Life story of Sadguru Sri Brahmachaitanya Maharaj,Gondavalekar.
Paintings by Sri Surya Prakash and Sri Ashok Bhandare
Gondavale is a village in Sathara District of Maharashtra . There was a pious couple named Raoji Panth and Gita Bai. They were devotees of Sri Panduranga Vitthala. A son was born to them on 19th February 1845 and was named Ganapathi.
Ganapathi was a very handsome, intelligent child. His memory was superb.
He was a pet of his Grand parents Sri Lingo Panth and Smt Radha Bai. The child Ganapathi spent much time with his grand parents.. He learnt to recite Bhagavadgita and chanted Bhajans.
Ganapathi was sent to the village school run by one Anna Kharshikar.. The child learnt whatever he was taught by the teacher very quickly . Soon, there was nothing more for the teacher to teach.
(Here afterwards we will call the child as Maharaj).
Maharaj, as he had learnt all the lessons, would not sit in the class. but play outside the school with Stones depicted as Ram, Sita, Lakshman and Maruthi. He did bhajans for which the other students of the school attended and played with him.
Upanayanam was performed to Maharaj at the age of eight. He learnt to chant the manthras and to meditate.
One night Sri Lingopanthaji on waking up in the mid-night found that Maharaj was absent from home. He woke up the others and every one searched for Maharaj in the village and did not find him. Then Sri Raoji along with a few others went on the bank of the river Managanga and was glad to find Maharaj sitting in meditation in a cave. He brought him back home.
Maharaj, though very young, was eager to know about and see God. There was a Maruthi Mandir near his home. Wandering saints on their way, used to stay there for a night or two. Maharaj met them and discussed with them about God. Once he asked a mendicant whether he has seen God. The mendicant replied, distressed for not seeing God, he said God can be seen only with the help of a sadguru; so he was in search of his Guru.
This made Maharaj to think of finding his Sadguru. He planned with two other friends to go in search of Guru. On a mid-night, the three young boys left their homes and walked to Kolhapur. There they stayed in the Amba bhavani temple. Pilgrims who visited the temple were attracted to young Maharaj and offered him fruits. The boys decided to go further in search of the Guru. But one of the boys, Damodar could not get on well with this kind of life and returned to Gondavale
At home , on missing Maharaj, his father made an extensive search for him, in vain.
When Damodar returned home, Sri Raoji panth learnt that Maharaj was in Kolhapur; and went to Kolhapur in search of him.
When Damodar left them, the two boys, Maharaj and Vaman left the temple. When they were walking in the street , a beggar repeatedly pestered Maharaj for alms following them in spite of telling him that they have no money to offer. As he did not leave them, Maharaj suddenly remembered about his ear rings and pulled one of the rings and offered it to the beggar. without minding the wound caused in his ear lobe .
Sri Siddeshwar, priest of the king of Kolhapur who was on the way to the temple of Godess Amba, in a horse driven cart noticed the two boys coming from the opposite direction and stopped his cart. He noticed the little Maharaj, fair and handsome, with a little blood coming out of his ear lobe and was attracted to him. He took them home. The couple had no children. They made up their mind to adopt Maharaj. So Maharaj was well taken care of. Vaman did not get the same treatment. After a few days, the disappointed Vaman, after informing Maharaj of his intention, returned to Gondavale. On his way back he met Raoji and informed him about the wherabouts of Maharaj. Raoji went to Siddheshwar's house and found Maharaj there. The couple were reluctant to send Maharaj, but Raoji convinced them and took Maharaj back to Gondavale.
Sri Lingopanthaji thought that Maharaj will stay at home if he got married. So, he searched for a suitable girl from a good family and arranged his marriage when Maharaj was just 11 year old. The girl's name was Saraswathi. Marriage was conducted in Gondavale on a large scale. The girl was very young and stayed with her parents. Sri Lingopanthaji and his wife both passed away a few months after the marriage.
The marriage did not change the mind of Maharaj who was intent on finding a Guru who will show him God. The twelve year old boy told his mother that he did not dislike the family life but he wanted to go to find the truth about God. So he requested his mother not to be anxious about him. He asked not to arrange searches for him, and left home. He was on his way in search of his spiritual guide.
