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Dr V.V.Shirvaikar


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CONTENTS: Balappa · Swamisut ·  Narasimha Saraswati Of Alandi · Ramanand Bidkar · Muslim Jamadar Of Maindargi · Gopalbuva Kelkar · Vamanbuva Brahmachari · Krishna Saraswati · Sitaram Maharaj · Ananda Bharati · Anandanath Maharaj · Shri Shankar Maharaj


Swami Samarth had many disciples.  They came from all strata of the society and some were not even Hindus.  This is typical of Dattatreya tradition (and also Nath Sect), for many Muslims do worship Shri Dattatreya even if such worship is against their religion. In fact a few of them revere many other deities too. Perhaps it is only Christians that do not take any cognizance of the traditional Indian deities.

A chosen few of the disciples were given Padukas and were instructed to establish Maths from where they were to continue spiritual work and help people. Among the well-known disciples were Cholappa, Balappa, Shri Deo Mamaledar (Nasik), Shri Sitaram Maharaj (Mangalwedhe), Rangolibuva (Malwan), Shri Anandanath Maharaj (Vengurla), Shri Nanaji Rekhi (Nagar), Shri Krishna Saraswati of Kumbhargalli at Kolhapur, Narasimha Saraswati of Alandi, Swamisut and his brother Sachitanand Swamikumar (Mumbai), Vamanbuva Vamorikar (Baroda), Gopalbuva Kelkar (Chiplun), Shri Shankar Maharaj (Pune), Ramanand Bidkar (Pune), the Muslim Jamadar of Maindargi and many more.  Readers have already read about Cholappa in the earlier chapter.   In this chapter we shall see the biographies of some prominent disciples of Swami Samarth.


Balappa hailed from Haveri in Dharwad district in north Karnataka. He was a Brahmin by caste but a jeweller and moneylender by profession which made him a millionaire.  With all the wealth at his disposal however he suddenly developed a detachment for worldly things and left his home in search of a Guru at the age of thirty. A few days later he reached Ganagapur where Nirgun (attributeless) Padukas of Shri Narasimha Saraswati have been installed.

At Ganagapur Balappa utilized his time very ardently in spiritual rituals (Anushthan) and worshipped the Padukas surviving on alms. After two months of such austere practice he had a dream in which a Brahmin came and instructed him to go to Akkalkot and serve Shri Swami Samarth. At the same time he also found a note under his pillow telling him not to hurry. His attitude towards the world slowly changed and he began to see God in everything. One day he saw a scorpion under his dress but due to his changed outlook he let the dangerous creature go unharmed. The same night Swami Samarth came in his dream in digambar (without clothes) state. Next day when he had gone for alms he received good food from everybody. Taking this to be a good omen Balappa left for Akkalkot and arrived there on Ramnavami (Rama’s birthday) day. Purchasing a little candy sugar as an offering he went in search of Swami Samarth and found him in the royal garden. Seeing the same form he had seen in the dream he ran to Swami Samarth and grasped his feet. Swami Samarth was also so happy by this meeting with his new disciple that he began embracing the trees nearby. People realized that Balappa was some special person.

Balappa camped himself in the Muralidhar temple in Akkalkot. He used to meet Swami Samarth daily. Now, it was Swami Samarth’s custom to give part of the offerings given him by the devotees as prasad to everybody but he never gave any of it to Balappa, much to his chagrin. Balappa did not know at that time that Swami Samarth never gave prasad to those whom he retained in his service.

Some days later Balappa started bleeding from his navel and a small piece of poison came out. Somebody had poisoned Balappa three years earlier through food but due to powers of Swami Samarth nothing had happened to him during all these years and now once more with his grace Balappa was rid of the poison.

At this time all the arrangements for serving Swami Samarth were in the hands of Sunderabai.  Balappa managed to get an opportunity to serve Swami Samarth through her.  Initially she gave him the menial task of cleaning the spittoon and the wash bowl, a task which Balappa performed happily. But Swami Samarth still would not give him prasad. Finally one day Swami Samarth took out a piece of candy sugar from his mouth and gave it to Balappa.  Afraid that Swami Samarth would take it back Balappa ate it quickly and Swami Samarth had a good laugh at Balappa’s action.

Balappa used to be very much obsessed about cleanliness, untouchability etc., exactly opposite to what Swami Samarth used to be.  To cure him of this Swami Samarth asked him one day to bring water from a house which was temporarily considered as impure due to a death in the family. Swami Samarth used to treat Balappa with great respect. Only once did he slap him hard on his back when he had bent for making his obeisance but that was instrumental in clearing all the doubts in Balappa's mind and his sadhana became steady. Swami Samarth intended to make him his successor. 

Other servers, especially Sunderabai became very jealous of the affection shown by Swami Samarth towards Balappa and started to give him trouble. The jealousy went to such an extent that Balappa began thinking of leaving Akkalkot. But Swami Samarth prevented him giving Balappa a seat asking him in a dream to move to a Maruti temple for practicing a special mantra. Now Balappa spent almost all his time in this exercise. After this was over Balappa again went to serve Swami Samarth. In order that he should be awake when Swami Samarth woke up he used to tie his own shikha (hair-tuft) to that of Swami Samarth before going to sleep.

Some days before leaving the body, Swami Samarth called Balappa and put his ring engraved with letters “Swami Samarth” in his finger, kept his blessing hand on his head and said, "I am now giving you my seal. Make use of it as long as sun and moon exist."  He also put the rudraksha bead from his own neck in Balappa's and also put his own clothes on Balappa's body. He gave a banner and his personal Padukas and asked Balappa to install them in a Math. Finally Swami Samarth said, “Sit in the shadow of the oudumber tree."

Balappa did as he was told. He built a Math and installed the Padukas therein. It is now known as Balappa Math. He lived for thirty-two years after Swami Samarth took samadhi.




