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By Dr. V.V. Shirvaikar
Yogiraj Shri Shankar Maharaj was undoubtedly one of the greatest saints of Maharashtra in the modern age. He was an Auliya or Avadhut, a term used for yogis who have reached perfection and have achieved Siddhis (occult powers). He belonged to the Nath Panth (Sect), though he did not follow its their dress or mannerisms. He took samadhi in Pune at the age of about 150 years on April 28th 1947, an event which he had postponed for seventeen years at the request of his disciple Dr Nagesh Dhaneshwar. His Samadhi Mandir which houses his physical body is in Pune on the Pune-Satara road about 10 Km from Pune Railway station. Hundreds of devotees visit the Mandir every day to pay their respects and receive blessings. It is strongly believed and experienced by his devotees that even though Maharaj is no longer in his physical body, he still looks after the welfare of his devotees. There are many instances reported by his devotees and disciples of his having appeared before them either in his own form or through the bodies of others in the time of crisis.
Leading people towards God Maharaj did not have any fixed headquarters, no Math. He was his own headquarters. Neither did he have any possessions. He did not stay in one place for long. His disciples' homes were his own. He moved mainly between Bombay, Pune, Ahmednagar (Nagar), Solapur, Nashik and Akluj (Malinagar Sugar factory) where he had numerous disciples and devotees. Maharaj travelled widely to visit his devotees who considered themselves to be privileged to have Maharaj visit and live with them.
Wherever Maharaj went, he organised through his devotees, festivals or programs of Bhajans, discourses (Kirtan) and reading of religious philosophical texts (Parayan) like Dnyaneshwari (the famous commentary in Marathi on Gita written by Dnyaneshwar Maharaj seven hundred years ago), Dasbodh (the spiritual and practical guide by Samarth Ramdas), Gurucharitra (the chronicle of the two avatars of Shri Dattatreya, Shripad Shrivallabh and Shri Narasimha Saraswarti) and Bhagwat (a Purana depicting the glory of Lord Vishnu), thus turning peoples' minds towards God. He used to ask worthy persons to give discourses and used to sit quietly and listen to Kirtans etc. Maharaj particularly loved Dnyaneshwari which he fondly called Dnyani. Maharaj did not give discourses himself because of his lisped speech. But he motivated his disciples to give discourses on Dnyaneshwari. In Pune, Taisaheb Mehendale, wife of Raosaheb Mehendale, a well known barrister, was one such disciple who regularly gave not only discourses on Dnyneshwari but arranged celebration of other festivals like Gokulashtami and Shivaratri which hundreds of people attended.
He had Muslim devotees too. One of his disciples in Pune was Khansaheb who owned a Watch Company in Pune. Another was Mr Nuri from Bombay, a friend of Raosahb Mehendale. Many other Muslims took advice from Maharaj. He used to answer to their difficulties by quoting extracts from the holy Koran. He used to say that Islam means peace. Prophet Mohammed preached peace, advised not to kill, not to steal, not to tell lies, not to spend time idly in luxury, not to charge interest on loan etc. He told the Muslim devotees that real mosque lies in a pure heart. The true teaching of Islam is to keep infinite faith in God and love is God.
Birth and early age Actually very little definite information is available about the birth and early life of Maharaj. Whatever little is known is from what his devotees claim he had told them but unfortunately these accounts differ in details. For example there are three different stories about his birth, two of them saying that Maharaj was found in a jungle by his childless foster-parents who were instructed in a vision to search for him. But the most reliable is probably what Maharaj himself told his disciple Dr. Nagesh Dhaneshwar. According to this, he was born in about year 1800 at Mangalwedhe (near Pandharpur) in a brahmin family named Upasani. This was during the rule of the last Peshwa at Pune from whose hands Maharaj, as a brahmin boy, had received Dakshina. When he was a boy, events led to his meeting Swami Samarth of Akkalkot who gave him sparshdiksha i.e. initiation by touch. Later he travelled to Himalayas for hard Tapas
Return from the Himalayas On returning from Himalayas he spent time with Siddha-yogis in and around Vriddheshwar (near Nagar) which is known as the centre for meditation of many Nath Siddhas. During the early British rule in Pune, a British collector developed faith in Maharaj and considered him as his Guru. Maharaj went with him to England and returned ten years later after his disciple reached perfection in the yoga path. It is not clear when exactly these events occurred but it must have been much after 1814, the year when the British took over Pune after defeating Peshwas and established a civil administration.