The boy came across a large number of mystics and saints. Maharaj was always chanting the divine name and he had the capacity at that tender age to judge the spiritual worth of any person he came across. A few saints who could gauge the spiritual level of Maharaj blessed him, and told him "Your Guru is elsewhere".
Maharaj, wandering in search of his Guru, went to various places. He met Sri Ramakrishna Parama Hamsa of Dakshineshwar. Sri Ramakrishna remarked, " Well child! crucify yourself. Murder your self yourself." With his blessings, Maharaj moved on towards south .
One day, Maharaj was sitting on the banks of Godavari river. A saint appeared suddenly and spoke," Dear Child ! Go to Sri Tukaram Chaitanya of Yhlegaon. He will initiate you". The saint disappeared.
Yhlegaon is a village in the present-day Hingoli district of Maharashtra. There lived a saint named Tukaram. He was addressed by the local people of the village as Tuka Mayi (Mother Tuka) meaning that he had motherly affection to the poor people in distress. He was a born Yogi. He was initiated by a holy sanyasin named Chinmayananda when he was still a boy. After the initiation, he used to meditate always. The people there believed that he had divine power and always pestered him to ward off their difficulties. Though kind, he was annoyed by the people who surrounded him for their material gains. Nobody asked for their spiritual advancement. So, in order to avoid such people, he used to leave his home early in the morning and return after sunset. He used to go to some field or to a riverside and sit for meditation. He sat in deep contemplation so that he forgot his own existence. So, many times, he was away from home for several days. .
Surprisingly, one day he started telling the villagers who surrounded him, "Beware, O villagers, Beware! A robber is on his way to this place. He is coming to rob me completely". The villagers knew that Tuka Mayi had no money or jewels. So, what was there to be robbed? They could not understand that what he meant was his spiritual wealth.
True to his prediction, on the third day morning, Maharaj now about fourteen years of age came to his house enquiring about him. Tukaram was not in the house. So Maharaj went to the river, took bath, and returned to Tukaram's house. Inmates of the house called him inside and offered food.
But he waited outside the house, and did not take any food. In the dusk, a commotion was there on the road outside the house. It indicated that Tukamayi had come. Tukaram entered the house. Inmates told him that a boy is waiting since morning outside the house without taking any food. So, he turned back and shouted, "where is that boy! that thief !" He saw the boy standing before him with folded hands and tears in his eyes. Tukaram roared, "Come on, I am going to murder your self". Maharaj humbly replied , " Guruji! I surrender myself to you," With these words Maharaj fell on Sri Tukaram's feet. Now, Sri Tukaram could not control his tears of joy. He lifted Maharaj and embraced him with deep affection. For Maharaj,this meeting was the end of his search for Guru.
Sri Tukaram tested Maharaj in various ways. Maharaj, still a boy, surrendered with his heart and soul to
his Guru. The Guru's orders were hard to follow some times; still the disciple obeyed without any murmur. The Guru was very kind and loved the boy though he seemed to be harsh. Maharaj rendered all kinds of service to Sri Tukaram. He brought water from the river every morning and swept the house clean. He washed his clothes. He did every small or big personal service required. He ate only after his Guru ate. Some times Sri Tukaram went away in to the far of fields and took his food with a farmer. On such days Maharaj had to starve. Every night Maharaj massaged his Guru's legs. He slept only after his Guru went to sleep. Sri Tukaram gave severe tests to his disciple. Some times, he would order the disciple to jump in to a well or into the flooded river. Maharaj used to carry a heavy load of Sugarcanes on his head. Every order was implicitly obeyed. Sri Tukaram's word was law for Maharaj.
Sri Rama Jaya Rama Jaya Jaya Rama
During this period Maharaj became adept in contemplation. All desires were abandoned. His mind became pure. He was ready to plunge into the infinite Ananda of the divine being.
