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YOGIRAJ SHRI SHANKAR MAHARAJ
ACTIVITIES IN PUNE - 4
SOME INCIDENTS FROM PUNE
Maharaj had lots of devotees in Pune. When in Pune he used to move from one disciple to another. His usual places of sojourn were Mehendalewada and the homes of Mama Dhekne, Yellubai, Motiwale Lagu or Baburao Rudra. Whether a palace or a poor tenement, he was always at ease there. The full title of Maharaj as devotees call him is Anantakoti Brahmandnayak Rajadhiraj Yogiraj Shri Shankar Maharaj. It means “Shri Shankar Maharaj, the master of this infinite universe, the king of kings, king of yogis.” For such a person the whole world is Divine. He looks only at the devotion and love, nothing else. The readers will now read about some more known incidents related to the devotees in Pune.
Yellubai Mane was an accomplished singer of the earlier generation. (We are speaking of pre-world war II days). She was quite wealthy and had houses in Miraj and Pune where she used to stay alternately with her mother. While in Pune she used to live in her Wada in Dane-ali, a predominantly red light area. Yellubai and her mother used to live on upper floors while the ground floor was rented to some families.
Yellubai was a very pious person. Inside the Wada there was an Audumber tree (a type of fig tree associated with the Lord Dattatreya) at the base of which Padukas of Shri Dattatreya were installed. Two large garlanded pictures of Lord Dattatreya and Lord Shiva respectively with flowers offered at the feet adorned her hall. Incense sticks spread sweet fragrance. Yellubai was very devoted to Maharaj.
Before she met Maharaj, Yellubai was a very unhappy person on account of a tragedy, the death of her son. She had once gone to Narsobawadi, the place made famous by Shri Narasimha Saraswati, the second avatar of Shri Dattatreya. It is situated on the banks of river Krishna very near the city of Sangli. It is there that she met Maharaj for the first time. At Narsobawadi, Maharaj had asked her to sing. Maharaj understood the grief in her heart. He touched her and with the power of that touch she forgot all her sorrows. From that moment Yellubai was completely transformed. Now only Maharaj was her son, father, mother and brother and the centre of her love.
She used to say that while other people look at the women of her profession with biased mind because they are dancers and singers, Maharaj never let them feel the social difference between them and others. She used to consider this to be a great benediction he had showered on them.
This incidence occurred some time in February 1943. Maharaj had come to Pune and, was with Mama Dhekne. Many devotees rushed there to touch his feet and receive blessings. This time Maharaj was dressed in a long loose coat, mochadi type slippers and a fur cap on head.
Next day was Mahashivaratri. Maharaj had told Dnyananath (Bapu) that he would be going to Yellubai in Dane-ali on that day and he should accompany him.
Maharaj set for Yellubai’s house accompanied by Bapu and Mr. Rambhau Ranade, a staunch devotee of Maharaj who used to treat Yellubai like a sister. Both had held Maharaj's hands and were walking towards Yellubai’s Wada. Bapu was nervous because the area was a red light area and it was not considered socially proper to be seen there. He ardently wished to run back home, but Maharaj had held his hand in a tight grip. Along the way, some of the prostitutes came down and bowed to Maharaj.
When they reached Yellubai’s house she bowed to Maharaj and welcomed him. Maharaj, saying, “Mai, I have come!” embraced her as does a child to his mother. Maharaj was then seated on a mattress with a cushion to recline on and tea was prepared. Maharaj went in a trance.
She was expressing her feelings to Bapu. She suddenly broke into a song on that theme which she started singing in her melodious voice. At that moment Maharaj came to her toddling like a baby and said, “Enough of your talks. Give me tea.”
Yellubai used to give accompaniment to Taisaheb Mehendale during her discourses at Mehendalewada.
During the period of Maharaj visited Pune, Mr. Baburao Rudra used to work as a peon in Public Works Department. Maharaj used to be with him very often at his residence in Kasba Peth.
Before coming to Pune, Baburao used to work as driver of Raja Dhanrajgiri, a wealthy industrialist of Solapur. Raja Dhanrajgiri liked him because of his sincerity. Once, while Baburao was driving him to some outstation destination, a person wearing a coat and a saffron coloured turban with golden embroidery, stopped the car. Raja Dhanrajgiri was annoyed and asked Baburao angrily why the car had stopped. Before Baburao could answer, the person came to the car and shouted,
“Babya, do you want this king (Raja means king) or the one inside the car?” and touched Baburao on the shoulder. That touch started a radiant wave of compassion throughout his body and awakened some links of previous birth. He got out of the car leaving his personal belongings inside and told Dhanrajgiri,
“Now I have met my Guru. I can no longer work for you. Goodbye!”, and left with his Guru whose name was Janardanswami. He was a family man looking after the Shubharai Math in Solapur and was a disciple of Shri Shankar Maharaj. Though a disciple of Janardanswami it was Baburao who remained at the Samadhi from 1947 onwards taking care of it braving the elements.
As usual, people were always on the lookout for Maharaj in order to be near him and get his blessings. In India people of spiritual bent of mind do not miss an opportunity to be in the company of highly developed saints and to touch their feet. The vibrations of such a person are received by the seekers and are helpful for their own spiritual uplift. Eye contact and body touch, especially that of feet is especially beneficial since the spiritual energy flows out through the feet. For this reason some yogis when they formally receive visitors cover their feet so that others cannot touch them. But Maharaj was always a giver. Only thing he accepted from others was their love and devotion.
