GADGE MAHARAJ, A WELL-KNOWN SAINT
GADGE MAHARAJ, A WELL-KNOWN SAINT
Father did, by chance, come in contact with Gadge Maharaj, a well-known saint of Maharashtra. Meher Baba said that he was a spiritually advanced soul of very high caliber. Gadge Maharaj had a large following in Maharashtra, and his wealthy devotees helped him to establish several dharamshalas for the poor.
He also took money from his well-to-do followers for helping the poor in other ways, distributing clothing and inexpensive blankets, and he was known throughout the state for his social work. He himself wore simple clothing, a coat and dhoti which were patched all over, as was his turban. He was a tall, impressive man with a magnetic personality.
When he first met Gadge Maharaj on the road, Father asked if he could have the honor of feeding this saint. Gadge Maharaj refused food at that time, but he took down Father’s name and address. He then boarded a local train and left. Later he began coming to our residence, Dhun Building in Lamington Road, for his lunch.
Mummy, knowing his spiritual status, would get up earlier than usual to have the lunch ready by 9:00 in the morning, when he arrived. I remember watching as she hurried to cook the dal and rice, the only food he ate, usually served on newspaper. Mummy asked Father to buy plates made from large leaves held together with very thin twigs. When Gadge Maharaj ate his lunch from these plates, he appreciated Mummy’s thoughtfulness….
Then one day Father mentioned to Meher Baba that Gadge Maharaj came frequently to our home for lunch and that, whenever asked, he gave money to Maharaj for the poor. Hearing this, Baba said to Father, “From today you will not give any money to any saint or sadhu. If anyone asks for money, you must say, ‘Meher Baba has given me orders not to give money to any saint or sadhu.'”
Baba gave this order to Father because he was a novice in spiritual life; if a saint gave an order contradictory to one Baba had given, a novice follower could become very confused as to whom he should listen to. Hence, to avoid confusion, Baba gave such orders, even though He recognized Gadge Maharaj to be a very advanced soul, a saint.
The following day Gadge Maharaj came to our home and asked Father for money for travel. Father felt as though a knife were being held to his throat, but he said, “Meher Baba has ordered me not to give money to any saint or sadhu.” Hearing this, Gadge Maharaj very simply said, “All right, don’t worry, I understand.” And from that day Maharaj severed all contact with our family.
HE GIVES THE OCEAN, pp. 17-18
2006 © Meherwan Kotwal
Baba Visits Pandharpur
By ERUCH JESSAWALLA
MEHER BABA gave his public “darshan” to the masses for the last time on the 12Th of September, 1954, at Ahmednagar. The next day, after having taken Baba’s darshan on the 12th, Gadge Maharaj, a saint much advanced in years and greatly revered by many in the Deccan Plateau, came to see Baba at Pimpalgaon, Ahmednagar, and requested him to pay a visit to Pandharpur and bless all by his august presence there.
Pandharpur, on the banks of the river Chandrabhaga, is about 160 miles from Ahmednagar, and is a place of pilgrimage in the Deccan for lovers of lord Krishna. Here Krishna is worshipped as “Vithoba” in a temple made famous since many centuries by devout pilgrims frequently experiencing the living presence of the Lord Krishna. It is said that the statue of Vithoba in this temple has many times been actually heard to speak to His devotees, and it is a common belief that this stone image has literally partaken of food at the hands of His lovers, who with love and faith had
coaxed Him to accept their offering. It is also believed to have given advice to those who have fervently sought guidance from their Lord.
Twice a year, people from all over India with faith and devotion flock in hundreds of thousands to this place of worship. It is to this place that Baba lovingly consented to pay a visit at the request of Gadge Maharaj; but, Baba made it clear to the Maharaj that, though he would gladly go to Pandharpur for the day, he would not give darshan to the masses there as he had to the masses at Ahmednagar on September 12th”, and added that his going there would be tantamount to Vithoba Himself going to Pandharpur to take Vithoba’s own darshan.
