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PART V-A: THIRD AVATAR:
SHRI SWAMI SAMARTH OF AKKALKOT
Shri Swami Samarth of Akkalkot
We do not talk of the birth of Swami Samarth but only of his appearance. There are two versions of his appearance in public, in one he just appeared mysteriously as an eight year old boy and in another he is the same as Shri Narasimha Saraswati who reappeared after remaining three centuries in Samadhi state. In either story no birth is mentioned.
The two versions about the appearance of Swami Samarth are discussed in the following.
The first version According to the first version Shri Narasimha Saraswati left Kardali Forest and went north to Badri Forest where highly advanced yogis go for meditation. He spent several years there in tapas in the state of samadhi. In the course of time his body was completely covered by anthills. Anthills are common in forests and since it is believed that they are the abodes of snakes people generally do not go near them or disturb them. Thus Shri Narasimha Saraswati was left undisturbed.
Nearly three centuries passed. One day a woodcutter was cutting wood in the forest. Accidentally his axe hit the anthill and a yogi injured in the thigh came out. The woodcutter realized that he had done something horrible and was frightened. He prostrated before the yogi begging for mercy, but he was not only pardoned but gained from the yogi’s blessings not only in this world but in the next as well. The person who came out was not physically similar to Shri Narasimha Saraswati. He was effulgent with red complexion, more than seven feet tall with long hands reaching well below his knees. This was the form with which devotees of Swami Samarth of Akkalkot are familiar. This reappearance of Shri Narasimha Saraswati in a new personality is considered to be consistent with the legend that Swami Samarth was not born through the womb.
However, some people do not agree with this version because yogis do not choose places easily approachable by public, and therefore it is unlikely that Shri Narasimha Saraswati chose this place for penance. But one cannot deny the possibility what was not approachable can become approachable over a period of three centuries. Secondly there is a huge contrast not only in the physique but in the nature of the two. Shri Narasimha Saraswati was of medium build while Shri Swami Samarth very tall with long hands. In nature Shri Narasimha Saraswati was a serene person while Shri Swami Samarth was playful like a child.
The second version According to this version Swami Samarth first appeared in the village of Chelikheda about 24 miles from Hastinapur (Hastinapur is about 100 km north-east of Delhi on the banks of the River Ganga) on the second day of Chaitra month (The day after Gudi Padwa - Shalivahan Shaka new year) as an eight year old boy in the year 1149 AD. This is according to the horoscope prepared by Mr. Nana Rekhi, an expert astrologer. This horoscope was approved by Swami Samarth. This was also the opinion of Haribhau Tawade or Swamisut, a close disciple of Swami Samarth. Chaitra 2 is celebrated as “Prakatdin” i.e. day of manifestation, on a large scale at the Swamisut Math which is now in Chembur Mumbai. Mr Hanmante, author of “A Glimpse of Divinity: Shri Swami Samarth of Akkalkot” supports this view and gives supporting literature which includes, besides the poems of Swamisut the experience of the vision Mr. Anant Ranjekar, a highly accomplished devotee of Shri Swami Samarth in which Shri Swami Samarth emerged as an eight year old boy in response to the urgings of his child devotee Vijaysingh to come and play a game of marbles. Some devotees typically Shakatai Agate and Nana Gadre have confirmed that Swami Samarth first manifested as an eight year old boy in or near Hastinapur on Chaitra Shuddha 2 about 862 years ago (presumably w.r.t. 1999, the year of publication.)
For a layman it would be difficult o decide which version is correct. Once, a British barrister and a Parsi gentleman came to Akkalkot to meet Swami Samarth. Though they had wanted to ask many questions to Swami Samarth they were so much impressed by the effulgence exuded by him that they asked only one question, “Where do you come from?” Swami Samarth’s reply was, “I first left Kardali forest and visited cities like Calcutta. After wandering in Bengal I visited Goddess Kali. Then, wandering along the banks of Ganges I visited thousands of places of pilgrimage like Hardwar, Kedareshwar, Gangotri, Badrinath, Dwaraka and Ayodhya and came to the banks of river Godavari. I stayed for many years in Hyderabad and Mangalwedhe. Then I went to Pandharpur, Begampur and Mohol and after staying there for some time I came to Akkalkot and am here since then. Swami Samarth often said his name was Nrisimhabhan.
Acceptance of the second version raises a disparity. If Swami Samarth was born (manifested) in 1149 AD then it means that he was really the first avatar because first two avatars Shripad Shrivallabh (1320-1350AD) and Shri Narasimha Saraswati (1378-1458 AD) lived during his lifetime i.e. 1149 - 1878. It is of course not impossible that Shri Dattatreya took the two avatars while the real first avatar was still living. But where was he during this period? Devotees have reported the meeting of Swami Samarth and Shri Manik Prabhu (1817-1865) of Humanabad considered as the fourth avatar of Shri Dattatreya. So now we face the incongruity the so-called first two avatars as well as the fourth avatar occurred during the lifetime of Swami Samarth.
It has been stressed in Part I that such historical incongruities are only of academic interest and they do not matter for the devotees. For any saint it is after his emergence and interaction with public that his history matters and becomes known. This should be true of Swami Samarth too. His activities after his public emergence have been well described in the diary (bakhar) of Kelkarbuva and in the collections of the experiences by Mr. Ganesh Mulekar, both disciples of Swami Samarth. The book by Mr. Shripadhastri Kinjavadekar is a well researched book in Marathi on the life and work of Shri Swami Samarth based on Guruleelamrit by Vamorkar. In this book Kinjavdekarshastri gives an interesting commentary and interpretation on the activities. Guruleelamrit presents many incidents which were witnessed by Vamanbuwa or were narrated to him by concerned persons. In the following a brief summary of the activities mainly from these two sources is presented.
Swami Samarth, after his reappearance in Badri forest, spent some time in the Himalayan region. Then he went to Varanasi and then to Gangotri. From there he came to a place called Devalgram where he established his Padukas and went to Rajur where he established a Math arranging a grant of eight villages as income for maintenance. After a few years he handed this establishment to his disciples and left for further travels. During all these years of travel he was known by many names one of them being Chanchalbharati (However he will be called only by the name Swami Samarth henceforth to avoid confusion). For a Siddhayogi (yogi with occult powers) it would not be surprising that his travels are associated with many miracles. In fact in the long run only the stories of the miracles generally survive in the life history of such great persons. This is true in the case of Swami Samarth too.
Two stories about Swami Samarth during the period he was in the Himalayan region are given below:
The Chinese couple While Swami Samarth was sitting in a cave a Chinese couple in search of medicinal plants came there. Seeing this strangely dressed person they started wondering among themselves whether he as a demon, devil or a magician. They made fun of him and after a while engaged themselves in amorous activities. Suddenly a miracle took place. The woman turned into a man. The couple were frightened and realised this was the result of the fun they had made of the strange looking person. When they surrendered to him Swami Samarth showed his compassion by reverting them to their original state and sent them away advising them to follow a spiritual path.
The Deer Family and the Hunters Once when Swami Samarth was sitting in the snow covered forest, four hunters arrived. Seeing them a frightened deer calf came running to Swami Samarth and hid behind him. Swami Samarth took the calf in his lap. The hunters saw this and started shooting indiscriminately at Swami Samarth himself. Swami Samarth took couple of stones and threw them in their direction and the hunters became locked in their position not able to move their limbs. After some time, Swami Samarth felt compassion for the hunters who surrendered to him pleading that they had to hunt for their livelihood. Advising them they should show kindness to all living beings and lead a righteous life he let them go.
At that moment a deer couple came there looking for their lost calf. They found Swami Samarth sitting quietly there with their calf. The deer couple did not feel frightened probably due to the vibrations of love and compassion saints radiate. They approached Swami Samarth who looked at them and said smilingly, "Oh Brahmin, have you not recognized me? You were my devotee at Ganagapur and were relieved of your disease after serving me. Because you maltreated some saintly persons you were born in animal species. You have met me because you did some good deeds, too." Swami Samarth kept his hand on the deer’s head and the deer started speaking: Maharaj, I served you but due to my maltreating the saints I had to be reborn seven times. My first rebirth was that of a Brahmin but a diseased one; second birth was that of a bull and I had to toil; third was that of a Shudra in Vaidura where I lived with my wife a life of utter poverty and sorrow; fourth time I was a weaver and again lived a sorrowful life along with my wife; though I lived in Varanasi, due to adulterous life my fifth rebirth was that of a donkey; in the sixth lifetime I was a goldsmith and misappropriated a lot of gold but since my wife gave generous gifts to saints I was reborn as a deer in this seventh rebirth. Due to the merit of earlier service I have been graced with meeting you. Now please free us from these life cycles.
The compassionate Swami Samarth said, “After some time I shall wander to the south when you will come and meet me born as a human being. You will be liberated then. Saying this Swami Samarth returned to the cave and the deer couple happily went away with their calf.
Swami Samarth left the forest and wandered far and wide throughout India. Some of the events that occurred during these wanderings and how Swami Samarth graced the devotees are described in the following.
Swami Samarth wandered to Jagannathpuri (often called only as Puri) famous for the temple of Shri Krishna, his brother Balaram and sister Subhadra. It is one of the four Peethas established by Adi Shankaracharya.
Alawani Maharaj A saint from Baroda by name Alawani Maharaj known for his detached nature had come to Puri with two or three companions on pilgrimage but all had fallen ill and could neither eat nor go out for alms. (He never ate salt; lawan means salt in Sanskrit and hence the name). Other pilgrims, engrossed in their own affairs simply ignored them. Finally, very weak and on the verge of death, Alawani Maharaj prayed to Shri Jagannath to relieve him from the calamity and suddenly there stood before him an effulgent personality with hands on the waist. Alawani Maharaj and his companions at once gained strength and made obeisance to the effulgent person and humbly enquired who he was and where he lived. He replied that he was known as Vriddha (Aged) Narasimha Saraswati and he was everywhere in the world, but Sahyadri mountains, Girnar, Varanasi, Matapur (Mahur), Karavir (Kolhapur), Panchaleshwar, Kuravapur, Oudumber, Karanjanagar, Narsimhawadi and Ganagapur were his favourite places.
Just then, enticing odours of food came from the neighbouring house and shortly afterwards Alawani Maharaj and his companions were invited for meals. Swami Samarth instructed them to go ahead and eat. And with that all their illness vanished like magic.
Swami Samarth was known as Vriddha (old) Narasimha Saraswati in those days. Due to this miracle and many others his fame spread around Puri. Seeing this, Swami Samarth suddenly disappeared from Puri. This story was told by Alawani Maharaj himself to Vamanbuva Vamorikar the author of Guruleelamrit, a book in verse on the life of Swami Samarth.
Alawani Maharaj returned to Baroda and spent his life helping people and in spiritual pursuit. He used to behave like a deranged person to keep unwanted people away.
From Puri Swami Samarth came to Hardwar where he cured two persons from leprosy. Kinjavadekarshastri has made some very appropriate comments on the background of these cures. The afflictions of the body are always related to afflictions of the mind which occurs first. Swami Samarth removed these mental afflictions first by showing to the afflicted the error of their ways of thinking and behaviour. This was done sometimes through a confession from the afflicted; if the person was arrogant then he would be put through a ridiculous situation through yogic powers making him realize that there are higher powers controlling the affairs of the world. In the above two cases Swami Samarth made them remember their deeds in earlier lives as well as in this life and atone their sins by making them confess publicly.
Hypocrite Brahmin humbled One day a Brahmin of good social standing but really a hypocrite with bad habits approached Swami Samarth with the intention to ridicule him. The first question he asked was about who Swami Samarth was and wherefrom he had come. Swami Samarth fixed his steady penetrating eyes on the Brahmin which unnerved him. Swami Samarth then asked him loudly whether or not he had killed a cow previous day for its meat. Hearing this question the entire public started shouting against the Brahmin who at once surrendered and prostrated before him. This event cured the Brahmin permanently.