The spiritual life of Swamisut (literally it means son of Swami) is unparalleled in terms of love and sacrifice. His real name was Haribhau Tawade and was Maratha by caste. He had eight brothers and four sisters. Originally from a place called Itia in Ratnagiri district in Konkan region of Maharashtra, Haribhau came to Mumbai at the age of eight for his education. He studied English and got a job in Bombay Municipality. Four or five years later certain events brought him into contact with Swami Samarth. What changed his life completely was when Swami Samarth told him "You are my son.”

There was a rich pious person in Mumbai by name Madhavji Govindji who went on a pilgrimage. He took a Kanauji Brahmin with him for assistance during the travels. In due course they reached Ganagapur where they served Shri Dattatreya through fasting and worship. One day he was instructed in a dream by Shri Dattatreya that his avatar was at Akkalkot and his desires would be fulfilled there. Govindji then went with the Kanauji Brahmin to Akkalkot where both began to serve Swami Samarth. The Brahmin would cook food and both would make an offering of it to Swami Samarth daily. One day, when they came with the offering of food, Swami Samarth said loudly in Hindi (he used to speak very often in Hindi), "Go. There is a fakir and his dog in the mosque on the outskirts of the town. Feed the food to them."

Both took the food to the mosque as instructed and returned to Swami Samarth with some uneaten food consisting of Vada and Kheer. Swami Samarth instructed the two to eat the food. Govindji had hesitation in his mind since, according to the tradition of those times the food, having been touched by a non-Hindu fakir was considered as impure.  He did not eat it but the Kanauji Brahmin did so piously. Swami Samarth was angry at Govindji and told him that his devotion was not yet perfect. He gave him Padukas and asked him to worship them. But to the Kanauji Brahmin he said, "Go. You will get ten thousand rupees in Mumbai."

Govindji returned to Mumbai and did as he was instructed. But the Brahmin was now obsessed with the ten thousand rupees mentioned by Swami Samarth. He would go and pick papers thrown around examining to see whether they were currency notes. One morning he was called by a rich widow from a bungalow and was handed over a bundle of notes worth ten thousand rupees. She was the widow of a rich Bhatia businessman who had recently died. She had decided to give an amount of Rupees ten thousand as secret charity to the first Brahmin she would meet that morning. The Kanauji Brahmin was the lucky person whom she met first that morning and thus the blessings of Swami Samarth yielded fruits.

Now, this miraculous story came to the ears of a priest named Lakshman Pandit who was in the service of Govindji. Lakshman Pandit had indulged in some trade which caused losses which led to some outstanding loans.  He prayed to Swami Samarth saying that if the loans were met within a week he would visit Akkalkot immediately and meet Swami Samarth. Now it so happened that Haribhau and his friend Gajanan Khatri had also suffered a loss in some speculative business and were burdened with loans. They came for help to Pandit who agreed to undertake the payment. Now Pandit was in more trouble but miraculously due to some changes in market conditions Pandit made a profit of two thousand rupees and settled his loans.  As per the vow he had made he planned to go to Akkalkot. He told both Haribhau and Khatri about it and they also felt a strong desire to meet Swami Samarth. All three took a vow that unless they met Swami Samarth they would not eat and so they came to Akkalkot.

When they reached Akkalkot Swami Samarth was in the royal palace. He just had his meals and was lying down on the bed. Cholappa's son-in-law came out of the palace to see if there were any people desirous of meeting Swami Samarth and seeing these three took them in. On the way they met Cholappa who was returning with the dish from which Swami Samarth had eaten and there was still some uneaten food left in it. Haribhau requested that if the food was left by Swami Samarth he would like to eat it. Seeing his devotion Cholappa gave the food to Haribhau who ate it with joy and they resumed their walk towards where Swami Samarth was resting. When he saw Swami Samarth his inner emotions surged up.

As soon as they came to Swami Samarth he said in Hindi, “Business was done and there was a loss. They prayed and there was a profit. ** ** ** **." The three realized the mind reading power of Swami Samarth.

During the next visit Swami Samarth looked at Pandit and said, “You tie a turban on your head."   To Khatri he said, “Go to market and tie a dhoti on your head."  But as regards Haribhau he pulled him near and said, "Leave your family and become my son. And bring white-white to me." After asking Swami Samarth what the "white-white" was he understood it to be Padukas made of silver. Next day he prepared the dishes of Swami Samarth's liking and made its offering to him. The three then returned to Mumbai.

Haribhau suddenly developed a dislike for worldly life. The image of Swami Samarth continuously occupied his mind. He got silver Padukas made and came with them to Akkalkot. After keeping his head on Swami Samarth’s feet he gave the padukas to him. Swami Samarth wore the padukas continuously for fourteen days. Other servers tried a lot to take possession of the padukas but Swami Samarth did not part with them saying they were his personal linga. On the fifteenth day he called Haribhau, held his hand and said, "Leave your service, business and become my son and building a fort near the sea raise my banner." He then asked Haribhau to do three push-ups and touching all parts of his body with the padukas asked him to install them in the fort (meaning a Math.)

A strange incident had occurred a few days earlier. At midnight when everybody was asleep Swami Samarth suddenly got up and taking a stick went to a tree and said loudly, "Get out from here. My Balagovind (Little Krishna or Hari) is sleeping below.” When he repeated it three times, the tree shook and a bright ball of light left the tree. A little later Haribhau woke up, went to Swami Samarth and started massaging his feet. For a long time they were talking confidentially. Later Swami Samarth took some clothes including a gown from near his pillow and gave them to Haribhau saying, "Get your family possessions looted." With a happy mind Haribhau returned next day to Mumbai wearing ochre clothes and clasping the padukas to his bosom.  

Once in Mumbai he gave away all his possessions. He sold the 84 tolas of gold (nearly 900 gms) he possessed and donated the money in charity to Brahmins. He sold even the golden bead in his wife the sacred Mangalsutra, the sign of marriage and a living husband worn by Hindu women. His wife cried and cried but Haribhau, now called Swamisut did as he was instructed by his Guru Swami Samarth.

