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Alandi, Maharashtra, India
|Titles/honours||Sant in Marathi, meaning "Saint"|
|Literary works||Abhanga poetry, Tati ughada dnaneshwara|
Muktabai or Muktai was a saint in the Varkari tradition. She was born in a Deshastha Brahmin family and was the younger sister of Dnyaneshwar, the first Varkari saint. Muktabai wrote forty-one Abhang throughout her life span. "Tati ughada dnaneshwara" is one her most insightful works, being a conversation with saint Dnyaneshwar. It is considered to be a milestone in Marathi literature. According to Muktabai, the definition of saint is "Saint jene vahave; jag bolane sosave" or a saint is the one who can digest criticism of people.
According to Nath tradition Muktabai was the last 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(Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, India), 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 (Maauli Dnyaneshwar) in 1275, Sopan in 1277 and daughter Mukta in 1279. According to some scholars their birth years are 1268, 1271, 1274, 1277 respectively. It is believed that later Vitthal and Rukmini ended their lives by jumping into the waters at Prayag which is the confluence of three rivers, the Ganges, Yamuna, and the now extinct Saraswati, hoping that their children would be accepted into the society after their death.
Earlier 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). The orphaned children grew up on alms. They approached the Brahmin community of Paithan to accept them but the Brahmins refused. 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. Dnyaneshwar became the student 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.
"Tatiche Abhang" and other Abhangs
- Nivruttinath: Eldest brother of Muktabai, 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 Shri Krishna. Dnyaneshwar accepted his elder brother as his own guru. After the early Samadhi of Dnyaneshwar, Nivrutti travelled with his sister Mukta on a pilgrimage 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.
- Dnyaneshwar: The second of the siblings, Dnyaneshwar(or Dnyaneshwar / Dnyaneshwar) 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 Sacchidananandbaba from discourses by Dnyaneshwar. By the time the commentary was complete Dnyaneshwar was only 15 years old.Considered a masterpieces of Marathi literature, the Dnyaneshwari's 18 chapters 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.Amrutanubhav, written some time after, is difficult and finds fewer readers. Containing 10 chapters and 806 ovi, the basis of this book is non-dualism (advaita siddhanta). The seventh and biggest chapter (295 ovi) is the most important. Apart from Dnyaneshwari and Amrutanubhav works like Changdev Paasashti (a collection of 65 ovi addressed to an allegedly 1400 years old yogi named Changdev Maharaj), Haripath and around 1000 "abhanga" (authorship of many is disputed due to differences in writing style) are attributed to Dnyaneshwar.
- Sopandev: 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.
1-On one occasion, Muktabai wished to cook sweet buns for her brothers. So she set off to the village to get a clay plate from the potter to roast them. A prominent leader of the village, Visoba, who was very cruel to the children, scolded her and ordered the village potters to refuse her request. As she returned home, she was weeping with sadness. Dnyaneshwar asked her to prepare the dough. He then bent down, touching the floor with his hands and heated his back red-hot, asking Muktabai to roast the buns on it. She did so and happily gave them to her brothers. With shock and amazement, secretly watching this miracle through a window, Visoba Chaati, realised the power of these extraordinary children. He rushed inside the hut and picked up the crumbs of the buns, as their prasad. Seeing this, Muktabai exclaimed, "O khechara (mule) turn back!" These words completely transformed his heart. He fell at their feet, crying and begging their forgiveness. When he asked them to accept him as their disciple, Nivritti requested Muktabai to initiate him. After that Visoba left the village to spend the rest of his life in deep contemplation and sadhana. He achieved Self-realisation and became the guru of Saint Namdev.
2-Likewise, Muktabai was responsible for removing the covering in the mind of Saint Namdev. When they met Namdev in Pandharpur, Nivritti, Jnaneshwar and Sopandev, in humility, prostrated before him. Namdev was filled with pride, because everyone in Pandharpur regarded him as a great saint. Muktabai, with great compassion for this sincere devotee, wished to remove this short-sightedness by giving him the cosmic vision. Thus, she did not fall at his feet, as her brothers did, but requested Gora Kumbhar (the potter saint) to test the pots. Gora Kumbhar understood and with his testing rod, began hitting the heads of Nivritti, Jnanadev, Sopandev and other saints who were present. All of them remained calm and quiet, upon which Gora Kumbhar proclaimed them fully baked. When he hit Namdev on the head, Namdev began shouting at him, thus Gora Kumbhar proclaimed him half-baked. Namdev was furious at this insult and ran to Lord Vittala in the temple. The Lord told him that they were right because he was seeing God only in Lord Vittala, rather than as the all-pervading Creative Presence. He was asked to go to Visoba Khechar, and through his practical teaching Namdev became fully enlightened.
Muktai, the spiritual guide
Muktai is believed to be the spiritual guide of Changdev Maharaj. As the legend goes, once Muktai and her brothers were sitting in the ashram when Changdev happened to pass by. Muktai was of course fully clad, but she appeared to Changdev as unclad and at once he turned away. Muktai then told him that he was not perfect as he still had a complex of sex and shame, and did not see God in every being. These words of Muktai had great effect on him and he eradicated this weakness through intense sadhana. Changdev wished to make Dnyanadev his guru, but Dnyanadev said that Muktai was the right spiritual guru instead of himself. From this point on, Changdev took Muktai as his spiritual guide, and many references to Muktai can be found in the Abhangs that he wrote.
- Mandakranta Bose (2000). Faces of the feminine in ancient, medieval, and modern India. Oxford University Press US. p. 192. ISBN 0-19-512229-1.
- Swami Ghanananda; John Stewart-Wallace (1979). Women Saints of East and West. Vedanta Press. p. 60. ISBN 0-87481-036-1.
- Arvind Sharma (2000). Women saints in world religions. SUNY Press. p. 169. ISBN 0-7914-4619-0.