Visoba Khechara (unknown - 1309 CE), spelled also as Visoba Khechar or Visoba Khecar, was the yogi-guru of the Varkari poet-saint Namdev (c.1270-1350) of Maharashtra, India. Visoba was a disciple of the Varkari poet-saint Dnyaneshwar (c. 1275-1296). He had linkages with the Varkari tradition as well as the Nath tradition of Maharashtra. He preached the omnipresence of God and thus denounced idol-worship. Though a staunch Shaiva, Visoba has composed verses in praise of the Vaishnava god Vithoba, the patron deity of the Varkari faith. He has also composed a manuscript called the Sansthal.
The name Visoba is derived from the word viṣṇein, which means to relax and relates to the meeting of Visoba with Namdev. The latter part of the name Khechara (lit. "one who is moving in air") relates him being a Siddha, a Tantric master possessing magical powers and his linkage to the Nath tradition of Maharashtra. Another theory relates his name khechara, literally meaning a mule in Marathi, as the name Dnyaneshwar and Muktai called him in contempt, when Visoba refused to believe in their powers.
Visoba either lived in Amvadhya or Barsi. The story of Visoba's transformation is told in the text Bhaktivijaya of Mahipati. In the text, Visoba's real name is said to be Visoba Chati. He is described as a Brahmin, who hated the Varkari poet-saint Dnyaneshwar and his siblings and created obstacles in their path. Once, when Dnyaneshwar's sister Muktai or Muktabai went to get some earthenware from the potter, Visoba struck her angrily and disallowed the potter to sell her his pans. Disheartened, Muktai returned home and told the tale to Dnyaneshwar. The text says he heated his back by his yogic powers and Muktai baked the food on his back. Astonished by seeing this miracle, Visoba repented and asked for forgiveness from Dnyaneshwar. Initially, Dnyaneshwar calls Visoba "a scavenger bird", which gave him the name "Visoba Khechara". Though, Visoba refused to acknowledge Dnyaneshwar and Muktai, but after knowing their spiritual greatness he became their disciple. Even though elder to Dnyaneshwar, he is described as servant ("Kimkara") of Dnyaneshwar, by poet-saint Bahinabai.
According to the text Dnyandev Gatha, Dnyaneshwar and Muktai instruct Namdev to journey to temple of Aundha Nagnath in search of a proper Guru. In the temple, Namdev finds Visoba resting with his feet on the sacred Shiva-linga, the symbol of Lord Mahadeva(Shiva). Namdev reproached him for having insulted Lord Sadashiva. Visoba asked Namdev to place his feet elsewhere, wherever Namdev placed Visoba's feet a Linga sprang up. Thus, through his yogic powers, Visoba filled the whole temple with Shiva-lingas and taught Namdev the omnipresence of God. Other texts which record Visoba as the guru of Namdev are Adkar from Sikh text Guru Granth. Some texts call Visoba Khecharnath Nathpanthi, linking him to the Nath tradition.
He also accompanied Dnyaneshwar and Namdev on their pilgrimages. He died in Barsi on Shravana Shuddha Ekadashi (the 11th lunar day in the fortnight of the waxing moon in the Hindu month Shravana) in 1309 CE.
Teachings and literary works
Visoba denounced idol-worship and advices Namdev to not worship God as a stone image. He says:
A stone god never speaks. What is the possibility then of his removing the disease of mundane existence? A stone image is regarded as God but true God is wholly different. If a stone god fulfils desires, how is it that he breaks when struck? Those who adore a god made of stone, lose everything through their folly. Those who speak and hear that a god of stone speaks to his devotees are both of them fools. Whether a holy place is small or large there is no god but stone or water. There is no place which is devoid of God. That God has shown Nama (Namdev) in his heart and thus Khecar (Visoba) confers a blessing on him.
Though described as a staunch Shaiva (worshipper of Shiva), Visoba has also written abhangas (verses) in praise of the Vaishnava god Vithoba, the patron-deity of the Varkari tradition. The Dnyandev Gatha also mentions Khechara, as playing at the Gopal-kala festival in the Pandharpur - where Vithoba's chief temple is located - along with the brothers Dnyaneshwar, Nivrittinath and Sopan. This also suggests Visoba being a devotee of god Vithoba. Visoba has also written a manuscript called Satsthal.
- Schomer p. 225-6
- Ranade p. 189
- Mahipati pp.152-6
- Mahipati p. xxxvii
- Callewaert p. 19
- Dasgupta pp.114-5
- Zelliot, Eleanor in Mokashi (1987) p. 40 Mokashi, Digambar Balkrishna; Engblom, Philip C. (1987). Palkhi: a pilgrimage to Pandharpur - translated from the Marathi book Pālakhī. SUNY Press. ISBN 0-88706-461-2.
- Callewaert p. 35
- The Sants By Karine Schomer, W. H. McLeod 
- Mysticism in India By Ramchandra Dattatraya Ranade 
- Stories of Indian Saints By Mahipati, Justin Edwards Abbott, Ganesh Vasudeo Tagare, Narhar Godbole 
- Hindu Mysticism By S. N. Dasgupta 
- The Hindi Padavali of Namdev By W. M. Callewaert, Lath M.