Haribhau’s only possessions now were a white sari for his wife and a gown for himself and of course the priceless padukas. He established a Math in Kamathipura in Mumbai and was completely engrossed in singing praises of Swami Samarth. He sang well and with feelings and often forgot himself while doing it. His singing used to attract large crowds. People of all castes came to him and their number increased enormously. In 1871 he started celebrating the birthday (manifestation day) of Swami Samarth on the day after Gudi Padwa. People who visited the Math now were finding that their problems were getting solved. This created and increased a sense of devotion among the people. This was the time when Maths were established in many other locations in Maharashtra, among them Vasai, Thane, Pune, Nagar, Ratnagiri and Chiplun.

Three or four years later, during one of the visits to Akkalkot, Swami Samarth mentioned to Swamisut that he was going to take samadhi very soon. This seemed to drain the strength out of Swamisut who could not bear the idea of Swami Samarth leaving this world earlier to himself. He returned to Mumbai in a hopeless state of mind and fell ill. Swami Samarth tried to call him back to Akkalkot and even sent messengers to bring him but he did not come. He left his body on the first day of dark fortnight of Shravan (fifth month). This was a great blow to the devotees who thronged to the Math at Mumbai.

Telegram was sent to Akkalkot regarding this sad event but Swami Samarth already knew about it. He fell down from the bed to the ground and sat with the head in his hands. Kakubai, mother of Swamisut was near Swami Samarth at that time. She cried and cried but Swami Samarth somehow managed to console her by telling, “I am your son. Do not cry, he has been sent to a good place."

Swami Samarth handed over the workings of the Swamisut Math at Mumbai to Babu, a younger brother of Swamisut. That another son was also going the way of the first was a blow to Kakubai who cried hoarse but Swami Samarth was adamant. He called Babu, made him sit on his lap and told him that he was no longer the son of Kakubai but his own son and named him Sacchitanand Swamikumar. In the course of time the management of the Math went to his paternal aunt in the Nalawade family. The Math was moved to Kandewadi in Girgaon and then to Chembur, a suburb of Mumbai in 1915. It is a quiet place exuding peace.  


There used to be a yogi known as Vithalbua in Pandharpur. He had some doubts regarding yoga techniques and decided to approach Shri Swami Samarth to get them cleared.

Swami Samarth who was at that time camping  in the royal palace and knew by his powers that Vithalbua was coming, asked the king to spread a deerskin amidst the passage indicating  that a great yogi was coming.  Vithalbua reached the palace in the afternoon. As soon as he came Swami Samarth recited a shloka from the Yogashastra related to the penetration of the Adnyachakra (located in between the eyebrows) by the Kundalini in the yoga technique. Vithalbua at once went into a state of samadhi which lasted for nearly two hours. While he was in this mindless state of bliss Swami Samarth glanced at him and brought him out of that state into the normal world. He then instructed him to go to Alandi.  He later became a sanyasi and took the name of Narasimha Saraswati. Having settled in Alandi he was known as Narasimha Saraswati of Alandi.

Narasimha Saraswati of Alandi has been a shining light in the spiritual field. He was a learned scholar and an accomplished yogi with Siddhis (occult powers) at his command. He used to spend much of his time immersed in the state of bliss of samadhi.

When he came to Alandi he found that the local Brahmins were wasting their time in singing erotic lavani songs (which are sung during the folk theatre performances) instead of in spiritual matters. He realized that they would not listen to his advice therefore he tried a trick on them. He created sweets using his Siddhis and told them that if they sang abhangs (verses) of Saint Dnyaneshwar he would give them the sweets. The Brahmins fell for this trick and slowly came out of the habit of singing erotic songs and started singing devotional songs.

He had got fabricated a heavy chariot for carrying the idol of Vithoba (Shrikrishna) during the annual festivals. It was so heavy that even the strongest could not pull it. During one of such festivals when the strong men could not pull the chariot they came to Narasimha Saraswati. He was at that time in a state of samadhi. Half-conscious, he said, "Oh Lord, you drove my chariot in the past birth and now you are asking me to do the same for you?" Saying this he quickly came to the chariot and sat on it and now the chariot moved. This proved that Narasimha Saraswati was a reincarnation of Arjuna.

Once when he had gone to meet Swami Samarth the latter remarked to him, "You have not yet given up the “Randi”?" Randi colloquially means a prostitute and what Swami Samarth referred to was the Siddhis which can make a yogi go astray from his spiritual path. Narasimha Saraswati replied that efforts are going on but it will require his blessings for success.

Narasimha Saraswati lived in Alandi for about twelve years. His Math is within walking distance of the Saint Dnyaneshwar Samadhi and a lot of spiritual activities go on there.




Ramanand Bidkar was born in a Brahmin family in 1838. His father died when he was a child. He was attracted towards spiritual path from childhood. He had performed pilgrimage of places like Pandharpur and Saptashringi in quite a young age. After marriage he started a business of jewellery and of perfumes and he became an acknowledged expert in both. Somehow he also developed an obsession for alchemy in which he is said to have succeeded. His business was successful and he became rich. But he fell into wrong company and was even involved with women. In the course of time however he started debating to himself about the choice between the temporary pleasures and permanent bliss. One day he met a Sadhu (ascetic) who remarked in presence of others that Bidkar spent his time in pleasure and would never be able to follow the spiritual path. This was a challenge to Bidkar which he accepted. He began praying to his family deity Hanuman and performed fasts and other austerities. Very soon Hanuman instructed him in a vision to go to Akkalkot. 

