5 - Kind Hearted Swami
In a small village of Aitawade, there lived a well to do gentleman
named Devagonda Patil. He owned a beautiful house and fields for
agricultural cultivation. His happy family consisted of his wife,
his children, a younger brother and his wife.
However Devagonda got infected with leprosy, a disease which was
incurable in those days. When the leprosy started to spread, his
wife and brother were petrified that it would spread to other family
members. Therefore, they suggested that Devagonda should stay in
isolation in a hut they would get built in the fields. This broke
Devagonda’s heart. He was devastated that his wife, his life
partner, should drive him out of his own house in his difficult
times. Disgusted at his family’s attitude, he took some money
and left home. He decided that in times of need, surely God would
not forsake him and proceeded to Wadi. There he worshipped Lord
Narasimha Saraswati for three years. His disease was spreading all
over his body. There were inflammations that were causing him excruciating
pain and agony.
One day Anna a distant relative of Devagonda came
to Wadi to pray. He saw Devagonda and recognized him at once. On
inquiring, Devagonda related his plight of how his family had deserted
him. This angered Anna. He asked Devagonda to accompany him to Kolhapur.
He said, "Shri Krishna Saraswati Swami will definitely cure
Thus Devagonda accompanied by Anna arrived at the mathi at Kolhapur.
As Devagonda’s body was fully covered with leprosy, the disciples
and devotees of Swami’s been naturally repulsed and would
not let him enter the mathi. Devagonda felt sad and frustrated.
Nevertheless, he resolved that everyday he would come up to the
door of the mathi, pray and go away. Resolutely, he stood there
and prayed earnestly. His sincere prayer reached Swami who came
out immediately. Swami lovingly caressed Devagonda’s back
with his hands. Within four days, the inflammations subsided considerably
and proportionately the pain reduced. This continued everyday. In
four months Devagonda was completely cured. Now he could freely
enter the mathi and pray to Swami. Now the whole day he would wholeheartedly
chant Swami’s name.
The news of Devagonda’s miraculous recovery reached his family
at Aitawade. His wife and brother came to Kolhapur to fetch him.
On seeing them Anna naturally exploded, "You deserted Devagonda
when he needed you the most. Now why are you here? You have no business
to be here". Devagonda, however, was forgiving and consoled
Anna by saying, "Anna, calm down! They have done me a great
favor. Due to their callousness, I could meet Swami and procure
his divine blessings. Just forgive them". Devagonda’s
wife and brother felt very ashamed and begged for forgiveness.
Together they proceeded to meet Swami to seek his grace. Devagonda’s
brother had no children. On the way he prayed to Swami to give him
children. The moment they stepped into the mathi, Swami said to
Devagonda’s brother, "You will have many children".
Swami then advised Devagonda to return to his home. Very reluctantly
Devagonda returned home to his family. However, he paid regular
visits to Swami.
Govind Karanjkar was a resident of Kolhapur. He was an ardent devotee
of Lord Narasimha Saraswati and made regular visits to the Wadi.
One day a friend brought him to Swami. Without any introductions
made, Swami said to him, "When I am here, why should anyone
walk all the way to Wadi to meet me there". Govind was left
dumbfounded. He understood who Swami was. Thereafter he started
visiting Swami daily.
One day Govind went for a swim in the river. While swimming, he
saw some women in the water. Something about them frightened him.
He immediately swam ashore. The moment he got out of the water,
he felt cold and started to shiver. All of a sudden he had high
fever. Scared, he ran straight to Swami who consoled him by saying,
"I am with you. Do not worry about anything". Govind went
home and lay down on his bed. He was very cold and therefore, shivering.
Due to high fever, he felt drowsy. The moment he would shut his
eyes, he would see those women menacingly advancing towards him.
