Sant Janabai


One day in the month of Karthik (November) the Vitthal Rukmani temple in Pandhari was filled with Pilgrims. Janabai had come there with her parents as a pilgrimage to the temple. Sitting at the Mahadwar of the temple, she told her parents that she doesn’t want to go back with them and want to spend the rest of her life in Pandhari worshiping Vitthal. Jani was only 7 years then and the other pilgrims there were astonished hearing what she had to say. Her parents were greatly troubled hearing this. After several attempts to convince Jani, her parents finally left for their home, comforting themselves by thinking about her determination and love towards Vitthal.

Nama happened to see this little girl and asked her why she was alone and enquired about her parents. Jani said that Vitthal is her father and mother and that she has no one other than him. Hearing this, a feeling of compassion aroused in Nama for Jani and he took her home. Nama told Gonai that he found this girl in the temple and that she had lost her parents and we need to take care of her. From then on she would do all the house hold work in Nama’s house and would call her self the maid of Nama. She used to keep chanting the name of Vitthal whenever she did any house hold work and at night she used to sing about Vitthal and meditate upon him.

One night when Nama was asleep, a fierce wind blew and that carried away the roof of Nama’s hut. Vitthal on seeing this sent his Sudarshana chakra to revolve around his hut so that Nama and his family could sleep. There were heavy rains but not even a drop of water went in to the hut. Vitthal then rebuilt Nama’s hut. When Nama woke up he saw Vitthal’s Pithambaram (Robe) shining outside his hut and he came out and fell in his feet. Nama then asked Vitthal what he was doing so late in the night here. Vitthal then told him that there was a storm and that his roof flew away because of it and he had come here to rebuild it. Vitthal then told Nama that if he had not come in time, his children would have felt the cold and Gonai would have become very angry with Vitthal and spoken to him harshly. On hearing this, Gonai immediately fell at Vitthal’s feet. Jani then came at once and saw that Vitthal was fully wet and rubbed his back with a dry cloth. Vitthal then told Nama that he must be hungry and asked him to eat with him. Gonai then bought some food and Nama, Gonai, Rajai, Nama’s children all sat down to have food with Vitthal. Looking at this Jani was grieved as Vitthal had no pity for her and did not call her. Vitthal immediately stopped eating and told Nama that he is not enjoying the food today and he doesn’t know why. Nama immediately replied to Vitthal that it was because Jani was standing outside in grief and that he is also not enjoying his food because of that. As Vitthal stopped eating every one stopped eating. Gonai gave the plate in which Vitthal had left some food to Jani. Jani then took it happily to her hut. Nama and Vithhal were then sleeping in Nama’s bed. Once Nama was asleep, Vitthal then went to Jani’s hut and told her that he was hungry and that is why he had come to her. Jani then told Vitthal that she dint have anything other than the food he had left earlier, and that she was hesitant to give it to him. Vitthal then told her not to hesitate and asked her to bring it. He then asked Jani to sit beside him and had the food. He then told Jani that he was happy and satisfied with what she had offered. Jana BaiVitthal then came to Jani and told her to arise as it was time for her to grind the grains. He also told her that he had cleaned the mill and is waiting for her to come. He then asked her to place her hands on the mill and asked her to sing her abhangs. Vitthal then did the grinding by himself and filled the basket with the flour. (This mill is still there in Pandarpur and one can touch and see this when we visit Gopalpur temple) There was still some time left and so Vitthal slept in Jani’s hut. When the dawn began to appear Jani woke up Vitthal and told him that people would be coming to the temple and he has to go there immediately. Vitthal left his necklace and shawl in Jani’s house and went to the temple with Jani’s shawl. When the priest opened the door of temple, he was surprised to see a different shawl on Vitthal. One of the devotee’s said that the shawl belonged to Jani and when they removed the shawl they also found the necklace missing. A group of people then came to Jani’s house and accused her of stealing the necklace and shawl of Vitthal. Jani said that she had not taken any of these. When they searched her house, they found the necklace and the shawl. They then brought her to Chandrabhaga to impale her. They tied her to an Iron rod and she was crying to Vitthal helplessly. The iron rod suddenly turned in to water and all the people who had gathered were astonished. All of them then praised the Jani and prayed and sang about Vitthal.