Swami Samarth asked the Brahmin to take him to the killed cow. He then challenged him to prove the genuineness of his repentance by reviving the cow. The Brahmin said, "Oh Guru! It can happen only by your grace!", and sprinkled some water from the washing of the feet of Swami Samarth. Everybody was surprised to see the cow come to life.
Now that the Brahmin had come on proper path Swami Samarth replied to his question as to who he was etc. He said that he was a Yajurvedi Brahmin, his name was Narasimhabhan, living in Dattanagar and that his place was a Banyan tree. He then coached the Brahmin in reciting Vedas and advised him that one should be respectful to saints and Brahmins; one should be kind, soft spoken and behave discriminating between good and evil and realize God within oneself and perform one’s prescribed duties. So advising Swami Samarth immediately left Hardwar.
Next he appeared in Saurashtra at a place called Shrikrishna Trivikram. Pilgrims visiting Dwarka visited this place in large numbers. There was a lake here named Narayan near the beautiful temple of Shrikrishna Trivikram. People believed that a bath in this lake would wash the sins of many past births. Unfortunately the priests used this belief to exploit pilgrims by charging them large sums of money. (This is a scene in many places of pilgrimage in India and has given a bad name to religion and a weapon to atheists to criticize those who believe in God.)
The Chief priest had employed strongmen to prevent people from taking bath without payment. When Swami Samarth came there the strongmen looked at his semi-naked form and started ridiculing him. But Swami Samarth marched ahead with his followers for bathing in the lake and was challenged by the strongmen who demanded money or else. Swami Samarth used his yogic powers to go over their heads and walk on water. He then sat on the water surface as if it was land. The strongmen and their employer priests were now frightened at this display of yogic power they had never seen before. The priests surrendered to Swami Samarth, prayed to him and sang his praises. Swami Samarth then came back on the land. He was then worshipped, and meals were given to the public.
Clearing pundit's doubts There was a learned person (a pundit) among those present, but though learned he had not attained Self-Realization. He had just seen the miracles and doubts were rising in his mind as to how these miracles were possible. Swami Samarth read his thoughts and remarked to him that he himself was a wanderer so could not be a learned person like him. Realizing that Swami Samarth read his thoughts the learned person surrendered to Swami Samarth. Swami Samarth asked him where his parents were and was told that they died thirty-six years ago. Swami Samarth then asked, " Is it so? Then who is swinging the cradle of your son at this moment? That is really your father." To the confused man Swami Samarth further told that his father had become a cobra in this birth because of his unfulfilled desires in the last birth. There is no liberation unless desires vanish. Actually, people had seen the cobra and not knowing the truth had gathered there to kill it. The cobra crawled away to lay itself at Swami Samarth’s feet. Holding it in his hand Swami Samarth asked it why he should expect kindness from these people when he himself had not shown it to anyone in his earlier life as a human being. He then asked the snake to enter the lake. Swami Samarth then told those present that the snake will be reborn in a family of yogis and will be progressively liberated. He then vanished from there.
From Lake Narayan Swami Samarth came to Dwarka. There was a yogi named Bhurebuwa who had attained siddhis (occult powers). Many people came to him for having his darshan and get rid of their problems through his grace. But Bhurebuwa was unhappy not because of material problems but because he had not yet had a vision of Shri Dattatreya.
Once, while he was meditating on Shri Dattatreya he fell asleep and saw wonderful scenes like rivers, mountains, oceans etc. Then in that dream itself he came on the banks of a river where he saw Shri Dattatreya in three headed form. Full of emotions he was wet with sweat. He prostrated and was standing when the form of Shri Dattatreya began to vanish and its place was taken by that of Swami Samarth.
In the dream itself Bhurebuwa praised Swami Samarth, who asked him what his doubts were. Bhurebuwa had got his doubts while reading Vedanta. The interpretations of the words "Tatwamasi" in Vedanta by the followers of Dualism (Dwaita) was given as "You belong to Him" while followers of Monism (Adwaita) interpreted it as "You are that". Swami Samarth explained to him the meaning of the sentence elaborately. After his doubts were cleared Bhurebuwa praised swami Samarth and prostrated before him. As he arose from the prostrated position Bhurebuwa went into deep samadhi state and began enjoying divine bliss. Swami Samarth kept his benevolent hand on his head and Bhurebuwa at once came out of the dream and found Swami Samarth was really there.
Entire Dwarka rejoiced this event and hailed Swami Samarth. Many spiritual aspirants who had seen the Bhurebuwa’s spiritual transformation came to have a darshan of Swami Samarth and receive his blessings and guidance. The whole town was engrossed in the festivities.
Among them were a congenital blind person named Surdas desirous of seeing Swami Samarth and one Ravji Vamorikar (father of Vamanbuva Vamorikar). Bhurebuwa prayed to Swami Samarth on behalf of Surdas for blessings of gaining his sight and on behalf of Ravji for spiritual blessings. Swami Samarth asked Surdas to open his eyes and he would see.
Swami Samarth told Ravji that he had met him in Varanasi twice, once when he had cured his old mother and second time to rid him of some personal difficulties. Ravji then remembered the incidents and recognized Swami Samarth. Surrendering to Swami Samarth he sang his praises calling him Brahman personified.
Swami Samarth was very pleased with Ravji and told him that his eldest son would be a learned person of character and would meet him in south in a Muslim ruled region. His second son would be a devotee of Shiva and remain a bachelor while his third son would follow the Guru tradition and arrange for the stories of his activities to people. (This third son was Vamanbuva Vamorikar). Swami Samarth was known here as "Shrikrishna Dattatreya Narasimhamuni". Swami Samarth then left for Girnar.
Mount Girnar is a holy place for people belonging to Dattatreya Tradition, Nath sect, devotees of Devi as well as for Jains. Lord Dattatreya performed penance at the top of the hill. Various sadhaks have reported having had darshan of Lord Dattatreya during their pilgrimage to Girnar.
There are 10,000 steps all the way to the top. The Jain temples are at 3000 steps, Amba temple at 5000 steps, Gorakhnath point at 7000 steps and Dattatreya peak (Dattaparvat) at 10,000 steps. Padukas of Lord Dattatreya have been installed at Dattaparvat.
Girnar is near Junagarh in the Saurashtra region of the Gujarat state. Junagarh has a railway station and is on the Rajkot-Dwarka route of Western Railway. Mount Girnar is known as Raivat Parvat in the Puranas. It takes 5-7 hrs to climb the 10,000 steps to the Dattaparvat. There are resting places along the way. For people who cannot climb palakhi (dolly) is available at a cost (depending upon a person’s weight).
At Girnar Swami Samarth visited the temple of Devi Ambica. She asked him why he had left this main abode of his and where did he go. Swami Samarth replied that he was wandering on the earth for the benefit of people and that he had come there specifically to meet her. He also requested her blessings to be always with him. At this time he was known as Chanchalbharati.
Sevadas One Sevadas, an aspirant who met Swami Samarth said that because genuine yogis are not to be found in this Kaliyuga, he had come to Girnar to meet such yogis and experience the presence of the deities. Swami Samarth told him that Divine powers that are not affected by the boundaries of time and space always exist. But to meet them one must first raise one's spiritual level and become worthy of such experiences. This is possible only by making the mind pure. Company of saints and actions without desire for fruits helps to achieve this. True Guru’s grace also is necessary to realize God.
He advised Sevadas to surrender with all heart to Shri Narasimha Saraswati, who was present on the Girnar Mountain. While Sevadas was listening to this his mind became clear, love for the Supreme sprang in his heart and tears began to flow from his eyes. Once Swami Samarth saw that Sevadas had achieved the fitness he appeared before him in the form of Shri Dattatreya. This happened in the year 1853 AD. Many others also had their doubts cleared and given benediction. A little while later he accepted worship from all the devotees and during the rituals the Shri Dattatreya Padukas appeared in place of Swami Samarth's feet.
Swami Samarth then vanished from Girnar and appeared at Ambejogai in the erstwhile Nizam State, known for the temple of the goddess Ambejogai. Ambejogai has been the abode of many saints. Here a remarkable miracle was performed by him for saving his devotees. This story is as follows:
Swami Samarth’s behaviour here was that of a child. He mixed among the cowherds. Among them was a very pretty five year old girl who became attracted towards Swami Samarth. She used to chit-chat with Swami Samarth and give him food brought from home. Her poor parents, out of greed made a sneaky plan. They argued that in the girl would leave their house after marriage anyway so why not dress her as a boy and give her away to the local childless wealthy moneylender? It would surely benefit them in some way or other and the girl also would live the life of the rich. Then they dressed up the girl as a boy and took her in procession to the moneylender telling him that they had found this pretty boy who was fit to be only in his house. The moneylender thought this to be God’s grace and adopted the boy(?). The girl dressed as a boy gradually turned into a beautiful youth who was however always worried about her fraud getting exposed. The moneylender then thought of the boy’s marriage and arranged for a good bride. The date was fixed. But when the bride’s people came to apply turmeric to the bridegroom’s body as per the custom they were shocked to find that it was a girl’s and not a boy’s body before them. The moneylender complained to the king who punished the cowherds and passed a death sentence for the girl ordering that the executioners should take her to deep forest and execute her. Accordingly the executioners took the girl to the forest and made her sit on a rock. She requested for a last wish of meeting Swami Samarth. As soon as she got the permission she ran to where Swami Samarth was sitting and fell at his feet. Swami Samarth at once understood what the matter was and asked the moneylender to be called. He came with a group of people and saw the girl who was now a real boy by Swami Samarth’s grace without a trace of female attributes. The moneylender performed the marriage with great pomp. Several sons were born to this boy who developed into good and learned individuals. The boy himself told this story to Vamanbuwa when they met at the Kamandalutirtha at Girnar. Only a Siddhayogi could have performed such a miracle which is very similar to the story of Shikhandi in Mahabharata.
From Ambejogai Swami Samarth went to Rameshwaram in the south. When Swami Samarth arrived there the senior Purohit (priest) in charge of the worship had died and instead of the rights of worship going to his descendants some other persons had forcibly appropriated them. These people started giving trouble to pilgrims by charging exorbitant amounts for everything and abuse them if they did not comply. Finally people came together and on the basis of old documents made a complaint to the king and drove the usurpers away.
Clerk's child During this period Swami Samarth was quietly sitting in a state of blissful samadhi under a tree. A public institution that provided meals to public was situated near the tree. One clerk in the institution noted that Swami Samarth did not move from his position for three days. He approached Swami Samarth and humbly prayed to him that he would consider himself blessed if he would accept the food he would be sending. Seeing his humbleness Swami Samarth accepted a little food sent by the clerk every day.
The clerk was sixty years old and childless. Realizing that Swami Samarth was a Siddha, the clerk and his wife one day prayed insistently to be blessed with a son. Swami Samarth told him that if they insisted they would get a son but it would be better if he controlled his desires. The couple did not understand what Swami Samarth meant. They got a son and from that time Swami Samarth vanished from there. The clerk continued to keep food under the tree but while earlier Swami Samarth would eat only a little food now the entire dish was being consumed. This created misgivings in the couple’s minds.
One day they suddenly saw Swami Samarth in Rameshwaram temple. He seemed to be present everywhere both inside and outside the temple. The old couple was happy. They wanted to put their son at his feet but the son suddenly disappeared. When they called for him he said from the hiding place that he was afraid of the Sanyasi. Finally they forcibly brought him to Swami Samarth. The seven year old boy turned into a huge ugly monster and started entreating to Swami Samarth not to kill him and to liberate him. So saying the monster fell down lifeless. Swami Samarth then told the old couple that a spirit living on the tree used to eat the food and he took birth as their son but now he had liberated him. He then gave some ashes to apply to the body to make it turn back into a boy's body and instructed them to cremate it. The desire of the couple for a son did not go away however. Swami Samarth out of compassion blessed them with a son.
