9 - Chain Of Enlightened
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
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
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".
In the afternoon, he went to meet his uncle who narrated his own
life story, "From childhood I was reluctant to lead life like
everybody else. I did not want to earn a living or get married.
The only thing I wanted to do was to worship Lord Shiva. Hence I
kept myself busy conducting rituals at the temple. One day Lord
Shiva appeared in my dream and instructed me to go to Kolhapur to
serve Shri Krishna Saraswati Swami. I went there. Swami gave me
a spiritual initiation. But after a few days he directed me to return
home to serve Lord Shiva here. I was heartbroken but reluctant to
disobey his orders. When I returned I came directly to the temple
to bow at the Shivalinga. How long I bowed I cannot remember but
when I lifted my head, the Shivalinga had disappeared. In its place
was Swami smiling benevolently at me. Then I realized that Lord
Shiva and Swami are one and the same. After that I worshipped Lord
Shiva with full devotion. Son, you are very lucky that he has allowed
you to stay with him.
After staying at home for a few days, Basavappa and his wife arrived
at Kolhapur. For some time they stayed with Swami. One day Swami
called Basavappa and gave him a pair of padukas made of stone. He
said, "Go and install these padukas at Ganagapur and worship
them there. I shall always be present with you".
Thus Basavappa and his wife arrived at Ganagapur. They searched
for a house. They found one near the Kalleshwar Temple and stayed
there. It is here that they installed Swami’s padukas and
started their worship. Basavappa continuously read the Shri Gurucharitra.
He was hospitable to pilgrims. But he started to talk less even
to his wife.
Years passed by. Basavappa and his wife grew old. Basavappa regretted
that after coming to Ganagapur he had not had the privilege to see
Swami. One night, Swami appeared in his wife’s dream. He patted
her and said, "Child, tell your husband that I am always with
Next day, when his wife narrated her dream, Basavappa said, "You
are very fortunate to have seen Swami". But nevertheless he
felt miserable that Swami had not appeared to him. He stopped eating
food and drinking water. Within a week Swami appeared to him and
rebuked him, "Why are you so skeptical about my presence? I
am always with you".
The couple worshipped the padukas throughout their lives till their
very end. Even today the padukas are where they were installed.
Gokulshirgaon is a small village twenty kilometers 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
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
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.
Swami lighted many sparks, known and unknown, who treaded on their
spiritual voyage. Some gained fame, others preferred to stay unknown
and yet many still continue to enlighten others. The next chapter
relates the story of an ordinary ‘Namya’ who became
‘Shri Namdev Maharaj’ – the heir apparent to Shri
Krishna Saraswati Swami’s spiritual legacy.