THE SAINT HERITAGE OF INDIA is a continuing series devoted to introducing readers - Indian and foreign -to saints from different Indian religious traditions and from different parts of the country. It consists of life-stories of charismatic seekers, saints, teachers, and gurus from the earliest ages to the modem times, encompassing in most cases their literary and spiritual work and the contribution they made to the Indian society.
The tradition of seeking, evaluating, accepting, and following a guru is deeply rooted in Hindu society from the time of the earliest Hindu writings. In Hinduism, it is believed that certain individuals have developed spiritually to the point where they can lead others to liberation (moksba), or give them access to spiritual states either in this life, or after death.
The phenomenon of saints has always exasperated mankind, even as they maintain an ineradicable fascination over imaginations. For the saint is not only outside the normal, he also is in touch with the supernormal.
The series includes well written treatises on these great men and women of India. The series ensures that the authors preserve throughout a well-balanced judgment, and never sacrifice the critical caution to the passion for the subject.
POET-SAINTS OF MAHARASHTRA SERIES
I have long felt that the stories of the Maratha saints, which tradition has handed down, were a valuable moral asset, not only to the people of Maharashtra, the home of those saints, but to all India.
At present these stories are not easily available, for the reason that the Marathi language and literature are hardly known outside of Maharashtra. Even in Maharashtra little prominence is given to the interesting and suggestive lives of those Maratha saints who by their godly and righteous lives have been a blessing to Maharashtrat I am not unmindful of the made by Mr. L. R Pingarkar, Mr. D. B. Sahasrabuddhe, and others to popularize the lives of the Maratha saints, but their writings have all been in the Marathi language, and, being translated, are not available for those who do not know that language. To make these stories of the Maratha saints available to large circle, both in India and outside, an English translation is obviously a necessity. And as I feel that these stories have a moral value, and that they can be used to impress vital truths, the translation of them into the English language has been for me a labor which I have felt was worth While, and has been a labour of love.
Those who have not dipped into Marathi literature are naturally unaware of the original sources of the stories of the saints which are current in Maharashtra. I have there-fore made it my task to translate the original sources, from which all consciously or unconsciously draw, when they pass these stories on to others, either orally, or in written form. It is to Mahipati, who was born, lived, and died at Taharabad, in the Rahuri taluka of the Ahmednagar District, that the chief glory belongs for collecting from manuscripts, and perhaps somewhat from oral tradition, the stories of the old saints, and recording them in his own graphic style in his Bhaktavijaya, Bhaktalilimrita, Santa-vijaya, and Santali amrita. Some of the original sources from which he obtained his information are still extant, but for the most part we are dependent on Mahipati alone for any extended knowledge of those saints. Were it not for him, the lives of even saints as Eknith and Tulcaram would be unknown except in a very meagre way. All honor therefore to Mahipati, to whom Maharashtra and the world owes a heavy debt of gratitude. Aside from Mahipati there are lesser lights that-have recorded the traditional stories of some of the saints. While some are older than Mahipati, some are almost plagiarists from Mahipati, and some have evidently another and independent source. Altogether there is a considerable body of literature which can be considered original sources.
They are the oldest we possess, and it is to such that I have turned for the English translations which I have made. In connection with these original sources, it should be observed that if in modern books, or on the lips of men, there are stories of these saints that differ in detail from those of the original sources, they are undoubtedly due to misquotations. The possibility of an independent source for these deviations may be conceded, but it is so improbable that very strong evidence would be needed to establish the fact of such an independent source. We all know that Indians are good story tellers. Some are professional story tellers. Deviations from the original sources may there-fore be only from the love of embellishment or from the slip of memory, but if their history be traced the seeker will without doubt be led to the original sources extant in manuscript or printed form.
From the above it becomes evident why I have can- fined myself to the stories of the Maratha saints, as foand in the oldest sources or in the nearest removed from them; for the basis of my translations. They are nearest to the times in which those saints lived, and the traditions recorded in these oldest accounts are as near to the truth of their lives as we can at present arrive. No eye witness accounts of the lives of those saints exist, except that in some of their works these saints have left us slight references to their own lives, their ancestry, their religious teachers. In the case of Tukaram, his abhangs furnish much information regarding the chief events of his life, corroborating some at least of the traditions recorded by Mahipati. Another unique exception is the autobiography of Bahinabai, in which not only is her early life described, but several important references are made to her actual meeting with Jairam Swami, a disciple of Ramdas, and with Tukaram at Dehfi, and others. But these eye witness accounts are very meagre, and the traditional accounts, written in most cases centuries after those saints really lived, are all we have to acquaint us with the lives of those godly men. Dates.
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