Dattaswami



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Fast Facts
shrikrishna-saraswati-2.jpg
Other Names and Nicknames: 
Shri Datta Swami, Dataswami, Shrikrishna, Shri Krishna Saraswati of Kolhapur, Kumbhar Swami, Datta Maharaj, Narahari Joshi, Shri Krishna Saraswati Datta Maharaj
Function: 
Avatar
Traditions: 
Dattatrey, Sant Namdev
Main Countries of Activity: 
India
Date of Birth: 
07/02/1836
Place of Birth: 
Nandani, Kolhapur, Maharashtra
In His/Her Body ("alive"): 
No
Date Left His/Her Body: 
20/08/1900

Biography

Dattaswami lived during the years 1836 -1900 in India. He is believed to be an incarnation of Lord Dattatreya. He stayed at Kolhapur in Kumbhar Lane (Potters Lane) and hence he was called as Kumbhar Swami.

EARLY AGE

In the state of Maharashtra in India, in a small village called Nandani whixh is in Shirol hamlet in the Kohlapur district lived in the 19th century, Appa Joshi, a pious priest with his wife, Annapurna. It is said that he was usually engrossed in conducting his daily religious rituals and was very helpful and hospitable by nature.

Both were great devotees of Shri Narasimha Saraswati, who is believed to be the second avatar (incarnation) of Lord Dattatreya. On saturdays and on full moon days, Appa would visit Shri Narasimha Wadi which is on the bank of the river Krishna in Shirol taluka of Kolhapur District - a place where Shri Narasimha Saraswati stayed twelve years.

Annapurna used to be unhappy and concerned as the couple did not have any children. She would often request her husband to pray for Shri Narasimha Saraswati to grant them a son. However, Appa would disregard her wish, as his standpoint was that Shri Narasimha Saraswati who can bestow Moksha (ultimate merging with God), should not be troubled with trivial requests.

It is told that once on his regular pilgrimage to Wadi, Appa performed his usual rituals and works. When it was time to return home, there was an extremely heavy rainfall causing the river Krishna to flood. Appa was stranded at Wadi for the night. Whilst sleeping there, he had a dream in which Shri Narasimha Saraswati appeared and promised him that he, Shri Narasimha Saraswati himself, would take birth as his son. On his return home the next day, he revealed his dream to an ecstatic Annapurna.

Soon, Annapurna was pregnant. During pregnancy, she would crave for solitude and peace. She would be most happy in secluded places. Often she would go and sit for long in the temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman.

On Sunday, February 7, 1836, [in the month of Magha, 5th day after full moon, according to Hindu calendar],she gave birth to a healthy, radiant child - a son. It is said that a group of astrologers predicted that this child would remain a celibate and guide thousands on the spiritual path. Appa Joshi and Annapurna named their son Shrikrishna because of his attractiveness and allure which was similar to that of Lord Krishna (an incarnation of Lord Vishnu). Unlike normal babies, Shrikrishna disliked being confined to the cradle or being supported on the lap. He would, instead, be constantly crawling on the floor. Annapurna tried to breast-feed him but he would drink very little. Surprisingly, he was yet very healthy. But even at the age of three years, his mother had to forcibly feed him the small amount of rice and milk.

To the despair of his anxious mother, Shrikrishna would not speak even at the age of five years. Her friends and neighbors would advise her to perform many rituals like worshipping the peepal tree (betel tree) and feeding the priests and the poor. Annapurna would abide by all their advice. As time passed by, Shrikrishna started speaking but no one could comprehend what he was saying. This disturbed Annapurna. Shrikrishna reached the age of seven years. His parents decided to arrange for his Upanayana ceremony (thread ceremony - a spiritual initiation conducted by the Hindu Brahmins for their children at the age of seven years). During the ceremony, the sacred Gayatri Mantra (chant to Goddess Gayatri) was recited in Shrikrishna's ears. All that he could repeat were the first two words of the mantra twice, "OM BHURRA, OM BHURRA", causing a peal of laughter from all those present. Appa Joshi was calm and unperturbed, as he was convinced that this has some significance.

PILGRIMAGE

One day Shrikrishna asked his mother's permission to go to a nearby village Mangasoli to visit the temple dedicated to Lord Khanderaya (another name for Lord Shiva). Annapurna was greatly worried about her son going anywhere alone. She worried as any doting mother would worry about their seemingly helpless child - how would he find his way, who would feed him as he still had to be forcibly fed and so on. Overhearing their conversation, Appa Joshi interrupted them. He readily allowed Shrikrishna to go for the pilgrimage. The anxious but helpless Annapurna packed a few snacks for her son and instructed him to return at the earliest. Shrikrishna started his journey. On the way, he came across a village - Bedagagram. On its outskirts was a well. Shrikrishna decided to take a bath in it. He kept his clothes and the bag of snacks on the wall of the well, and jumped in the well. No sooner had he soaked himself in the water, a dog ran away with his bag of snacks. A little while later, a lady came to fetch water from the well. Hurriedly Shrikrishna came out and found his bag missing.

Naturally, he questioned the lady about his bag of snacks and accused her of stealing it. He directly asked her, "Would you do such a thing to your own child?" The woman was understandably upset, as she did not have any children of her own. She told the divine child, "I have not seen your bag nor taken it. Come to my house and I shall feed you." Shrikrishna readily went with her. She laid in front of him a feast of rice and milk. However, he did not touch it. The lady, therefore, sat next to him and with lots of love started feeding him with her own hands. Shrikrishna ate all the food without making any fuss. Whilst eating, he thought, "By feeding me, all her sins have been washed away. She will be blessed with a son." After finishing the meal, he verbally blessed the lady and told her she will bear a son. Then he started to leave. She repeatedly pleaded with him to stay overnight. He adamantly refused. She gave him some fruits to carry with him for the journey. Shrikrishna started on his onwards journey. In time, his blessings fructified. The lady bore a son. Throughout life she remembered Shrikrishna. She, later, attained Moksha.

TEMPLE OF LORD KHANDERAYA

Upon reaching Mangasoli, Shrikrishna went to the temple of Lord Khanderaya. He paid his obeisance and prayed, "O God, I am so happy to visit this place, to see you. You are Shiva! But, alas where is Goddess Parvati (name of Lord Shiva's consort)? Where is Nandi (name of the bull that is Lord Shiva's vehicle)? You are fond of bhasma (holy ash) but here, there is only bhandara (turmeric powder). O Lord, you killed the demon Malhara, hence here you are also named Malhari, the enemy of Malhara. O Lord, I pray to you to appear before me. Till you appear, I shall sit here without taking in food and water."

No sooner had he prayed and made his petition, an old Brahmin appeared before him and said, "O child, do not be so adamant, sitting here without food and water. In these days, God does not appear before human beings by praying thus. Please take the holy prasad (eatables offered first to God) and go home." Immediately, Shrikrishna retorted, "how could you read my mind and know my plan? Anyway, it's only been a few years since Lord Vithoba (Lord Vishnu is known in Maharashtra state by this name) appeared before Namdeva (saint of Maharashtra, contemporary of Shrikrishna)". Hearing this, the old man disappeared. Suddenly, Lord Shiva along with Goddess Parvati and Nandi appeared before Shrikrishna. Lord Shiva said to Shrikrishna, "You are a part of me. Now, go home. Later, meet Shri Swami Samartha at Akkalkot. You are born to help people and take them onto the spiritual path." Saying thus, Lord Shiva and his entourage disappeared. An exuberant Shrikrishna happily started on his journey home.

HOME AGAIN

A week had passed since Shrikrishna had started his journey. His mother Annapurna was worried and anxiously awaiting his return. So, when he came back home, she was happy to see him. Shrikrishna looked more radiant, glowing, illuminating with spiritual enlightenment. Annapurna did wonder as to "who would have fed him or if he was really a yogi (ascetic)?"

Since Appa Joshi was a practicing priest for Nandani and its neighboring villages, the villagers often called upon him to perform the requisite rituals. Once when he was invited to the Jambhali village to perform some rituals, Shrikrishna accompanied him.

After the religious ceremony got over, one of the guests - an old lady started to complain that this year she had lost the chance of going to Pandharpur (place of pilgrimage) to see Lord Vithoba. People consoled her that she could take the pilgrimage next year instead. This made her cry inconsolably, "I am over sixty years of age. I do not know whether I'll be alive next year to make my visit." Hearing her predicament and finding her sincere in her urge to visit Lord Vithoba, Shrikrishna told her, "Don't worry, you need not travel all the way to Pandharpur, instead I shall give you the prasad here." He went out and returned immediately with two packets of prasad and gave them to the old lady. Everyone started laughing at this act of a "foolish child". The old lady opened the packets. Suddenly, there was a stunned silence - for one packet contained churmure ( rice popcorn) and the other contained bukka (perfumed black powder applied on the forehead) - these are offered as prasad of Lord Vithoba, available only at Pandharpur.

Hereafter, people started viewing Shrikrishna differently. Their attitude towards him became more reverential. Many started often visiting him. They found his irrelevant uttering contained answers to their questions, solving many of their problems.

SHRIKRISHNA LEAVES HOME

After two years, when Shrikrishna was twelve years old, he felt it was time to leave his household in Nandani for good, to go to Akkalkot. He, therefore, asked his mother's permission. Annapurna was shocked! She pleaded with him to stay, not to leave them alone. When Appa Joshi became aware of Shrikrishna's intent, he resolutely told his wife, "Do not stop him. Let him do what he wants to do. The very purpose of his birth is to help people on their spiritual journey. We do not have the strength nor the power to stop him." With heavy hearts, Appa Joshi and Annapurna bade adieu to their son Shrikrishna. On his part Shrikrishna assured his sorrowful parents that he would appear to them whenever they remembered him. Thus, Shrikrishna left his family and home in Nandani.