One day as Jani was singing an abhang, Vitthal started writing it down. Just as he was writing down the abhang, Gyaneshwar entered the temple and noticed Vitthal hiding something. He then asked him what he was hiding and then Vitthal told him that he was writing down the abhang composed by Jani. Gyaneshwar burst in to laughter and asked why he was noting down an abhang that is being sung on his praise. Vitthal then told Gyaneshwar that the verses of Jani are full of love. Gyaneshwar then called Vitthal to Nama’s house. When they reached Nama’s house a lot of saints had already gathered there. Vitthal then asked Nama to call Jani. Jani was doing some house hold work and on hearing this she immediately washed her hands and came there. Gyaneshwar then told Nama about Vitthal writing down the verses of Jani. Vitthal then said, I was happy to write down the verses of Jani and I will bless anyone who reads her verses, and they will not suffer any calamities in their family life.

20 thoughts on “Sant Janabai”

  1. thanks . good account of the popular version of janabais life. it is very unfortunate and surprising that very little is known about major events in her life.

  2. It is said that Janabai could remember her previous births & was Manthara in Ramayana & Kubja in Krishna avtar . She attained salvation in this birth as J
    Janai

  3. there is also one story goes like this…Janabai had put lot of cow dung plates in her court yard and these were stolen by the neighbor maid and when she was caught she asked janabai to lift only those plates that really belong to her as the the entire plates of Janabai were mixed up in a heap of cow dung plates.Janabai was n a utter confusion but N saint Namdev found out a way.He put each of the cow dung plate to the ear and in a plate belonging to Janabai A melodious voice of “vithal Vithal pandurang” was heard ! thus was the bhakti of Janabai!!

  4. One day god will hear our sound and hurrily come to meet us. he always loves devotees. Gurudeo Datta.

    1. we not take anything with us from this world and leave all things here only our blood relatives, friends, wealth, our face, our body also on which we madly love but we cant take anything with us from this except PUNYA which we earn in our life. So take NAMES of our lovey god who run this world every time in our mind at our working and rest time to live smoothly and successful like, he will definitely help us in our work and protect us from danger.

  5. Janabai was born to a couple, namely Dama and Karund (दमा, करुंड) in Gangakhed (गंगाखेड) village in Parabhani (परभणी) district of Maharashtra state. The couple was well-known for their devotion to Lord Panduranga and both were Warkaris too. Her father, Dama sent her to Damashet Shimpi (दामाशेट शिंपी) for job. As per yet another version, once during Kartik Ekadashi fare at Pandharpur, seven years old Janabai , who had accompanied her parents for Pandharpur visit, arrived at the main gate of the temple and said, “I will stay put here itself. I will never return home, hereafter.” On hearing her words people were stunned, they spoke to each other, “She must be hardly seven years old girl! How could she speak so courageously? How did she gain so much knowledge?” Her parents tried to make her see reason, but she was adamant. Lord Vitthal was merciful towards her. Therefore, the others’ ties of love and affection could not bind her. At last, fed up, her parents left her there at the main gate of the temple and left. Namdev, the supreme saint was around, he asked her, “Hey, who are you? Whom do you belong to? What is your name and place of residence?” She said, “My name is Jani (जनी). Chakrapani ShriHari is my father and mother. I do not have anyone else in this world.” Namdev took pity on her. He held her hand and took her home and told Gonai, “This girl was lost in the fare. Please look after her.” In ShriKrishnavatar, she was Kubja, who was born as Jani . She started to grow at Namdev’s home. She used to call herself as the servant (दासी) of Namdev. If people enquired her, she would say, “I do not have anyone here. I just know that I am the servant of Namdev.” She used to immerse herself in the meditation of Lord Panduranga. Once, it was 2 h at night, when all of a sudden gusty winds started to blow. In order to protect the thatched roof of Namdev from blowing away, Lord ShriHari sent his Sudarshan Chakra (सुदर्शन चक्र) ahead. Along with the fierce winds, heavy rains too started to lash Pandharpur. Sudarshan Chakra was continuously revolving around Namdev’s home and therefore, not even a drop of water fell on it. Thereafter ShriHari arrived there personally and started to put the thatched roof in order. When Namdev woke up in morning, he saw ShriHari gathering hay in the courtyard. Promptly, Namdev rushed forward, fell at the holy feet of ShriHari and said, “O Hari, what are You doing?”