We see here a typical example of how in spite of the spiritual treasure like Swami Samarth on hand people like the clerk bother only about the materialistic aspects of life out of misguided beliefs like “Without a son one will not get liberation” fostered by smritis and how Swami Samarth fulfilled these desires out of compassion. It is true that one can find mostly only arta (distressed) and artharhi (desirous of wealth) devotees in this world as mentioned in the seventh Chapter of Dnyaneshwari.
There is a lake named Kotitirtha near Rameshwaram. As in Lake Narayan, here also the priests did not allow people to bathe unless they paid substantial money. Seeing this one day Swami Samarth went there to take bath the priests prevented him and asked for money. Swami Samarth argued that he was a sanyasi and where could he get money from? But the arrogant priest did not listen. Swami Samarth left saying “The thing for which a bath was desirable in this lake is no longer there” and left. The lake water developed foul odour and was full of worms.
Now nobody would take bath in the lake and that affected the income of the greedy priests. They tried all sorts of measures like abhisheka and mantras but nothing would help. Finally they went to Shringeri Shankaracharya who went into meditation and found that the reason was they had maltreated a sanyasi who was not an ordinary sanyasi but an avatar; they had under the influence of greed had forgotten simple courtesy and they should pray the sanyasi. Now the behaviour of the priests towards the public changed. As they improved the lake water also improved in quality. Then one day suddenly they saw Swami Samarth in Rameshwaram. The priests gathered around him and Swami Samarth asked, “How was your trip to Shringeri? Did you meet Shankaracharya?” The priests surrendered and Swami Samarth advised them to follow Shankaracharya advice.
After gracing many in Rameshwaram Swami Samarth came to Rajur in Beed district in erstwhile Nizam state (Now in Marathwada region of Maharashtra).
There was a decrepit Math in Rajur which Swami Samarth rejuvenated. He initiated many disciples there including one Lalbharati. He arranged for an annual government grant of one thousand rupees which gave some stability to the Math. One day Swami Samarth vanished from there and was seen at Pandharpur walking on the waters of river Chandrabhaga. From Pandharpur Swami Samarth went to Mangalwedhe. Here in Rajur the State grant was stopped by Nizam government after Swami Samarth’s departure. Lalbharati and others were distressed. They searched for Swami Samarth and located him at Akkalkot. He arranged for the grant to be revived but warned Lalbharati that the funds should be used to only help the pilgrims and they should behave properly.
Swami Samarth appeared in Mangalwedhe in the year 1838 AD and stayed there for twelve years. (From now onwards his movements seem to be well documented). Mangalwedhe is located about 65 Km southeast of Solapur and about 25 Km south of Pandharpur.
Mangalwedhe is the place where Damaji, the great devotee of Vithoba (Pandharpur) lived in the fifteenth century. Damaji was in revenue service. During his tenure the region was afflicted by a famine for seven years from 1468 AD onwards. The kind Damaji could not bear to see people starving. On his own authority, he distributed food from the government granary to the starving poor. Damaji was arrested and asked to pay up for the used grains. An unknown person who gave his name as Vithu came and paid the money and had Damaji released. It was obvious that Shri Vithoba the deity of Pandharpur had come himself in person to save his devotee. Mangalwedhe is known for many other devotees also. Kanhopatra, the daughter of a prostitute is well known among them. Many bad elements including the king of Bedar tried to get her. But she did not want anything other than Vithoba. She has composed many devotional poems. She was forcibly taken away by the king but on the way she requested to be allowed to visit the Vithoba temple in Pandharpur and died leaving her body on the threshold of the sanctum sanctorum there. Her story proves the point made in Dnyaneshwari that when it comes to devotion God is attainable by anybody irrespective of his caste or gender.
Swami Samarth instead of coming into the town remained in the nearby forest. His behaviour was, like many accomplished yogis, sometimes like a child (Balavritti), sometimes like a mentally deranged person (Unmattavritti) and sometimes like a possessed person (Pishacchavritti). Whenever he entered the town, which was not often, he used to sit in some dirty place. He was indifferent to good and bad, clean and dirty, whether he was dressed or naked but he remained in a state of bliss.
Krishnambhat's cow Though a yogi in this state looks like a madman to common people there always are people who can feel their greatness. We have the example of Shri Gajanan Maharaj of Shegaon whom Bankatlal and Damodarpant saw sitting naked in the street eating the leftover food thrown in the street. They recognized him as an accomplished yogi and served him, finally becoming his disciples. There was in Mangalwedhe a poor but well charactered Brahmin by name Krishnambhat Kapshikar. When he saw Swami Samarth he recognized him as an unusual person and bowing to him humbly requested to visit his home. Swami Samarth smiled because he knew that Krishnambhat was extremely poor but sincere and promised to visit him. Krishnambhat came home and told this to his wife who also felt happy. They waited for Swami Samarth to come. Suddenly they found Swami Samarth sitting on the front platform of their home. Krishnambhat came and stood before him performing a mental worship. Swami Samarth accepted the worship and asked smilingly, "This is all fine but what are you going to give me to eat?" Krishnambhat and his wife stood there with misty eyes because there was nothing in the house to offer. Swami Samarth again told them, "Why are you standing there? I am hungry. Go and get me something to eat." Both went inside and after some thinking Krishnambhat gave his wife a pot and told her to go out in town and get some milk quickly from somewhere. She went and returned empty handed. They came sadly to Swami Samarth and told him what had happened. Swami Samarth asked why they were going out when they had a cow in the house. The couple told him that the cow no longer gave milk. Swami Samarth first gave them advice on the Self-realization and then asked them to go and milk the cow. The cow began giving milk and Krishnambhat could offer milk to Swami Samarth. Soon the entire town knew the real capability of Swami Samarth. (Readers may remember the similar miracle by Shri Narasimha Saraswati before he entered Ganagapur.)
Janabai sees Vithoba There was a woman named Janabai belonging to the Shudra caste who was deeply devoted to Vithoba of Pandharpur. She used to visit Pandharpur every year on Ashadh Ekadashi day to see Vithoba and make her obeisance to Him. This is the time when all Vithoba devotees from all places converge to Pandharpur. The trip is called “Vari” and the maker of the trip is called a Varkari. In those days going to Pandharpur was not easy. There were no buses and no arrangements for meals on the way as are available today. People had to walk miles braving rain and sun. There were no public facilities, no medical facilities and no inoculations against cholera which took its toll every year due to unhygienic conditions. People really risked their lives to visit Vithoba at Pandharpur but under the sedation of devotion people forgot all problems and marched ahead towards Vithoba engrossed in the singing His name.
This year there came heavy rains which brought floods. Journey to Pandharpur to meet Vithoba seemed impossible. Janabai started crying for she had never missed the annual visit. While she was thus lamenting from her heart there was a flash of lightning and she saw Swami Samarth sitting under a tree oblivious of the rain. She felt consoled and went near him. He noted her desperate state and asked her, "Do you think that Vithal is only at Pandharpur and nowhere else?" He then gave her spiritual advice and power to see Vithal within her. She started seeing Vithal everywhere. Swami Samarth then asked her to close her eyes and then open. When she closed the eyes Swami Samarth got up and stood before her with hands on the waist like Vithoba. When she opened her eyes she saw Vithal in person before her. Swami Samarth brought to her the realization that the body is Pandharpur and the Soul residing in it is Vithal. Thus she realized the formless Brahman. From then onwards she did not insist on going to Pandharpur. Instead she would go wherever Swami Samarth used to be at that time. Janabai must be considered to be really fortunate to have received guidance from such a Guru as Swami Samarth. How many people can be so fortunate? One must also ask, how many people are as deeply devoted as Janabai? It is the vibrations of devotion that reach Guru and God and not bhajans without feelings.
Golden snake Swami Samarth performed many miracles at Mangalwedhe. One Basappa saw Swami Samarth relaxing on a bed of thorns in the forest. Realizing that he was a great yogi Basappa became a devotee of Swami Samarth. He used to stay near him ignoring his wife who was starving and had therefore fallen ill. One day Swami Samarth took Basappa to a forest where he saw horrible snakes. He fell unconscious by fright. Swami Samarth brought him to senses and asked him to return home taking as many snakes as he wanted. Basappa readily agreed to return to his ailing wife because of the fear of the snakes but would not pick up any. Finally Swami Samarth picked up a snake, tied it in a piece of cloth and forced it on Basappa. Basappa ran home to his sick wife who opened the bundle and found a piece of pure gold.
Deo Mamaledar Though most people approached Swami Samarth for material benefits there were a few who came for spiritual benefits. Among such persons the name of Deo Mamaledar is well-known. His real name was Yashwant Mahadeo Bhosekar from Bhosegaon. He served Swami Samarth with deep devotion while at Mangalwedhe. He was holding the Government post of a Mamaledar (below a collector). He was known both for his spiritual level and for his charitable nature. Once, the district of Thane near Bombay was suffering from famine. People had no jobs and therefore no money to buy grains from government granaries. They began to die of starvation but Government was oblivious to the calamity. One day hundreds of starving persons thronged at Deo Mamaledar's office having heard about his kind nature. Deo Mamaledar, feeling pity for them, opened the government granary and distributed ten thousand rupees worth of grains among the starving masses who returned to their homes grateful to Deo Mamaledar. However the incident had its repercussions. One person by name Prabhu made a complaint about the incident to the Thane Collector who immediately came with police to audit the situation. Deo Mamaledar was called and the granary opened in his presence. Deo Mamaledar confessed that he had distributed the grains but since government was supposed to protect people and the need was immediate he had ignored the rules. But the Collector was not interested in all this philosophy. He wanted to be a most Obedient Servant of the Government. He ordered to audit the accounts and the cash in the safe. It turned out that everything was accounted for including the ten thousand rupees for the grains. The Collector who was a British person realized that Deo Mamaledar had Divine backing. Though he praised him Deo Mamaledar realized that the impersonal Government atmosphere was not congenial to his spiritual path and tendered his resignation.
A Muslim devotee A poor Muslim individual in Mangalwedhe who roamed around like a madman surviving only by begging, became a sincere of Swami Samarth. He used to fill his pipe with tobacco and make it ready to smoke. At that time Swami Samarth was camping in the meadow of one Mr Patwardhan. Whenever Swami Samarth came to the town he served him in many other ways. Many days later Swami Samarth out of compassion kept his divine hand on his head and gave him (spiritual) Knowledge. The man later became an auliya i.e. a spiritual person of high attainment who is oblivious to his personal effects or behaviour. Though outwardly he behaved like a deranged person, internally he was immersed in the bliss of the Brahman. This shows that Swami Samarth used to give spiritual benefits to worthy persons.
Humbling Ramdasibuwa There was an egotistic chief of a Math at Chalambe near Mangalwedhe named Ramdasibuwa. He had a very high opinion about himself in spiritual matters. One day Swami Samarth went to the Math and after partaking of afternoon meals slept inside. Ramdasibuva waited for him to wake up and leave so that he could lock the Math and go about his business. But Swami Samarth continued to sleep. Finally in a fit of anger he locked the Math with Swami Samarth still sleeping inside and went to the town where he spent quite some time. He told his friends how he had locked Swami Samarth inside. On the way back however he was shocked to see Swami Samarth near the river. Other people also saw him and started questioning Ramdasibuwa. They all came to the Math to find it still locked but Swami Samarth missing from inside. People started ridiculing the chief and his spiritual achievements too. To prove that he had really locked Swami Samarth in Ramdasibuva brought a Vedic pundit Parshurambhat as witness. This changed the attitude of everybody who rushed to the river and prostrated before Swami Samarth. The pundit told Ramdasibuva that taking the name of God does not make one a devotee but being one with him to such an extent that ultimately it results into God taking God's name. This got rid of Ramdasibuva’s ego.