On a Sri Rama Navami day, Sri Tukaram took Maharaj out of the house and both took bath in the river. They seated under a banyan tree. Sri Tukaram told Maharaj, " Dear Child! You have been with me for nine months. You have passed my severe tests. You are now fit for the Divine Grace. I shall give you now what the sage Vashishta gave Sri Rama, and what my Guru has given me. Receive it with devotion." So saying Sri Tukaram whispered in the ear of Maharaj, "Sri Rama Jaya Rama Jaya Jaya Rama", and placed his right hand on Maharaj's head.Maharaj immediately lost himself in deep samadhi. After several hours when he returned to his normal consciousness, he was enchanted with the supreme joy of the Divine being. To mark the attainment of sainthood , Sri Tukaram gave him a new name and called him "Brahma chaitanya". Since then he is known as Brahma chaitanya Maharaj. After a few days Sri Maharaj was asked to go on pilgrimage, and to visit his parents. He advised him to give solace to the poor and meek. He asked him to surrender to God and let the divine name be his main sadhana . He said, "Construct Rama Mandirs and help the needy and poor spreading love among them. Show them the way to inward peace. My blessings are ever with you."
Sri Maharaj prepared to leave Yelegaon. He was about sixteen years of age. He bowed down to Sri Tukaram and the parting of the two spiritual persons were unique and divine.
Sri Maharaj went towards north. At Ujjain, he was in samadhi for two months. Then went into Himalayas. He stayed there for several months in caves doing penance. He met many sages there. When he was in Naimisharanya, a dense forest area, he was staying in a small cave, meditating.
Our country was in a state of turmoil during that period. British were dominating and were taking control of the country. So, many kings took up to drive out the British, and started a war now known as First war of Independence. But, unfortunately the British won the battle and many kings were killed or subordinated. Maharashra was ruled by one Nana Rao with an able minister Tatya Tope. Tatya Tope was captured and hanged. Nana Rao ran for his life. He entered Naimisharanya and met Sri Maharaj there. Sri Maharaj saved him from the chasing British soldiers. He showed him a bigger cave and told him to stay there as the time was not yet ripe for independence .Nana Rao stayed there with an assistant. When Maharaj started to leave Naimisharanya, Nana Rao felt very unhappy. But Sri Maharaj assured him that he would come when he needed him.
Sri Maharaj, wherever he went preached Ramnam, and his presence comforted the people who came across him. By the age of twenty he had become a perfect saint with miraculous powers. On his way he went to Ayodhya. Many persons impressed by him took to Ramnam. A Bengali disciple took Sri Maharaj to Calcutta. From there, Sri Maharaj came to Indore. In Indore, he stayed in a farm of a rich person. Jijabai, wife of the rich person, who had a low opinion about wandering young saints, wanted to test Sri Maharaj. She fed him with Chilly powder balls and burning embers. Sri Maharaj took her test cheerfully, and ate what she served. Jeejabai was shocked and repented for testing a holy person of miraculous powers. Jeejabai became his ardent devotee.
A few sadhus followed him. On his pilgrimage to holy places, he went towards south. He visited Tirupathi and had darshan of Lord Venkateshwara. Then he proceeded towards Rameshwaram.
He visited Sri Rangam and Madurai. On the way to Rameshwaram, he came across a leper who had lost his legs but wanted to go to Rameshwaram as his last wish. Sri Maharaj planned to carry him to the holy place. The sadhus and Sri Maharaj carried him turn by turn. And the leper had the darshan of Sri Rameshwar.
Finally, he decided to go to Gondavale. He went to his house and asked for alms. Gita Bai, brought some grains to him and did not recognize him. Sri Maharaj told her, " I do not want grains, give me the curds in the stone vessel standing in the kitchen corner." Suddenly, Gita bai realized that her beloved son Ganu is standing there. Both the mother and the father were very happy to have their son back after nine long years. He bowed to them touching their feet. Sri Maharaj stayed with his parents. And as per his mother's wish he changed his dress and removed his beard. But soon the villagers learnt of his return. His old friends and others visited him to have a chat and to learn about his experience. He was sympathetic towards them , but he spoke only about God.
Gitabai expressed her desire to bring her daughter in law from her father's house. So, Sri Maharaj went to his in-law's place and brought his wife Smt Saraswathi Bai. His parents were happy.
Sri Raoji handed over the post of village accountant and other responsibilities to his son and retired. After some time, Sri Raoji departed from this life.
Sri Maharaj carried out the duty of the village accountant very well. The village people and the government officials both were happy and satisfied with his work. But, after a few months, he resigned from his work and handed it over to some other person. Now, he was free.