When Bidkar reached Akkalkot Swami Samarth was in the royal palace. The servers told him that meeting Swami Samarth was not possible. But Bidkar was determined to see Swami Samarth and vowed that he would not eat unless he saw Swami Samarth. Two nights passed and Swami Samarth sensed the longing of his devotee. He himself came to meet Bidkar by jumping over the palace wall. Bidkar at once kept his head on Swami Samarth's feet. Swami Samarth asked in Hindi why he was bowing. Bidkar replied that the foundation must be strong. Swami Samarth then pointed to the deerskin hanging on the wall. Bidkar did not clearly understand what he meant and said that he (i.e. Bidkar) was ignorant. On this Swami Samarth abused Bidkar left and right. Bidkar then came near Swami Samarth and said that he had come to the feet of Swami Samarth and now it was left to his pleasure to give guidance or not. He also added that even his abuses were like poetry to him. After some time the abuses stopped and Swami Samarth said, "Now get out of here, your work is done."  Bidkar prostrated before Swami Samarth and returned to Pune. He had received initiation by Shaktipat technique in which a Guru awakens his disciple's Kundalini using his own powers. Bidkar continued his japa (recitation of the Mantra given by the Guru) for a year after which he again went to Akkalkot where Swami Samarth told him symbolically that matters are coming to a maturity. Next year he went to Swami Samarth with the intention of serving him for a long time.

One night Bidkar was massaging the feet of Swami Samarth. That night Swami Samarth would not ask him to stop even after it was past midnight. But Bidkar was happy at this opportunity to serve Swami Samarth. At dawn a terrible cobra came from in between the legs of Swami Samarth and raising its hood started making sounds at Bidkar but Bidkar did not get frightened. He continued massaging Swami Samarth's feet. This was really a test for the depth of sincerity for Bidkar and he passed it.  Swami Samarth suddenly stood up and in mock anger said, "You are a big jinn demon." and slapped Bidkar very hard knocking him down unconscious. A disciple named Sadanand lifted Bidkar and took him to his own room. Bidkar regained consciousness next morning and now he was in a state of bliss.

When Bidkar went to meet Swami Samarth in the morning he asked, "What do I owe to you now?"  He then instructed him to feed a thousand people. Bidkar returned to Pune to arrange for money. He returned to Akkalkot and gave meals to a thousand people as instructed.  Swami Samarth laughed and said, "You have given me meals but what Guru-Dakshina are you going to give me? Will you give me plenty?" (Guru-Dakshina is the offering to the Guru given after the learning is over). Bidkar folded his hands and humbly stood before him. Swami Samarth said, "My child, you will not be able to give me Guru-Dakshina I ask. Give me your promise." Bidkar gave the promise by keeping his hand on Swami Samarth's hand. What Swami Samarth then asked was for Bidkar to stop his alchemy practice. And Bidkar did so.

Next time Bidkar went to Akkalkot he was instructed not to come to Akkalkot again and to circumambulate River Narmada. Many pilgrims undertake this task but it is an arduous and also dangerous one. Certain rules are to be observed like not to enter into more than knee-deep waters, not to go too far from the river bank and to drink plenty of Narmada water every day. It is dangerous because one has to go through thick forest and often tigers and other wild animals are encountered. Local aborigines also can loot and even kill a pilgrim.

The news that Swami Samarth had taken samadhi reached Bidkar during this pilgrimage when he was at a place called Maheshwar. He cried but the same night Swami Samarth came in his dream and told him, "I have not gone. I still live." Bidkar was immensely consoled by this.

After returning from this pilgrimage he went to many other centres of pilgrimage and on returning to Pune established his Math known as Bidkar Maharaj Math, near Omkareshwar. He passed away in 1913. He left behind many disciples, a very famous disciple being Raosaheb Sahasrabudhe who also has his samadhi in Pune.


There was a Jamadar (a post similar to a sergeant) in the service of the Akkalkot state whose duty was to guard prisoners. This Jamadar was a resident of the village Maindargi near Akkalkot. One day, after all the prisoners were brought back to the prison at the end of the day’s work, the Jamadar found that there was one prisoner missing. The Jamadar was due to retire from service shortly and this calamity would have made him not only to lose his pension but it was also likely he would have been arrested for dereliction of duty. He started praying in his mind to Swami Samarth. Visualizing him in his mind he vowed that if the prisoner were found then he would resign from service and spend the rest of his life in the service of Swami Samarth.

Next day a horse rider, going by a trench where the prisoners were working, saw the prisoner. He caught him and handed him over to the Jamadar. During enquiry the prisoner told that he was going to run away from his hiding place in the trench but a sanyasi was threatening him whenever he attempted to do so.

When the Jamadar heard this he wept with gratitude and immediately tendered his resignation as per his vow. He was sure that the sanyasi was none other than Swami Samarth.  He now remained only in the service of Swami Samarth. One day Swami Samarth threw his leather shoes at him and asked him to return to his village. The Jamadar returned to Maindargi, installed the shoes as padukas and began its worship with deep devotion.

Now this performance of worship is against Muslim religious customs and Jamadar was worshipping the shoes of a Hindu saint. His family and relatives opposed him and when he did not listen they threw him out of the house. But he was not deterred. He went to a deserted decrepit house and resumed his worship there. By the grace of Swami Samarth arrangements for his food also were made.

In the course of time he became well-known.  People came to him from afar to get cured and to get guidance in their difficulties. He used to give them the earth from below the padukas just as ashes are given as sign of grace. People were cured and they came out of their difficulties when they applied those ashes to their bodies. People now considered him as a Siddha (person with occult powers) and addressed him Pirsaheb. Even Brahmins began to come to him and he was not wanting in money any more. His family took him back with honour. Later he built a temple of Swami Samarth in the village where annual festivals were observed regularly. Thus an ordinary person was raised to a high spiritual level through devotion and through the grace of Swami Samarth.


His full name was Gopal Ramchandra Kelkar. He came from Korle village in RajapurTaluka in Ratnagiri District in the coastal Konkan strip of Maharashtra. Born in 1847 he studied up to the third standard in English. It was only about thirty years after the British took over the Western part of Maharashtra and there were not many people educated in English. He easily got a job as station master in the railways. He was already married by that time. While posted in Nagpur region he developed intestinal problems and his intolerable pains would not respond to any medication. On doctor's advice he left his job and returned home but that too did not help and he felt frustrated.

Gopalbuva was an atheist as many of those who had had an English education used to be in those days. But the intolerable pains forced him to pray and make a vow that "If this universe has a God and if He makes my affliction go within eight days then I will not serve anyone other than God anymore." And within eight days his affliction really reduced. Probably these are divine ways of making people come to His inner fold.

Now that his interest in God was awakened he had to find how to serve God as he had vowed. His enquiries brought out two names, Deo Mamaledar at Nashik and Swami Samarth at Akkalkot. Deo Mamaledar was living near about where Gopalbuva's brother lived and fearing that he would be prevented from his service to God he chose to go to Akkalkot. Bluffing that he was going to visit a friend he bought a ticket not for Akkalkot but for a different station so that his real destination was not traced.

He had no money to go beyond the station for which he had purchased the ticket. He went to a dharmashala (caravanserai or a rest house for pilgrims) to spend the night. At midnight a rich lady came to the dharmashala  and offered Gopalbuva a considerable sum of money but he refused saying that he needed money sufficient only to reach Akkalkot.  But the lady insisted and gave him the amount so needed. When he reached Akkalkot (in 1874) only five paise were left in his pocket. He used it to buy dry dates as an offering to Swami Samarth and went to the Banyan tree in the royal garden where Swami Samarth was resting. He stayed in Akkalkot living on alms and saw Swami Samarth every day.

Four months passed. One night, while Gopalbuva was sleeping in the house of one Deshmukh, Swami Samarth came in his dream and passing his hand over his stomach said, "I shall cure you of your disease."  When Gopalbuva woke up he went and passed a lot of urine and realized that he had now been cured. Gopalbuva wept with joy and gratitude at this demonstration of the powers of Swami Samarth.

About a month later Swami Samarth was camping at a village called Hachnal along with his servers which now included Gopalbuva. Early morning, while everybody was asleep, Gopalbuva woke up and had a strong urge to smoke a bidi (a cigaraette made by wrapping tobacco in a leaf) . There was nothing to light his bidi with so he took a piece of coir rope and held it over the oil lamp near Swami Samarth's bed. As the coir caught fire Swami Samarth sat up and Gopalbuva started shivering with fright. The coir fell from his hand. Swami Samarth stared at Gopalbuva who somehow developed courage and prayed, "Please bless this servant." Thus Gopalbuva was initiated as disciple of Swami Samarth.  He continued to stay in Akkalkot and witnessed the doings of Swami Samarth, how people visited him and received his blessings. He later wrote a collection of these experiences which is one of the authentic first hand records of events at Akkalkot.

After some time Gopalbuva’s wife, having learnt that her husband was in Akkalkot came there. She served Swami Samarth for sometime after which Swami Samarth brought the husband and wife together. He then instructed Goplabuva to go to a place called Markandi near Chiplun where one Brahmacharibuva had installed the padukas and live there with his wife worshipping them. He also gave him two coconuts and one dry date signifying that he would get two sons and a daughter.

Gopalbuva accordingly came to Markandi which used to be on the outskirts of Chiplun in a thick forest. He did as instructed by his Guru, surviving on alms for which he used to go to town every Thursday. Finally he established a Math there. Besides the diary of collection of stories about the events at Akkalkot, Gopalbuva has written many other books. He took samadhi after staying at Markandi for forty-five years.


Vamanbuva Brahmachari came from a village called Bambori or Vamori in Ahmednagar district. His real name was Vamanbuva Vaidya Vamorikar.  He was the son of Ravji Vamorikar and the youngest brother of Vishwanath Vaidya Vamorikar whom we have met in the previous Part V-A.  Both Swami Samarth and Manik Prabhu had told that Vamanbuva would rise to great spiritual heights. Since childhood itself he was devoted towards Shri Dattatreya. He was in government service for some time and later worked in a newspaper office. He used to visit many sanyasis, saints and fakirs for attaining peace of mind which eluded him. At some stage he and his mother moved to Pune.

He was once discussing spiritual matters with his friends when a Brahmin with bright aura appeared suddenly and said, "Everything is useless without the blessings of a true Guru." When Vamanbuva asked where he could find such a Guru the Brahmin told him to go to Akkalkot and meet Swami Samarth. He mentioned that Swami Samarth was an avatar of Shri Dattatreya. The Brahmin went away as suddenly as he had come.

Vamanbuva then went to Akkalkot via Solapur in 1860. In those days railway line was only up to Solapur and one had to go to Akkalkot by road, on foot or by animal driven transport. When Vamanbuva reached Akkalkot he learnt that Swami Samarth had gone to a neighbouring village called Handre and he immediately proceeded towards Handre. Swami Samarth was returning to Akkalkot at that time so Vamanbuva met him halfway itself. The first sentence Swami Samarth uttered when he saw Vamanbuva was, “You made fun of my Brahmin?" Vamanbuva then realized the powers of Swami Samarth and prostrated before him. Just then Swami Samarth said, "Serve me and you will be devoted to the Brahman. Hand over your bundle to me." Vamanbuva handed over everything he had to Swami Samarth retaining only the loincloth for his dress. Swami Samarth returned a copper vessel to him and asked him to take care of it. Now Vamanbuva became a devoted servant of Swami Samarth. He used to visit Akkalkot twice or thrice every year.

Vamanbuva once went to the temple of Saptashringi Devi at Vani near Nashik.  This holy place is a power centre (Shaktipeetha) of Devi. Out of some 150 power centres of Devi in India four are located in Maharashtra. These are: Renukadevi at Mahur, Tuljabhavani at Tuljapur, Mahalakshmi at Kolhapur and Saptashringi at Vani (This latter centre is actually called half-centre).  This place is of great importance to Nath Sect sanyasis whose initiation rituals are supposed to be performed here. After worship Vamanbuva requested the priests to give him the betel-leaf from Devi's mouth but they refused. Vamanbuva then prayed to her and the betel-leaf fell onto his hands which surprised the priests.