Mere words cannot describe the grief of the distraught parents. It was similar to the great sorrow suffered by Nanda and Yashoda, when Kanhaiya (Lord Krishna's childhood name), their foster son, left Gokul and went to Mathura. Likewise, Appa Joshi and Annapurna constantly remembered their son Shrikrishna and repeated his name like a mantra. After a short period, his unhappy parents passed away. They attained Moksha.

SHRI SWAMI SAMARTHA MAHARAJ OF AKKALKOT

Shrikrishna traveled on foot towards Akkalkot where Shri Swami Samartha - the third known incarnation of Lord Dattatreya - was staying. Days before Shrikrishna's arrival at Akkalkot, Shri Swami Samartha had been restless. He was constantly heard excitedly muttering, "Krishna's coming, Krishna's coming". As Shrikrishna approached the boundary of Akkalkot, Shri Swami Samartha speedily came out of his math (ashram or abode of a holy sage), his disciples and devotees followed suit. As soon as Shri Swami Samarth saw Shrikrishna, he held his hand and rushed him to a nearby forest so fast, that those who were following them, could not locate them. Shrikrishna and Shri Swami Samartha remained at an unknown place in the forest for seven days. What divine play was enacted in isolation is not known. Perhaps the elderly Shri Swami Samartha charted the divine course of future action for the young Shrikrishna to undertake. Since they were both incarnations of Lord Dattatreya in manifestation at the same time, it is very unlikely that Shri Swami Samartha gave any spiritual initiation to Shrikrishna. Perhaps because of the age difference, people inferred that Shri Swami Samartha was Shrikrishna's Guru (Spiritual Master who leads us from darkness to GOD). It is, though, well known that Shrikrishna had great love and respect for Shri Swami Samartha, whom he held in extremely high esteem and which was equally reciprocated.

Whilst Shri Swami Samartha was away, a gloom had descended on his devotees and disciples. Finally after week, Shri Swami Samartha returned to Akkalkot along with Shrikrishna. People were delighted to see their Guru - their God again and hastened to get food for him. Shri Swami Samartha called out to them,"Shrikrishna is hungry, get laddus (Indian sweetmeat) for him." Shrikrishna stayed on for some time at Akkalkot with the elderly sage. Shri Swami Samartha renamed Shrikrishna as Shri Krishna Saraswati Swami. As we unfold the life story of Shri Krishna Saraswati Swami, we will henceforth refer to him as Swami, as his devotees popularly addressed him during his lifetime.

The leper Brahmin One day, a Brahmin suffering from leprosy came to solicit Shri Swami Samartha's favor to cure his disease. He related that for the past three years he had been worshipping Lord Dattatreya at Ganagapur (place of pilgrimage), desperately begging God to cure him. There one night, he was directed in a dream to proceed to meet Shri Swami Samartha at Akkalkot for his cure. Therefore with great hope in his heart he had arrived at the great sage's door. Shri Swami Samartha pointed out to Swami and said, "This is Guru Shri Krishna Saraswati Swami. Go with him to Kolhapur, serve him well and you will be alright." Dejected at not receiving grace from the sage, the desperate Brahmin moaned, "O Lord, I have been sent to you by the Lord of Ganagapur and now you are sending me elsewhere. Cure me, if not kill me, for I am not going any where else." This infuriated Shri Swami Samartha. Notwithstanding the sage's anger and scared lest he would curse him, the Brahmin started to tremble. He begged for forgiveness for his ignorance and agreed to go with Swami to serve him.

DOUBTS DISAPPEAR

The next day, Swami started walking towards Kolhapur with the Brahmin in tow. At dusk, they reached a small village. At the outskirts of this village was a temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman. Swami decided to stay there overnight. The only thought the Brahmin had was doubts of whether he would be cured. Swami decided to put his faith to test and at rest. He said to the Brahmin, "I am very hungry. Go and get some milk from the village." The Brahmin took a pot and went in search for milk. By then, it was pitch dark. The entire village had gone to sleep. Nevertheless, the Brahmin kept on walking through the village, searching lest someone in the village was awake to spare some milk for Swami. He suddenly came upon a place, which was crowded. Wondering why a crowd had collected at such a late hour, he inquired with the people standing around. He was told that the daughter-in-law of the house was having difficulty in delivering her baby. In fact, she was undergoing severe labor pains for the past three days. The Brahmin, as a matter of fact, informed them that "A sanyasi (ascetic) is living at the temple. He needs milk. If you give some, he might confer a favor." The helpless husband of the woman immediately filled milk in the pot and accompanied the Brahmin to the temple. As they reached the temple door, Swami yelled from inside, "Govinda, go home. A son has been born to you." The man was flabbergasted that the ascetic knew his name and his problem. He went inside and reverentially offered the milk to Swami. Filled with gratitude, he humbly requested Swami to visit his house. Swami politely refused saying, "We have work to do." Govinda went home and found his wife had delivered a baby boy. Both were safe and well. Seeing this miracle, the Brahmin had a change of heart. He started doing his work with a renewed sense of devotion and his faith immensely increased. He thought to himself, "Immaterial of whether my disease is cured or not, I am certainly fortunate to serve this holy man." Reading his mind, Swami laughed and said to himself, "At least his doubts have disappeared. Once his past sins are washed away by his dedicated services, I shall cure him."

GODDESS AMBABAI'S TEMPLE

The next morning, Swami and the Brahmin resumed their walk. By evening, they reached Kolhapur. At Kolhapur, there is a famous temple dedicated to Goddess Amba (another name of Goddess Parvati, consort of Lord Shiva). This ancient temple has a beautiful architecture. The main hall and the inner sanctum sanctorum have been carved in stone, in the Hemadpanthi style. There are also other numerous smaller temples in its courtyard dedicated to other deities, namely, Lord Shri Ram (an incarnation of Lord Vishnu), Lord Dattatreya, Lord Ganapati (God with elephant-head, son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati), Lord Shani (Ruler of the planet Saturn, son of the Sun God) and many others. Swami and the Brahmin arrived. Swami decided that they would stay in the corner of the hall of the temple dedicated to Lord Shri Ram.

EXORCISING THE GHOST

One day, a woman accompanied by her friends came to worship at Lord Shri Ram's temple. As soon as her eyes met Swami's, she cried out, "O Lord Datta! I beg you to help me. Please be kind enough to bequeath Moksha on me." So saying, she collapsed and fainted. A few of her friends ran to fetch her husband while the others tended to her and sprinkled water on her. After some time, she regained consciousness. In the meantime, her husband arrived and was updated on what had occurred. He at once rushed towards Swami and disclosed, "My wife has been possessed by a ghost these past twelve years. We went to many places and people to seek help, but no one could help her. But today, by exorcising the ghost, you have bestowed a great favor on us, for which we are indebted to you forever." He, then, invited Swami to his home to bless his family and home. Swami did not utter a word. The blessed couple reverentially bowed to Swami and happily went home. The news of this incident spread throughout the city. Scores of people flocked to the temple to seek the holy man's blessings.

PHADNIS

Two of the spectators of the above happening were Phadnis and Krishna Lad who started visiting Swami regularly. Phadnis was a wealthy and pious man. He visited Swami daily and requested him to come and stay with him. Swami would say, "I will come to stay at your home when the time is right".

BRAHMIN CURED

The Brahmin carried on his daily chores diligently. He worked hard for Swami - giving him a bath, washing his clothes, procuring food, running errands and performing any and every work Swami requested him to do.

One day, Swami decided that because of his dedicated services to him, the Brahmin had washed away his past bad karma (actions) and it was time to cure him. He called the Brahmin and said to him, "Go to the river Ganges and bathe in it. Today, you will be completely cured". The Brahmin rushed to the river immediately and plunged into it with glee. This bathing experience must have been his best throughout life. When he came out of the water, his disease had disappeared. His skin gleamed of vitality and good health. Overjoyed and grateful, he ran back to show it to Swami.

While the Brahmin was bathing, Phadnis visited Swami at the temple and again invited him to stay at his house. That very moment, Swami stood up and accompanied Phadnis to his home. So, when the Brahmin returned excitedly to the temple, he was dejected that Swami had disappeared without a trace. He had no clue as to where he would find Swami to show his eternal gratitude and reverence. He sat gloomily, totally in despair. Neither food nor water would go down his throat. By night, he was so distraught that he went to sleep thoroughly exhausted. Swami appeared in his dream and said, "Son, you will not see me ever again. But, you do not have to worry. Now, go back home. Always remember me. I promise you a prosperous and peaceful life".

SWAMI'S STAY AT PHADNIS' HOUSE

Meanwhile, Swami reached Phadnis' home. His family comprised of his wife and his child. Phadnis was exceptionally devoted to Swami. His wife did not share his belief and disapproved of Swami living in their house. Swami's every need was met by Phadnis. Despite this his wife would constantly pick fights with him, nagging, grumbling and picking faults with Swami's behavior.

One day, Swami predicted that "Bad days are here". After a couple of days, Phadnis' child fell ill and died. Phadnis' distraught wife accused Swami for their misfortune and created a rumpus. She would tell everyone who came to offer their condolences that "My child has died because of this visitor. He stays with us, eats our food and we look after his every need. In return, we lose our child. If he was a real sage, our child would have been alive today." Thus, she insinuated that Swami was a fake. Phadnis tried to console her, but in vain. To add fuel to fire, Swami affirmed, "You reap what you sow". One day, Swami took Phadnis to his neighbor's house. Standing in their doorway, he called out, "I am shivering with cold. Please give me a blanket". The neighbor came out but could not fathom what Swami was hinting. Just then the neighbor's mother hurriedly came out and said, "Swami, please forgive my lapse. Please wait. I will fetch the shawl at once". She went in and brought back a beautiful shawl and put it around Swami, saying to the amazed onlookers, "A few days ago, my son had extremely high fever. He was shivering with cold. I mentally prayed to Swami to bring down his fever, keep him warm and speed up his recovery. In return, I promised to gift him a shawl. He recovered, but I forgot to keep my promise. Nobody in the house knows about it, as I had not told anyone. Today, Swami in his kindness came to me, to remind me of my promise". Once again she begged for Swami's forgiveness and expressed her gratitude and reverence. As a token of his blessing and protection to a fervent devotee, Swami gifted the shawl back to her. News of this occurrence soon spread. More and more devotees flocked to Phadnis' house to seek Swami's blessings.