That day people who had gathered in Mehendalewada came to know that Maharaj was with Baburao Rudra and all rushed there. Just when they were leaving, a pundit (a learned person) who had studied a lot of Indian spiritual literature including Vedas came. The pundit was recently attracted to the study of Dnyaneshwari. He had come to enquire whether there was someone who could help him experience what he had been reading in Dnyaneshwari. Raosaheb said yes, and told him that they were going to a place where the pundit could find out the answers by himself. So they all reached Baburao's house.
It was a very small dark place. Two little girls, Baburao’s daughters, were playing there. Baburao's wife was ill, sleeping on a bed. Baburao had returned from work and was cutting vegetables, preparations for the meals. But in spite of all these life’s problems the entire family had a happy satisfied look on their face. Maharaj was sitting on a tattered mattress preparing tea. It was a wonderful scene where a Guru with all the wealth and services at his command preparing tea sitting on ground like any other family member in the disciple’s home. He said,
“Come. I am going to serve tea to everybody”.
Two to three cups of water was boiling in a small pot on the stove. All sat in that small place. The pundit wrinkled his brows in disgust at the scene.
Tea was ready. Maharaj asked Baburao to bring cups. He brought two or three half cracked cups and saucers. There were ten people in all there. The two and half cups of tea sufficed these ten people, but the pundit, immersed in his ego of scholarship, did not grasp the strangeness of this event.
Maharaj said in terse words,
“The mouth and nose are separated just by a fingerwidth. A person always speaks arrogantly with a finger on the nose fondling his moustaches exposing his ego. But do you know how repulsive this ego is?”
Thus saying, Maharaj brought out phlegm from his nose, took it in his hand and swallowed it. All were filled with disgust. Maharaj asked Baburao to take out the Dnyaneshwari and pick up the 378th stanza of the 9th chapter.Turning some more pages, he said, “Let him hear this also.”Therefore forsake the personal greatness
And forget the great lineage;
Be small before the world
And then you will be near Me.The pundit lowered his head saying,What is it I won't do for him
Who has given Me devotion in every way.
“Now I do understand. A Siddha saint sits in the house of a poor devotee is like Shri Krishna going to poor Vidur. And with all the poverty, the devotee is not asking for wealth and remains satisfied and at peace. What a great gift from the Guru.”
“So now you understand! Now listen further. I am a slave of the simple and I teach lessons to the scoundrels. I am the blotting paper for good but egotistic persons. I cannot tolerate ego. I blot it out. What are the saints' writings for? They are to help simple souls to go through this life. And also to free people who are caught in the web of words.”
Suddenly he got up, fondled the two girls and asked Dnyananath who was among those present, “Bapu, get a tonga. We have to go to Mirgi Adda.”
Adda was the place where Fakirbaba, a well-known fakir could be found. Maharaj, accompanied by Dnyananath, Raosaheb Mehendale and two or three more people got down from the tonga at a cigarette shop. The owner, a kind Muslim gentleman, welcomed the party. Inside the shop Fakirbaba was sitting on a gunny-cloth. He was wearing a somewhat soiled dhoti, shirt, jacket and a cap. Fakirbaba never spoke. At this time he was in a deep trance. Maharaj sat near him, took his hands in his own and laughed aloud. Fakirbaba smiled. It was a meeting of two great Siddhas. Maharaj lighted a bidi and gave it to Fakirbaba. Raosaheb lighted a cigarette and gave it to Maharaj. Both were smoking, smiling at each other, no words spoken but it appeared they were communicating internally. Maharaj turned to the group and said, “Look at this real Turya (the highest) state of samadhi. Who knows when Guru will bring him to Vaikhari (speaking) stage? Nivrutti kept my Dnyaneshwar in this state for some time and for the benefit of people brought him back to Vaikhari stage. The expression of that Vaikhari is what you see as Dnyaneshwari. That speech was Divine speech. If this Siddha starts speaking you will hear words as sweet as those of Dnyaneshwari.”
Fakirababa's bidi was nearly finished. He simply put the remaining butt in the mouth and ate it. Fakirbaba was not particular about anything. If anybody offered him fruits he would eat them skin, seeds and all.
But this world is full of selfish, self-centred persons. One day, an extremely poor person approached Fakirbaba and threatened to kill himself unless he got money for survival. Finally Fakirbaba signalled him a number, which he played in the gambling pool and won a good amount. With that amount he later became a millionaire. But that very night Fakirbaba vanished from that place. Thus people were deprived of a top-level spiritual presence because of the greed of a single individual.
We have read about Khansaheb in an earlier chapter. Khansaheb was the proprietor of the Deccan Watch Company in Pune. Somehow he did not have peace of mind. Mr. Noori, a friend of Raosaheb Mehendale used to stay with Khansaheb when in Pune. Realising the state of Khansaheb's mind, he once took him to Mehendalewada to meet Maharaj. Maharaj was reclining against a cushion and was engrossed in some serious discussion with a group of half a dozen persons. As soon as he looked at Khansaheb he shouted,
“You Mussulman, run away from here. Don't sit. Are you a real Muslim? Have you a guru? Do you recite Namaz?”
