There was a Sant called Vitthobha in Maharashtra. He dint want to get married and wanted to be a bramachari all his life. He would always meditate upon god and read the holy book of Srimad Bhagavadam. He would get alms and have his food. He once came to Pandharpur and had the darshan of Lord Vitthal and was sleeping on the banks of river Chandrabhaga. That night Lord Pandurang came in his dream and said that a Brahman would bring to him a girl called Rukmani tomorrow and asked him to get married to her. He got up in the morning and started performing his daily ritual thinking why god had asked him to get married when he wanted to be a bramachari all his life. Pandurang had also told the same to the Brahman in his dream and had asked him to go in search of Vitthobha on the banks of Chandrabhaga the next morning. The Brahman came to Chandrabhaga and on seeing Vitthobha told him about his dream; Vitthobha told him that Pandharinath had also told him the same and agreed to get married to his daughter. He then came back to his village and started living as a family man. Vitthobha was longing for a child so that he could go back to sanyasa ashram leaving his wife with the children, but unfortunately they did not have a child for a long time. One day Vitthobha left home without telling his wife and went to Kasi and met Swami Ramanada. (Swami Ramananda is also the guru of Sant Kabirdas). He then formally took Sanyasa ashram from his guru Ramanda and stayed with him in Kasi. His wife Rukmani was searching for him and months passed by. Some one had told her that her husband would return if she goes around the Pipal tree (Arasa maram in Tamil). She started doing this religiously and years passed by but her husband had not returned.
Swami Ramanada had started on a yatra to Dakshin Bharath with his sishyas. Vitthobha refrained from joining his Guru in the yatra as he dint want to meet his family even accidentally when they pass by his village. Swami Ramananda reached Vitthobha’s village and happened to sit under the Pipal tree. Rukmani after completing her pradakshan prostrated Swami Ramananda as he was sitting there. As she was going around the Pipal tree Swami Ramanada thought that she was praying for a child and blessed her saying “Putravati Bhava”. On hearing this she burst into tears. Swami Ramanada on seeing this asked her why she was crying. She then told him that her husband had abandoned her a few years back. She also said that the blessings of Saints like him don’t go waste. She then said that some people have told her that her husband has become a Sanyasi. He then asked her if she knew where he was and who gave him sanyas. She then replied that people say that he took sanyas from Swami Ramanada in Kasi. Swami Ramanada then told her that it was he who had given him sanyasa diksha and also told her that if Lord Rama had made him bless her as “Putravathi Bhava” he would make it happen. He then sent a letter to Kasi for Vitthobha. On seeing his letter Vitthobha came to meet his Guru. Swami Ramanand then told him; be it Dharm or Adharm you will have to make my words come true. He also said that there is no bigger Dharm than to listen to ones Guru’s words. As it was his Guru’s wish Vitthobha agreed to it and came back to family life. After some time Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu, Lord Brahma and Goddess Shakthi came to this world as their children. Their first son Nivritidev was the incarnation of Shiva, the second son Gyaneshwar was the incarnation of Vishnu and the third son Sopandev was the incarnation of Brahma, the fourth child Muktha Bai was the incarnation of Shakthi. They had taken this avatar to teach the world the importance of nama sankirtan and prove that it was the only relief for any human being in this Kaliyug. Even though Vittobha had come back to family life as per his Guru’s instructions he was having a feeling that he had committed a sin by coming back to Grihastashram from Sanyasashram. As he was a learned person he also knew that the only way to relive him of this sin was to jump in to the Ganges and reach the god. He told this to his wife and she too wanted to go with him as she felt that she was also a party to this sin that he had committed. They both left the kids praying to Lord Vitthal asking him to take care of them and left for Prayaga (the meeting point of Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswathi) and then to the Himalayas and got in to the Ganges to give up their life.
