Prabhu Intro 2Shri Manik Prabhu Maharaj

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The great mystic saint and yogi Shri Manik Prabhu Maharaj (1817-1865) is hailed as the fourth incarnation of Lord Dattatreya and has an enormous following in the country. Shri Saibaba of Shirdi, Shri Akkalkot Swami Maharaj and Shri Gondavalekar Maharaj were Shri Prabhu’s contemporaries and they interacted with him on matters of deep spiritual wisdom. Shri Prabhu was also associated with the first war of Indian independence in 1857. All biographers refer to Shri Prabhu as a saint of great spirituality and mysticism. He is hailed as ‘Bhaktakarya Kalpadruma’. Stories of his miracles and eye witness accounts, which bear testimony to the manner in which he brought succor to the distressed and the sorrowing, to the afflicted and the wronged, who, ardently and with deep faith sought his spiritual intervention are available.Shri Prabhu’s teaching, basically, lay stress on the path of Bhakti.Alongside, he moralizes in the most remarkable manner on the ‘Vedantic Truths’ concerning the ‘Spiritual Unity’ of beings.
Shri Prabhu uses his theological platform beautifully, to unfold, interpret and even reason out the concept of ‘ Ultimate Reality’. His innumerable poetic compositions are replete with expressions of ardent devotion to the different manifestations of Parabrahma. In the final analysis, he enjoins a meaningful connection between man and man, in a spirit of fellowship and brotherhood, disregarding affiliations of religions, caster of creeds. Such a philosophy invited messianic reverence for Shri Prabhu from all communities and earned him the appellation ‘Sakalamatacharya’. Sakalmata Sampradaya is not a cult or a sect. It is a holistic and an all embracing school of philosophy, which basically rests on the concept of a Supreme Soul that pervades the Universe and in that context perceives a spiritual unity in the entire human race. This school of thought holds an umbrella of equality over all diversities of religions, faiths, and persuasions. Such a philosophy was readily acceptable to people of all religions, castes or creeds, and to rich and poor, as it held the promise of harmony among all people, transcending all barriers that produced conflicts.

Birth and early life

 

Birth and Early Life

In a village called Ladwanti, near the town of Kalyan, in the erstwhile state of Hyderabad, a child was born to a pious couple, Shri Manohar Naik and Smt. Bayadevi. They had in all three sons and one daughter. Amongst the sons, the middle one was the one who was to make history in time to come. He was named Manik.

The child was born on 22nd December, 1817, when the whole town was busy celebrating the birthday of Shri Dattatreya. There was nothing notable in this event and the child grew like any other child in that area. As he grew, one and all were attracted to the child, who was fondled not only by his parents but also by his neighbours. His pranks were endearing to everyone.

He started collecting a group of his friends and roaming the hills and dales in the vicinity of the town. He was, as it were, a child of nature, more close to the trees, the breeze, the birds and the flowers. In the course of play he would occasionally, casually disclose his divinity. Once, when one of his playmates, Govinda, failed to turn up for play for a couple of days, Manik went to his house to enquire after him. Arriving there he heard the sound of wailing from within the house. He was informed that Govinda had passed away after suffering from fever for a few days. Manik told Govinda’s mother to stop grieving as her son was alive. Sure enough, when Govinda’s mother called out to him to go out and play with Manik, he arose as if out of a deep slumber. All present were overjoyed and amazed at this occurrence. This and such other occurrences caused his fame to spread far and wide.

On another occasion, one Bheemabai, a childless woman, the wife of Apparao Arab, a General in the army of the Nizam of Hyderabad, was travelling to visit him to seek his blessings for progeny. On her way she noticed some boys beating up one boy and asked her escort to rescue him. The boy who was being beaten up asked for only eight cowries (shells) that he owed the other boys whereby he could get himself released from the other boys. Knowing through divine insight that Bheemabai sought children he promised eight sons for eight cowries. Hearing this, Bheemabai gave him the eight cowries. Thus released, the boy said, “You are given eight sons. You may go!

When Bheemabai and her entourage reached Manik’s home they discovered that Manik was missing from home for some days. She decided not to have any food until she saw him and waited for his arrival for three days without food and water. Finally, pitying her, Manik returned home. When Bheemabai saw him, who should he be but the boy whom she had rescued on her way here. Manik said, “I have already given you what you seek. Go in peace!” Satisfied Bheemabai left for Hyderabad and in the years to come, she was blessed with eight sons and remained eternally grateful to Manik to the end of her life.

On the whole however, Manik behaved in such a carefree manner that the members of his family were concerned. It was, therefore, decided that at the age of seven his thread ceremony should be performed, so that a sense of responsibility may dawn on this wayward child, who, it appeared, preferred to roam rather than sit and read. When the sacred thread was being bestowed on him and the sacred Gayatri hymn was being recited in his ears, as was the custom, a strange thing took place. Manik behaved as though all this was superfluous for him and he knew all about Gayatri and the significance of the eternal sound, AUM. He recited the hymn unaided, to the great surprise of the assembled people. As none could explain the inexplicable event, it was said to be a remarkable event and was left as such. None attached further notice to this event.

Manik was again free to roam in the woods. When he was sent to the school, his attention was to the open sky, the cool breeze, the rustling leaves and the chirping of the birds. The books were stale for him and the lessons boring. The enclosed class room was suffocating and the teachers were un-inspiring. He had, in fact, an extraordinary capacity to absorb what was conveyed to him but what was being conveyed to him appeared too little and too stale to capture his imagination. He liked to seek teachers in the lap of nature, listen to Nature’s natural education rather than the artificial or contrived lessons in the class room. It was not surprising therefore, that he was given to sneaking out of the class rooms and wandering in the woods.

It is said, when Satyakama approached his teacher’s residence, his face was shining brilliant. Upon which the teacher asked: “Verily, my dear, you shine like one knowing Brahman. Who has taught you ?” To this Satyakama replied, “Others than men”. In like manner, Shri Dattatreya is said to have twenty four teachers from nature. “Many are my preceptors,” he told King Yadu, “selected by my keen sense, from whom acquiring wisdom freely, I wander in the world… The earth, breeze, sky, water, fire, the moon and the Sun; the dove, python, sea, moth, honeybee, elephant, honey gatherer, deer, fish, Pingala the courtesan, sea-eagle, infant, maiden, forger of arrows, serpent, spider and bumble bee are the twenty four preceptors accepted by me. From their behaviour, I have learned all that is to be learned in this life for my good” .

In like manner, the formal education needed for making one fit for normal worldly life, was obviously not required for Manik. For, it appeared that he would rather wander through the woods gathering wisdom right from Nature than information from the class room, which would neither enlighten him nor elevate his Self towards That for which he had taken this descent. Nature became his class room and his very Self became his teacher. His receptivity became keen, intelligence sharp and thoughts synchronised. He came to be aware of things for which even normal perception was denied. And sure enough, he started speaking like one who was authorised to speak.

Strange are the ways by which the true seekers and aspirants are communicated the nuances of Truth. While the normal person is busy in collecting information (which he erroneously considers to be knowledge) and material possessions, the person graced by the Lord is seeped with wisdom and extraordinary powers which are beyond the imagination of even the most learned human beings. For the man of wisdom, the realisation does not come bit by bit but all of a sudden like a flash of lightning, brilliant and all-illuminating. As said in Kena Upanishad, “Of this Brahman, there is this teaching: this is, as it were, like lightning which flashes forth or is like the winking of the eye”. The men of wisdom tell us that when there is such realisation, there is, as it were, a sudden expansion of the mind, a flash of light illumining the innermost recesses of the intellect, an inflow of the Divine Will into the Individual Will causing vibrancy and joy ineffable. But few had the eyes to see or the vision to appreciate the change that was taking place in the life of Manik. They took his wandering in the woods to be lethargy and non-interest in formal education or to his being naive. It was, therefore, natural for them to consider a change in his environment by way of sending him to his uncle, who, it was considered, would put some sense in his mind and make him a fit person to take the burden of life.

Even here, Manik was neither receptive to education nor to the admonitions of elders. While children of his age were busy in play or in studies, he often would be found lying in his bed and absorbed in his own thoughts. But as far as Manik was concerned, he seemed to be going through an intense spiritual transformation and a great aversion to life around him. As time would show he was almost ripe for the first step to be taken. The very first verse of Avadhoota Gita declares that “It is only with the Grace of God that in men of wisdom is born the inclination for non-dual experience which protects them from great danger”. Manik seemed to be waiting, for the moment when the last leaf attached to the tree of worldly life would fall. And that moment was not far.

Manik’s uncle sincerely felt that this boy should grow up like a normal child and should be trained and educated to take up the responsibilities of life. He was deeply frustrated by the failure of his measures in sending this boy to school. He then thought that employment may inculcate a sense of responsibility in him and thus got him appointed as a clerk in the octroi check post on the outskirts of Kalyan town. Manik was made to sit there and to collect duty on goods entering the town. However, Manik was least interested in his job. He would sit there engrossed in deep thought. He would distribute all the cash collected over there amongst his friends who were needy and poor and was thus dismissed the very next day.

