Go to the bottom of this page.








By Dr V.V.Shirvaikar


File:Ravi Varma-Dattatreya.jpg



Contents:   Introduction · Caste and Religion factor · Gorakshanath · Mahanubhava Saints · Janardanswami, Eknath, Dasopant And Mukteshwar · Two Devotees from Uttar Pradesh · Narayanswami · Chidambar Dikshit · Raghunathbhatji Nashikakar · Niranjan Raghunath · Kavadibuva · Narayanmaharaj Jalwankar · Bibliograpy



The devotees of Shri Dattatreya we read about so far were all disciples of the avatars of Shri Dattatreya. In the historical past many Datta-devotees were initiated directly by Shri Dattatreya or by other Datta-devotees who had reached perfection.

The information has been drawn from various sources, principally Shri Dattatreya Dnyanakosh by Dr. P. N. Joshi (in Marathi), the various issues of the magazine Santakripa and other publications of Santakripa Pratishthan Pune and the annual magazine Swamikripa published at the time of Dipavali. 

About Biographies of Saints     A biography is in essence a history. Two kinds of authors write biographies of saints.  Those who are basically historians who collect written records or reports of life events like birth, education, marriage, spiritual training etc. of the subject and sifting credible and qualify the text material according to its credibility. Then there are the devotees of the subject who wish to present their Guru in the best possible light without bothering about the credibility of reported events.   There is also a third kind who has very little historical material to use and laces his text with numerous quotations from the works of other saint authors like Tukaram, Dnyaneshwar, Namdeo and Samarth Ramdas not to mention the Puranas making a show of his being a learned person.  But we ignore here this latter type and discuss the biographies authored by the first two types of authors.

Except for autobiographies and the biography of Sai Baba of Shirdi (Sai Satcharitra), almost all biographies are written much after the death or samadhi of the saint.  If the saint is a householder then some reliable information about his birth, childhood, adult and spiritual life may be collected within a reasonable time otherwise one has to rely on the hearsay information from whoever who might have come in contact with the saint. If the saint happens to be a sanyasi then unless he has become a sanyasi in a very old age, the saint’s past gets erased in the process of the ritual that transforms him into a sanyasi, because the ritual involves a formal death ceremony and a new name and forgetting the past life. The information has to be collected from tidbits the saint might have given away or mentioned by some contemporary writer.  Only when the saint becomes famous then people remember his activities, especially the miracles.   

A historian writing a biography would have a discriminating matter-of-fact approach in his presentation of biographical information but a devotee author is driven by his deep devotion to present the personality and activities of their Guru in special light and in a superlative style adding all sorts of miracles from pre-birth to the post-death events concerning his Guru.   The biography is most likely to give great details about how the birth was foretold through mother’s dreams, her cravings during pregnancy, auspicious natural phenomena like bright skylights, miracles performed by the child in childhood and so on as if somebody had carefully kept a record.

Consider the biography Gautam Buddha for example. His mother is said to have a dream of a white elephant with six tusks ten months before Buddha’s birth in a garden in Lumbini beneath a Sal tree but his mother died either during childbirth or a week later.  Thus all the stories of the supernatural can only be myths created by the devotees.  Buddha’s enlightenment came at the advanced age of 35 years and recognition as divinity still later after which stories of his miracles multiplied. (Ref: Gautama Buddha, Wikipedia article).  One will notice the same about most biographies of saints.

Some common miracles  The devotee author often tend to stress on the miracles done by their Guru and in this process they even ascribe to him sometimes the miracles done by other saints, to boost the Guru’s image. We often note that the many miracles claimed to have been performed are common to a number of saints. For example feeding a large number of people on a small quantity of food seems to have been ascribed to almost every saint. Making a barren cow or buffalo give milk is also common (e.g. Shri Narasimha Saraswati, Swami Samarth, and Shri Shankar Maharaj). Reviving a dead person is also common (Shri Narasimha Saraswati, Swami Samarth, and Dnyaneshwar Maharaj).  The theme of remembering one’s previous lives as he crosses a set of lines drawn on the ground occurs in Gurucharitra as well as in the biography of Samarth Ramdas.  So is the story of Shri Dattatreya appearing as a Muslim Malang (fakir) before Janardanswami and Eknath common to Samarth Ramdas also. Thus there is no way of confirming the stories of events in a saint’s life and one has to accept them at their face value.

Here I may quote (translated from Marathi) Mr. Vasudeo Savaikar in his forward to the biography of Shri Jairamswami Vadgaonkar by Vaman D. Deshpande Nazrekar, published by Santakripa Pratishthan. He says,

“Historically authentic information about the lives of the saints of earlier era, their spiritual, social work and their writings is generally not available. Whatever is available in various compositions and historical records contain only the stories of their miracles. Also, the same stories of the miracles are told by their devotees changing only the saint’s name. In these stories also so much exaggeration is made that the truth is eclipsed.”

Reader will notice the truth of this while reading even these brief biographies given here though efforts have been made to avoid this as far as possible. 

It is a different case when one looks at the information given in the autobiographies of the saints.  I have come across five such autobiographical writings.  These are (1) the autobiography of Purohitswami (An Indian Monk by Purohitswami with a Forward by W.B.Yeats, Marathi translation by his daughter Mrs Mrinalini Chitale); this has been used later; (2) Autobiography of a Yogi by Swami Paramhansa Yogananda; (3) The Path: Autobiography of a Western Yogi by Swami Kriyanand (Donald Walters, Disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda); (4) Living with the Hiamalyan Masters by Swami Rama, and (5) True Experiences by Swami Krishnanand.  The information in these books comes directly from personal experiences and has to be believed. Besides, the modesty of the saints precludes exaggeration. In the present context only the autobiography of Purohitswami is relevant to us since he is the only saint out of the above who was a Dattatreya devotee.

There are some parameters common to many Datta-devotees. Most of them seem to have been born with a spiritual base and in religious families, no doubt due to their sadhana (spiritual practice) of earlier births. As Shri Krishna tells Arjuna in the sixth chapter of Dnyaneshwari,

"Arjuna, can there be anything other than liberation for one who longs for it? He (a yogi who dies prematurely) is merely taking rest for some time. ….. But liberation is reserved for him.  ….. Then he returns to the earth to be born in a religious family and starts gaining spiritual wealth.  People in such family observe morals, speak clearly and truthfully and behave as prescribed in the Scriptures. For them, the Vedas are the living deity, actions are guided by Swadharma and discrimination, thoughts are only about God and the family deity is their wealth.  Thus the person happily is born here on the strength of his meritorious deeds. Or he is reborn into the family of a yogi of high level.  The person even as a child is already loaded with knowledge because of his past.  Due to the mature intellect he knows all branches of knowledge easily. His intellect develops further from the point of his death in the earlier lifetime and he is able to grasp mysterious subjects and even difficult things told by a Guru. His sense-organs come under his control, mind becomes one with the Prana the vital life-breath and the Prana dissolves in the Consciousness.  Somehow, yoga practice also comes easily to him and he can attain the Samadhi State effortlessly. He attains Siddhis even while he is an acolyte.  He is able to do his spiritual exercises effortlessly because he has reached the shores of the Self-realization after millions of years and after overcoming the impediments of thousands of births. He gets the power of discrimination and putting that also behind in time and going beyond thought he becomes one with the Brahman. (6:437-467)

Thus the reader will notice that not only do these men attain high spiritual levels but their trend can be noticed in childhood itself. Many are able to predict the future and able to perform miracles, but that depends upon the person’s spiritual level of earlier birth. The strength of this argument may be confirmed from the autobiographies of saints and yogis presented below.