Khansaheb was shocked by this volley of questions. Really speaking, Khansaheb was not at all observing the tenets of his religion which requires that every Muslim should recite Namaz (parts of the Holy Koran) five times daily. He felt hurt by this volley from Maharaj. But next moment the feeling was gone when Maharaj called him near and instructed him to recite Namaz regularly and then meet him again.
Khansaheb met persons from his religion to find out about Namaz and started reciting it regularly. He met Maharaj couple of months later. Maharaj called him near and explained him the intricacies of Namaz that persons from his own religion had not explained earlier. After this event Khansaheb's mind was peaceful. He used to consider Maharaj as his Guru.
Once Khansaheb went to meet his acquaintance Sheikh Abdul Razakshah Biyabani. Sheikh Biyabani was a spiritually elevated person. He was a retired police officer who had studied in depth not only Koran as a Muslim but Gita and Dnyaneshwari as well. He asked Khansaheb,
“Have you got a Guru? Do you recite Namaz?”
Khansaheb said that Shri Shankar Maharaj was his Guru and explained that his Guru was neither Hindu nor Muslim nor Christian nor Buddhist. He was without form as is written in Koran. He then took him to meet Maharaj. They saw Maharaj was drinking brandy. The glass was half full. Four or five people were with him. One of them filled a glass and offered it to Mr. Biyabani. Maharaj shouted,
“Don't give it to him. It may be like sherbet to me but for him it is liquor.” He then asked Mr. Biyabani,
“Am I what Khansaheb told you?” Then Maharaj sang a poem based on a principle in Koran in Persian language.
Biyabani developed high respect for Maharaj. Many years later, sometime during 1979 or 1980, when religious activities started on the Samadhi premises, he gave a discourse there. 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....”.
Sheikh Biyabani passed away on 19th May 1995 at Kazipeth, the place where his Guru and Guru's Guru had passed away. It is not quite a coincidence that all the three chose the day of Bakri-id, an auspicious day for Muslims for leaving their material bodies and all at Kazipet.
Many other Muslims besides Khansaheb and Noori 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 Mohammad preached peace. He 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 believe that love is God.
SIR CHUNILAL MEHTA
Sir Chunilal, once a Council member in the Bombay Presidency in the British Raj and even a Governor, was one of the close friends of Raosaheb Mehendale. He was a Gujarathi Vaishnav (follower of Lord Vishnu), a kind natured person and a scholar, well versed in both western and Indian literature. He and Lady Mehta made a good couple. He lived in Bombay, but had a bungalow in Pune too. He used to come to Pune to meet the Mehendale couple and attend Dnyaneshwari discourses at Mehendalewada.
One day, just before Taisaheb's discourse on Dnyaneshwari was to begin, he told Raosaheb that in spite of his vast reading, travelling all over India, visiting holy places like Hardwar and Rishikesh, he feels there is something lacking in his life. Only seeing and listening to J. Krishnamurthi gives him a little bit of satisfaction. That day Taisaheb had selected verses related to seeing God. Sir Chunilal was considerably influenced by the discourse and said that he wants to experience something like that. Raosaheb suggested he should come half an hour before the evening discourse on the next day, to meet a great Avadhut. As instructed, he came next day in his car, accompanied by his wife, both in traditional Indian dress. At Mehendalewada Raosaheb and Taisaheb joined them and the car was directed to Mama Dhekne's house where Maharaj was staying at that time.
Maharaj was in his usual pose, reclining on a cushion, laughing and talking to himself. Lady Mehta sat with Taisaheb on ground. Sir Chunilal stood and did namaskar to Maharaj. Raosaheb spoke to Maharaj and told him that Sir Chunilal had come with his wife to meet him. Maharaj glanced at Sir Chunilal and ignored him. Again Raosaheb told Maharaj about Sir Chunilal and again Maharaj ignored him. For a moment everybody was silent and then Maharaj fixed his eyes on Sir Chunilal who instantly went into a deep trance and started rocking. Tears started flowing from his eyes. This went on for five or six minutes and then Sir Chunilal uttered a grunt, ran to Maharaj and fell on his feet wetting them by his tears. Automatically, he started reciting Purushsukta, a hymn from the Rigveda. The recitation stopped and with that the tears. The pupils of his eyes started shining with bluish light. Lady Mehta was also in a similar condition. According to what was told later by Sir Chunilal, Lord Vishnu had appeared before him in all his splendour. When everybody returned to the Wada Sir Chunilal was still in trance. His wife was worried but was assured by Raosaheb that Maharaj would look after everything and that now the incomplete feeling had left Sir Chunilal.
Next day the Mehendale couple along with Bapu went to Sir Chunilal’s bungalow to enquire after his health. Sir Chunilal embraced Raosaheb and said,
“Rau, you are really like Arjun. You are a companion of Shri Shankar Maharaj. I am totally satisfied. I actually experienced the stanzas Taisaheb had recited from Dnyaneshwari (6.291):Sir Chunilal continued to remain thereafter in that internal trance state. He never went on pilgrimage to holy places any more.The tenet of Nath Panth is that
The Universe is within yourself
Lord Vishnu has shown
The way towards it.”
G. L. JOSHI’S EXPERIENCES
On September 18, 1995 Nana Pandit took me to meet Mr. G. L. Joshi, a retired Probation Officer from State Social Welfare Department. He was 83 years of age, fair with the brightness associated with spiritual persons. His manner of talking was soft and level, showing a calm balanced personality. He is one of the persons who had met Maharaj personally and was guided by him.
Mr. Joshi met Maharaj in 1945 when he was 33 years of age and an official of the Remand Home in Pune. Mama Dhekne had three sons. One of them, Shambhu, had gone astray for some time. Mama had asked Maharaj what to do about him but Maharaj had told him to leave things as they were. The matters went rather worse and Mama decided to put Shambhu in the remand home. After a few days in the remand home Shambhu promised to behave properly and therefore was sent home. But as part of the official procedure, Mr. Joshi had to visit Mama's home to find out the domestic conditions there. While inspecting the house he went in a room where a large photograph of a saint was kept. He was told that the saint is a big spiritual person and his name was Shri Shankar Maharaj. Mr. Joshi requested Mama to let him know whenever the saint visited him and he would like to come and meet him.
One day Shambhu came with a message that Maharaj had come. By the time he reached there Maharaj had gone to Yellubai's home. Mr. Joshi went there and was waiting outside to be called while Maharaj was sitting inside in his usual pose. Now, Mr. Joshi was a devotee of Lord Ganesh and besides, Shri Yantra, a tantric symbol of the power of Durga was also worshipped in his family. He was reciting to himself Lalitasahastranam (Thousand names of Durga) when Maharaj called him and asked him to meet him next Saturday. When he went to meet Maharaj on the appointed day he was given a Beej Mantra of six letters (A set of basic sounds like Rhim, Krim etc.) related to worship of Durga and was asked to recite it 1000 times daily and everything would be all right. Surprisingly, Maharaj asked him for money for buying brandy. Mami i.e. Mrs. Dhekne asked Maharaj why he was asking money from a poor government servant. Maharaj told her to shut up because she won't understand why. Mr. Joshi had only six rupees with him. Those days one could buy half a bottle of brandy in that amount. Mr. Joshi gave the money to Maharaj who handed it over to Mami.
Saints often test devotees whether they are only takers or givers also. Mr. Joshi apparently passed the test. As told by Maharaj Mr. Joshi could meet all his needs in his life. It is interesting to see how some of his needs were met.
Mr. Joshi had passed his BT (Bachelor of Teaching) degree exam and was permanently absorbed in the Social Welfare Department. He was posted to Bombay and then to Surat. In those days the salaries were low and he had to keep his family in Pune. But he could supplement his income by teaching in a night school because he had some teaching experience earlier.
Mr. Joshi has three daughters and three sons. His wife died in 1959 leaving the responsibility of two daughters and three very young boys on him. His eldest daughter was already married. His second daughter was married after her graduation without any problems. No dowry had to be given and when the question of expenditure came, his friend Mr. Umranikar provided sufficient personal loan without even getting anything in writing. In the case of the third daughter, the prospective bridegroom, one Mr. Ranade, was an engineer working in Fertiliser Corporation. The boy and the girl knew each other well, but it was necessary to get the consent of the boy's father who was a well-to-do lawyer in Kolhapur. Mr. Joshi went to Kolhapur but came back when he learnt from an acquaintance that the father expected a lot of money as dowry in the marriage of his son. However he again went to Kolhapur, this time with his friend Umranikar and met the father who consented, but the marriage would have required about eight thousand rupees to meet all the conditions the father had put. Mr. Joshi did not have that much money. They decided to return to Pune but before leaving Kolhapur they visited the famous Mahalakshmi temple in Kolhapur. They were standing outside the temple when a deformed person came limping to Mr. Joshi and asked for Dakshina (a donation given to Brahmins). Mr. Joshi had only a 10 paise coin with him but he handed it over to the man. Mr. Umranikar suddenly asked, “What, you did not recognise Shri Shankar Maharaj?” Mr. Joshi was shocked and looked for the man but he had vanished. Thus Maharaj again tested Mr. Joshi in a subtle way.
By the time he reached home a messenger came. He brought the message that the boy had informed his parents that he would marry only Mr. Joshi's daughter and no dowry was to be taken. The marriage went through without a hitch. This time also Mr. Umranikar provided the funds as a personal loan. Mr. Joshi paid back the loan at the rate of Rs 50 per month until the loan was settled. Mr. Joshi has a statue of Maharaj at his home which he worships daily. In 1952, Maharaj visited through the medium of Shambhu on account of some problem of a devotee. Mr. Joshi had rushed there in the hope of meeting Maharaj but he could not feel the presence. Perhaps it was not meant for him.
Mr. Joshi was very regular in his spiritual efforts. Even when he was posted as far away as Surat, he used to come to Pune every month on the Sankashti day. This day is the fourth of the dark half of the lunar month and is important for the worshippers of Ganapati. Mr. Joshi had made pilgrimage to all the important holy places in India. He firmly believed that many spiritual authorities test your sincerity before they allow you to meet them. Only perseverance pays, he said. Mr. Joshi passed away recently.
S. B. PATWARDHAN’S EXPERIENCES
Though I had met Mr. Patwardhan earlier, I did not know that he had met Maharaj. He was kind enough to narrate his experience during our second meeting and also send me a written version immediately. I am giving below his experiences. Mr. Patwardhan is a keen devotee of Shri Saibaba of Shirdi.
