The spread of the Bhakti movement in Maharashtra inculcated the spirit of oneness among the Marathas. The main teachings of the leaders were Bhakti or devotion to God and equality of all believers before God without any distinction of class or birth.
The Bhakti movement united the people of Maharashtra in a common love of man and faith in one God. The important leaders of the Bhakti movement were Tukaram, Ramdas Samarth, Varman Pandit and Eknath. Ramdas Samarth was considered by Shivaji Maharaj as his Guru and he exercised tremendous influence over his countrymen. He rendered yeoman’s service by carrying out social reforms.
The effect of the Bhakti movement is described by Justice Ranade in these words: “Like the Protestant reformation in Europe in the 16th century, there was a religious, social and literary revival and reformation in India, but notably in the Deccan in the 15th and 16th centuries.”
This religious revival was the work also of the people of the masses, and not of the classes. At its head were saints and prophets, poets and philosophers, who sprang chiefly from the lower order of society, tailors, carpenters, potters, gardeners, shopkeepers, barbers and even scavengers more often than Brahmins.”
The literature and language of the Marathas also acted as a unifying force. The hymns of Tukaram were sung by all the classes and they served as a bond of unity among people who belonged to different sections of society. The songs in Marathi dialect and Marathi language played an important part. Thus in the end a tribe – or collection of tribes or castes – was fused into a nation, and by the end of the 18th century a Maratha people in the political and cultural senses of the term had been formed, though caste distinctions still remained.
The saints preached the virtue of service, sacrifice, generosity, equality and brotherhood. They created in the minds of people the feeling that all men are equal and no one is high or low. The work of these saints can be compared to that of a farmer who tills the land makes it ready for sowing seeds.
Sant Jnaneshwar, a famous poet saint of Maharashtra was born in the year 1275, in a small village near the Godavari River. His poems were the result of the perfect blending of spirituality and poetry, with bhakti, jnana and yoga.
His father;s Guru, who initiated him, explicitly instructed him to go back and continue his life as a householder. After going back to his village, four children were born to him, Jnaneshwar’s, Nivrittinath, Sopana and Muktha Bai, who were all spiritually evolved souls.
Jnaneshwar and his siblings were ostracized from society, because of the fact that the father had been a Sanyasi turned householder. And although his father had resorted to family on clear instructions of his guru, society considered the children untouchables. This continued, till Jnaneshwar displayed his spiritual strength – when he made a buffalo recite Vedic hymns. This subdued and silenced the arrogant pundits.
Jnaneshwar, when just fifteen years of age, delivered an extempore presentation of the Bhagavad Gita. This was written down by his disciple, Satchidanand Baba, and came to be known as “Jnaneshwari” or “Bhavartha Deepika”. The exposition of the Great Sanskrit Text, into Marathi, was a great boon to the common man, who was now able to comprehend it. Apart from “Jnaneshwari “he also composed a treatise called “Amritanubhava”
Jnaneshwar once visited the famous pilgrim centre, Pandharpur, where he met the great saint Namadeva. They travelled together and became great friends.
Returning to Alandi, Jnaneshwar’s birthplace, he declared that he was going to enter into Mahasamadhi. He was only twenty one years of age. The Samadhi took place on the 13th day of the dark half month of Kartik in 1296. This day is still sacred to the pilgrims there.
Namdev of Maharashtra was a saint of medieval India. He was not a servant of Lord Krishna, but His companion. Namdev was an Amsa (part) of Lord Krishna.
Namdev was a contemporary of Jnanadev, the famous saint of Maharashtra, being his senior in age by about five years. He was born in 1269 A.D. He came of a family of tailors who were sincere devotees of Vittala of Pandharpur.
When Namdev was about twenty years of age, he met Jnanadev at Pandharpur. Jnanadev was naturally attracted to Namdev as a great devotee of Vithoba. That he might benefit from the company of Namdev, he persuaded Namdev to go with him to all the holy places on pilgrimage. This was the most important period in the life of Namdev. Practically from this time, the two great saints almost never separated till death parted them. The pilgrimage extended to all parts of India and almost all the holy places.
Namdev was not an author of any big treatise; but he left behind him a large number of Abhangas or short poems, full with the nectar of Bhakti and love towards God. These are exceedingly sweet. Most of these are lost, but there are extant about four thousand Abhangas, which to this day are a great source of inspiration to all who would read them. Some of the Abhangas are found in the Sikh Adi Granth.
The essence of Namdev’s message is: “Always recite the Name of the Lord. Constantly remember Him. Hear His glory. Meditate on the Lord in your heart. Serve the Lord with your hands. Place your head at His lotus feet. Do Kirtan. You will forget your hunger and thirst. The Lord will be near you. You will attain immortality and eternal bliss”.
Eknath was a prominent Marathi sant, scholar, and religious poet of the Varkari sampradaya.
In the development of Marathi literature, Eknath is seen as a bridge between his predecessors—Dnyaneshwar and Namdev—and the later Tukaram and Ramdas.
He wrote a variation of the Bhagavata Purana which is known as the Eknathi Bhagavata, and a variation of the Ramayana which is known as the Bhavarth Ramayan. Eknath wrote Rukmini Swayamwar Hastamalak, which was comprised 764 owees and based on a 14-shlok Sanskrit hymn with the same name by Shankaracharya.