In some biographies the main character is presented as an avatar by the devotee author. This is in keeping with his reverence to his Guru. One notices this trend of assigning title of an avatar to prominent personalities in many Indian religious writings especially the Puranas. For example Kapilmuni, proponent of the Sankhya philosophy is presented as an avatar of Vishnu and Adi Shankaracharya as an avatar of Shiva. This gives a divine backing to their writings and philosophy which the pious dare not contest. The pious do not ask why, if the particular sage was an avatar and his writings were divine, they are not accepted as absolute truth by all and why there are a variety of philosophies and dogmas on spiritual matters?

Only thing we can accept probably is that while the Ultimate Principle or Brahman at the root of this material universe is one, it is manifested to the material world through various deities. In some religions the deity may be considered as a messenger or son of God. In Hindu system there are various deities or powers which are manifestation of different combinations in various proportions of the Sattva-Raja-Tama attributes and each sect, family or person reveres some particular deity with the help of which persons reach higher spiritual levels.

Thus we see that when persons are reborn they are reborn with a background of devotion to Shiva or Vishnu or to the Goddess or to Ganesh or their accredited avatars like Shri Rama, Shri Krishna or in our case Shri Dattatreya. Each deity is like your father and mother whose hand you hold to travel along the spiritual path. The philosophical writings (like Gita and Dnyaneswari or treatises on Adwaita, Dwaita, Vishishtadwaita or other philosophies); devotional writings (like Gurucharitra, Bhagwat Purana, and Devi Saptashati etc.) are devices which help the seeker to ascend the spiritual path by facilitating detachment towards worldly matters and turning his mind towards God.

Many seekers who read biographies of such great persons feel dejected when they read of their fast progress, getting a Guru or a vision of some deity in a short time. They compare themselves with these saints and feel they are not achieving anything from their own sadhana. But they forget the important thing that sadhana is not a matter of a single lifetime but many; and in every birth one rises up a little, depending upon how one has used his opportunities in the current life time offered by the past good karmas and the ultimate balance sheet of his sadhana. Comparing oneself with great masters is improper and can only lead to misery. The biographies are examples before a seeker who should note the character, depth of faith and devotion and the arduous efforts of the subject to meet God.

Attempt has been made to make the present the biographies in chronological order.  Except for Gorakshanath I have not included saints belonging to Nath Sect like Shri Gajananmaharaj Gupte or Swami Swarupanand.


In spite of Dattatreya being a balance of attributes we note in Dattatreya tradition two distinct streams as regards caste and religion. The orthodox claim that Dattatreya’s avatar was to preserve the varnashramdharma or the code of behaviour according to caste.  We have noted that while Narasimha Saraswati in accordance with his times did maintain the varnashramdharma but his devotes and disciples were in all castes. Though he asked his disciples to stay away from serving Muslims he himself blessed the Muslim king, both policies probably to save the Hindus from the interference from the Muslim rulers.  On the other hand we see Swami Samarth totally against varnashramdharma.  He tried to instill this approach in his disciples as would be clear from his biography in Parts III and IV.   But we also saw that the orthodoxy has penetrated so deep into the Hindu that his disciples like Vamanbuva ignored his teachings and preached orthodoxy.  As mentioned in an earlier part Vamanbuva insisted that Guru should not be of another caste and should be learned in the Vedas etc., generally implying that he should be a Brahmin.  But we have the case of saint Tukaram who had a Brahmin disciple and Dnyaneshwar Maharaj who was outside the caste system had also Brahmin disciples.  The Orthodox claim that caste system has sanction of the Vedas on the basis of Purushasukta in which various castes are said to have arisen from various parts of the body of Purusha.  First of all Purushsukta is a very late addition to the Rigveda. In the early Vedic days a person born of a father of one Varna could practice another because the system was not birth based.  Many Kshatriya princes became rishis (Shantanu’s brother Devapi for example) and many Brahmins, Parashurama for example in reality were Kshatriyas.  Manu Savarni who was contemporary of rishi Gritsamada and Ushanas Shukracharya was a commoner who became a rishi. 

Historians are of the opinion that while Brahmins where busy refining the Yajna techniques and make them more elaborate, those who retired to forests for meditation and the kshatriya kings like King Pravahana Jaibali of Panchala tribe and King Ashwapati of Kekaya tribe realised and contributed to the concept of the unique principle Brahman. It was King Janak to whom even Rishis went for learning about Brahman. (See “Aspirations from a new world” by Shakuntala Rao Shastri pub. by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan).

It is true that among the saints a large number are Brahmins but for ages the education, especially religious education was confined mostly to the Brahmins but there is reason for this. Upper caste children generally have a strict educational upbringing, religious routine and are exposed to pious and ritualistic surroundings right from birth, making them more capable of withstanding the rigours of the spiritual pursuit, but it does not make the spiritual field proprietary to them. However it develops in them an internal strength which makes them to be respected and even feared. We see this strength in the character of saints like Chidambar Dikshit, Vasudevananda Saraswati etc. (see later).

At the same time some greatest yogis were non-Brahmins. Jalandharnath the Nath yogi contemporary of Gorakshanath was actually a person of untouchable caste. In fact Nath Sect does not bother about caste and religion and in Datta Tradition which is quite enmeshed with the Nath Tradition it will be seen that caste is not the main factor but spiritual capability is.   

In the mini-biographies of Datta-saints in the following pages we see both types of devotees and also that Dattatreya himself in conformity with his association with Nath Sect did not practice varnashramdharma for he has non-Brahmin disciples and Muslims too.  But probably we have to live with this dichotomy for ages to come.  We shall now start with the biographies. 




Though Macchindranath (Matsyendranath) is considered as the founder of the Nath Sect, it is his disciple Gorakshanath who is the real star of the sect. Like Shri Dattatreya he was also a wandering yogi and a learned person.

The life of Gorakshanath (or Gorakhnath) is astounding. The legend of his birth is mysterious and goes thus: Macchindranath, the first of the Naths, came to the house of a childless woman to beg for alms. He was moved by her prayers for a son and gave her some ashes to be eaten for getting a child. But her neighbour misguided her saying that these mendicants practiced black magic and she should not eat the ash. The unfortunate lady threw the ashes into a heap of cow-dung outside the house and forgot all about it. Ten years passed. Macchindranath returned to that house and enquired about the child. The woman was now frightened and pointed to the heap of cow-dung. Macchindranath shouted, “Come out Gorakshanath.”  And a ten year old bright looking boy came out of the heap. To the chagrin of the woman Macchindranath took away the boy with him as his disciple. Macchindranath named him Gorakshanath (because he was found under the heap of cow-dung), initiated and trained him well as a Nath yogi.

Discounting the fantasy, Gorakshanath’s origin is shrouded in mystery. Historians differ as regards his origin or even his times. He was definitely born after Adi Shankaracharya (eighth century). His time is quoted as anywhere between 10th century and 12th century, the most probable time being 11th century. He is variously presented as son of a cultured Brahmin family, son of a Brahmin widow, a Shudra and so on. The place of his birth also is disputed, but from the language of his writings he seems to have been born in Punjab, probably north of Peshawar. He travelled to Nepal where he and his Guru Macchindranath are still worshipped as deities. Nepali Gurkhas consider him as their God and the term Gurkha is said to originate from his name. All agree that he was an extremely handsome person. 

