By Swami Harshananda
Sant Jñāneśvar, also known as Jñānadev, is the brightest jewel among the saints of Maharashtra of the Bhakti movement. He was born as the second son of Viṭṭhala Pant and Rakhumā Bāī in CE 1275 at Ālandi near Pune in Maharashtra. Nivṛtti was his elder brother. Sopāna and Muktābāī were his younger brother and sister.
Vitthala Pant had taken sanyāsa from the well-known saint Rāmānanda of Kāśi by lying that he had no dependents. Actually, he had been married to Rakhumābāī who had not permitted him for sanyāsa. When Rāmānanda came to know about this, he was furious and sent Viṭṭhala Pant back to his wife.
Since he had returned to the life of a householder after sanyāsa, which was considered as a heinous sin, the contemporary society boycotted him. Hence, their children could not be administered the sacraments normal to the brāhmaṇas. Hence he and his wife drowned themselves in a river, leaving the children as orphans.
However, by the dint of their learning and yogic powers, the children earned the respect of the society. Nivrtti, the eldest of them, was a highly evolved soul. He was blessed with spiritual wisdom by a great saint Gayanināth. He in turn initiated his younger brother Jñāneśvar into the mysteries of spiritual wisdom.
The greatest work of Jñāneśvar was the immortal treatise Bhāvārthacipikā, popularly known as the Jñāneśvarī. It is a detailed commentary in Marāṭhī on the Bhagavadgītā. These discourses on the Gitā are delivered in a temple in a village called Neveśe. He has also composed a few abhañgas or devotional songs. He left his body in a state of deep samādhi in CE 1296 at the young age of 21 at Ālandī. His samādhi has now become a famous place of pilgrimage. His teachings are a balanced combination of jñāna and bhakti. Many saints of Maharashtra like Nāmdev, Sāvatā Mālī, Narahari Sonār, Janābāī, Gorākurihār and Cokhamelā were his contemporaries.
Many miracles have been attributed to Jñāneśvar. Some of them include:
- Making a bison repeat the Vedic mantras
- Bringing a dead person back to life
- Travelling in the air sitting upon an old brick wall
- Meet a haṭhayogi called Cāṅgadeva who was coming on a tiger
- Jñāna means knowledge.
- Bhakti means devotion to God.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore