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Narayan Suryaji Thosar
April, 1608, Ramnavmi,1608
1530 Saka era
|Died||2 February 1681|
1603 (Saka era)
|Literary works||Dasbodh, Manobodh, Aatmaaram, Manache Shlok, Shri Maruti stotras like Bheemaroopi among many others.|
Shree Samarth Ramdas (Marathi language: Rāmdās) was a noted 17th-century saint and spiritual poet of Maharashtra. He is most remembered for his Advaita Vedantist text, the Dasbodh. Ramdas was a devotee of Hanuman and Rama.
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The birth name of Samartha Ramdas Swami was Narayan Suryaji Thosar. He was born on Ramnavami (in the month of Chaitra) in 1530 (Shalivahana era), 1608 CE, in Jamb village, Ambad taluk, Jalna district, on the banks of the river Godavari in Deshastha Rugvedi Brahmin family of Jamadagni Goatra (clan). His parents were Suryaji Pant and Ranubai; his elder brother was Gangadhar Swami. His father died when Ramdas was eight, turning him into an introvert. He was engrossed in thoughts of God and tried to find out how to meet God. At age 12, Ram appeared to him and advised him to count the 13 lettered Ram tarak Mantra 108 times at least once a day. Then Ram accepted him as his disciple, naming him Ramdas.[full citation needed]
At 11, he attained enlightenment and advised by Lord Ram, started new sector on the banks of the river Krishna. At 12, while he was standing on the podium during his marriage ceremony, he heard the Brahmins chanting wedding mantras that included the word “Savadhan." This word has other meanings, including "Beware!” Immediately after hearing it, he knew what it meant; he fled the scene and went to the holy city, Nasik, where he started his worship of Ram, which lasted for 12 years. This account of events however, appears to be an exaggerated story. Marriage and family were not his priorities, preferring the life of a monk.
Pilgrimage and Early Movement
In 1554 (Shalivahana era) or 1632 CE, he left Takli to pilgrimage throughout India and start his spiritual journey. He journeyed for 12 years throughout India and observed the frequent floods, famines, and attacks by Muslim rulers that had destroyed society. He detailed his observations in two books - Asmani Sultani and Parachakraniroopan. These are the only two books in Indian Saint literature that record the conditions of those times. (see books below)
After finishing the pilgrimage he returned to Mahabaleshwar. Then, at Masur, he celebrated the Ramnavami with thousands of followers. He gathered people to advance his ultimate goal of returning the Hindu religion to its original form after its decline during hundreds of years of Muslim rule. He later found statues of Lord Ram in the Krishna river near Angapur.
Ramdas chose the village of Chafal and initiated his mission in 1566 (Shalivahana era), or 1644 CE. He installed a statue of Lord Ram at a newly built temple and started celebrating the festival of 'Birth of Lord Ram' (Ram Janmotsava) with fanfare. He also established a temple of the Goddess Pratap Durga at the Pratapgad Fort.
Since childhood, Ramdas was fond of vigorous physical activity. He loved to exercise and was well built and intelligent. He established temples of Hanuman (commonly known as Maruti) in towns and villages and preached the message of exercising regularly for strength. Out of hundreds of these Hanuman temples 11 are specially mentioned by him as 11 Maruti.
|Chaphal Vir Maruti Temple||Satara||1648|
|Chaphal Das Maruti Temple||Satara||1648|
On reaching Tanjavar, he was received by Vyankoji, the King of Tanjavar and the stepbrother of King Shivaji. Ramdas accepted him as his disciple. At Tanjavar, revered religious figure Pundit Raghunath became his disciple. Tanjaore mathā was established when Ramdas came to south India for Sethu Himachal Padayatra. This mathā contains many stories of his life.
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Ramdas produced volumes of output. These include a 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 unpublished works. Unlike the varkari saints, Ramdas was not pacifist and his writing includes strong militant expressions to Hindu nationalism as a means to protect against muslim rule. In his writings,he also advocates unity of Marathas in propagating Maharashtra dharma.
His writing was so simple that illiterates understood it if read aloud to them. He took a straightforward, forceful and unhesitating approach. He used to write or dictate quickly and used Hindi, Urdu, Arabic or Sanskrit words so long as his writing remained simple. He introduced new words to these languages. Many of his sentences have become widely used the Marathi language.
He produced considerable literature in verse form in Marathi.
- Shri Manāche Shlok, advises ethical behaviour and love for God and a large volume (co-written by Kalyan).
- Dasbodh, provides advice on both spiritual and practical topics
- Shri Māruti Stotra, a poem in praise of Hanuman,
- 11-Laghu Kavita
- Shadripu Nirupan
- Maan Panchak
- 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. He has written Aarti of almost all Gods. His most famous work, Dasbodh has been translated into most of the prominent Indian languages. The original copy of Dasbodh, scribed by his disciple, is in the Domgaon mathā.