There is a puzzling aspect in the accounts of his activities from the time he left Himalayas and returned to Maharashtra. For example, 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. Nevertheless it does present a puzzling account to the common man who would be happier with a materially rational account. Another piece of information received from Maharaj himself was that he spent some time with famous singers and Pakhavaj (a two sided percussion instrument) players and became 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 again chronology of these events is lacking.
Return to Maharashtra Some sixty to seventy years must have passed between his leaving for Himalayas and appearing in Maharashtra. He first came to Solapur and stayed in the Shubharai Math with Janardanbua, the chief of the Math. Janardanbua became one of the main disciples of Maharaj. In later years also, whenever Maharaj came to Solapur he used to stay in the Shubharai Math. From there he visited the Samadhi of his Guru at Akkalkot about 30Km distant. His Solapur visit must have been around the year 1900 or a little earlier.<P>
From Solapur, Maharaj went to Triambakeshwar near Nashik, where one of the twelve Jyotirlingas is located. Here he stayed with Mr Rambhau Akolkar, a lawyer. Akolkar family had a cow which was not giving milk. Maharaj asked to milk her and the cow started giving milk. From Nashik, Maharaj came to Pune. It is not clear when exactly he came or whom he first met in Pune. Earliest written memories about him date back from the early twentieth century. In about 1908, at Nagar 120 Km from Pune, he appeared mysteriously in the garb of a tall fakir before Dr Dhaneshwar, when the latter was a boy and yet to become his favoured disciple. Even earlier, in around 1900 he had saved Dr Dhaneshwar's would-be father-in-law from serious illness in Burhanpur in Madhya Pradesh. In 1927 he again met Dr Dhaneshwar at Daund, a town close to Pune. Dr Dhaneshwar was on his way back to his home-town nagar. Maharaj this time was in his usual bent appearance. Maharaj followed him to Nagar. He had many disciples in Nagar, well known among them being Dr Dhaneshwar and his father, and Major Ganesh Abhyankar and his son Dattatreya Abhyankar.
The earliest memories about Maharaj from Pune proper are from 1938 onwards, written by Yogi Dnyananath (Mr Bapu Ranade) who met Maharaj in that year. Maharaj at that time already had many devotees and disciples in Pune, well-known among them being barrister Raosaheb Mehendale and his wife Taisaheb Mehendale, Mama Dhekne, the singer Yellubai Mane, Baburao Rudra, Mr Vasudeo M. Pandit, Yogi Dnyananath and Mr S. B. Patwardhan. (The last three are still living). Maharaj chose Pune for his samadhi. Maharaj had many disciles in Solapur and at the Malinagar Sugar Factory at Akluj near Solapur also. Mr G.K. Pradhan, Mr Keshavbhai Asher and his wife Maniben from Akluj/Mumbai. Shri Janardanbua of the Shubharaya Math of Solapur, Mr Omkarnath Bhasme from Solapur. Mr V. K. Kulkarni from Akluj, now living in Kolhapur. His disciples came from all strata of society.
He blessed many families and individuals during this period guiding them in the spiritual path. People came to Maharaj both for material as well as spiritual blessings. Those of the latter category were few but it was those that Maharaj loved best.
His appearance and habits Though Maharaj belonged to Nath Panth, he never followed the dress or other mannerisms of the sect. In fact, looking at Maharaj, one would not have believed he was a yogi of the highest calibre. The external appearance of Maharaj has been described as that of Ashtavakra or bent in eight places. Maharaj had a short stature, but was ajanubahu i.e. having long hands reaching below his knees. Most noticeable were his large and bright eyes and a childlike expression on his face. The traditional photograph of Maharaj depicts him with a beard, but towards later years he was clean shaven. Many photographs and pictures of Maharaj with clean shaven face wearing different types of garments may be seen at the Samadhi in Pune. He often had brandy bottle in his hand and a hunter whip with him. He often used to address people by the swear words, but without malice. Actually it was believed that when Maharaj abused somebody it got rid of that person's past Karmas or misfortunes. His immense kindness and compassion were consistent with his being a Nath Panthi.
