|Born||Narayan Suryajipant Thosar
Jamb Village, Jalna district, Maharashtra , India
Ramdas (Marathi:समर्थ रामदास स्वामी) was a noted 17th century saint and spiritual poet of Maharashtra. He is most remembered for his Advaita Vedanta (Non-dualism) text Dasbodh. Samarth Ramdas was a devotee of Hanuman and Rama.
Early life and background
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The birth name of Samartha Ramdas Swami was Narayan Suryaji Thosar. He was born on Ramnavmi (in the month of 'chaitra') in the year – 1530 (Shalivahana era), 1608 CE,in Deshastha Rugvedi Brahman family of Jamadagni goatra in the Jamb village, Ambad Taluka of Jalna District, on the banks of the river Godavari. His parents were Suryaji Pant and Ranubai and his elder brother was Gangadhar Swami. His family, for many generations, were worshipers of Surya (Sun) and Lord Ram.
He lost his father at the age of eight, which turned him into an introvert. After a lot of introspection he finally arrived at the thought of the God, at that tender age. He used to be engrossed in these thoughts and try and find out the ways to meet The God. Then at the age of 12 years Lord Ram himself appeared in front of him and advised him to count the 13 lettered Ram tarak Mantra 108 times at least once a day. Then Lord Ram accepted him as his own disciple. The Lord gave him a new name by which he has been known ever since, Ramdas. Such a thing had never happened after Lord Ram who was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, left his mortal body, thousands of years ago. At the age of 12 years, while he was standing on the podium during his marriage ceremony he heard the Brahmins chanting the wedding mantras which contain the word “Savadhan". This word has other meaning as "Beware”! Immediately after hearing it he knew what it meant and just ran away from the scene and went to the holy city, Nasik, where he started his worship of Lord Ram which lasted for 12 years.
During childhood Narayan was fond of all games that involved vigorous physical activity. He loved to exercise and he was well built. He was very intelligent too. He was a very firm believer of God and stood by his moral principles. His whole persona shone with devotion for Hanuman and Lord Ram. Having devotion and strength of character, he felt compassion for the common people who were stuck in the eternal cycle of life and death. Right from his childhood he was thinking about how to relieve masses from this cycle. Marriage and settling down with his own family was not his priority. He preferred the life of a monk.
Shree Samarth had a very fair colored skin and was a moderately built man. He used to exercise regularly and had a very fit body. He had sparkling eyes and a pointed nose. He sported a long beard. His whole body had an inherent inner glow. He always walked at a very brisk pace and could climb steep mountains very easily. He wore only a small cloth covering his perineum and extending up to the pubic syphilis. He carried a wooden Y shaped object to rest his arms upon when he did his Jap and a metal container containing sacred water. While going out he had a bag hanging from his shoulders. During his younger days he was never affected by changes in climate but after getting old he suffered from cough for which he used to eat the traditional Indian pan (A herbal remedy). As he liked solitude and as he was a brisk walker and climber he most of the times preferred to stay in the forests surrounding Sajjangad or in the crevasses of the mountains. He was a very good swimmer, horse rider and was proficient in warfare as he could use all the weapons used at that time. Yet he was humility personified. He never spoke with a raised tone to anyone. If someone asked, how the things were going he would just say, “As per Lord Ram’s wishes”. He won the hearts of thousands with his charming speech and total selflessness. He was very fond of kids and used to play with them. He liked to read and write. His memory was very sharp. He liked poetry and music and even was a nice singer. Despite his stern looks he was a very kind hearted person. Though according to his philosophy this world was an illusion he was attracted towards nature, its bounties and beauties and anything which was colossal. He wanted all men and women to acquire all that is best in life. Having toured all over India he knew the customs in various parts and could speak many languages, prominent among them being Hindi, Marathi, Urdu and of course Sanskrit! His observation was very minute and analytic. Himself being very kind and a workaholic he naturally liked people having these qualities. He totally disliked idle people and literally abhorred them. He always said that you shouldn't harp on imaginary things; rather you should do whatever is worth doing and then tell others about it. He was a very kind hearted man and therefore couldn't see anyone in grief. These qualities attracted thousands of people around him. He had an uncanny knack of quickly assessing the capacity of a person and used to assign a particular job accordingly. Most people used to be awed with this power of his. It is thus beyond any person to describe the person that Shree Samarth was.