His other works were the Shukashtak (447 owees), the Swatma-Sukha (510 owees), the Ananda-Lahari (154 owees), the Chiranjeewa-Pad (42 owees), the Geeta-Sar, and the Prahlad-Wijaya.
Tukaram was born in 1608 A.D. at a village called Dehu in Poona district.
Tukaram came of a well-to-do Sudra family belonging to the tradesman class called Moray.
Tukaram was the second of three brothers. The family burden fell on Tukaram when he was just thirteen years old. In 1625, when he was about seventeen years, he lost his parents, and as his sister-in-law also died about this time, his elder brother left the village and went to Varanasi seeking spiritual salvation.
As a consequence of the many misfortunes, Tukaram was so much disgusted with life that he left his house and village and disappeared into the Bhamnath forest nearby. For fifteen days he stayed there concentrating on the Almighty without food, water or sleep. After the fifteenth day, he realised his Supreme Self and Vithoba visited him in His true form.
Tukaram now began to spend his life more and more in devotional practices, study of the poems and works of Jnanadev, Namdev and Ekanath, Gita, Bhagavata, etc., with the result that slowly, but unconsciously, he began to make poems.
Then one day, he had a dream in which Namdev appeared with Panduranga, woke him and advised him to make devotional songs. They would not hear of any excuses. Panduranga gave him the necessary inspiration and Namdev told him to complete the one hundred crores of poems which he had intended to make and of which he had completed ninety-four crores and forty lakhs, leaving a balance of five crores and sixty lakhs for Tukaram. The divine art of making poems came naturally to Tukaram and as they were of the nature of Bhakti, the people began to be more and more attracted to Tukaram—more so as he did not seek anything materially for himself or for his own worldly welfare.
Whenever Tukaram began to perform Bhajan or Kirtan, people began to flock to the place, and with very few exceptions, people of all classes began to consider him as a saint and treat him with respect.
Ramdas was a noted 17th-century brahmin saint and spiritual poet of Maharashtra. He is most remembered for his Advaita Vendatist text, the Dasbodh. Ramdas was a devotee of Hanuman and Rama.
At 11, he attained enlightenment and was advised by Lord Ram to start a new sector on the banks of the river Krishna.
During childhood he was fond of vigorous physical activity. He loved to exercise and was well built and intelligent. He was a firm believer of God and stood by his principles. His persona shone with devotion for Hanuman and Ram. He felt compassion for the common people. From his childhood he was thinking about how to relieve the masses. Marriage and family were not his priorities, preferring the life of a monk/
His teaching of courage, patience and faith in the face of adversity helped people become spiritually aligned.
He chose Hanuman, who was extremely strong and valiantly faced enemies and emerged victorious, as a role model for the common man to combat murderous opponents. Lord Ram, the great archer, who killed Ravana and helped the Gods who were captured by him, was another role model. He felt that their personalities and characteristics would be ideal for the masses.
Mahanubhav (also known as Jai Krishni Pantha) refers to Hindu sects in India, started by Sarvadnya Shri Chakradhar Swami (or Chakradahrara) in 1267. Shri Chakradhar Swami propagated a religious movement, as well as social movement, in which all members were accepted irrespective of their castes, and the traditional ritualistic religion was rejected. The religion survives to the present. It teaches that Krishna is the only God.
During the period when Sarvadnya Shri Chakradhar Swami preached his philosophy, there were number of religious and philosophical currents like Advaita of Shankaracharya, Vishishtadvaita of Ramanuja, Hathayoga of Nath Sect and to some extent Bhakti tradition of Vitthal from Pandharpur.
The philosophy of Chakradhar Swami is based on Dualism (Dwait) and it regards the soul, deity, the world of appearance, and God as four distinct constants. Also the world of appearance is regarded as materialistic, God as eternally free, deity as ever-bound and soul as ethereal.
The dualism between soul and God is clearly understood as a constant in this philosophy. It is believed that the original purity of soul is revealed when the slough of ignorance over it is removed. God who is without bodily attributes, or any forms, assumes incarnation in order to grant salvation of his devotee. He grants his association which is liberating. The Mahanubhav philosophy accepts the concept of incarnation. According to it, there are five incarnations of God, Shri Krishana Chakravarti (of Dwaraka, Mathura); Shri Dattatreya Prabhu (Badrikashram); Shri Changdeva Raul (Chakrapani Prabhu, Phalatan Maharashtra); Shri Gundam Raul (Govind Prabhu, Riddhapur, Amravati Maharashtra) and Sarvadnya Shri Chakradhar Swami (Bharuch, Gujarat). These five incarnations are known as “Panchakrishna” (or “Five Krishnas”), and they are to be meditated upon forever.
The Mahanubhav philosophy says, “Panchakrishna” were the only God it never reside in other human beings. Other form of energies has no effect on Nature. So, if you have any dukha or problems in life you should always approach “Panchakrishna” i.e. they mean to say all problems have one solution.E ven if you got hurt in your right hand you should apply medicine on your left hand…this is true philosophy of Mahanubhav Panth.