Nivritidev, Gyaneshwar, Sopandev and Muktha Bai were very young and everyone in the village neglected them and teased them. The children would eat if any one offered them food, otherwise they would just starve. They would not go and ask for alms from anyone. Nivriti was 6 years old, Gyaneshwar was 5, and Sopan was 4 years old now. As they were Brahmans they wanted get their Upananyanam (Sacred thread ceremony) done at the right age. They went to the Brahmans in the village and asked them to perform Upanayanam for them. The Brahmans laughed at them and said that as they were born to a Sanyasi they can’t call themselves as Brahmans and so they would not perform the Upanayanam for them. They then said that there is a place called Prathishtanapuram (Now called as Paithan) where there are a lot of learned people and asked them to approach them to check if there was anyway they could perform the ceremony. They also said that they would perform the same if they agree to it and give a letter to them stating the same. The children then came to Paithan and met the Brahmans there. Gyaneshwar then asked them to perform the ceremony for them. The Brahmans then asked them to which gothram do they belong to. Gyaneshwar replied to them saying that if the gothram was not known for someone the guru could use his gothram for performing the ceremony. They were surprised at this answer and thought how such a young kid knew so much about the sastras, but then said that they would not perform the ceremony without knowing if they really were Brahmans. Gyaneshwar then told them the different stages that a man goes through before becoming a Brahman and said that they have all crossed that stage, but still wanted to have the ceremony performed as it was customary. He also said that a Brahman is one who has seen the Brahmam and as they have seen the Brahmam they could perform the ceremony for them. The Brahmans then asked them if they had seen the Brahmam then why they need all these rituals. Gyaneshwar told them that as it is put in the Vedas that one should stick to their dharmas; we wanted to have the ceremony done. The Brahmans then asked them how they got Bhramagyanam. Gyaneshwar told them that god was every where and it was up to the individual to see him. He then showed a buffalo that was roaming on the street and said that god was inside the buffalo too. The Brahmans then got angry and asked if that was true will the buffalo too speak Vedanta like how he speaks. Gyaneshwar then touched the buffalo and said “Panduranga recite the Vedas” The buffalo immediately started reciting the Vedas. The Brahmans on seeing this were stunned and then said that a person like him who has attained jeevan mukthi does not require all these ceremonies. They then left Paithan and started on a yatra with the buffalo.
Gyaneshwar made a composition on Bhagavad Gita called Gyaneshwari. Till date it is the most popular book in Marathi on Bhagavad Gita. They then came back to Paithan and stayed there. There was a person called Changadev who was a Yogi, he was 1000 years old. He would walk on water, fly in the sky, get inside fire and come out without getting burnt. One day he got a new siddhi and started making dead people come alive. The whole village got to know about this and every one in Paithan and nearby villages started bringing everyone who was dead to Changadev and he made them come alive. However Changadev did not like Gyaneshwar and would ask the people in the village what was there with Gyaneshwar and why so many people went to meet him and listened to the abhangs and his discourses. The news reached Gyaneshwar but he dint bother about it. Muktha Bai his kid sister did not like this and she wanted to teach Changadev a lesson. Muktha then went to Chagadev’s ashram and there were a lot of people waiting outside for the Yogi with a dead body next to them. When they saw the 5 year old Muktha they asked her to go away fearing that she would be frightened seeing the dead bodies. Muktha asked them why they were waiting outside and they said that they were waiting for Changadev to come and wake the dead bodies. Hearing this, the little girl said that she could also wake them up. They then told her that she would get frightened on seeing them and asked her to leave. She then ran towards the dead body and said “Vitthala Vitthala” on it ears and then ran away. The dead body immediately woke up and started jumping and chanting “Vitthala Vitthala”. Hearing this noise Changadev came outside. He then enquired what happened and the people who were waiting for him told him what happened. He then asked them if they knew who that kid was and they said that it was Gyaneshwar’s kid sister. Changdev was shocked and surprised listening to this. He then wanted to meet Gyaneshwar and came to meet him sitting on a tiger. Seeing this, the villagers panicked and ran to tell this news to Gyaneshwar. Gyaneshwar was then fixing the compound wall in his house; he sat on the wall and asked the wall to move towards Changadev. The wall immediately started moving and now villagers were surprised. When Changadev saw this he was astonished. He immediately got down prostrated to Gyaneshwar and came to him. Gyaneshwar then told him that these siddhis are not useful to attain god and that they only take one in the wrong direction. Changadev immediately realised what he was saying and asked Gyaneshwar to show him the correct path. Gyaneshwar then asked Muktha to show him the right path. Muktha Bai then told him that listening to the stories of god, singing the praise of god is the only way to attain god. Changadev then prostrated both Muktha and Gyaneshwar and went to Pandharpur to live like true bhaktha. From that day he never used any of the siddhis that he had gained. He stayed in Pandhari along with Sant Namdev and spent the rest of his life singing bhajans and kirthans and listening to pravachans.