At the age of 11, he attained enlightenment. He was visited by Lord Ram himself, who told him, "Go to the banks of the river Krishna and renew dharma (righteousness). The descendant of the Sisodia dynasty is going to take an avatar there. You will guide him with devotion."
To satisfy his mother's wishes, Narayan agreed to marry at the age of 12. But as soon as he heard the word 'Savadhan'(caution) in the wedding vows, he became cautious and ran away. He went straight to Panchavati, in Nashik district. This was where Lord Ram, his wife Sita and his brother Lakshman had lived during their 14 years in exile (Vanvas). Then he went to Takli village near Nashik, where the rivers Godavari and Nandini meet, for a life of extreme devotion and spiritual study.
Devotion and worship – He would wake up before sunrise, have refreshment and bath, followed by a special exercise. This consisted of "Surya Namaskar", a series of body postures adopted while praying to the Sun. Then he would stand in the river with the water waist high and chant the 13 syllable mantra of Lord Ram – "Shri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram". 13 is considered an auspicious number. He chanted this till noon, when the Sun was directly overhead. Then he would gather food (madhukari) from only 5 houses, and offer a symbolic portion to Lord Ram before eating. In the afternoon he would go to Lord Ram's temple in the forest and read spiritual texts extensively. He would also listen to spiritual discourses of elders who visited the temple. He studied in depth Saint Valmiki's Ramayana. This is the great epic of the life of Lord Ram, one of the oldest scriptures ever written. In the evening he would attend lectures on spirituality and programs of songs praising Lord Ram, narration of his virtues, and of his stories. At night he listened to Bhajans (devotional songs). He always prayed to Lord Ram before going to sleep.
He followed this routine continuously for a period of 12 years(1 Tap). He uttered Lord Ram's name 130 million (130,000,000) times. As a result of such staunch and unwavering devotion, he was gifted with 8 powers (ashta siddhis) by Lord Ram himself, who appeared and asked him to start a movement to renew dharma (righteousness). Lord Ram himself gave him the title of Samartha (most competent/capable/proficient). Everyone forgot his original name 'Narayan' and started calling him 'Samartha Ramdas'. Ramdas literally means 'the most loyal devotee of Lord Ram'.
He did it the hard way, many a times remaining without food or water, for days together. Every millisecond of this time he spent in the worship of Lord Ram. During this time he was constantly guided from within by greatest worshiper of Lord Ram, Hanuman. After 12 years of extensive Sadhana he got the blessings of Lord Ram again and through him he also got the real knowledge and then he embarked on a pilgrimage of most of the holy places of India which he completed in 12 years, bare feet.
Pilgrimage And Movement
Spiritual Journey and Condition of the People – In 1554 (Shalivahana era) or 1632 CE, he left the village of Takli to start his spiritual journey and start his movement. For the next 12 years, he journeyed through all corners of India. He minutely observed the condition of the people. He realized that the frequent floods and famines and the wanton and indiscriminate attacks by Muslim rulers, which were helped by a few traitorous Hindus, had destroyed society and the social life of the people. Everyone was scared and depressed. Based on these experiences he wrote 2 books named "Asmani Sultani" and "Parachakraniroopan" detailing his minute observation of the common man. These are the only two books in the whole of the Saint literature of India which describe and record the conditions of the people of those times.
The times were difficult for the Indians during Shree Samarth’s period as outsiders were ruling India. They had encroached upon the ancient and great Indian culture and the repercussions of their authoritarian rule were devastating. Worse, the Indians themselves were following in their footsteps for petty gains, and those who dared raise their voice were thrown to the gallows. The Brahmans, who were supposedly the custodians of religion, were doing things which were considered nonreligious, the warrior caste which was doing the job of protecting the country and the people from any invaders were now taking pride in just serving the foreign rulers and gaining small benefits for themselves, the traders were nothing short of traitors as they joined hands with the bureaucrats to meet their dirty business gains, not to talk about the common men who were left bewildered by all this unforeseen transformation. The situation at best could be described by one word, chaotic. Hindu religion was there only for the names sake.Everyone became too much selfish which was neither good for him or for the society. The virtues of the society on the whole seemed to have vanished and the vices gained the upper hand. Living itself had become so difficult that people wondered if death would be a better option. They were subjected to atrocities not only by the rulers but by the opportune goons who thrived in this atmosphere. Every passing day seemed like an eon for the common man. Surviving in such a chaotic situation was possible only for the haves as the have-not were at the mercy of all the evil forces working in unison. Shree Samarth was very much distressed with the plight of the people and therefore, though he liked to remain in solitude most, he decided that he had to take a plunge in the social life to ease out the miseries of the people.
