobai asked her son. "My son, will you heed my words or not?"
Narayana did not break his silence.
I am pleading, as your mother. Please fulfil my one request."
Narayana looked up as if to know what his mother had to say.
"You get married. Please fulfil at least this one wish of your mother," she appealed.
It was difficult for Narayana to say ‘no’ to his mother. Though his mind was saying ‘no’ his tongue refused to say so to his mother who was the very embodiment of love and affection.
"All right, mother," he said.
Ranoobai felt immensely happy, as if the very heaven was within her reach. She sent word to her elder brother Bhanaji, who resided in the neighboring village Asangaon.
'Will you marry your daughter to my son Narayana?" She asked him. Bhanaji was ready for the alliance. Preparations for the marriage began fast.
The muhurta (auspicious time fixed) was fast approaching. The bride and the bridegroom were standing face to face. Only a yellow cloth screen (Antahpata) was separating them. The priest was uttering the 'Mangalashtaka' in a loud pitch. Narayana became suddenly alert when he heard the last few words of 'Mangala shtaka': "Sumuhurte Saavadhaana."
The word 'Saavadhaana' made him doubly alert. "I must not be caught in the web of marriage. The very purpose of my life will be lost by it. I must run away before the screen (Antahpata) is remove," he thought.
Priests were chanting 'Mangalashtaka' verses. People who had gathered in large numbers to bless the couple were getting ready to throw mangalakshata on their heads. In the meanwhile Narayana had disappeared from the scene.
The cry, 'Where has Narayana gone, where is he?" echoed in the marriage pandal.
Panchavati is a sacred place. In the Tretayuga, Prabhu Sri Ramachandra and Seetadevi had spent their days in these parts and sanctified them.
From the marriage pandal, Narayana went straight to Panchavati on the bank of the river, Godavari. The purpose of his life and the path to attain it became clear to him in this sacred place, Nasik.
He spent twelve years of his life at auspicious Panchavati in meditation and penance. Here, he would leave his bed two hours before dawn, have a dip in the Sangama and perform Sandayavandana, Meditation and Japa.
Standing in knee-deep water for five to six hours a day from the minute of sunrise till midnoon, he would deeply engage his mind over God. Fish would sometimes bite his legs, he would not mind them. After meditation he would visit some houses and beg for food. He would divide the day's collection into three parts. He would set apart one portion to the cows, another to the fish and third for himself. The rest of the day he would spend in reading religious books, and in 'hearing religious discourses and devotional songs.
The rigorous routine of austerity of this thirteen-year-old boy would surprise everyone. These intense Tapas made his body shine like gold and his mind became razor-sharp.
Has not his personal God, Prabhu Sri Ramachandra said that one's mother and one's country were superior even to heaven? "Janani Janma-bhoomischa swargadapi gareeyasi." His love for his mother and motherland Bharata-varsha overflowed his mind. Narayana felt: I am Ramadasa, servant of Rama. I shall obey every word of Sri Rama and follow his footprints." Thus Narayana became Ramadasa.
Ramadas wanted to go round the whole country and study the conditions of the people. What is the meaning of going round the whole country? Should he visit every nook and corner of it? No, it is enough if one visits the holy places, which represent the entire country and its people.
An interesting thing happened in Paithan. That was the reason, people say, why Ramadas was begun to be called "Samartha Ramadas."
By then well known for his impressive discourses and Keertans, (singing of hymns, one day Ramadas was walking on the banks of Godavari. He was carrying a bow in one hand and some Brahmins saw it.
One of them asked, 'Do you know the use of the bow?"
"Yes," he replied.
"Then aim at the bird there," said some of them, pointing to a bird flying high in the sky.
One shot of Ramadas brought the bird down to the earth.
"You are a sadhu, you say. Should you kill an innocent bird? What a sinful act you have committed!" the Brahmins commented.
"You asked me to kill it!"
"Can you commit a sin because some one asks you to do so?"
"Yes, true, one should not," said Ramadas.
"You must repent for the sin of killing the bird. Otherwise you will have to suffer for it," warned the Brahmins.
Ramadas accepted to repent, and performed some sacrifice. Then he-asked the Brahmins, "Am I now free from the sin?"
Brahmins said, "You are free."
"Then how is it that the bird is still dead?"
"But how can a dead bird come back to life?"