Already frustrated and furious over this episode, one afternoon Manik’s uncle happened to see him resting on the bed, as if unconcerned with the world around him. Seeing him lazing thus, his uncle scolded him and asked him whether he thought himself to be a king to receive food and clothing without working for the same. That was enough. The words were so sharp for Manik’s keen intellect, that at that very moment aversion towards life came over him and the vision of his life’s mission flashed before him. He got up without uttering a word; discarding his clothes he left home wearing but a loincloth. As he left he made this prophetic statement:

“Who else be my saviour,
save the compassionate Lord ?
Creator and the Destroyer
as well, my lone Controller.
Through delusion, ‘I AM’,
thus does a person consider.
Who, verily, is the servant
and who, indeed, is the Lord ?
Worthless, verily,
is this distress for one to worry,
Even in one’s mother’s womb,
He alone was the Witness.
Thus, verily, does Manik speak.”

From then onwards, his journey on the Pathless Path was within the folds of Mother Nature. As he breathed in the fresh, unconditioned atmosphere, a new wave of awareness came over him, spreading before him the universality of the Divine presence in everything he saw, touched or heard. One by one the mysteries, long concealed, came to be revealed to him. “Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma”, “neha nanasti kinchana” “Verily, that Imperishable, O Gargi, is unseen but is the seer, is unheard but is the hearer, un-thought but is the thinker, unknown but is the knower. There is no other seer but this, there is no other knower but this. By this Imperishable, O Gargi, is space woven like warp and woof”.

What does all this mean ? When one speaks of the tree, one also assumes it to be each leaf, each flower, each fruit as well as the trunk, the branches and the unseen roots. However, when one speaks of the Lord, one rarely assumes the Earth (with its minutest molecules), the water, the air, the fire, the space to be nothing but the Lord. This apparent division between the Lord and his creation is no division at all. This division is only unreal, for there can be no demarcation. Nor is any separation possible. As Shri Krishna puts it, “He (the Lord) stands undivided in beings and yet as if divided. He is to be known as the Creator, the Supporter and Devourer as well”.

This made Manik a completely changed person. Shri Krishna’s assurance seemed to echo in every action of his. “He who sees Me everywhere and sees all in Me, I am not lost to him nor is he lost to Me”. Consequently within himself and without himself, in nature, in creatures, in trees and streams, hills and dales, in the wise as well as in the foolish, in the saint as well as in the sinner, in those who love and in those who hate, he saw only the same Divine essence, the Brahman. The entire world experience was spiritualized and became self-experience. His love and compassion for all beings from the creatures to the creepers became all- embracing, for he had seen the face of the Lord unveiled to him with all its mysterious secrets.

He could not bear to see any of the Lord’s creatures being ill-treated. Once, he saw a boy riding a pregnant buffalo and goading her to run faster and faster. He reprimanded the boy and bade him to dismount. Ignoring Manik’s remonstration the boy continued his torture of the buffalo. Manik once more cautioned him and warned him that if he failed to dismount immediately, he may find himself stuck to the buffalo. When the boy failed to dismount, suddenly the buffalo commenced galloping and then he could not dismount as he found his hands stuck to the back of the buffalo. Fearing for his life, he pleaded to Manik to release him and promised not to misbehave with any animal ever again. Then, Manik approached the buffalo and requested her to release the boy and immediately the boy was able to dismount.

Seeing the Supreme Self mirrored in all beings as well as his individual Self , the advaita-bhavana, the non-dual inalienable experience gave way to exhilaration. He and his Preceptor, as also he and his Maker all appeared but as one, indistinct from one another, as Bimba and Pratibimba. Like the Cuckoo who experiences the first showers of rain, he sang with gay abandon:

“Compassionate is Datta,
my own Divine Preceptor,
Controller of inner core,
maintainer of triple shore
Converting my mundane life
to be entirely pure.
Indivisible, Inviolable,
In-dweller of the Universe,
Verily, as Consciousness,
He abides in the Universe.
Bestowing unsurpassed,
illumined splendour,
Has taken humble Manik
to meet his mentor.”

In jungles, hills and woods

Yajnavalkya explains in Brihadaranyak Upanishad (III.5.1) that it is the Self that transcends hunger and thirst, sorrow and delusion, old age and death. The knowers of Brahman having known this Self, having overcome the desire for sons, the desire for wealth, the desire for worlds, live the life of mendicants. (Because) that which is the desire for sons is the desire for wealth, the desire for wealth is the desire for the worlds. Therefore, let the knower of Brahman, after he has done with learning, desire to live like a child. When he has done with the state of childhood and with learning, then he becomes a silent mediator. Having done with both the non-meditative and meditative states, then he becomes the knower of Brahman. These appear to be the graphic stages through which Shri Manik was passing. Perceiving the manifestation of the Brahman in the expansive Nature, living in the lap of Nature, being instructed by the forces of Nature, he became one with Nature, one with manifestation, one with the Lord, of whom he himself was a part and parcel. In his discourse with Prahlad, Shri Dattatreya has described the life of one who has realised the Brahman. “The very best among our Teachers in this world are the bees and pythons. Following their example we have acquired non-attachment and contentment. Strangers may rob the honey which was collected with great effort and pain by the bees yet the bees do not despair. Seeing that, I cultivated from the bees aversion towards all objects. Like the python I remain effortless and contented in mind with whatever I get. If I do not get anything, I lie for many days depending upon my own strength. Some times I eat plenty and sometimes but little, no matter whether it is delicious or tasteless. Some times I partake rich food, some other time I gulp even worthless things. Sometimes I eat food given with respect and sometimes given without any honour. Enjoying what is ordained by destiny and contented in mind, I put on silk or linen, deer skin or rags, bark of the trees or whatever is available at that time. Some times I lie on the ground, sometimes on straw, on leaves, on stones or in ashes. Some times I sleep on soft quilt at the desire of others or on a bed inside a palace. I bathe besmeared with sandal paste, finely dressed, wearing garlands and bedecked in jewels. I drive in chariots, or ride on a horse or on an elephant, while on other occasions I wander stark naked like an evil spirit. I neither revile nor eulogies men of varied natures or having predominance of one or the other of the Gunas. I have told you about my conduct, even though it may appear to you as being against the canons of the Vedas…” (Bhagavat Purana VII.13) This extensive quotation reminds one of the strange behaviour patterns Shri Manik exhibited throughout these years of his adolescence. If, therefore, people considered him to be an Avatar (incarnation) of Shri Dattatreya, then the future events, as they unfolded, seemed to justify such conclusion. Even though the family members accepted the strange behaviour of Shri Manik, it nonetheless created anxiety in their minds, especially when he would wander from place to place without notice. He would come and go like the breeze. He was like ‘Aniketa’, one without any settled place of residence. Becoming unattached with everything that was not of Brahman, he lived in the ever-blissful state, delivered, as it were, from the bondage of life. He had become a Jeevanmukta. From that time onward, Shri Manik who was considered a prankster, an irresponsible adolescent boy, was looked at with due respect. An aura enveloped his personality. He seemed to be more and more like the one in whom awareness had illumined the Brahman like the Sun in the firmament. He preferred to stay in solitude and alone concentrating on the Supreme Self. He went to nearby places such as Manthal and especially to Ambilkunda or Amritkunda. Here nature was luxuriously abundant and along with peace the Grace of the Lord also descended on him. He stayed there in rapture for days on end. Once a devotee who had come to the Shiva Temple at Ambilkunda, saw this young Sanyasi with his face shining brilliant as the noon Sun. He was curious to know the particulars of this Sanyasi. Since he did not get any response from Shri Manik Prabhu himself, he tried to follow him to see where he lived. With the intention of dissuading him from unnecessary curiosity, Shri Prabhu hid himself in a nearby bush. Even then the curiosity of the person was not satisfied. He started peering through the bush and what he saw in the bush was the face of a growling and ferocious tiger. Frightened to the extreme and to save his life, the person ran towards the village and narrated the strange event. It then became clear to the people that the Sanyasi was none other than Shri Manik Prabhu Maharaj of Kalyan town. The news spread far and wide. It even reached the parents of Shri Prabhu who were distraught till then. They were overjoyed to know the whereabouts of Shri Prabhu. They came over to Manthal looking for him. But the Divine Will had other plans for this traveller on the path of Truth. Shri Prabhu spoke to them in most compassionate words and spoke those prophetic words which spelt out his mission in life. “With the Grace of Shri Dattatreya I took birth in your family. Your desire for a child was duly fulfilled. I stayed with you as long as it was necessary. Now that I have been initiated in Brahmavidya, wisdom of Brahman, my life is devoted to humanity. I will now have to wander from place to place to spread the message of the Compassionate Datta, Datta-dayaghana, so that the misery of human beings can be alleviated. Therefore, it is futile to grieve for my loss. I will ever be with you. Go back to your home and leave me to fulfil my mission. Whenever and wherever one needs me, I will come. This is certain; this is my promise.” The parents were at a loss to understand the great significance of his mission or of his promise. Pacifying their confused minds and leaving everything to God’s mercy, they returned to their native place.

In search of the self

Shri Prabhu was greatly attracted to the hills around Manthal. The caves in the hills were cool and far from the maddening crowd. The locale was quiet and peaceful and conducive for communion with the Supreme Self. He lived for many days immersed in the blissful state of realisation. Some time he would come down from the hills and roam around the town.

His behaviour was some times so different from normal ways of life, that people would shun him as though he was demented. His favorite pastime seemed to be to sit on a stick and play like a child, treating the stick for a horse.

While children and less intelligent people would treat this event with amusement and ridicule, the wise ones would see this unusual spectacle and wonder who this person may be! A saint, a Yogi or a simpleton to be neglected. They had heard that many ancient yogis used to behave in a manner which would appear unnatural to the common man. However ordinary people did not have the required spiritual comprehension to see the great man through his Leela (sport).