Some yogis behave normally in society and live, at least externally, as per social norms but some of those who have reached perfection are beyond all social bonds and rules and may behave abnormally. Some behave like a child (Balavritti or childlike tendency), some may behave eccentrically like madmen (Unmattavritti or excited tendency) while some may behave in very strange way living like a ghost in odd places (Pishacchavritti or Ghost tendency). As they enjoy internal bliss of the experience of the Brahman they are not much bothered about the external world except that they continue guiding and helping people in their own way. In this state he may not even bother if he eats or sleeps or wears clothes or whether it is hot, cold or humid. Many Avadhuts remain in one of the above three states. Maharaj was known to exhibit a mixture of the three tendencies.
Maharaj was fond of smoking Honeydew (popularly known as Pila Hathi) cigarettes. He was also fond of drinking brandy and appeared to be often intoxicated. He used to like the scent (attar) of Hina and loved music. Wherever he went his disciples would welcome him and he stayed with whomever he pleased to stay, rich or poor. Maharaj used to drink with a purpose. His drunk appearance helped keeping 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.
Maharaj knew many other saints well. He and J. Krishnamurthi knew each other and had met briefly at Pune Railway station when the latter was in transit. There was a female fakir named Hazarat Babajan and a male fakir called Fakirbaba in Pune whom Maharaj visited often. Like his Guru Shri Swami Samarth, Maharaj was not an orthodox person. He never bothered about the external formalities like caste barriers, untouchability and external cleanliness about which the orthodox yogis are so particular. In fact there is no record of Maharaj ever having met the orthodox yogis in Pune or elsewhere.
All saints have miracles happening around them and Maharaj is no exception. Maharaj used his powers to help his devotees. What looks to us as miracles is however not a very unusual feat for an yogi. The miracles include knowledge of past and future events, creation of matter, going from one place to another instantly, being in several places at the same time, feeding a large multitude from a small quantity of food and so on. Maharaj did these miracles to draw people to spiritual path, teach them basic philosophy of spiritual life and to benefit them in general.
SAMADHISeventeen years had passed since the time Maharaj had postponed his samadhi at the request of Dr Dhaneshwar. Maharaj decided to take samadhi on Shukla Ashtami of month Vaishakh by Hindu lunar calender, when the planetary positions were proper. This fell on Monday 28th April 1947, Ten days before the event Maharaj broke all outside contacts. Only the usual group used to visit him at Mama Dhekne's house where he was staying. Not a word was spoken. On the Saptami day, that is the day before the samadhi, he told Mami (wife of Mama Dhekne) , "Give me just a cup of tea. No cigarettes also. Inside the shelf spread a small mattress and keep a cushion. I am going to take bath and sit there. I don't want to speak a word nor meet anyone. The door should not be opened." And he did accordingly. Mama and Mami were sitting the whole night in front of the shelf keeping watch. At four o'clock in the morning voice came from inside the shelf, "Make further arrangements. Take care of this material body. This flame of Dnyanadeo is now leaving it."
Word spread. It was April 28th. People gathered to have a last sight of the body. Next day around noon the body was taken in procession to the place selected earlier by Maharaj and by the route also indicated by him. In the background of sounds of "Bm Bm Bholenath" in praise of lord Shiva the body was kept in the ground at about five o'clock in the evening and in no time only a mound of earth covered with garlands was all that could be seen. Everybody returned from that lonely jungle except Mr Baburao Rudra who tended to the samadhi and the daily service there for several years.