They looked very angry and ready to beat him up. However, Govind
would also see Swami standing next to him with a stick, not allowing
those women to come anywhere near him. The scene would vanish the
moment Govind would open his eyes. However, the scene would reappear
the moment he would close his eyes. This continued for seven days
and nights. On the eight day, his fever came down. The scene vanished
once and for all. A grateful Govind went to Swami and bowed at his
feet. Swami said, "Son, these were apsaras (Water Goddesses).
Please do not go to the wrong places at the wrong time. Now go to
the same spot and offer a coconut".
A few months later, Govind started getting psoriasis all over his
body. His skin started to become dry and scaly. When the skin peeled
off, it would start to bleed. He was in severe pain. Since the disease
had spread all over his body, it was a ghastly sight. Govind therefore
felt ashamed to go out. Thus, he stopped visiting Swami. His wife
and other relatives started taunting him that this was the punishment
meted out by Lord Narasimha Saraswati for discontinuing his visits
to Wadi and instead going to the bogus Swami. They urged him to
go to Wadi and beg Lord Narasimha Saraswati’s forgiveness.
Due to family pressure, half-heartedly Govind went to Wadi. On reaching
the holy place, his pain increased and was unbearable. Without informing
his family, he returned at once to Kolhapur and went straight to
Govind sat in a corner hoping that Swami would call him and inquire
about his absence and ill health. However Swami did not even look
at him. Govind repented and prayed, "O Swami, I know I have
made a blinder. Against your advice I went to Wadi. Please forgive
me. You have every right to be angry with me. O Lord! You are my
mother. You are kind. A mother can be angry with her child for his
faults but she does not throw him away. Please be kind. I cannot
bear this pain anymore. If you do not wish to cure me, please give
me death at your feet now." Govind kept on crying.
Suddenly Swami got up, came near Govind, caught his hand and said,
"Come with me". Swami walked out of the mathi dragging
a flabbergasted Govind behind. They kept on walking. Swami took
Govind to the outskirts of Kolhapur and entered the forest. Apprehensive
that his disease could contaminate Swami, Govind kept on slipping
his hand out of Swami’s hold and walking at a distance. But
Swami would again hold his hand firmly. They continued walking.
By now, Govind was tired, thirsty and very hungry. But Swami continued
walking. They walked continuously for fifteen days and nights. Govind’s
skin had completely dried up now. They returned to Kolhapur. Swami
advised Govind to take a bath in the holy river Panchganga. After
his bath there, Govind’s skin returned to normal and regained
its healthy texture and color. Such was Swami’s grace.
Gopal Athalye was a well to do man residing in Kolhapur. His wife
and he were very pious human beings. The only sadness in their life
was that they had no children. They consulted many astrologers for
the same. They frequently visited temples and saints in the hope
for the required blessing.
A well wisher informed Gopal’s wife about Swami and his miracles.
With hopes raised, she informed her husband about Swami. Since Gopal
was busy with some important work, he told his wife, "Wait
till I finish my work. Then we will go together to pay our respects".
Gopal’s wife was impatient to meet Swami, while Gopal could
not find time amidst his busy schedule. She started to pray fervently
to Swami that since she could not visit him without her husband,
to please do her a favor and arrange a meeting. Her heartfelt prayer
One afternoon, Swami accompanied by a few devotees walked into
Gopal’s house. It was a great surprise for Gopal’s wife
whose prayers had been answered. She was filled with exhilaration
and joy. Gopal was not at home. So, she came forward and offered
Swami a seat. She reverentially bowed to him. With gratitude she
said, "Swami, you are gracious. You answered my prayers. I
could not come alone and I was desperate to have your darshan (audience)".
She then asked Swami if he would have some snacks and refreshments.
Swami replied, "If you will serve all accompanying me then
I will also partake some. What’s more, if you give to me,
I will give you something in return". She lovingly served snacks
to all. After spending some time here, Swami blessed her and returned
to the mathi.