MHAISALKAR

Amongst the many who visited Swami was Mhaisalkar, a landlord of Mhaisal, a neighboring village. He had a spiritual bent of mind. He requested Swami to come and stay with him. One day, Swami agreed. When Phadnis heard this, he was very upset. In his depressed state, he questioned Swami, "What is my fault that you are leaving me? Have I made lapses that I need to rectify? Only if you tell me, I'll know. Please stay". Swami looked lovingly at his devotee whose faith stood firm like a rock despite tremulous circumstances and said, "Son, do not worry. I am going to stay at Kolhapur. Visit me regularly. You have a prosperous future. In due time, you will be blessed with four children. They will all have long lives".

TARABAI SHIRKE

Before departing for Mhaisal, Swami told Mhaisalkar that he had an incomplete job to finish. At noon, Swami accompanied by Mhaisalkar walked towards a small lane named Kumbhar Galli (Potter's Lane) in Kolhapur. He stopped at a house and called aloud, "Mother, please give me some food to eat". Hearing this, the woman of the house came out. She looked at Swami and said, "You seem to be a Brahmin, so how can I give you food cooked by me. Instead I shall give you some raw grains. Please wait". She went inside the house to fetch the food articles. Swami walked off grumbling, "The woman still has doubts. She has not yet chased away caste differences from her mind". He returned to Phadnis' house for his meal before setting out for Mhaisal with Mhaisalkar.

Have you wondered about the identity of the fortunate woman Swami detoured specially to visit? She was Tarabai, the famous prostitute of Kolhapur. She earned extremely well and had amassed a good fortune. Since many years she suffered from severe stomach pains. The best medicines available could not cure her. Despite her shameful occupation, she was a good human being, a pious soul and a humble devotee of Lord Dattatreya. She visited the Wadi on every full moon day to pray to Lord Narsimha Saraswati. After completing her routine rituals, she would distribute food grains to the priests and feed the poor. This brought about slight relief to her stomachache. A couple of days after Swami returned without any alms from her house, Tarabai set out for her fortnightly visit to Wadi. She finished her prayers and works, and decided to spend the night there. Lord Narasimha Saraswati appeared in her dream and said, "I came to you begging for food. You sent me back hungry. I have taken birth in the present age and am known now as Shri Krishna Saraswati Swami. At present, I am staying at Mhaisal at Mhaisalkar's home. Come to fetch me. Take me to your house. Serve me and I promise to cure you of your pains." Tarabai's happiness was beyond measure. She immediately returned to Kolhapur. From there onwards, she took a horse carriage to Mhaisal, to fetch Swami.

SWAMI'S STAY AT KUMBHAR LANE

Tarabai reached Mhaisalkar's home at Mhaisal. The moment she saw Swami, she fell at his feet begging for mercy for not recognizing him and sending him hungry from her house. Humbly, she requested him to come and stay at her home. Swami said, "I was expecting you. In fact, I was awaiting your arrival. Let us go." Mhaisalkar was understandably upset and moaned that his holy guest should depart so soon. Swami consoled him, "Kolhapur is not far away. Keep visiting me regularly". Thus Swami left for Kolhapur with Tarabai.

Due to Tarabai's heartfelt devotion, Swami in this incarnation stayed with her throughout his sojourn on earth. Tarabai was not receiving grace for nothing. She had undergone intense sadhana (meditation] in her previous life that was now bearing fruits. The story of this blessed soul Tarabai's spiritual journey will be narrated later as Swami's story unfolds.

For almost forty-five years, Swami stayed at Tarabai's home in Kumbhar Galli that was situated near the earlier mentioned temple of Goddess Amba. Perhaps that is the reason he is also known as Kumbhar Swami. He is also known as Datta Swami as he is the incarnation of Lord Dattatreya.

Tarabai's family comprised of her mother Bhimabai and her son. Tarabai personally looked after Swami - she bathed him, washed his clothes, fed him. This completely altered the atmosphere in her house. Day and night visitors would come regularly to seek Swami's help.

Bhimabai disapproved of this change. She would often grumble that due to the sanyasi residing at their residence, the "business" had stopped completely, there was no income coming in and there was no privacy in the house as people kept on coming, crowding their small house. Slowly, Bhimabai's irritation and dislike changed to hate for the Swami.

In the evenings usually there would be more visitors to see Swami. One day in the crowd, a visitor lost his gold chain. Everyone suspected Bhimabai. The police was called in. They would not allow any visitor to leave till they completed their search. Understandably, Bhimabai was upset that all were suspicious of her. She was intelligent enough to understand that this was her retribution for ill-treating the holy sage. Remorse took over. Silently, she begged Swami to forgive her trespasses and prayed to be proved innocent. Soon, the real culprit was caught. This incidence changed Bhimabai's adverse attitude towards Swami. Then onwards, she started to respect Swami.

One afternoon, Tarabai, Bhimabai and a few others were playing a game of saripat (an Indian game, similar to chess but its moves depended on points made by throwing 2 or 4 dices). Swami came in. He made a move in the game and said, "Be careful how you make every move. In life, one wrong move (read "wrong deed") can take you to the path of hell". This is an appropriate advice to every human being, especially disciples on the spiritual path. Perhaps Bhimabai thought that Swami was taunting her. Her suppressed evil nature came to the fore. She got up and firmly held Swami's hand and dragged him to another room. The room had no ventilation. Except one door, it had no other windows or doors. Bhimabai locked Swami in this room. She was satisfied that there was no way Swami could escape and disturb the game. But, she forgot one thing. Who could lock up God, he who pervades everything, everywhere? The Omnipresent One - Swami.

Unknown to Bhimabai's mischief, Tarabai and the others played on with Bhimabai till dusk. They stopped as it was getting dark. Tarabai got up. She went to the backyard of the house. She was perturbed to see Swami perched atop the audambar (- a very favorite tree of Lord Dattatreya) tree. She screeched aloud, "Mom! Come and see where Swami is". Hearing her daughter's scream, Bhimabai, thinking that her daughter was perhaps searching for Swami, replied, "Do not worry Tara. He will soon be out". Hurriedly she opened the lock, lest the others realize her mischief. But alas! The room was empty. Shocked, she almost collapsed. Wondering where Swami had disappeared, she rushed towards Tarabai whose sight was fixed on top of the tree. Bhimabai looked up and was aghast to see Swami perched merrily on the tree. Bhimabai felt disgusted and ashamed at her bad behavior towards the God-incarnated Swami. This incident transformed Bhimabai completely. She started chanting Swami's name and devotedly served Swami for the rest of her life. She died at an old age. Swami's grace ensured that she attained Moksha.

KRISHNA LAD

If you recall an earlier incident at Lord Shri Ram's temple where Swami exorcised a ghost from a lady devotee, you will recollect that a gentleman by the name of Krishna Lad had witnessed this incident. Krishna Lad had a spiritual bent of mind and would often visit temples and dargahs (tombs of Muslim saints). After witnessing the above incident, once in a while he started visiting Swami. Krishna Lad was an athlete. Daily at dawn he would exercise and then go to bathe in the river. Near the riverbank was a dargah of a well-known Muslim saint Babu Jamal. Krishna Lad's daily routine was to exercise, take his bath, go and pay his respects at the dargah and then go to work. One day, when he reached the dargah, a fakir (ascetic) came out from the dargah, saying, and "Don't come here anymore. Go to Shri Krishna Saraswati Swami". Stating this, the fakir disappeared. Krishna Lad was stunned. He thought he was hallucinating. He went through his daily work routine and forgot all about the morning incident.

The next morning Krishna Lad finished his exercise and bath, and proceeded to the dargah to pay his respects. The moment he entered the dargah, he started shivering and caught fever. Frightened and at his wit's end, he rushed to Swami at Kumbhar Galli. The moment Swami sighted Krishna Lad, he said, "Babu Jamal is my friend. Do not worry, your fever will descend". Krishna Lad was flabbergasted for he had not even pleaded his plight. From that day onwards, he became Swami's ardent devotee.

VASUDEV DALVI

Vasu Dalvi, a resident of Kumbhar Galli started visiting Swami regularly. In every visit, Swami would tell him, "Give me your shendi" (tuft of hair). Vasu could not comprehend the meaning of Swami's regular utterance. Vasu was a good man in every way but he had one vice - he was hot tempered and quarrelsome. He would pick fights on small issues with almost everyone - his family members, neighbors, colleagues at work. His wife was an easy target for his bad temper. One day he had a serious altercation with his wife. When the heated argument reached its crescendo, Vasu decided to leave home for good. He revealed his decision to his emotionally battered wife and left home. In despair, he rushed to Swami's residence.Swami hugged the distraught man and said, "At least now give me your shendi". The veil which had clouded Vasu's mind till now lifted. Now, he understood Swami's injunction. At once he rushed out and went straight to the barber. He had his head completely shaven. He went and bought saffron robes and returned to Swami. With Swami's blessings, he became a sanyasi (ascetic). He stayed with Swami.

Krishna Lad had been observing these happenings. He requested Swami's permission to take up sanyas. Swami consented. Both these sanyasis Vasu Dalvi and Krishna Lad stayed with Swami all their lives. With great reverence and devotion, they served him. In fact their devotion has been compared to that of Jaya and Vijaya, the faithful guards of Lord Vishnu's palace at Vaikunth (heavenly abode of Vishnu). However they begged for their food from householders in Kolhapur and did not impose on Tarabai's depleting resources.