APPEARANCES AFTER SAMADHI Even after samadhi on 28th April 1947, Maharaj continues to meet his disciples, guide and help them. This is not unusual for yogi saints who continue to shower their benevolence even after taking samadhi. Whenever their assistance is prayed for by a devotee (or even without it), they are known to appear before them physically or in dreams. Shri Narasimha Saraswati, Swami Samarth of Akkalkot, Gajanan Maharaj, Shri Saibaba of Shirdi are a few well-known examples of such Yogi saints besides Shri Shankar Maharaj.
His physical appearances after samadhi may look strange to a materialistic person even though there is a large number of instances where, in the western world, Jesus Christ and his mother Virgin Mary are said to have appeared before many people in vision either to help or to strengthen their faith. The best example is that of Bernadette whose vision of Virgin Mary on 11th February 1858 gave the western world the gift of the famous curative waters of Lourdes in France. Those familiar with yogic powers take these things for granted.
Mr V.M.Pandit, one of the disciples of Maharaj still living, recounts how Maharaj appeared through the medium of the bodies of his sister-in-law and of Dr Dhaneshwar to save him from personal problems. Late Mr Datta Abhyankar also has recounted to me how Maharaj visited him and saved his two year old daughter from a serious illness nearly eighteen years after samadhi. It is a confirmed belief of his devotees that Maharaj had been using the body of Dinesh Kulkarni as a medium until recently and many people consider him no different from Shri Shankar Maharaj. I have met half a dozen persons who have been saved by Maharaj from personal crisis when they had even not heard about maharaj. Now they are sincere devotees of Maharaj.
What Maharaj taught Maharaj did not give discourses himself but as mentioned earlier, used other disciples like Taisaheb Mehendale to teach the principles of Dnyaneshwari which he loved. Many of his teachings are well brought out in the two novels by Mr G. K. Pradhan. He used his disciples to help mankind. He was very particular for example that Dr Dhaneshwar did not use his medical practice to amass wealth but to serve the sick.
Maharaj never encouraged anybody to take up spiritual path at the cost of one's worldly duties. For example he never allowed Dr Dhaneshwar to participate in the group during his consultancy hours. He said, "Duty first". He encouraged to carry out your worldly duties and simultaneously progress spiritually through proper attitude to life as described in Dnyaneshwari. He also said, "You must not give up efforts. If you have to appear for an exam then it is you who have to prepare for it." What he meant was that even if a Guru gives guidance and strength it is your own efforts that make your spiritual progress.
Some people asked him once about which Guru they should follow. His reply was : If you want to find truth then be your own Guru. Do not run about searching for a Guru. When Sattva attribute of your mind has grown sufficiently then your Guru will automatically come to you. Do not expect your Guru to solve your material problems.
He also told, "Serve your parents who have given you birth and taken care of you since childhood. That will guide you in your life and make you happy. Also serve the family deity. The family deity takes care of your family. Worship regularly. This will bring regularity in your life. Your nature will change and the Guru designated for you will come to you."
He also said, "Everyone in this world is after happiness. But nobody bothers to think about what really is happiness. Unfulfilled desires, jealousy, greed, ambition etc. create sorrow in our life. Eliminating them can alone create happiness in our life. It is a mistake to think that happiness can be obtained by external things without getting rid of our internal shortcomings. Reading various kinds philosophies can only create ego. We have lost the ability to think independently. We have forgotten that happiness and peace are to be obtained through one’s own efforts."
"I never feel I want this and that. Therefore I do not know what is pleasure and what is sorrow. There is ceaseless bliss in me. There is nothing left for me to gain and I have nothing that can be lost. I never feel that I should preach some definite dogma. There is no veil between what God has created and me."
He warned, "Do not go after Tantric practices. Such people waste their life and finally resort to cheating. It is much better to achieve success through your own efforts than through the Tantric techniques." This must be considered as a warning from an authority since maharaj himself was well versed in Tantras.
Some people asked Maharaj about the fear which they felt about many things like body, death etc. Maharaj said, consistent with Dnyaneshwari, that everything in this world is destructible therefore there should not be any fear about that. One should realise that you are not the body but the soul and the soul is indestructible. Once this is realised bliss will replace fear. One should also be confident that God is your great saviour.
