3 - At Kumbhar Lane
Tarabai abides by Swami’s directive
Tarabai reached Mahisalkar’s home at Mahisal. 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." Mahisalkar
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
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.
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, "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
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.
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.
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
. This sacred book narrates the life stories of
various incarnations of God – Lord Dattatreya, Shri Shripad
Vallabh, and 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.
Almost at the same time, a saraswat Brahmin Ramakrishna
Farrukh and a weaver Mahadba joined the
other three disciples – 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.
Goddess Amba complains about Swami’s devotees
One morning, a young lady hurriedly walked in to meet Swami. In
a high pitched tone, she angrily told Swami, "Keep a check
on your children. They misbehave and talk in abusive language. This
causes trouble to others. I will not tolerate such behavior anymore".
Swami lovingly caressed her chin and consoled her, "Mother,
please forgive them for they are our children." Hearing this,
the lady collapsed. After a short while she got up and left. The
devotees who had witnessed this scene were naturally curious. One
devotee mustered up the courage to question Swami. Swami explained,
"She was Goddess Amba who had come to complain about you all".
Taming of Vasu Dalvi’s temper
One does not become a sanyasi by wearing saffron robes. He should
forsake worldly affairs, passions and be free of desires. He should
have full control over the six entities viz., sex-urge, anger, lust,
temptations, ego, and hatred . What had occurred was that Vasu Dalvi,
the sanyasi, had been boiling with anger over some petty matter.
So, the Mother Goddess had come to complain about him. Our nature
is governed by the food we eat. Therefore, to correct the volcanic
side of his nature, Swami ordered him to hereafter eat only soaked
channadal (grams). For several years thereon Vasu adhered to the
simple meal. One day, Swami found Vasu craving to eat his meal.
Swami said to him, "So, are you still desperate to eat channa
dal?". Hence for three years by Swami’s grace, Vasu lived
without a morsel of food. When Swami felt that his mind was completely
purified, he allowed Vasu to eat normal food. Thereafter, Vasu would
go to beg for food. Whatever he received he would first offer to
Swami. He would eat only as much as Swami would place on his palms.
Thus Swami tamed Vasu’s temper.
Haripant Shidnorlikar, a Brahmin, used to frequently visit Swami.
One day, it occurred to him that he should invite Swami to grace
his home. Accordingly, one morning he went to Swami to invite Swami
for lunch. Although Krishna Lad and Vasu Dalvi were present, Haripant
did not extend the invitation to them. This he did purposely as
they were non- Brahmins. Swami said he would come to his home provided
the food was good. Haripant was so excited that he did not bother
to decipher the real meaning behind Swami’s words. He went
home and had the most tasty delicacies and sweetmeats prepared.
When the lunch was prepared, he set out to fetch Swami.
Before his arrival, Krishna Lad and Vasu Dalvi had just returned
after begging alms. Swami called out to them, "Boys, what food
have you received today? Come and share it with me for I am hungry".
He, then, sat and ate with relish the rotis (chapattis) and the
chutney (condiment) that they had received as alms. He finished
his meal and got up to wash his hands. Just then Haripant arrived
to fetch him. Swami told him bluntly, "I have just finished
my lunch". Haripant realized his folly. He felt ashamed of
looking down on people of lower castes. After this incidence, he
never let his upper caste ego come in the way of treating people.
Swami had taught him a lesson of his life – that when all
are one in the eyes of God, who is he to differentiate?
Thereafter, Haripant decided to progress spiritually. He took upon
himself the task of reading the Shri Gurucharitra daily and continuously
chanted Swami’s name. He did this sitting in a nearby temple
dedicated to Lord Shiva. Daily, at the same time, a cat would enter
and sit on the windowsill. The temple was dark with only a dim light
peeping through the window. The cat seated there, therefore, blocked
the little sunlight that penetrated through. This caused difficulty
in the reading of the sacred book. One day, Haripant got irritated
by this daily interruption and lost his temper. He threw a utensil
at hand at the cat to drive it out. The utensil landed bang on the
cat’s face and hit its mouth. After finishing his morning
rituals he went to pay his respects to Swami. Haripant was aghast
to see Swami’s face swollen. Swami said aloud to the devotees
present, "I went to hear Haripant read the sacred text. He
hit me instead". Ashamed at what he had done, Haripant repeatedly
apologized. Once again, Swami humbled him and taught him a lesson
that all creatures are after all one.