RAMDASBUA

Ganagapur is a place made holy by Shri Narasimha Saraswati's stay for two decades. A brahmin Ramdasbua stayed there, worshipping Shri Narasimha Saraswati by continuously reading the sacred book
Shri Guruchatritra. This sacred book narrates the life stories of various incarnations of God -
Lord Dattatreya, Shri Shripad Vallabh, Shri Narasimha Saraswati - and their sojourn on earth. Ramdasbua lived without eating food and only ate neem leaves. He did this for three years. One night, Shri Narasimha Saraswati appeared in his dream and said, "In my present incarnation, I am living at Kolhapur as Shri Krishna Saraswati Swami. Come to me and offer your services. Your vigorous fasting has made you very weak. Travel by bullock cart. I am giving you rupees five for the fare". When Ramdasbua woke up, he cried with joy at finding rupees five by his pillow. This indicated that his dream was indeed true. He came to Kolhapur and resided with Swami throughout life.

INNER CIRCLE

Almost at the same time, a saraswat brahmin Ramkrishna Farrukh and a weaver Mahadba joined the other three disciple - Krishna Lad, Vasu Dalvi and Ramdasbua. This group of five lived with Swami throughout their lives. They gave their dedicated services to Swami doing menial work like sweeping, cleaning utensils, fetching river water, washing clothes and abiding by every wish of Swami. Rest of their time was devoted in singing bhajans (devotional songs) and doing japa (chanting Swami's name). Whenever and wherever Swami went out, he was always accompanied by Krishna Lad and Vasu Dalvi.

Many devotees visited Swami daily. They would crowd around him. Most times, it would appear as if Swami was talking to himself or muttering something incomprehensible. However this was not true. It would inevitably be an answer to a question posed silently by a devotee or an advice to someone who needed it. Only the person concern could fathom what Swami said. With more and more devotees experiencing divine help, slowly most devotees realized that the person they had in their midst was indeed God incarnated. They started worshipping Swami with rituals. Three times everyday, they would conduct Swami's aarti (act of worship by waving lamps lit with ghee, incense and camphor, simultaneously singing devotional songs and prayers).

Swami expected his disciples and devotees to be well behaved and disciplined. He encouraged them to treat all human beings as equal, no matter what caste or status they belonged to. Many a times he arranged situations to rectify the behavior of his devotees and transformed them totally.

SWAMI'S THRONE

Since Swami came to stay at Tarabai's house, the visitors who flocked here to get his grace increased many folds. A gentleman whose name was Vishnupant was one of the regular visitors. Usually, his sister Annapurna accompanied him. One day, Swami told her to fetch him a 'Meghdumbari' (a seat and a canopy held by four pillars covering it). Annapurna could not fathom exactly what Swami wanted. Nevertheless, after consulting her brother, relatives and Swami's other devotees, Annapurna had a carved and embellished wooden chair made for Swami. It almost resembled a king's throne. Swami, the Emperor of all emperors would thereon sit on the throne in his court and give audience to the suffering humanity that came in droves to seek his grace and help. Krishna Lad and Vasu Dalvi like the legendary Jaya and Vijaya stood on Swami's two sides as he sat on his throne. Now, aarti was conducted five times a day. Many devotees would sit the entire day chanting devotional songs. The entire atmosphere of Tarabai's house and at Kumbhar Galli had totally changed. Tarabai's house was now called 'Vairagya Mathi'. Vairagya means dispassion towards the material world that leads one to God-realization. Mathi means abode of a holy sage.

BALKRISHNA RASHIWADEKAR ALIAS BALKOO

Balkrishna Rashivadekar, a youth of seventeen years of age, was informed by an astrologer that according to his horoscope he had a short life span of twenty-two years. Nevertheless, the astrologer advised that if he sought the grace of a godly personage, his lease of life might be increased. Obviously, Balkrishna was worried. He was frantically in search of a spiritual sage who could bless him with longevity. When he heard about Swami, he rushed to him and bowed. Before Balkrishna could open his mouth, Swami said to him, "Some time or another, everyone has to leave their physical body. Then, why should one fear death? Come, we shall remove your fears". Balkrishna was astounded! That moment onwards, he became Swami's ardent devotee. Throughout the day, he would chant Swami's name. Twice a day, he would come to pay respects to Swami. However, his parents disapproved vehemently. To add to their indignation, after a few days, he left his job. Throughout the day, he would stay with Swami. Annoyed with his behavior, his parents started ill-treating Balakrishna. Due to his good behavior and devotional nature, Balakrishna made deep impression on Swami. Fondly, Swami would address him as Balakoo.

Balakoo was strong and well built. Whenever Swami went out, he would carry Swami on his shoulders. One afternoon, as Balakoo carried Swami on his shoulder, accompanied by other devotees, they passed Balakoo's house. Swami urged Balakoo to take him to his home. Balakoo was in a dilemma. He could not say no to Swami and at the same time, he was apprehensive that his parents would insult his beloved Guru. Nevertheless, he took Swami to his home. As they reached the entrance, Balakoo's mother came out. She was enthralled by the sight of a short man with a fair complexion, with warm and kind twinkling eyes with a beautiful smile that brought radiance to his face. He exuded the glory of divinity. The moment her eyes fell on Swami, a gamut of emotions ran through her. But, her inner spirituality surfaced. She fell at Swami's feet and surrendered to him. With tears trickling down her face, she said, "O Lord! Please forgive me. It was erroneous on my part to talk ill of you. You are kind hearted, please forgive me. Please accept my son Balakoo as your child". At once, Swami retorted, "Do not worry, Balakoo is my child".

Balakoo's mother invited Swami and the other devotees into her house and made them comfortable. She requested Swami to stay and have lunch with them. Swami replied, "If your offer of lunch is for everyone present, then only shall I accept your invitation". Balakoo's mother sincerely answered, "Whatever I have cooked, I will offer it to all". Swami and the accompanying devotees partook of the lunch offered with plenty of love by the gracious lady. While Tarabai had to forcibly feed Swami, here he ate with his own hands and relished every morsel. This shows that God is ever hungry for true love and devotion. From that day onwards, at noon, Swami and his devotees would go to Balakoo's home for lunch. With Swami's permission and blessings, Balakoo made marble padukas. Swami showered his blessings and empowered the padukas. He promised that "Whosoever worships my padukas; I shall give that person audience and fulfill his wishes". Throughout his life, Balakoo worshipped Swami's padukas. After his demise, they were passed on to Krishna Lad. Later, they were given to Vyas. Vyas built a small mathi at a place known as Gangaves at Kolhapur. In approximately 1902A.D. the padukas were installed there. From that day to date, at this very place, there is a non-stop chanting of Swami's sacred name and continuous singing of devotional songs. When Balakoo died due to a minor illness, he was chanting Swami's name. He was fretful that he should have got more time to serve Swami. The wish one makes at the end of one's life is always fulfilled.

NA(BALKOO'S REBIRTH)

A few months after Balakoo's death, his sister became pregnant. In a dream, Swami said to her, "Balakoo is coming back as your son. Take good care of him". Balakoo's sister delivered a baby boy. The moment the news reached Swami's ears, he rushed to her home. He took the infant on his lap; oil massaged him and gave him a bath with warm water. Swami clothed him in the new clothes he had brought and named him "Na". Swami put Na in a cradle and started singing a song to him. Though one cannot fully understand the deeper esoteric meaning of the song Swami sang, the literal meaning is as follows: "Son, one gets a rebirth as per your desire at the last moments and thus he gets Involved in this cycle of birth and death again and again. He is awfully disturbed by shadripus like sex and anger. Do not worry; they will not trouble you due to meeting with Shrikrishna. You would be having control on your sensing organs. Your mind would be Thoughtless. Na, have a peaceful sleep I am keeping here two guards- peace and forgiveness for your protection. Egoism would not show you fear and urges would not make noise to disturb you. They would run away by seeing Shrikrishna. I have shown you a secret fine path to go to the citadel of peace . Go to the ultimate destination. On reaching there, your joy will have no bounds. Na, now sleep peacefully." Swami, then, kissed the child several times. He said to the people present, "Na is my good child". Everyday after kakad aarti (the first worship of the day before sunrise), Swami would rush to Na's house. Swami would get him new clothes, sing songs to him, carry him around while going for walks or take him to a corner shop. Swami would whisper in Na's ears and this baby of less than a fortnight old would answer him saying, "Hum", as if he understood all that Swami said to him. Na became more attached to Swami than his own mother.

Three years passed thus. One day, Na had fever. After a couple of days, he breathed his last on Swami's lap. Hugging and kissing him, Swami wept like a common man. After the funeral, Swami told the mourners, "Na is sitting here in the dark. Please light a ghee lamp here". In India, it is a custom to keep a lit lamp for ten days at the spot where death occurred in the house. The same night, Swami appeared in the dream of Na's mother. He consoled her by saying, "Do not be sad. Na has attained Moksha. Who survives on earth forever? When God incarnated on earth in the form of Lord Ram and Lord Krishna, even they had to go. Where are your beloved ones - your father, your uncle, your grandmother? Are they alive? Henceforth, you concentrate on your own life. Lead it as well as you can". With this divine dream, Na's mother felt at peace. She, too, became an ardent devotee of Swami's and started worshipping him.

VENIMADHAVA

A Brahmin couple of Vene village, which is situated near the city of Ratnagiri, were very worried as all the children born to them would die at birth. They went to several temples to seek divine intervention. One day, they came to Lord Shiva's famous temple at Ratnagiri. Here, Lord Shiva is commonly known as Lord Kedarnath or Lord Revananath. The couple prayed ardently to the Lord to give them children with long life. In return they pledged that they would gift their first born to him. Soon, God granted them their wish. They named their first born Madhava.

When Madhava became seven years old, his upanayana ceremony was performed. With a heavy heart, the Brahmin couple decided to fulfill their vow. The Brahmin brought Madhava to the temple of Lord Kedarnath and left him there alone. The child was confused, sad and scared. With no one to look after his needs, he started begging for alms. Rest of the time, he would stay at the temple and chant Lord Shiva's name. Whatever he received as alms, he would first offer to Lord Shiva, then take the rest.

