Apegaon, Taluka Paithan, Aurangabad district, Maharashtra, India
|Literary works||Abhanga poetry, Dnyaneshwari, Amrutanubhav, Haripath, Changdev Paasashti|
Dnyāneshwar (Jñāneshvar, Jnandev, Jnanesvar, Jñanadeva) ("ज्ञानेश्वर", "ज्ञानदेव") (1275–1296) 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.
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. However, this period also witnessed religious degeneration, superstitions, and rituals which involved animal sacrifices and worship of many deities. Dnyandeva emerged as one of the first original philosophers to write in Marathi language in this era.
According to Nath tradition, Dnyaneshwar  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). It is believed that later Vitthal and Rukmini ended their lives by jumping into the waters at Prayag where the river Ganges meets Yamuna hoping that their children would be accepted into the society after their death.. 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. This is when Sant Dnyaneshwar asked them why they can't be taken back into the Hindu 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.
Start of literary activity
dyaneshwar 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.
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.
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
Changdev Maharaj is most commonly known today due to his popular first encounter with Dnyaneshwar. As the story goes, when the four siblings of Nivritti − 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 realized the greatness of these children. He became one of their disciples and overcame his pride and ego. These verses sent by Dnyaneshwar later became known as Changdev Pasashti (Pasast means 65 in Marathi) and are one of the holy scriptures amongst 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 1218, Dnyaneshwar entered into a permanent state of Sanjeevan Samadhi at Alandi in Pune in Maharashtra, India.
Dnyaneshwar laid the foundation of bhakti movement in Maharashtra and Tukaram took it to its peak level. (Dnyandeve rachila paya | Tuka Zalase kalas)
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).
Every Year Around 3 Laks of Devotees Travel from Alandi to Phandharpur in month of June–July (Month Ashad in Hindu calendar). Varkari covers this journey by walk in 18 days, distance Travel from Alandi to Phandharpur is around 228 kilometers. Varkari travel along with Padukas (footwear) of Guru Dnyaneshwar in palkhi (palanquin).
For year 2013 the Palakhi was scheduled on Jun 29 from Alandi.
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- Mokashi & Engblom 1987, p. 39.
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- Bahirat 1956, pp. 3–4.
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- Samadhi of Sant Dnyaneshwar