"If the bird cannot come to life, then how am I to be sure that I got rid of the sin?" Ramadas asked them.
Ramadas took the bird in his hands, prayed with great devotion to Lord Sri Ramachandra. The bird began breathing. It fluttered and flew away! From that day onwards people began to address Ramadas as Samartha Ramadas. Thus goes the story.
Then Ramadas traveled to Kashi in the North. On the way he would take rest in villages and fill his stomach by begging for food. Ramadas keenly observed the prevailing conditions, customs and manners of people, during his journey throughout the length and breadth of the country.
In one of his poems, Ramadas has given the following picturesque description of the conditions that existed then in the country.
"Subjected to foreign. Invasions, the villages are deserted, lands are left uncultivated. Even in places where people managed to live, they appeared to be living as if faced with an impending deluge. High prices of day to day necessities of life have made their life most miserable. Many have put an end to their life by taking poison. People are disgusted with life.
He was heartbroken by the sight. "Is there no salvation for these people?" He implored God.
In this frame of mind Ramadas entered the temple of Lord Vishwanatha at Kashi (Banaras). Kashi is a holy place, a great pilgrimage center. People flock there in thousands from all parts of Bharat.
One day Ramadas was taking rest outside the temple after the darshan of Lord Vishwanatha. His imposing personality attracted the attention of the devotees visiting the temple. He entered into conversation with them. An important aspect of life he came to realize from these talks.
As you know, the temple of Kashi Vishwanatha is built on the banks of the river Ganga. Steps are built to facilitate bathing. But nowhere was there to be seen a statue of Hanuman.
People requested Ramadas: "Maharaj, the statue of Maruti has to be installed at the Ghat if it is to be called really Hanuman Ghat."
Ramadas thought: "Yes, this place cannot be called Hanuman Ghat without Hanumanta." He succeeded in installing an idol of Anjaneya there.
Waves of thought rose in the mind of Ramadas. "What is this? Who am I? What should be the will of God that I should be brought here from such a far-off place and ordered to build the temple? There must be some purpose. What can it be?" Ramadas began to ponder over it. Then the purpose of his life, the message of God, became clear to him like crystal.
"It is true that Bharatavarsha is greater than heaven. But that is of no use without freedom-like the Hanuman Ghat without Hanuman. Hanuman is well known for his strength and valor, ‘Buddhimataam Varishthah'- the wisest among the wise.
"He was also a tower of strength. He possessed unsurpassed intellect. It was his effort, which enabled Ramachandra to get back his wife Seeta. To worship Hanumanta means worshipping strength and valor. This goal of freedom should have a firm foundation in the minds of the people of Bharata. Then alone could they have independence, the Seeta of freedom.
"It is true that Bharateeyas are as intelligent as Hanuman. If they can make up their mind, there could be none to equal them both in strength and intellect. They could cross the seas and Climb Mountains.
The idol of Hanuman must be installed in the minds of the people, like installing the statue of Hanuman in Hanuman Ghat."
Ramadas had a clearer picture of his life's mission at the holy Kashi.
Ramadas visited many places in North India. Then he turned his mind towards South. He went up to the holy Rameswara and then to Tirupati, and came to Pampakshetra on the banks of the river Tungabhadra. He had the darshan of Lord Virupaksha. Hardly a few decades had passed since the Vijayanagar Empire had been razed to the ground. In his restless efforts to climb the heights of spiritual glory, sage Vidyaranya had realized the importance of preserving Dharma. He had striven hard, day and night, for the establishment of the Vijayanagar Empire.
Likewise the pontiff of Sri Vyasaraya mutt provided necessary advice and guidance to Krishandevaraya of Vijayanagar in building the empire.
While the nation and the character of its people are in grave danger, spiritual aspirations and efforts at personal salvation by the heads of religious institutions and individuals should be kept aside for the time being. The first and foremost concern of all citizens should be to resolve the challenges confronting the nation.
Shivaji was at the time faced with similar situation.
When Vijayanagar was on the verge of an attack by enemies, spiritual activities alone could not be sufficient to defend the country. Strength of arms and ammunition and the determination to drive out the enemy were needed. Mere love of one's motherland is not enough, might of the muscles is necessary. It should be acquired by hard effort, and nurtured and developed. Irrespective of whether one is a family man or a monk or a soldier, everyone should be prepared to die indefending the motherland. Ramadas saw this need.