Samarth Ramdas and Sikh Guru Hargobind
According to Sikh tradition based on an old Punjabi manuscript Panjah Sakhian, Samarth Ramdas met Guru Hargobind (1595-1644) at Srinagar in the Garhval hills. The meeting, corroborated in a Marathi source, Ramdas Swami`s Bakhar, by Hanumant Swami, written in 1793, probably took place in the early 1630`s during Samarth Ramdas`s pilgrimage travels in the north and Guru Hargobind`s journey to Nanakmata in the east. It is said that as they came face to face with each other, Guru Hargobind had just returned from a hunting excursion. He was fully armed and rode a horse.
Once Samarth Ramdas during his rambles in Northern India, happened to meet Guru Hargobind at Srinagar in about 1630. Fully armed and riding a horse, the Guru had just returned from an excursion.
"I had heard that you occupied the Gaddi of Guru Nanak", said Swami Ramdas.
"Guru Nanak was a Tyagi sadhu - a saint who had renounced the world. You are wearing arms and keeping an army and horses. You allow yourself to be addressed as Sacha Patshah, the True King. What sort of a sadhu are you?" asked the Maratha saint.
Guru Hargobind replied, "Internally a hermit, and externally a prince. Arms mean protection to the poor and destruction of the tyrant. Baba Nanak had not renounced the world but had renounced Maya, i.e. self and ego:
"batan faquiri, zahir amiri, shastar garib ki rakhya, jarwan ki bhakhiya, Baba Nanak sansar nahi tyagya, Maya tyagi thi."
These words of Guru Hargobind found a ready response in the heart of Samartha Swami Ramdas who, as quoted in Pothi Panjak Sakhian, spontaneously said, "this appealeth to my mind - Yeh hamare man bhavti hai" 
Ramdas Swami was saddened to see the society of those days dependent very heavily on luck and providence. But his mission of world peace would not let him sit quietly. He knew that for a new society to take shape he would have to strive very hard for self governance, a new spiritual order to build self-confidence in the people.
After finishing the pilgrimage he went back to Mahabaleshwar. Then, at Masur, he celebrated the jayanti of Lord Ram wherein thousands of people took part in the religious activities. He started gathering people around him which was essential for his ultimate goal of establishing the Hindu religion in its original form which was in a shambles because of hundreds of years of Muslim rule in the country. Next year he found the statues of Lord Ram in the deep waters of the river Krishna near Angapur. Samarth Ramdas Swami chose the village of Chafal for initiating this mission and started this work in 1566 (Shalivahana era), or 1644 AD. He installed a statue of Lord Ram and started celebrating the festival of 'Birth of Lord Ram' (Ram Janmotsava) with fanfare.
He built a temple at Chafal and installed Lord Ram's Murti ceremoniously according to the Hindu tradition. He celebrated the birth day of Lord Ram that year at the newly built temple.He also established a temple of the Goddess PratapDurga at the Pratapgad Fort.
His teaching of not losing patience and having faith in the face of adversities, and being fearless in difficult situations helped people to deal with dangerous conditions.
He chose Hanuman, who was extremely strong, would valiantly face enemies and emerge victorious, as a role model for the common man to combat murderous opponents. Lord Ram, the great archer, who killed Ravana and helped the Gods who were captured by him, was another role model he chose. He felt that their personalities and characteristics would be ideal for the masses to follow.
He established temples of Hanuman in towns and villages and preached to the youth the message of exercising regularly for strength.Out of hundreads of these Hanuman temples 11 Maruti temples are specially mentioned by him called as 11 Maruti.
Also it is noticeable that the Hanuman Temples established by him are found in most of the part of India like Jaipur in Rajasthan, Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Tanjore in Tamil Nadu, Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh etc. It shows that his work area was throughout India.
On reaching Tanjavar, he was received by Vyankojiraje, the brother of Shree Shivaji Maharaj, who was the King of Tanjavar. He also told Shree Samarth of his desire to become his disciple to which Shree Samarth consented. At Tanjavar, one of the very revered religious figures, Pundit Raghunath also became the disciple of Shree Samarth.