In the evening when Gopal returned from work, she told him about
Swami’s visit. He said to his wife with admiration, "You
are very fortunate. Let us go right now to the mathi". They
went to Swami with offerings of a coconut, sweetmeats and a garland
of flowers. Their joy knew no bounds when Swami blessed them, "You
will have three sons. Your first born will be my ardent devotee."
In due course of time, their first child was born. They named him
Kashinath. Twelve days after his birth, they took him to Swami for
his blessings. Swami took the baby boy on his lap and whispered
something in his ears. The boy of twelve days uttered a sound "Hum"
as if he understood what Swami said. Subsequently two more sons
were born to the happy couple. Since childhood, Kashinath’s
behavior was different to that of children his age. He was a loner.
He never asked his parents for anything. He regularly visited Swami.
At eight years of age, his upanayana (thread) ceremony was conducted.
At fourteen years, with his parent’s permission, he left his
house and went to Swami who asked him to go and reside at Ganagapur.
In fact he spent his entire life there and became a well-known saint
Foresighted Swami’s instant help
One day Swami was taking a walk with his disciples in a public garden
called Meera Baug. It was a well-laid out garden with a beautiful
pond adding to its beauty. While passing the pond, suddenly Swami
started yelling, "Fell down, fell down". And immediately
afterwards he said, "Taken out, taken out". Nobody understood
Swami’s incoherent utterings.
After a few days, the guards of the garden came to the mathi and
excitedly revealed, "Today at noon, a child fell into the pond.
People around that area heard its crying and saved her". This
indicates that Swami had foreseen this occurrence.
Shri Swami Samartha and Shri Krishna Saraswati
Swami are ONE
One morning at the mathi, Swami was walking to and fro restlessly.
A devotee mustered some courage to ask Swami the reason for his
restlessness. Swami said, "I want to eat pedha (sweetmeat)
from Akkalkot". Devotees present offered to fetch him some
from Kolhapur itself. But Swami was adamant. He firmly said, "No!"
Swami kept on pacing the floor till lunchtime. By now, everyone
at the mathi was worried.
At noon, a couple from Akkalkot entered the mathi with their one-year-old
son. They reverentially bowed to Swami, placed their child at his
lotus feet, offered him a packet of one kilogram of pedhas and said,
"Swami, we reside at Akkalkot. We prayed to Shri Swami Samartha
to give us a son. In return we took a vow to offer him one kilogram
of pedha. Our son was born but we waited sometime to fulfill our
promise. In the meantime, Shri Swami Samartha took samadhi. We regret
the delay we caused or else we could have fed him with our own hands.
Somehow, we felt incorrect to place the offering at his samadhi
temple. We earnestly besieged Shri Swami Samartha to forgive our
mistake. At last, yesterday he appeared in our dream and instructed
us to come here. He said, "If you feed Shri Krishna Saraswati
Swami, I shall receive it. For he and I are same". Swami gladly
let the couple feed him the pedhas from Akkalkot.
Swami’s nocturnal rendezvous
At the mathi, Swami slept in a small bedroom. Every night the devotees
would daily place a clean bed sheet for Swami to sleep. Some of
the disciples would sleep in the hall outside and the entrance door
would be locked for the night. It would be impossible for anyone
to come or go from the mathi without disturbing those sleeping in
the hall. Yet, many a mornings, the disciples would find Swami’s
feet covered with mud or dust and his bed sheet dirty. They wondered
how this happened. Was Swami walking outside at night? Where was
he going? Swami was obviously visiting his devotees, answering their
prayers and saving those in danger. Narrated below are such occurrences.
Merchant of Rajapur
One cloudy morning, Swami was seated in his chair with Krishna Lad
and Vasu Dalvi standing on his two sides. Other devotees were seated
around him. Suddenly Swami stopped talking and shut his eyes for
more than five minutes. Soon the devotees found water trickling
from Swami’s clothes. The devotees at once changed his clothes.