Gyaneshwar once came to Pandharpur and met Namdev. Namdev prostrated to Gyaneshwar and they hugged each other. Gyaneshwar then told Namdev that he had come to Pandharpur only to see him. He then told him that he wanted to go on a yatra around the country and wanted Nama to come with him. Nama told him that he was happy in Pandhari and that he could not leave Vitthal and go outside Pandharpur. Gyaneshwar then told Nama that he was going to visit all the places like Ayodhya, Vrindavan etc where god had lived in his earlier avatars and that he should come to see it with him. Nama then told him that Vitthal was still living and playing with his devotees in Pandharpur and said that he would be happy to be with him in Pandhari than go and visit a place where he lived earlier. Gyaneshwar then told him that he greatly desired to have Namdev’s company for the yatra. Namdev then asked him to ask Vitthal and also said that he would go with him if that was Vitthal wish. Gyaneshwar went to Vitthal, told him that he had come to him to ask for something. Vitthal asked him what he wanted and Gyaneshwar told him that he wanted to go on a yatra. Vitthal then told him that it was a good decision and told him that he would be liberating so many lives in this world by doing so. Gyaneshwar then asked Vitthal to send Namdev along with him for the yatra. Hearing this Vitthal was struck by grief and told him that he can’t be without Namdev. Gyanadev however said that he wanted to go with Nama and Vitthal then called Nama with tears and asked him to go with Gyaneshwar.
Gyaneshwar and Namdev started on a yatra with a few others. They would go to every village and perform namasankirtan. When they left the village a few people would join them in their yatra. The yatra that started with 10 people at Pandhari now became as big as 1000 people. They would perform street bhajans in each village and then move on the next village. Every one who saw them singing would get attracted and start singing and dancing with love for god. This way they reached Delhi and by now there were over a lakh yatris coming with Namdev and Gyaneshwar. Delhi was then ruled by a Mohamedian king, unmindful of this they continued going through the streets of Delhi, singing the praise of god with ecstasy. The king on seeing his subjects getting attracted towards them decided to prove that Hinduism was not true. He then sent a person with a cow to the place where they were performing bhajans. The Mohamedian came with the cow and told them that he is going to slaughter the cow and if the god whom they consider as the supreme cowherd is true, he should make the cow come alive. Namdev immediately replied to him that Vitthal would take care of the cow. The Mohamedian then told that he would slaughter the cow and asked him how long he would take to bring back life to the cow. Nama then told him that he would bring it alive in 3 days. On hearing this he slaughtered the cow and left the place with a big smile thinking that in 3 days time the people who have been his followers will understand that he is not a saint and no one would follow him any more. For 3 days Nama was just singing and crying to Lord Vitthal blaming himself as the reason for the cow’s death. Nama almost fainted on the 3rd day as he refused to have food or water from the time the cow was slaughtered. Vitthal then came and consoled Nama and asked him to see the cow. Nama saw the cow getting up and asked Vitthal why he had made him wait for 3 days, when he could have come immediately. Vitthal then told him that it was Nama who promised the killer that he would make it come alive in 3 days and that he waited for 3 days only to make his words true. After this event a lot of people in Delhi became the followers of Gyaneshwar and Namdev and everyone started performing bhajans and kirthans at their home. They then went to many villages and cities up North and were returning back to Pandhari via Marwar. They got stuck in the desert and lost their way completely. There was no food or water and they could not find any village nearby. Nama fainted and fell down as he could not withstand the heat of the desert. Seeing this Gyaneshwar started crying and pleading Vitthal asking him to come for help. Seeing this Nama told him that whatever was the wish of Vitthal would happen and one can not do anything about it. Vitthal then sent his disc (Chakkaram) to their rescue and the disc went inside the ground and created a spring for them. All the bhakthas then took water from the spring to quench their thirst and continued their journey.
The yatris reached a place called Vaidhyanatham (now it is called Deogarh in Bihar) which is one of the 12 Jyothir Linga places. The day they arrived happened to be Shivarathri and so they went and prayed to Lord Shiva in this temple. They then sat in front of the main deity and started their kirthans. After singing a few songs about Lord Shiva they started singing about Vitthal as usual. Hearing this, the temple priest came to them and said that they should not be sitting in front of the main deity and singing as they would be performing abishekams and poojas for Lord Shiva. They also said that this was a Shiva temple and that they should not perform bhajans about Vishnu in this temple. Gyaneshwar then said that the Lord Shiva wanted them to sing here and that they would leave if he asks them to leave. The temple officials then intervened and showed them another place behind Lord Shiva to perform their bhajans. They all moved to the new place and started singing there. After some time the temple priests locked the shrine and left after performing all the poojas. Gyaneshwar, Namdev and other bagavathas continued to perform their kirthans through the night and Lord Shiva turned to the side where they were sitting with his shrine. The next morning the priests came to open the temple and were astonished find that the shrine had turned. They then realised that it had happened because they asked the bhakthas and bagavathas to go and sit on the rear side of the temple. They understood that Lord Shiva had done this to show his love towards them. They then came running to see Gyaneshwar and Namdev, prostrated to them and apologised for having misbehaved with them the previous day. Gyaneshwar and Namdev then told them that they being the priest of Lord Shiva, they will not misbehave with any one and that it was Lord Shiva’s leela and continued with their journey.
