Saraswati Gangadhar सरस्वती गंगाधर (16th century?) is well known as the writer of the Shri GuruCharitra, the most powerful, influential and effective book written on the life of Shri Narasimha Saraswati (Shri Nrusimha Saraswati) who is considered as the second Avatar of Shri Dattatreya. Nothing much is known about this poet's life. The only way we know him is through his masterpiece Shri GuruCharitra.
Guru-Charitra : Guru's Life Story or Guru's Biography.
The lineage of his family is as follows: Sayamdeva, his son-> Nagnath, his son -> Devrao, his son-> Gangadhar and his son -> Saraswati Gangadhar. He belonged to the Aapastambha Brahmin shakha and his gotra is Kaudinya. The name of his mother's father is Chaundeshwar. His mother's name was Champa. His surname is Saakhare. This information is given in the first chapter of Shri Gurucharitra. It is not known how many children he had. However, he keeps mentioning about his "poorvaj" who is Sayamdev. Sayamdev was one of the four close disciples of Shri Narasimha Saraswati. Saraswati Gangadhar is the fifth generation person (great-great-grandson) in Sayamdev family.
As a poet, he is exceptional in his clarity of thoughts, selection of words and poetic sense. He has a tremendous command over his language. His mother tongue was Kannada and NOT Marathi. However, his Gurucharitra uses very exceptional Marathi. Even then the Grantha does not have difficult to understand Sanskrit scripts. This shows his command over the language. As a poet he is truly extraordinary and shows his talents in the construction of many stanzas ("ovya") which after reading will appear as if they are from general purpose (or colloquial) language used in one's daily life. The selection of words and their flow is truly marvelous and shows his deep understanding and command over the Marathi language.
The Gurucharitra written by him is considered as a "Ved" of Datta-Sampradaya which is quite wide spread in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra-Pradesh. This Grantha is somewhat like Gita for Datta-Sampradaya people. Saraswati Gangadhar has written 51 Chapters, in which he describes the life and philosophy of Shri Shripad ShriVallabha and Shri Narasimha Saraswati. These are two avatars of Shri Dattatreya. In spite of descriptions of Vedanta and other heavy philosophical ideas, this Grantha is written excellently and this makes it a one of the unique Granthas of its kind in the world. It is quite possible (according to experts like Prof. R. C. Dhere) that he possibly had the Sanskrit version of the Gurucharitra written by Shri Narasimha Saraswati's disciple "Siddha" and he may have translated that in prakrit language i.e. Marathi.
(Pra-krit : Not Processed or Synthesized. Sans-krit : Processed or Synthesized).
Unfortunately nothing is known about Saraswati Gangadhar's life and death. But it appears that he was not born when Shri Narasimha Saraswati was alive (Possibly 1378AD to 1458AD). It is also not possible that he may have had contact with one of the disciples, say "Siddha" of Shri Narasimha Saraswati. However, he must have had access to the Sanskrit Gurucharitra written by Shri Siddha. There is no version or copy of this original Sanskrit Gurucharitra available anywhere, so this is just a guess. Later in the 19th-20th century, Shri Vasudevanand Saraswati alias Tembe Swami (1854AD-1914AD) wrote the Sanskrit version of Shri GuruCharitra.
Saraswati Gangadhar is truly great as a poet, because he describes many events (even the mythological ones) with such a great sense of power, that he shows that exceptional level of expression in words which is very rare. This makes him one of the greatest among the Marathi poets. He lived in village Kadaganchi now located in Karnataka.
- Shri Gurucharitra by Saraswati Gangadhar (Edited by Mr.Ramchandra Krishna Kamat)
- Datta Sampradayacha Itihaas (History of Datta Sampradya) by R. C. Dhere
- Dattatreya Dnyaankosh by Dr. P. N. Joshi