Janabai was born in Gangākhed, Mahārāshtra to a couple with first names rand and Karand. Under the caste system which rigidly existed in India, the couple belonged to the lowest caste. After her mother died, her father took her to Pandharpur. Since her childhood, Janabai worked as a maidservant in the household of Dāmāsheti, who lived in Pandharpur and who was the father of the prominent Marathi religious poet Nāmdev. Janabai was likely a little older than Namdev, and attended to him for many years.
Pandharpur has high religious significance especially among Marathi-speaking Hindus. Janabai's employers, Damasheti and his wife, Gonāi, were very religious. Through the influence of the religious environment around her and her innate inclination, Janabai was always an ardent devotee of Lord Vitthal. She was also a talented poet. Though she never had any formal schooling, she composed many high-quality religious verses of the abhang (अभंग) form. Fortunately, some of her compositions were preserved along with those of Namdev. Authorship of about 300 abhang is traditionally attributed to Janabai. However, researchers believe that quite a few of them were in fact compositions of some other writers.
Along with Dnyāneshwar, Nāmdev, Eknāth, and Tukaram, Janabai has a revered place in the minds of Marathi-speaking Hindus who belong especially to the wārakari (वारकरी) sect in Maharashtra. In accord with a tradition in India of assigning the epithet sant (संत) to persons regarded as thoroughly saintly, all of the above religious figures including Janabai are commonly attributed that epithet in Maharashtra. Thus, Janabai is routinely referred to as Sant Janabai (संत जनाबाई).
- Dalbir Bharti (2008). Women and the Law. APH Publishing. p. 18.
- Sant Janabai on Hindupedia, the online Hindu Encyclopedia