Tanjaore math was the first one established by him when he came to south India for Sethu Himachal padayatra. This math still has his picture. The specialty of this picture is that he saw that picture in his own lifetime, contrary to the tradition of his days. Also depicted there are many special stories of him.
He also taught the youth to band together and fight despots and plunderers. He stressed the importance of strength along with that of knowledge, insisting that the weak could bring about no change in the world.
Emphasizing the role of hard work he said that the lazy would feel good for the time being, but it was the hard working individual who would be happy in the end.
He also highlighted the warriors' role of establishing the rule of righteousness (dharma) in running society smoothly. Their duty towards society and martyrdom for the country was given utmost importance.
While talking about the country and society, he did not ignore the family lives of individuals (duties of a grihastha). In some of his verses he stresses the importance of bringing up a healthy family and looking after the family's needs. He says that it is wise to look at the societal demands only after fulfilling the family's demands.
Samartha Ramdas Swami established many study centers all over the country, for teaching the path he advocated. These created many disciples and followers all over India.
He understood the importance of the role of women in a harmonious society. He encouraged women to participate in religious work, and gave them positions of authority. He had 18 staunch women disciples. Vennabai took care of the study center at Miraj, and Akkabai at Chafal and Sajjangad. He once strongly reprimanded an old man who was against women's participation in religious affairs by saying that everyone came from a woman's womb and those who did not understand the importance of this are not worthy of being called men. He said that respecting the role of women in society and giving them equal status was good for the growth of a healthy society.
He abhorred distinctions based on caste and creed. He preached that all human beings were equal. He stood for the abolition of social classes and for the promotion of all forms of worship.
During his last years, Samartha Ramdas Swami had the feeling that his days on this earth were coming to an end. He told to his disciples: "Even if my body will not be with you, I will always remain near you through my books which will guide you in every situation".
Shree Samarth wrote volumes of literature. To name a few, condensed version of the Dasbodha, Karunashtakas, Sunderkand and the Yuddhakand of the epic Ramayana, many Abhangas and Owis, Poorvarambh, Antarbhav, Atmaram, Chaturthman,Panchman, Manpanchak, Janaswabhawgosavi, Panchsamasi, Saptsamasi, Sagundhyan,Nirgundhyan, Junatpurush, Shadripunirupan, Panchikaranyog, Manache Shlok, Shreemat Dasbodha and many other unpublished works. Although in the Dasbodha he has stressed incessantly upon wisdom, he was a staunch believer in hard work. This is what he advocated while leading the daily life, yet he was an extremely kind hearted man which is most evident from his Karunashtakas. He was gifted with literary genius which was available for him anytime of the day or night for he almost never slept! His specialty was that although when he was touching the abstract philosophy during his thinking before he wrote, his writing was so simple that even the illiterates understood it if read for them. Another facet of his writings was straightforwardness and unhesitating approach. He used to write or dictate very fast and never paid attention if he had to use Hindi, Urdu, Arabic or Sanskrit words so long as his writing remained simple. He even introduced new words to these languages in the flow of his writing. In fact many of his sentences have become a treasure of phrases in the Marathi language. His language on top of this was very forceful. His success as a writer remained in the fact that he could convey what he wanted to tell exactly in the least possible number of words. His sentences used to be small in length but the meaning they conveyed was enormous. All in all his writings have left an indelible mark not only in Marathi but the World literature also. 
His books like 'Dasbodh', 'Manache Shlok', 'Atmaram', 'Manapanchak', 'Anandavanbhuvan', 'Shivakalyanaraja' and many more are very relevant even today. His followers consider them their guiding lights in today's troubled times.
He produced considerable literature in verse form in Marathi. Among his works, two compositions particularly stand out: A small book of meditations, Shri Manāche Shlok, advises ethical behaviour and love for God, and a large volume, Dasbodh, provides advice on both spiritual and practical topics. Apart from Dasbodh, Ramdas also wrote the Shri Māruti Stotra, a poem in praise of Hanuman, the AatmaaRaam, 11-Laghu Kavita ,Shadripu Nirupan,Maan Panchak,Chaturthmaanand Raamayan (Marathi-Teeka).