  6. ShriHari said, “Hey, the cyclonic winds blowing at night have blown away a little bit of your thatched roof! I promptly arrived and repaired it. It was raining too. Had your children got drenched in rains, Gonai would have scolded only me!” While He was talking to Namdev, Gonai came there and promptly fell at the feet of the Lord. Pandurang sat there chatting with Namdev. Just then Jani came there. She started to massage the back of Panduranga, saying, “Deva (God), for protecting us, You are straining Yourself so much!” and started to offer her services to Lord. Panduranga said, “Nama, you must be hungry! Let us all have our meals.” Panduranga instantly prepared sumptuous food and started to have meals along with Namdeve and his sons, namely, Govind, Vitthal, Narayan and Mahadev and Gonai and Rajai (राजाई, Namdev’s wife). Janabai was not invited for meals, therefore, she was sitting outside with deep sorrow in her mind. Namdev pointed out to Lord saying, “Oh Deva, Jani was excluded!” Panduranga did not say anything at that moment. But after some time, He said, “Hey, Nama, why don’t the food taste good today? Presently, I would keep the served food in the plate, as it is.” Saying Vitthal kept the plate aside and got up. When Panduranga stopped eating, everyone followed the suit. Vitthal washed His hands and sat aside. Rajai was quite surprised. Gonai took the Panduranga’s plate along with tasted food and offered it to Jani, who kept it covered. She sat waiting, saying, “Deva, please come here!”
    Namdev and Vitthal lay in the same bed. After confirming that Namdev was asleep, Vitthal got up and went to Janabai’s hut and said, “Jani, I am feeling very hungry. Since, you were not invited for meals, I too kept my food aside. Isn’t the same food given to you? Now I am very hungry and and I want food cooked by you, that is why I came here.” Jani said, “Deva, how can I give You tasted food? I have nothing to offer to You other than my pure devotion!” Lord said, “Jani, there would be nothing wrong, if I eat the food tasted by Myself!” saying so, Vitthal asked her to give Him the same plate. Panduranga had played this trick, since Jani had nothing to give to God. In Namdev’s home, Gonai woke up Namdev quietly and said, “Your Chakrapani is eating his own tasted food again with great relish in Jani’s hut.” Namdev said, “Oh, mother, He is merciful to His devotees. If the feeling of devotion is pure, He does not care for caste, Kul (कुळ, family lineage in Marathi), high or low social standing etc. He, Who ate the tasted berries of Shabari, is eating His own tasted food in Jani’s hut.” On overhearing this dialogue between the two, Panduranga quietly came and lay in |Namdev’s bed. Namdev and Vitthal looked at each other and smiled.
    It was early in the morning. Jani was supposed to grind the grains. But God was worried about it. He woke up, went to Jani’s hut, quietly woke her up, asked her to freshen up herself and placed the upper stone over the lower one to prepare the handmill for grinding the grains.

  7. Jani came and sat there, but Panduranga said, “Jani, you merely touch the peg of the handmill for namesake. I am going to grind the grains myself. You sing Abhang (अभंग: devotional poems in Marathi is known as Abhang which has a specific meter), I will grind.” Jani touched the peg of the handmill. Lord held the peg by His hand above the hand of Jani. Panduranga added small amounts of grains into the handmill intermittently. Jani started to sing Abhang. Through her Abhang she started to sing the supremacy of all the saints, melodiously. Pandharinath was happily nodding His head and the flour was getting ready. The flour fell on His pitambar (पितांबर: silken dhoti) and shela (शेला; silken shawl), but He was unaware. Both were so happy.
    On listening to the devotional songs of Jani, Gonai came out, but she could see Jani alone singing and grinding the grains! Then, with whom was Jani speaking? On observing carefully, she saw another maid in place of Vitthal. Gonai asked, “Who is she?” Jani did not say anything. Gonai got angry and said, “I don’t know, why does Jani bring here all sorts of maids! Hey, who are you?” The maid said, “I am Vithai (विठाई), the maid.” Gonai was still fuming, she hit Jani with a staff, but surprisingly, Vithai was hit with the staff, instead of Jani. Just then Namdev came there, he immediately, recognized that Vithai was none other than Vitthal. He said, “Gonai! Oh, mother, she is not Vithai, He is Vitthal Himself.” Gonai was embarrassed. She said, “Oh, this Jani could impress the Lord Panduranga, whereas I beat Him with a staff!” and returned inside and started to weep with repentance.
    The work of grinding the grains was completed. Pandharinath went and slept. Just before the sunrise, Jani woke up. She also woke up Panduranga and said, “Pandharinatha, please wake up. Your devotees would have gathered in the temple for Kakad Aarati (काकड आरती: The first Arati of God, even before His ceremonial bath performed well before sunrise). If they don’t see You in the temple, there would be utter confusion and chaos. Please return to the temple fast.” Pandharinath had already decided to act. He woke up, but while leaving Jani’s hut hurriedly, He covered Himself with Jani’s Godhadi (गोधडी: a quilt prepared from rags and used by poor people to protect from cold) and deliberately left his shela and Vyjayantimala (वैजयंती माला) in Jani’s hut itself. He reached the temple before the arrival of the devotees with Jani’s Godhadi wrapped around. The devotees gathered and while performing Kakad aarati, they could not see the precious shela and Vyjayantimala , but they saw the old Godhadi! Whose Godhadi was it? They discussed among themselves, an old man told them that the Godhadi belonged to Jani. It meant that Jani had stolen the precious shela as well as Vyjayantimala too! All of them conjectured about the possibility of Jani stealing those objects and came to Namdev’s home. They went and enquired with Jani. Jani was in a great shock and refused to accept the blame of theft. But when they closely searched her hut, they found both shela as well as Vyjayantimala in her hut. People started to blame her that she had stolen the articles that belonged to God.

