Thursday, 11 August 2011

Samarth Ramdas

Samarth Ramdas –The Patron Saint of Maharashtra
Samarth Ramdas a saint, poet, philosopher, social reformer and a clever and practical Raj Guru of Shivaji Maharaj who skillfully merged devotion (Bhakti) and the prosperity of the kingdom and thus built up patriotism is one deserving merit. Even today, there is no household in Maharashtra that does not recall this saint, through his masterly writings, Abhangs, Stotras and Aartis.
Maharashtra has the distinction of having given birth to several saints and religious preachers in the country. Some of the most famous names include Ramdas and Saibaba of Shirdi. Maharashtra has also given to Hinduism several Bhajans and folksongs. The Abanghs – speciality in Bhajans, having a melody of its own is popular all over the State in sheer the states too. The Bhakti movement in Maharashtra during the 16th and 17th centuries is specially significant.
Samarth Ramdas a saint, poet, philosopher, social reformer and a clever and practical Raj Guru of Shivaji Maharaj who skillfully merged devotion (Bhakti) and the prosperity of the kingdom and thus built up patriotism is one deserving merit. Even today, there is no household in Maharashtra that does not recall this saint, through his masterly writings, Abhangs, Stotras and Aartis.
Ramdas was born in 1530 on Ramnavami day at Jamb, Marathwada region of Maharashtra, on the banks of the river Godavari. He was born in a family, traditionally devoted to Lord Ram. His elder brother being an ardent Ram Bhakta, earned his livelihood through services to Lord Ram. The family atmosphere and culture helped in maulding Ramdas in his tender years itself to be a great devotee of Ram.
At the age of 12, Ramdas, whose earlier name was Narayan, ran away from his own marriage function as he was not for a life of Grihasta. Travelling on foot, he reached the village of Takali, near Panchavati (Nasik) and in the next 12 years he spent there, Narayan devoted himself to the study of the scriptures and Hindu philosophy. He used to recite the Gayatri Mantra and chant Ramnaam. Soon came to be known as Ramdas or Samarth Ramdas Swami.
Samarth realized that God had a mission for him and joined the Bhakti clan, singing, chanting and preaching to the rural folk. He traveled throughout the country visiting temples and religious places and went even as far as Nepal and Kandahar. After spending another 12 years in travelling and preaching he decided to settle down on the bans of the river Krishna.
Having understood the condition of the common people and the deterioration of the Hindu religion under oppression of the Moghul rulers, Ramdas decided to devote his life to religious teachings writing texts, slokas and poetry, for uplifting the society. He had faith in Lord Ram, his eshta devata, who he said can take care of his mission. Service to society especially the poorer strata, coupled with teaching religion through easy to understand messages was his was of reaching out to the society. He felt that firm commitment to religion was absolutely essential for an efficient Raj and “patriotism through religion” was his mantra.
Leading a simple and saintly life, the country, lived on Bhiksha, preaching equality among people using simple and down-to-earth language and inculcated the spirit of nationalism. He established temples and mutts all over. Of special mention is his stress towards Hanuman bhakti, the great devotee of Lord Ram. He preached on the life of Ram, the ‘maryada purusha’ and Hanuman, the Bhakta of Ram, as ideals to follow. Several temples to Hanuman were built for people to worship.
These were some of his favourite preachings to the people.
“Seeker must be unselfish and humble. Service to people is service to Ram. To lead a good life is a gift of God. You need the Lord’s grace for everything. Chant Ram’s name. You will realize Him”. Thus spoke Samarth to his disciples.
Shivaji Maharaj was then fast winnign over the Moghuls. He established his kingdom over Maharashtra and adjoining areas and gave a new concept to Hindu rashtra. Shivaji soon developed a devotion for Samarth and looked to Ramdas for advice on several aspects concerning the state. In fact Samarth, later in his life, moved over to Sajjangad Fort to be nearer to Shivaji Maharaj.
Spending almost 36 years, Chafal, Shivthal Valley and Sajjangad, Samarth wrote poems, texts, slokas, Aartis and Abhangs. The most famous of his works are. “Das Bodh” and “Mano Bodh” (Manachi Slok). Every phase of human life-joy, sorrow, sentiments, hope and despair, helplessness, kindness, humility, bhakti-find a place in his works.
“Manachi Slok”, the message of Samarth to one’s mind, rendered beautifully in 205 slokas is a household granth in Maharashtra, even today. Read by young and old alike, this text condenses in simple Marathi the path to Moksha, step by step. Manachi Slok is a wonderful work that takes one through vivid references to Srutis, Smrutis, Upanishads and the Srimad Bhagavat Gita. This tempts one to read it again and again. It is believed that Samarth dictated these 205 slokas in just one night (while his sishya penned them own) sitting in a cave near a beautiful waterfall at Shivdharstal (near Mahad). Das Bodh was also compiled at this place. Shivdharstal is a place of pilgrimage for Samarth bhaktas.
Samarth established his own sect, “Ramdasi” and set up monasteries in several places. He constituted a committee named “Ramdasi Panchayatan”, with himself and four other savants to propagate his teachings. Even today, there are several Samarth Seva Mandals and study groups that propagate Ram bhakti as a mission.
Ramdas passed away at 74 on Mahanavami day at Sajjangad and his samadhi there has become a place of pilgrimage and a center of study of his teachings.
Article by : S. V. V. Raghavan
Source: Bhavan's Journal 15 July 2006
To know more about Bhavan's Journal and to subscribe visit: http://www.bj.bhavans.info/

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