In the short period he had spent with his family, his father had educated him in the performance of rituals and how to read the panchanga (Hindu calendar signifying the auspicious and malefic days) and interpreting it. Slowly, he started performing rituals and interpreting the panchanga to the devotees. People started seeking his help and posed questions. He, in turn, would pray to Lord Shiva and happily dispense advice to them, which was usually the very first thought that occurred in his mind. People soon realized that the little bhatji's (priest) words were efficacious. Soon, little Madhava started earning well. He did not have to beg for alms anymore. From his daily earnings, he would conduct rituals to worship Lord Kedarnath and offer him food. Thus, three years passed. One night, Lord Shiva appeared in his dream and instructed him, "Life is useless without a Guru (spiritual master who guides you from darkness to God). Go to Kolhapur and offer your services to Shri Krishna Saraswati Swami". The next day, the exuberant Madhava quickly finished his daily work and rituals, bowed to Lord Kedarnath and proceeded to Kolhapur.

He reached Kolhapur. He started to wonder where to search for his Guru. Just then, Swami who was taking a walk along with his other devotees saw this ten-year old boy wandering about. He stopped him saying, "Bhatji, are you searching for a Guru?" Madhava immediately understood the identity of this divine personage. He, at once, bowed and surrendered at his feet on the road itself. Swami lovingly said, "I have to help you as Lord Shiva has sent you into my care".

Madhava stayed with Swami. His charming manners endeared him to Swami and all those lived at the mathi. Swami addressed him by several names - Venimadhava, Veni, and Venkarbhatji. After a few days, Swami instructed him to return to Ratnagiri to serve Lord Kedarnath.

So, Venimadhava returned to Ratnagiri and commenced his daily routine. Within a few days of his return, Lord Kedarnath re-appeared in his dream and instructed him to return to Swami. This confused Venimadhava and put him in a dilemma. He was fed up of being shoved to and fro. He wondered why he should keep shuttling between Ratnagiri and Kolhapur. Like any irritated ten-year-old, he decided not to stay at either place. He decided to move to yet another place.

He left Ratnagiri and started walking towards the forest. He moved on and on, climbing a mountain to find a lonely place for him to stay. On top of the mountain, he came across a small temple dedicated to the Mother Goddess. He decided to stay put at the temple. The whole day he chanted Swami's name. Tired, he fell asleep. When he woke up in the morning, he found that someone had left food articles, viz., rice, lentils, wheat flour, oil, vegetables, utensils, wooden logs for fire and everything else that is required for cooking a meal. Venimadhava's joy knew no bounds. He went to a water stream nearby, had a bath, carried some water back with him and cooked a meal. He carried out rituals to worship the Mother Goddess in the temple, offered food to her and then, sat down to eat. Since his needs had been met without any effort on his part, he spent rest of his time chanting Swami's name.

A week passed. Everyday food articles were present when Venimadhava woke up in the morning. Venimadhava thought, "Whoever is supplying these food articles, if only they would serve me cooked food". When he woke up the next morning, he was dumbstruck to find food lay out on a plate - hot steamed rice, chapattis (Indian bread), cooked vegetables and lentils. It suddenly dawned on him that it was indeed Swami who was taking care of him even deep in this dense forest. His throat choked as he remembered Swami and the love he had showered on him during his stay with him. He had a quick bath, performed the rituals and rushed hastily to Kolhapur.

Venimadhava reached Kolhapur, went straight to the mathi and entered in. He bowed to Swami. Swami was exuberant to receive his prodigal child back. He pulled him and sat him onto his lap and affectionately kissed him. He said to his devotees present, "Look at this brave ten-year-old. He stayed alone in the forest. He had no fear of tigers, lions or snakes. For a week, Goddess Annapurna (another name of Goddess Parvati, provider of food) fed him". Swami, then, showered his blessings on Venimadhava and gave him a spiritual initiation through a secret yogic (state of union of man and God) process. With this, the little boy went into a meditative trance. For quite some time Venimadhava stayed on with Swami. One day, Swami reluctantly called him and told him that Lord Kedarnath was calling him back to Ratnagiri.Venimadhava felt very sad at leaving his beloved Guru. But since that was his Guru's order, he decided to abide by it. At the time of departure, he could not control his emotions and started crying. Swami consoled him with a promise that he would always be present by Venimadhava's side throughout life. Reluctantly, with a heavy heart, Venimadhava trudged towards Ratnagiri.

On reaching the temple, Venimadhava surrendered himself before Lord Kedarnath. He put his head down on the Shivalinga and sobbed like a baby. It was a heart-wrenching scene. Even God must have been moved by the plight of this child. A few minutes passed thus. Absorbed in his own sorrow, Venimadhava was suddenly brought out of his despondency by a solemn voice that said, "I reside everywhere in the cosmos. I observe everything at all times. And I personally promised you that I would always be with you. Then my son, why are you so sad? Why are you weeping?" Wondering as to who was talking to him thus, Venimadhava lifted his head and opened his eyes. Lo behold! He was shocked to see Swami smiling and lovingly looking at him in place of the Shivalinga. The very next moment the scene changed. Swami disappeared. In place was the Shivalinga covered with flowers which were only available at Kolhapur and used at the rituals conducted at the mathi. These flowers were not available at Ratnagiri at all. This divine experience acted as a balm to the sad boy. He started to carry on his duties at the temple. The devotees at the temple who revered him for his accurate predictions saw a new side. He had become more disciplined. Material objects no more attracted him. People now started giving him the respect and devotion that a divine sage commands and deserves.

A DEVOTEE OF SHRI SAMARTHA RAMDAS

A resident of Kolhapur was Swami's devotee. He regularly visited the mathi. One day, he had a guest - a priest who was the devotee of Shri Samartha Ramdas. The priest was also a scholar and gave religious discourses. When the host prepared to set out for his daily visit to the mathi, the guest inquired where he was going. The host told his guest about Swami. The guest immediately said, "There cannot be anybody like Shri Samartha Ramdas, but nevertheless I shall come with you". On the way he purchased a coconut to offer to Swami but mentally he thought, "What a waste!"

They entered the mathi. The priest offered the coconut to Swami who immediately retorted, "Your coconut is wasted. Alas! I am not Shri Samartha Ramdas". The priest was rendered dumbstruck. He apologized profusely to Swami who smiled mischievously and said, "It is true I am not Ramdas. But Ramdas was an incarnation of Lord Hanuman. And I am Hanuman! See my tail". Swami turned around and showed his tail. He turned around again and lo behold! All present at the mathi saw a giant monkey - Lord Hanuman - sitting on the 'throne'. He exuded an extremely bright divine glow of light. All present were not only stunned but also trembling at this divine sight. Within a moment, the scene resumed normalcy and all present were relieved. The priest was deeply satisfied. He bowed to Swami with a newfound reverence and with full devotion offered him the coconut.

JATARAT YOGI
A sanyasi from North India came to Kolhapur. Here, he lived at the temple dedicated to Goddess Amba. He remained naked. He never asked for alms. He came to be known as Jatarat.

On the request of the local people, Jatarat started to cover his loins with a cloth. When devotees offered him milk, he would drink a drop and distribute the rest to the needy children. He never accepted eatables. Nevertheless, if someone offered eatables, he would immediately give it away to the beggars. If devotees forced him to eat, he would not be able to retain the food in his body. He would immediately vomit it out. He was evolved in many yoga techniques. He could even take his organs such as the liver, intestines and other parts out of his body wash them and place them again in their place.

People were highly impressed with this young yogi. Soon he had a large following of devotees who would gather around him and listen to his advice. One evening, a very excited Jatarat asked his devotees seated around him, "Do you all want to meet a yogi who is a Paramahansa?" Literally the word 'paramahansa' means the supreme swan (a symbol of spiritual discrimination). The title signifies one who manifests the supreme state of unbroken communion with God. Everyone present replied an equally excited "Yes". Jatarat at once got up and started walking. His devotees followed suit. Jatarat must have covered a small distance when he saw Swami with his devotees coming towards him. Jatarat rushed towards Swami and bowed reverentially to him. When he got up, he whispered something to Swami who whispered a reply to him. Jatarat was heard saying to Swami, "Thanks! This was the exact point where I was stuck in my yogic progress". Jatarat was tall and strong, Swami was short and frail. Jatarat and Swami embraced each other. In all the excitement, Jatarat picked up Swami joyously. Then both parted ways.

The moment Swami departed from the scene, chaos and confusion prevailed amongst Jatarat's devotees. They bombarded him with angry questions, "You are a pious sanyasi, while he is a fool. Why did you bow to him?" "He stays with a prostitute". "Only stupid people visit him". "You promised to show us a paramahansa".

Jatarat placed his hands on his ears and shut them. He could not bear to hear blasphemous statements darted towards Swami. When he could not bear any longer, he yelled, "Shiva! Shiva! You all are criticizing a great man. He is God himself staying in your city in human disguise. And all of you are ignorant of the fact. Fools, you all are so ignorant! Surrender to him! Get your life's dreams fulfilled by him".

LORD VITHOBA VISITS SWAMI
A sanyasi, presumably from the Himalayas, visited the mathi in the early morning hours. He was young and handsome. He entered, went straight to where Swami was seated and stood in front of him. He asked Swami a question in Sanskrit. Swami replied back in Sanskrit. He then lay down in front of Swami, turning on the side, facing Swami and then using his hand as a headrest propped himself up. He kept on staring straight at Swami without so much as blinking his eyelids. Evening set in, he did not stir from that place. The other devotees irritated at this behavior asked Swami if they should move him to a corner. Swami would not allow them.