Importance of moral behaviour The following story shows how particular Swami Samarth was about morals: Mr Ganesh Sohoni was a government official Mamledar rank in Mohol. Once there was a kirtan (discourse) in his house during the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations. Swami Samarth was also present. It was around midnight and though it was raining Swami Samarth suddenly walked out of the house. Mr. Sohoni followed entreating him to return but Swami Samarth refused declaring that his house was unclean and proceeded towards the forest. Sohoni persistently followed him for couple of miles. When he saw that Swami Samarth would not return he felt hopeless and asked Swami Samarth when he would be able to meet him. He was told “In the mango season” (in spring). Sohoni returned. The reason Swami Samarth has left was that Sohoni had kept a mistress in the house. But under the influence of lust Sohoni did not get rid of her. Sometime later (it was around 1851-52 AD) district collector, Sohoni’s superior visited for inspection and having heard about his habit privately advised him to give up the mistress because it did not become a government officer like him. Sohoni replied that collector need not bother about it since it was a personal matter. Collector became annoyed and sometime later Sohoni was prosecuted. Though he was set free by court he had to lose his position and he went to live in Solapur. In the mango season Swami Samarth came to him with two mangoes, gave them to Sohoni and vanished. He got an equivalent job in Baroda after he gave up his mistress. Guru’s instructions should be taken seriously because they are for your good and disobeying one’s Guru can be disastrous. Sohoni must be considered singularly fortunate that Swami Samarth did not forget him and met him as promised.
Gaveswami Swami Samarth was in Mohol for about five years. In Mohol there was a yogi named Gaveswami who had reached a high yogic level. He had practiced yoga for more than hundred and twenty-five years and lived in seclusion. His entire nature was purified and love was radiating from him. Only thing stopping him from liberation was the blessings of a true Guru. Swami Samarth went to him, saw his advanced state and sent him in the highest samadhi state and liberation.
Swami Samarth left Mohol and came to Solapur in about 1854-55. After spending couple of years in Solapur Swami Samarth came to Akkalkot which was to be last of his abodes in this lifetime.
After coming to Solapur in about 1854-55, Swami Samarth stayed in a Shri Dattatreya temple. He used to sit in a corner immersed in the bliss of the Brahman. His only activity used to be playing with marbles, throwing them here and there. People who came to the temple used to ignore him as a madman but one day a person named Chintopant Tol noticed him and felt intuitively that he must be a Siddha. Just then Swami Samarth said loudly, "What business is it of yours whether I am a Siddha or not?” Chintopant realised that this person was a mind reader. At once Swami Samarth remarked, "What does it matter whether I am a mind reader or not?” Now Chintopant was certain that this was no madman but a Siddha. He went to him, touched his feet and requested him to visit his home. Swami Samarth accepted. Chintopant then invited him for meals which also he accepted. Chintopant was extremely happy.
Swami Samarth eats at Chintopant's house Swami Samarth came to Chintopant one day as promised. Chintopant bowed before him, seated him on the best seat and went inside to take bath prior to meals. Just before he was coming out to take Swami Samarth in for meals, one Dajiba Sohoni came to him and whispered to him that Swami Samarth did not bother about the prescribed rules of purity and touchability; he touched anybody and anything and ate with persons of any caste; it would be against rules of Dharma to sit in the same row as Swami Samarth for meals. (In the middle of nineteenth century caste rules were very strict, unlike today). As a result of this brainwashing Chintopant decided to arrange Swami Samarth's seat at right angles to that of the Brahmins’ row as rules permit. With this thought in mind he came to take Swami Samarth inside. Swami Samarth got up and began to leave the house saying that Chintopant had doubts in his mind and therefore he would not eat in his house. Chintopant realized he had made a mistake. After making entreaties he somehow managed to be forgiven and then Swami Samarth ate at his house. After this incident Swami Samarth often visited Chintopant’s house and had meals.
Chintopant's son is late in office One day Swami Samarth came to Chintopant for meals. Chintopant gave him bath, worshipped him and prayed to him to come for meals but that day Swami Samarth kept sitting quietly and would not get up. Chintopant’s son Vishnupant was serving as a clerk in the collector's office and had to reach his office by ten O'clock. Chintopant was worried as the hour approached ten in the morning. The Collector Mr. Goldfinch as well as his Deputy Mr. Hanmantrao Pitambar were very strict about punctuality. Chintopant therefore suggested that Vishnupant should eat and proceed to office. But Vishnupant was also an ardent devotee of Swami Samarth and refused to eat unless Swami Samarth ate first. Swami Samarth finally got up for meals at eleven. After his meals Vishnupant went to office with a pounding heart worrying about the dressing down he would get from his superiors. He reached office, removed his coat and went to the head-clerk Mr. Deorao to beg his pardon for being late. Mr. Deorao was surprised. He asked, “What pardon? You have already signed the muster today even earlier than me.” Vishnupant's eyes were wet with feelings of gratitude for Swami Samarth, for he understood that this was his play. When others knew about it they too developed a great reverence for Swami Samarth.
Chintopant retired from service shortly afterwards but because of his experience and capability Shahajiraje Bhonsale, the King of Akkalkot state took him in his service. Thus Chintopant moved to Akkalkot from Solapur. He requested Swami Samarth to come with him to Akkalkot but he refused saying that "It is a hot summer at Akkalkot. I will come after rains."
Swami Samarth remained in Solapur for some time during which he blessed many in both worldly and spiritual matters. Among them was a north Indian Brahmin named Mukund who was a good sadhak. After Swami Samarth gave him proper advice he began observing complete silence and was known as Mounibuva. He reached the Siddha state and many benefitted by his powers.
As the number of devotees increased Swami Samarth decided to leave Solapur. In the meantime Shahajiraje Bhonsale died and Malojirao succeeded him to the throne. Akkalkot received good rains after the Deepavali festival. Now in about 1856 AD, Chintopant once more requested Swami Samarth to come to Akkalkot and this time he accepted. While he was coming to Akkalkot with Swami Samarth on a horse, Chintopant was called away by the Collector. He left Swami Samarth sitting under a tree leaving a servant in attendance. When Chintopant returned he found a frightened servant and no sign of Swami Samarth. The servant told him that Swami Samarth had left saying that nobody owns him. Chintopant was worried stiff but was relieved to find Swami Samarth playing like a child in the Khandoba temple near Akkalkot. Chintopant requested him to come home but Swami Samarth said, "No! My home is elsewhere." After many unsuccessful entreaties Chintopant bowed and left. It was the fifth of the month of Ashwin bright fortnight of 1779 by Shalivahan calendar (1857 AD) when Swami Samarth first entered Akkalkot. He lived here for nearly 22 years in the final phase of his life until his samadhi in 1878 AD.
Thousands of people visited Swami Samarth at Akkalkot and received blessings. Most people sought material benefits but a small minority were true seekers. We shall be acquainted with both types a little later. Many of these seekers were given Padukas (sandals) and sent away with instructions to install and worship them. Thus we see a number of Maths of Swami Samarth at several places in Maharashtra. These Maths are really like temples visited daily by hundreds of people.
Math and temple There is a basic difference between temple of a deity and temple or Math of a saint. A deity considered celestial is held in awe and even fear by the devotees always creating a subtle barrier between the deity and the devotee. An ordinary devotee of a deity sees and worships only the idol or a picture of the deity. There is no direct communication between the two unless the devotee has reached a very high spiritual level. Thus the devotee performs the worship and walks away having the satisfaction of having done his duty towards the deity or towards God
In the case of a saint however the fact that he was a human being before samadhi and was in personal contact with the devotees creates a bond instead of a barrier. A sense of love, of informality and approachability, the faith (and often some experience) that the Guru really looks after their welfare strengthens this bond. This is what has happened in the case of Swami Samarth. His Maths are visited constantly by sincere devotees. And when a devotee who never even saw Swami Samarth develops such a bond imagine how strong the bonds must have been when devotees were in personal contact with him while he was alive in his body and actually talked to them, engulfing them in his vibrations of love and compassion. Even Swami Samarth’s anger was considered by the devotees like a boon.
The events in Solapur and Akkalkot have been well documented and published, mostly in Marathi. The entire collection will spread easily over three hundred pages. Therefore only a few incidents have been selected here for presentation.
Mini-biographies of some prominent disciples of Swami Samarth will be presented in the next part: Disciples of Swami Samarth.
No more orthodoxy From now on there seems to be basic change in the type of devotees who came to Swami Samarth. During the time of Shripad Shrivallabh there is no record of any Muslim visiting him. In the case of Shri Narasimha Saraswati the only Muslim to visit him was the king used to be washer-man in his earlier birth. Shri Narasimha Saraswati prohibited Sayandeo from serving under or even saluting any Muslim. His actions were in keeping with the need of those times. Shri Narasimha Saraswati must have realized the basic enmity between the Muslims and Hindus, the difference in the way of life and thinking of the two and how Hindus, especially upper caste Brahmins had to serve compulsorily or reluctantly the ruling Muslims and in the course of time deviated from the orthodox way of life.
In the regime of Swami Samarth times had changed. The Muslims were no longer rulers except in smaller states. They were now subdued and the British ruled India. We see the third avatar of Shri Dattatreya mixing with one and all irrespective of their caste or religion and becoming unpopular among the orthodox for it. He did not impose ban on serving the British or learning their language. His grace extended not only to Muslims some of whom became his disciples but to the British as well, i.e. those who approached him for his grace. This was again in keeping with the times.
Adjusting to Geography When we examine the history of mankind we always see that whoever came as messenger of God always preached whatever conformed to those times. The changes he proposed were always to the religious practices or concepts prevalent in his own times and for which he had to suffer the wrath of the contemporary rigid orthodoxy. But this world undergoes constant changes because of which changing natural, political or social environment the teachings can become incongruous. If the religion spreads to geographical areas far from the place of the birth of the religion then also the religious practices become incongruous. The practices sometimes involve hygiene (like taking bath or cleaning hands) and diet (like eating certain kinds of meat and vegetables) and create problems. These practices may not have anything to do with the tenets of the religion but just rules forced on the followers by priests. We can find instances of this in the Judaic religions (i.e. Jewish, Christian and Muslim) and become weapons for the so called fundamentalists to attack the public. In Hindu and Jain religions also there religious rules involving hygiene and food which while easy to follow in a tropical Indian climate, would be impossible to follow completely for a common man in the Western temperate climates with freezing temperatures and snow and limited capability of growing vegetables. Geography cannot adjust to man, man and hence religion has to adjust to geography.
If this does not happen then the religion becomes inconsistent with the surrounding environment bringing many contradictions in its practice. This can give rise to fundamentalism which upholds ancient values and practices and create dissent within the society. More likely, another messenger of God comes and starts a new religion to fit the new environment. In the present case we have an avatar of Shri Dattatreya who is not only tolerant to Muslims but even has disciples among them in keeping up with the times. We notice that stress on ritualistic correctness has given way to spiritual attainment.