For one who is wise, doubts need not arise. There have been instances where Jeevanmuktas, those who were liberated even when alive, were not bound by the norms of the social life. Jabala Upanishad (6) tells us about Samvartaka, Aruni, Svetaketu, Durvasa, Rbhu, Nigadha, Jada-bharata, Dattatreya, Raivataka and others were Paramhamsas. They were of un-manifested nature, of un-manifested ways of life, seen (by others) to behave like mad men though they were in no way mad.

The wise ones, therefore, recognizing Shri Prabhu as a great Yogi honoured and worshipped him, which Shri Prabhu accepted as though all this was natural for him. But at the same time like a simple, unassuming child of nature, he would distribute the things received by him among the assembled persons. Indeed, strange are the ways of those who are absorbed in the bliss of Brahman. As Shri Krishna says, “Sages see with equal eye, a learned and humble Brahman, a cow, an elephant, and even a dog or an outcast” (Bhagavad Gita.V.18). The empirical diversity prevalent in the manifested world does not hide the metaphysical Reality abiding within.

Often when in spiritual rapture, he would sing and dance and many of his bhajans were the product of such ecstatic moods. When he sang these bhajans, which in Marathi are known as “Abhanga”, he seemed to be inseparable from “Datta-Dayaghana” his chosen deity. The state of a-bhanga is surely that state when one is not separate from the Lord. One is reminded of the words of Shri Krishna (Bhagavad Gita. XVIII.20) when he says that the Satvic attribute is that wisdom by which the one Imperishable Being is seen in all existence, undivided in the divided.

In fact bhajans were to play an important role in the Sampradaya of Shri Manik Prabhu Maharaj, in the generations to come. It is only through such unalloyed communion with the Lord that His creatures come back to Him. Bhajana, therefore basically represents the unity of Bhagavan (the lord) and Jana (the devotees). Shri Prabhu also encouraged this medium of ‘naad-upasana’.

In an unbroken tradition, from Shri Manik Prabhu Maharaj to Shri Siddharaj Manik Prabhu, every Peethadhipati of the Sampradaya of Shri Prabhu has contributed to the wealth of Bhajans, poetical outpourings which tie emotional bonds between the ‘Upasya’ and the ‘Upasaka’. Whatever mood they may exhibit in their outward way of life, their inner spiritual strength made them pour out intensely the spiritual earnestness towards the Lord, which contained not only Jnana, Bhakti, Vairagya but also the Karma to be performed by the people at large.

In Shri Manik Prabhu Sampradaya nothing is more important than singing the glory of the Lord. It is realised that while intellectual and philosophical disputations may attract and captivate the mind, it is the sound, the naad, that moves the heart. It is the Eternal Sound AUM, which transformed all this that, verily, is. The very first hymn of Mandukya Upanishad declares, “AUM, is verily, all THIS, the Imperishable.” Samaveda is the epitome of Naad, therefore it is called Naad-Brahma. Shri Krishna declaring his Vibhuti, divine manifestation, says: “Of the offerings, I am the offering of silent adoration” (Bhagavad Gita. X.25).

Further the Lord has assured of His presence among his devotees singing his glories, “I do not dwell in Vaikuntha, nor in the hearts of the Yogis; I dwell there, Narada, where my devotees sing my eulogies”. (Bhagavat Purana). Shri Narasimha Sarasvati Maharaj tells us in Guru Charitra (51.40-42)

“I shall tell another mark;
through music should one hear,
For there do I ever dwell, my Will
in Music is ever dear.
Those who daily do sing, on them
my eternal love remains.
In their residence ever, you may
consider my appearance.”

This thread was picked up by Shri Manik Prabhu Maharaj as the most powerful means for deliverance of the human soul. In the tradition of saints, Shri Manik Prabhu started spreading highly philosophical wisdom through Bhajans, couched in simple and commonly understood words. It is truly said that “nadopasanaya deva Brahma Vishnu, Maheshvarah / bhavanty upasita nunam yasmadete tadatmakah /”. If propitiation is done through music, devotion to Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshvar is truly established.

“All this world is the syllable AUM. Its further explanation is this: the past, the present, the future — everything is just AUM. And whatever transcends the three divisions of time — that too is AUM” declares Mandukya Upanishad at the very outset. In the word ‘nada’, the letter ‘na’ denotes the Primal Breath, Prana and ‘da’ denotes the Primal Energy, Agni. The combination of these two primary energies contribute to the upsurge of spirituality in a person.

Shri Prabhu moved from place to place like a free bird or breeze which knew no bounds. In the bosom of Mother Nature, he had all the satisfaction and contentment which the world of the attachment and possessions would not give. In Avadhoot Gita, it is said : “To me there exists no mental act that is auspicious or inauspicious. There is no bodily activity which is fair or foul nor any speech which is pleasant or unpleasant”. (Avadhhot Gita I.8)

Subala Upanishad describes an Avadhoot thus “One should be like a child. The characteristics of the child are non-attachment and innocence. By abstaining from (unnecessary) speech, (unnecessary) learning, by nonobservance of (unnecessary) rituals relating to class or stages of life, one acquires the state of solitude that is spoken in the Vedas”. (Subal Upanishad 13) Shri Prabhu was passing through this pure and fearless state of a child.

During one of his wanderings, he arrived at Chalakapur, a small town near Kalyan. The Sun had already set and he had no place to stay at night. On the outskirts of the town, he saw a temple dedicated to Hanuman. The people of this area did not visit this temple after nightfall. It was believed that during night, Hanuman bore his ferocious countenance which no human being could see and remain alive. Shri Prabhu was not aware of this legend. When he approached the temple he saw the doors open and the place deserted. He entered the temple and slept at the feet of the Lord, after safely depositing his clothes and sandals on the shoulder of Shri Hanuman.

The next morning as the Sun rose, the temple priest came to perform the daily worship. Seeing someone’s footwear deposited on the idol, a sacrilegious act, his anger knew no bounds. Taking the person sleeping in the temple responsible for this dastardly act, he started beating him black and blue. However, the Lord recognises his devotees and the faith they have in him. Consequently, even as the priest was beating Shri Prabhu, blood started oozing from the idol. Seeing this strange occurrence, the priest was shaken up and it dawned on him that the person he was beating was not an ordinary person. When Shri Prabhu revealed his identity he fell at his feet and implored his mercy.

The news spread like wild fire. People who were afraid to enter the temple thronged in thousands. The entire atmosphere was surcharged with religious fervour. Bayadevi, Shri Prabhu’s mother and Nrisimha, his brother came over to Chalakapur. Form Hyderabad came Raja-Rai-Rayan, a nobleman of the Nizam’s court. All experienced the overflowing Grace of Shri Prabhu and no one went back empty handed. Such was the compassion of Shri Manik Prabhu.

He stayed at Chalakapur with his mother and brother for some months at the insistence of the people and later left for Mailar as desired by mother Bayadevi.