Maharaj loved Dnyaneshwari, which he fondly called by the name Dnyani. An advice Maharaj gave to almost all was to study Dnyaneshwari in depth. It is said that one should experience (what is said in) one at least ovi of this great work. Dnyaneshwar Maharaj was a great yogi, second in the line of Gahininath with whom Maharaj, according to what he once told Dr Dhaneshwar ar Vridheshwar, was closely connected in earlier lives.
,Motto of Maharaj may be summarised in the words of Dr Dhaneshwar "The aim of a Nath Panthi is to help people without bothering about his own personal liberation. Because of the compassion for all living, he takes birth again and again all over the earth in all communities and not necessarily a ordained a Nath Panthi during that birth. It is because of such selfless liberated souls that the fabric of human society is maintained."
Late Sheikh Abdul Razakshah Biyabani. a retired police officer and a spiritually elevated person. who had studied in depth not only Koran as a Muslim but Gita and Dnyaneshwari as well gave in 1979 or may be 1980, a discourse in the Samadhi premises in which he said,
"Do you think that Shri Shankar Maharaj is not present here? He is everywhere. But this Samadhi is the symbol of his eternal spirit. Do not disfigure this statue here....".
This is then Yogiraj Shri
Shankar Maharaj who was and still is a guiding light for all those who need it.
You may search for him and may not find him but he will surely find you if you
Among the disciples of Maharaj Dr N. R. Dhaneshwar, Mr G. K. Pradhan, Taisaheb Mehendale and Mr Dattatreya Abhyankar are better known among his devotees. Brief sketches of their life with Maharaj are given in the following.
Dr N. R. Dhaneshwar
Dr Nagesh Dhaneshwar came from a highly spiritual family. Nagesh (known as Appa at home) grew up in Nagar where his father Ramchandra Dhaneshwar had settled with a teachers job.
Appa had a natural tendency towards medicine and even while he was in school he studied Ayurveda from his neighbour Dr Kadekar, an expert Ayurvedic doctor who advised him to go first to a regular allopathic medical college because knowledge of both the systems would broaden his mind. Appa passed his medical degree exam in 1927 from Grant Medical College Bombay and returned to Nagar.
On the way to Nagar he was invited by the station master of Daund station, where one has to change trains for Nagar, to his home. There he met Maharaj who already knew Appa, having had met him in the guise of a Fakir when Appa was about twelve years old. Appa returned home and found to his surprise that his father also was a disciple of Maharaj. The family was not well-to-do but by providing both money and place through his disciples, Maharaj helped Appa establish his dispensary. At the time of its inauguration, Maharaj said,
"Medical practice is not a business. It a service for the people. There should be no discrimination made between the rich and the poor. There should not be greed for money or for amassing wealth." Appa followed this advice throughout his career. Once he told, "I am not free to do as I like. I have to do whatever Maharaj instructs. He is not letting me accumulate money. Even at Nagar, he used to tell me every fortnight to clear the balance and distribute the money to poor. Once a friend credited some amount in my account without my knowledge. But Maharaj came to know about it and became angry with me. I at once distributed the money. He keeps a continuous eye on me." Events occurred to convince Appa that Maharaj as Guru loved him more than a mother and since then Appa completely surrendered to Maharaj.
The motto of Maharaj was "Duty first". Maharaj never permitted Appa to join him in the discussions with other devotees during dispesary hours. But both of them used to sit for hours during the night, often without a word being spoken. Once Maharaj stayed in Nagar for nearly six months during which period Maharaj taught Appa all siddhis which he mastered quickly but abandoned as being useless to him. He believed that having been born as a human being one must face one's problems as a human being without taking help of the supernatural siddhis. Maharaj made Dr Dhaneshwar study Dnyaneshwari in depth. Step by step Appa progressed spiritually under the guidance of Maharaj who trained and tested his disciple thoroughly..
Once Maharaj took Appa around Vriddheshwar (about 50 km from Nagar) known for the caves used by Nath yogis for meditation. In one cave he showed Appa the place where Gahininath used to sit for meditation. His other disciples also used to sit around that place. By continued sitting, the stones were worn out to the body shape. Maharaj said that Dr Dhaneshwar also was among them in an arlier birth and assured him that, "once a Master from Nath Panth initiates you he never forsakes you. He remains in Nath Panth in all births." Maharaj used to say that the relationship between himself and Appa as Guru and disciple has been for the last eight hundred years. Once a Guru accepts you as a disciple, the relationship continues in other births.
