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About Saint Shri Namdev Maharaj

Shri Namdev Maharaj

Sant Namdeo (29 October, 1270 - 1350)(Marathi: संत नामदेव ) or Bhagat Namdeo (Gurmukhi:) was born on October 29, 1270in the state of Maharashtra village of Narasi-Bamani, in Hingoli district (presently called Narsi Namdev). His father, a calico printer/tailor, was named Damshet and his mother's name was Gonabai. Most of the spiritual message of Bhagat Namdeo emphasized the importance of living the life of a householder (गृहस्थ जीवन) and that through marriage and having a family one could attain enlightenment. He emphasized that the truest form of bandage or devotional meditation, is to enter matrimony and jointly seek the holy experience Waheguru.

Background

Namdeo was married before he was eleven years of age to Rajabal, daughter of Govinda Sheti Sadavarte. They had four sons and one daughter. Janabai, the family's maidservant and a bhagat and poetess in her own right, records the tradition that Namdeo was born to Gonabai as a result of her worship of Vitthala in Pandharpur. This present temple building was constructed by Sardar Jassa Singh Ramgarhiaand the tank by its side was repaired by Rani Sada Kaur, mother-in-law of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

God's name was always on the lips of Namdeo. He was asked by the king to show miracles. He refused to do so and was thrown before a drunk elephant to be crushed to death. God saved His own saint. When the Fifth Guru, Guru Arjan dev compiled the Guru Granth Sahib, he decided to give some recognition to the saints of the Bhakti movement. This is the reason that Guru Granth Sahib contains verses of fifteen such saints. In some cases Guru Granth Sahib is the only voice remaining for such saints over the years.

Follows Bhakti Marg

Under the influence of saint Jnanadeva, Namdev became part of the Bhakti Movement bhakti. Vitthala of Pandharpur was now the object of his devotion and he spent much of his time in worship and kirtan, chanting mostly verses of his own composition. In the company of Jnanadeva and other saints, he roamed about the country and later came to the Punjab where he is said to have lived for more than twenty years at Ghuman, in Gurdaspur district, where a temple in the form of samadhi still preserves his memory.

In his early fifties, Namdev settled down at Pandharpur where he gathered around himself a group of devotees. His abhangas or devotional lyrics became very popular, and people thronged to listen to his kirtan. Namdeo's songs have been collected in Namdevachi Gatha which also includes the long autobiographical poem Tirathavah.

His Hindi verse and his extended visit to the Punjab carried his fame far beyond the borders of Maharashtra. Sixty-one of his hymns in fact came to be included in the Sikh Scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib. His hymns or shabads were very much a inspiration to the Sikh Gurus and they were able to indentify the God in Namdeo's hymns with the Sikh version of the formless God.

Message of Unity for all

One should lay aside differences between oneself and others, and feel no anxiety for things of the world. Ranade also writes: "He (Namdeo) tells us that it is impossible that the pursuit of God can be coupled with a life of Samsara. If it had been possible for a man to find God while he was pursuing Samsara, then Sanaka and others would not have grown mad after God. If it had been possible for him to see God while carrying on the duties of a householder, the great Suka would not have gone to the forest to seek God. Had it been possible for people to find God in their homes, they would not have left them to find out. Nam Dev has left all these things, and is approaching God in utter submission." (Abhg. 83)

Namdeo's cosmogenic views are also orthodox. He says that God created maya and "maya is the name of the power that placeth man in the womb." Indirectly, he is neither happy with the world, nor with human birth. To him, shop, shopkeeper, men and everything are unreal excepting God. Against this background he sought release from the world and suggested renunciation: "Namdeo gave up trade, and devoted himself exclusively to the worship of God".

The world being a play of maya and not being a worthwhile arena for spiritual endeavours, Namdeo's goal was to have union with God through devotion and singing His praises. He says, "I perform worship, sing God's praises and meditate on Him for eight prahar in a day i.e, round the clock. At the same time, he suggests good conduct and purity of life. For, God created all men alike. Though he holds every person responsible for his acts, he clearly does not believe in a world rigidly governed by karma. Because he says: If everything were determined by karma, who created karma originally?

Sant Namdeo not only claims union with God, but, like Kabir, also states that more than once God miraculously intervened on his behalf to reveal Himself to him, or help him. Without doubt, Namdeo's approach remains otherworldly both before and after his achievement. At one time, he even gave up work so as to remain absorbed in his worship and meditations. He never initiated any religious institution or movement. His was a solitary search for God, without creating any social or religious organisation.

We find that in his repudiation of Vaisnava doctrines, in his metaphysical ideas, methodology and goal, and more particularly in his otherworldly approach to the world and society, Namdeo's views are quite identical with those of Kabir.

In his early fifties, Namdev settled down at Pandharpur where he gathered around himself a group of devotees. His Abhanga became very popular and people thronged to listen to hisKirtan. Approximately 2500 of Namdev's Abhanga have been collected in NamdevVaachi Gatha. The book also includes the long autobiographical poem Teerthaavali, talking about his travels in the company of Saint Dnyaneshwar. This poem makes him the first auto-biographer in Marathi literature. He has also written a biography on Saint Dnyaneshwar through Aadi, Samadhi andTeerthavali, which makes him the first Marathi biographer. He continued to propagate theBhagawad-Dharma for 50 years after the death of Saint Dnyaneshwar. Saint Namdev is regarded to have had a significant influence on Saint Tukaram.

He died in July, 1350 at the age of 80 in Pandharpur at the feet of the Lord at Pandharpur. He preferred to be a stepping stone at the temple in Pandharpur so that he would be forever blessed by the touch of innumerable saints and devotees stepping on him into the temple.

Nachu Kirtanache rangi, Dnyandeep lavu jagi
(Will dance to the tune of Kirtan, light the lamp of knowledge the world over)

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