Three days and three nights passed thus. The young sanyasi remained in the same position. Devotees again requested Swami to allow them to move the sanyasi. Swami whispered something to the sanyasi who immediately got up and departed from the room. Swami gave a disgusted look at his devotees and said, "Pandharinath (Head of Pandharpur known by several names - Lord Vithal, Panduranga, Vithoba) was here and you all did not so much as offered him anything to eat or drink as prasad'. Devotees rushed out in different directions but he had disappeared without trace. How could he have disappeared within a couple of seconds? Seeing his devotees' crestfallen faces, Swami laughed and said, "Okay. We will bring him back". Within a fraction of a second, the young man reappeared and bowed to Swami who gave him prasad. All the devotees bowed to him and then he made his exit.

SWAMI VIVEKANANDA
Swami Vivekananda, the foremost disciple of Ramkrishna Paramahansa visited Swami at the mathi at Kolhapur. Swami blessed him with the boon of vacha siddhi. This boon meant that all he spoke would come true and his speech would be so impressive that the listeners would be convinced of his point of view. After receiving this blessing, Swami Vivekananda was the first Hindu monk from India to ever visit the United States of America. He addressed 'the Parliament of Religions' at Chicago on September 11, 1893. He addressed a select audience of nearly 7,000 enlightened representatives of different branches of American thought who were thrilled to hear his message and welcomed him with sustained and thunderous applause. He charmed the audiences with his magical oratory, and left an indelible mark on America's spiritual development. History has recorded Swami Vivekananda's speech for posterity.

DEVDHAR
There was a scholar named Devdhar who was well versed in the philosophy of the Vedas. He had the rare privilege to study under the great scholars at Varanasi. This is a pilgrimage town with many ancient temples located here as well as a center of learning. Devdhar was an orator par excellence in the various Vedic philosophies. Time passed. He became bored juggling with words, propounding dry philosophies without having any spiritual experience. Dissatisfaction drove him to become an ascetic. He went for pilgrimage to Badrikedar eight times. Still discontented, he settled down in Kolhapur. Devdhar was a thorough gentleman, soft spoken and well behaved. Even at philosophical debates, he would not annoy or criticize anyone. His knowledge was so extensive that even the Shankaracharya (the religious head of the Hindu religion) of Karavir (ancient name of Kolhapur) would ask him doubts on any the Vedic philosophy.

Devdhar learnt of Swami's existence and started visiting the mathi. Everyday without fail he would come to seek Swami's blessings before going to give discourses. At the mathi, Devdhar would sit gazing lovingly at Swami's face, losing complete track of time. One day he requested Swami to show him the path to progress on the spiritual journey. Swami said, "It is not easy. A lot of hard penance is required". Thereafter Devdhar started practicing various methods of fasting. He stopped consuming salt and chillies in his diet. Thereafter he subsisted only on milk, later only on oil and so on. People criticized him that since he was a sanyasi, he should not resort to such methods. But Devdhar was keen to cleanse and purify his mind. He wanted to go to any length to please Swami. Finally it dawned on him that bhakti or devotion is the only way to understand God and get close to him.

With realization, Devdhar gave philosophical discourses with a new insight. Large number of interested students studied Vedic literature under him. Devdhar lived to the ripe age of ninety-three years. Even on the last day of his life, he had given a discourse in a temple.

BASAVAPPA
Basavappa was a Telugu Brahmin youth from a small village of Andhra state. His uncle was a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva and had remained a bachelor all his life. Throughout life his uncle stayed at the temple dedicated to Lord Shiva which was adjacent to Basavappa's residence. From childhood, Basavappa observed the way his uncle conducted his life. Since his uncle was as good as his father, he treated him as a Guru. With this in mind, he offered his services to him. Daily he would fetch the river water, clean the temple, wash the utensils used for rituals, make sandalwood paste and pluck flowers.

Impressed by the selfless services rendered, the uncle called Basavappa and said, "Child, life is useless if you do not have a spiritual Guru. Go to Kolhapur and offer your services to Shri Krishna Saraswati Swami. He is Lord Dattatreya himself". Basavappa was dejected. He nevertheless told his uncle, "Why should I go to anyone else when you are my Guru? However I shall abide by your instructions". Thus he informed his parents and his wife that he was going to Kolhapur to meet Swami and he would soon be back.

Basavappa walked to Kolhapur wondering what Swami would look like. He wondered if he would be loving and gentle like his uncle. He entered the mathi and bowed to Swami. To Basavappa's surprise and delight, Swami asked him to stay at the mathi. Here he did various odd jobs and spent rest of his time chanting Swami's name. He got so involved with the life at the mathi that he completely forgot about his home and family. He did not even send a single postcard to his family informing them about his well being.

Since Basavappa had not returned as promised nor sent a word about how he was faring, his wife was naturally worried. His wife was so upset that she inquired with his uncle, "If anything has happened to him, tell me so honestly. He has not come back as promised". The uncle assured her that he was faring well and narrated stories of Swami's greatness. Basavappa's wife then started praying to Swami, "Call me to Kolhapur. It is my duty to serve my husband. So I have to stay wherever he stays". Swami could not turn a deaf ear to a sincere prayer. He called Basavappa and asked him to fetch his wife and return to Kolhapur immediately.

Basavappa returned home. He went to the temple to narrate all that had happened to his uncle. The uncle asked him to go and freshen up first, and meet his family. He requested him to return to talk to him in the afternoon. Basavappa entered his home. On seeing him his wife implored him to take her along with him. To her joy she was astonished as well as delighted to hear him say, "Do not worry. Swami has sent me home to bring you along with me to Kolhapur".

JATRATKAR YOGI
GokulShirgaon is a small village twenty kilometres away from Kolhapur. Samadhibaba an old devotee of Lord Shri Ram stayed there. He had many children but only one daughter survived to adulthood. He got her married. One day he was given certain instructions in his dream, "Your grandson will become a great saint. Take proper care of him". Thus Samadhibaba went to stay with his daughter. Over a period of time she gave birth to a baby boy who was named as Jatratkar. Samadhibaba was extremely fond of this divine child. When he was eight years of age his thread ceremony was performed. When the boy grew to be fourteen years old, Samadhibaba once again received instructions in his dream to send his grandson to Kolhapur to serve Shri Krishna Saraswati Swami. Accordingly he guided Jatratkar to proceed to Kolhapur. After instructing his grandson, as if his life's work was over, he left for his heavenly abode at the ripe age of one hundred and twenty years. Jatratkar was extremely sad at his grandfather's demise, as he was very attached to him. After performing the death rituals, he commenced on his journey to Kolhapur.

Jatratkar walked to Kolhapur. He resolved not to drink water nor eat food till he met Swami. It was a great feat for a child to cover such a long distance without water and food. All the way he wondered what Swami looked like. He also wondered if he was as kind as his grandfather. Jatratkar reached the mathi late at night. The entrance door had been locked for the night. He felt sad and sat on the steps in dismay. As if to confirm that he could see Swami only in the morning, a person came out of the mathi and on seeing Jatratkar he said, "Swami retires to bed as soon as the aarti gets over. He will not see anyone till the next morning". The boy was almost in tears. Parched, hungry and tired, he prayed to Swami, "O Lord! I have come from afar with great hope and expectations. When there is no guarantee for one's life the very next minute, how can I wait to see you till the next morning?" His sincere prayers reached Swami who came out at once. The boy heard his kind words, "Son, come inside". Swami caught hold of his hand and led him inside. Swami sat on his 'throne'. Jatratkar sat down in front of him on the floor. He kept staring at Swami who lovingly asked him, "Am I like your grandfather or not?" But the boy was already in the trance-state. Swami gave him a spiritual initiation.

Jatratkar stayed with Swami only for a few days. Swami asked him to return to his village. However he regularly visited Swami. He later became a yogi. He had a large number of devotees who experienced the effect of his blessings and his mystical powers. His name and fame spread and he was well known as Jatratkar Yogi. A full book has been written on his life story.

SHRI NAMDEV MAHARAJ

BIRTH AND CHILDHOOD
In the state of Karnataka there is a small village called Madiyal. Shri Namdeva Maharaj’s sister Bhagubai owned a beautiful temple dedicated to Lord Dattatreya. Behind the temple is an audambara tree. As referred earlier this celestial wish-fulfilling tree is the favorite of Lord Dattatreya. In addition, this tree here was a special – one may call it a botanical wonder – it had branches like vata tree on one side as well as branches of peepal tree on the other side. It was truly representing therefore, Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh It was the Hindu New Year day – the first day of the Chaitra month in the year 1841A.D. Vyankoba Chavan lived with his wife Laxmibai in a house adjacent to the temple. That day a fully pregnant Laxmibai was circumambulating round the audambara tree. There itself she went into labor and delivered a baby boy. A sanyasi sitting nearby commented that perhaps Lord Dattatreya had taken birth. The boy was named Namdeva and lovingly addressed as ‘Namya’. A point to be noted here is that Namdeva was only five years younger to Swami but he lived up to the age of 130 years continuing the work of Swami until his samadhi on October 28, 1971.

Namdeva’s family resided at a place known as Halyal. They were landed gentry, extremely rich and prosperous. They owned huge fields with rich fertile soil. Namdeva’s father also had a money lending business. As a child Namdeva used to wear a tubular bracelet made of solid gold. In those times it was only members of the royal family, the knights serving them and the very rich, who could afford to wear it, as it was symbolic of their prosperity.

When Namdeva was four years old he lost his mother. His elder sister Bhagubai brought her motherless kid brother to Madiyal to stay with her. From childhood he would frequently visit Lord Dattatreya’s temple and sit here for hours listening to the various prayers chanted and the numerous rituals performed here. He would lovingly chant Lord Dattatreya’s name.

When the holy saint Shri Rajarambua, the disciple of the renowned saint Chidambar Swami visited Madiyal and stayed at Lord Dattatreya’s temple, Bhagubai brought Namdeva to seek his blessings. Prophesizing his divine destiny, Shri Rajarambua foretold Bhagubai with tears of sheer happiness in his eyes, "This child is destined to meet Lord Dattatreya in person".