At Nasik he collected water from river Godavari and went to Pandharpur to bathe with it the Vithoba’s feet. When he was bathing the feet of the idol he saw Swami Samarth in place of Vithoba. Later when he went and met Swami Samarth, the latter said, "You made big noise at Saptashringi and I had to give you the betel leaf. And it was I who accepted the water from you at Pandharpur." He then said, "The pot is not fully baked. Why do you waste energy going here and there? Remain quietly in a state of bliss."  Vamanbuva realized that Swami Samarth is the formless Brahman itself taking different forms.

In 1876 Vamanbuva who was in Baroda fell seriously ill with all sorts of afflictions like dysentery, piles, rheumatism, cough, etc. but no cure was in sight. He wrote to Swami Samarth about it praying for relief but there was no reply. In a hopeless state of mind he decided to commit suicide by jumping into the lake (Sursagar lake at Baroda) but as he was about to jump somebody caught him from behind. It was Swami Samarth who slapped him hard and said, "Where are you going without settling the account of your Karmas? And you are getting angry at me? Instead of taking natural samadhi you are committing suicide by drowning?”  He then took Vamanbuva by hand and led him to his house where Vamanbuva's mother and brother had the opportunity to meet Swami Samarth. He then told Vamanbuva that he would be cured and that he should not play tricks else he would receive beating with shoes. So saying Swami Samarth vanished.

Vamanbuva has written his experiences with Swami Samarth in the well-known book Guruleelamrit.  Unfortunately, Vamanbuva has preached orthodox behaviour in the book in spite of his Guru being Swami Samarth who was against it and did not care for cast or religion but only to the spirituality.

In 1901 Vamanbuva realized that the end was near and adopted sanyas taking the name Adwaitanand. Same year, after arranging for the publication of Guruleelamrit he left his body with the name of Swami Samarth constantly in his mind. His samadhi along with the padukas given to him by Swami Samarth is at Baroda. (See remarks on Guruleelamrit in previous part V-A).




In Kolhapur there are three places of importance for Shri Dattatreya devotees. These are: the Bhikshasthan (also called Bhikshalinga), and the two maths of Shri Balamukund Saraswati and Shri Krishna Saraswati respectively. Bhikshasthan is the place where Shri Dattatreya comes for alms at midday. A minibiography of Shri Balamukund Saraswati who was a disciple of another Guru will be given a later chapter. Here we shall read about Shri Krishna Saraswati. 

Shri Krishna Saraswati was a disciple of Swami Samarth. He used to live in a Videhi state (i.e. being in body he was not aware of it). Such people are liberated even while they live. His Math is located in Kumbhar Galli (Lane) and therefore he was also known as Kumbharswami (Kumbhar means a potter).

Shri Krishna Saraswati was the son of Appabhat Joshi and Annapurna, a poor but pious couple of Nandani near Kolhapur. For many years they could not get a child.  After a lot of prayers Shri Dattatreya came in Appabhat's dream and told him that a son will be born to him and that this son will be his (i.e. Shri Dattatreya's) avatar. As per the vision Shri Krishna Saraswati was born in the year 1835.

From his horoscope astrologers had predicted that this boy would be a great spiritual person.  The boy was longing for his Guru in childhood itself and one day he came to Swami Samarth. Swami Samarth recognized him at first sight and to avoid interference from those present there he took him by hand and quickly took him to the nearby forest. There Swami Samarth sat on a stone and the boy stood before him singing his praises. But Swami Samarth stopped him saying that he was part of Swami Samarth himself and his avatar was for the spiritual advancement of people. Swami Samarth kept his hand on his head which put Shri Krishna Saraswati into samadhi that lasted for a week.  After seven days Swami Samarth lovingly fondled him and instructed him to go to Kolhapur and live in Balonmatta-Piscachavritti which means a state which is sometimes childlike, sometimes excited and sometimes deranged. So saying Swami Samarth brought Shri Krishna Saraswati back to Akkalkot.  On the day Swami Samarth returned some devotees brought rice mixed with milk as an offering.  Looking at it he asked them why they had brought it and instructed that special laddoos be brought.  They did so and Swami Samarth gave it as prasad to Shri Krishna Saraswati.

Shri Krishna Saraswati stayed in Akkalkot and served Swami Samarth for many days.  One day a Brahmin afflicted with leprosy, whom Swami Samarth was expecting, came.  The Brahmin had come from Ganagapur where he had worshipped the Nirgun Padukas of Shri Narasimha Saraswati for a very long time in the hope of getting cured of his affliction.  One day he was told in a vision that he should go to Akkalkot where his wish would be fulfilled.  When the Brahmin arrived he made obeisance to Swami Samarth with folded hands and prayed for relief.  After listening to him Swami Samarth instructed him to accompany Shri Krishna Saraswati to Kolhapur and serve him for getting cured.

In Kolhapur the Brahmin began to serve Shri Krishna Saraswati as instructed. Shri Krishna Saraswati tested his sincerity in various ways and after being fully satisfied cured him.  During his lifetime Shri Krishna Saraswati cured many people of their diseases by his spiritual powers.  Among these were also people possessed by spirits. Through these services as well as through miracles he created faith in the Almighty in the hearts of people.  He survived Swami Samarth by about twenty-two years taking samadhi in the year 1900.  With the expression of a deranged idiotic person on his face he remained in permanent inner bliss and was a “Videhi” person. 


Like Shri Krishna Saraswati, Sitaram Maharaj was also a liberated Videhi person. He used to call himself “mad Sitaram”.  His is a very strange life story. There is no record of his having an education or having worked for a living anywhere nor having touched the family life, but he was a great yogi.

He was the son of one Bapurao Subhedar who worked for his living in Satara.  Sitaram’s step-mother used to torture him. Not able to tolerate it he left home at the age of twelve and came to Akkalkot where he served Swami Samarth very sincerely.  Recognizing his sincerity, Swami Samarth kept his blessing hand on his head and from then onwards Sitaram progressed rapidly in yoga, becoming a Siddha (attaining occult powers) within six years. Swami Samarth now instructed him to go back to where he came from. Accordingly he went to Mangalwedhe.  Realizing him to be a saint and an accomplished yogi people started calling him Sitaram Maharaj.