Early in November, Gadge Maharaj fixed the date and time, inviting Baba to Pandharpur from the afternoon of November 6th. 1954, to the afternoon of the next day; the 6th and 7th of November being the two important sacred days of pilgrimage; thus the people pouring in there by the thousands would find themselves blessed to have Baba’s darshan.
Accordingly, Baba went to Pandharpur from Satara on November 6th, and reached there by 4 o’clock in the afternoon. He then sent word to Gadge Maharaj that Vithoba, in person, had reached Pandharpur and was completely at his disposal for the full period of his stay of twenty-four hours; and, that Vithoba would do exactly as the Maharaj desired him to do. on condition of course that the Maharaj did not ask him to break his Silence or use the alphabet board, which he had stopped using since the 7th of October, 1954. Also, the Maharaj must not request him to take food or sleep that night because he had decided to take neither food nor rest, but to make himself available, as much as possible, to the pilgrims there.
On hearing that Baba had arrived, Gadge Maharaj at once prepared to receive Baba at his own dharmashala— a spacious building built to accommodate and give shelter and comfort to the thousands of pilgrims who come to Pandharpur.
Gadge Maharaj had assembled as many pilgrims as could be accommodated in the open square in the dharmashala. He made them sit in an orderly fashion so that all could easily see Baba, even from a distance.
*At Pandharpur, Baba gave in to the wishes of the Maharaj and allowed the people to take his darshan. However, whenever the crowd surged forward too close to Baba, the maharaj would immediately put a stop to things and did not allow further taking of darshan .
An hour after Baba ‘s arrival in Pandharpur, Gadge Maharaj, on receiving him at the dharmashala, conducted him by the hand to a raised seat specially arranged for him, and asked him to be seated. Although Baba wanted to sit on the ground on a level with the pilgrims gathered there, he kept his word and acceded to Maharaj’s request by sitting on the chair, which made it possible for all to have a clear view of him. Baba’s chair was placed within the entrance of the sacred room of Vithoba’s temple in the dharmashala in such a way. that facing the gathering, it concealed Vithoba’s statue in the background. It was but natural that this statue of Vithoba, worshipped the year round, should lose all importance, when Baba, the living Vithoba, took his sear before it.
Pointing to Baba, Gadge Maharaj addressed the devout worshippers of Vithoba, saying he was overwhelmed with joy that day to have Meher Baba sitting there with them and that he wished them all to take darshan of Meher Baba, who was at the “Jagat-Guru” (Master of the World) in the real sense of the word—that he was the One who really served the whole world.
Gadge Maharaj urged the gathering to take Baba’s darshan wholeheartedly, for Meher Baba blessed them by his very presence there. At this moment, Baba stood up and remained standing for a few seconds with his hands joined in loving salutation to the love of all who sat in deep reverence before him. Baba then seated himself on the steps of the temple, and “bhajan” in praise of Lord Krishna was sung to the accompaniment of the rhythmical clapping of hands. After a few minutes, Gadge Maharaj signaled all to stop. A garland was brought and he garlanded Baba, and, bowing down, placed his head on Baba’s feet before the large gathering who revered and loved him as a Saint, some of whom even hailed him as Sadguru. Accepting the homage paid to him, Baba caressed the cheeks of Gadge Maharaj and patted him with great love.
Once again the Maharaj addressed the congregation, telling them how people from all over the world sought to have Baba’s darshan—how they came from thousands of miles away just to have a glimpse of him; whereas they who were present were truly fortunate in having Baba come from Satara to give them the unique chance of his personal contact. The Maharaj again added with fervor and reverence that they should reap the full benefit of Baba’s gracious presence by taking his darshan with faith and devotion. He ended his address by shouting into the microphone, “Meher Baba, ki jai !”
The Maharaj then asked some of Baba’s men to address the pilgrims and tell them more about Baba and his life, which they did, and intermittently Gadge Maharaj would ask the pilgrims to chant the words “Devki NandenGopala” (Hail Krishna Gopala, the Son of Devki).