Venkamma

Devi-VenkammaMailar is one of the ancient holy places, popularly known as ‘Dakshina Kashi’. Shiva is worshipped here as Martanda Bhairava and is also venerated locally as Khandoba. The temple received many donations from far and wide, including from the Peshwas. During the period when Shri Prabhu arrived here the town was a prosperous trading centre. During the annual festival of the temple innumerable devotees thronged this town. As long as Shri Prabhu stayed there, it became normal for the devotees to take his blessings after taking the Darshan of Martanda Bhairava. For many, Shri Prabhu appeared as Shiva himself in the garb of a wandering recluse. During this period, his fame as an Avatar of Shri Dattatreya spread further in the surrounding areas.
Among the many frequent visitors, there was one lady of exceptional spiritual competence.
She had all the potential for being spiritually awakened but seemed to be waiting for the grace of a Guru. She belonged to the Komti caste, a trading community (vaishya) and appeared to be endowed with wealth and prosperity.
None noticed her, for she had been keeping to herself at the far end. Each day she would come and take Shri Prabhu’s blessings and sit in the corner till the close of the day when all the crowd would disperse. Thus, on each day she was experiencing the Grace of Shri Prabhu, for it appeared that she had finally met her ordained Guru. The Grace was silently flowing through her and preparing her for the path chosen for her in the Sampradaya.
This remarkable lady was none other than Venkamma, who became a powerful force, Shakti Svarupini, in Shri Manik Prabhu Sampradaya.
Great saints have an insight which is unlike that of normal persons. Among the large crowd which was coming over for his Darshan, he had seen her spiritual preparedness with his mystic eye. No one has admittance in spiritual matters unless they are so authorised. The person has to be an Adhikari, qualified to receive initiation and retain the extraordinary power bestowed on him. An unqualified person will not be able to receive, let alone sustain the power of penance. Shri Prabhu realised that here was one such personality who was well equipped for being initiated. Therefore, when all the persons left his presence, he called her. “You have taken Prasad more than once”, he told her, “Why do you then come again and again. Why don’t you go back to your family?”
When the reference to her home and family was made, she seemed to come out of a trance. Where was her home? Who were her father, mother, brothers and sisters? She replied, “I do not know where my home is or my family. I have therefore come to you to seek guidance to the place of my abidance. Your lotus feet appear to me to be the place where I can take shelter”.
These words had more significance than was prima facie apparent. She was receptive to the resonance which was passing from Shri Prabhu and she was so much immersed in that Grace that the entire surrounding seemed to have become full of Shri Manik Prabhu. Her heart was pure enough to become the resting place of Shri Prabhu’s Grace.
It is rare for one to be spiritually inclined. People gather around Gurus looking for material gains and economic prosperity. Few and rare are those who come with two bare hands but go back with abounding grace showered by innumerable hands of the Lord. Few therefore, know the importance of asking and what it is to receive without asking. Therefore Shri Krishna rightly pointed out to Arjuna, “Among thousands of men scarcely one strives for perfection, and of those who strive and succeed scarcely one knows Me in truth” (Bhagavad GitaVII.3.). In Avadhoot Gita also it is said at the outset that “It is only with the Grace of the Lord that the knowledge of Advaita is born, which alone protects one from great danger” (Avadhoot Gita I.1).
Devi Venkamma seemed to be one such rare person in whom the knowledge of Advait had ripened. For her, Shri Prabhu became the creator, the sustainer and the deliverer. In fact, in time to come she was to realise the unity of herself and her Guru. People often think that this is possible only for the chosen few on whom the Guru sheds his grace. They forget that the fault lies not in the unwillingness or in the inability of the Guru to shed such grace but because of one’s own infirmity, incapacity to receive such Grace. Consequently, their own weakness is transferred to the Guru and they wander searching for Guru after Guru of their liking.
However it is not so. The Guru’s Grace does not depend upon how much you please him with your outward service, wealth and prosperity, when your own heart itself is poor and incapable to receive the ever flowing grace. If the people keep their minds and hearts pure and auspicious then the Lord is sure to dwell therein. A popular verse says: “What were the good practices of Vyadha? What was the age of Dhruva? What was the learning of Gajendra? What was the prowess of Ugrasena? What was the beauty of Kubja? What was the wealth of Sudama? The Lord, who is the lover of devotion, is pleased with devotion itself and does not bother about other qualities”
It is only on the basis of such absolute Shraddha that the Lord takes the devotee under his shelter and gives this assurance as said in Bhagavad Gita. “Those who worship Me, meditating on Me alone, to them who ever persevere, I bring attainment of what they crave and security in what they have” (IX.22). “Swiftly does he become a soul of righteousness and obtain lasting peace, O Arjuna, you know this for certain that My Devotee perishes never” (IX.31). Therefore, He strongly recommends to each of us, “On Me fix your mind; to Me be devoted; worship Me; revere Me; thus having disciplined yourself, with Me as your goal, to Me shall you come” (IX.34).
However, how many of us are prompted by such an urge or inclination? We seek Gurus to fulfil our wishes and our desires, which are mundane, temporal and entirely transitory. Our eyes are so full of desires that we are incapable of seeing the grandeur of the Lord. Venkamma, However was not such a devotee. Her non-attachment and sense of renunciation was complete and final. Even then, Shri Prabhu desired to test her. “You are young and in society many types of people are to be found. It would, therefore, not be proper for you to take such a sudden decision. For your own good, I plead that you return to your family”.
Venkamma was not to be shaken from her resolve as she had already renounced everything and everyone for the Guru whom she had now found. Even a child sometimes becomes firm with its mother. She said, “Master, I have left everything, father, mother, family and friends, with full knowledge and consideration. I have no goal except your feet. I can never go anywhere else, even if I so desire”. Seeing her firm determination and hearing the intense, austere tone of her voice he finally said, “If you want to stay here you will have to come without your wealth and possessions”. Venkamma discarded, without any hesitation, all her jewels and ornaments then and there and became ready to follow her master. People were wonderstruck at such intense Vairagya and fell at her feet. Shri Prabhu recognised her as the manifestation of his Shakti and declared that none could have access to him save through the grace of Shakti Svarupini, Devi Venkamma. She was sent to Shri Prabhu’s mother till she became fully energised to play the role which was ordained for her.
It is one of the fundamental tenets of the Hinduism that one cannot attain his spiritual goal unless one is energised by Shakti, the energy of the Supreme Lord. What we call Nature or Prakriti is but the outward manifestation of the Lord, which becomes reality only when it is energised by the power of the Lord.
In Devi Bhagavat, she is identified as Durga, Rama, Radhika, Dhareshwari, Jambuvadini, Arunika, Minakshi and Madhumati. She is also known as Matanga Kanya. In Shri Manik Prabhu Sampradaya, Shri Prabhu’s Shakti, Venkamma, is referred to as Madhumati Shyamala.
Later she attained Samadhi at Maniknagar in the year 1865. Ramchandra Buva Nasikkar, who was present on the occasion has vividly described the incident. She sang and danced the whole night and in the early hours of the day she left her mortal coil and merged her Self in the Universal Self. When people of her community gathered there and started preparing for the funeral they were amazed to hear the sound of AUM emanating from her corpse. On being informed of this Shri Prabhu rushed to the spot where the corpse was lying and ordered that a Samadhi be built for her. Shri Prabhu personally supervised the ritual of Samadhi for Venkamma.
Later Shri Martand Manik Prabhu built a temple over her Samadhi and prescribed the rituals for worship. He composed a number of Bhajans in her glory and started celebrating the Devi Navaratra Utsava in her honour. Even today Venkamma’s temple is considered to be a very important shrine for the devotees of Shri Manik Prabhu Sampradaya.

Pilgrimage continues

As the fame of Shri Manik Prabhu spread far and wide, people flocked to have his Darshan and seek succour from worldly troubles. Invariably, people need quick results. They have neither the patience to pray nor the willingness to wait for the result. For some, the very sight of a holy person brings solace; but there are others who desire to have assured remedies. Saints do not come to give solutions in capsules. They come to alleviate the miserable state in which the people at large find themselves but this can be done only with the cooperation of the aspirant. While the saint can only show the path to be tread, the path has to be traversed by the aspirant himself.
When the seekers become unreasonable and extremely demanding on the patience and peace of the saints, they seek to avoid the world of self-conceit and reside in solitude, where they can reflect and meditate on the Self which is free from all the selfish blemishes of the world. With that view in mind, Shri Prabhu left Mailar with some of his close associates to visit holy places like Parali-Vaijanatha, Tuljapur, Pandharpur etc.
At Pandharpur when he went to take the Darshan of Shri Vitthala he was wearing clothes which were soiled with the dust of the road. Vitthala receives everyone with equal love, irrespective of whether he is good or bad, rich or poor, saint or sinner. Pandharpur is one of those places where class, caste, status all melt away. Everyone is eager to have the Darshan of the Lord and consequently they take no notice of the other devotees. The priests did not recognise Shri Prabhu but the Lord recognised his devotee. When Shri Prabhu desired to place his head on the feet of the Lord and to touch him lovingly, the priests did not permit him to do so. Then the Lord himself covered Shri Manik Prabhu with the garlands which were placed around His neck. Seeing this unexpected miraculous event, the priests felt ashamed of themselves for not recognizing the greatness of Shri Prabhu. The assembled devotees were thrilled with this miracle. They fell at the feet of Shri Prabhu and sought his blessings but all this adulation did not affect Shri Prabhu for he was completely oblivious of all that was happening around him and was already in communion with the Lord Panduranga. He was so overcome with emotion that what flowed from his lips then was one of the most beautiful expressions of a realised soul.
“I saw this day, my Panduranga,
standing on the brick,
His forehead adorned with
sandal paste and saffron,
Shiva, verily, had adorned himself
bright as his crown,
Seeing splendour of ear-rings,
even Sun hid himself back.
Alluring were the ears,
eyes, nose and the smile,
The broad chest covered
with the Tulsi all awhile,
The arms on the hips
adorned with the golden vest,
Vaijayanti gracing his neck;
Bhrigu’s mark on chest.
Eagerly did Manik have
with Vithala his tryst,
His throbbing heart
and the eyes flowing moist,
His chosen goal in life,
all desires fulfilled,
Pure love spreading
all around fully distilled.
From Pandharpur he went to visit Shri Junglee Maharaj at Poona and from there onward to Girnar to have communion with Guru Shri Datta, the compassionate one. Sourcing his power from the Primal source, he travelled further to Gangotri, Haradwar, Badri, Kedar, Prayag, Varanasi, Gaya, Puri, Mahur, Tirupati, Ganagapur and to many holy river banks and hills on the way. This travel established in him the unique feeling of all-pervading nature of his Self and the manifestation of the Supreme Brahman in everything which he saw, touched, heard and breathed.
Finally he came to Kalyan, his home town. His innumerable devotees were waiting to receive the child of their soil. Shri Prabhu was pleased to come back and was also pleased with the changes that had taken place in the intervening period. He decided to live there for some time to consider the steps to give shape to his mission, for the time had come when the first step was to be taken.
However, Kalyan did not seem to be his final destination, but only a resting place. He decided to leave the town to visit the Samadhi of Shri Bakkaprabhu and also Ketaki Sangam. After visiting the Samadhi of Shri Bakkaprabhu at Karakanalli, he went to the Shiva temple at Ketaki Sangam. This ancient temple had a tradition that no worship of Shiva would be complete if Kevada leaves were not used in the Pooja. When Shri Prabhu went there, it was not the season when Kevda leaves would be available and no one could procure them for him. Suddenly a farmer came over to him with a basketful of Kevada leaves. When people were wondering how the farmer could procure them, he slipped away from the crowd not to be seen again. This gave rise to the belief that Shiva had himself come with the leaves, so that His devotee’s pooja may not remain incomplete.
Myths are made of such events. We are so immersed in our normal uneventful lives that any variation from the same becomes a strange event. A great Yogi who has power over his mind is capable of creating conditions according to his desire. Shri Prabhu already had so much occult power that it should not have been difficult for him to materialise the Kevada leaves with his own powers but the one who is a true Yogi never uses the powers for his own sake or for proving his divine powers. When such is the case and his will surrenders to the Lord, his Shraddha (devotion) itself creates conditions when ordinary human beings become the vehicles for fulfilling his needs.
After completing the Pooja, Shri Prabhu sat under a banyan tree and asked one of his devotees to dig the ground nearby. Wonder of wonders! There arose from the ground an exquisitely carved Shiva Linga. The Linga was consecrated then and there, with all ceremonies. Such are the ways by which the Lord demonstrates His grace to his devotees.
After installation of the Shivalinga, Shri Prabhu was to leave for Bidar. Shri Annarao Deshmukh, a prominent citizen of Nyalkal had come to Ketaki Sangam to pay his respects to Shri Prabhu. He very much desired to take Shri Prabhu to Nyalkal, en-route to Bidar, and for that purpose he had brought all regalia like elephants, horses and Palkhi for the convenience of Shri Prabhu. However Shri Prabhu would have none of these. He remarked in his kindest words, lest he cause pain to the pure devotion of Annarao Deshmukh, “Annarao, why does one need all these arrangements. We are simple fakirs and all this grandeur will not befit us”.
Annarao Deshmukh did not agree. He was insistent and said that it is one form of seva which a devotee desires to perform and Shri Prabhu should not stifle his aspirations. For fulfilling the desires of the devotees, Shri Prabhu was ever ready. He gave his consent. Shri Prabhu’s journey to Nyalkal in procession and the ceremonies performed there were remembered and talked about for years to come.
When the news of Shri Prabhu’s arrival at Nyalkal reached Bidar, people, rich and poor, Hindus and Muslims, rushed to Shri Prabhu and implored him to visit Bidar. Nothing pleased Shri Prabhu better. When the procession left Nyalkal for Bidar it looked as if a great King was passing through the town with his retinue. But then, was Shri Prabhu not a Prince among Yogis?
On the way to Bidar the procession had to stop frequently for people to offer Pooja to Shri Prabhu and seek his blessings.
Bidar was only two miles away. “Shri Datta Dayaghana”, however, had different plans in his mind. The bearers of the Palkhi, as if drawn by an unknown force, took a different route and came to Jharni Nrisimha. Even when they realised their mistake, they could not retrace their steps. It appeared as if they had no control over their legs and some other force was deciding where their next steps should fall.
Suddenly as if from nowhere, a snake appeared with its hood lifted. The Palkhi bearers stopped in their tracks uncertain of what to do. The snake would not give way. It stood in the middle of the road, swaying its hood and finally lay across the road as if to prevent further journey. Shri Prabhu was strangely quiet. He pacified the worried devotees. He said, “Do not worry. Obviously he seems to be some Siddha Purusha, who desires to convey to us some information. Let us see where he desires to lead us”. So saying he got down from the Palkhi and as if it understood, the snake led the way with all the retinue following. When they reached Jharni Nrisimha, it disappeared. Shri Prabhu took this incident as the desire of the snake that he should stay in Jharni Nrisimha for some days. His stay in Jharni brought great joy to the people.
Jharni is an ancient holy place where a temple dedicated to Shri Narasimha, an Avatar of Shri Vishnu, is consecrated. There is a statue of a Nandi facing the main idol, which is unusual. Nandi is the vehicle of Shiva and is normally found only in Shiva temples.
Shri Prabhu’s being drawn to such a unique site seemed to be an omen of the path that he was soon to lay, Sakalmata (‘Samatvam’ among different faiths), for mankind to follow in the ages to come.