Young Namdeva was fickle in his interest. Nothing could hold his attention for long. He studied up to class four and then refused to study further. His father placed him as an apprentice to learn the carpentry vocation with an expert carpenter. The master carpenter was an excellent teacher. He was extremely talented and skilled in his profession. But despite his expertise, he had an extremely hot temper. There were other ten boys working along with Namdeva. One day one of them committed an error in his work. The master carpenter got wild and beat him black and blue. The next day Namdeva stubbornly refused to go to the carpenter’s workshop.

Then he joined a gymnasium to build his body. As time passed by he became an extremely powerful wrestler. Shri Namdeva Maharaj’s chief disciple the Shri Nanasaheb Gadre recalls that when he met his master the first time, the former was already one hundred and twenty years of age and yet the wrist of the master was larger than his own arm.

Namdeva lost his father when he was fifteen years of age. His sisters were married by now and had settled at Kolhapur. Since his elder sister Bhaghubai had no children of her own, she adopted her kid brother. Bhagubai’s husband was extremely rich. He owned vast agricultural lands and had a big construction business. Being the sole heir, later on in life, Namdeva inherited great wealth from his own parents as well as from his adopted parents. It is said that he inherited gold ornaments, which could fill up three big buckets.

Atop a hill laden with thick forest, near the city of Kolhapur, there lived a great Naga sadhu known as Naglingayya. He avoided people so that he could have maximum time to meditate. He would deliberately sit with hundreds of snakes crawling around him. This he did with the intention to keep people away. If anyone dared to come close, he would act like a lunatic and pelt pebbles at that person. One day Namdeva decided to meet the great sage to seek his grace. He made his way through the crawling snakes. Naglingayya started pelting stones at him to keep him away. Nevertheless, the young Namdeva approached him. Naglingayya was more than happy to meet this determined brave boy. He said, "Son, I cannot do anything for you. But sometime in the future you will meet Lord Dattatreya himself".

Bhagubai soon got Namdeva married to a very beautiful girl named Gangabai Jagtap. Despite the distraction of his lovely bride, Namdeva continued visiting temples and chanting Lord Dattatreya’s name.

NAMDEV MEETS SWAMI
When Namdeva was twenty-two years of age, he lost his adopted father. The responsibility of looking after his vast agricultural lands, his big construction business as well as his money lending business fell on him. One day he decided not to go to work. Instead he was resting at the entrance of his house at Shukrawar Peth. Just then Swami with his devotees in tow was out on his daily walk along the banks of the river Panchganga. They passed the road where Namdeva lived. Swami stopped at Namdeva’s house. He looked at Namdeva pointedly and said in his Kannada language, "Remember Naglingayya’s prophesy. I am Datta Swami". Saying this, Swami left. Namdeva was dumbstruck and shaken. He wondered who he was and on making discreet inquiries he found the address of the mathi.

The day Namdeva visited the mathi, it was crowded. Since he wanted to talk privately with Swami, he stood alone in a corner waiting for the crowd to leave. After a while, Swami’s glance fell on him. He at once got up and rushed towards Namdeva. He embraced him and told the devotees present, "This is Namdeva from Pandharpur". Namdeva was flabbergasted to know that Swami knew his name. Namdeva started visiting the mathi daily. He slowly lost all interest in his work. Three years passed thus. Namdeva was eager to receive some spiritual guidance from Swami, in the form of a mantra for chanting or technique of meditation. Swami kept on evading the eventuality. He would say, "Not yet Namya. Perhaps next week".

NAMDEV'S SPIRITUAL INITIATION
Namdeva’s patience was running out. He was becoming desperate to get spiritual advice from Swami. He had started to think that perhaps he was not worthy of his master’s grace and therefore Swami was not bestowing the required blessings.

One day when Namdeva’s family had gone out and he was alone at home, Swami walked in. A heap of gowari (cow dung and hay dried in the sun, used as fodder for fuel) had been piled up in the front yard of the house. Swami called out to Namdeva and asked him to sit near the wall; Namdeva sat with crossed-legs. Swami placed his hand on Namdeva’s head. The latter entered a deep state of trance. Swami arranged the gowari heap in such a way that he completely covered Namdeva’s body. Namdeva was hidden from outside view. Then Swami left.

At noon his family returned home. Not finding Namdeva at home, they presumed he had gone out. Evening set in with no trace of Namdeva. It was then that his wife Gangabai started to panic. She sent people in search of her husband. Although they searched everywhere, they returned without any news of Namdeva. The night passed with his family and staff worried about his welfare.

The next morning, Gangabai went to the mathi and asked Swami, "Have you sent him somewhere?" Without a flicker on his face, Swami replied, "You will find him if you search well". Three days passed with no news of Namdeva. The desperate wife revisited Swami and sobbed, "I suppose you should break my bangles now". For a Hindu woman, this indicates her husband’s death. Swami just ignored her.

On the fourth day of Namdev’s disappearance, Swami came to his house. He went directly to the heap of gowari and started shifting the pile. To the astonishment of his family, Namdeva had been seated right there for three long days while they searched for him outside; next moment, Gangabai started crying thinking Namdev is no more. Swami then placed his hand over Namdeva’s head and brought him back to consciousness. Swami asked Namdeva, "How long have you been seated here?" Namdeva replied, "Perhaps half an hour". This amused his family and staff who started to laugh. Swami asked him further, "Do you want to learn this technique?" Namdeva instantaneously said, "No! I do not want such a meditative state for when it ended I came back to the insecurity of earth life. All the negativities and worries have started hounding me once again. Give me that state where I can permanently float in the ocean of divine bliss". All spiritual seekers should memorize this perfect answer of Namdeva.

After this event all the members of Namdeva’s family became ardent devotees of Swami.

NAMDEV VISITS WADI
One day Swami issued instruction to Namdeva, "Visit my native place". As Namdeva could not understand what Swami indicated, he asked the other devotees to decipher what Swami meant. The devotees surmised that perhaps Swami wanted Namdeva to visit Wadi.

The very same day Namdeva proceeded to Wadi with his wife. At Wadi a priest helped them to get a room to stay in. There he met an old friend. After exchanging pleasantries, Namdeva explained the purpose of his visit. His astonished friend said, "Namya, your Guru stayed here for a month. He just left yesterday". Namdeva immediately retorted, "Impossible! My Guru is in Kolhapur and has not gone anywhere since a month. In fact I met him this morning and because of his directive I have come here". The bewildered friend protested, "I am not fabricating the story. Why should I lie? Ask our friend Vithu who met your Guru".

Strange as it would seem Vithu was passing them at that very moment. The thoroughly confused Namdeva asked him if he had met Swami recently. Vithu smiled replied, "Yes. I met Swami quite often during this month. He was staying here in the room opposite yours. Krishna Lad, Vasu Dalvi and Mahadba accompanied him. Everyday more than two hundred people came to seek his blessings. He was kindness personified. In fact a ghost possessed my wife. She was so weak that she could not walk. Swami was so kind that he came to our home and cured her". Namdeva was simply amazed and yet happy for the good fortune to have such an extraordinary Guru who was omnipresent, that is ever present everywhere, and omnipotent, ever powerful.

NAMDEV ON HIS DEATHBED
Namdeva was extremely sick. Water was accumulating is his abdomen and liver. This caused a huge swelling on his body. He was suffering such severe pain that he could not drink water nor eat food. He soon became very weak and felt extremely drowsy. Gangabai was always at his bedside tending to her sick husband. Swami visited him daily.

Everyday when Swami visited Namdeva, he would wipe the kumkum (vermilion of red color) off Gangabai’s forehead and then go away. Indian women indicating their marital status wear kumkum. Wiping it off indicates the death of their husband. Swami’s misbehavior must have emotionally upset her but because of her immense faith in Swami, she tolerated him. This continued for over a week. Then suddenly Swami stopped his visits. Namdeva became weaker and weaker, till one day he slipped into coma. This is when Gangabai broke down completely. She ran to the mathi, sat down in front of Swami and cried helplessly. Swami maintained a stony silence. The shattered woman lost all hope for her husband’s life and returned home disappointed. The next two days Namdeva’s health deteriorated and a frantic Gangabai rushed to seek Swami’s divine intervention. Since Swami was not present at the mathi then, she ran in search of him at the places she knew he frequented. At last, she found him at a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. She fell at Swami’s feet and implored, "If you cannot save my husband, put me to death at your feet before he dies". Swami asked her, "Do you trust me?" She nodded. He continued to give her directives, "Go back and follow my instructions. Borrow four buckets of water from your neighbor’s house. Wash the doorsteps of your house with it. Then sprinkle haldi (turmeric powder) and kumkum on the steps. Then only go inside". Gangabai rushed home. She followed Swami’s command meticulously, after all her husband’s life was at stake. By the time she finished doing what she was instructed to do, Namdeva called out to her. It was the first time after so many days that he had regained consciousness and had spoken. He said to Gangabai, "I am very hungry. Give me something to eat". From that very moment, Namdeva was on the road to recovery and that too fast.

SWAMI TESTS NAMDEVA
One morning Swami visited Namdeva’s home. Namdeva’s house was a huge mansion, opulent and luxurious with beautiful artifacts strewn around the house. It was indeed a rich man’s house. Swami told Namdeva bluntly, "Namya, burn all this and come to me. If you can’t, then don’t come to me ever again". Thus saying he left. Gangabai was present and had heard Swami’s order. Namdeva turned to his loving wife and asked, "Do you want this wealth or do you want me?" Without hesitation his devoted wife replied, "I only want you".

Namdeva acted in great hurry to dispose off his great wealth. He called his relatives and friends and distributed amongst them his seventy acres land, the gold ornaments, cash, his house and household articles. He piled up the promissory notes of his money lending business and burnt them. He picked up a pinch of ash and placed it in his turban. Accompanied by Gangabai he went to Swami. Before he could utter a word Swami embraced Namdeva with great love and said, "Namya, you have become pristine pure. You are mine now. Only mine". Namdeva had successfully walked through the eye of a needle. He had passed the test his master had set for him and emerged glorious! What a beautiful moment it must have been for the master and his disciple.

