Tukārām

(A. D. 1598-1649)

Tukārām is one of the greatest mystic saint-poets of Maharashtra whose abhaṅgas (devotional songs in Marāṭhī) (See ABHAṄGAS.), which run into thousands, are popular even now.

Tukārām
Tukārām

He was born at Dehu, a village 22½kms. (14 miles) away from the city of Pune. He belonged to the Marāṭha caste considered by many as belonging to the śūdra group.

He was married at an early age but lost his wife and a son as also his parents when a terrible famine ravaged the village. He was married again, Āvaḷi (or Jījābāi) being the name of his second wife.

Basically he was inclined towards a spiritual life through the path of bhakti or devotion. Repeated failures in life intensified this bent of mind. Hence he started studying religious works and spend the time singing devotional songs. He received a mantra (holy name) in dream from one Bābājī Caitanya which mantra he started repeating as much as possible. In another dream experience, Nāmdev (A. D. 1270-1320), another great saint of Maharashtra, entrusted him with the task of composing abhaṅgas, to complete his own unfinished task.

From now onwards, new abhaṅgas containing gems of spiritual truths, started flowing from his mouth. Larger and larger number of common people started taking part in his congregations of devotional music and discourses.

This roused the jealousy and anger of the orthodox brāhmaṇas who tried their best to harm him but were soon chastened and converted to become his ardent followers.

However, these detractors once succeeded in forcing Tukārām to drown the manuscripts of his abhaṅgas in the Indrāyaṇī river. But Lord Pāṇḍuraṅga Viṭṭhala (a form of Kṛṣṇa, popular in Maharashtra) restored them to their true owner.

On another occasion, Tukārām miraculously saved the king Śivājī (A. D. 1627-1680) from being captured by the Moghuls.

On the last day of his life, Tukārām is said to have bodily ascended to heaven in a divine chariot.

The teachings he has delivered, primarily through his abhaṅgas, stress the importance of devotion to Pāṇḍuraṅga Viṭṭhala, the power of the divine name, the irrelevance of caste in spiritual life and the futility of religious rituals.

See also ABHAṄGAS and NĀMDEV.