Pilgrimage comes to an end

Even though the people wanted Shri Prabhu to stay in Jharni for a longer period, it was not to be so. People from different adjacent villages and towns would prevail upon him that he should grace their homes also with his presence. Sometimes the places he was invited to were at two extreme ends.
It was impossible for Shri Prabhu to accept all these requests; at the same time it was not within him to reject the earnest desires of his devotees. To one and all he would promise his presence and give the date when he would visit their homes. His attendants would be worried about the inconvenience and the effect these journeys would have upon his health but, as usual, Shri Prabhu would tell them not to worry about his health but have faith.
Once, Shri Prabhu was taking an afternoon nap at the very time that he had assured some of his devotees that he would visit their homes in Bidar. The time when he should normally have started on the journey had already come but no one had the courage to wake Shri Prabhu and remind him of the promise he had made to visit his devotees’ homes in Bidar. The time passed and very much later Shri Prabhu woke up from his sleep as if nothing had happened.
At the same time as he was asleep in Jharni, the people in Bidar were happy to have Shri Prabhu in their midst and they celebrated Shri Prabhu’s presence with great devotion and satisfaction. Even in Bidar, he was received in their homes by different devotees at chronologically the same time. When the news of his visit to Bidar came to Jharni, every one was surprised because they had seen with their own eyes that Shri Prabhu was in deep sleep in Jharni itself. How could he have gone to Bidar when he was in Jharni all the time?
People of little knowledge view every event from their own stand point. For them, Shri Prabhu was a physical, gross body. They were not aware that Yogis are known to have left their gross bodies and travelled in their astral, Sukshma bodies long distances in a short time. However, even though such miracles by the Guru enhance the power and influence even of the devotees, they seldom realise how difficult and strenuous it is for the Guru himself to undertake such unusual tasks.
In Jharni itself, when Shri Prabhu woke up from his afternoon nap, Venkamma saw him tired and perspiring profusely, as if he had travelled a long distance. When asked about the matter, he just smiled and kept quiet. True Yogis do not desire to exhibit their supernatural powers. If they sometimes use these powers, it is entirely out of love and compassion for their devotees.
It is a travesty of fate, however, that even the kindest of saints have an abundance of enemies. There are people who do not desire that the Sun should shine, so that they can continue with their nefarious activities. These forces of Darkness, Ignorance and Inertia, therefore, would do any thing to place impediments in the path of saints. Saints willingly go through these ordeals of fire only to come out shining like gold which has passed through fire. Sant Tukaram says that only because there are fallen people in the world does the Lord come as the redeemer of the fallen. If there were no ‘Patita’ (Downfallen) then the Lord would not have been called ‘Patita-Pavana’ (Redeemer of the Downfallen).
Some misguided Mullas, who could neither understand nor digest the popularity of Shri Prabhu in their blind orthodoxy, decided to counter the effect of Shri Prabhu’s message on the people, amongst whom many were also Muslims. When one loses discrimination, he tends to behave not only in an irrational manner but also foolishly. With a view to embarrass Shri Prabhu, they brought some plates covered with shawls, ostentatiously full of gifts. They wanted to embarrass him and make him look insignificant in the eyes of his devotees. They, therefore, surreptitiously brought beef in the plates instead of fruits etc. and offered the plates to Shri Prabhu with a false pretence of devotion. However, from a Yogi nothing is hidden and nothing can be hidden. He saw through their game and yet, graciously accepted their offerings by touching the plates. He then asked the contents to be distributed among the assembled people as Prasad. When the shawl was removed what every one found was fruits and sweetmeats.
The Prasad was distributed to all the assembled people. The miscreants were humbled and felt ashamed. They fell at the feet of Shri Prabhu and asked for his pardon. All that Shri Prabhu did was to bless them to have good thoughts and follow the noble path which the Koran has prescribed for them.
The area where Shri Prabhu spent much of his human life was ruled by a Muslim King and the population was also predominantly Muslim. Therefore, the above incident created a lasting impression on them and they considered Shri Prabhu to be an Avatar of Mahaboob Subhani, a Muslim Saint, which belief they even now hold. The Manik Prabhu Sampradaya also reciprocates this faith. In the festivities at Maniknagar both Hindus and Muslims take part with equal enthusiasm. This is indeed the unique example of Sakalamat Sampradaya, equality and universality of religions and faiths. A Yogi sees no difference between the various manifestations of the Lord and for him everything that is in the world is but the manifestation of the Lord.
Large followings need a focal point to gather together. Shri Prabhu felt the need to have such a spiritual centre. Till now he was wandering from place to place in his own state of constant awareness of the Supreme Bliss. The descent of the Lord is not only for the sake of destruction of evil but also for the establishment of righteousness. “For the protection of the good and destruction of the evil, for establishment of righteousness, I come into being from age to age” (Bhagavad Gita IV.8).
The decision for the selection of the place was left to the Will of the Lord. Shri Prabhu left Bidar for Kalyan. In those days, riding on horseback or in a Palkhi was the mode of travel. As the travellers approached the point where two rivers meet near Humnabad, they turned towards Gadvanti. The road was narrow and the people had to pass through trees and shrubs on both sides of the road. The Palkhi in which Shri Prabhu was sitting got stuck in the branches of some trees, making him alight from his seat.
Nearby they saw a temple of Shiva. Shri Prabhu sat there under two Bilva trees. While he was resting thereunder, the trees caught fire unexpectedly and were reduced to ashes in no time. The people around him were struck with wonder and were also worried about Shri Prabhu’s safety but Shri Prabhu was quiet. He told them not to worry. “Don’t panic. A good thing has happened today. The Brahmarakshasas who were imprisoned in these trees, are liberated”. Thereafter they came near the confluence of the two rivers. There as Shri Prabhu sat under the Audumbara tree in ecstatic meditation, the decision to establish the spiritual centre at that very place was taken.
The Audumbara tree is special to Sri Datta Sampradaya. It is the favourite tree of Sri Dattatreya and it is believed that he always dwells thereunder. It is the symbol of deliverance. Legend says that when Lord Narasimha killed the daemon, Hiranyakashipu, his fingers were burning with the venom of the Rakshasa. He had to dip his fingers in the fruits of Audumbara which Shri Lakshmi brought and the burning sensation was removed by the juice of Audumbara fruit. In Guru Charitra also it has been said,
In the daemon’s bosom,
there was the dark poison spot,
Like the raging forest fire,
fearsome was the clot.
While tearing apart
the daemon’s dreadful heart,
Lord’s fingers,
dipped in poisoned blood, became hot.
Since then, with the grace of Sri Narasimha, the Audumbara tree became the Kalpvrisksha, shedding illumination and wisdom. Therefore, it came to pass that one who does penance sitting thereunder is freed from the agony of the Samsara.
Shri Prabhu being an incarnation of Lord Dattatreya had a special affinity for the Audumbara tree. The incident of the Bilva trees and the ecstatic meditation that he experienced under the Audumbara tree both must have had a special symbolism for him that led him to choose that site as his permanent abode for the remaining years of his temporal life. Thus was established what is today known as the village of MANIKNAGAR.