Surprisingly the water from the clothes was extremely salty. This
was a big mystery!
A month passed. One day a gentleman from Rajapur came loaded with
sweetmeats and a garland of flowers. The curious devotees naturally
inquired about his whereabouts. He narrated, "I am a merchant.
A month ago, I was travelling by ship with lots of goods to sell.
A storm broke out accompanied by gusty winds. The ship lost its
balance and started to drown. All aboard the ship jumped into the
sea. So did me. It was impossible to swim in the sea. I lost all
hopes for my life. Desperate, I prayed to Swami for help. Before
becoming unconscious, the last thing I remember is that a sanyasi
(ascetic) carried me on his back. When I came to my senses, I was
lying on the shore. It seems that I was the sole survivor. It took
me a full month to recover from the shock. Today, I have come to
thank Swami for saving me".
Atlast! The mystery had been solved.
A school boy
A young boy from a nearby village stayed in Kolhapur for education.
He regularly visited the mathi. He was one of those ardent devotees
who would ask Swami’s permission before doing every work.
One day he received a message from his parents asking him to visit
them at their village. Naturally, he sought Swami’s permission.
Swami flatly said, "No!" The boy was in a dilemma. If
he went he would be disobeying Swami, if he did not, his father
would scold him. He sat down for some time. After a few moments,
he again approached Swami for his permission. Swami repeated a firm,
"No!" After a little while, he again sought Swami’s
permission. Swami remained silent.
Nevertheless, the young boy started walking to his village. After
walking for over an hour, suddenly it started to rain heavily. A
flooded stream with no bridge to cross blocked the way to his village.
The water was gushing with such force that it was not advisable
to cross the steam. Wet, cold and miserable, the young boy had to
wait three long hours for the water level to return to normal. Now
he realized his foolishness for not listening to Swami who has knowledge
of the past, present and future.
One day the same boy had some urgent work at a place near Kolhapur.
As usual he went to Swami to seek his permission. Swami adamantly
told him not to go. As the work was of immense importance, he once
again set out without Swami’s permission. It was late evening
by the time the work got over. It was getting dark. The boy hurried
towards Kolhapur to meet Swami before he retired for the night.
On the way back he used a short cut through the forest. However
he lost his way in the darkness. Then he came by a ditch which was
deep and wide, and therefore, difficult to cross. Tired and confused,
and not knowing what to do, he sat down and started chanting Swami’s
name. He prayed to him for forgiveness. All of a sudden he saw a
young woman standing on the other side of the ditch. For a moment
the sight of her in the darkness frightened him. Then he heard her
inquiring, "Who’s there?" Her gentle questioning
comforted the frightened boy. He related his plight. He further
inquired about her presence in the dark. To which she said, "I
am a milkmaid. I had gone to Kolhapur to sell milk with my friends.
On the way back, they went ahead and I was left behind. Like you,
I too have lost my way. Do not worry. I shall extend my hand and
pull you over to this side". The boy was relieved. The milkmaid
extended her hand and pulled the boy on the other side of the ditch.
The boy waited for a fraction of a second to hold his breath and
then turned around to thank her. But alas! She had disappeared.
He started to wonder how a mere woman could have pulled him across
a trench that was ten feet wide. It dawned on him that it was Swami
who had come to help him. He rushed to Kolhapur and went directly
to the mathi. As he gratefully bowed to Swami, the latter asked,
"So, you could cross the trench safely". Could he say
anything more? He drenched Swami’s feet with his grateful
Swami rescues a lady devotee from drowning
A widow residing at Kolhapur was a regular visitor at the mathi,
in fact half the time she was staying there. She was quite well
off but unfortunately very lonely as she had no children and no
relatives to call her own. Being an ardent devotee, she requested
Swami to assign her a duty that would be considered as her service
to him. Swami assigned her the task to remove the stale flowers
and garlands, and submerge them in the river. The woman did her
work with full dedication. Besides her assigned work, she would
also help in cleaning the mathi every morning. At noon, she would
eat her meals that she had helped to cook. At night, she would sleep
at the mathi so that in the early hours of dawn, she could consign
the stale flowers into the river. Everyday for several months she
did her work with utmost dedication.