In Mangalwedhe he lived the life of a Videhi, always in the state of divine bliss. He used to go to any house for alms and shout, “Mother, give some bread.”  He used to eat there itself whatever was given to him, drink some water and leave. He would then go and sit at the cremation ground. People who visited him found peace of mind. Sometimes he would give advice, “Always remember the name of Rama.  Do not go after empty scholarship. See God in every living and non-living thing.” He lived in Mangalwedhe for forty years. Two weeks before his samadhi he was telling everybody that “Mad Sitaram will now depart.”  His Samadhi is located at Khardi, about fifteen kilometres from Pandharpur.


Ananda Bharati, whose name before initiation by Swami Samarth was Laxman was a fisherman by profession. He used to visit Swami Samarth often and was completely devoted to him. Once, while he was fishing, his boat was caught in a storm and he was about to get drowned. But he developed courage and prayed loudly to Swami Samarth who at that time was in Akkalkot playing dice at Cholappa’s house. Swami Samarth suddenly stopped playing and shouting repeatedly “Laxman is drowning!”, he gestured as if he was pulling somebody up. To the surprise of those present, salty sea water started dripping from his hands for several minutes.

A week later Laxman came and embraced the feet of Swami Samarth.  With tears in his eyes he said, “Maharaj, you saved me or else I would have drowned. I had had enough of the worldly life. Now I am offering myself to be completely in your service alone.”  He gave up all his worldly possessions and remained in the service of Swami Samarth. His samadhi is located at Thane.


Anandnath Maharaj came from Walawal in south Konkan region of Maharashtra. He was from Walawalkar family that belongs to the Kudal Deshastha Brahmin community.  He was a trader by profession trading in Hirda, a seed of medicinal value obtained in forests.  He heard about Swami Samarth in Mumbai and felt so eager to meet him that he immediately went to Akkalkot.  After he reached there, while he was washing his feet in the pond under the famous banyan tree a twig of the tree fell on his head. He looked up and saw the brilliant form of Swami Samarth who kept his blessing hand on his head. That immediately made him completely detached from the worldly affairs.  He stayed in Akkalkot for about six years. One day Swami Samarth took out tiny Padukas from his mouth, gave them to Anandanath and instructed him to establish his Math elsewhere. These Padukas were only about a centimetre in size and were made of metal, but their peculiarity was that in spite of their small size every line on the feet of Swami Samarth was clearly imprinted on it and nobody could tell what metal they were made of.

Anandanath Maharaj established three Maths, at Yevale, at Hodavade (in Sawantwadi) and at Dhawade in Vengurla. He composed many poetical compositions on Swami Samarth. He used the Siddhis (occult powers) attained by him to mitigate the problems of those who approached him for help. He took samadhi at Vengurla in 1903.





Of all the disciples of Swami Samarth Shri Shankar Maharaj stands distinctly apart in every respect. In outside appearance he was bent physically and would speak with a lisp. He used to smoke cigarettes (particularly of Honeydew brand) and drink hard liquor, especially brandy, in any amount without any physical effects.  But he was a yogi of very high calibre and had all Siddhis and Tantras at his command.  He was an Avaliya belonging to Nath sect and other yogis referred to him as Avadhut.

Not much is known about his early life. Different versions about his birth are told. One story says a Shiva devotee Chimnaji of village Antapur near Nashik was instructed by Shiva himself in a dream to look for the child in the nearby jungle. The child who was named Shankar was found in the bushes by a childless couple.  The child showed the signs of a yogi. After the couple had their own child Shankar went away to the Himalayas. That was Shankar Maharaj.

Another version told by Maharaj himself to his disciple Dr Dhaneshwar says that he was born in a Brahmin family named Upasani in about 1800 AD at Mangalwedhe (near Pandharpur). He used to be very naughty as a boy. One day, at the age of about seven or eight, armed with bow and arrow, he entered the forest on the banks of the river Chandrabhaga towards a place called Machnur while chasing a deer. There he encountered a large Sanyasi who prevented him from shooting the deer. During this encounter the sanyasi held and fondled him. Thus Maharaj got sparshadiksha or initiation as disciple by touch by the sanyasi who was none other than Swami Samarth of Akkalkot. Maharaj stayed with him for about six months during which he gave him all knowledge and instructed him to go on pilgrimage. He went to the Himalayas where he did very hard tapas. On returning from there he spent his time with Siddha-yogis in and around Vriddheshwar (near Nagar) which is known as the centre for meditation of several Nath Siddhas in the past. He called himself as a belonging to the Nath panth. After the British took over Pune, he met a British collector who developed a faith in Maharaj and considered him as his Guru. He took Maharaj to England where he stayed for ten years teaching him the yoga path and returned after he reached perfection.

Another interesting piece of information has been told to the author (in 1995) by Mr. Madhusudan Kanhere, a 77 year old ascetic from Pune. He is also a disciple of Swami Samarth and also of late Shri Gulawani Maharaj. He is one of the few persons now living who had a close interaction with Shri Shankar Maharaj whom he met in 1946, about a year before his Samadhi. Shri Shankar Maharaj told  Mr. Kanhere, that Swami Samarth had taught him all aspects of yoga and tantras  and then only permitted him to travel over India and prepare disciples with due care. By that time Shri Shankar Maharaj was about seventy years old.  Shri Kanhere tells that the original physical stature of Shri Shankar Maharaj was that of a more than six foot tall person with bright aura. But to keep undesirable persons away he took the form of a physically deformed person. This may be true because Maharaj has given vision in that original form to his disciple Dr. Dhaneshwar (see below) and to Mr. Kanhere himself.