Appa faithfully followed the advice given by Maharaj during the inauguration of his dispensary; he practised medicine as a service to people. He never amassed wealth, even if this meant financial strain for his family. He used to charge one rupee for consultation and two annas (twelve paise of today; sixteen annas made a rupee.) per day for medicine; his visit fee was just one rupee. This fee was much less than what others charged in those days and even then many people would default on payments. He used to give medicine free to the poor and sometimes pay from his own pocket for the medicines if need arose. During the second world war, imported medicines were in short supply. Appa used his vast knowledge of Ayurveda to cure people with locally available drugs. He also used to teach medicine and surgery in the Ayurvedic College in Nagar.
In 1930 Maharaj expressed his desire to take samadhi. The combination of the planetary positions known to be excellent for samadhi was approaching and Maharaj wanted to make use of that. But at the request of Dr Dhaneshwar, whom Maharaj had promised to teach all his knowledge, postponed his samadhi by seventeen years when the same combination would return.
After the death of his wife Appa came to live with his eldest son Datta in Pune telling him that he will live only for six more years. He had the task to guide some people in Pune. After some illness Appa or Dr Dhaneshwar the Siddhayogi left is body on January 13th 1980 in Pune. When the word of Appa's death spread people flocked to his house and then to the cremation ground. Thus ended the material life of a great Siddha-yogi and companion of Maharaj for many lifetimes.
G. K. Pradhan
Born in 1902, Mr Gopal Khanderao Pradhan obtained the commerce degree of Vanijya Visharad from Gujarat Vidyapith (Not the present Gujarat University) and had the opportunity of interacting with leaders and intellectuals in India. After a stint in government service in Madhya Pradesh, he worked as an editor of an English magazine at Ahmedabad. Then he turned to business. Mr Pradhan's first encounter with Maharaj was while Mr Pradhan was secretary to the Managing Director of Saswad Mali Sugar Factory at Malinagar near Solapur. Mr Asher was Factory Manager. Though posted at Akluj, the families of both were in Bombay.
First meeting with Maharaj One day, in 1942, Pradhan left his home in Akluj for going to Bombay. In those days, this required crossing the river by a ferry and catching a bus to the railway station for onward rail journey to Bombay. As Pradhan was going towards the ferry in a car, Maharaj was coming to Akluj at the same time in a bullock cart. As usual Maharaj was making very odd gestures. Other occupants of the car started saying "Maharaj has come!, Maharaj has come!", and were trying to get a glimpse of him. Western educated Pradhan being an atheist did not even bother to look at him as disliked and hated sadhus and sanyasis, but did have a momentary eye contact with Maharaj. Pradhan was caught in a rain storm while waiting for the bus which did not come. He spent the night in a cowshed and by morning had high fever. He managed to return to the factory where, while he was being treated for the fever and lying down drowsily, he suddenly heard the sound of laughter. He opened his eyes to find Maharaj standing before him. "So you were in a hurry to go to Bombay, no? What happened to that?" So saying, Maharaj vanished. One day, while he was resting in Mr Asher's bunglow, Maharaj entered with a group of seven or eight persons. He was wearing a half-pant and an ordinary looking shirt. Face was twisted to one side, and he had a liquor bottle in one hand. Nobody would have recognised him as a yogi. As soon as he entered he started twisting the knobs of the radio. Pradhan who could not stand this interference shouted at Maharaj who left after a while. Pradhan asked Asher, "Who is this Maharaj you have brought here?" Asher told him that he was a great yogi and asked him to touch his feet. Pradhan replied, "What have I to do with Maharaj? I have seen many such persons. I do not care for them. I am not going to do namaskar to anybody. I shall do so only to him who will give me the experience of God."