Ramadas came to Pandharapur, the abode of Lord Vittala. When Pundalika, a great devotee of God Vittala, was engaged in the nursing of his aged parents, God himself came to give darshan to his devotee and test him. But to Pundalika, the darshan of God Vittala was not of as much importance as his service to his parents.
"My first duty is to my parents. Without fulfilling it I have no time to welcome you," he told Vittala. "Till then please be waiting on the bricks," he added, throwing two bricks. This is the story of Vittala of the famous Pandharapura. One can see even to this day God Vittala standing on the two bricks with arms akimbo.
Ramadas derived a lesson even from this legend. It is the first and foremost duty of every person to attend to the needs of his parents and not to forget them with the excuse that worship of God should come first.
One's motherland is one's true mother. Swadharma, duty, is one's father. It is not right to go to the Himalayas and perform penance in search of God forgetting one's duty to one's mother and motherland. One should first discharge one's duty to the land of one's birth; then one could turn his thoughts towards otherworldly things or heaven.
These were the thoughts that coursed through the mind of Ramadas. From his pilgrimage all over the country Ramadas realised that the nation was in grave danger.
Ramadas sent word to Shivaji Maharaja as soon as he returned to Maharashtra.
Prostrating at the feet of Ramadas, Shivaji begged of him: "I seek your advice. Show me a path to salvation. You are my Guru. You alone must save me."
Ramadas felt immensely happy when he saw Shivaji. In him he saw the person who could fulfil the high ideals he had set forth.
"Shivaji is not an ordinary person. He has all the qualities of becoming the man of the age," Ramadas thought.
"Shivaba, I have heard you have taken an oath before Rohideswara to free the country from the foreign bondage. From my recent tour I have fully realised the danger the country is facing. The people should be freed and their glorious heritage should be restored. Then alone could this great land be smiling with plenty and happiness. Why think of God and other world now? You have to do much to free your people from the fear of foreigners. God is waiting to help such people. Do not forget the oath you took before Rohideswara. Service to your people is service to God."
Shivaji Maharaja heard his Guru with rapt attention and devotion.
Shivaji Maharaja worshipped the feet of Ramadas. In return Ramadas gave to Shivaji a coconut, a fistful of mud and two fistfuls of sandstone.
The coconut signifies suspiciousness, according to Hindu belief. The mud symbolizes one's motherland. And the sandstone is the sign of strength of defense, an impenetrable fort. To be doubly ready to defend one's country and countrymen is what is meant. That was the message of Ramadas.
"Maharaj, be like a strong fort to your people. May you be successful in your endeavour to defend the country and drive away the enemies." With these words Ramadas blessed Shivaji Maharaja.
Ramadas discussed the ways and means of helping and co-operating with Shivaji Maharaja in his struggle to free the country. Ramadas gave a gist of the principles of his teachings to Shivaji when they parted. These words are included in the 'Dasabodha' which Ramadas wrote later.
Those words are:
"Put down mercilessly those who carry tales and also those who rebel against you.
Leave no work half-done. He is unfortunate who shows disregard for the task entrusted to him. What is the use of a coward? One who cannot face danger is not a soldier. Courage is the stepping- stone to success. Go ahead with your task in the name of God."
Shivaji Maharaja returned to his place with these words of advice.
Ramadas began to think of the next course of action. He decided to move to the banks of Krishna from Godavari. Adil Shah was the principal enemy of freedom that Shivaji was contemplating to restore. Therefore Ramadas thought that his stay on the banks of Krishna which was in the occupation of Adil Shah would be an ideal place to be of assistance to Shivaji. Before settling there, Ramadas wished to have the darshan of his mother at Jamb village.
Ramadas came to Jamb, stood in front of his house, and shouted, "Jaya Jaya Raghuveera Samarth!"
Brother Gangadhara's wife came out with alms (Bhiksha). She could not recognize Ramadas.
Laughing, Ramadas said, "Sister-in-law, I am not a beggar, I am your Narayana."
She lifted her head and saw Ramadas. She then recognized him. She ran into the house to convey the information to her mother-in-law. Ranoobai, mother of Ramadas, was overjoyed to hear that her son who had run away from the marriage pandal had returned.