Mr. Patwardhan met Maharaj for the first time in October 1946. Mr. Gopalrao Amdekar, a devotee of Saibaba of Shirdi who had lived in his company before Shri Saibaba took samadhi, had advised him to meet two saints living in Pune at that time. These were Shri Shankar Maharaj and Shri Gopalrao Kasbekar. Mr. Patwardhan used to meet both. Shri Shankar Maharaj used to stay at that time with Mama Dhekne. This was a rented house in the Dr Paranjape Wada behind Tulsibag. Mr. Patwardhan writes,
“One day about five in the evening I went to Dhekne’s house to meet Maharaj. I went up the stairs and saw an old man sitting in a room. Some four or five devotees were sitting near him. I made obeisance (namskar) to him and sat down. Other persons left after about 20 minutes. I wanted to have some conversation with Maharaj but he remained quiet. Somewhat frustrated, I left after touching his feet but before I left, Maharaj simply said, “Come tomorrow” without even looking at me. I began to have second thoughts about meeting Maharaj again but that night I had a vision which made me decide to go to him often”.
“In those days, Raosaheb Mehendale, Prof Deo and other older devotees used to be with Maharaj very often. I therefore used to go there, sit for some time and leave after making obeisance to him. Still there was no conversation with Maharaj. One afternoon, Maharaj suddenly said to me,
‘Bring whiskey for me immediately.’
I was confused but one of the persons present told me where to find the liquor shop. I went there, brought a whiskey bottle and gave it to Maharaj, which he drank fully at one stroke and told me, ‘You go now.' Now I was really confused and agitated because it was against conventions for a saint to drink liquor. But I calmed down after I heard from others about their experience about Maharaj’s drinking”.
“One afternoon I did not see Maharaj in his usual place at Dhekne’s house. I enquired with Mrs. Dhekne who told me to go upstairs to the attic where Maharaj was sitting. I went up the small staircase and found Maharaj sitting there alone. I made my obeisance by touching Maharaj’s feet and sat. Maharaj at once said,
‘Why are you just sitting there, light a cigarette for me you xxxxx.’
I took a cigarette from the Honeydew pack lying there, held it in my mouth, lighted it and gave it to him. He then told me, ‘Now pound a vida for me you xxxxx’. (Vida or paan is betel leaf together with lime (prepared from limestone), betel nut pieces and other ingredients which many people eat after meals and some several times during the day. Often tobacco powder is also added.) The container of betel leaves and other ingredients was lying there. Pestle and mortar were also nearby. I prepared a vida, pounded it in the mortar and gave it to Maharaj. Maharaj took a swig of the cigarette and stared at me. He said,
‘Now ask for whatever you want you xxxx.’ This was a test for me and I was nervous lest I ask for something useless. But looking into his eyes I said,
‘Let these eyes of yours be on me up to the last.’
Hearing this Maharaj fisted me three or four times on my back and said laughing,
‘You are smart you xxxx! Go away!’
I have experienced so far that his blessing eyes are on me always.”
Mr. Patwardhan continued to visit Maharaj. One day Maharaj told him,
“Tomorrow is the anniversary of the samadhi of Shri Swami Samarth. There will be a Mahaprasad offering in the Gajanan Mangal Karyalaya in Shevde lane. Come without fail. You are just roaming here and there you xxxx.” (Mahaprasad is the offering of food to a deity or a yogi after his worship on some auspicious occasion). Patwardhan went there and took part in the celebrations and received prasad. Before leaving he touched Maharaj’s feet and said, “See! Have I not come as per your instructions?” Maharaj simply said yes and smiled.
Maharaj goes to see a film
Mr. Patwardhan reminisced about how he had gone to see a Marathi film with Maharaj. One day Shambhu, Mama Dhekne’s son, said that Maharaj wished to see the film Brahmachari and since Patwardhan had a bicycle, could he take him to the theatre on it. So Patwardhan took Maharaj to the theatre and Shambhu also joined them. Brahmachari was one of the very funny comedies produced by Acharya Atre the master of Marathi humour. It depicts the story of a simple minded youth who has taken an oath of celibacy, spends his time in physical exercises but is being wooed by a rich beautiful girl. Master Vinayak, an accomplished actor, played the hero’s role. The dialogues as well as the situations the hero faces due to the conflict between the oath and attraction for the heroine are very funny. Maharaj enjoyed the film very much and was loudly laughing at the funny situations Master Vinayak faced. Mr. Patwardhan says he can never forget that frank laughter in his lifetime. When he mentioned it to a spiritual friend he also advised him always to remember that laughter.
In April 1947 Patwardhan had to leave for Mumbai (Bombay) to give his MA exams. He went to meet Maharaj and get his blessings before leaving for Mumbai. On going to Dhekne’s house he learnt from Mrs. Dhekne that Maharaj was sleeping and had instructed not to be awakened. He promised her that he would simply make his obeisance and leave. He went to the place where Maharaj was sleeping, kept his head on his feet and left. That was the last time he saw Maharaj, for while in Mumbai he learnt from newspapers that Maharaj had taken samadhi. On returning to Pune he visited the samadhi at Padmavati and received prasad.