  8. In the holy company of saint Namdev, Janabai’s devotion reached pinnacle. She considered Namdev as her Sadguru. The spiritual lineage of Janabai is given as follows: Saint Gnaneshwar Maharaj – Visoba Khechar (विसोबा खेचर) – Saint Namdev – Janabai. She had the opportunity to personally visit all the saints during the era of saint Gnaneshwar Maharaj. Her devotion towards saint Gnaneshwar Maharaj was unparalleled. In one of her couplets she says, “परलोकीचे तारु | म्हणे माझा ज्ञानेश्वरु ॥ (meaning: Shri Gnaneshwar Maharaj is the boat to carry us safely during life after death).” In all, there are about 350 Abhang written by Janabai and published in “Sakal sant gatha (सकळ संत गाथा). The topics of her Abhang are, Krishnajanma (कृष्णजन्म), Thali-Pak (थाळी-पाक), Prahladcharitra (प्रल्हादचरित्र), and Balakrida (बालक्रीडा). Apart from the above, she has also authored a narrative known as Harishchandrakhyan (हरिश्चंद्राख्यान). In fact, it is said that, Mukteshwar, the great poet and grandson of saint Eknath Maharaj was highly inspired by her Abhang on Thali-Pak and Draupadi-Swayamvar (द्रौपदी स्वयंवर). Since, Janabai had surrendered to Lord Panduranga with complete altruism (निष्काम) and without a trace of worldly attraction. Therefore, her poetry is filled with complete devotional fervour towards Panduranga. Well before attaining the knowledge of the soul (आत्मज्ञान), she had conquered her inner desires completely. It is said that Janabai’s poetry took into account all the good qualities of saints namely, Gnaneshwar, Namdev, Chokha Mela, Gora Kumbhar, Sena Maharaj and Sopan Maharaj. The language used by her also touches the chord of a layman. The supreme saint Janabai took Samadhi at the main gate of the temple of Lord Panduranga on the thirteenth day of the dark fortnight of Aashadha (आषाढ कृष्ण त्रयोदशी) in Shaka year 1272 (1350 CE) and merged with Vitthal.

  9. In one of her Abhangas Janabai has given the account of previous births of Namdev and herself; she also explains how she served Namdev in every birth.
    ऐका हो नामयाचा जन्म मूळसंचित ॥धृ.॥
    हिरण्यकश्यपकुळी नामा प्रल्हाद । पद्मिनी नाम माझे श्रेष्ठ दासीचे पद ॥
    दुसरा जन्म याचा अंगद रामभक्त । मंथरा नाम माझे भरत मारिली लात ॥
    व्दापारी कृष्णसेवा उद्धव जन्मला । कुबज्या नाम माझे देवे उद्धार केला ॥
    कलीत नामदेव विठ्ठल चिंतनी । त्याचीच सेवेलागी दासी जन्मली जनी ॥
    (संत जनाबाई – १३१)
    Meaning: Listen to the origin of the birth of Namdev due to the Karma (or good merits). When Namdev was born as Prahlad in the family of demon Hiranyakashyapu, I was Padmini, his chief maid servant. In his second birth he was born as Angad, the great devotee of Lord Ramachandra, I was born as Manthara, whom Bharata kicked. In Dwapara Yuga, he was born as Uddhava while I, born as Kubja, was liberated by Lord Himself. In the Kali Yuga, Namdev is always immersed in the meditation of Lord Vitthala and I am born as Janabai, his maid servant. (Sant Janabai – 131)
    From the Janabai’s account, it becomes very clear that, God sends His beloved devotees on earth again and again for spreading devotion, imbibing purity of mind and thought and showing the virtuous path to righteous people, who suffer in this ocean of the world and are desirous of Moksha (liberation).

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