He said that the lazy would feel good temporarily, but that hard working individuals would stay happy. He taught the youth to band together to combat despots and plunderers. He stressed the importance of both strength and knowledge, insisting that the weak could not bring about change. He highlighted the warriors' role of establishing the rule of righteousness (dharma) in running society. He gave their duty towards society and martyrdom the utmost importance. He abhorred distinctions based on caste and creed, preaching that all human beings were equal. He stood for the abolition of social classes and for the promotion of worship. He encouraged women to participate in religious work and gave them positions of authority. He had 18 female disciples. Vennabai managed the study center at Miraj and Akkabai at Chafal and Sajjangad. He once 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 were unworthy of being called men. He said that respecting the role of women and giving them equal status was good for the growth of a healthy society.
In Dasbodh, Ramdas extolls the virtues of good handwriting (Chapter 19.10, Stanza 1-3). He stressed the primary importance of looking after the family's needs and that societal demands were secondary. Ramdas established study centers across India, teaching his path, creating many disciples and followers
He started the Shree Samarth religious sect to work for the liberation of India and for the renewal of true spirituality. He established several Mathā and chose leaders of the who were multifaceted, spiritual, set high moral standards and were able to work for the society, but were also politically adept. His followers were neophytes who had not been corrupted by politics. He supported King Shivaji, who was trying to overthrow the Muslim rulers. Ramdas was of the opinion that saints who sit quietly in the midst of suffering were a shame on mankind and unfit to be saints. He proclaimed this to the heads of the Math. He thereby blended spirituality, social work and politics. In the end, his movement was successful.
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
- Kalyan Swami
- Udhhav Swami
- Venna Swami
- Akka Swami
- Bheem Swami Shahapurkar
- Divakar Swami
- Dinkar Swami
- Anant Buwa Ramdasi – Methavadekar
- Anant Kavi
- Anant Mauni
- Acharya Gopaldas
- Dinkar Swami
- Dattaray Swami
- Vasudev Swami
- Bhagwan Shreedhar Swami
- Sethuram Bawa
In the 20th century, Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Keshav Baliram Hedgevar, Gurudev Ranade took inspiration from him. Spiritual and social personalities follow his philosophy. Nana Dharmadhikari promoted Ramdas' teachings. Dasbodh was used by Bhausaheb Maharaj, who founded the Inchegeri Sampradaya, for instruction of his students. Dasbodh has been translated and published by American followers of Ranjit Maharaj, who belonged to the Inchegeri Sampradaya.
Relations with Contemporary personalities
Sikh Guru Hargobind
According to Sikh tradition based on an old Punjabi manuscript Panjah Sakhian, Ramdas met Guru Hargobind (1595-1644) at Srinagar in the Garhwal hills. The meeting, corroborated in a 1793 Marathi source, Ramdas Swamichi Bakhar (written by Hanumant Swami), probably took place in the early 1630s during Ramdas' pilgrimage travels in the north and Guru Hargobind`s journey to Nanakmata in the east. It is said that as they met, Hargobind had just returned from a hunting 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 (wealth/luxury). These words of Guru Hargobind found a ready response in Ramdas who, as quoted in Pothi Panjak Sakhian, spontaneously said, "Yeh hamare man bhavti hai" (this appealeth to my mind). After this meeting Samrath Ramdas decided to include Shastarvidya in training of Chatarpati Shivaji who was earlier getting only religious training. This meeting with Guru shaped history of Marathas. 
Chhatrapati Shivaji and Sambhaji
Although Ramdas and Shivaji never met, some modern historians consider Ramdas a spiritual guide of Shivaji.  Shivaji granted the fort of Parli to Ramdas.The fort was later renamed Sajjangad. Shivaji's son, Sambhaji was a devout Hindu and had great respect for Ramdas. Ramdas had written a letter to Sambhaji guiding him on what to do and what not to do after the death of Shivaji. Sambhaji later built a samadhi temple for Ramdas on Sajjangad upon the latter's death.
Ramdas established Aadya Chafal Math first and then in year 1648 founded Shree Ram Mandir, Das Maruti Mandir and Veer Maruti Mandir.
Ramdas died on the ninth day of Magh, 1603 (Shalivahana era), 1681 CE at Sajjangad at age 73. For five days prior to this he had ceased eating fruits and drinking water called as "Prayopaveshana". He was continuously chanting the taraka mantra "Shriram Jay Ram Jay Jay Ram" in front of Ram's Murti which was brought from Tanjore. Uddhav Swami and Akka Swami were in his service.
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