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Author Topic: SAINT RAMDAS By Dr. S. D. Parchure M. A., Ph. D. (Continued from January  (Read 3772 times)

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Offline JR

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Though saint Ramdas had decided to start awakening in the minds of the public through religion, he was not yet definite as to the place where he should settle. It appears, therefore that during the :years in Shaka 1566 and 1567 he moved from place to place round about the Krishna River in search of a suitable place for his abode.

During these two years Ramdas mainly moved in the Satara District, Colaba District, Sangali, Miraj and Kolhapur. Whenever he happened to be in the towns and cities, Ramdas used to perform Keertans to preach the devotion to god and religion. He had a very good and lustrous personality. He had a sweet voice and above all he did not expect anything from anybody. Hence his Keertans used to attract big crowds.

During his travel from Satara to Kolhapur in these two years he collected a number of disciples at different places. Because of the Muslim aggression, there were in those days a number of young people everywhere, who wanted to do something to consolidate the Hindu population by some means of the other. This element found a suitable guide in Saint Ramdas and they at once became his disciples The chief among his disciples may be mentioned as follows :- The young blood from the three families of Afale, Pore and Budhakar from Masoor took his initiation. Similarly Diwakar brothers from Mahabaleshwar, the youngsters from Chafal and Tarale, Kalyan and Dattatraya from Kolhapur are also stated to have joined him during this period and they became his disciples. Though the lady folks were not allowed to take active part in social and political fields in those days, still we find that a few ladies also had joined his fold. Sitabai from Shahapur, Ambikabai from Waive, Akkabai from Karhad and Venabai from Miraj were the chief among the ladies who joined him as his disciples and helped him in the maintenance of Maths and preaching among the masses. All these ladies played a very important role in helping Saint Ramdas in his projects.

Solitude is very dear to   most   saints   Ramdas   also   used to resort to solitude whenever he liked to give a serious' thought 'to any problem. In order to make the people overcome their defeatist mentality, Ramdas wanted to make them think about and worship the god who was heroic -and victorious.    Ramdas had  been cons¬tantly thinking about this during his   retirement to solitude.   Like Tukaram, Ramdas also   was fond of   resorting  to   the mountains in the vicinity of the Krishna   River   and   some   other   mountain caves in Maharashtra. His constant thinking ultimately led him to the conclusion that his own family deity Shree Rama was the only god about whom preaching   should   he   done   among   the masses. Shree Rama was a Kshatriya.    He   was   wielding   the   bow   and arrow.    He was the destroyer of the king of Lanka, Ravan.    He was a devotee of his father and mother. He was also very faithful to his wife and had great   love for   the family members   and the citizens of his kingdom.   Maruti, the   servant of  Rama,   was the strength incarnate and was a faithful   and ideal servant.    Ramdas therefore, thought it   proper   to   preach   devotion   to   this deity, which in his opinion was a victorious god, who  would infuse the zest for achieving victory,   in the   minds of the devotees.    At the same time the temples of Maruti  became the centres of  acquiring strength for the young generation, as every  Maruti   temple had a gymnasium attached to it.

Saint Ramdas travelled far and wide in India. Wherever he went, he founded a Math and built a Maruti temple. The type of idol that he preferred to be installed in the temple was specially approved by him. Just as Nandi is always installed in front of the Shiva temple, similarly Maruti temple must always be in front of Rama temple. The idol of Maruti that we come across in these traditional temples is usually in standing posture with folded hands. As Maruti was a loyal servant, it was quite natural that he should have been portrayed with folded hands; but Saint Ramdas was a person with peculiar views. He wanted to keep such an idol before the eyes of the people that the followers of the idol must be :infused with enthusiasm and confidence to win a victory over the cruel and bad element. Hence Ramdas always depicted his idols of Maruti as trampling down under his feet a demon. If therefore we want to know whether any parti¬cular temple was established by Saint Ramdas or not, we must look to the posture of the Maruti in it and if he is as described above, we might safely conclude that, that particular idol has been installed by Ramdas. It has been recoided that Ramdas founded more than one thousand Maths and Maruti temples throughout the length and breadth of India.

In order to create confidence in the minds of the followers and with a view to establish a place for worship, - where people could gather in large numbers and hence under the garb of religious work even some underground political work could also be done, Ramdas decided to build a temple of God Rama some¬where near Karhad on the bank of a river. In his wanderings he was on the lookout for such a suitable place and he selected Chafal as the site for the temple. Chafal is situated on the bank of the Mand River, which takes its birth in the mountains nearby. This River flows for about 8 to 10 miles independently and then meets the Krishna river. At the site selected by Ramdas there was a jungle and it was a problem how to build the temple. Chhatrapati Shiwaji Maharaj, who had by now come to know about the activities of saint Ramdas and had developed deep reve¬rence for him, offered to build the temple entirely at his cost; but Ramdas is said to have declined the offer with thanks. He was of opinion that if people put up a temple with their own efforts, then they would get self-confidence. They would be ready for sacrifice for protecting that temple from any alien aggression, because of their special love for that temple, Ramdas was not a person who simply ordered others to do things. He himself prom¬ptly applied himself to the work. He himself started cutting the trees and clearing the site. The followers, of course, immediately gathered to help him. The carpenters started cutting the wood, the masons started chipping the stone and thus with the help of everyone the temple rose inch by inch. We appreciate the theory of Shramadan recently started, in order to have the feeling of involvement of all in the work; but it appears that Saint Ramdas knew the theory behind Shramadan -very well and he must have therefore, declined the offer of Shiwaji Maharaj and built the temple with the co-operation of the masses."
The temple was thus rising by inches and feet and naturally the question arose about the idols to be installed in j the temple. The vision of God Rama appeared to saint Ramdas in his dream and pointed out the location where the idol was lying deep in the waters of the Krishna river near the village Angapur. Ramdas was a very good swimmer from his childhood and loved to under¬take such adventures. He at once started for Angapur. He also had a good physique. Very soon he reached Angapur and diving deep into the waters he came out of the water and held the idol on his head in high esteem and started for Chafal.