Gorakshanath became learned in the Vedic philosophy as well as yoga and attained Siddhis. He travelled throughout India many times and has composed poems and written in many Indian languages. His stress was on Hathayoga and Pranayama with the practice of which Kundalini could be activated for accelerating spiritual progress. What he is best known for is his courage and intelligence in freeing his guru from the shackles of the Tantric cult. Tantric cult involves use of five M’s namely Madya (liquor), Mansa (meat), Meena (fish), Mudra (physical posture or mental attitude to avoid contamination), and Mithuna (sex). Gorakshanath’s personality was such that he could extract his Guru from the clutches of these practices. In the legendary folklore, this is described in terms of a fantasy story of Machchindranath being lured by Mainakini (this name differs in different versions of the story) the ruler of an all female kingdom in which no men were allowed. She married him, got a son from him and did not let him go away. Gorakshanath went dressed as a player of mridanga (a percussion instrument) and when he was playing during a dance he brought out sounds which told Macchindranath that his disciple Gorakshanath had come.  Gorakshanath succeeded taking his Guru away from the female kingdom, but Macchindranath was still drawn towards his son and wealth.  Gorakshanath showed him that these are all impermanent and they can create several such sons and wealth using the occult powers acquired by them.  Following this incident, Gorakshanath made a strict code of dress and behavior for Nath yogis that included celibacy.

There is an interesting story told about Gorakshanath’s meeting with Dattatreya at Girnar (Ref: pp 132-133, Dattatreya Dnyanakosha, P.N.Joshi, See Bibliography).  While going to Somanath in Saurashtra Gorakshanath came to Girnar. After making obeisance to Mother Amba and visiting the Dattatreya padukas he came to know that Shri Dattatreya lives in a nearby cave. After some search he reached the cave where he saw an unclothed, ash-smeared avadhut with long, tangled hair in an excited, demented mood. He was wondering whether this was Dattatreya (avadhut is one who has washed away all his passions).  It was time for afternoon alms (for Sanyasis). Gorakshanath removed his wallet (jholi) which flew in the sky and returned with excellent food. He then asked that avadhut whether he would eat something to which the avadhut replied that he takes only cow milk. Gorakshnath then asked who brings the milk to which avadhut replied that nobody brings milk but his kamandalu was always full with it.  To test the avadhut Gorakshnath asked whether he would get milk for the alms to which the avadhut replied that he would be happy if he takes all the milk in the kamandalu.  Gorakshnath took the kamandalu and started pouring milk in his vessel.  He was astonished to note that while milk was streaming out of the kamandalu there was nothing in it.  Seeing that avadhut’s siddhis are more powerful than his own Gorakshnath realized he has met Dattatreya and immediately touched his feet.  Dattatreya taught him several aspects of yoga and spiritual philosophy which are included in Gorakshanath’s books.  

The summary of what Dattatreya told him is:  “Oh avadhut Gorakshanath, I am neither Brahmadeo nor a brahmachari (an aspirant for sanyasa, it also means a celibate); I am not a learned Brahmin or an ordained sanyasi or yogi.  I wander freely and happily like a jivanmukta (liberated while living) which I have become by my own grace.”   He further explained that, “I go around sometimes secretly and sometimes openly. There is no desire, no wind and no Maya in the highest state. In this state there is neither form nor formlessness, neither subtleness nor grossness, there is neither water nor water-drop, neither mirror nor a reflection, neither Dattatreya nor Gorakshanath; there is neither object nor its illusion; there is only the only Highest Principle. Oh Gorakshanath, forgiveness is my mother, truth is my father and Knowledge is my Guru.  The unidentifiable Brahman is my abode. It is subtle, infinite and beyond dogma. Supreme Lord is the Guru and the soul is the disciple. In a thought-free condition many occult powers come together. Once the Sahasrar (thousand petal lotus at the top of the head) opens one goes in an unmani state (beyond mind). The mature state of meditation is the mindless unmani state. In this state mind rests completely.

Listen, Oh Gorakshanath, anger is like a thorn for those who tread the spiritual path. To surrender to anger is to drown in this ocean of earthly life. A person who is enmeshed in karmas is a bound person. Oh avadhut, Brahma is real and Maya is unreal.  Word (Om) is real but the body generated from it unreal. Dhyana (meditative state) is the state in which awareness remains in Brahman and becomes Brahman. Shakti is the power that sustains everything Shiva is One who makes Shakti do it.  Individual soul is the earth, nether and the sky and its master is the supreme souls.  The understanding that they are not separate is Knowledge.  Self-realization thus attained is the true form of knowledge. I am ever one with everything and this state is called transcendence. Once one becomes acquainted with this Datta principle, nothing more remains to be told.   

Shri Dattatreya gave this and similar advice also to Matsyendranath, Jalandharnath and Revananath. (Revananath was initiated into the Nath sect by Shri Dattatreya).

Shri Dattatreya then showed his real form and blessed Gorakshanath. The place where this happened in Girnar is known as Kamandalu Tirtha.

Gorakshanath has written 28 books in Sanskrit and 40 in Hindi. His well-known books include Hathayogapradeep, Gorakshasamhita, Gorakhdattagushti and Sabadi.

Gorakshanath did not bother about the caste system or even about the religion while initiating his disciples. He initiated women also. There are many Muslims in the Raval branch of Gorakshanath branch of Nath sect. In fact the Nath yogis belonged to diverse castes e.g. Jalandharnath belonged to a very low untouchable class.  

Two other famous Nath yogis are said to have been initiated by Shri Dattatreya. These were Nagnath and Revannath. We noted earlier the similarity in the dresses and general appearance depicted for Shri Dattatreya and the Nath Panthi yogis.  Yogis in both Nath and Dattatreya tradition are called avadhuts.


Shri Dattatreya is greatly revered in Mahanubhava sect founded by Chakradhar Swami (1194-1274 AD). This sect has a large following in the Vidarbha-Khandesh region of Maharashtra. The root of this high place for Shri Dattatreya seems to be Chakrapani, the Guru of Chakradhar Swami, further strengthened by Govindaprabhu another disciple of Chakrapani.  The relation between Chakrapani and Chakradhar involves use of yogic Siddhis as will be clear later. It must be noted that while in other Datta tradition sects Shri Dattatreya is considered as an avatar of a deity (Vishnu), in Mahanubhava sect he is considered as an avatar of Parameshwar the Supreme deity. Also he is depicted as one-head-two-hands deity.

Chakrapani: Chakrapani was son of Janakanayak and Janakaisa, a family belonging to Karhade Brahmin sect, from Phaltan near Satara in southern Maharashtra. They earned their living by commercial trade.  Janakanayak longed for a son and even married a second time (a common thing in those days) but in vain. Janakaisa’s parents who were from Chakan near Pune also prayed and made vows to the deity Chakrapani of Chakan, while Janakanayak himself had made another vow to another deity called Changdeo.  Ultimately a son was born and was named Chakrapani by the maternal grandparents and Changdeo by Janakanayak. From childhood itself Changdeo was detached from worldly affairs including the family business. He was married to Kamalaisa but he was not much interested in marital bliss either. This led to tiffs and made him sick of family life.  Following another tiff he left home for pilgrimage. 

Once he joined a group of pilgrims and went to Mahur. Mahur (old Matapur) is located in Kinwat Taluka, Nanded District about six hours road journey from Nagpur. It is one of the holy places in relation to Shri Dattatreya. It is believed that Shri Dattatreya comes to sleep there at night. (See the experience of Purohitswami later). There are many holy lakes at Mahur. There is a lake near the base of the Mahur fort, called Merumala. Changdeo, along with his co-pilgrims took bath in the lake and was going through the forest path to visit the temple where Shri Dattatreya comes to sleep, when suddenly a tiger roared and came in his path.  Everybody else ran away but Changdeo stood there quietly with the strong conviction that it was Shri Dattatreya who had come in the form of the tiger.  The tiger kept his front paw on Changdeo’s head and gave him what is known as Shaktipat initiation (See Part VII-3 later).