Gyaneshwar and Namdev had almost reached Pandhari and Nama was now longing to have a darshan of Vitthal and started running towards Pandhari with tears in his eyes. It had been about a year since he went on a yatra with Gyaneshwar. Vitthal also came to the banks of Chandrabhaga to receive them and was happy that they have returned back. The entire village of Pandharpur was in a festive mood when they knew they were returning and came to receive them.
A few days later Vitthal told Nama that a Samaradhanam has to be performed for him as he has completed the yatra. He also said, as Gyaneshwar was a Yogi, it is not necessary for him but as Nama was a family man it has to be performed for him. Nama then told him that it was not required for him, but as Vitthal insisted Nama agreed to it. Vitthal wanted to get the Brahmans from Paithan to perform the same. The real reason behind performing this ritual was that Vitthal wanted the Brahmans of Paithan to realise the greatness of bhajans and kirthans. Vitthal then took the form of a rich man and came to Paithan along with Gyaneshwar, Nama and other bhakthas. Vitthal and the other bhakthas prostrated to the Brahmans. Vitthal then told them that he wanted to perform an udyapan in Pandharpur and wanted them to perform the same. Vitthal then asked them to come to Pandharpur the following Saturday to perform the same and went back to Pandharpur with his bhakthas. The Brahmans came as stated and performed the ceremony. Once the ceremony was completed they were served food. Rukmani, Radha, Sathyabama and others served food for the Brahmans. Vitthal then gave each Brahman their dakshana and asked them to take some rest. Vitthal then asked if he could now go and have food and the Brahmans asked him to go ahead. Vitthal called all his bhakthas to have lunch with him. Vitthal’s bhakthas are from all sects including the harijans. They all came and sat down for lunch. Nama was sitting next to Vitthal. Seeing the people from lower caste sitting next to Vitthal, the Brahmans thought if Vitthal was really a Brahman or if he fooled them saying he was one. The bhakthas were feeding Vitthal from their plate and Vitthal was feeding the bhakthas from his plate. Seeing this, the Brahmans got angry and started to leave. Vitthal and his bhakthas had finished their lunch by then and came towards them. The Brahmans then asked Vitthal if he dint know about the way a Brahman is to conduct himself and asked him why he was eating with people from the lower caste. Vitthal then told them that he was not aware of the same and asked them to perform a prayachitham (doing penance) for the same. The Brahmans then agreed to perform the same for Vitthal and they fixed the next Saturday for the same. They then gave the list of items to be procured and left. The next Saturday the Brahmans came and performed the ceremony religiously. Once the ceremony was over he requested the Brahmans to have lunch. He then asked them to take rest and went to have his lunch. This time too Vitthal had food with all his bhakthas who were from the lower caste. The Brahmans got angry again and asked Vitthal why he had done the same mistake again even after doing penance. Vitthal then told them that he did this again as he now knew he could do a penance for the same. He also said that he can have food only when he eats with them and that he can’t eat alone. They then told Vitthal that being a Brahman he should act like a Brahman. Vitthal then told them that he thinks the people with whom he had food as Brahmans and not them. The Brahmans asked him how he says that. Vitthal then told them that it is only because they don’t have the Gyan they look at these people as belonging to lower caste. He then said that a Brahman is one who sees Brahmam in every living being in this world. The Brahmans said that what he said was true but it is applicable only for people who have really realised the same in their life and not for everyone. They also asked him how he talked like he knew the Vedas, Upanishads etc and asked him to reveal who he really was. Vitthal then said the Brahmans that he will first show who his friends are and gave Gyan to the Brahmans. When the Brahmans saw the bhakthas they realised that Gyaneshwar was Vishnu, Nivriti was Shiva, Sopan was Bhrama and all other bhakthas took the form of other gods and goddess. The Brahmans then realised their mistake and prostrated to all the saints there and asked Vitthal for forgiveness. They then joined with them and started singing the kirthans and bhajans. After spending a few days with these saints they then went back to Paithan.