The contribution of Indian saints in the field of literature is significant. When said Abhang then Sant Tukaram Maharaj has become an equation. The reason is the same, as for the past three centuries, his hymns and Abhangas have enlivened the atmosphere of the spiritual world. They are fondly called Tukoba or Tukobaraya by the Marathi people.
He also inspired the people for Vitthal Bhakti. His efforts gave impetus to the Bhakti movement.
He taught kindness towards animals, Sattvic and simple lifestyle, honesty, positive and pure thinking through social awareness by performing kirtans.
Therefore, his contribution in the Bhakti movement was high. He also promoted the Varkari sect and raised this sect to the highest peak during his time.
It is believed that one day, a saint named Chaitanya came in his dream, who gave him a Gurumantra “Ramakrishna Hari”.
How a common man became a saint while living in the world. He can attain self-knowledge and self-development by following unwavering devotion, virtue in mind of everyone.
Family of Tukaram Maharaj
He belonged to a Maratha caste Kunbi i.e. farmer family. A name of father of Sant Tukaram Maharaj was Bolhoba and name of mother was Kankai. According to the blog TheFamousBiographyInfo, he was the second of five siblings. Also Muktabai and Tukabai were his two sisters.
According to an answer written by Shankar Bangar on Quora platform Kyora, Savaji was his elder brother and Kanhoba was his younger brother.
Support of family in spiritual activities
Family of Tukaram Maharaj supported him a lot in his spiritual work. He married twice, and both his wives helped him pursue his passion for spirituality despite financial difficulties.
Teaching and Thinking
According to his view, a person who attains spiritual knowledge is motivated to lead a Sattvic life. Often people who lead a Sattvic life adopt the path of devotion. Those people gradually gain control over the six vices of man and completely surrender to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Ultimately these people meet to Supreme Lord and attain salvation.
Many types of Maharashtrian literature are based on the compositions of Tukaram Maharaj. His influence on Indian literature can be seen. His teachings and thoughts apply to people of all ages. So Vaishnavas have preserved their heritage even today through their traditions.
The married life of Sant Tukaram was difficult. He married Rakhmabai, a religious follower. After some time they had a son. Tukaram Maharaj named this boy “Santhu”. Rakhmabai supported Tukaram Maharaj a lot in his spiritual work.
Encouragement for spiritual resolution from Rakhmabai
At this time, I remember a famous incident about him. Once, Tukaram Maharaj made a strict resolution to fast until he received divine guidance. But many days passed but not got signs of any divine guidance.
Finally, Tukoba decided to break the fast. So he asked his wife Rakhmabai to bring a plate of food. At that time, Rakhmabai brings pieces of sugarcane and encourages him to continue fasting, teaching him spiritual devotion.
The worst period in life of Tukaram Maharaj
Suddenly both his wife and son died in a terrible famine between 1630 and 32.
Tukaram Maharaj was greatly affected by the passing away of his wife and son. He isolated himself from society. He now started to devote most of his time to spirituality and he engaged in religious contemplation. He devoted himself completely to devotion to the Lord.
During this period of self-inspection, he realized that it is better to flourish in devotion without renouncing the world. Due to his devotion to God, he gradually came out of suffering.
Return of Tukaram Maharaj to the household
After that he got married again. The name of his second wife was Avalai Jijabai. They had four children. Among them three were sons named Mahadev, Vitthal, Narayan and one was a daughter named Bhagirathi.
From Tukaram Ambile (More) to Saint Tukaram
His loyalty to Vitthala and family support enabled him to be recognized as a spiritual leader, a great saint and a poet in society. It is believed that his later generations carried on his legacy. A legacy that has been maintained by his generation till date. At present his descendants have a respectable position in society and even today they live in Dehu, Maharashtra.
Bliss in the service of God
As a young man, he initially worked as a shopkeeper for some time. During this period, he continued his religious practice. His first wife and son died during this period. These unfortunate events gave him the vision to look beyond personal selfishness and worldly pleasures and sorrows. He realized that there is bliss in devotion to Lord Vitthal and his faith in Lord Vitthal became strong.
Vitthal Bhakti of Tukaram Maharaj
Tukaram Maharaj was very fond of Vitthal Bhakti and interested in spiritual work from his childhood. Being a farmer, even after going to the fields, he spent most of his time in meditation, prayer and kirtan.
Bhagwan Vitthal of Pandharpur
Lord Vitthal, a form of Lord Krishna, is worshiped in Maharashtra. There is a story of a famous devotee Kundalika behind his name, Lord Vitthal. It is believed that Lord Vitthal has been worshiped in Maharashtra since Dwarpara Yuga. The Vitthal-Rukmini Temple in Pandharpur is a significant symbol of the rich culture of Maharashtra and longstanding devotional tradition.
The world famous Abhang written by Sant Tukaram Maharaj
After quitting his job as a shopkeeper, he started farming and dedicated most of his time to serving God. It was during this period that he composed the world-famous Bhakti Abhangas.
Known as an Indian saint and poet, Tukaram Maharaj is mostly known today for his great teachings and Abhangas. He wrote more than 5000 Abhangs during his lifetime, which is now considered a masterpiece of Marathi literature.
These devotional poems reflect his devotion to Lord Vitthal, his sense of self-realization, humility and love. His selfless devotion was widely discussed. He inspired people to follow the path of devotion.
A Popular Story of Sant Tukaram Maharaj and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj
Dehu, a place near Pune, was under the rule of King Chhatrapati Shivaji at that time. When Shivray came to know about him, he said, “No man can be selfless.” So he sent a box full of jeweled gold ornaments to the house of Tukaram Maharaj as a gift.
Ahilyabai Jijabai and the children were filled with immense joy. They all quickly put on and admired the jewels. After a while, when Tukaram Maharaj came home, He saw this, then lovingly told the family members, “This is not right for us. It is poison that confuses a head of man, so remove them.”
Respecting his wishes, his wife and children also removed all the ornaments. Tukaram Maharaj put all the ornaments in a box and returned them. So who exactly is a saint who does not have an iota of lust for worldly things? Shivaji Maharaj himself went to Dehu to meet such a saint.
When he arrived, Tukaram Maharaj was performing kirtan in a temple. Shivray was mesmerized by hearing his kirtan. He held the feet of Tukaram Maharaj and took Sannyas to him and expressed his desire to spend the rest of his life in the service of him and the Lord.
But, Tukaram Maharaj explained to Shivray that, “You are Kshatriya and a king, all the people depend on you, so you have the responsibility of all the Rayat. Therefore, it will be proper for us to serve the Lord without sacrificing duty and world.”
Sant Tukaram Maharaj, is considered an important saint in Indian culture. His life inspires positive, spiritual and social transformation. His Abhangas developed a devotional ideology and lifestyle.
Tukaram Maharaj emphasized the significance of Bhakti. Efforts of his and other saints in Maharashtra gave rise to a devotional community called “Varkari Sampradaya”. He taught about virtue, mercy, compassion, love for God. He was inspired to live a simple and honest life while educating society.
His thoughts can be understood from the fragments written by him. His poems primarily focus on the significance of genuine devotion to Lord Vitthal, the social conditions during his time, the difficulties of human life, and the uncertainty of the material world. His ideas propounded by his Abhangs gained worldwide fame.
Finally, to sum up his thoughts, the pompous things of the world do not last long. Because sometimes the truth of such things comes before the world. Therefore, one cannot go far in the mundane world on the basis of falsehood.
Vitthal Painting at Pandharpur, Credit: Nevil Zaveri
Sant Tukaram while going to heaven sitting on Pushpak Viman, Credit: Ravi Varma Press