Changdeo remained in Mahur for many years. He used to roam in the jungles and live on alms.  From there he went to Dwarawati and lived in a cave on the banks of Gomati River. He used to take a broom and a dust-pan and clean the streets of Dwarawati. He initiated fifty-two persons by hitting them on head with the broom or the dust-pan.  Changdeo never differentiated between persons and did not bother about the strongly prevalent caste system. He used to eat in the homes of Shudras as well as of untouchables. He was known for his yogic Siddhis. One day he left his body by the yogic process and entered the body of one Harpaldeo who was brought to the cremation ground after death for cremation. This Harpaldeo about whom we shall read later came to be known as Chakradhar, the founder of Mahanubhava sect mentioned earlier. Changdeo or Chakrapani’s period must have been the second half of twelfth century.

Govindaprabhu    Govindaprabhu was born in a village near Riddhipur in a Brahmin family. His original name was Gundo. His parents died when he was about two years old and he was fostered by his maternal uncle. Gundo was extremely intelligent and had a detached nature. He was initiated by Chakrapani while on a pilgrimage to Dwarawati. He was a strict celibate and was like his Guru in behaviour as well as yogic prowess. He has a high place of honour in the Mahanubhava sect and is considered an avatar.  Technically it was he who initiated Chakradhar Swami which is another reason why he is so revered in the sect.

Chakradhar Swami    The kingdom of Bharuch in Gujarat had a minister by name Vishaldeo.  His wife’s name was Malhaisa. Both were devotees of Shri Dattatreya by whose grace a son was born to them.  The son was named Harpaldeo who married Kamalaisa. Harpaldeo was fond of gambling. One day he suddenly fell ill and died.  When the body was taken to the cremation ground Changdeo or Chakrapani entered his body by yogic powers as mentioned earlier. Harpaldeo became alive but naturally as a new personality. He became more detached. But his liking for gambling still lingered. One day he lost heavily and his wife Kamalaisa refused to give him her ornaments to bail him out. This made him become disenchanted with the world and still more detached. One day he left home and went to Ramtek near Nagpur. During this pilgrimage he met Govindaprabhu at Riddhipur and received Shaktipat initiation from him. Govindaprabhu named him Chakradhar.  Thus we have an unusual case of a disciple initiating his own guru but in a new body.

After his initiation Chakradhar spent twelve years in tapas on a hill called Salbardi. He came to conclusion that salvation of people lay in three principles namely truth, non-violence and equality and he set upon teaching them. In the course of his travels he came across a Siddhayogi by name Udhalinath from whom he learnt the yogic technique of maintaining youth. He then travelled to Warangal in Andhra Pradesh where he married Hansamba, the beautiful daughter of a horse dealer. After spending some time in marital life his original detached nature raised its head. He left the marital life and went to Bhandara in Vidarbha where he had his first disciple by name Nilkanth Bhandarkar. His second disciple was one Ramdarna from Aljapur with whose daughter he had his third marriage. He had many more disciples both male and female. 

In the course of time Chakradhar reached Paithan where he chose to renounce the world to become a sanyasi. Now he ardently started educating public in his principles and taught people the power of love. He saved the ignorant people who used to worship ordinary deities. Thus the sect began. There is no place for caste distinction or male-female distinction in his sect. He practised equality and used to eat and sit with people of any caste including the untouchables.  He adopted the local language Marathi for his writings in preference to Sanskrit preferred by the learned. He could thus reach common people. Of course he had to face a lot of opposition from the orthodox people but he and his disciples faced it with courage.

This was the period when Muslim rule had spread and the religious practices of the Hindus were being suppressed.  To prevent their writings from being discovered and interpreted as religious writings and be destroyed by Muslims Mahanubhava literature began to use coded language in their books.

Chakradhar’s philosophy is a dualistic (Dwaita) philosophy.  Shi Dattatreya is considered as Guru of Chakrapani and founder of the sect. They believe that Shri Dattatreya lives in all the four yugas (aeons) and that his words are like nectar showering happiness.

At Mahur there is a place called Devatirtha which has the samadhi of Chakradhar.  There, in one hall there are two beds, one small and another quite large. It is the large bed which is said to be where Shri Dattatreya sleeps at night. The small bed is that of Shri Chakradhar.  It is believed that because of his unorthodox philosophy and behaviour he was caught by the Devgiri Chief minister Hemadpant and was beheaded; however, some say that he went to Himalayas and did not return. But it is a fact that after the Nath Panthi yogis the Dattatreya tradition was kept alive by the Mahanubhava sect of Chakradhar.


Keeping the spiritual flame alive during the Muslim rule has been quite a formidable task for Hindu saints.  Shri Narasimha Saraswati kept himself and his disciples clear of the Muslim kings by insisting that they should not serve Muslim rulers.  There is another class of saints who kept the flame alive by staying with the rulers who, it must be acknowledged, did respect the high spiritual status of these saints. Janardanswami, Eknath and Dasopant belong to this class.  Eknath was disciple of Janardanswami.

Janardanswami (1504-1575 AD)     Janardanswami was born in 1504 AD in a Brahmin family named Deshpande from Chalisgaon in the Khandesh region of Maharashtra. The family was quite religious and used to observe all the traditional rituals prescribed for Brahmins. From childhood Janardanswami showed interest in religious aspects of life.  At the age of 21 he started his family life by marrying two girls at the same time (polygamy was not uncommon in those days). Reader may not know that the Surname “Deshpande” comes from the assignment from the government to collect taxes on its behalf, keep a proper account of the same and assist in the administration. This assignment usually was passed on from father to son. This was thus the family occupation of Janardanswami who balanced his time well between the family and the official duties.  As part of the religious duties he used to visit the places of importance to Datta tradition viz. Kuravpur, Narsobawadi, Oudumber and Ankalkhop. It was at Ankalkhop that he received the grace from Shri Dattatreya.

Janardanswami had accepted the service of the Muslim rulers at Daulatabad, (formerly Devgiri the capital of Yadava dynasty). However his spiritual pursuits continued and he used to regularly read Gurucharitra, Dnyaneshwari etc. (remember that books were not easily available in those days and had to be copied laboriously from somebody else’s copy.)  He also spent time in meditation for which he found Gorakshaguha, a cave named after Gorakshanath and a temple called Durgatirtha nearby as very suitable.  After performing his daily religious rituals he used to go to court and take part in Government business with total sincerity. His moral character and spiritual status had impressed even the rulers and it is said that in the area under his control they had made Thursday (the day related to Datta tradition) as weekly holiday instead of the usual Friday under a Muslim rule. There is a place called Sulabhanjan hill, 5-8 Km away from Daulatabad where there are many Shiva temples. There is a lake named Suryakunda and a place called Sahasralinga (literally thousand lingas) nearby. Janardanswami found this place suitable for meditating on Shri Dattatreya and used to visit it regularly. It was here that Shri Dattatreya appeared before him, kept his benevolent hand on his head and initiated him. Thus Janardanswami, according to his disciple Saint Eknath, becomes the first disciple of Shri Dattatreya in this Kaliyuga.  Though devotion to Shri Dattatreya forms the main stream of his spiritual path, there is also an important place for devotion to Shri Krishna (Vithal) too in his spiritual life.

As said earlier, Janardanswami used to go on pilgrimage often.  During his visit to Nashik-Tryambakeshwar (one of the Jyotirlingas) he met a Brahmin named Chandrabodha.  Apparently they had some spiritual discussions between them and as a result of this some think, though others dispute, that Chandrabodha was Guru of Janardanswami. Incidentally, this Chandrabodha became a (Muslim) Sufi later and was Guru to the Muslim Sufi saint Sheikh Mahamad, author of a Marathi composition called Siddhantbodha.