Nirabai’s laddoo Hearing that Swami Samarth had arrived in Akkalkot and was at the Khandoba temple many persons came to meet him. Chintopant Tol also came and introduced them. Among them was a very pious person named Pandurang Puranik whose invitation for meals Swami Samarth accepted. Puranik’s wife Nirabai very devotedly welcomed swami Samarth with garlands etc and placed a dish of snacks before him. He took a laddoo from the dish and gazed at eat instead of eating it. People were frightened lest they have committed some blunder. When Nirabai pleaded that he should begin eating Swami Samarth asked her to bring the part of the laddoo she had held back and kept on the stove. What had happened is that thinking that swami Samarth may not eat the whole laddoo and it would go waste she had kept half on the stove and given only half to Swami Samarth. Everybody was amazed at how Swami Samarth could know about this; Swami Samarth ate happily and blessed the couple. In a way he suggested that one should be free from the tendency to accumulate.
Baba Sabnis and Manik Prabhu At this time one Baba Sabnis came there and prostrated before Swami Samarth. He said I had your darshan at Maniknagar when you had promised to give darshan at Akkalkot in future. That has come true. People were astonished to hear this.
Manik Prabhu (1817-1865) is considered as the fourth avatar of Dattatreya (See Part VI). His domain of activity was the erstwhile Muslim ruled Nizam state. The context of the above incidence is as follows: Many aspirants came to Manik Prabhu some for their material difficulties and a lesser number for spiritual guidance. To the latter class belonged one Yadnyeshwar Vaidya Ahmadnagarkar alias Bapu Dikshit who stayed at Maniknagar to serve Manik Prabhu. This Bapu Dikshit had a nephew named Vishwanath Vaidya who also lived there along with his friend Baba Sabnis. These were all religious minded honest persons of clean mentality. They used to sing Bhajans to musical accompaniment before Manik Prabhu in the evenings.
Once, while Dattatreya bhajans were in progress there was a flash of bright light that almost blinded the people present. Then Swami Samarth appeared accompanied by two sanyasis. Manik Prabhu rushed forward, made obeisance to Swami Samarth and seated him respectfully on the highest seat there. He seated the other two sanyasis also on other seats. Sometime later Manik Prabhu told Baba Sabnis that the great Sanyasi was Swami Samarth and will shortly come to live in Akkalkot for benefitting people. He told Vishwanath Vaidya that Swami Samarth was Dattatreya himself and was his (Vishwanath’s) Guru. Also that his youngest brother Vamanrao Vaidya would be a close devotee of Swami Samarth and rise to high spiritual level and spread the Dattatreya Sampradaya. Swami Samarth and Manik Prabhu blessed them. The visiting sanyasis stayed with Manik Prabhu in exclusion of all others the whole night. Next morning Swami Samarth, by mental communication solved all the doubts of Baba Sabnis. The visitors then left. Manik Prabhu instructed Baba Sabnis to go to Akkalkot and inform people about the forthcoming arrival there of Swami Samarth. Vishwanath Vaidya also returned home to Vamori and told the good news to Vamanrao giving him the garland worn by Swami Samarth.
Smokes Empty Chillum Swami Samarth soon left the temple and camped at a place called "Phatak" (Gate) near the village border which used to be marked by a flag. He stayed there for three days without eating. On the fourth day a Muslim risaldar (Chief of cavalry unit) by name Ahmadali saw him and thought he was some mad person. Eager to have some fun at his expense Ahmadali took an empty chillum, put some burning coal in it and asked, "Maharaj, do you smoke?" Swami Samarth took the chillum without a word and started puffing at it. Smoke started coming out of the chillum. Ahmadali who was laughing was shocked into silence. He was now convinced that this mad looking person was some great yogi. He now became a devotee. He enquired about him and learnt that he had not eaten for three days. Feeling unhappy he arranged for his meals at the house of a Brahmin who lived nearby called Cholappa. When Cholappa kept the dish of food before Swami Samarth he asked Ahmadali to touch it. Due to the untouchability taboos of those days he was reluctant to do so but Swami Samarth told him smilingly not to be afraid and to hold the dish in hand. Swami Samarth was very happy when he touched it and broke his three days fast.
As mentioned earlier Swami Samarth never differentiated between Hindus and Muslims. He used to visit temples as well as mosques and Dargas (mausoleums). The fight between Hindus and Muslims had now given place to their common fight against the British who were trying to bring the entire Indian subcontinent under their rule.
Cholappa When Swami Samarth saw Cholappa he at once said, “Cholappa, have you forgotten me? You are the son of Ramchandra Saraf, a Brahmin and my dear devotee.” After meals Swami Samarth went to stay at Cholappa's house.
Cholappa used to live with his wife and two sons. Swami Samarth used worship them .to give lots of trouble to the family by behaving like a madman. He used to feed the grains in the house to cows or give it away in alms to beggars and mendicants. He would urinate anywhere in the house. But Cholappa firmly believed that Swami Samarth was an avatar of Shri Dattatreya and tolerated everything. Once Swami Samarth left the house but Cholappa brought him back.
After testing Cholappa for a long time swami Samarth set out for a village named Basapur couple of miles away. Cholappa followed him even after swami Samarth angrily told him not to do so advising him to go back home and lead a good family life. But Cholappa refused saying that he would rather leave his house and family but not Swami Samarth’s feet. Seeing the deep devotion Swami Samarth threw his sandals (padukas) at him instructing him to worship them regularly. Cholappa was full of joy when he received the Padukas.
Cholappa began to worship the Padukas regularly and soon sick people in the neighbourhood began to get dreams in which they were told to go to Cholappa's house where the Padukas were installed and their visits would be gainful. These Padukas are still being worshipped in Cholappa Math at Akkalkot by his descendants.
Swami Samarth now became one of the family. But being poor Cholappa could just manage to feed the family and Swami Samarth. Later he received a regular monthly grant of five rupees from the king. In the course of time Cholappa became greedy and started fleecing Swami Samarth’s visitors one way or other. Later a woman named Sunderabai, about whom we shall read later, came to serve Swami Samarth and undertook to feed him, (for often Swami Samarth required feeding like a child) and look after his comforts. In the course of time she became very powerful but greedy. She managed to remove Cholappa from the service of Swami Samarth by influencing the queen of Akkalkot.
According to Kelkarbuva’s Bakhar, as Cholappa accumulated wealth his services to Swami Samarth became lax. One day Swami Samarth picked up a cloth lying about and put knots in it to make it into a begging bowl. He then said “Allakh” (as Nath yogis say) and kept the cloth open. People put cash into it. In no time rupees one hundred and twenty-five were collected. He gave it to Cholappa saying, “Cholya, take this. Now I do not owe you anything anymore.” Cholappa had until then collected cash material worth about sixty thousand rupees in which probably rupees one hundred and twenty-five were short to complete a round sum. Shortly after this, by royal decree it was ordered that a clerk and two policemen would supervise and keep account of the offerings and a committee would overlook the procedure and spend the collections for maintenance as needed. From that time Cholappa and Sunderbai lost their special position and were treated like any other sevekaris
Swami Samarth did not see Cholappa when he died. He was highly devoted to Swami Samarth up to the last but his greed took its toll. Swami Samarth loved him like a father and when he died the sorrow was reflected in Swami Samarth's face. When asked by the queen he said that the sorrow was like the separation between persons who were father and son for seven generations.
After coming to Akkalkot, Swami Samarth began to play a strange game. He used to bring sticks and arrange its pieces like soldiers at a parade. He would arrange threads of the blanket similarly. When asked he would say he was making platoons. Soon the 1857 war between the British and the deposed Peshwas and other rulers started in which British won. But Swami Samarth knew about the forthcoming war quite in advance.
Vasudeo Balwant Phadke The well-known revolutionary Vasudeo Balwant Phadke was a keen devotee of Swami Samarth. He came to Swami Samarth sometime in 1857 with a sword and requested him to touch the sword and present it to him so that with its strength he can fight the British. Swami Samarth was very happy at his words but his face showed a touch of sadness. Vasudeo Balwant waited for Swami Samarth to give him the sword but Swami Samarth called a nearby servant and asked him to take the sword and keep it on the nearby tree. Vasudev Balwant understood the implication, took the sword and left. That was not yet ripe for such revolutions. Swami Samarth already knew what the outcome of the 1857 revolution would be and he also knew that fighting against the British was beyond the capability of a single person like Vasudeo Balwant however high his ideals may be.
SOLACE TO ALL
Swami Samarth was very compassionate. He did not tolerate dishonesty, hypocrisy or immorality and nobody could hide them from him because he was omniscient. He would be nasty and abusive in even vulgar language to such people but once they repented and surrendered he would go all the way to help them and fulfil their desires. Many of his kind actions have been recorded but that would be a very small fraction of the total. What is reported here is a small fraction of even those.
As mentioned earlier very few persons came t o Swami Samarth for spiritual gains. Most came for their materialistic difficulties. Some wanted a son, some wanted increase in their wealth, some wanted relief from their illnesses and many came to display their own knowledge and to criticise Swami Samarth for his unconventional behaviour as regards the observance of the caste system. All benefitted by their visits. Many self-important pundits were humbled but received Swami Samarth’s grace.
To take some example many came for gaining eyesight. Swami Samarth told different medicines to different people, and what were these medicines? One person was asked to put cat’s milk in the eyes, another was asked put horse urine and a third elephant urine. All were cured. What worked was Swami Samarth’s power, the medicines were nominal. One got his sight even after his eyes were touched by a flower from outside. One cannot look for medical explanations here.
People came to cure leprosy and leucoderma, abdominal pains and other afflictions. Swami Samarth gave strange prescriptions and tasks and if carried with devotion they would get cured. Swami Samarth even diverted death and revived dead persons as an exception for saints normally do not interfere with course of nature.
Many such instances in the pre-Akkalkot phase have already been presented earlier. A few of these incidents and of course those incidents involving spiritual aspirants at Akkalkot are related below.
Death transferred to bull There was a person named Babasaheb Jadhav in Akkalkot. Swami Samarth knew that time for his death had come. He called him and said, “Eh Kumbhar (Potter, Swami Samarth used to call many people by that name.), message (of death) has come in your name.” Jadhav understood what was meant and was frightened. Clasping Swami Samarth’s feet he said that he wished to continue to serve him. Swami Samarth felt pity for him and said loudly to somebody, obviously the messengers of death, "Go there!", pointing to a bull grazing nearby. The bull at once fell dead and Jadhav continued to live for some more years.
There are many instances of Swami Samarth saving lives. Normally saints do not interfere with natural course of events but sometimes they do it for specific reasons. This Jadhav once tried to save a person named Ravanna from snakebite by keeping Swami Samarth's shoes on his head without permission from him. Swami Samarth who was sleeping at that time suddenly got up, threw away all his clothes and was very angry at Jadhav, abusing him left and right. Probably because the sanctity of the shoes had to be kept he asked him to shout in Ravanna's ears loudly calling him by name. After some time Ravanna woke up as if from a deep sleep. There are other instances also when Swami Samarth revived a dead person.
King is slapped Swami Samarth who was Brahman personified, did not like hypocrisy, untruth and other undesirable attributes. He did not spare anybody who showed these undesirable qualities and was very blunt about it irrespective of whether the person was rich or poor. What mattered to him was devotion. He was totally fearless.
Once, Malojiraje Bhonsale the king of Akkalkot came to meet Swami Samarth. He was riding on an elephant with all the royal splendour, wearing expensive jewellery. But Swami Samarth did not like this exhibition. When Malojiraje came to him to bow and was keeping his head on his feet, Swami Samarth slapped him hard on face with such a force that the royal bejewelled cap was thrown ten feet away. Malojiraje stood stunned rubbing his cheek. Swami Samarth was enraged and shouted, "You may be great in your house. Why do you bring that greatness here? I make Chess kings like you every day."
Malojiraje continued to visit Swami Samarth every Thursday. But he used to come in a simple dress and the palanquin in which he came was now kept far away and out of sight of Swami Samarth.