Mr. Patwardhan told me the following story that he had heard from Mr. Bhasme, a devotee of Maharaj from Solapur. It so happened that once both he and Mr. Bhasme were in the same room in a hotel in Mumbai. Mr. Patwardhan knew Bhasme as a devotee of Maharaj. Mr. Bhasme praised the greatness of Maharaj and told him about the incident which occurred many years after the samadhi. Unfortunately he does not remember time or place or the names of the persons involved, but I do not see any reason to doubt it since similar incidents have occurred with many others, as the readers will see later. The story runs like this.
A retired person and his wife had settled in a town near Akola in north Maharashtra. One day, sometime in late fifties, a man dressed in full suit came to his house and said that the court case, which was going on against him, hearing of which was scheduled for the next month, would be in his favour. After the result of the case came out he should visit him in Pune where he had his bungalow. The person asked the visitor his name and was told that it was Shankar Maharaj. The retired person requested him to take tea, which the visitor accepted after some persuasion. He prepared the tea himself as his wife had gone out and apologised for the quality of the tea. But the visitor gladly took it and left reminding him that he should not forget to visit him and they would know where his bungalow was at the Padmavati temple. The case was settled in the retired person’s favour and he went with his wife to Pune, came to Padmavati temple and enquired about the location of the bungalow of Shankar Maharaj. They were surprised to know that there was no bungalow but a samadhi and that Shri Shankar Maharaj had taken samadhi in 1947. The couple was overcome with emotions and visited the samadhi, which was very near.
OTHER SAINTS IN PUNE
Pune is full of spiritual activity. Maharaj used to visit other saints occasionally while in Pune. We have already read about his visit to Fakirbaba.
There used to be another Muslim lady saint called Babajan who was the Guru of the well-known Meherbaba. She used to sit under a tree by the roadside near the Pune Camp Education Society's High School in Pune Camp. Maharaj used to visit her and the two used to sit quietly. Maharaj used to address her as mother. The place is now a shrine known as Babajan Darga and a visitor can feel strong good vibrations there.
Babamaharaj Sahasrabuddhe was another saint that Maharaj visited. He used to live in Dhumal building at 36 Narayanpeth, Pune. Following description of the visits of Shri Shankar Maharaj to Babamaharaj is given in a book written to commemorate Babamaharaj.
One evening Shri Shankar Maharaj suddenly entered Dhumal building, climbed up the stairs and stood in the door before Shri Babamaharaj. Babamaharaj who was sitting on his mattress stood up on seeing him. Shri Shankar Maharaj came near him and asked him to sit. For some time both stood facing each other. Then they kept their hands on each other's shoulders and both sat down at the same time. Babamaharaj then took out a cigarette gave it to him and lighted it. Both were simply looking at each other until the cigarette was over. Then both got up and Shri Shankar Maharaj left without speaking a word. After he left, Babamaharaj told the devotees sitting around that Shankar Maharaj is a great Siddha. Until then they used to think he was some mad person.
Once Shri Shankar Maharaj was staying in Pune with a devotee Mr. Lagu (Motiwale). That day Mr. Lagu had arranged for Satyanarayan Puja and being a devotee of Babamaharaj had invited him also. Babamaharaj came and went upstairs where Shri Shankar Maharaj was sleeping on a cot. Babamaharaj sat on the floor near him. Mr. Lagu told Shri Shankar Maharaj that Babamaharaj has come but Shri Shankar Maharaj did not get up. After a while Shri Shankar Maharaj, still lying down, took out his hand from under the covers and extended it hanging in the direction of Babamaharaj, who seeing it raised his foot while still sitting and touched the hand with it. Then Babamaharaj left the place and returned to Dhumal Building (his residence). Everybody was surprised at the unusual way these two great Siddhas met.
It is apparent that yogis need not communicate through Vaikhari state i.e. through speech but do so in a higher state of consciousness like Para and Pashyanti where words are not required.
ACTIVITIES IN PUNE - 5
MADHUSUDHAN V. KANHERE
Mr. Nana Pandit, who has encouraged and helped me a lot in the writing of this biography, insisted that I should meet one of the accomplished seekers living in Pune. This seeker was a Guru-Bandhu or Co-disciple of Maharaj (i.e. both he and Maharaj had the same Guru namely Shri Swami Samarth of Akkalkot.) Bandhu means brother and Guru-Bandhu means related like brothers through the same Guru. I met Mr. Kanhere, a loving, pleasant personality, on 25th October 1995. He narrated to me some very interesting experiences of his encounters with Maharaj. All these occurred within a period of about one year before Maharaj took Samadhi. These are narrated below and are based upon the notes taken during our meeting and later confirmed by Mr. Kanhere.
FIRST MEETING WITH MAHARAJ
Mr. Kanhere had not even heard of Shri Shankar Maharaj until in 1946, a year before Maharaj took samadhi. Mr. Kanhere is an accomplished massage expert and a tabla (a pair of Bongo type of drums used for accompaniment during vocal and instrumental music) player. As tabla player he used to be in demand during drama performances, bhajans (devotional songs) and kirtans. Near Mandai, the city Municipal Market, there is a Math of Shri Swami Samarth. It was Mr. Kanhere's usual practice to sit there alone with a veena (a string instrument) singing bhajans. That day in 1946, as he was singing a bhajan by Meerabai, (the famous female saint of fifteenth century), an old man with deformed body entered the Math accompanied by another person whose name, he later found, was Mama Dhekne. There was no one else around. The old man sent Mama away on the pretext of bringing cigarettes and matchbox. He himself then started beating the big drums kept in the Math with a lot of zest. Mr. Kanhere requested him not to behave like that but he did not pay heed to it and continued the beating of the drums. Mr. Kanhere gave up and went on with his singing. Suddenly the old man jumped on Mr. Kanhere’s back, put his arms round his neck and said,
“Go ahead with your howling of bhajans. That fat-bellied fellow standing there with his hands on his waist is asleep. Go ahead with your howling, let him wake up!”.