Shri Janardanswami took samadhi on 6th day of dark fortnight of Falgun in 1575 AD. It is said that he took jalasamadhi (i.e. leaving the body by entering water or drowning in common parlance) in the lake inside the Daulatabad fort. His body was never found even though the lake is not very deep. It is a coincidence that his birth, appearance of Shri Dattatreya to him and samadhi as well as the day on which he initiated his famous disciple Eknath and samadhi of the latter, all fall on the 6th day of dark fortnight of Falgun. He has written a few small compositions but they are not so well known. There are many Maths established in his name by his disciples. Noted among them are at Varanasi, Daulatabad, Beed, Charathana (in Parabhani district) and Tapovan in Nashik.

Saint Eknath (1533-1599 AD)    Once in a while a person of remarkable character and ability is born whose imprint on public life remains for centuries. Saint Eknath was such a person. Eknath is known for strengthening the path of devotion. He translated part of Bhagwat Purana, one of the prominent compositions to followers of the Bhakti (devotion) path, into Marathi the language of the common people in Maharashtra and made it available to them in the language they understood. But his greatest contribution was his producing a corrected copy of Dnyaneshwari, the commentary in Marathi by Saint Dnyaneshwar on Bhagvad-Gita. The original version of Dnyaneshwari had become corrupted during the two and a half centuries that had elapsed after the samadhi of Dnyaneshwar Maharaj, through the process of hand copying (Remember that there were no printing presses those days) and because some poets added their own compositions to the original. We owe the present version of Dnyaneshwari to Saint Eknath.

Saint Eknath was born in a family which worshipped Vithal, the name by which Shri Krishna is known in Maharashtra. Vithal is the presiding deity of Pandharpur one of the holiest places for the Vaishnava varkari sect in Maharashtra.  Members of the Varkari sect make annual visits to Pandharpur to see Vithal on the Ekadashi (11th day) in the month of Ashadha, singly or in groups defying the heavy rains and risking cholera. Though Eknath also finally followed the Varkari path his earlier devotion was to Shri Dattatreya.

Eknath’s parents died when he was a child and he was brought up by his grandfather Chakrapani (not the Mahanubhava one).  From childhood itself Eknath was interested in religious aspects of life. He ran away from home in search of a Guru and came in contact with Janardanswami who became his Guru.  Eknath was a meticulous person. Once Janardanswami found him working late in the night the reason being that there was a mistake of a small amount in the accounts which he used to keep for his guru. Janardanswami was pleased with him.

Eknath served his Guru well and was favoured by an appearance of Shri Dattatreya in the lonely forests of Devgiri. Shri Dattatreya appeared before him in the form of a Malang (i.e. a Muslim fakir) accompanied by a female dog. The Malang milked the dog, mixed some old bread from his bag with the milk and shared the strange food with Eknath. In those days it would have been unthinkable for a Brahmin boy to eat sitting by the side of a Muslim, leave alone eating the food touched by him, but Eknath had realised that he was dealing with Shri Dattatreya himself and did not hesitate. In fact after he was handed over the empty dish for cleaning Eknath drank the remains of the food with water which pleased the Malang as an indication of deep faith. The Malang then showed Eknath his real form as Shri Dattatreya, further proving the closeness of his Guru with Shri Dattatreya. Now Eknath was deeply involved with Dattatreya and even when he wrote Bhagwat in Marathi he makes obeisance to Shri Dattatreya in the beginning. Later also Shri Dattatreya appeared before him many times. He used to go to the Sulabhonjan hill for meditation and was granted favours by Shri Dattatreya. 

It was mentioned earlier that saints belonging to Datta-tradition can be extremely orthodox or extremely liberal as regards the caste system. Saint Eknath seems to have belonged to the latter class for he never bothered about the castes and is reputed to have taken meals in a house of (in those days) an untouchable family in spite of the opposition from the local Brahmins. Eknath’s compassion even for animals and forgiveness to his worst torturers is legendary and the reader should make it a point to read his biography to understand the true nature of a saint. (There is one biography in English written by an American Missionary Mr. Justin E. Abbott. Mr. Abbott, in spite of belonging to the Christian faith was so much impressed by the works of the Indian saints, notably Tukaram and Eknath in Maharashtra that he has written their biographies as well as translated many of their works in English. One of the books translated by him is Mahipati’s Bhaktavijaya which gives the biographies of many Indian saints. These books are available with the publishers M/S Motilal Banarasidas. Mr. Abbott passed away in 1932 at his home in Summit, New Jersey USA).

Another legend about Saint Eknath (though not related to Datta-tradition) is that in order to help him Shri Krishna worked in his home as a domestic servant under the name Shrikhandya for several years. When this was discovered and Eknath reproached him for serving him, Shri Krishna asked, “I had to come in disguise. Had I come the way you see me now, would you have let me stay with you and serve you?” Saint Eknath took samadhi in 1599 AD at Paithan.

Dasopant (1551-1615 AD)    Dasopant was born in the wealthy Deshpande family from Narayanpeth under the rulership of Bahamani Kingdom of Bidar.  One year when the region was reeling under severe draught, his father Digambarpant who was a Government official, distributed the grains in government granary to the hungry public on his own authority.  He could not however deposit the price of the grains in the government treasury in time. The king was angry and took Dasopant, then a boy, away for ransom until the money was paid, further threatening that if the money was not paid within a month the boy would be converted to Muslim religion. Both Digambarpant and Dasopant intently prayed to Shri Dattatreya for relief and surprisingly an unknown person who gave his name as Datta Padewar deposited the required amount in the treasury and Dasopant was released.

Everybody was happy but Dasopant was overcome with detachment after this demonstration of Divine power. He left home in search of Shri Dattatreya who had answered his prayers. He reached Matapur or Mahur via Dakulgi and Nanded and remained in its peaceful environment for twelve years serving Shri Dattatreya through meditation and other daily spiritual procedures. After twelve years he again resumed his wandering and reached Rakshasbhuvan on the banks of Godavari. Here, he received the gift of padukas (sandals) of Shri Dattatreya and was blessed by his appearance in Avadhut form. In the course of time he reached the place of confluence of Vani river where perchance he met his family members.  As per the custom prescribed in the Shastras, his wife had waited twelve years for his return and was to be now declared a widow after performing the prescribed rites. The dramatic reunion was an occasion of joy for everybody.  After meeting his parents and wife Dasopant gifted away his titular rights of the position of Deshpande and came to stay in Ambejogai near Parli Vaijanath. One Sitopant Deshpande became his disciple and arranged for his stay in Ambejogai.  Dasopant wrote prolifically on Shri Dattatreya and on spiritual matters. He also set up a particular ritualistic method of daily Dattatreya worship.

Mukteshwar   Mukteshwar belongs to the seventeenth century. He was the grandson of Eknath i.e. daughter Godavari’s son. His father’s name was Chintamani. His mother’s name was changed to Gangubai after marriage.

Like his grandfather he also was a devotee of Shri Dattatreya. But while his grandfather came from a family with tradition of devotion to Vithoba, Mukteshwar’s family was devoted to Bhairava, a form of Shiva.  His family worshipped Shri Dattatreya in the form of Lila Vishwambhar (Vishwambhar is a name of Shiva).  Thus his worship of Shri Dattatreya had a Shaivaite inclination.

Mukteshwar is known for his poetry, beautiful language and descriptions of nature. His compositions are in Marathi verse. His main work includes Ramayana and many chapters from Mahabharata.  Other compositions include the biography of his grandfather Eknath. The inspiration for writing Ramayana came to him while he was at Narsobawadi, the well known place of pilgrimage for Shri Dattatreya devotees.  He established a Dattatreya temple at Terwad.