The news about the salvage of the idol from the waters of the Krishna river at once spread far and wide. Some villagers at once said, "The idol was lying near our village and we shall not allow Ramdas to carry it away for installing in his temple." Some others who knew Saint Ramdas and had reverence for him advised the villagers not to object to the removal of the idol; but the others who originally objected to taking away of the idol did not budge an inch. They continued their protests and would not allow Ramdas to carry away the idol. Ramdas was, however, cock sure that he would get the idol. Hence he said, "Alright, if you are not inclined to allow me to take the idol away, I will have no interest in taking it with me. The idol was lying, uncared for deep in the waters of the Krishna river for years together and none of you knew about it. Now when I am salvaging the idol and installing it with the idea of worshipping it daily, you are objecting to it. It is really not proper; but if you do not wish to part with the idol, I am ready to place it here. You may take it away and instal it in a temple of your choice."

Ramdas then kept the idol on the ground near the people. Everyone of the persons, who had gathered there tried to lift the idol; but none could lift it. They then applied the hands of all of them 'and tried to lift the idol collectively; but the result was the same. The villagers were then convinced of the supernatural powers of Ramdas and realised their own folly and withdrew their opposition. In the presence of the villagers thereafter, Ramdas all alone easily lifted the idol and took it away to Chafal for installing in the temple under construction.

Thus when the building of the temple was ready and the idol was brought from Angapur, it was installed in the temple with pomp and show on theRamnavami day and the temple was inaugurated. The celebration went on for days together. Thousands of brahmins and other people were fed during the festival. Though Saint Kamdas founded the temple, it was for the people to manage it. He never got involved into worldly affairs. He how¬ever,- knew that people interested in such things later on created trouble. In all such temples there were traditions and they were maintained scrupulously. Hence in order to avoid future disputes saint Ramdas made arrangements for the functioning of the tem¬ple. As the temple was of Rama, he had decided to have an annual festival every year on the Ramnavami day and detailed arrangements were made and committed to writing. The functions like white washing the walls, painting the pictures on the walls, cooking in the kitchen, lighting of the lamps, purchases from the bazaar, managing the stores, carrying the palanquin of the deity, the right of worshipping the idol, serving the food in the dinners, the spreading of carpets at the time of keertans etc. which were connected with the management of the temple were all described in detail and appointments were made for doing the same. The idea in doing this was to avoid clashes among the workers and thus avoid chaos and quarrels during the festival. So long as Saint Ramdas was living at Chafal, he used to see personally that all the work was being carried out as laid down in the document prepared in this behalf. Later on saint Ramdas stayed permanenty on Sajjangad; but he regularly attended the festival and saw that it went on smoothly. However in Shaka 1602 Ramdas could not attend the Ramnavmi festival and in his absence, there arose some trouble regarding the right of doing certain things in the festival. Those disputes were later on settled by saint Ramdas himself at Sajjangad.

During his pilgrimage throughout India, as described before, Ramdas had observed the atrocities of the Muslims. Destroying the Hindu temples and breaking the idols therein, was- a very common game of the Muslims, who had the support of the rulers. In such predicament, Saint Ramdas decided to erect a temple and dedicate it to his favourite deity, who was the victorious Shree Rama. When this mighty task was accomplished by him, he went further in securing 'Inams’ of lands to the temple, even from the Muslim Ruler of Bijapur. The Hindu rulers in general and Chhatrapati Shiwaji Maharaj in particular no doubt donated libe¬rally for the maintenance and up keep of the temple; but it was a great feat on the part of Saint Ramdas to get "Inam" from the Muslim ruler of Bijapur. Apart from the other effects of build¬ing of this temple on the minds of the masses, the main effect was that they all overcame the defeatist mentality in them. They all recovered their lost self confidence and had faith in themselves that they also could achieve some good thing if they unite toge¬ther and apply their minds to any good work. This psychological change in the minds of the people helped Chhatrapati Shiwaji Maharaj to get a following from all the quarters of Maharashtra in his attempt to found a separate Maratha kingdom.

The temple built by Samarth Ramdas has stood the Sun and the rain for  nearly three hundred years.   The annual festival and the daily worship is being carried out there without interruption. Recently, however, when there was an earthquake in the area of Koyna river, this temple cracked and was in a dilapidated condi¬tion. A Mill owner from Bombay, Shri Arvind Mafatlal, who happened to visit the temple in that condition, was moved very much and he immediately ordered the rebuilding of the temple at the cost of a few lakhs of rupees. He had ordered new marble idols from upcountry and they were to he installed there. However the old people from the village and the trustees of the temple objected to the displacement of the old idols. Ultimately a com¬promise was arrived at and both the old and new idols are now installed in the temple. This monument of Saint ;amdas, in the form of the Rama Temple, can still be seen at Chafal.

( to be continued )


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