Some more tales about the king Malojiraje’s devotion to Swami Samarth had worldly motives. He wanted to be blessed with a son. At the time of the first delivery of the queen people asked Swami Samarth whether it would be a boy or a girl. Swami Samarth said, "Bring bangles." This signified a daughter and it was a daughter this time. Second time Swami Samarth went and sat near the stove indicating it was again a girl. Third time however he said, “Fire the cannon.” This time it was a son.
Swami Samarth always used to speak with short remarks using a mixture of Hindi and Marathi often sounding like riddles which had to be interpreted. With practice the persons living in his company could interpret his utterances or actions and advise the visitors accordingly.
Dead mouse revived One day Swami Samarth suddenly went to the palace. The king learnt of his arrival and hurriedly received him. Later, both sat on the swing facing the worship room. The purohit (priest) in charge of worship was at that time preparing sandal paste needed for the worship by rubbing sandalwood on stone. Just then a mouse came and started nibbling at the ghee (clarified butter) kept nearby for wetting lamp wicks. The purohit was enraged at this and threw the sandalwood piece at the mouse killing it. Elated, the purohit picked up the mouse by the tail and came out for throwing it away. Swami Samarth saw him and asked for the mouse. Taking the mouse in his hand he made it pass through the rings of the swing a few times and then keeping it on his palm said, "Go, child!" and the mouse, now alive, jumped and ran away. Everyone was aghast at this miracle.
Swami Samarth sees king on deathbed Malojiraje was highly devoted to Swami Samarth. He fell ill and he knew death was approaching. He was constantly thinking about Swami Samarth and used to tell everybody to arrange for him to meet him. But Swami Samarth did not come to the palace for nearly a fortnight. But when Malojiraje was about to die he suddenly entered the palace and went to the king who died with his eyes fixed on Swami Samarth.
Swami Samarth did not like hypocrisy and insincerity. He used to ridicule and sometimes punish such people. On the other hand he appreciated sincerity and rewarded it. A few examples are given here in this context.
Fruits of petty greed Swami Samarth used to visit any place or house as pleased him, come sun or rain. One day he went early in the morning to the house of a Brahmin named Ganpatrao Joshi. Ganpatrao was very happy. He gave Swami Samarth bath and dressed him in his yellow silk cloth. Performing his worship in the traditional way with sandal paste, kumkum etc. he offered him food and kept his head on Swami Samarth's feet. Just then a thought entered his mind that after leaving his house Swami Samarth might give away his new yellow silk cloth. Swami Samarth read his thoughts and at once removed the cloth from his body and handing it over to Ganpatrao left his house without any clothes on. Joshi tried a lot to make Swami Samarth come back but he said, “You doubted. Now I shall not eat at your house.” Just then another person named Tatya Vaidya came to know about this and invited Swami Samarth to come to his house. Swami Samarth judged the depth of his faith and had meals with him.
Stone and mattress are same to a yogi Once Swami Samarth was lying down on a cushion. A Puranik (one who gives discourses on Puranas) saw it and remarked why Sadhus (saints) need luxuries like cushions. A month passed. One day Swami took the Puranik for a walk to the nearby village. Towards evening he started climbing a hill with the Puranik accompanying him, The Puranik began hinting that they should return, but Swami ignored his suggestions, went to the top and spread a cloth on a stone and relaxed. The Puranik was worried and frightened because it was cold, dark and he did not have any warm clothes with him. Finally he confessed that he can no longer tolerate the cold and started praying to Swami Samarth who asked him, “So how is the soft cushion?” The Puranik remembered what he had said a month ago and realized that for a yogi, cushion and cold stone are all same. He begged for forgiveness.
Swami Samarth was offered all luxuries by his devotees but his attitude was always dispassionate.
Fraudulent Sadhus Once a person in the garbs of a follower of Kabirpanth sect came to Akkalkot. He used to go around in the streets singing devotional songs with a veena in hand. Gullible passers-by were bowing to the saint. Swami Samarth was sitting near the gate of Mr. Ganapatrao Joshi (mentioned earlier). When the saint (!) was passing by Swami Samarth uttered aloud a line of the song making a vulgar sign to him and started laughing loudly. That gave a hint to the devotees present that the saint was a bogus person. They trailed him and found that it was really so and that he was living with a married woman who had eloped with him. The saint(!) immediately left the town.
Five demons Once while Swami Samarth was sitting in the house of Mr. Deshmukh one Shivubai brought a small blind boy and told him that the boy had become blind since the time of his thread ceremony. She requested for some remedy. Swami Samarth told her, “Wait. Five demons are coming to test me. The boy will get back his sight at that time.” Just then five dark skinned large bellied Vaishnav Brahmins came with shawls wrapped on their shoulders speaking a mixture of Sanskrit and Kannada. They came and bowed to Swami Samarth who called the blind boy and said, “Ganesh, come here and tell loudly the questions in the minds of these darkies and also their answers.” The boy humbly said, “Maharaj, what can I tell? I do not know anything.” Swami Samarth removed the string of beads from his own neck and put it in the boy's neck. He took a marigold flower and touched the boy's eyes with it. The boy suddenly got up and started reciting the thoughts of the five Brahmins. The Brahmins were shamefaced. Swami Samarth said to their chief, “You came to test me because I eat from anybody's hand without bothering about the caste. You slandered me and tried to test me but your mother had illegitimate relations with many Muslims and you yourself are born from a Muslim named Imambaksh.” The Chief was shocked and ashamed. He begged forgiveness. The boy regained his sight. This incident was watched by Vamanbuva who has related it in Guruleelamrit as it happened.
Ego of Sankeshwar Shankaracharya Once Shankaracharya of Sankeshwar Math came to Akkalkot along with his paraphernalia. King Malojiraje arranged for their hospitality. Shankaracharya was made to seat on a throne and worshipped after which all people, which included learned shastris and pundits, sat for meals. Swami Samarth was not invited but he came with Cholappa to watch the ceremony. Nobody even offered a seat to Swami Samarth except an old Brahmin who got up and taking Swami Samarth by his hands seated him for meals. This caused a stir among the rest of the Brahmins who began to whisper that this sanyasi went and ate anywhere and with anybody and that he should not be in the row of Brahmins. When the meals were about to start the Brahmins saw that their food was full of worms. They were wondering about this strange happening when the old Brahmin said that this has happened because Shri Dattatreya has been shown disrespect. Hearing this Shankaracharya came down from his high seat to Swami Samarth and prayed for forgiveness. He said that Swami Samarth was actually the world Guru and he should occupy the high seat. Swami Samarth abused him left and right and said, “Yes, I am a disgraced sanyasi. But three Shastris who are with you are born from a Muslim. Ask about it to them and to their mother. How did you permit them to sit with you for meals? Does one become a sanyasi just by shaving one's head? Does learning shastras make one immune from caste rules?” The said shastris were full of shame and they came and prostrated before Swami Samarth begging for pardon. Swami Samarth now felt compassion and the food now became normal.
Even minor deities are not spared Deities we worship are some kind of powers which help to fulfill devotees’ desires when propitiated. Deities like Shri Dattatreya, Shiva, Vishnu and Durga are propitiated for spiritual as well as material goals. Several other deities are propitiated for material goals. How this happens is something we do not know but the experience about it is positive. Along with good powers there are also evil powers which are to be avoided. There seem to be some minor powers too which local people especially in rural areas worship and propitiate, sometimes with sacrificial offerings. Swami Samarth used to be scornful of such deities.
There used to be such a deity by name Ganadevi in the royal garden at Akkalkot. If a child or woman passed nearby in the afternoon or evening it used to give them trouble (probably by affecting their minds) and would not leave them unless offerings of a chicken and coconut was given. (Women and children are believed to be more prone to such afflictions). The deity was represented by a stone smeared with red oxide. Swami Samarth would go and pass urine on it or even defecate on it. Slowly the deity lost its importance and people finally ignored it altogether.
Respect for sincerity Swami Samarth respected sincerity as much as he detested hypocrisy. Matebuva from Pune was a noted Vedanta philosopher who gave discourses (Kirtan) to elucidate the difficult topic of Vedanta philosophy. He was highly devoted to Swami Samarth and in turn Swami Samarth also held him in high respect. Matebuva once performed a “Bhagwat Saptaha” (reading of the entire Bhagwat book in one week). Swami Samarth attended it throughout which was a unique event. Once there was a discourse in the royal garden and people were completely engrossed in it. Swami Samarth was also attending it. During the discourse Matebuva asked, “Whose feet are capable of taking us across this ocean of worldly life towards liberation?” At once Swami Samarth lowered his right foot. Overcome with love and emotion Matebuva ran to Swami Samarth and held that foot to his heart. He said aloud, “Really these are the feet which are capable of liberating.” Just then Swami Samarth lowered his other foot also which Balappa, another devotee and disciple held. (We shall read more about Balappa later.)
Sanyasi sees Shri Dattatreya Once a Sanyasi who was a dedicated devotee of Shri Dattatreya came to Akkalkot. Swami Samarth realizing his deep desire to see Shri Dattatreya changed his form to that of Shri Dattatreya. The Sanyasi was thrilled to see the ochre dressed effulgent form and his emotions had no bounds. His eyes closed but when he opened them it was Swami Samarth standing before him smiling pleasantly.
Rider on white horse One day Swami Samarth was playing like a child under the oudumber tree in Cholappa’s compound, using the brass face masks of the deities in the worship room to scoop out grains from a bin and putting them back. While this play was going on, a person riding a white horse tried to enter Cholappa’s house through its small door. The horse got stuck blocking the path. He had come to meet Swami Samarth but was helpless because the horse could not forward or backward. People gathered to see the fun. Just then the rider heard Swami Samarth’s voice from inside asking, “Where are the Pedhas? The horse will not move until you bring them.” The horse rider then told the people gathered there that he was afflicted with severe abdominal pains which no medicines or even mantras could cure. He went to Narsobawadi and performed many Gurucharitra Saptahas (ritual reading of entire Gurucharitra in one week). He made a vow one day that if he got a divine vision of Guru (Narasimha Saraswati) then he would offer one and a quarter rupees worth of pedhas. One day Shri Narasimha Saraswati came in his dream and told him that, “I am now staying in Akkalkot for the benefit of people. Go there immediately and your work will be done.” Because I was very weak I bought this new horse. After performing Rudrabhisheka Puja of the padukas and making a vow that after I get well I shall offer meals to people I rushed here on the horse and was guided to this house, but I left behind the parcel of pedhas. You have heard now that Swami Samarth already knows about all this and is asking me to bring the pedhas. People were very happy to know that Swami Samarth was Shri Narasimha Saraswati himself. Just then somebody handed the rider the parcel of pedhas. The horse then moved backward to clear the entrance. The rider went to Cholappa’s house and had Swami Samarth’s darshan. He stood with folded hands before Swami Samarth who called him near and touched his stomach with the brass mask. At once the abdominal pains vanished. Such was the compassion and omniscience of Swami Samarth.
The story of Radha Radha was a well-known dancer very proud of her beauty. She heard of Swami Samarth and one day visited him with the intention of testing him through enticement. Swami Samarth was sitting with his devotees and sevekaris (servers). Vamanbuva was also present. She bowed to Swami Samarth and sat near him. Her thoughts changed as she watched the effulgence of Swami Samarth. The woman who had made several men dance round her now became humble before this great personality. Swami Samarth looked at her and asked, “Radha, what is the difference between man and woman?” She replied, “Maharaj, there is a difference and therefore we discriminate between man and woman.” Swami Samarth asked, “What is the difference?” At this Radha felt too shy to utter the difference publicly and kept quiet. But when Swami Samarth insisted and finally she said shyly, “Women have breasts etc. which men do not have.” Swami Samarth started laughing. He said, “Radha, now go. You do not have anything more than men. Donate your special feminine organs to this Brahmin here.” Radha left and by the time she reached home her breasts became flat. She became a staunch devotee of Swami Samarth.