While most of the devotees of Shri Dattatreya are from Maharashtra-Karnataka- Andhra region, there are two devotees of note came from Uttar Pradesh. These are Kinaram Aghori (1620-1772 AD) and Nipat Niranjan (1623-1728 AD).

Kinaram Aghori   He was born around 1620, or may be a little earlier, in a pious Kshatriya family in Ramgarh which falls in the Chandoli tehsil of Varanasi District in U.P.  From early age itself he showed spiritual tendencies e.g. he developed the habit of sitting under a banyan tree meditating when he was a child. He had no desire to get married but it was forced upon him. Fortunately for him the bride died before the marriage took place. He then left his home quietly in search of a Guru and in the course of his search met one Shivaramji, a Ramanuja sect saint, at Karo in Gazipur district in U.P.  Shivramji had predicted that Kinaram would reach great heights in the spiritual field.  He left Shivramji after sometime because Kinaram did not like that Shivramji had remarried after the death of his wife. Kinaram then came to a place called Naigarhi where he performed a miracle. An old lady’s son owed the local landlord some money which he was unable to pay back. As the dispute about payment was going on Kinaram asked the landlord to dig the ground on which the son was standing. To everybody’s surprise a pot of gold coins was found which settled the dues. The boy was so affected by this event that he became Kinaram’s disciple, left home and accompanied Kinaram in his wanderings. Kinaram renamed the boy as Bijaram. Both now set for Girnar the place well known for the presence of Shri Dattatreya. 

When they reached Junagarh, then ruled by a Muslim nawab, Kinaram left Bijaram in the city and went up the Girnar Mountain alone. After visiting the temple of Goddess Amba and the Dhuni (fire) of Gorakshanath he went to the Shri Dattatreya peak (where Padukas of Shri Dattatreya have been installed) and fasted for seven days. Gorakshanath appeared before him there and gave him spiritual advice. But Kinaram was anxious to meet Shri Dattatreya himself. He decided to circumambulate (pradakshina) the mountain peak through the thick forest. But he lost his way and when night came he could not see anything in the dark. Kinaram prayed to the mountain itself and suddenly saw the light of a fire burning some distance away. Going ahead he saw a yogi with brown coloured jata (long tangled hair worn by ascetics), clad in a deerskin sitting near the fire. Kinaram made his obeisance and was offered some roots which were being roasted in the fire. Eating them Kinaram was not only free of his hunger and thirst but a strange new energy pervaded him. When the ascetic asked him why he had entered the jungle at night Kinaram replied that “Puri, Dwarka, the banks of Gomati and Ganges cause one’s liberation from this material world, so says Shri Dattatreya.”  On hearing this, the ascetic who was Shri Dattatreya himself appeared before him in his real form and initiated him by telling him a mantra called Aghori mantra in his ear. Then keeping his hand on Kinaram’s head Shri Dattatreya imparted his energy into him for activating the Kundalini (Shaktipat method of initiation). Kinaram spent that night discussing many spiritual matters with his Guru. For Kinaram it was a very memorable night of bliss. In the morning Shri Dattatreya instructed him to complete the circumambulation of Girnar, make a pilgrimage to the Himalayas and then settle in Varanasi. Shri Dattatreya then vanished.

From Girnar Kinaram returned to Junagarh to meet his disciple Bijaram and found that the Nabab i.e. the Muslim ruler had arrested all the holy men in the capital and put them in prison. Kinaram went there and to teach the Nawab a lesson and show him the power of holy men, performed the miracle of making the grinding stones in the prison turn automatically. As a result Nawab not only released all the holy men but welcomed them and established a centre for providing free meals to the pilgrims visiting Girnar.

As instructed Kinaram made a pilgrimage of the holy places in the Himalayas and then settled in Varanasi under a tamarind tree near Krimikund.  The naturally sour leaves of the tamarind tree began to taste sweet by his touch. A sweet fragrance used to waft around his body.  He was fond of smoking hookah and of music. While in Varanasi, Kinaram performed many miracles but Dattaguru appeared to him many times in the form of an Aghori ascetic named Kaluram, tested him and proved the uselessness of the occult powers.

One day in 1772 AD on the day he had announced he would take samadhi he sat in Siddhasana pose, pronounced Aum thrice and left his body by yogic powers. He was about 150 years old at that time. He was buried there itself (Yogis are not cremated but buried in sitting pose). It is said that fragrance is emitted from the samadhi on certain days and music can be heard.

Kinaram was a contemporary of Saint Tulsidas, the author of Ramcharitmanas. There is an interesting story about him and Kinaram. In Varanasi there was a rich merchant who had no son.  He served Tulsidas for many years and prayed that he should be blessed with a son. Tulsidas promised to speak to Shri Rama about it. When Tulsidas spoke to Shri Rama at night about the merchant’s request, Shri Rama saw what was written in the merchant’s destiny and found that no son would be born to him in ten births.  He told this to Tulsidas who in turn informed the merchant that he was not destined to get a son. But the traders do not give up hope easily. He stopped going to Tulsidas and went to Kinaram Aghori instead. One day he took a dish of tasty meals to Kinaram.  Kinaram partook of three puris and vegetables and feeling pleased asked the merchant what was behind this service. The merchant expressed his desire for a son and Kinaram promised him three sons, one for each puri he ate. When the first son was born the merchant celebrated the occasion with ceremonial worship and gifts. When Tulsidas came to know about this he felt hurt and complained to Shri Rama. Then Shri Rama explained that when Tulsidas requested for a son for the merchant it was merely a request but Kinaram sacrificed his own liberation gained from his sadhana, even though it meant consequent rebirths for him, in return for the birth of a son to the merchant and that it was that sacrifice made for the sake of others that made the big difference.

Nipatniranjan   The period of this second Datta devotee from north is 1623-1738 AD. He was a Goud Brahmin from Chanderi in Bundelkhand in U.P. He had religious inclination from childhood itself and liked to sing bhajans. At the age of forty he came along with his aged mother to settle in Aurangabad.  For survival he used to fabricate armour for the warriors. But the business failed and he became so poor that there was no money even for the final rites of his mother when she died. Disgusted, he applied the ashes from his mother’s funeral pyre on his body and became a renunciate.  He now spent his time in meditation and yoga practice. After some time he was blessed with the appearance of Shri Dattatreya. His Guru was one Charpatinat. He had attained the powers of the Siddhis. It is said that even Aurangzeb the Mughal emperor was impressed by his powers. He has left many poems behind him.


The course of life of Narayanswami is strange and interesting. It shows the extent to which God interacts with a devotee and guides him even in the absence of a spiritual Guru. He was born in a Deshastha Brahmin family of name Joshi from Visapur. He was very learned in Shastra’s and a man of excellent character. He remarried after his wife died and had a son by the second marriage. He was leading a happy life but once he was defeated in a debate on Shastras in a meeting of pundits held in Pune. This was a shock to him and he left home for further studies under some able master at Varanasi. There he became an expert in the Shastras under the tutelage of an able Guru. Understanding the real reason for his desire for learning and in order that his learning should not be wasted in debates, his master took a promise from him as Gurudakshina (present to one’s Guru on completion of learning) that he would never defeat anybody in any debate. Narayanswami returned home and again resumed family life. He had two more children, both daughters, before his second wife also died. Leaving his son in Pune for studies, he came to Kolhapur with his two daughters and served Goddess Mahalkshmi ardently. She instructed him to go to Narsobawadi and pray to Shri Dattatreya. Accordingly he came to Narsobawadi with his two daughters and began his worship of Shri Dattatreya.