Ramadas entered the house. He fell at the feet of his mother. She was taken aback to see her son in the saffron robe, long beard and long hair.
She could say nothing at first as she was dumb-founded. But then she uttered, Narayana, my Narayana!"
"Yes, ma, I am your Narayana."
"True, you are my Narayana. But what is this? Which devil has taken hold of you?" She asked.
Ramadas laughed heartily at his mother's remark. "Mother, it is true a devil has taken hold of me. But you do not know what sort of devil it is!"
"The divine force that is in Vaikunta descended to earth. Born to Kousalya, it finished Tataki "Ramadas went on singing in his melodious voice.” The force that has taken hold of me is Prabhu Sri Ramachandra," he said jocularly.
Tears of joy rolled down the eyes of his mother on hearing these words. Ramadas narrated his wanderings in detail.
Finally he said: 'I went round the country and saw decadence of morality and virtue (Dharmaglani) in men."
"What? Have men abandoned Dharma?" she said aghast. "Oh, very bad; very very bad," she muttered.
"Good will come out of this evil, mother; good will certainly come out of it," Ramadas consoled his mother, speaking as if in a dream.
After spending a few days with his mother, Ramadas went down South to select his field of activities. On the way he installed idols of Anjaneya at Taakali, Maahulli, Mahableswar, Vai, Karad and many other places.
He had gymnasiums (Vyayamashalas) built in front of those temples. It was to present the ideal qualities of courage and character before the people. He composed inspiring stotras in simple Marathi for their daily chanting.
Bheemaroopee Mahaarudraa Vajra
Vanaaree Anjaneesutaa Raamaduta Prabhanjana!!
By chanting these verses daily, one can acquire unsurpassed strength and intellect.
Ramadas thought of settling in Chaphal village on the banks of the river Mand situated amidst sylvan surroundings. He requested the villagers for a piece of land to build a temple of Prabhu Ramachandra.
Their rough answer was: "Go away and build the temple in the burial-ground on the outskirts of the village."
"Very good", said Ramadas. He made up his mind to build a beautiful temple in the burial-ground itself. For one who was dreaming of creating a heaven out of ruins, building a temple in a burial-ground would hardly present a problem!
The work of construction began and in a few days the temple was ready. In the depths of Krishna River he searched for the stone image of Prabhu Ramachandra and installed it in the temple.
Near by at Pratapgadh Shivaji Maharaja had his palace. This news reached him, He went to Chaphal, met Ramadas and offered his deepest respect. He provided Ramadas all the assistance needed for the construction of the temple.
Shivaji was growing strong day by day. The area under his control was extending. It gave Ramadas great joy.
Ramadas learnt that Afzal Khan, trusted lieutenant of King Adil Shah, was marching southwards with the challenge that he would bring back Shivaji either dead or alive. He also learnt that Afzal Khan, on the way, had destroyed many holy places like Tulajapur and Pandharapur. Afzal Khan was about to attack Shivaji with a strong force. Like death personified, Afzal Khan waited at the gates, eager to finish off Shivaji.
It worried Ramadas greatly. Day in and day out he thought over it. How would Shivaji safely escape from this mortal danger? He prayed to goddess Tulaja Bhavani.
"None but you could save my Shivaji from the savage enemy. I should have the fortune to see Shivaji safe after routing the enemy." That was the incessant prayer Ramadas fervently offered to goddess Tulaja Bhavani.
Afzal Khan had come to kill Shivaji but it was he who was killed by Shivaji. With the death of Afzal Khan the throne of Adil Shah began to shake. Shivaji's might, name and fame spread far and wide.
Ramadas were immensely happy at the turn of events. He blessed Shivaji with all his heart.
In humility Shivaji told Ramadas that the vast kingdom he had acquired was on account of the guidance, good wishes and the blessings of godly men like him. "I place all this at your feet" he offered.
Overjoyed by these words, Ramadas said: "Shivaraya, what use is this wealth and kingdom to me? Do not think your task is over with this. It has to be further extended. Ananda-Vana-Bhuvana (Heaven on Earth) is to be established. Success is surely yours. May God Almighty ever stand by you."
Shivaji prostrated before Ramadas.
The death of Afzal Khan was a decisive turning point in the life of Shivaji Maharaja. All these days his enemies had thought that Shivaji was a nuisance, a rebel and guerrilla. With the strength of arms he built up, the area under his power began expanding.