After some time, Sri Maharaj wanted to meet his Guru Sri Tukaram. Smt Saraswathi Bai expressed her desire to have darshan of his Guru. And Geetha Bai warned him not to go alone this time but to take his wife with him. Sri Maharaj went to Yelegao with his wife. Sri Tukaram was happy to meet his disciple. They stayed for a few days there and took permission of Sri Tukaram to leave the place. Sri Tukaram blessed the couple. When Sri Tukaram asked her if she had any desire, Smt Saraswathibai expressed her desire to have a son. Sri Tukaram blessed her. True to her wish, she had a son, but short lived. After some time she also passed away.
Smt Saraswathi Bai was a saintly person. She looked after her mother in law and the household affairs very well. Many devotees visited Sri Maharaj. She was cordial to all. With her passing away, Gita Bai was in a shock for loosing such a good daughter-in-law.
Now, Sri Maharaj had to take the burden of household responsibility. Gita Bai insisted Sri Maharaj to remarry. With Gita Bai's repeated entreats, Sri Maharaj told her, " Mother, as per your wish I will marry. But this time it will be my choice."
One day, Sri Maharaj went to a village called Atpadi. Deshpande of the village had six daughters. One of them was born blind. Sri Maharaj chose her to be his second wife. He appointed a day for the marriage. On the appointed day, Sri Maharaj went alone, finished the marriage ceremony and brought his new wife to Gondavale. He presented his wife to his mother with the words, " Mother, I have brought a new daughter-in-law for you. She is so humble that she will never look at you with her eyes."
Sri Maharaj made his house a Rama Mandir and installed the divine Murthys there. Many devotees visited him and invited him to their places. He always preached Ramanam, His words were nectar like to the people who came to him either for spiritual advancement or for their mundane problems. He looked after the visitors well providing accommodation to stay
with food. Sri Maharaj had discovered the supreme God for himself and he wanted other people to see Him. For Sri Maharaj the supreme God was symbolised by Sri Ram. Gondavale became a pilgrim center.
He had a horse named Batasha. He loved to ride on it. Batasha loved him too. The horse felt unhappy if Sri Maharaj did not ride on it for several days.
Sri Maharaj saved many cows from going to the slaughter house by buying them. He tended them with loving care.
When he called them by name, they used to run towards him with affection. He was very fond of them.
While camping at Indore, a youth named Anantha shastry came to him. He was a Sanskrit scholar learned in vedas, tarka shastras. But realizing that these did not help him spiritually, he started doing penance. One night Lord Venkateshwara came in his dream and told him to go in search of his Guru. Sri Anantha shastry wandered up to Himalayas visiting many pilgrim centers including Varanasi. Where ever he went he was recognized as a scholar and people complimented him with gifts. But he did not get what he wanted. So, he gave away whatever he got to the beggars, and went on his way. Finally, he came to Indore. He was taken to Sri Brahmachaitanya Maharaj by Sri Bhayyasaheb Modak. .On meeting Sri Maharaj, he surrendered to him and became his disciple. Sri Maharaj after having him for a few months in Gondavale, initiated him with Taraka naam and told him to meditate in the /Shiva temple on the banks of river Narmada.. Sri Anantha Shastry, with great devotion, did anushthan in the Shiva temple. At the end , Sri Maharaj suddenly appeared before him and told him to stop the anushthan and return to Gondavale. He also named him Brahmanand.
Many persons, young and old became desciples of Sri Maharaj. To name only a few, Sri Brahmananda Maharaj, Sri Ananda Sagar, Sri Maha bhagavat, Sri GanapathiraoDamle, Sri Bhavoo Saheb Ketkar, Sri Tatya Saheb Ketkar and a host of others.
A robber left his bad ways and became an honest citizen after coming in to contact with Sri Maharaj.
//An armed revolutionist, Vasudev Balavanth Fadke, who was fighting against British came to Sri Maharaj. Sri Maharaj advised him that the time was not yet ripe for freedom, and told him to stop his fight. But he did not listen to Sri Maharaj's advice, and he died in the feedom struggle.
After several years of staying at Gondavale, he felt it was time to leave family life and decided to go to Naimisharanya. When he started his journey by sitting on a horse driven cart, the archak of Sri Rama mandir came running and told Sri Maharaj that tears are coming from the eyes of Sri Rama, and did not stop even after wiping it several times. Immediately Sri Maharaj went to the divine Murthys and wiped the tears of Sri Ram, telling that" If you do not want me to go to Naimisharanya I will not go. Ram, please stop your tears. " As soon as Sri Maharaj uttered these words tears stopped running from Sri Ramachandra Murthy.
