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Samarth Ramdas (c. 1608 - c. 1681), also known as Sant (saint) Ramdas or Ramdas Swami or simply Ramdas was an Indian Hindu saint, philosopher, poet, writer and spiritual master. He was initially named as Narayan. He was a devotee of the Hindu deities Rama and Hanuman. He was also guru (teacher) of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj.
Ramdas, previously known as Narayan was born at Jamb, a village in present-day Jalna district, Maharashtra on the occasion of Rama Navami, 1608 CE. He was born in a Deshastha Brahmin family to Suryaji Panta and Ranubai Thosar. His father, Suryaji Punta was known to be a worshipper of the sun. He had an elder brother named Gangadhar. His father died when Narayan was seven. It is said that Narayan turned into an introvert after the demise of his father and was often noticed to be engrossed in thoughts about the divine.
According to legend, Narayan fled his wedding ceremony upon hearing a pundit chant the word "Saavdhan" (Beware!) during a customary Hindu wedding ritual. Then at the age of twelve, he is believed to have walked to Panchavati, a Hindu pilgrimage town near Nashik. He later moved to Takhli near Nashik. At Takhli, he spent the next twelve years, probably between 1621 CE and 1633 CE as an ascetic in complete devotion to Rama. During this period, he adhered to a rigorous daily routine and devoted most of his time to meditation, worship and exercise. He is thought to have attained enlightenment at the age of 24. He adopted the name Ramdas around this period. He later had an idol of Hanuman installed at Takhli.
Pilgrimage and Spiritual movement :
Ramdas soon left Takhli and embarked on a pilgrimage across India. He traveled for around twelve years and witnessed the then existing social realities. He made observations on the effects of natural calamities such as floods and famines on human life. He also observed the atrocities that the then Muslim rulers committed on the common masses. He had these observations recorded in two of his literary works Asmani Sultania and Parachakraniroopan. These literary works provide a rare insight into the then prevalent social conditions in the Indian subcontinent. He is then believed to have traveled to the Himalayas. Around this time, he is thought to have met the sixth Sikh Guru Hargobind at Srinagar.
After concluding his travels, he returned to Mahabaleshwar, a town near Satara, Maharashtra. Later while at Masur, another town near Satara, he arranged for Rama Navami celebrations that were reportedly attended by thousands. He is also believed to have discovered idols of Rama in the Krishna river.
As part of his mission to redeem spirituality among the masses and unite the distressed Hindu populations, Ramdas initiated the Samarth sect. He established several matha (monasteries) across the Indian subcontinent. He is claimed to have established somewhere between 700 and 1100 matha during his travels. Around 1648 CE, he had an idol of Rama installed at a newly built temple in Chaphal, a village near Satara. He initially had eleven Hanuman temples constructed in various regions of southern Maharashtra. These are now commonly referred to as the 11-Maruti (see list below). He also had Hanuman temples built at other locations in Maharashtra and across the Indian subcontinent. Hanuman temples established by him have been found across India in regions including Jaipur, Varanasi (also Kashi), Thanjavur (formerly Tanjore) and Ujjain. He also had a temple of the Hindu goddess Durga constructed at Pratapgad, a fort near Satara.
Ramdas had a matha set up at Tanjore (presently Thanjavur) during his journey to southern India. On his arrival there, he was reportedly received by Vyankoji Bhonsle, the then ruler of Tanjore. Vyankoji was later accepted by Ramdas as a disciple. While at Tanjore, Pandit Raghunath, a contemporary religious figure also became his disciple.
Shahapur - Karad - 1644
Masur - Karad - 1645
Chaphal Vir Maruti - Satara - 1648
Chaphal Das Maruti - Satara - 1648
Shinganwadi - Satara - 1649
Umbraj - Masur - 1649
Majgaon - Satara - 1649
Bahe - Sangli - 1651
Manapadale - Kolhapur - 1651
Pargaon - Warananagar - 1651
Shirala - Sangli - 1654
Literary Works :
Ramdas had extensive literature written during his lifetime. His literary works include Dasbodh, Karunashtake, Sunderkand, Yuddhakanda, Poorvarambh, Antarbhav, Aatmaram, Chaturthman, Panchman, Manpanchak, Janaswabhawgosavi, Panchmasi, Sapthamashri, Sagundhyan, Nirgundhyan, Junatpurush, Shadripu Nirupan, Panchikarana Yog, Manache Shlok and Shrimad Dasbodh. Unlike the Varkari saints, Ramdas was not a pacifist and his writings include strong expressions encouraging militant means to counter the aggressive Muslim invaders.
His literature utilized precise and lucid language. His writings conveyed his direct, forceful and unhesitating approach. Apart from Marathi, components of other languages such as Sanskrit, Hindi, Urdu and Arabic can also be traced in his literature. He introduced new words to these languages. A major chunk of his Marathi literature is in the form of verses.
Listed below are some of his notable literary works.
Manache Shlok (co-written by Kalyan Swami)
Shree Maruti Stotra
His compositions also include numerous aarti (worship rituals). One of his most popular aarti commemorates the Hindu deity Ganesha, and is popularly known as Sukhakarta Dukhaharta. His other works include the aarti commemorating Hanuman, Satrane Uddane Hunkaar Vadani and the aarti dedicated to the Hindu deity Vitthala, Panchanan haivahan surabhushan lila. He also had aarti composed in dedication to several other Hindu deities. His well-known work, Dasbodhhas been translated to a number of other Indian languages. The original copy of Dasbodh is currently placed at a matha in Domgaon, a village in present-day Osmanabad district, Maharashtra.
Disciples and Influence :
Ramdas had numerous disciples among whom Kalyan Swami was the most eminent. He was often employed by Ramdas to write many of his literary works. Some noteworthy disciples of Ramdas are listed below.
Bheem Swami Shahapurkar
Anant Buwa Ramdasi – Methavadekar
Bhagwan Shreedhar Swami
Ramdas also served an inspiration for many twentieth century Indian thinkers and social reformers including Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Keshav Hedgewar and Ramchandra Ranade. Nana Dharmadhikari, a spiritual guru promoted Ramdas views through his spiritual discourses. Bhausaheb Maharaj, founder of the Inchegeri Sampradaya, used Dasbodh as a means of instruction to his disciples. Dasbodh has been translated and published by the American followers of Ranjit Maharaj, a spiritual teacher of the Inchageri Sampradaya.
Ramdas moved all across the Indian sub-continent and usually resided in caves (ghal in Marathi). Some of these located in present-day Maharashtra State are listed below.
Morghal, at Morbag near Sajjangad.
Tondoshighal, north of Chaphal.
Takhli, near Nashik.
Chandragiri, opposite Vasantgad, near Karad.
Helwak, near Helwak village.
Shinganwadi, near Chandragiri.
Shivtharghal, near Mahad.
Ramdas breathed his last in 1681 CE at Sajjangad. For five days prior, he had ceased consuming food and water. This practice of fasting unto death is known as Prayopavesa. He continuously recalled the taraka mantra "Shri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram" while resting besides an idol of Rama brought from Tanjore. His disciples, Uddhav Swami and Akka Swami remained in his service during this period. Uddhav Swami had the final rites performed. Sambhaji maharaj later had a samadhi shrine constructed at Sajjangad.