After about an hour of this program, Gadge Maharaj requested the pilgrims to leave the square and make room for the others patiently waiting outside to come for the coveted darshan of Meher Baba. With great reluctance but with pressure from the Maharaj, they left. As soon as the new hundreds of pilgrims settled down in the open square, Gadge Maharaj exhorted them as he had done those who had come before, to imbibe Baba’s presence with love.
At about 6:30 p.m., to loud shouts of “Meher Baba, ki jai!,” “Gadge Maharaj, ki jai!,” the Maharaj led Baba to the car, whereupon the crowd rushed towards Baba to touch his feet. The rush was very skillfully evaded and though many pilgrims did touch Baba’s feet, Gadge Maharaj managed to safely conduct him to the car.
Baba and the Mandali were driven to another spacious building where arrangements were made for tea. This place was situated in a remote corner of the town, far from the roads that were thronged with pilgrims. The Mandali felt happy to come to this quiet place for some respite after the crowded program of the evening.
Soon after Baba’s arrival there, Baba-lovers who had come to Pandharpur from different places, gathered around him. Baba was in a very cheerful mood and expressed his happiness to see them again after the meeting at Meherabad on the 29th and 30th of September.
After tea Baba asked for musical instruments to be brought in, for he wanted to hear good “bhajans” from his lovers. Baba told them that none of them should sleep that night—the whole night should be spent in the company of Baba and to the accompaniment of music and devotional songs. This did not mean that the program fixed for Baba by Gadge Maharaj was over. While Baba and the Mandali were given a respite in this secluded place, preparations were in progress on the banks of the sacred river Chandrabhaga. Baba was invited to be present late that night at the spot where most of the pilgrims would be assembled to hear spiritual discourses and bhajan by Gadge Maharaj and his devotees. The pilgrims never missed this program. Tens of thousands gathered every year on the sacred day’s
of the pilgrimage to hear the Kirtan * of Gadge Maharaj. It was therefore arranged that at about 9:30 that night Gadge Maharaj would take Baba to his Kirtan .
In the meantime Baba was in the midst of his intimate lovers, enjoying devotional songs composed by them in praise of the Avatar of the Age.
At the appointed time a messenger came with word that Gadge Maharaj would like Baba to come to the dharmashala, as he wished personally to take Baba to the spot where the Kirtan was in progress.
Gadge Maharaj is now too old to conduct the Kirtan by himself, therefore his devotees appointed by him, conduct the Kirtan under his teaching and guidance. The Maharaj is about 85 years old, and the last 50 years which he has devoted wholeheartedly to inculcating the devotional aspect in the hearts of the countless poor and downtrodden have greatly affected his health in general. Though he still appears strong and very active, the stress and strain of the hard life he leads have now begun to weigh on his advanced age.
When the car stopped at the dharmashala, Baba asked Gadge Maharaj to come and sit beside him and he very reverentially obeyed. As the car proceeded, the Maharaj confessed to Baba that his joy knew no bounds at being with him that day. Baba conveyed through gestures that he too felt very happy. He patted Gadge Maharaj on the back and caressed him lovingly. Reciprocating this gesture, Gadge Maharaj nestled close to Baba, like a child who seeks his mother’s love and protection. It was a wonderful sight to see the old saint sitting thus beside Baba; it appeared as if he had at long last laid down the burden of his strenuous life at the feet of his Beloved, and was—in the real sense and for the first time—relaxing from care.
When Baba and his party arrived, the Kirtan was already in progress. Gadge Maharaj’s chief disciple, Kaikadi Maharaj, was standing on a huge pile of sand which served as a platform and was addressing, over the mike, tens of thousands of pilgrims who were seated on the bank of the river, listening in rapt attention. Baba was conducted slowly through the crowd by Gadge Maharaj to this improvised platform which was, in spite of the moonlit night, brightly lit by electric lights to enable all those present