Sant Eknath (1533-1599)

Sant Eknath
Sank Eknath

        Sant Eknath Maharaj, considered the Spiritual successor to the work of Sant Dnyaneshwar and Sant Namadev, was a great Saint from Maharashtra. Sant Eknath was known for His spiritual prowess as well as His immense efforts in awakening people and safeguarding Dharma. Sant Eknath id the author of numerous hymns and books on Bhakti and Spirituality, including the famous Eknathi Bhagwat, the spiritual essence of the Bhagavad Geeta and his magnum opus Bhavarth Ramayan.

Purpose of birth

        During the time of Sant Dnyaneshwar and Sant Namadev in Maharashtra, Devgiri was a prosperous and content kingdom under the king Shree Ramdevrai Yadav. Unfortunately after the death of the king Devgiri fell into the hands of Muslim invaders. The reformative and uplifting work started by Sant Dnyaneshwar and Sant Namdev came to a stop. The war and foreign invasions had taken a heavy toll in the life of the people. People were aimless and resigned to the drudgery of being slaves to invaders. For nearly 200 years, this was the state of the people, the nation and Dharma, till a bright soul took birth to awaken the masses.

5 year old Eknath leaves home to seek a Guru

        Little Eknath had been impressed upon the importance of the Gurucharitra. He was constantly asking others on how he could meet His Guru. The learned men around him were baffled and told him to ask the river Godavari. So the very next day little Eknath went to the river and asked his question with great earnestness and urgency. And the infinitely compassionate mother answered! ‘Your Guru is waiting in the fort of Daulatabad’, little Eknath was told. He promptly left home for Daulatabad!

The Guru meets the Disciple

        Janardan swami was the head of the fort of Daulatabad. He used to go on leave every Thursday. It was a fateful day, when 5 year old Eknath who was resolutely climbing the steps of the fort, came across Janardan Swami. Janardan Swami welcomed the boy with the word ‘I have been expecting you’. The Guru always waits and knows when a worthy disciple will come along. Janardan Swami entrusted the task of making preparations for puja to little Eknath, who performed it with great devotion, which pleased the Guru immensely. Janardan swami took young Eknath

Earnest cry to Jagdamba mata to help awaken the people

        The Devgiri fort was under the Nizam rule. Sant Eknath who lived nearby saw that the people silently suffered the excesses of the rulers, while having resigned to their fate of being enslaved. The people were alive because they were not dead already! Sant Eknath decided that he needed to start a mass movement for awakening the people. He earnestly prayed to the Kulswamini Jagdambamata to manifest and bless the work of awakening the people. (Vishwapandhari Year 1, Issue 2, page 13)

The masses awaken

        Slowly but surely, the people began to realise that they were living a caged life. Sant Eknath’s efforts bore fruit when the demoralised people started expressing their dissatisfaction against the foreign rulers.

Kshatriya Dharma

दया तिचे नाव भूतांचे पालन ।

आणिक निर्दाळण कंटकांचे ।।

Meaning : Kindness and compassion for the people |

Strict and fiery towards unjust ||

        One fateful day, Janardan Swami was deep in Samadhi, when an attacking army raised an alarm. Eknath Maharaj did not hesitate, despite not being a combatant, he donned the armour and stepped out to fight the invaders. He had only one thought on his mind, that his Guru Janardan Swami’s Samadhi state should not be disturbed. So Eknath Maharaj fought valorously for 4 hours and drove the invaders away.

        Eknath Maharaj was lauded for his bravery. He proved that the Guru and Shishya are one! Janardan Maharaj was not informed of anything of this. When Swamiji came to know of this he felt a sense of fulfilment for his disciple. The disciples such as Eknathji Maharaj who can wipe out the difference between a Guru and his disciple and can do the work of Guru are extremely rare so to say. (The life of Eknath Maharaj by Laxman Ramchandra Pangarkar Ramyakatha Publications Pune – 2, pg 62 & Sanatan Prabhat 3.8.2006)

Books in vernacular to reach out to the masses

        Eknathji had a tremendous respect for mother tongue. For the sake of uplifting of common people he wrote simple stories, Kirtans or stories of Goddesses, Prayers to Goddesses for fulfilment of desires, on the Art of Dance etc. He also wrote a book on Ramayana to give the people of what Ram Rajya or an Ideal State is.

Sant Eknath writes Bhavarth Ramayan

        The historical rendition of the life of Lord Rama was re-written by Eknath Maharaj in a volume comprising of 7 divisions, 297 chapters and nearly 40000 stanzas called ‘Ovis’. Eknath Maharaj endeavoured to explain the spiritual meaning of the life of Rama.

        ‘Aja’ is Parbrahma or Parmatma. From this came Dasaratha or the 10 sense organs. The personal self (atma) in the form of Ram took birth through Dasaratha. The Avatars or Incarnations of God had the primary object of satisfying the desires and aspirations of Gods. Dasrath had 3 Queens – Kaushalya symbolising beneficent knowledge (Sadvidya), Sumitra symbolising Pure knowledge (Shuddhabuddhi) and Kaikayi symbolising ignorance (Avidya). Kaikayi’s maid Manthara symbolised harmful knowledge (Kuvidya). Ram the Blissful had 3 brothers. Laxman meaning self-knowledge (Atmaprabodh), Bharat meaning sentimental (Bhavartha) and Satrughna meaning self supporting (Nij-nirdhar). Then again Vishwamitra meaning rationality (Vivek) and Vasistha meaning thoughtful (Vichar). From latter two Ram learnt the scriptures as well as the art of war. Ram and Sita symbolise God and His Intelligence. Their unity is absolute. (Bharatiya Sanskruti Kosha 6, page 506)

Eknath Maharaj awakens pride for

Bhagwath Dharma and good character in the people

        We are fortunate that Eknath Maharaj bestowed upon us the unadulterated version of Dnyaneshwari. From his Bhavarth Ramayana we can witness the sorry state of affairs of Maharashtra under the Islamic kings; the social, political and economic downfall of the people at the time. Even the religious circles had deteriorated to unprecedented levels of hypocrisy. Sant Eknath Maharaj castigated these charlatans of religion in no uncertain manner. Some of them took lessons from Eknath Maharaj and worked to improve themselves and tried to really work for the upliftment of society. Eknath Maharaj proved to the society that via the medium of ‘Bhakti’ one can be a regular householder as well as spiritually evolved. Eknath Maharaj’s life showed the people that the worldly pursuits can also be Spiritual pursuits. He raised the aspirations of people and instilled pride into them towards Bhagwat Dharma and to build strong characters. However it was unfortunate that before the ideas and teachings of Eknath Maharaj could be properly instilled into the hearts and minds of people, invasions by foreigners diverted the peoples efforts and His efforts were shortlived.

Shri Pravin Kavthekar, ‘Santkrupa’ May 2007.

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