There is saying in Marathi that darkness looms below a lamp. The devotees who stayed in the company of Swami Samarth lived as servers to serve him in various ways and get blessed. Very few people however really desired spiritual gains from Swami Samarth. Most servers lived for the free food and other perks available there. Most people came to Swami Samarth keeping in mind material gains like wealth, success, children or cure from illness. Even among this type there were people who used the situation to make money in a shameful way. We have seen how Cholappa fell prey to greed. The worst example was that of Sunderabai a woman who had the best opportunity to serve Swami Samarth but wasted it by using her proximity to Swami Samarth for petty personal gains. In the end she was driven out forcibly and dishonourably.
Sunderabai came to Swami Samarth from Solapur with the intention of getting cured of a foot affliction and continued to stay with him as a server. Later she took up Cholappa’s duties like bathing Swami Samarth, dressing him, feeding him, taking him for toilet etc. with Cholappa’s permission. Cholappa gave her the permission in spite of Swami Samarth’s warning him that she will eliminate him. In the course of time she took control to such an extent that even meeting Swami Samarth required her permission. With her knack of sweet talk she even poisoned the Akkalkot queen's mind against Cholappa and managed to remove him from Swami Samarth's service. She used to demand money from devotees who wished to see Swami Samarth or extract money, food, sweets and gifts from them pretending that she was poor or with some other convenient excuse like she needed money to buy puja material like kumkum, camphor and saffron. Often she would accept money from people for arranging to meet him and then she used to order him to get up and meet them. Once a devotee gave two pedhas directly to Swami Samarth instead of going through Sunderabai. The same devotee had refused to give her money earlier. Sunderabai became so angry that she caught Swami Samarth by the throat and ordered him not to eat the pedhas. Swami Samarth remarked to Cholappa, “Cholya, the xxxx has become too much arrogant.”
Swami Samarth knew about all this but he used to say that she acts like a scarecrow to keep undesirable people away. Swami Samarth used to do whatever she asked him to do. He even defended her sometimes when quarrel arose with other servers.
Sometime later she permitted Balappa, a staunch devotee and later successor of Swami Samarth to share some of the services like heating water, cooking etc. which he did earnestly. Sunderabai became unpopular because of her scheming activities and complaints were lodged. Ultimately the Collector ordered her removal and replaced her by a committee. Mr. Barve who was supposed to have executed the order was hesitating to execute it being under the impression that she was a protégée of Swami Samarth but Swami Samarth asked him, “Is this the way you do your duties?” Mr. Barve understood the hint, arrested her, confiscated all the things she had swindled and auctioned them. Thus the long rule of Sunderabai ended.
It must have been her good karmas of earlier lives which gave her the rare opportunity to serve Swami Samarth and due to which Swami Samarth tolerated her actions for a pretty long time. But it was the greed which brought her downfall.
The committee appointed four servers for taking care of Swami Samarth. One of them was Balappa. Though they were now paid positions all refused to accept payment for the services. For them the service itself was a privilege.
We have already seen the case of the Muslim individual from Mangalwedhe spiritually blessed by Swami Samarth. Another Muslim individual who was a Jamadar (Seargent) in the Akkalkot police force person became a disciple of Swami Samarth about which we shall read in the next part: Disciples of Swami Samarth.
The following story that happened in 1874 about one Sayyad from Hyderabad is quite amazing.
Swami Samarth was sitting in the Deshmukh house one afternoon in the month of Bhadrapada (sixth month). Vamanbuwa was tuning his veena preparatory to giving a discourse. The sevekaris were sitting around waiting. Just then Sayyad arrived from Hyderabad for having his darshan of Swami Samarth. He asked the people near the door where Akkalkot Swami was. On hearing this Swami Samarth said, “Swami is sitting on XXXX. Swami is in Akkalkot. Go, why are you looking for him here?” (Swami Samarth often used street language.) Hearing this Sayyad stood stiffened for a few moments. He lost his consciousness and remained in a trance for some time. After some time he slowly opened his eyes and tears of love started flowing from his eyes. He made obeisance in the Muslim fashion and in a choked voice he said, “Oh Swami Maharaj, protector of the poor, you are God. I know my religion well and have read Koran and many religious books. For many years I have been striving hard in religious practices but unfortunately I did not experience anything until now. Today, as soon as I saw Maharaj I felt the waves of compassion and saw Maharaj inside my mind. Now my life is fulfilled. I am your servant! Order me to do whatever you want.” He then gave the offerings he had brought with him and after staying in Akkalkot for a few days in the service of Swami Samarth he took leave and returned happily to his home.
When Swami Samarth said Swami is in Akkalkot he must have meant swami is in the mind for, “akkal” in Marathi means mind, intellect or commonsense. Akkalkot is also often referred to as Pradnyapuri by pundits, “pradnya” meaning intelligence and “puri” meaning town..
Even at the height of British supremacy and arrogance British people did come to Swami Samarth and other saints. We already saw how the collector who was the superior of Deo Mamaledar held him in high regard.
European engineer blessed Once a European engineer in railways at Solapur came to meet Swami Samarth. As soon as Swami Samarth saw him he said in Hindi, “You want a son is it not? You will get it within a year.” The engineer had really come with the desire of a son in mind. He was surprised that Swami Samarth had knew it and happy that he had given his blessings. He humbly kept his head on the feet of Swami Samarth in obeisance, something unheard of in those days and returned to Solapur. Within a year he got a son as told by Swami Samarth and he became his ardent devotee.
The first photograph The honour of taking the first photograph of Swami Samarth goes to the Kodak Company. It is believed this was taken around 1857 and a bright aura is seen around the face.
Those were the early days of photography. In India it was quite new and highly expensive. Only royalties could afford being photographed. Kodak Company wanted to increase their business by photographing some great personality by way of advertisement. They decided that Swami Samarth would be a good choice because at that time Swami Samarth’s fame had spread and stories about him used to be published in Mumbai newspapers. Even the British Government in Mumbai had ordered Akkalkot king to take proper care of Swami Samarth. Accordingly Kodak Company sent their best photographer with all the paraphernalia to Akkalkot for photographing Swami Samarth. The photographer was a European.
On reaching Akkalkot the photographer contacted some devotees and expressed his intention of photographing Swami Samarth. But they told him to ask Swami Samarth himself. He did that but Swami Samarth did not agree. The photographer now felt challenged and decided to photograph Swami Samarth at any cost. He then arranged his camera and tripod at some distance from where Swami Samarth was sitting under a large tree and waited for a favourable pose. But whenever there was a proper pose and he put his head under the black cloth for inserting the photographic plate, Swami Samarth would turn his back or somebody would come in between. After this happened a dozen times the photographer was quite frustrated. He then removed the camera from there and hid it behind a bush. After some time he was successful in taking a photograph. Overjoyed at having “defeated” Swami Samarth at his game he went and developed the plate, took a print and went to Swami Samarth asking his opinion about it. Swami Samarth without looking tossed it at one of the servers who looked at it exclaimed, “What a wonderful photograph of Shri Rama!” Swami Samarth then took the photo and gave it to another server who looked at it and exclaimed that he had seen for the first time such a beautiful picture of Ambabai. Swami Samarth then showed the photograph to others but nobody said that the photograph was that of Swami Samarth. Finally the photographer said, "Maharaj, the photograph is yours." Swami Samarth exclaimed, "What? Is this my picture?" and gave the picture back to photographer who when he looked at it found it to be that of a monkey. Now everybody began making fun of him.
The photographer now realized his mistake in taking the photograph without Swami Samarth's permission. He begged his pardon and said, “Maharaj, in order that your picture should be in every house and because our business also should get the backing of such a great personality as yourself we need a beautiful picture of yours. Kindly give me permission.”
Once the photographer showed his repentance and requested humbly for permission Swami Samarth was no longer displeased. He said OK and allowed him to take his photograph.
In later years also photographs would come out properly only if Swami Samarth consented otherwise they would be just black. Once, a photographer by name Phadke who wanted to photograph Swami Samarth came to Akkalkot. He was asked by Swami Samarth to come at five in the evening. Phadke came at five but Swami Samarth, instead of sitting for the photograph gave his Hukka to him to hold and continued smoking up to seven o’clock when it was quite dark. Then he asked Phadke to take his photograph. When Phadke told him it was too dark Swami Samarth laughed and asked him to go and develop the photographic plate. And the surprising this is that even when photograph was not taken the plate showed a beautiful photograph.
Swami Samarth took samadhi on the 30th April 1878. It was a Tuesday and the thirteenth day of Chaitra dark fortnight. Swami Samarth had been giving hints of his leaving the body since about a year earlier. Once he asked Balappa, “I have to go very high. Will you come with me to serve me permanently?” Balappa was shocked and in reply only bowed to him. After Cholappa's death Swami Samarth had begun thinking of his own samadhi. He also started showing other indications of his departure through bad omens such as overturning the Arati lamp. Sometime later he stopped sleeping on his cot and ordered it to be tied to the tree.
A few days earlier to the samadhi he went and stayed for a few days in a Math called Jangam's Math belonging to the Lingayat community. This community worships Shivalinga as symbol of Shiva. Their priest is called a Jangam. There is a large Shivlinga in the Math. On the fourth day he asked Bavadekar Puranik and other servers to bring some five hundred dry cow-dung cakes and piling them on the Shivlinga set them on fire. He poured five kilograms of ghee, five kilograms of sugar, dry dates, rice, fruits, garlands etc. as used in a Homa (Havan) ritual (fire sacrifice). The Lingayat community made a lot of hue and cry fearing that the Shivlinga would be cracked and marched to Swami Samarth in protest but his effulgent personality restrained them. Next morning he ordered the ashes to be removed from the Shivlinga. When this was done and the Shivalinga was washed with lots of water everyone was surprised to find that it was brighter than before.
Some days later Swami Samarth came to the house of one Tatya Subhedar followed by his disciples. There was a heavy stone pot lying nearby which he ordered to be thrown into the lake near the Murlidhar temple. While the pot was being thrown in Swami Samarth himself went into the lake in knee-deep water. As soon as the pot was thrown in and sank he started saying, “Cry, people! Shout people!”
A week earlier to samadhi he started singing a bhajan of Lord Shiva which the servers heard from him for the first time. While he was at Subhedar's house he got an attack of diarrhoea but next day he felt better and decided to go to a place called Naganhalli. He was taken there in a palanquin. He rested there for four days but again his condition started deteriorating. He then came back to Akkalkot and rested under his favourite banyan tree. Again on the fated Tuesday his condition deteriorated but his daily routines like bath etc. went on as usual. He had already stopped eating, which worried his attendants but nobody dared tell him to eat. Finally they called Sunderabai who somehow managed to feed him two spoonfuls of rice water. She asked when he will be all right. He replied that he now has to enter the stones. Others also got similar answers. His attendants then stood round him and asked with wet eyes, “Maharaj, what should we do in future?” Swami Samarth asked Shripadbhat, son-in-law of Cholappa to dig the roots of the banyan tree. To Ganpatrao, a server, he asked to remain in the temple. To Balappa he asked to sit in the shadow of the oudumber tree. To others he told that they should behave as their elders were behaving. Then he recited the twenty-second Shloka from the ninth chapter of Gita.
But as for men who worship Me,
Thinking of Me alone and none other,
To them ever absorbed in Me,
I grant Yoga and eternal happiness.