In 1674 Shivaprabhu ascended the throne at Rajagadh. Samartha Ramadas was present on the occasion. Shivaji Maharaja got built a special room for Ramadas at Rajagadh.
It stands there even to this day.
The coronation of Shivaji Maharaja was not an achievement of any one individual. It was a proud day for every Indian. There was no end to the joy and merry-making of people that day. And there was no limit to the joy and happiness of Ramadas.
He named this kingdom of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaja asAnanda-Vana-Bhuvana.
Shivaji requested Ramadas to settle at Sajjangadh instead of Chaphal. Sajjangadh is a beautiful place at the foot of the Sahyadri Mountains. "Gadh" means a fort on a hill.
"What am I to do at the fort Ramadas asked Shivaji.
"It is a place with beautiful natural surroundings. It is best suited for your meditation and penance. I will see that the temple at Chaphal is kept undisturbed. My humble prayer is that you settle at Sajjangadh," Shivaji said.
"Yes, as you please" Ramadas answered.
As desired by his disciple, Rama came and settles at Sajjangadh.
At Sajjangadh Ramadas finished book 'Dasabodha.'
In 'Dasabodha' Ramadas has recorded his reflections on worldly life and on spiritual life. He has shown the way to a peaceful life. He has classified his teachings in fourheadings: (1) Harikatha, (2) Politics, (3) Eternal Vigilance, and (4) Intelligent Living.
"First a person should learn to lead a life of righteousness, discharge one's duties to one's self and to one's neighbors and then think of the other world, that is, the spiritual side of life. There is no place for a lazy man. One who strives to establish Dharma is alone a godly person." This Ramadas preached in 'Dasabodha'.
In 1680 A.D. Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaja died. It was an irreparable and unbearable loss to Ramadas. The entire Sajjangadh was drowned in sorrow. Ramadas could not bear the loss of Shivaji and he was very much dejected.
That was not all. Many more unpleasant events were waiting for Ramadas.
Sambajiraje Bhonsle ascended the throne after Shivaji. Though bold and chivalrous like his father Shivaji, Sambaji was vain and stubborn. He was after pleasure and pomp. He did not trust his officers and treat them well. Often, for no fault of theirs they were severely punished.
Ramadas could not stand such ill treatment by Sambaji. He wrote a long letter to him advising him in the matter.
The gist of it is as follows:
"Material happiness should be looked upon as worthless. We should live in such a way as to be praised and remembered in this world and welcomed in the other. We should be ever vigilant in our thoughts, words and deeds. We should never think low. One should sit alone and think deeply. One should be less severe and more liberal in judging others. One should take one's officers into confidence. Always think of Shivaji Maharaja and his great deeds. Think of his form, think of his valor. Think of his bravery, his tact, and his administrative capacity. How noble were his words, his conduct! What warmth of personality! He should be an inspiration in every walk of your life. It should be your constant endeavor to better him if possible in every respect. Then alone will you be worthy of praise. What else can I write?"
These words of advice of Ramadas opened the eyes of Sambaji. He tried his best and thenceforward did his utmost to mend his ways.
The health of Ramadas worsened day by day, as days passed by. His one desire had remained unfulfilled, namely the installation of the idol of Sri Rama at Sajjangadh. The beautiful image of Sri Ramachandra from Thanjavoor was brought and installed at Sajjangadh.
All his wishes were completed after this event. His mind remained concentrated always on Prabhu Sri Ramachandra.
"God ever dwells in the minds of his devotees, observing their thoughts, words and deeds. He blesses all with happiness, wealth and emancipation. Sri Rama will never let down his devotees."
With this song on his lips, Ramad breathed his last.
Ramadas died on the ninth day of the dark fortnight of the month of Magha in the year 1682 A.D. (1604 of Shalivahana Saka.) There is tombstone of Ramadas at Sajjangadh built by Sambaji. His devotees observe the day of his death as "Dasanavami " even to this day.
The religious discourses and Keertans of Ramadas inspired and thrilled the people. Their life was purified in the sacred Ganga of the Lord's Name. Ramadas etched these words in their hearts
"Do not search for Moksha for getting your country. Lead a pure life. First you owe a duty to your family and to your motherland. Then alone should you turn your thoughts towards Moksha or Salvation.”Author - Anantha Kallola
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