He was referring to the large picture of Shri Swami Samarth kept there for people to worship. Then he himself joined the singing in such a melodious voice the like of which Mr. Kanhere had never heard before. And then a miracle of good omen happened. The garland on the picture fell down and a flower on its right also fell down. Both are considered good omens and a sign that the deity is pleased. The old man said,
“See, that fat-bellied fellow, with his hands on his waist, is awake now.”
Mr. Kanhere asked the old man to get off his back but in vain. He became angry and in that fit of anger threw the old man down. Mr. Kanhere was then a 26-year-old youth with strong physique. With the force with which he had thrown him down, the old man was wounded on the head and started bleeding. But in spite of this the old man was not angry. He calmly took lime and tobacco from his pocket, mixed them together on his palm and rubbed it on the wound to stop the bleeding. Mr. Kanhere asked the old man not to sit on his back because his saliva was falling on his shoulder. On hearing this, the old man sat aside quietly.
Just at that moment Mr. Jagannath Pandit, Sardar Abasaheb Muzumdar and Bhausaheb Pantsachiva, three very affluent noblemen from Pune came, seated the old man leaning against the wall and offered worship at his feet. He was garlanded and an offering of shawl was made to him. Then they gave him a packet of Pedha (milk sweet), made obeisance by keeping their heads reverentially on his feet and went away. A crowd had accompanied the rich trio and people were doing namaskar to the old man. Mr. Kanhere was shocked and confused. He asked a person standing nearby who the old man was and was told that he was Shri Shankar Maharaj and that he was a disciple of Shri Swami Samarth.
A little while later Mama Dhekne came. The old man held Mr. Kanhere's hand and asked Mama to go away. Mama said he won't go and rather both of them should come to his home. When they reached there, Maharaj asked Mami to prepare coffee for Mr. Kanhere (He already knew Mr. Kanhere drank coffee!) and one and a half cups of tea for himself. Then he told Mr. Kanhere,
“I am also a disciple of Swami Samarth. Did you think only you are his disciple? I am too! I shall keep an eye over you! You are my Guru-Bandhu.”
ENCOUNTER WITH THE POLICE
Some days later Maharaj came to the Math alone and asked Mr. Kanhere to accompany him. When asked where he was being taken, Maharaj said,
“What do you have to do with it?”.
He took Mr. Kanhere to Swargate about 15 minutes walk away, asked him to wait outside a liquor shop, went in and guzzled nearly a dozen bottles of liquor in a row. He then came out with another dozen bottles with him after making the payment. Unfortunately, Government had declared prohibition just then and actually it was the first day of the prohibition. A policeman saw him and said,
“Oh! The old man is taking liquor!” and took him to the police station nearby. He asked Mr. Kanhere what he was doing there with the old man and he replied that he was accompanying the fellow because he was old. The policeman let him off but Maharaj asked him to go and sit on a grave nearby. Mr. Kanhere went there and sat watching the proceedings. (The place is now occupied by the Swargate ST Bus terminal. The police station is also shifted across the road).
The policeman took charge of the bottles and kept them inside a cupboard. Just then the Police Sub-Inspector (PSI) in charge came from outside and was going through some papers when he saw Maharaj sitting there. He at once got up, asked Maharaj what he was doing there, removed his shoes and made namaskar to Maharaj. The policeman told the PSI that he had been arrested for carrying liquor. When the PSI was about to reprimand the policeman, Maharaj said,
“No. Duty first.”
So the PSI asked the policeman to bring out the bottles. He did so but what he found was bottles of soft drinks like Lemonade and Vimto. The policeman was confused. Maharaj then asked the PSI and the policeman what they would like to drink. The PSI chose Vimto and the policeman a lemonade.
As they were drinking the soft drinks another PSI, a Muslim, came. He saw Maharaj sitting there and he too asked what he was doing there. Again the policeman explained but Maharaj again told him “Duty first”. By that time the PSI had finished his Vimto. As regards the policeman he was halfway through the soft drink bottle when he found his lemonade had turned into liquor and was smelling. The Muslim PSI reprimanded him for drinking on duty and that too in the police station. Then the two PSIs respectfully asked Maharaj where he would like to go and received a nasty answer. Maharaj sat in the police vehicle and asked that Mr. Kanhere sitting on the grave across the street should also be taken along. Then they all went by the police vehicle to their chief living in the quarters nearby. There the chief was waiting for Maharaj to arrive. Maharaj said,
“I have come. I am hungry.” After the meals Maharaj said he was going to Justice Gupte at Thube Park and left. Mr. Kanhere returned home.
I AM HERE TOO!
Maharaj started coming to the Swami Samarth Math almost every day. He used to tell Mr. Kanhere, “I am going to be after you.”