After this, Namdeva visited the mathi daily without fail. He would sit for hours staring at Swami’s face and movements. One day Swami laughed at him, "Namya, now what do you hope to find by staring at me? In any case I am giving you what you wished for". Soon Swami gave Namdeva, spiritual initiation and gave him a mantra to chant. Swami explained to him the way the mantra had to be chanted. Namdeva soon commanded expertise in chanting it.

NAMDEVA INVITES SWAMI FOR A MEAL
Once Namdeva decided to invite Swami for a meal at his home. He had khichdi (Indian preparation of rice, lentils and spices) with papad (roasted or fried flour crackers) and pickles prepared specially for Swami. Once the food was cooked, he had it served in a plate, covered it and waited for Swami’s arrival. He had not verbally invited Swami. He presumed that since Swami was omniscient, that is he knows everything that occurs in the creation, he would know he had been invited and would come to eat his meal at his residence. Namdeva waited long but Swami did not turn up. Disappointed and disheartened Namdeva had the food served to a cow. He remained hungry that day. The next day again he had the food prepared and waited in vain. Adamant, he kept on repeating this farce the next five days and stayed hungry throughout.

On the sixth day Swami came running to his house saying, "Namya, I am hungry since five days. Give me some food to eat". The food that day was already ready and lay out in a plate. An overjoyed Namdeva was more than happy to feed Swami with his own hand. After finishing his meal, Swami gave a burp of satisfaction and said, "Namya, the khichdi was delicious. But please do not repeat this madness again". Namdeva realized that he had an extraordinary omniscient master. He promised to never place his master through such an ordeal. He felt immensely blessed that Swami had let him feed him. At a later date, he told his son with tears in his eyes that, "When I die, cut my right hand and keep it as it has become sacred for having fed the divine Swami".

From that day onwards every afternoon Swami visited Namdeva’s home and slept here through the siesta time.

Swami tests Namdeva once again
Early one morning Swami turned up at Namdeva’s house. He gave Namdeva one rupee and instructed him, "Go and stay at my home. Work for me. But don’t you dare ask for alms there". Accompanied by Gangabai, Namdeva immediately left for Swami’s birthplace – Nandani. When they reached there, they received a telepathic message, "Not here!" Hence they proceeded to all those pilgrimage sites associated with Lord Dattatreya and his reincarnations. They went to Wadi, Audambar, Pandharpur, Tuljapur and Akkalkot. At all these places, they received their meals in the form of prasad. At Akkalkot, they were commanded to "Worship the padukas at the sangam". They immediately realized that they were being directed to go to Ganagapur.

Since they had only one rupee on them, they walked the great distance. Besides the fatigue caused by walking on foot, they were hungry, as they could not procure food on the way. At one place as they slept in a charitable lodge, thieves left their stolen booty in their room. The next morning they had a tough time proving their innocence. Since Gangabai was exotically beautiful while Namdeva looked like a wrestler with his well-built body, at one place people suspected him of having run away with someone else’s wife. .

When they reached Ganagapur a devotee offering 1000 tulsi leaves daily on the padukas approached Namdeva with an umble request, "Sir, I would like to visit my native place for a few days. I can do so if you take up the work of daily collecting a basketful of tulsi leaves the worship of the padukas". Namdeva was more than happy at the opportunity providence had provided him. He could serve God here. He readily agreed to undertake the work.

Everyday Namdeva would go to the forest in search of tulsi plants. He suffered the prick of the thorns and faced the threat posed by snakes and scorpions crawling in the forest. Procuring food was no problem for the couple as Ganagapur is a major pilgrimage place and prasad in the form of meals is served daily to devotees visiting the holy shrine. Nine months passed thus.

One day a rich devotee came from another city to get a ritual performed and arranged for mass feeding. At night Shri Narasimha Saraswati appeared in his dream and commanded him, "Honor the couple staying within the temple premises. It will be equal to performing my pooja". In the morning the devotee ran to the temple in search of the blessed couple. He found Namdeva and Gangabai there. He invited them for the ritual and to the meal afterwards. He gave them the maximum respect he could and loaded them with rich donations. Namdeva and his wife accepted it gracefully as Shri Narasimha Saraswati had also visited Namdeva in his dream and told him, "Consider this worship is reaching me through you".

That night Swami appeared in Namdeva’s dream and said, "Namya, you have served me well. Now return for a bath at Kolhapur". The return journey for the couple was pleasant as Namdeva and Gangabai met relatives who were returning to Kolhapur and were more than happy to give them a ride home. However the odd phrase used by Swami had Namdeva worried and scared. He wondered if it was a warning or foreboding of some future sad event.

SWAMI'S PHOTOGRAPH
In the late nineteenth century photography had just been developed. The common man was wary of this magic process by which one’s image would be printed on paper. The British company AGFA was trying to popularize photography by encouraging their representatives to photograph Saints and Kings. Naturally people were more than eager to have these photographs in their homes, thus accepting this technology.

Same was the case with Swami’s devotees, they too were keen to have Swami’s photograph in their houses, especially to help them in their meditation. But Swami refused to have himself photographed. Many photographers came to the mathi and tried to photograph Swami but failed. The plate would come out blank or fogged or only half an image would appear. Whatever the reasons, Swami could not be photographed. There were two friends in the photography business who failed to obtain Swami’s photograph on several occasions. They understood that it was perhaps the sage’s wish. Nevertheless they started visiting the mathi daily, surrendered to Swami and prayed that sometime somewhere Swami would consent to have his photograph taken, atleast for the sake of his devotees.

One day at Kolhapur’s royal palace, a professional photographer from Baroda, Gujarat state, had been summoned to photograph the King and the royal family. In the morning, the royal durbar (king’s court) hall had been spruced up and readied for the photography session. The King’s throne, regal attire, his ornaments, and the royal arms were kept ready in the royal durbar hall. The King had gone for his bath.

At that moment at the mathi, Swami suddenly got up and quickly walked out. A few devotees ran behind him, following him wherever he was off to. Swami walked straight into the royal palace. Who could stop him? He went directly to the durbar hall where the arrangements to photograph the King were ready and walked to the King’s throne and sat down. He removed his white kurta (long shirt) and cap. He put on the numerous strings of pearl necklaces lying nearby. He sat regally as if he belonged there. The King’s staff and servants were left stunned and stupefied. Knowing Swami’s spiritual status, not one of them had the audacity to order him to get off the King’s throne. But at the same time, they were petrified lest the King gets outraged and angry with them. Nevertheless, one member of the staff mustered up enough courage to inform the King of the happening in the royal durbar hall. Far from being angry, the King felt blessed that Swami had arrived at his palace and was sitting on his throne. He ordered that Swami be photographed and be allowed to do as he wished.

The photograph was taken. This is the photograph that is still in circulation and is widely distributed even today amongst devotees as if Swami had got himself photographed for posterity. He had got himself photographed to reach his devotees and to remain accessible to them even in this twenty-first century. As soon as the photo session was over, Swami removed the pearl necklaces from around his neck and placed them back where they were in the first place. He put on his kurta and cap, and left the palace. By the time the King dressed up and walked to the durbar hall, Swami had already left. The King sent his chariot to bring Swami back, but Swami used it instead to return to the mathi. Later the King came to the mathi and offered his obeisance to Swami. He gifted the royal throne and the pearl necklaces to Swami.

TARABAI'S END
Swami was now old. Tarabai started to construct a samadhi place for him in the hall of the mathi. Swami thoroughly disliked the idea and would wonder aloud, "She does not know who will go first". Within a few days, Tarabai passed away. Swami cried like a child at losing a loving parent. Sitting next to her body, he suddenly said, "Mother! Before leaving, please eat one pedha (sweetmeat) from my hand". To the bewilderment of aghast devotees, Tarabai sat up. Swami fed her a pedha. She ate it and fell dead. What could Swami, the Lord of the entire creation not do or undo!

SWAMI'S MAHASAMADHI
Soon Swami fell ill and was burning with high fever. The frantic devotees would bring ayurvedic (Indian herbal medicine) and allopathic doctors for him, anyone or anything that could cure their beloved Lord.
Suddenly Swami's thoughts wandered and he started calling favorite disciple Namdeva who was away in in Ganagapur. Swami repeatedly murmured, "Why has Namya not arrived yet?"
On the ninth day after the full moon, i.e., on Shravana navami, Namdeva arrived. Swami asked all his other devotees except Namdeva to go out of the room. Swami held Namdeva's hand firmly and said, "Namya! This tree of spirituality must grow tall like a vata tree. Remember that it is for you to make it grow." Perhaps this was Swami's way of anointing Namdeva as his heir apparent!

At 3.30a.m. Swami laid his head on Namdeva's lap. He smiled and said, "Goddess Amba is calling me".

At 4.00a.m. The sounds of bells were heard ringing at the temple of Goddess Amba as the early morning aarti started.

Swami left his physical body!

Namdeva went berserk. He felt absolutely orphaned. He called out to others and informed them hysterically about the great loss. Crying hysterically, he then started running home. As he ran, others present saw a blue flame coming out from Swami's body following Namdeva. When Namdeva reached home, the blue flame merged into the stone padukas installed at his home.

The other disciples and devotees were inconsolable. After all they had lost their God! Many fell into depression.
Even after Swami was no more, devotees would flock at the mathi. They would remember Swami and talk about him and the miracles they had experienced and witnessed. But they felt an inexplicable void that tugged at their hearts.
One evening, a few devotees assembled at the mathi. There, reminiscing of Swami, their talk steered to him. Just then all of them happened to look at Swami's throne. Suddenly they fell silent! Each one of them present could see Swami resplendently sitting on his throne, smiling at them. After a moment, the scene vanished. But once and for all, the devotees were convinced that Swami had not deserted them although he had left his physical body. He is very much present amongst all for us!

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