After constant meditation on Shri Dattatreya he received his blessings and was able to reach the state of samadhi. He used to be in this state in predawn hours. After coming out of that state he used to spend time looking after his two small daughters who had to be taken out for the morning ablutions and toilet.  One day a strange thing occurred. The girls woke up earlier than usual while their father was still in the state of samadhi and began calling him for taking them out for toilet.  Shri Dattatreya came in the form of their father and did the needful. He washed their feet and put them back to bed.  When Narayanswami came out of samadhi he awakened his daughters for taking them for their morning ablutions. But the daughters told him that he had just taken them and why he was asking them to go again. This puzzled him but when the girls even showed him the place where they had gone (in those days and even today it is customary in villages to go and sit in open fields for toilet), he was convinced that Shri Dattatreya himself had come in his form so that he would not be disturbed in the state of samadhi.  He was sad for causing Shri Dattatreya to serve him and he arranged for the marriages of the two girls. Now that he was rid of encumbrances he was free to pursue his spiritual routines and was longing to be initiated as a sanyasi in proper way. The story of his initiation is really fantastic and it occurred at the place mentioned in Gurucharitra where the sixty-four yoginis used go and worship Shri Narasimha Saraswati.

He had been praying for his initiation as a sanyasi when he received the divine message that it would occur at proper time. Narayanswami used to go daily at dawn to the nearby confluence of Krishna with Panchganga for his bath. One day he slipped and fell into the river. Inside the water he saw Shri Narasimha Saraswati present and ready with all the preparations to initiate him as a sanyasi.  Shri Narasimha Saraswati performed all the rituals of the initiation and gave him the ochre clothes of a sanyasi and the staff, and named him Shri Narayan Saraswati. When he came out of water he was dressed as a regular sanyasi but nobody knew that he had undergone the initiation and that too by Shri Narasimha Saraswati himself. Thinking that he has taken on the dress himself without the rituals he was outcast by the local Brahmins.

Narayanswami used to sit in a closed room and if some devotee came and made obeisance to him from outside, he could hear the sound “Narayan” from inside the room. The local people were puzzled and one night the chief of the Math peeped through a hole in the door and to his amazement found Narayanswami praying to Narsimha (fourth avatar of Vishnu in the form of a man with lion head) with a large lion sitting in front of him. This was a shock to the chief who realized that Narayanswami was a great yogi. He asked to be forgiven and then was told the story of his initiation as a sanyasi. Narayanswami continued to live in Narsobawadi and took samadhi in the year 1805. This day is still celebrated annually there.

Thus we see how a person by sheer perseverance and devotion can attain the highest and how the Divine helps the seeker in his efforts in the smallest matters.


It has been mentioned earlier that Datta-devotees fall into two types, the orthodox and liberal. Chidambar Dikshit belongs to the orthodox class. It has been stated that his task was to uphold the orthodox four-caste system which was deteriorating in his time. In fact the same is stated about Shri Dattatreya himself, a point that was discussed in the beginning of this section.

Chidambar Dikshit, born in Murgod in Karnataka, was the son of Martand Joshi, a Yajurvedi Brahmin from Gothe in Bijapur District. Martand Joshi had performed a yajna called Somayag and was therefore designated as Dikshit (initiated) which then became the surname or the family. Chidambar Dikshit had two wives, six sons and a daughter. He established a Vedic school at Murgod to teach Sanskrit, Shastras, and Vedas, but moved away from the village when a Brahmin was killed there. (Killing a Brahmin was supposed to be a very serious sin in the days of orthodoxy.)  He travelled to many places in north Karnataka and in the year 1807 performed a yajna at Navalgund. He wrote many compositions in abhanga verse style the total abhangas numbering to more than one and a half lakhs. Though orthodox in personal behaviour he had disciples from all castes and many sanyasis as well. One Rajaram Maharaj (who incidentally belonged to the Kshatriya caste) was his prime disciple. He has written his biography in more than one lakh abhangs. He was a principled person and stated that “We Brahmins should be charitable enough to give away their entire worldly wealth; one should not think that our Dharma lies in spreading our hand before others for begging.”  His own son once collected funds of more than one lakh rupees in his name. He felt very unhappy and distributed the entire amount to the poor.  Chidambar Dikshit was considered as an avatar of Shri Dattatreya and it has been mentioned by his disciples that they were told in vision that he was an avatar and there was no difference between Shri Narasimha Saraswati and Chidambar Dikshit. His Samadhi is at Gurlhosur in Karnataka.


There is a village called Ashoka on the banks of river Malaprabha now in Karnataka State. Raghunath was the son of Ganeshbhat Alawnikar from this village. He had an elder brother and a sister. From childhood he had the habit of sitting in meditation. His father arranged for the marriages of the two elder children and fixed the date for Raghunath’s marriage too but when Raghunath learnt about it he ran away from home and reached Nashik. He was about twelve years of age at that time.

The parents were terribly grieved. Not having any clue as to where Raghunath might have gone, they decided to search for him in Varanasi where many seekers drift. Unfortunately, not finding him in Varanasi both ended their lives by drowning themselves into the Ganges.   

In Nashik, Raghunath stayed on the banks of Godavari, doing the daily rituals like sandhya etc. prescribed for Brahmins.  But he did not go out for alms and remained without food for seven days, drinking only Godavari water during this period. One day, one Bajirao Balwant Phadke, a Brahmin of excellent character noticed him and felt attracted towards him. Phadke enquired about him and took him home.  He was assigned the daily worship in his house and was sent to one Joglekarshastri for studying Sanskrit and Shastras.  Joglekarshastri was known as a highly learned person in Nashik. Raghunath learnt, to the surprise of all, the ten books (four Vedas and six Shastras) in no time by heart.  One day Raghunath performed the worship and while he sat for meditation he disappeared from view all of a sudden. This surprised Phadke who searched for him everywhere and when he could not be found closed the door of the worship room. He peeped into the room some time later and was shocked to see Raghunath sitting in deep meditation but levitated couple of feet above the floor. Phadke then realized that Raghunath was no ordinary person but a great yogi.  From that day Phadke addressed him as “Maharaj”, the term used to address great yogis and behaved respectfully with him.

The daily routine of Raghunath Maharaj was to go at dawn to the Godavari bank, take bath and perform Sandhya, Japa etc. until sunrise. Then he would return to Phadke’s home for performing worship and meditation, take food in the afternoon and later meet people to solve their doubts. At sunset time he would again go to the river for the evening Sandhya.  Sometimes he would spend the night meditating in a dilapidated house or in the forest.  During one such sojourn in the forest he saw Shri Dattatreya and prostrated before him. They spent the night talking and decided to meet in the dilapidated house every night. These meetings were witnessed by only one person, that fortunate person being Niranjanswami the disciple of Raghunath Maharaj who was instructed to undertake writing.  Niranjanswami or Niranjan Raghunath realised that his Guru and Shri Dattatreya are one and the same.  Raghunath Maharaj who was also known as Adwaiteshwar took Samadhi live i.e. he sat in yogic posture and let his consciousness leave the body deliberately by yogic means as Dnyaneshwar Maharaj had done. His Samadhi is in Nashik itself.  There is a Shivalinga installed at the location which is known as Adwaiteshwar. The devotees of Raghunath Maharaj celebrate Mahashivaratri there elaborately. His biography is written by Niranjan Raghunath. The period of Raghunathbhatji Nashikakar is eighteenth century.  His disciples consider him to be a reincarnation of Rishi Bhrigu.