In desperation Mr. Kanhere decided not to visit the Math anymore and go instead to the Panchaleshwar temple near Lakdi Bridge. On the first day itself at the Panchaleshwar temple, when he had bent to do namaskar to the deity, somebody slapped on his back very hard. It was Maharaj who said, “I am here too!”. For the next few weeks Mr. Kanhere visited various other temples to avoid meeting Maharaj. But wherever he went he would meet Maharaj together with Mama Dhekne and Maharaj would say, “I am here too!”.
One day Maharaj asked Mr. Kanhere to give tabla accompaniment to Taisaheb Mehendale during her discourses on Dnyaneshwari. Other people who used to give musical accompaniment were: Haribhau Nimbalkar on mridanga (A two sided tabla type instrument), Karmarkar on harmonium, Yellubai on tamboura, Nana Pandit and Bapu Ranade with cymbals. Maharaj sometimes used to dance vigorously during the discourse and used to ask Mr. Kanhere to hit the tabla hard.
Once a rich jeweller who was attending the discourse put a pearl necklace in Taisaheb's neck. Maharaj told him not to be impertinent and sent him out. Maharaj asked Mr. Kanhere to wait after the discourse and asked Taisaheb to cook, as both he and Mr. Kanhere wished to eat food cooked by her. He then asked Yellubai to sing a thumri (a short classical piece). She sang beautifully, but could not reach the higher notes at first. But Maharaj himself sang those first, showing his prowess as a singer and then Yellubai followed. By that time Taisaheb had finished the cooking. Mr. Kanhere left after eating with Maharaj.
SERVED BY THE GODDESS AMBA
One day, Mr. Kanhere got a pre-dawn vision that Maharaj was going to observe the anniversary of Shri Swami Samarth's samadhi the following day and that Mr. Kanhere should come to a place called Ganesh Karyalaya at half past seven in the evening without fail. On the day of the vision he went to the Math at noon where he spent the time in singing bhajans as usual. He was requested by the persons at the Math to come at about three in the afternoon for meals. In the meantime he went for a stroll and was going past the Ganesh Karyalaya when Mr. Date of the Karyalaya gave him the message exactly in the same words as he had received in the vision that morning. That confirmed the authenticity of the vision. He went back to the Math for meals. There he found that Fakirbaba had also come.
Three of the seats were reserved. Fakirbaba beckoned (he never spoke and used to communicate only by signs) Mr. Kanhere to come with him, asked him to occupy one of those seats and went out. In the meantime somebody came and asked him to get out as the seat was reserved for Shri Swami Samarth, so he had to go out. But shortly afterwards Fakirbaba returned, enquired by signs where Mr. Kanhere had gone and insisted on bringing him back. So Mr. Kanhere came and sat on the seat he had just vacated. Fakirbaba did not eat by himself. Somebody had to feed him. Naturally Mr. Kanhere did that now. After meals Fakirbaba took him to his place (Mirgi Adda) and did not let him go until two o'clock in the morning. In this process Mr. Kanhere missed five music engagements that day.
Next day, which was the anniversary day of Shri Swami Samarth's samadhi, somebody came in the afternoon to invite Mr. Kanhere for tabla accompaniment in a kirtan program. The program was scheduled between five and seven o'clock in the evening and would not have clashed with his appointment with Maharaj at 7.30 P.M. Pune was a small place those days. Mr. Kanhere therefore accepted the invitation but when he went there in the evening he found that the kirtan was postponed and would be between 7.30 P.M. and 9 P.M. He foolishly decided to stay. The kirtan turned out to be interesting and went up to 1030 P.M. From there Mr. Kanhere went to the Ganesh Karyalaya to meet Maharaj who was waiting for him. He said,
“You are very late. I had called you at 7.30. I was waiting for you.”
He then handed over a betel “Paan” to him and said, “Give it to me”. Maharaj washed Mr. Kanhere's feet after he did so.
Mr. Kanhere sat for meals. A lady wearing rich clothes came to serve ghee. She was so beautiful and radiant that Mr. Kanhere could not help staring at her. Maharaj saw him staring and shouted at him, “Why are you looking at ladies' faces?” The lady went inside and did not come out again. After the meals were over Maharaj took Mr. Kanhere to a room, bolted the door and said, “Do you want to see who I am?” And in a moment his bent appearance vanished and he turned into a hefty tall radiant person about six and half feet tall with long hands reaching below the knees. “Look now at this disciple of Swami.” he said. Unfortunately, there was a sound of somebody pushing the door and Maharaj returned to his bent form. (Readers may remember Maharaj meeting Dr Dhaneshwar in his boyhood in the form of a fakir with the same stature). He then said,
“Today Shri Narasimha Saraswati, Shripad Shrivallabh, Mahakali, Ambabai etc. were going to accompany you during the meals but you were late. It was Ambabai who served you ghee. A mother does not forsake her child, she waits for him.” (N.B. Mahakali, Ambabai or Mahalakshmi are different forms of Durga or Shakti with somewhat different attributes. Temple of Mahalakshmi is located at Kolhapur). He then said that he was going to leave his physical body soon. That was the last time Mr. Kanhere met Maharaj. Mr. Kanhere did not know Maharaj had taken samadhi until couple of months later.
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