Sant Jñāneshwar / Sant Dnyāneshwar (1275-1296) (ज्ञानेश्वर in Marathi) (also known as Jñanadeva - ज्ञानदेव ) was a 13th century marathi saint, poet, philosopher and a yogi of Nath tradition. His works Bhavartha deepika teeka (a commentary on Bhagavad Gita, popularly known as "Dnyaneshwari"), and Amrutanubhav are considered to be milestones in marathi literature. Dnyaneshwar entered into "Sanjeevan Samadhi", a yogic path to salvation at the age of 21 in Alandi, Maharashtra.
Vitthal studied Vedas and became well versed in them at a very young age in accordance with the brahmin tradition in those days. He set out on pilgrimages at a young age in the "search of god". During his visit to Alandi about 30 km from Pune, he met Shridharpant [Sidhopant], a local yejurvedi brahmin, who was very much impressed with him. Shridharpant persuaded reluctant Vitthal to marry his daughter Rukmini. Vitthal was much more interested in the "search of god" than marrying and settling down. But, Shridharpant finally succeeded in arranging his daughter's marriage with vitthal.
After marriage Vitthal stayed in Alandi for some time but, due to his lack of interest in family life, he tried very hard to convince his wife to grant him permission to leave "grihasthashram" and to enter into "sanyasashram", that is to become a "sanyasi". After getting permission from a reluctant Rukmini, Vitthal went to Kashi (Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, India). There he met "Ramananda Swamy / shripad yati / shripad swamy" and requested to be initiated into the "sanyasashram". Vitthal managed to persuade Ramananda Swamy primarily by lying about his past (especially about his marriage). Ramananda Swamy finally accepted Vitthal as his student and initiated him into the sanyasashram.
Ramananda Swamy later set out on a pilgrimage to southern India and came to Alandi where he happened to see Rukmini to whom he granted the boon "ashta putra saubhagyavati bhava" (may you be blessed with 8 sons). After being blessed by the holy man, Rukmini broke down and told him about her past. After listening carefully he was convinced that his student Vitthal was the husband of Rukmini who abandoned her without performing his duties in the "grihastashram". So he returned to Kashi and queried Vitthal about his past again. Upon learning the truth, he ordered Vitthal to return home to his family.
Vitthal returned to his wife in Alandi. The couple was exocommunicated from the brahmin caste as Vitthal had broken the law of accepting grihasthashram after sanyasashram which, was not allowed since the latter was considered the last of the four ashrams. Four children were born to the couple: Nivrutti in 1273, Dnyandev (Dnyaneshwar) in 1275, Sopan in 1277 and daughter Mukta in 1279. According to some scholars their birth years are 1268, 1271, 1274, 1277 respectively.
Vitthal tried to persuade the brahmins to accept his children into the caste but he failed. The brahmins in Paithan ordered Vitthal and Rukmini to wilfully end their lives as a punishment. They accepted the punishment. Meanwhile the couple set out on a pilgrimage with their children to Tryambakeshwar (near Nashik, Maharashtra]] where their elder son Nivrutti (at the age of 10) was initiated in to the Nath tradition by Gahininath. Nivrutti later became the teacher of Dnyaneshwar (at the age of 8), Sopan, Mukta and initiated them in to the Nath tradition.
It is believed that later Vitthal and Rukmini ended their lives by jumping into the waters at Prayag where the river Ganga meets Yamuna hoping that their children would be accepted into the society after their death.
The orphaned children somehow grew up begging for dry alms from sympathetic people which they would cook and eat. In the course of time they too approached the brahmin community of Paithan to accept them in society after whatever purification rites were necessary but the brahmin community refused. According to some scholars the children were purified by the brahmins on the condition of observing celibacy. But, the authority of the documents (especially the so-called "shuddhi patra") provided itself is disputed. The children stayed in Paithan for a couple of years after their argument with the brahmins earned them fame and respect from the society due to their righteousness, virtue, intelligence, knowledge and politeness.
The paternal great grandfather of Dnyaneshwar was initiated into the nath cult by a renowned nath yogi, Goraksha Nath (Gorakh Nath). His elder brother and teacher Guru Nivruttinath also was a disciple of Gahininath, another renowned yogi in the nath tradition. Dnyaneshwar accepted the studentship of Nivruttinath along with his younger siblings Sopan and Mukta at the age of 8. He learnt and mastered the philosophy and various techniques of kundalini yoga which is considered as the speciality of nath cult.
Nivruttinath instructed Dnyaneshwar to write a commentary on Bhagavad Gita. The children moved to Nevase, a village in Ahmed Nagar district where Dnyaneshwar began his literary work. He used to give a discourse on Dnyaneshwari to selected audiences including his elder brother and teacher. There must be few notable personalities in the audience like his contemporary saint Namdev and many others from the nath tradition. It is believed that Dnyaneshwari was written down by Sacchidananandbaba during such discourses by Dnyaneshwar. By the time the commentary was complete Dnyaneshwar was only 15 years old.
Bhavartha deepika Teeka or the Dnyaneshwari is considered to be one of the masterpieces of marathi literature. It is composed in a metre called "ovi". It constitutes 18 chapters. The book reflects the outstanding intelligence of dnyaneshwar, his understanding of the subject, command not only of marathi but also of Sanskrit language at such a young age.
Dnyaneshwar was determined to "liberate" the "divine knowledge" locked in the "Sanskrit language" He wanted to bring that knowledge in "prakrit" (i.e. in marathi) and make it available to every one. He was confident that he would write in marathi in as good or better manner than Sanskrit.
Dnyaneshwar penned Amrutanubhav some time after he completed Dnyaneshwari. It is quite complicated and difficult to understand and therefore finds fewer readers compared to Dnyaneshwari. It constitutes 10 chapters and 806 ovi. The basis of this book is "advaita siddhanta" (non dualism). The seventh chapter is the biggest one (295 ovi) and is considered to be the most important amongst the ten chapters. This book is considered as one of the gems of marathi literature.
Apart from Dnyaneshwari and Amrutanubhav works like Changdev Paasashti (a collection of 65 ovi addressed to an allegedly 1400 years old yogi named "Changdev"), Haripath and around 1000 "abhanga" (authorship of many is disputed due to differences in writing style) are attributed to Dnyaneshwar.
Dnyaneshwar probably was introduced to Vaishnav Sampraday (or Vitthal Sampraday) of Pandharpur (founder of the Warkari movement) after his writing of Dnyaneshwari since there is no mention of Sampraday in that work. Dnyaneshwar was influenced by the piousness of contemporary members of the Warkari movement, such as Namdev, Gora Kumbhar, Savta Mali, Janabai, Narhari Sonar, Chokha Mahar and Sena Nhavi and was attracted to the movement so much that the warkaris accepted him almost instantaneously and considered him as their teacher and spiritual leader. Dnyaneshwar initiated his contemporaries into the knowledge of advaita (non-dualism) who were considered to be associated with the dvaita (dualism) school of thought and the bhakti movement. He also strongly advocated "dnyanayukta bhakti" (i.e. devotion guided by knowledge). He believed that one can not be liberated unless he attains the true and divine knowledge of the brahma.
Dnyaneshwar also went on pilgrimage to northern india with Namdev and other saints during which they became closer and came to understand each other well. After this pilgrimage only he expressed his desire to enter into the Sanjeevan Samadhi.
The stories recounted by believers in the Bhagawata Sampradaya sect about Dnyaneshwar’s life are full of miracles. These stories are mentioned in many holy books of the sect and include: the baking of bread (mānde, or roti in Hindi) on his heated back, as well as his making a wall move and a bull recite vedic hymns. Although these miracles defy logic and rational thought, yogic texts describe such abilities and assert that they can be acquired in the advanced stages of yogic practice.
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