One day as usual she got up early and made her way to the river
with the stale flowers. It was pitching dark. There was not a single
person on the road. When she arrived at the riverbank, there was
an old lady sitting by herself. The old lady called out to her and
said, "Child, it is not even dawn. Why have you come here so
early, at such an odd hour"? The devotee revealed to her the
purpose of her visit and said, "Perhaps I guessed the time
wrong. I came too early by mistake". The old lady ordered her
to go back at once and in fact accompanied her back. The two walked
some distance together. When the riverbank was far behind them,
the old lady said to her, "Now you go ahead. I shall go to
my house". The devotee walked a few steps and turned around.
She found that the old lady had vanished and the tide had come in
and the river had covered the entire riverbank. She ran to the mathi
realizing that it was Swami who had come to her rescue from the
incoming tide. Or else she could have been pulled away by the waters
and drowned without anyone knowing about it. When Swami woke up
in the morning, with tears streaming down her face she said, "O
Lord! You who can save us from the ocean that is this universe and
can grant us Moksha. Why did you go to so much trouble to save an
insignificant tiny creature like me? If I die, there is no one in
the world to shed tears for me". Swami patted her like a child
and consoled her by saying, "It was Goddess Amba who came to
rescue you. In Kolhapur, can the river Ganges flow without her permission?"
The two brothers
In the Shukravar Peth area of Kolhapur, there lived two brothers.
Their entire family was devoted to Swami. One day Swami accompanied
by a few devotees went to their house. While leaving, Swami asked,
"One of you has to leave early. Who is ready?" They did
not reply, as they could not decipher the meaning of what Swami
said. Within a week, the elder brother died due to high fever. After
the mourning period got over, the entire family came to see Swami.
Swami instructed them to change their present house immediately.
They faithfully obeyed Swami and shifted to a rented house. No sooner
had they shifted all their belongings from the old house, it collapsed
like a house built with a pack of playing cards. Swami had saved
them from a great disaster.
Rags to riches
A priest from Wadi was on a pilgrimage, wandering from place to
place visiting various holy temples. When he came to the mathi and
bowed to Swami, the latter advised him, "Stay here for the
chaturmasa (the four months of monsoon, according to Hindu calendar
– during the months Ashadh, Shravana, Bhadrapada. Ashwin and
beginning of Kartik ] . You will be able to get food". The
priest then went to the temple dedicated to Goddess Amba and stayed
there. He was worried about his health especially because of the
onset of the monsoon. In the night, Goddess Amba appeared in his
dream and said, "When Swami is your protector, why should you
worry about anything?" In the morning when he once again came
to pay his respects to Swami, the latter said, "When Amba has
assured you then why are you still worried?"
The priest went back to the temple. He sat there skeptical about
his stay at Kolhapur. The thoughts in his mind were that during
the chaturmasa, the four months of the Hindu calendar from the month
of Ashad to Kartik, i.e. approximately from July to October are
auspicious months which have to be spent in fasting, rituals and
reading the Shri Guru Charitra. Since he was not carrying this holy
book, he wondered how he could follow his yearly practice of reading
it. Just then a devotee visiting the temple started talking to him.
On knowing the hardship the priest was undergoing, he arranged his
stay at the nearby temple dedicated to Lord Dattatreya and handed
him the required holy book.
Next morning, the priest happily started reading the holy book.
At noon, a Brahmin named Mayura approached him and said, "Sir,
I am a very poor man. Swami appeared in my dream today and asked
me to feed you for four months. Thereafter, my poverty will be removed.