Maharaj is said to have told that he was known by other names elsewhere. In Gwalior region he was known as Gourishankar and took samadhi there. He once told that he had been at Raver in Khandesh region where he was known as Kunwarswami and that his samadhi temple is at a place called Waghoda where he took samadhi in 1878. (This is the also the year when his Guru Shri Swami Samarth of Akkalkot also took samadhi). The puzzling thing is that Maharaj left samadhis in these places and appeared in body as Shankar Maharaj in Maharashtra. Yet one must also remember that he was a Siddha-yogi and such feats would not have been impossible for him though it will make a common man wonder.   Maharaj himself told that he spent some time with famous singers and Pakhavaj (a two sided percussion instrument) players and became himself a talented singer and Pakhavaj player, but gave up these activities after Shri Swami Samarth told him not to waste his time in such pursuits. Shri Swami Samarth taught him various aspects of yoga and tantra system and then authorised him to have his own disciples. But chronology of these events is again lacking or confusing.

He returned to Maharashtra some time after Swami Samarth’s samadhi in 1878.   He went to Shubharaya Math in Solapur and stayed with Janardanbuva who became one of the main disciples of Maharaj.  From there he went to Triambakeshwar near Nashik where he stayed with a pleader named Rambhau Akolkar. Rambhau had a cow which was not giving milk. By his powers Maharaj made it give milk just as Shri Narasimha Saraswati and Swami Samarth had done earlier elsewhere.  From Nashik he came to Pune. We get more information about Maharaj now from his devotees who have narrated it to others or put it in writing.   

In Pune he used to live with Mama Dhekane, a poor person. Later he had wealthy disciples like Raosaheb Mehendale but he continued to stay with Dhekane quite a lot.  He instructed Taisaheb Mehendale, wife of Raosaheb to give discourses on Dnyaneshwari which Maharaj himself used to attend.  These discourses continued for 32 years until 1972.   Activities of Maharaj in Pune until Samadhi are well documented by Dnyananath or Bapu Ranade (Yogi Dnyananath), only he has recorded the samadhi date wrongly as 24th April instead of 28th.  

His activities extended as far as Nagar, Akluj and Sangli.   At Akluj he had many devotees. Among the well-known devotees were Mr Girme a farmer and Mr Keshavbhai Asher the Managing Director of the Malinagar Sugar Factory and Secretary to the Managing director Mr G.K. Pradhan.  Mr Pradhan was an atheist but after seeing the miracles by Maharaj and receiving his grace that put him into deep trance and gave him divine experiences he became a staunch devotee and disciple. Mr G. K. Pradhan wrote the two famous books: Towards the Silver Crests of Himalayas and Know Thyself in which the teachings of Maharaj are presented through the characters Gurudev and Swamiji respectively. The first book has been translated into many languages.  A fourth disciple was a welder in the Sugar Factory named V. K. Kulkarni who also used to be critical of Maharaj but later became his disciple. The details about these and other disciples may be found in the author’s book “Yogiraj Shri Shankar Maharaj” at www.vvshirvaikar.de/index-main.html

 In Nagar he had disciples in two houses. Dhaneshwar family were his devotees and so were the Abhyankar family.  Dr Dhaneshwar is said to be his disciple to whom he taught all he knew. The love between Maharaj and Dr Dhaneshwar was like mother and son. Maharaj had given him darshan in the form of a tall fakir even while he was a boy. In Nagar Dr Dhaneshwar practiced medicine not for profit but service as per Maharaj’s instructions.  Once Maharaj even called Meenanath, one of the Navanaths to visit his home and bless him.  In spite of all the wealth and siddhis offered to him Dr Dhaneshwar chose only the devotion to Maharaj. In fact it is for the sake of Dr Dhaneshwar that Maharaj postponed his samadhi by 30 years.  His son Dr D. N. Dhanshwar has written his biography in Marathi which is very interesting and educative to read for a sadhak. (Siddhayogi Dr Nagesh Ramchandra Dhaneshwar by Dr D.N.Dhaneshwar, Santkripa Prakashan., 1994.)

Major Abhyankar was a devotee of Shankar Maharaj who had saved him from bullets in the war.  Bu his son Datta was dearer to him. Maharaj took him to Girnar and gave him spiritual experiences.  Datta used to give his service at the samadhi in the early days when there used to be only a tin roof over the samadhi. 

Maharaj used to move frequently between Pune, Nagar, Solapur, Akluj (near Solapur) and Bombay guiding and inspiring people on spiritual path. In this respect he was unlike other disciples who established a Math and remained there at one place most of the time. He is more like Shri Dattatreya who wanders and graces devotees.

Maharaj did not give any discourses himself. Due to his unusually long tongue his speech was lisped. But Maharaj loved Dnyaneshwari and asked people to read and study it. Maharaj used to drink liquor with a purpose: to keep unwanted people away. Only those people who saw Maharaj beyond the external looks could come to him. There are incidents when Maharaj drank and another person nearby got drunk.  Some people to whom Maharaj gave a glass of brandy and asked them to drink it told later that it was not liquor but a nice testing sherbet or coconut water. 

The life of Shri Shankar Maharaj has been full of miracles he performed to help his devotees and to turn them to spiritual path. The miracles are not different from those performed by other great yogis like Shri Narasimha Saraswati and Swami Samarth. Maharaj did these miracles to draw people to spiritual path, teach them basic philosophy of spiritual life and to benefit them even in material aspects. But he always insisted that while Guru’s grace helps, the disciple himself must work hard to get results

Shri Shankar Maharaj took Samadhi at the age of about 150 years, in Pune on April 28, 1947.  But he is known to live in the bodies of certain chosen persons and his work thus continues even after samadhi.  His samadhi, which is now virtually a temple, is situated at Padmavati in Pune beside the Pune-Satara road.

Offered at the feet of my Guru Shri Shankar Maharaj





Shri Dattatreya Dnyanakosha by Dr Pralhad N. Joshi, Surekha Prakashan, Parel, Bombay 400012, (1974), 606pp (In Marathi)

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)

 Shri 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)

Yogiraj Shri Shankar Maharaj  by V.V. Shirvaikar  Internet URL www.vvshirvaikar.de/index-main.html


 © Copyright:  Dr V.V.Shirvaikar       Emailvshirvaikar@yahoo.com

Uploaded first OCTOBER XX, 2009         Last update: 17.Jun.2010

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