Maniknagar

The time and place selected by Shri Prabhu for establishing the spiritual center near Humnabad seemed significant as well as ideal. Those were troubled times, both politically as well as religiously.
Politically, the area was coming under Muslim domination, under which, excepting for a few rulers, the rest were, to a large extent, fanatical in their approach and forceful in converting the people. Hindus were consequently at the receiving end, with large scale death of Hindus and destruction of temples. Many Hindus came to be converted, who were neither assimilated with the new religion nor completely denied to the old. There was a religious vacuum in the hearts of the people.
Obviously belief in one or the other religion cannot be forced upon one against one’s will and for a person like Shri Manik Prabhu Maharaj any use of force in religion was contrary to the very tenets of religion. For a person who believed in universality of religion, such irrational behaviour was anathema. Great events often have trivial beginnings. When the Bilva tree caught fire, many considered it to be a bad omen. But Shri Prabhu himself saw it in quite a different perspective. For him the fire was the fire of Samsara and the deliverance of the Brahmarakshasa was the deliverance of the people from ignorance and superstition. He therefore, selected the confluence of the two rivers for establishing his spiritual center, as if to emphasize that he wanted to bring the two communities (Hindus and Muslims) together. In his visionary mind he saw these two streams of great faith come together and live a life of peace and understanding. How prophetic his vision was can be seen by the fact that even today both the Hindus and the Muslims flock to Maniknagar each year, to honour the great founder of the Universal Truth, the SAKALAMATA.
The moment people came to know of Shri Prabhu’s intention to establish the spiritual center near Humnabad, people flocked to his presence and thus came to be established the present day MANIKNAGAR. Originally, a small hut was constructed for Shri Prabhu to stay. Later, another hut was constructed to establish the GADI, or the Spiritual Seat, which in time to come was to be associated with the living spirit of Shri Manik Prabhu Maharaj. Sitting on the Gadi, he would give audience and his very Darshan would give peace and contentment to all who visited Maniknagar.
The entire atmosphere was surcharged with religious fervour with the name of the Lord and of His representative manifestation always on the lips of the devotees. The Bhajans brought both the ‘Bhagavan’ and the ‘Jana’ together in one great communion, irrespective of caste, creed, faith or religion. The atmosphere reverberated with the sound of Bhajans, cymbals and drums.
With the passage of time, the number of devotees increased, and with the increase, of devotees and lay visitors the need for dwelling places also increased. Shri Prabhu’s mother, who had till then endured separation from her son, came to Maniknagar with the rest of the family. Now that all the family members were at one place, it was decided that proper residential quarters should be constructed. Sacrifices with all the rites and rituals were decided to be performed to sanctify the area. Only in a pure and auspicious place could a center be installed with all spiritual energy concentrated in that place. Shri Prabhu gave his consent and well qualified priests were called for the purpose.
Strange as it may appear, when the priests were bringing the various materials needed for the sacrifice, they were waylaid and all their material was looted. When Shri Prabhu came to know of this incident, he instructed the priests to come without any worry or hesitation and all the requirements would be made available at the proper time.
As it transpired, when the robbers were running away with the stolen materials, they got confused and were not able to find their way out of the forest, where they were hiding. They realised that they had committed a great blunder. They prayed to the Lord for mercy. Shri Prabhu’s compassion made them come to their senses and guided them to Maniknagar where they handed over all the material to Shri Prabhu.
As the need arose, more temples and buildings came up in Maniknagar. Many of the devotees also decided to stay there and constructed their own houses. Shri Prabhu’s brother, Nrisimha, who was working at the darbar of the Nawab of Kalyan, resigned from his post and came to Maniknagar to assist in the management of the spiritual center’s activities. His experience in court administration was of great assistance and he could put the ideas of Shri Prabhu in actual practice. He saw to it that the place was protected from wayward robbers, who were abundant in those days. Similarly Shri Prabhu’s elder brother Hanumant Dada took upon himself the responsibility of providing food and shelter to the devotees.
In the beginning it was decided that only Brahmacharis and Sanyasis should be permitted to stay in Maniknagar but this rule had to be relaxed when Mother Bayadevi and brother Nrisimha came to stay in Maniknagar. Many householders were also eager to make Maniknagar their place of residence, so that they could always be in the service of Shri Prabhu.
Along with the construction of dwelling places, an extended hall was constructed for the conduct of Shri Prabhu’s Darbar to accommodate more and more devotees visiting Maniknagar. Slowly, regular discipline and some form and decorum came to be established. It came to pass that as soon as Shri Prabhu entered the Darbar Hall, the Birudavali or the Invocation of Shri Prabhu, composed by his brother Nrisimha, was recited in a loud voice by all the persons present in the Darbar. All the people would remain standing till Shri Prabhu himself took his seat on the Gadi. The front row was reserved for the musicians, who would first offer their performances. If no musicians were present then the devotees could occupy the front seats. On the right side was the place reserved for Pundits, Puraniks and Kirtankars. On the left would sit the Sadhus, Sanyasis and Fakirs.
In the Darbar, Shri Prabhu being a Rajayogi would wear rich clothes and magnificent jewellery. However, sometimes he would be seen wearing ordinary clothes. For him everything had equal value. Even when he wore very ordinary clothes his countenance with its wheatish complexion would nevertheless glow like the Sun. The people gathered would bask in the aura and the benevolent grace of Shri Prabhu. The entire atmosphere would be surcharged with spiritual splendour. Shri Prabhu would cast his compassionate glance on all, making everybody participate in the bliss which he was experiencing.
Often, philosophical discussions and spiritual discourses were conducted in Shri Prabhu’s Darbar. People from far and near would come with their doubts and Shri Prabhu, even though he had not received formal education in the scriptures, seemed to be better versed in the scriptures than the philosophers in his Darbar and was able to clear all doubts with great ease. The wisdom of innumerable past lives was his inheritance and he would solve the problems with the ease of the Knower of Brahman. Sometimes he would reply even before the questions were asked. Such was his authority, wisdom and spiritual insight.
Many of the people who flocked to him were those who were sunken in the despair of worldly life. For them a word from Shri Prabhu was like balm on their wounds. Such was the graceful presence of Shri Prabhu that his very Darshan would assuage all the misery of a person. They would be absorbed in the Bhajans and all thoughts of the world would be forgotten. Such was the effect of Shri Manik Prabhu on every one who came under his influence. Even when people did not think of him consciously, he activated their lives without their knowledge and his compassion became apparent in the most unexpected way.
Bhagvata Purana (III.25.21) describes the saints as “forbearing, compassionate and composed; they are friendly to all living beings, inimical to no one and their good disposition itself serves as an ornament to them”. ({V{Vjd: H$mê${UH$m: gwöX: gd©Xo{hZm_²Ÿ& AOmVeÌd: emÝVm: gmYd: gmYw^yfUm:Ÿ&&) Shri Manik Prabhu Maharaj epitomised the description of the saint. He was like the sun in the sky spreading his rays on the noble as well as on the evil, good as well as on the bad. It is for the people to benefit by the invigorating warmth and energy of the Sun. The one who hides himself in the shadow or in the dark corners of superstition and bigotry will never have the light of the Sun. He will never be able to come through the travails of Samsara.
Once, a devotee who wanted to test the spiritual powers of Shri Prabhu, had vowed to offer to Shri Prabhu, one sugar candy, which would have cost one paisa at the most, if his wishes were fulfilled. After his wishes were fulfilled he came to Maniknagar, with a bagful of sugar. Shri Prabhu could see that the devotee wanted to show his great generosity in offering a bagful of sugar while he had to offer only one sugar candy, worth one paisa. Seeing the trace of arrogance in this act and with the intention of teaching him, Shri Prabhu picked with great humility, only one paisa worth of sugar.
Human beings in times of despair either offer too little to God, as they are not confident of their desires being fulfilled, or else offer their entire wealth in utter dejection. Then, if their desires get fulfilled, if they had offered too little at the outset they can afford to become generous and offer more at least to show their self-conceit. However, if they had offered their entire wealth they find themselves in a quandary when their wishes are fulfilled. The Lord, however, is neither unkind nor is he in need of the things offered. He can see the faith of each person and the intention and the pain which he had in his heart when he made the vow. Therefore, irrespective of what the devotee agrees to offer when he is in despair, the Lord knows how much to receive and how much to leave for the devotee. His hunger is for the devotee’s devotion and not for his wealth. The relationship with the Guru is not of the nature of trade or barter.
It is the Guru or the Lord who ordains and the devotee has only to be thankful for the Grace and place at the feet of the Guru any thing as a token. It so often happened that many devotees of Shri Prabhu, who esteemed themselves as great persons or devotees, expected Shri Prabhu to recognize them as special and distinct. There were others who thought that by engaging themselves in continued conversation with Shri Prabhu they were close to him but for Shri Prabhu no one was dear or hateful. Shri Krishna is very outspoken on this matter in Bhagavad Gita (IX.26) “Whosoever offers to Me, with devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water, that offering of love, of the pure heart, I accept”
Outward demonstration of devotion but with a heart full of desires for the fruits, attachment to senses and sense bound enjoyments, is not Bhakti. The Guru in his purity of Mind can see the intention of each of the devotees and therefore the devotee need not satisfy himself with outward demonstration of devotion and service.
Devotion to the Guru should be like that of the child towards its mother. Whether the mother is nearby or not, the child is ever confident that the mother will listen when it is in distress. If such confidence and faith is there, then Shri Prabhu’s Grace will ever be with us to guide us and tide us over the difficult times. Many devotees have experienced this expansive Grace of Shri Prabhu even when they have been in places far from Maniknagar. For surely Shri Prabhu does not reside only in Maniknagar but in the heart of all the devotees as well.
One of the most inexplicable things of Shri Prabhu’s Darbar was the flow of wealth in it. In Maniknagar since the days of Shri Prabhu nothing is asked for, yet everything is available at the proper time in the right proportion. As a matter of fact, Shri Prabhu would keep only as much as was necessary, having renounced all attachments to material things. Whatever was collected was solely utilised for establishing and strengthening the Mission. Yet, in his Darbar, everyone, whether rich or poor, wise or ignorant, got what they needed most, blessings, a fruit or cash. There are instances when Shri Prabhu would put his hand under his Gadi and pull out cash for distribution but if anyone searched under the Gadi, nothing would be found there. This inexplicable mystery caused one of Shri Prabhu’s biographers to exclaim:
From whence does this wealth endlessly flow,
No one really could ever seem to know
Inserting his hands underneath the pillow,
Enough wealth was sure to flow
for the seeker’s hand.
They turned the Gadi round and round,
Nothing was there ever found.
But sitting on the Gadi he seemed to abound,
Sufficient for each of the persons around.
The grandeur of Shri Prabhu’s Darbar proved one thing. When the Lord oversees us, he knows our needs and so ordains accordingly. Whether we ask for little or more, Shri Prabhu knows fully well what is good for us. If there is Shraddha in us, nothing else is needed. If there is no Shraddha then all efforts and endeavours to please Shri Prabhu are to no avail. He distributed wealth as well as health as needed by the sincere Sadhakas. He was a great Yogi, a great recluse. For him wealth was as good as dust. He saw the Lord in both. Therefore whether he sat on a throne or on an earthen mound, for him it made no difference.
No one was a stranger to Shri Prabhu. He knew each one by name as well as his problems. One of his contemporary biographers, Shri Ramachandra Buva Solapurkar writes: “Shri Prabhu Maharaj used to know each of his associates very closely. He had the extraordinary capacity of assessing the capability of each of them. He would never encourage rumours nor give credence to loose talk. He would immediately tell the person on his face whether he was telling the truth or not. Yet he was considerate of the foibles and idiosyncracies of the people and would treat them in a kind and compassionate manner, guiding them against the folly of getting such pleasures. People who had ill-will for others never succeeded in obtaining his blessings. People who would come to scoff at him, would remain to pray and seek his blessings. Consequently none went from the Darbar without being satisfied in one way or the other.”
“All had access to him, be he a thief, a sinner, a Sadhu, a Sanyasi, an ignorant fool, a learned Pundit, a householder, a fallen woman, a poet, a dancer or a musician, all flocked to the Darbar to perform Seva at his feet. Everyone, irrespective of caste, creed or religion, rich or poor would stay for the Prasad, which would be served alike to all without discrimination. No one had any occasion to hear words like ‘no’ or ‘go’ from anyone in Maniknagar.”
It was the Darbar of Shri Manik Prabhu Maharaj and each one returned from there with a satisfied and contented mind, for Shri Prabhu was, indeed, the Wish Fulfilling Tree.