Next night, Pradhan volunteered to accompany Maharaj to the house of his disciple Mr Janubhau Girme, a well-to-do farmer who lived in his farmhouse bungalow at Navsari about 10 Km away. It was here that Maharaj asked some ash from the Samadhi of Swami Samarth of Akkalkot to be put into Pradhan's mouth. Immediately after this was done, Pradhan's body became stiff like wood. He remained in that state for nearly seven hours while everybody waited. Pradhan describes his experience of that time as follows: "I suddenly went into samadhi (trance ) state and felt I came out of my body; I started moving in the star-studded blue sky. I experienced different types of beautiful tunes and fragrances in that state. When I came out of that state it was eight in the morning. Sun was shining outside. That means I was in that state for nearly seven hours. Shankar Maharaj was before me, looking at me with a smile. I kept my head on his feet and said, ‘ I didn't have any idea of your powers. From today onwards you are my Guru.’ " Later Maharaj told Pradhan, "You are really the disciple of Akkalkot Swami. That old man is insistently gets this done through me."
Thus, a totally atheist Pradhan was completely transformed by Maharaj in no time. He used to do daily worship and the routine like meditation and Japa assigned by his Guru. He also used to do ritual readings of holy works like Gurucharitra and Dnyaneshwari. He had done readings of Gurucharitra in a single sitting of eight to ten hours not once but more than hundred times. Yogavashishta was one of the books he used to read regularly. Pradhan was a pursuer of knowledge. He used to debate with Maharaj. Once when Maharaj offered Pradhan that he may ask for whatever he wanted, Pradhan chose to ask for Knowledge and got it. In spiritual parlance, the word Knowledge means realisation of the truth that you are not different from the Supreme Brahman. People who read Upanishads and similar texts already know about it, but that is only information and not knowledge. The true knowledge is that which can only be experienced. For this one must meditate until the veil of ignorance vanishes and one realises the truth from inside. This knowledge is therefore to be experienced internally and cannot be obtained by external means. A Siddha Guru like Shri Shankar Maharaj can remove this veil by his powers, if he so wishes.
Once when Mr Pradhan was in England during 1946-47 in connection with his business and lived as a paying guest in London with an old and kind landlady, he received information about his father's death. Pradhan felt deep grief because he could not be by his father's side at the time of his death. While he was sitting in this sorrowful mood in his room, Shri Shankar Maharaj appeared before him. Seeing him Pradhan could not contain his emotions and wept with his head on Maharaj's lap. After consoling him a lot, Maharaj said, "Come with me.". With yogic powers Maharaj took him to Girnar mountain, which is the place where great yogis visit for meditation and spiritual pursuits There he met the Nath yogis Machchindranath and Gorakshnath. Pradhan greeted them placing his head on their feet. A little later two dogs appeared followed by Lord Dattatreya, the supreme Guru of all yogis. With all these encounters with spiritual luminaries, Pradhan's grief was considerably lightened. Maharaj then returned him to London.
The surprising part is that next morning, the landlady, while dusting the shoes asked him where he had gone previous day. Pradhan did not understand the question. The landlady then explained that the soil stuck to the shoes was not from England. It appeared to be red soil from India. How did it get there onto your shoes? Pradhan was taken aback. He somehow brushed away the query by asking her not to bother about it. He closed his eyes and re-enjoyed the sweet memories of the visit to Girnar and the vision of Lord Dattatreya. The vision had impressed him so deeply that he asked an artist to draw the picture of Lord Dattatreya as per his description. Mr Pradhan passed away on November 7th, 1963.