His most popular composition is the Marathi Aarti to Lord Ganesh Sukhakarta Dukhaharta. He also composed several other Aartis such as Satrane Uddane Hunkaar Vadani to Lord Hanuman and Panchanan haivahan surabhushan lila to Lord Khandoba. The most famous book written by Samarth Ramdas, "Dasbodh" has been translated into most of the prominent Indian languages, and available to readers all over the world. The original copy of Dasbodh which was written by his disciple is in the Domgaon Mutt.
Shree Samarth realized that till the foreign rule persisted there was no chance of healthy growth of the society. He therefore decided that unless there is change in the rule the society which had hit rock bottom in all fields wouldn't improve and moreover till that happened there was no glimmer of hope for the religious upheaval. Fortunately precisely at that time King Shivaji was trying his best for uprooting the foreign rule with the sole aim of the benefit of the society. Shree Samarth got the person he was looking for in King Shivaji. He wanted all the people to help him in his endeavor with all their might. Shree Samarth wanted the people to be ruled in a proper manner so that they could live fearlessly, happily and then try and imbibe religion in the true sense of spirituality. He wanted independence not for the society to misuse it for it to do anything according its whims and fancies but for upholding the principles of morality and great virtues. For gaining independence he knew that he would require selfless people for which he started the new Shree Samarth sect of Sanyasis. These neo politicians were different from the others in the sense that others saw politics as their way of life to pursue their ambitions, often tainted with evil desires whereas the Sanyasis of the Shree Samarth sect were first accountable to the God and then to everything else which gave their work a halo of its own. He knew that for this movement to succeed the members of the sect had to have some platform from which they could raise their voice to be heard not only by the people but by the rulers as well. Therefore he established Math (Holy places where like minded religious people could reside and work) at many vantage points. He was very choosy in appointing the heads of the Math knowing fully well that anything wrong done by the head would ruin the whole movement. He selected people who were multifaceted; who were spiritually oriented, set high standards of morality and at the same time were able to work for the society and were very adept in politics too. All of them had a ready made role model to follow, Shree Samarth himself. He was of the opinion that those who get themselves labeled as saints but quietly sit amid people who are suffering from lack of knowledge, basic amenities, atrocities of the foreign rulers and extreme poverty without doing anything are a shame on mankind let alone be called as saints. Therefore he firmly believed that the saints should help the people in distress by their knowledge, piety, strength gained out of their Sadhana and by being one of them rather than maintaining an aloofness which most of the saints presumed to be their duty, yet what Shree Samarth perceived as a crime. He told this to all the heads of the Math in no uncertain words. This way he blended an inseparable solution of spirituality, social work and politics. He saw to it that the people became fearless through the work of the volunteers of the sect who in fact were staunch disciples of Shree Samarth. This was probably the only example of a saint leading a political movement and that too a winning one. He thus proved to be unique among a galaxy of saints India ever produced. 
Samartha Ramdas Swami left for his heavenly abode on the noon of 9th day of Magh in 1603 (Shalivahana era), 1681 CE at Sajjangad at the age of 73.Before 5 days of leaving his heavenly abode he stopped eating fruits & drinking water called as "Prayopaveshana".He was continuously chanting the taraka mantra "Shriram Jay Ram Jay Jay Ram" in front of Lord Rama's Murti which was brought from Tnjaore. Uddhav Swami & Akka Swami were in his service. The funeral was done by Uddhav Swami.The samadhi shrine was built by Chatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj.
Samarth Ramdas had many disciples.Kalyan Swami worked as a writer for Ramdas, recording his songs and prayers. Ramdas tested him in many ways before giving him this responsible position. Other noteworthy disciples included
- Udhhav Swami
- Venna Swami
- Akka Swami
- Bhim Swami
- Divakar Swami
- Dinkar Swami
- Anant Buwa Ramdasi – Methavadekar
- Anant Kavi
- Acharya Gopaldas
- Dinkar Swami
- Dattaray Swami
- Vasudev Swami
- Bhagwan Shreedhar Swami
In the 20th century, Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgevar, Gurudev Ranade have taken inspiration from his writings & life. A large number of spiritual & social personalities are the followers of his philosophy. Nana Dharmadhikari undertook the propagation of the philosophy of Samarth Ramdas. The Dasbodh was used by Bhausaheb Maharaj, who founded the Inchegeri Sampradaya, for instruction of his students. The Dasbodh has been translated and published by American followers of Ranjit Maharaj, who belonged to the Inchegeri Sampradaya.
Shree Datta Darshan
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