Shri Prabhu and the Shankaracharya of Shringeri

acharyaApart from Sanyasis and learned Brahmins flocking to him for advice, well known heads of established Maths and even some realised souls came to his Darbar for solace and solutions accepting him as the manifestation of Shri Dattattreya. One such incident is the difference between the two Maths of Shri Shankaracharya, the one at Shringeri and the one at Hampi, which vied with one another for leadership in propagating Shri Shankaracharaya’s teachings in the areas controlled by the Nizam.

The head of the Hampi Maths was propagating in the Nizam’s territory considering his Maths independent of Shringeri while the Head of the Shringeri Math, Shri Narsimha Bharati VIII, considered the Hampi Maths as subservient to the Shringeri Math and that therefore it should propagate under the supervision of the Shringeri Math. This difference of opinion could not be resolved for long till they accepted the arbitration of Shri Manik Prabhu Maharaj. Many followers of both the Maths were constant visitors to Maniknagar and knew the intensity of the spiritual powers of Shri Manik Prabhu Maharaj. It was therefore agreed that the Acharayas of both Shringeri and Hampi should come over to Maniknagar to find an amicable solution to the dispute. Accordingly, His Holiness Shri Narshimha Bharati VIII visited Maniknagar where he was received with the great pomp and respect. After discussing the matter with Acharya, Shri Prabhu finally offered the solution which became acceptable to both Acharyas. Both Shringeri and Hampi Maths have given letters of authority and distinction to Shri Manik Prabhu Samsthan which are relevant even today.

Shri Prabhu and Shri Swami Samartha of Akkalkot

akkalkaotIt is a well known fact that Shri Akkalkot Swami Maharaj came over to Akkalkot as if from nowhere and his origin is not known at all. When he was asked, he said that he was originally from Himalayan region from where he wandered over many places till he came over finally to Akkalkot. However, before he came over to Akkalkot, he lived secluded of three days in the company of Shri Manik Prabhu.
It is not known what transpired between them. Apparently, Shri Akkalkot Swami Maharaj was desirous of staying on in Maniknagar, to which Shri Prabhu is said to have remarked that a tree would not grow under the shade of another huge tree and that therefore, Swamiji should go and settle at Akkalkot.
Swamiji left for Akkalkot and stayed there during all his temporal life. Akkalkot Swami Maharaj came to be accepted as a Vibhooti of Shri Dattatreya. He is reported to have directed people to Shri Prabhu saying “Go to Maniknagar, where sits my elder brother” .

 

Shri Prabhu and Shri Saibaba of Shirdi

saibaba-1Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi is said to have visited Shri Prabhu prior to settling down in Shirdi. Historians tell us that when he visited Maniknagar Shri Manik Prabhu was sitting in Darbar. Shri Sai Baba dressed as a Fakeer came before Shri Manik Prabhu Maharaj and extending his Lota (cup) before him said. “Prabhuji, fill this cup”. At that time Shri Prabhu’s brother Shri Tatya Saheb was sitting nearby having a discussion with some Pandits.
He was directed by Shri Prabhu to fill the Fakeer’s ‘Lota’ (bowl), but the Lota would not fill up no matter how much money Tatya Saheb would put in to it.
Shri Tatya Saheb looked to Shri Prabhu in bewilderment. Shri Prabhu, with his divine vision was able to recognise the Fakeer as a realised soul and put two dry dates and some flowers in the Lota and said smilingly “Sai, take it”.
Miraculously, the Lota filled up but the Fakeer took only the dry dates and flowers saying “This much is enough for me” and turned the Lota upside down to pour out more money that it could have been filled with Giving due respects to Shri Manik Prabhu Maharaj. The Fakeer left the place.

Shri Prabhu and Shri Brahma Chaitanya Gondavalekar Maharaj

gondavlekar1Shri Brahma Chaitanya Maharaj of Gondavale was wandering in quest of a Guru. In this quest he visited Maniknagar and met Shri Prabhu. Shri Prabhu received him with great affection and suggested that he be patient and that at the appropriate time he would meet his Guru. Satisfied Shri Brahma Chaitanya Maharaj went on his way.

 

Shri Prabhu and the Nizam of Hyderabad

Both Hindus as well as Muslims used to flock to Maniknagar. Muharram and Gyarahvi (the death anniversary of Mahaboob Subhani) were celebrated with as much enthusiasm as the Hindu festivals. Consequently many Peers, (Muslim saints) came to visit Maniknagar to have Shri Prabhu’s Darshan and seek his blessings.
Nizam5The fifth Nizam of Hyderabad Meer Afzaluddula was childless. He was aware of Shri Prabhu’s divine powers. He was advised by his noblemen that he should seek Shri Prabhu’s blessings for progeny. The Nizam sent one of his noblemen Apparao Arab to Maniknagar with a gift of a Jageer for Shri Prabu worth Sixty thousand rupees in lieu of Prasad (blessing) for a child.
When Apparao Arab reached Maniknagar and presented the papers of the Jageer to Shri Prabhu and requested him to give Prasad to the Nizam, Shri Prabhu smiled and said “ I am a Fakeer, what will I do with this Jageer? My Lord “Datta Dayaghana” has given me the empire of the three worlds, why should I crave for such small gifts form mortal men. Tell your master that I am not interested in a accepting this Jageer. However I shall give Prasad to the Nizam for progeny. He will be blessed with a son. Tell him to name the boy ‘Mahaboob.’ Apparao Arab returned to Hyderabad wonderstruck with Shri Prabhu’s ‘Vairagya’ (non attachment) In due course the Nizam was blessed with a son who later ruled Hyderabad as Meer Mahabooob Ali Pasha.

