Died At Age: 42
Also Known As: Sant Tukaram, Bhakta Tukaram, Tukaram Maharaj, Tukoba, Tukaram Bolhoba Ambile
Born Country: India
Born in: Dehu, Near Pune, India
Famous as: Saint, Poet
Spouse/Ex-: Jijiābāi, Rakhumābāi
father: Bolhoba More
mother: Kanakar More
children: Mahādev, Nārāyan, Vithobā
Died on: 1650
place of death: Dehu
Who was Tukaram?
Tukaram, also known as Sant Tukaram, was as an Indian poet and saint in the 17th century. He was one of the saints of the Bhakti movement in Maharashtra who composed the devotional poetry, Abhanga. His kirtans aka spiritual songs were devoted to Vithoba or Vitthala, an avatar of Hindu god Vishnu. He was born as the second of three brothers in the village of Dehu in Maharashtra. His family owned a money-lending and retailing business and was also engaged in trade and agriculture. As a young man, he lost both his parents. The tragedies in his personal life continued as his first wife and son also died. Although Tukaram married for the second time, he didn’t find solace in worldly pleasures for long and eventually renounced everything. He spent his later years in devotional worship, and composing kirtans and poetry. He also studied the works of other saints, including Namdev, Ekanath, Jnanadev, etc. He was killed in 1649, by Brahmin priests, at the age of 41.
Early Life & Marriages
Tukaram was born in 1598 or 1608, in a village named Dehu in Maharashtra, India, to Kanakar and Bolhoba More, as one of their three sons.
In 1625, he lost his parents. During this time, his elder brother left for Varanasi, seeking spiritual salvation. His sister-in-law also died during this period.
His first wife was Rakhama Bai, who, alongside their son Santu, died in the famine of 1630–1632.
Tukaram then married Jijabai who helped him set up a small shop in his village.
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Life After Family Deaths
After the deaths of his parents, Tukaram’s financial condition worsened so badly that his lands yielded no revenue. His debtors also refused to pay.
He became disillusioned with life, left his village, and disappeared into the nearby Bhamnath forest. There, he stayed for 15 days without water and food. It was during this time that he understood the meaning of self-realization.
Although Tukaram returned his house after his second wife found him and pressed him to come along with her, he now had no love for his household, business, or progeny.
After the incident, he reconstructed a temple that was in ruins and began to spend his days and nights performing bhajans and kirtans. He studied the devotional works of popular saints like Jnanadev, Ekanath, Namdev, etc. and eventually began to compose poems.
Guru Upadesh aka Spiritual Guidance by the Guru
As a result of his whole-hearted devotion, Tukaram was rewarded with Guru Upadesh. According to him, he had a vision in which The Guru visited him and blessed him.
His guru took the names of two of his predecessors, Keshava and Raghava Chaitanya, and advised him to remember Ramakrishna Hari always.
Tukaram once also had a dream in which the famous saint Namdev appeared and advised him to compose devotional songs. He told him to complete the remainder of the five crores and sixty lakhs poems out of the one hundred crores which he had intended to create.
Sant Tukaram composed a Marathi genre of literature called Abhanga poetry which fused folk stories with spiritual themes.
Between 1632 and 1650, he composed ‘Tukaram Gatha,’ a Marathi language compilation of his works. Also popular as ‘Abhanga Gatha,’ it is said to include about 4,500 abhangas.
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In his gatha, he had compared the Pravritti aka the passion for life, business, and family with Nivritti aka the desire to leave the worldly honors and practice self-realization to attain individual liberation or moksha.
Many miraculous events occurred during Tukaram's life. Once, he was performing bhajans in the village of Lohagaon when a Brahmin named Joshi came to him. His only child died back home. The child was brought back to life by the saint after he prayed to Lord Pandarinath.
His fame spread throughout the village and neighboring areas. He, however, remained unaffected by that.
Tukaram advocated Saguna Bhakti, a practice of devotion in which God’s praises are sung. He encouraged bhajans and kirtans in which he asked people to sing praises of the almighty.
As he lay dying, he advised his followers to always meditate on Lord Narayana and Ramakrishna Hari.
He also told them the importance of Harikatha. He considered Harikatha as the union of God, the disciple and His Name. According to him, all sins are burnt and souls are purified by just listening to it.
On 9 March 1649, on the festival of Holi, a group of 'Ramdasi' Brahmins entered the village with beating drums and surrounding Sant Tukaram.
They took him to the banks of Indrayani River, tied his body to a rock and threw it in the river. His dead body was never found.
Tukaram, who was a devotee of Vithoba or Vitthala, an avatar of Lord Vishnu, composed literary works that helped extend the Varkari tradition to pan-Indian Bhakti literature.
The famous poet Dilip Chitre summarizes the legacy of the saint between 14th century and 17th century as transforming "language of shared religion, and religion a shared language”. He believed that it was saints like him who brought the Marathas under one roof and enabled them to stand against the Mughals.
In the early 20th century, Mahatma Gandhi read and translated his poetry while in Yerwada Central Jail.