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"Sant Dnyaneshwar" redirects here. For the film about his life, see Sant Dnyaneshwar (film).
Born Dnyaneshwar
1275 AD
Apegaon, Taluka Paithan, Aurangabad district, Maharashtra, India
Guru Nivruttinath
Philosophy Varkari, Hinduism
Literary works Abhanga poetry, Dnyaneshwari, Amrutanubhav, Haripath, Changdev Paasashti

Dnyāneshwar (Jñāneshvar, Jnandev, Jnanesvar, Jñanadeva) ("ज्ञानेश्वर", "ज्ञानदेव") (1275–1296)[1][2] was a 13th-century Maharashtrian Hindu saint (Sant – a title by which he is often referred), poet, philosopher and yogi of the Nath tradition whose works Bhavartha Deepika (a commentary on Bhagavad Gita, popularly known as "Dnyaneshwari"), and Amrutanubhav are considered to be milestones in Marathi literature.


Early years[edit]

Dnyaneshwar was born in 13th-century Maharashtra, before the Muslim invasions of the region started. During this period, arts and sciences prospered under the patronage of the newly ascended Yadava kings.[3] However, this period also witnessed religious degeneration, superstitions, and rituals which involved animal sacrifices and worship of many deities.[4] Dnyandeva emerged as one of the first original philosophers to write in Marathi language in this era.

According to the Nath tradition, Dnyaneshwar[5] was the second of the four children of Vitthal Govind Kulkarni and Rukmini, a pious couple from Apegaon near Paithan on the banks of the river Godavari. Vitthal had studied Vedas and set out on pilgrimages at a young age. In Alandi, about 30 km from Pune, Sidhopant, a local Yajurveda Brahmin, was very much impressed with him and Vitthal married his daughter Rukmini.

After some time, getting permission from Rukmini, Vitthal went to Kashi, where he met Ramananda Swami and requested to be initiated into sannyas, lying about his marriage. But Ramananda Swami later went to Alandi and, convinced that his student Vitthal was the husband of Rukmini, he returned to Kashi and ordered Vitthal to return home to his family. The couple was excommunicated from the Brahmin caste as Vitthal had broken with sannyas, the last of the four ashrams. Four children were born to them; 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. The couple set out on a pilgrimage with their children to Tryambakeshwar, near Nashik, where their elder son Nivrutti (at the age of 10) was initiated into the Nath tradition by Gahininath. The paternal great grandfather of Dnyaneshwar had been initiated into the Nath cult by Goraksha Nath (Gorakh Nath).[citation needed] It is believed that later Vitthal and Rukmini committed suicide by jumping into the Indrayani river at Alandi, hoping that their children would be accepted into the society after their death.[citation needed]. The orphaned children grew up on alms. According to Mahipati, the 18th century biographer of Bhakti Saints, including Dnyaneshwar, they approached the Brahmin community of Paithan to accept them but the Brahmins refused.[6] This is when Sant Dnyaneshwar asked them why they can't be taken back into the Brahmin community and given the sacred thread. The Brahmins said they can't as Dnyaneshwar and his brothers were sons of a sanyasi. Dnyaneshwar replied, that for that sin, His parents have already given up their body, to be absolved of their sins. Sant Dnyaneshwar further said that Bhagwaan Shree Krishna in the Bhagwad Gita Has also said that the soul is present in everyone in the universe. To which a the miracle took place. There was man passing with a buffalo, the Brahmins asked him is there the Supreme Soul (Parameshwar) in this buffalo as well? Sant Dnyaneshwar replied in the affirmative and started reciting the Vedas, the Brahmins tried to stop Him, to which He replied, doesn't every soul have the right to sing praises towards God. He resumed reciting the Vedas, they stopped Him again and then a Buffalo started continuing the Vedas, from where Sant Dnyandev stopped! According to the disputed "Shuddhi Patra" the children were purified by the Brahmins on condition of observing celibacy. Their argument with the Brahmins earned the children fame and respect due to their righteousness, virtue, intelligence, knowledge and politeness.[citation needed]

Dnyaneshwar became the student of Nivruttinath along with his younger siblings Sopan and Mukta at the age of 8. He learned and mastered the philosophy and various techniques of Kundalini yoga.

Start of literary activity[edit]

Dnyaneshwar moved to Nevasa, a village in Ahmednagar district, where Dnyaneshwar began his literary work when Nivruttinath instructed him to write a commentary on Bhagavad Gita. The Dnyaneshwari or Bhavartha Deepika was written down by Sachchidanand baba from discourses by Dnyaneshwar. By the time the commentary was complete Dnyaneshwar was only 15 years old.

Considered as masterpieces of Marathi literature, the 18 chapters of the Dnyaneshwari are composed in a metre called "ovi". Dnyaneshwar liberated the "divine knowledge" locked in the Sanskrit language to bring that knowledge into Prakrit (Marathi) and made it available to the common man. He was confident that he would write in marathi in as good or better manner than Sanskrit.


The siblings Muktabai, Sopan, Dnyaneshwar and Nivruttinath seated on the flying wall greet Changdev seated on a tiger. In the centre, Changdev bows to Dnyaneshwar.

Nivruttinath was the elder brother of Dnyaneshwar. Nivrutti was an authority on philosophy of the Nath sect. Gahininath, one of the nine Nath gurus, accepted Nivrutti as his disciple and initiated him into the Nath sect, instructing him to propagate devotion to Krishna. Dnyaneshwar accepted his elder brother as his own guru. After the early Samadhi of Dnyaneshwar, Nivrutti travelled with his sister Mukta along the Tapi river where they were caught in a thunderstorm and Mukta was swept away. Nivrutti took to salvation (Samadhi) at Tryambakeshwar. Around 375 abhangas are attributed to him but, the authorship of many of them is disputed due to difference in writing style and philosophy.

Sopandev was a younger brother Sopandev attained 'samadhi' at Saswad near Pune. He wrote a book "Sopandevi" based on the Bhagvadgita's Marathi interpretation along with 50 or so abhangas.

Muktabai was the youngest of the siblings, Muktai or Muktabai was known for her simple and straightforward expression of thoughts. She could be considered as one of the first poetesses in Marathi along with Mahadamba. There are around 40 abhangas attributed to her. She accepted Yogi Changdev as her disciple

Changdev and the moving wall[edit]

Changdev Maharaj is most commonly known today due to his popular first encounter with Dnyaneshwar. As the story goes, when the four siblings of Nivrutti − Dnyanadev, Sopandev, and Muktai − attained enlightenment

, Changdev Maharaj wanted to test them, and hence sent them a blank note. When the siblings received this note, they laughed at the gesture and, on Nivritti's asking, Dnyaneshwar wrote 65 verses which were the quintessence of Vedanta on it. When the paper reached Changdev Maharaj, he had difficulty understanding what was written, and decided to meet the siblings to show them his yogic powers in person. For this visit he chose to ride on back of a tiger, wielding a poisonous cobra as a whip. When the siblings, then sitting on a masonry wall, saw the procession of Changdev Maharaj and thousands of his devotees walking toward their house, they decided to break his pride. They patted on the wall and it rose up to move forward as a respect to Changdev maharaj. This use of wall amazed everyone present. Changdev realised the greatness of these children. He became one of their disciples and overcame his pride and ego.[7] These verses sent by Dnyaneshwar later became known as Changdev Pasashti (Pasasht means 65 in Marathi) and are one of the holy scriptures amongst the followers of Dnyaneshwar.


After having composed Amrutanubhava, Dnyaneshwar made a pilgrimage to northern India with Namdev and other saints. After completing this pilgrimage he expressed his intention to enter into a state of Samadhi because he felt that the mission of his life was complete. It is widely propagated that at the age of 21 on 13th day of the second half of Kartik in Shaka 1296,[8] Dnyaneshwar entered into a permanent state of Sanjeevan Samadhi[9] at Alandi in Pune in Maharashtra, India.[10]

An account of this incident is described by the contemporary Namdev in a set of Abhangas named as Samadheeche Abhanga (translation: Abhangas of Samadhi).

Varkari Movement[edit]

Dnyaneshwar laid the foundation of bhakti movement in Maharashtra and Tukaram took it to its peak level. (Dnyandeve rachila paya | Tuka Zalase kalas)

Dnyaneshwar's palkhi (palanquin), carrying the sandals of the saint, in silver cart pulled by Oxen on a journey from Alandi to Pandharpur.

Dnyaneshwar introduced the Varkari Movement (or Vitthala Sampradaya) of Pandharpur (founder of the Varkari movement). He strongly advocated ज्ञानयुक्त भक्ती dnyana yukta bhakti (devotion guided by knowledge).

Around three Lakh Varkari accompany, by foot, the Padukas (sandals) of Dnyaneshwar in a Palkhi (palanquin) for the annual 228 kilometres Alandi to Pandharpur Vari in the month of June–July (Month Ashadh' in Hindu calendar).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rinehart 2004, p. 259.
  2. ^ Mokashi & Engblom 1987, p. 39.
  3. ^ Bahirat 1956, pp. 1–2.
  4. ^ Bahirat 1956, pp. 3–4.
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ Abbott, Justin E. (1933). Stories of Indian Saints: An English Translation of Mahipati's BhaktiVijaya , Volume 1. motilal Banarasidass Publishers. pp. Chapter 9, 34–45. ISBN 8120804694. 
  7. ^ Stories of Indian Saints: Translation of Mahipati's Marathi Bhaktavijaya. ISBN 978-81-208-0469-2.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  8. ^ "Sant Dnyaneshwar". hindupedia.com. 
  9. ^ [2]
  10. ^ Dr. S. D. Parchure, M. A. PhD. "Saint Dnyaneshwar". saileelas.org. 


External links[edit]