Mr G. K. Pradhan has written two novels: Towards the Silver Crests of Himalayas and Know Thyself. The first novel written in his lifetime and published by Bharatiya Vidyabhavan, depicts the life and spiritual progress of Madhav an intelligent student of phiolosophy and later a government official who was drawn to his Guru through a dream. Mr Pradhan has presented teachings of Maharaj through the chara ter of Gurudev, the Guru of Madhav in the novel. The novel is in an autobiographical style written so expertly that many persons actually believe Madhav to be a real life character. The novel has been translated in many languages. The second novel is Know thyself. This novel also teaches about the attitudes one must take in life, through the teachings and actions of its main character Swamiji, a sanyasi whom a group of passengers including a Christian priest and a few British persons, meet in the first class compartment of a Delhi-Bombay train. The setting is the year 1913, just before the World war I. Swamiji stresses that the following of a religion should result in inner transformation which frees you from the fear and bonds and which only can make you realise God. Most of the religions as they are practised today with rules and regulations bind you, rather than free you.The interesting thing about this novel is that it has been written posthumously by what is termed as automatic writing. Mr Pradhan passed away on November 7, 1963. One of the disciples of Mr Pradhan was instructed in a dream to search for the manuscript which was ultimately found in the old papers of the company which Mr Pradhan owned in partnership with another disciple Me Asher. Apparently it was written after about 1965 since, though the setting is of 1913, there is a mention of lasers and tapes and cassettes; for the laser was invented in 1958 and was marketed in the sixties while the cassettes came in mid-sixties.
Raosaheb And Taisaheb Mehendale
Raosaheb Balwantrao Mehendale who was a barrister and his wife Taisaheb Mehendale were also close disciples of Maharaj. Raosaheb married Taisaheb (real name Padmavati) after the death of his first wife Akkasaheb. The latter tragedy had devastated his life but one of his friends, Sardar Mirikar of Miri state near Nagar saved him by bringing him to spiritual path, making him attend discourses on Dnyaneshwari by Dadamaharaj Satarkar in Bombay. Sardar Mirikar was a disciple of Maharaj and was instrumental in bringing Raosaheb to him. He at once took him in his fold.
Taisaheb, whom he married later, was also having a disappointed life and even thought of suicide. Due to a strange course of events she was prevented from this drastic step and was taken, rather reluctantly to meet Maharaj who at that time was in bombay. She also came in the fold of Maharaj. Maharaj initiated her by touching her Vishudhdha chakra on the throat with his ring finger. She immediately went into trance and spontaneously sang the stanzas from Virahini of Dnyaneshwar Maharaj. He later instructed her to give discourses on Dnyaneshwari. Mehendale couple left Bombay and settled in Pune in their ancestral Mehendalewada at the Appa Balwant Chowk in Pune.
In Pune, spiritual programs like discourses, bhajans, kirtans were held in Mehendalewada which became a centre of solace for people who were frustrated in life and needed a relief. These discourses were a spiritual experience to the audience and continued for more than three decades. Mehendalewada was one of the places in Pune where Maharaj visited often. He used to listen to the discourses and kirtans. Sometimes, when the discourse on Dnyaneshwari started, people noticed whitish vapour emanating from Taisaheb's mouth. Whenever this happened, the discourse used to impart deeper bliss to the listeners and they used to feel the meaning of their life being unfolded. It was as if Shri Shankar Maharaj speaking through her, for he had already told that "I myself cannot speak. I need someone intelligent with pure mind". Maharaj attended some of them and also other festivals celebrated in the Mehendalewada. It has been reported by Yogi Dnyananath Ranade and Mr Vasudeo Pandit who were frequent visitors to Mehendalewada that on one Mahashivaratri night the deformed body of Maharaj slowly turned blue and everybody saw before them Lord Shiva in person. Mehendalewada has now been virtually demolished but it was a great centre of spiritual activities three to five decades ago. Yogi philosophers like Maharshi Vinod who was also a friend of the Mehendales, were closely associated with Maharaj. One day, when reference to Lord Shiva was made during the discourse, Maharaj started performing the Tandav dance of Lord Shiva. Nana Pandit (see later) who used to regularly attend these programmes, actually saw Lord Shiva dancing instead of Maharaj.
The Gokulashtami celebrations continued up to 1972 for thirty-two years. Raosaheb Mehendale passed away in 1958; Taisaheb much later. They are survived by a daughter Kumud who is married and lives with her family whatever is left of the Mehendalewada. Maharaj transformed the life of Mehendale couple and through them gave spiritual solace to many people.
Offered at the feet of
my Guru Shri Shankar Maharaj . ALAKH
V. V. Shirvaikar, Pune, February 1999
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