The attending devotees asked Swami Samarth about any rituals he would like to be performed. He instructed that abhisheka (continuous pouring of water or sometimes milk) should be done on the Shivalinga near the well. Swami Samarth used to keep a cow. The cow and its calf used to be tied at Cholappa's house. He asked them to be brought to him. Somebody went there and set the cow free. The miraculous thing that happened was that the cow came by herself straight to Swami Samarth and circumambulated (pradakshina) him. She then ate the food set for her and went back to Cholappa's house. He asked whether Saturn was in Pisces and informing that his moon sign (Rashi) was Pisces.
The day before samadhi he called for his shawl and asked it to be washed in the well and then gave it to a shastri named Ramshastri Avadhani.
The Mamaledar Mr. Baburao Moghe asked Swami Samarth what he should do with the things left behind and whether anything should be given to any particular person. He was told that not even a rag or loincloth belongs to him then how can he give anything to anybody?
Some months earlier Swami Samarth had asked his bed and other possessions to be burnt in a dry well at a place called Shahaganj and finally he had removed his loincloth and burnt it in the well. But the servers managed to salvage some belongings off Swami Samarth without his knowledge.
Mr. Moghe had been urging Swami Samarth that it was cold under the banyan tree and he should go inside the house. But Swami Samarth refused to go saying that in future he has to live only under the tree.
Swami Samarth was conscious and talking normally up to the last moment. Respecting everybody's wish he took some liquid rice. The servers dried his face with a cloth. He even ate the betelnut given by Balappa. Smile always adorned his face. Then he asked Shripadbhat to make him sit up from the lying position. After this was done Swami Samarth sat in Lotus posture (Padmasan) and in a moment he left his body permanently at five-thirty in the evening. Everybody burst into tears and started crying, “Maharaj! Maharaj!” The news spread and everybody in the town rushed to have a last look at Swami Samarth.
People controlled their grief after sometime. It was now necessary to make further arrangements. The earlier plan was to make the samadhi structure under the banyan tree where Swami Samarth had left his body. But a very senior officer of Akkalkot administration who had a liking for Cholappa decided to make the structure near Cholappa’s house. According to the changed plans an “Aeroplane" was fabricated and the body of Swami Samarth was laid in it on a bed of flowers. Musicians came with their shehnai, drums etc. and started playing them. After the rituals of puja, arati etc. as befitted the passing away of a great yogi were over, the "aeroplane" was brought out in procession and was taken to Cholappa's house where the place for the samadhi had already been prepared. The chief administrator Nanasaheb Barve and the Mamaledar Mr. Baburao Moghe kept the body of Swami Samarth in the place marked for the samadhi. Swami Samarth was still in the Padmasana position as the bodies of yogis are kept. The smile was still there on his face. The door of the samadhi was then closed.
Swami Samarth may have left his body but his work of helping devotees continues. Everywhere you will find people who will vouch that their desires were fulfilled and their problems solved when they prayed to Swami Samarth. There are cases when Swami Samarth initiated disciples through dreams. There are also occasions when he actually appeared in person and gave his Padukas for worship. A well documented instance by Dr. V. M. Bhat mentions the following incident in his book in Marathi "Yogasiddhi and Ishwarsakshatkar" (also published in English by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. But the following is based on the Marathi version.)
Dr. Bhat developed heart ailment in 1944 and around this time he had a vision of Swami Samarth in his dream. He was saved from the heart attack and for the next eight years he enjoyed good health. In 1952 he again had heart problem and he settled in Pune after retiring from his profession. During that year he suffered chest pains eight times. One day, Dr. Godbole, Professor of Geology in the College of Engineering, Pune, an acquaintance, came to him one afternoon. He was a devotee of Padgaonkar Maharaj, a disciple of Swami Samarth. He asked Dr. Bhat whether he had heart trouble. There was no reason why Prof. Godbole should have known about it. Dr. Bhat answered in the affirmative. He then asked what the relation between him and Swami Samarth was. Dr. Bhat replied that their only contact was in a dream. Prof. Godbole then wondered why Swami Samarth should have been worrying about him. He then explained that the previous night Swami Samarth had appeared in his dream and told him that Bhat was having heart trouble and that he should tell him to read Lalitastotra. He had therefore found out his address and had come to give him the message. Dr. Bhat was astounded because he had never rendered any service to Swami Samarth and could see no reason why Swami Samarth should have bothered about him. Prof. Godbole left saying that it was left to Dr. Bhat whether to read the Lalitastotra or not and that he would get the book automatically. And he did get the book automatically without searching for it and his heart problems were ameliorated.
A large number of anecdotes of personal experiences of people who prayed to Swami Samarth in their time of difficulty and had their problems solved are published in magazines like "Akkalkot Swami Darshan" and one is amazed at the compassion continued to be shown even more than a century after the samadhi.
Except for those to whom Swami Samarth has appeared in dreams or visions most of us know his personality only through photographs, paintings and biographical books. The sharp eyes which look through you, the amused smile which is a mixture of kindness and of humour, the huge frame, the brightness which envelops the whole photograph or picture, all these have no parallel. Following description of his appearance has been given by Mr. Belsare:
Swami Samarth was more than six feet tall, with large stomach, broad shoulders and hands reaching below the knees like Arjuna. His skin was wheat complexioned, reddish and bright. He had large ears and the lobes used to move with his every movement. His face was broad with straight nose and large forehead. His eyebrows were white. His body appeared to be delicate like a rose, and had the marks of age but his enthusiasm was better than a youth's.”
He used to be in a state of "Pishacchavritti" which has no exact English equivalent but can be broadly described as that of a deranged or a possessed person. The daily routine of a sanyasi is generally to get up early and perform the spiritual routine like Japa, Dhyan etc., but Swami Samarth did not do anything like that. His routines like bath, meals etc. were completely handled by his servers. They too could make him do these only if he so desired. Sometimes he would take bath twice in a day and sometimes did not bother about it for a week. He used to go where it pleased him, be it a cremation ground or the royal palace. His mood could change suddenly and it was a real test for the perseverance of the people who served him. He would remain in playful or angry mood for days at a time.
Swami Samarth never observed the rules of touchability or purity prevalent at that time. In fact he tried his best to remove such ideas from devotees’ minds as can be seen from a few incidences. E.g. Balappa was made to drink water from a house under mourning period and the two devotees from Bombay, Govindji and the Kanauji Brahmin were made to offer food to a Muslim fakir and the dog and eat the remains. (See next Part V-B). Swami Samarth used to become angry if anybody and especially hypocrites raised these issues, and punished them by not eating with them or refusing to accept their food. He also was against any orthodox preaching. He used to quote from Vedas and also from compositions in Hindi and Marathi.
Once, while Swami Samarth was at a nearby village Naldurg, a Puranic gave a discourse in which he stressed the necessity for having a son. He stressed that it is a son that gives access to heaven and without a son there is no future after death. Swami Samarth became angry for preaching this and questioned him whether the great people like Narada, Vyasa, Vamadeva had sons. He also asked whether the Puranic himself had a son. If a son can give moksha to his father then even dogs and pigs would achieve moksha. On the other hand the sins which a father has to commit to support up the son would actually go to hell. The Puranic of course surrendered to Swami Samarth and later had a son too.
Unfortunately, the traditions run deep. In spite of these teachings even great disciples like Vamanbuva Vamorikar continued their preaching of the orthodox practice of untouchability and the caste restrictions as can be seen from his Guruleelamrit which is full of such orthodox teachings. For example, Vamanbuva says in the twenty-second chapter (ovi 53 onwards) that a Guru should not be of another caste and should be learned in the Vedas etc., generally implying that he should be a Brahmin. In this he forgot that Tukaram, a Vaishya was a Guru of Rameshwar who was a Brahmin. A good number of disciples of Swami Samarth (e.g. Swamisut and Ananda Bharati) were not Brahmins. In fact one need not belong to any particular caste to be devotee. As said in Dnyaneshwari, “Once a seeker's mind is filled with devotion to Me then his earlier life history is erased. As long as a person does not attain Me there are differences like Kshatriya, Vaishya, woman, Shudra, untouchable etc. But once they attain Me completely all these differences of caste and gender vanish. (9:456-461)”
His kindness extended even to trees and inanimate things, a sign of a person who sees Brahman in everything. He used to caress trees and stones and ask them what they wanted.
More than a thousand persons used to visit him daily. He could read other's thoughts and often used to answer questions even before they were asked. He used to speak in broken Hindi or Marathi and what he said had to be interpreted by the servers who had acquired that skill. His visitors included people from all religions. He was as much drawn to Muslims as to Hindus. He often used to visit the Pirs and Dargas (tombs of Muslim saints) and stay there for a long time.
Spiritually charged gown I should narrate a personal experience of mine: Some years ago a gown worn by Swami Samarth had come for repairs to my friend Mr Zankar. Mr Zankar is in the tailoring business and used to look after the dresses used at the Shankar Maharaj Samadhi in Pune. Mr Zankar gave me the folded dress to hold it in my hands. The gown was huge, with a circumference of 72 inches indicating what a huge person Swami Samarth was. My pleasant experience which I can never forget was that as soon as I held the ochre coloured gown in my hands my eyes became heavy and started closing. I nearly went into a trance from which it was difficult to come out. It was amazing to note that this power had continued to remain in the gown even more than a century later. I cannot even imagine what the visitors must have felt when Swami Samarth was in his body and touched them.
· There should be no doubts in devotion. God is hungry for your love and devotion.
· One should not even glance at the face of a lazy person. Everyone should work hard and earn his living. God helps those who go on trying.
· One should sincerely do ones duties and remember Swami Samarth.
· It is preferable to be devoted to a Guru than worship stone idols.
· Before bragging about one's learning one should examine how pure one's heart is.
· Also instead of observing outward cleanliness to an extreme be devoted with pure mind.
· To attain liberation do actions without desire for fruits.
· Be shameless when you are Guru's company. Never think that any work given by Guru is small and unimportant.
· Make every moment in life useful without wasting your time.
· He who is righteous wins.
· A sadhu is one by seeing whom one's sins are washed and one acquires merit.
· The karmas one is born with must be annulled only by experiencing their effects.
Swami Samarth spread spirituality network through his disciples about whom we shall read in the next chapter. His biography would remain incomplete without the account of these disciples.
About Akkalkot Akkalkot is located very near Solapur which is about 5 hours road journey from Pune and about 8-9 hrs from Mumbai. There are regular buses to Solapr and Akkalkot from many major towns in Maharashtra. Solapur is a major railway station on Mumbai-Pune-Chennai route. Main temple is at the Banyan tree where Swami Samarth used to sit. There is Dharamshala (Place for pilgrims to stay and some minor hotels. Free meals are given to all pilgrims as Prasad in the afternoon every day. Cholappa Math where the body of Swami Samarth rests is in the town slightly away from the temple. It is managed by the descendants of Cholappa who live in the adjacent house. Many of the articles e.g. the large vessel in which water for Swami’s bath used to be heated may be seen in the house. The well from which water used to be drawn also is still there in use. One can perform puja, abhisheka etc. here under the priesthood of the descendents who are very hospitable. There are other maths there e.g. Balappa math.
Offered at the feet of my Guru Shri Shankar Maharaj.
Shri Swami Samarth (Kelkarbuwa Bakhar) by R. C. Dhere (Ed), Anamol Prakashan,
Pune 411002 (1975) (In Marathi)
Akkalkotnivasi Shri Swami Samarth by Shripadhastri Kinjavadekar (In Marathi)
pub. by Anamol Prakashan, Pune.
Shri Swami Samarth V.K.Phadke (In Marathi)
Swami Samarth: Glimpse of Divinity by Hanumante M.M. pub by Akkalkot
Swami Samarth Foundation, VA USA.
Shri Swami Samarth Mr. Ganesh Mulekar (In Marathi)
© Copyright: Dr V.V.Shirvaikar Email: email@example.com
Uploaded first OCTOBER XX, 2009 Last update: 17.Jun.2010
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