What are the lessons learnt in Swami’s stories? Swami is God
incarnated on earth to help people and show them the path to him.
Since he is the Creator and the Creation, he pervades everyone,
everything, everywhere, at all times. He assumes all forms, therefore,
one should be good to everyone and everything.
Krishna Lad’s mother
Krishna Lad’s mother was ill due to old age. Naturally Krishna
Lad requested Swami to release his mother from the bondage of the
cycle of life and death. Swami refused. He said she had to atone
for a lot of past sins before she could be freed. He, however, promised
that she would stay near him in her next birth and at the end, she
would attain Moksha. After a few days, Krishna Lad’s mother
started to cry. She was very frightened. She said four demons were
advancing towards her and they wanted to kill her. Krishna Lad always
wore Swami’s padukas around his neck, he put the same around
his mother’s neck. Immediately, the mother’s face turned
serene. She said, "The demons have vanished. Four priests are
reciting holy chants". Krishna Lad realized the efficacy of
his Guru’s padukas. Soon after, his mother died in peace.
After a short period, in the same vicinity where Swami lived, a
bitch gave birth to four puppies. On seeing the new born litter,
Swami called out to Krishna Lad. Picking up one puppy, he said,
"Recognize her. This was your mother". Swami named her
Kusari. The puppy stayed on with Swami. She grew up. Unlike most
dogs, Kusari was much disciplined. She would not touch anything
in the house or mess it up. She would only eat what Swami gave her
with his own hands. Many a times, Tarabai tried to feed Kusari some
rice and milk, but Kusari would not even touch it, let alone eat
it. This annoyed Tarabai. She even tried bribing Kusari with laddus
and pedhas (types of Indian sweetmeats), but Kusari would not touch
Another devotee who started visiting Swami was a young widow of
a lower caste named Shivubai. She was all alone in the world –
no relatives, no children. In her hearts of heart, Shivubai wanted
to have Swami’s grace to reside with him. Since Shivubai was
young, attractive and good looking, Swami wanted to purify her senses
more, so she could have more self-control. Swami, therefore, ordered
her to go and stay at the cemetery and eat only soaked chanadal.
The very thought of living at a cemetery horrified Shivubai. Realizing
her fear to reside there in solitude, Swami sent Kusari with her.
Ramakrishna Farrukh promised to deliver her staple diet of chanadal
everyday. Shivubai moved to the cemetery. Kusari guarded her like
a faithful dog. Everyday Shivubai would bathe in the river three
times a day and go to seek Swami’s blessings. Rest of the
time, she would sit at the cemetery and chant Swami’s name
continuously. Shivubai would give part of a meal to Kusari who would
eat only as much as was offered. Three years passed thus.
One day while Shivubai was chanting, Kusari advanced towards her.
Scared that Kusari would touch her, Shivubai threateningly yelled
at her to back off. Kusari walked away and returned to Swami. Realizing
her mistake, Shivubai rushed to Swami to relate what had occurred.
She regretted her impulsive reaction and apologized to Swami for
the same. But Swami remained adamant. He told her that Kusari would
no more reside with her. She would have to stay alone at the cemetery.
Dismayed, she accepted Swami’s order and then onwards stayed
alone. One day a few shepherds warned her that since she was living
alone, she might be open to attack by wandering cattle. She, therefore,
shifted to a small temple nearby which was dedicated to Lord Shiva.
A few months later, Shivubai became more composed, balanced and
tranquil. Her mind had become dispassionate and purified. At last,
Swami happy with her progress asked her to come and stay with him.
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