Niranjan Raghunath was born in the year 1782 at Kalamb in Dharur Tehsil in South Hyderabad. His father’s name was Shridharpant Shrotri. He was named Avadhut at birth and renamed later as Niranjan by his Guru Raghunathbhatji Nashikakar. He was emotional by nature. He was poor and did not study much.  He earned his living by doing some private service but was soon fed up with the world realizing it to be impermanent. He was longing for a vision of Shri Dattatreya in person. One day he left his home and came to Dehu, the place where saint Tukaram lived. Later (in 1811) he vowed that if he does not get the vision of Shri Dattatreya within one year and seven days he would kill himself. Then he left Dehu and came to Nashik where he met his Guru who was very happy to notice in him the detachment of a seeker and desire for spiritual goal.  Within three months his Guru saw to it that he had the experience of the Brahman. Strangely, that did quench his desire for the vision of Shri Dattatreya. He then told his Guru about his vow and was advised to go to mount Girnar where he would have the desired vision.

He set upon his travel but arranged it such that he reached the Padukas on the mountain just three days before the period of vow was to end. After making his obeisance to the Padukas he told there that only three days were left and if he did not get the vision by then he would smash his own head with the nearby stone. So saying, he sat there repeating the name of Shri Dattatreya continuously. On the first night there was a storm with cold winds and rain. Niranjan was stiff with cold and became unconscious. In that state a married lady came there and gave him some Khichadi (cooked rice and pulses). When he came to senses there was nobody there. Next night he dreamt he received a yellow cloth and a handkerchief. When he woke up he found the items were really there. Third night a Brahmin came in his dream, gave him wooden sandals and asked him to leave the place.  When he woke up he really found the sandals but there was no vision. Now in desperation he took the nearby stone and hit own head with it. On the second hit he fell unconscious. He gained consciousness to find somebody pouring water in his mouth. That was Shri Dattatreya in person. He passed his hand on Niranjan’s head and it became as before. Shri Dattatreya told him that he was not different from his Guru and to listen to the advice given by him.  Thus ended his travails. He returned to Nashik and spent rest of his years with his Guru.

KAVADIBUVA (1776-1863)

Kavadibuva is known for his book Dattaprabodh which he wrote on the instructions of Shri Dattatreya. This is an instance where the higher powers arrange for spiritual guidance to people in different ways.

Kavadibuva’s real name was Vithal Anant Pimpalgaonkar but he is also known as Anantsut Kavadibuva, Anantsut meaning son of Anant. He came from Pise Pimpalgaon in the Parner tehsil of Nagar district. His family held the hereditary post of “Kulkarni” (a sort of village clerk). The name Kavadibuva is derived from kavad (pronounced kaavad) which is a long staff generally made from thick bamboo strips with two large baskets hanging from each end. It is used for carrying material by supporting the staff on shoulders. (The system is used even today in India and far eastern countries like China, Vietnam etc.).  Kavadibuva’s father in his old age, had asked him to take him and Kavadibuva’s mother on a pilgrimage to Varanasi. Kavadibuva was very pious and also revered his parents. He agreed and as many people did in those days he seated his parents in either basket of the kavad and accompanied by a servant and a horse to carry provisions, set on the pilgrimage. Unfortunately his mother died en route and later, when reached Brahmavarta (in U.P.), his father became a sanyasi and he too died. After performing the death rituals Kavadibuva installed the idols of Vithoba and Rakhumai (the presiding deities of Pandharpur) in the kavad and continued the pilgrimage.

On the Dattajayanti (birthday of Shri Dattatreya which falls in December) he had camped in a village called Galav where, as part of the Dattajayanti celebrations, the local people were looking for a Kirtankar (a person who gives religious discourses).  When saw Kavadibuva they requested him to undertake the task. He was hesitating when Shri Dattatreya came there in the form of a Brahmin and commanded him to undertake the task and also to take up writing, assuring that he would always be with him in his tasks. (One may ask how one would know the Brahmin was Shri Dattatreya, but it must be the inner intuition of Kavadibua that made the identification.) The Kirtan was a success and Kavadibuva resumed his travels. Now the task of writing remained. Again Shri Dattatreya came as a Brahmin and instructed him to start writing assuring again that he would get all the help.  During his travels he reached Ujjain where he stayed for some time and wrote the first forty chapters of Dattaprabodh and then proceeded towards Dwarka. En route he reached Baroda in about 1856 where he met many other saints. By now he had many disciples. One of them built a temple of Shri Rama for him and requested him to stay there permanently. He agreed and installed there the idols of Vithoba and Rakhumai brought by him in the kavad. During the next year i.e. by about March 1860 (on the Hindu new year day) he completed the remaining twenty chapters of Dattaprabodh. He passed away three and half years later. His book was published by Mr, Damodar Savalaram Yande in the year 1900. The book contains the spiritual advice given by Shri Dattatreya to his mother Anasuya.


He was the son of Tatya Puranik, a Rigvedi Deshastha Brahmin from Jalwan near Jhansi, now in Madhya Pradesh. Tatya Puranik had conducted readings of Bhagwat Purana one hundred times with the intention of begetting a son.  Narayanmaharaj was born subsequently. His mother died when he was one year old and he was cared for by his grandmother. His father performed his thread ceremony when he was eight and got him married when he was ten.

Since childhood he was attracted to spiritual path and when he was just five years old, used to sit inside the wall cupboard for meditation for hours with closed eyes. When asked what he was doing there he used to reply that he was seeing God. After his marriage he was overcome by the feeling of detachment and left home. He came to Mathura and practised Hathayoga under a well-known yogi called Gordhanbaba who also guided him into the meditation technique. After four years spent in yoga and meditation he felt dissatisfied and boldly told so to Gordhanbaba who told him that he would be satisfied only when he meets Shri Dattatreya.

He returned home at the request of his father and stayed there for two years. He had a son but both his son and wife died within eight days of birth. Now he was without encumbrances and he went to mount Girnar where he spent his time in strict austerity and tapas with an intense desire to see Shri Dattatreya. He fasted for fourteen days vowing that if he did not see Shri Dattatreya then he would give up his body. On the fourteenth day, when there was no appearance of Shri Dattatreya he prepared himself to jump from the hill. As he was about to jump Shri Dattatreya appeared (not in his own form) and asked him what he was doing.  When told that he was killing himself because he was not meeting Shri Dattatreya he asked him whether he thought killing himself would lead to his meeting Shri Dattatreya.  Narayanmaharaj told him that he did not know that but he found life meaningless without meeting Shri Dattatreya. Shri Dattatreya then held his hand and took him to a cave where he showed him his form and satisfied him. His highest goal was achieved when he received spiritual advice from Shri Dattatreya himself. He remained at Girnar for four years during which period he benefited from the association with Niranjanswami, another Datta devotee mentioned earlier.

Returning from Girnar he travelled throughout India and helped whoever came to him for getting solace from worldly problems. Sanyasis also came to him for advice. His disciples are mostly around the Jhansi-Indore region and at Varanasi. The king of Dhar state was one of his ardent devotees. He has written several books and some of his compositions are recited daily by Datta devotees.

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)

Aspirations From a Fresh World by Shakuntala Rao Shastri. Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay 400007, (1951)

Shri Sant Eknath  by G. N. Dandekar, Majestic Prakashan, Girgaon, Bombay 400004. (1974), 85pp (In Marathi)

Santakripa  (Various issues)  Monthly magazine published  by Santakripa Pratishthan Pune  also various biographies published by them.

Datta Prabodha by Kavadibuva alias Anantsut Vitthal Pub. by V.N. Zuralemaharaj, Dombivali, Maharashtra. 1988.

Dnyaneshwari (The Philosophical Part) by V.V.Shirvaikar On the Internet at 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

  LINKS:  Main home page.      Dattatreya Tradition Home page

PARTs:    I    II   III   IV   V-A   V-B    VI    VII-1     VII-2     VII-3     VII-4    

  Return to the top of this page.