Saint Tukaram Maharaj (Tukoba) was a Saint from the 17th century, belonging to the Varkari sect. He was born on Vasant panchami (Magh shuddha panchami- 5th day of the bright fortnight of the Hindu lunar calendar) in the village of Dehu in Maharashtra to Bolhoba and Kanakai. Before attaining Sainthood His name was Tukaram Bolhoba Ambile (More). He departed for Vaikunth when still embodied on Phalgun vadya dwitiya (2nd day of dark fortnight of Hindu lunar calendar). Vitthal or Vithoba of Pandharpur was Saint Tukaram’s Deity of worship. He showed people the easy path to God-realisation through abhangs (devotional songs).
His Guru Babaji Chaitanya initiated Him with a bijamantra and it is with His grace that Tukaram Maharaj received spiritual knowledge. During this era He became an important Saint imparting teachings to the people on the nation and Dharma through the medium of kirtan (praise of God through poetry and stories).
When preaching Tukaram Maharaj tells man that both worldly life and Spirituality are extremely essential for a living, that without a worldly life God-realisation does not occur and that worldly life is imperfect without Spirituality. Hence at one juncture Maharaj says,
प्रपंच करोनी परमार्थ साधावा।
वाचे आळवावा पांडुरंग।
Meaning : Realise God when performing worldly duties by remembering Him all the time.
संसाराच्या नावे घालुनिया शून्य। वाढता हा पुण्य धर्म।
हरिभजनें हे धवळिले जग। चुकविला लाग कळिकाळाचा।
तुका म्हणे सुख समाधि हरिकथा। नेणे भवव्यथा गाईल तो।
Saint Tukaram Maharaj says, ‘The one who pays little importance to destiny of worldly life and yearns for devotion of God (Hari), will never experience hurdles in life.’
संसाराच्या अंगी अवघीच व्यसने। आम्ही या कीर्तने शुद्ध झालो।
आता हे सोवळे झाले त्रिभुवन। विषम धोऊन सांडियेले।
ब्रह्मपुरी वास करणे अखंड। न देखिजे तोंड विटाळाचे।
तुका म्हणे आम्हा एकांताचा वास। ब्रह्मी ब्रह्मरस सेवू सदा।
In the above abhang Saint Tukaram says ‘Worldly life is a kind of vice because of which addicted people cannot understand the expanse of Shri Hari (God). Those who remain engrossed in the material world and do not remember God do not survive in the world for long, they neither understand nor accept the value of chanting.’
Tukaram Maharaj praised God and also asked
Him for forgiveness for keeping the book of devotional songs
composed by Him floating on the waters of River Indrayani for 13 days
Some conspirators threw compositions of abhangs written by Saint Tukaram into River Indrayani. Maharaj pleaded before Deity Pandhari and fasted for 13 days without food and water. He told God that now this was His test. The abhang below narrates this.
थोर अन्याय केला। तुझा अंत म्या पाहिला।
जनाचिया बोला। साठी चित्त क्षोभिवले।
भागविलासी केला सीण। अधम मी यातीहीन।
झाकूनि लोचन। तेरा दिवस राहिलो।
अवघे घालूनिया कोडे। तहानभुकेचे साकडे।
योगक्षेम पुढे। करणे लागले।
उदकी राखिले कागद। चुकविला जनवाद।
तुका म्हणे ब्रीद। साच केले आपुले।
Maharaj says ‘God by preserving my book of abhangs in the river You fulfilled my vow and proved the conspirators wrong’. The following is an abhang describing this phenomemon by Rameshwar Bhatt
जळी दगडासहित वह्या। तारियल्या जैशा लाह्या।
म्हणे रामेश्वर भट्ट द्विजा। तुका विष्णू नाही दुजा।
Meaning : The books of abhangs remained floating on the waters of the river like stones. Rameshwar Bhatt believes that Saint Tukaram is none other than Shri Vishnu Himself.
Chatrapati Shivaji and Tukaram Maharaj
Impressed by Saint Tukaram’s preaching the Chatrapati Shivaji
gave up his kingdom and began to listen to Tukoba’s bhajans and
kirtans. At that time Saint Tukaram explained kshatradharma (spiritual
practice of protecting seekers and destroying evildoers) to him and his servitors
He told them ‘I shall preach Spirituality to the world, you shall take care of protecting the righteous and destroying the evildoers.’
Saint Tukaram took leave of King Shivaji after blessing him. Both the king and his soldiers understood the teachings of the Saint and practiced them. With His blessings Chatrapati Shivaji became a powerful and wealthy king.