Please come to my house for lunch and share the meager meal I can
offer". Looking at his miserable condition, the priest declined
his invitation. He said, "Thank you very much for your kind
invitation but it will be cruel to snatch away the little food available
from your hungry family. Please therefore excuse me". Mayura
took a stubborn stance. He was adamant that the priest comes to
his home for a meal or threatened not to eat a morsel of food nor
drink a drop of water. The astonished priest was left with no choice.
He accompanied Mayura to his house. He was shocked to see the poverty
in which Mayura and his family lived. After the meal when the priest
returned to the temple, his only thought was of his poor host and
his family. He prayed to Swami to help them.
Next day the priest started to read the Shri Guru Charitra. Few
women sat around to listen to the reading of the holy book. At the
end, they offered some rice and a few coins. The priest gave it
all to Mayura. Everyday after the reading whatever was offered to
the priest, he would give it to Mayura. Soon the collection increased.
At the end of four months when the reading of the holy book was
completed, the priest had earned a handsome sum of rupees one hundred
in cash and large amounts of rice, fruits and coconuts. In those
days rupees one hundred was a princely sum. Mayura was extremely
delighted to have received all the priest’s earnings. The
priest then went to meet Swami who blessed him and said, "Now
go back home. You will be extremely prosperous. All your wishes
will be fulfilled". The exuberant priest returned home happily.
Amongst the many devotees of Swami was Krishna Swar. He suffered
from epilepsy. One day Swami instructed him to make a pilgrimage
to Pandharpur. Swami added, "Your grandfather was a great devotee
of Lord Vithoba". Overhearing this conversation, the other
devotees were curious to know about Krishna’s grandfather.
Krishna related, "My maternal grandfather was an ardent devotee
of Lord Vithoba. He would often visit Pandharpur to pay his respects
to him. He was in the personal service of the Chhatrapati (King)
of Kolhapur State (in the British regime). On one occasion, he returned
four days later from Pandharpur than his sanctioned leave. He was
petrified that the Chhatrapati would be angry with him because of
his prolonged absence from duty. On returning he asked his colleague
if the Chhatrapati had voiced his anger at his absence. His colleague
showed surprise and said, "Why are you inquiring thus when
you have been present all these days". Baffled at his reply,
he asked another colleague who was equally puzzled and retorted,
"When you have completed your entire allocated task properly,
why are you posing such a question". Absolutely perplexed by
now, he inquired with many of his other colleagues only to get a
similar reply. It is then it occurred to him that Lord Vithoba himself
had come to work in his place so that he may not fall into trouble
with his employer. He cried with joy when he understood how much
Lord Vithoba loved him to do what he did. He at once tendered his
resignation. He then proceeded to Pandharpur to offer his services
to the King of Pandharpur – Lord Vithoba himself."
Krishna decided to go to Pandharpur as instructed by Swami. He
said so to his mother. She said to him, "My sari (Indian garment
for women) is worn out. Please buy me a new one. Before leaving,
give me some money for my domestic requirements and then proceed
further." Krishna had only rupees five with him. He tended
to his mother’s needs and thought that he could as well walk
to Pandharpur. Before leaving, he came to see Swami and reverentially
bowed at his feet. Swami said, "Child, you have done the right
thing to fulfill your mother’s wishes. Go on. You will have
no epilepsy attacks on your journey. And before leaving, visit the
Abiding by Swami’s instruction, Krishna went to the royal
stable. He met one of his friends who worked there. His friend was
happy to see Krishna. He said, "Krishna, you have come at the
right time. I wish to go to Pandharpur with my wife. Hence I’ll
have to take a bullock cart. I was therefore worried as to who would
look after my horse. If you want, you can accompany us on horseback
to Pandharpur and back." Krishna happily agreed to the God-sent
proposal. Thus due to Swami’s grace, Krishna had a good trip
without spending a penny.
Many devotees have related several anecdotes of how Swami came
to their rescue in disguise. Read on...in the next chapter.