 

Shri Prabhu and the first war of independence 1857

nana Nana Saheb II, Peshwa of Pune had sent his emissary Rangarao to Maniknagar to seek Shri Prabhu’s blessings for the great military upsurge he was then planing against the British (mutiny of 1857)

Sanjeevani Maha Samadhi

samadhi1Mother Bayadevi, brothers Shri Hanumant and Shri Nrisimha and Devi Venkamma acted as the four corner pillars, with Shri Manik Prabhu Maharaj at the center, for the spiritual center in Maniknagar but strange events were to follow. Once Maniknagar started taking a definite shape, one by one the central characters started departing from the scene. First Shri Hanumant followed by Mother Bayadevi then Shri Nrisimha and Devi Venkamma, all gave up their mortal coils within a short span of only six months, leaving Shri Prabhu alone on the scene.

There seemed to be some purpose in all these successive events. Shri Prabhu wanted to see that these spiritual pillars were liberated from their mortal coils prior to his departure from the scene. Shri Prabhu himself was not constrained by the gross body. He had realised his Self. Therefore, there was no need for him to be liberated from the shackles of the body.

He was a Jeevanmukta, liberated even when alive. He had won over both birth and death. He was beyond the dualities of Life, having been aware of his essential nature. Nothing that was not his Self was of any concern to him. He lived like the lotus leaf, unconcerned by the effect of the senses on his body or on the mind.

Yet he was controlled by the same Lord who had created him. His knowing the Lord was his knowing the forces which controlled him. So, when he realised that the time had come for him to shed his mortal coil and merge in the Infinite, he considered seriously the future course to be laid down for the mission to continue, which was as important as the manner in which he would discard the gross body. Since people were already shell-shocked with the passing away of Mother Bayadevi, Brothers Hanumant and Nrisimha and Devi Venkamma, Shri Prabhu was reluctant to confide in his devotees, the time of his own departure. He took only three or four persons into his confidence, they who were closely associated with the Sampradaya and who understood the significance of his Avatar. Even though they were shocked with what Shri Prabhu had to confide in them, being spiritually advanced, they accepted the fact as ordained by the Lord himself.

The news was kept in utmost confidence and all the required work was carried out with a smile on the face but with remorse in the heart. Shri Prabhu realised the difficulties through which he was making them pass. What was to happen to him would also happen to them when the time came. In that way he was preparing them to live with death as their nearest companion. He would advise them, “You think that once I take Samadhi everything will end and I will no more be available to you. What you will miss is the sight of my Gross body, but my Self, the spirit within, will ever remain with you to guide you without your realising that fact. There will not be any breach in your spiritual path. Remember that decay and destruction of the gross body is certain. When every breath has already been numbered and assigned what is the purpose of grieving?”

Shri Prabhu’s words were soothing, yet each one dreaded the moment to come. They wished that the Sun would not rise and another day would not be born but the Sun does rise every day and the day is born thereby. Like the Sun, Shri Prabhu was going through his ordained tasks unconcerned.

One day, a small boil was noticed on Shri Prabhu’s back. He would jocularly remind his associates that Yama’s message has been received. For the others, it was a grim reminder of the fateful day. Shri Prabhu consoled them, “It is good that my work here is now coming to an end. You will all be able to carry the mission further by the Energy which I will be leaving behind. What’s the use of remaining alive in this worthless body when the work is complete?”. He supervised the place where he was to take Samadhi. The pit was dug in all secrecy and no one in Maniknagar could get even a breath of it.

Soon the auspicious month of Margashirsha arrived. Did Shri Krishna not declare in Bhagavad Gita (X.35) that “of the months, I am Margashirsha”? Blissfully unaware of the impending calamity that was to fall on Maniknagar, the people were getting ready to celebrate the annual Shri Datta Jayanti festivities. People from great distances were pouring in every day. Somehow that year was considered auspicious for Muslims also. Consequently, Shri Prabhu’s Muslim devotees also came in thousands.

As time passed, Shri Prabhu’s health was deteriorating steadily. The small boil was getting bigger and more painful. Yet, Shri Prabhu’s face bore no trace of the pain and it was blissful and tranquil as ever. On the tenth day of Margashirsha, Shri Prabhu decided to summon the Darbar, so that people could have his final Darshan. All arrangements were made for Shri Prabhu to sit in as comfortable a position as was possible. The occasion was to become so spiritually surcharged that Shri Prabhu as well as the close associates forgot for the time being the impending disaster.

The next day was Ekadashi, the eleventh day of the month. For Hindus it is one of the most auspicious days. It is the day when Sage Durvasa, elder brother of Shri Dattatreya won over his anger and received the Grace of Shri Vishnu. Incidentally this is also the day on which, thousands of years ago Shri Krishna delivered the message of Bhagavad Gita to Arjun. This day is observed as Gita Jayanti. This 29th day of the month of November 1865 was the day on which Shri Prabhu had decided to take Samadhi and merge his Self with the Supreme Self.

There were, however, some final deeds to be done by Shri Prabhu. He had not taken Sanyas as prescribed in the Shastras. In fact he had already reached the stage which was beyond the four stages, Ashramas. He was a Jeevanmukta, Avadhoota, Paramhamsa. All the same, the right thing should be done before one takes the final step. So he got himself initiated in Sanyas Ashrama. He then called the two sons of his brother Nrisimha and blessed them. He garlanded the elder son Manohar and covered him with the shawl which was used by him. Thus the line of succession to the Gadi was laid down for all to know. Covering Manohar with the shawl was not just a symbol of affection but also of authoritative transfer of the Eternal Energy of Shri Manik Prabhu Maharaj to this young child who was wise and pure like Shri Dakshinamurti. Thus the Guru-Parampara of Shri Manik Prabhu Sampradaya was established for all time to come.

Having done this Shri Prabhu started walking towards the hut where the pit was dug. With his face glowing with extraordinary spiritual splendour, Shri Prabhu took each step. It was like the space merging within the space leaving no trace whatsoever. For Shri Prabhu the occasion was joyous for it was like going back to the origin from where he had started. He sat in the pit in Padmasana, forcing his Kundalini to rise and reach the Brahmarandhra. The pit was closed slowly by the close associates, in a mood that was surcharged with spiritual fervour. What does one feel when one passes through such a course?

Taittiriya Upanishad (III.10.5) gives us a glimpse of the experience of the traveller. “Let one contemplate That as adoration; then his desires pay adoration to Him. Let one contemplate That as Supreme, he becomes possessed of That Supreme. He who is here in the person and he who is yonder in the Sun, he is one. He who knows this, on departing from this world, reaching on to that Self which consists of food, reaching on to that Self which consists of life, reaching on to that Self which consists of mind, reaching on to that Self which consists of understanding, reaching on to that Self which consists of bliss, goes up and down these worlds eating food he desires, assuming the form he desires. He sits singing the chant: Oh Wonderful, Oh Wonderful, Oh Wonderful”.

In this Upanishadic hymn some of the important words merit reappraisal. The first one is ‘pretya’, “asmallokat pretya”, crossing over from this world. The word ‘pretya’ is translated, ‘after the death of the body’; it is made up of ‘pra’ + ‘itya’ = ‘pretya’. ‘Pra’ is giving up, crossing over and ‘itya’ is going away. Thus the Self which decides to merge in Samadhi in the equanimous mind gives up its attachment with its body or crosses over from the sheaths of the body, of the breath etc. When the Self is dwelling in the body, it can with determined will, raise the Kundalini Power from Mooladhar to Brahmarandhra.

The news of Shri Prabhu having taken Samadhi was kept secret till Pournima, lest the grieving crowds might vitiate the solemn and serene occasion, in their ignorance of the significance of the event. When they came to the Gadi for Shri Prabhu’s Darshan as usual, before they departed from Maniknagar, they were shocked to hear the news. They rushed to the hut in uncontrollable grief. Close devotees and associates had to pacify the crowd.

When Shri Sadguru Manik Prabhu Maharaj attained Samadhi, devotees were in despair. It is a great paradox of life that even though people say that they have faith in the words of the Guru, when he is seen with these gross eyes, the same devotees tend to be sceptical when the Guru is no more visible to them nor are his words audible to the human ears. Shri Prabhu had assured time and again, his continued presence in Maniknagar. However, the faith of devotees often appears brittle, when the object of veneration is removed from sight. People are so accustomed to lean on the wooden staff that even when they are told that they can dispense with it they are reluctant to have confidence in those assurances as well as in their own self. This does not mean that one should not draw strength and sustenance from some powerful energy but to assume that the Energy will itself take us to salvation is fooling ourselves. While it gives momentum in the first instance, further steps on the travel have to be taken by the aspirant himself.

Knowing human folly, the compassionate Guru does take steps to provide for his devotees an object of veneration and a medium for communication who takes his place after him. Shri Manohar Manik Prabhu was the designated medium of Shri Manik Prabhu.