Many devotees took his padukas (wooden footwear) and kept in their pooja room. Having his Padukas in their house was like having Sri Maharaj himself in their house.
During his camp in Pune, Lokamanya Balagangadhar Tilak used to meet him.
When he was wandering in naimisharanya, he was bound by several snakes. He easily came out of their clutches
Mother Gita Bai was getting old. Sri Maharaj asked " Mother, have you any desire?" She replied that with having such an inspiring and great son she was fully contented and satisfied. But, she had a desire of visiting Kashi. Sri Maharaj immediately planned to go to Kashi. Many devotees followed them. On the day of departure, they had to go on a cart up to Railway station. Gita bai sat in a cart. She reminded Sri Maharaj to check whether the house was locked. On her repeated enquiry, Sri Maharaj told her not to worry. And then went into the house and opened the lock and told the surrounding villagers to take anything they wanted from the house. Soon, the house became empty. Then Sri Maharaj told his mother that there was nothing in the house to make her worry for its safety. Then they went on the pilgrimage. They visited Kashi, Gaya, Prayag and Ayodhya. At Ayodhya , she had become very weak. He carried her to the river Sarayu and bathed her. Afterwards, he made her to sit on a mat under a tree and told her, "Give money as charity to the beggars and poor people who come to you. Money is kept under the mat. Give as much as you like". She gave liberally to every beggar till evening . She was surprised to learn that some money was still remaining. She was happy that she had such a great son as Sri Maharaj. Next day, she slept on her son's lap, and left her body chanting Ramnam.
Poojya Yamuna bai (Ayi saheba), second wife of Sri Maharaj, was born blind. As she had one desire of seeing Sri Maharaj, he made her see him with her eyes. Then, she requested him to keep her blind, as she has seen him and she will keep the vision of his person, always. Sri Maharaj stayed in Gondavale. Gondavale became a pilgrim centre.
Sri Ganjoor Venkannaiah , who was in Malligere, near Chikkanayakana halli of Mysore kingdom, supervising a tank construction, got a vision of Sri Maharaj. Sri Maharaj ordered him, "Come to Gondavale" in Marathi. Though Sri Venkannaiah did not understand what was told, he made a note in his diary. Miraculously within a few days, he came to know that Gondavale is a village near Koregaon, Maharashtra. So, he went to Gondavale and met Sadguru Sri Brahmachaitanya Maharaj, the same saint who appeared to him in Malligere. Sri Venkannaiah who was always in the desire of meeting his sadguru, was very happy. Sri Maharaj initiated him Tarak Nam, and ordered him:
Do namasmarana without break,
Spread or propagate Rama-Nama
Construct a small Mandir of Sri Rama
Carry on Upasana.
Sri Maharaj sent him back to his place blessing him with his padukas and a rupee coin.
This happened in the third week of November 1913.
Sri Venkannaiah who was continuously doing upasana, procured a site for Sri Rama Mandir in Chintamani, near his native place Ganjur, and foundation ceremony was conducted in 1939. And on 13th of June 1949, the divine marble idols of Sri Ram, Sita, Lakshman, Maruthi and Sri Brahmachaitanya Maharaj were installed in the holy presence of Poojya Tatya Saheb Ketkar Maharaj and Poojya Kundagol Narayanappa Maharaj.
Sri Rama Jaya Rama Jaya Jaya Rama
Sri Maharaj felt the time had come for him to leave his body. He told his ever surrounding devotees to do Ramnam. He had constructed many Rama Mandirs all over the country. Gondavale had become a pilgrim center. The visiting pilgrims took to Ramnam and felt solace.
On Monday, 22nd December 1913, at 5.50 a.m. Sri Maharaj took a deep breath ,closed his eyes, uttered "Sri Ram" and went into Samadhi. And that was the last of him in this body. The surrounding devotees wept like children. The spiritual Sun of Gondavale had set, but only to spread his light all over the world for generations to come.
Samadhi Mandir at Gondavale.
जयाचा जनी जन्म नामात जाला। जयानॆ सदा वास नामात कॆला।
जयाचा मुखी सर्वदा नाम कीर्ति । नमस्कार त्या ब्रह्मचैतन्य मूर्ति ॥