A saint poet who has to his credit creation of an authentic edition of the Dnyaneshwari and prolific literature of high standard, as also a social reformer who awakened the masses through the medium of Bharud
Shantibrahma, a great man who achieved sainthood, a social reformer of the highest order, a highly principled man, a thorough scholar of the Sanskrit language, who is known as Dnyanacha Eka (Eka who belonges to Saint Dyaneshwar or Eka who is knowlegeable) in entire Maharashtra - this great personality is Saint Eknath ! An ideal householder, son of Marathi language, a learned Pandit of varied subjects and an ocean of compassion are also other appropriate words to describe him.
Bhaskarpant Kulkarni, who resided in Pratisthan (Paithan), was his ancestor. He was a Deshast Rigvedi Brahman (a Hindu upper caste). Saint Bhanudas was his great grandfather, who is well known to have returned the idol of God Vitthal back to Pandharpur from Hampi, where it had been taken by the King Krishnadeva Raya of Vijaynagar for safety. God Suryanarayan was his family deity. His father’s name was Suryanarayan and mother’s name Rukmini. It is believed that he was born sometime between 1528 to 1533. Unfortunately, he lost his parents at a very young age; he was brought up by his grandparents, Chakrapani and Saraswati. From a young age, he had a fondness for spirituality and Harikirtan.
Sadguru Janardan Swami was an important minister in the court of the Muslim kingdom at Devgad (Devgiri). He was originally a resident of Chalisgaon; his last name (family name) was Deshpande. He too was a Rigvedi Brahman, and a great devotee of the deity Dattatraya. Eknath had secretly accepted Janardan as his Sadguru (Ultimate Guru). Janardanpant was an intellectual and honest man. Saint Eknath toiled hard for six years to serve his Guru. As an accountant Eknath once spent the whole night to find a mistake of one paisa. Janardan Swami was delighted to find such dedication. He directed Eknath’s dedication towards the path of God. The vision of the deity Dattatraya appeared before Eknath. Eknath’s life was blessed by Atmabodh, complete favour of his Guru, and the vision of God Dattatraya that appeared before him. He went on several pilgrimages.
He married a virtuous lady from Vaijapur near Paithan. She was named Girija after marriage and they had two daughters, Godavari and Ganga, and a son, Hari. The son later was well known as HariPandit, and was proud of his heritage and culture. Poet Mukteshwar was Eknath’s grandson.
Saint Eknath was born 237 years after Saint Dnyaneshar, in extremely adverse times. The Muslim dynasty was ruling. The Hindu Kingdom of Vijaynagar was destroyed. The entire society had turned irresponsible. There was total ignorance of one’s duty towards one’s society, self-governance or any patriotism. There was a tendency towards doggedness and simply discharging religious rites and rituals, disregarding religion. Women were kidnapped and converted into Muslims in broad daylight. Under such an exigency, Saint Eknath prayed to Goddess Jagdamba for help in social reform. Baye Daar Ugadh (Dear lady, open the door), so saying Eknath awakened the society using different styles of religious songs like Bharud, Jogva and Gondhal. Saint Eknath was a saint-poet, intellectual-poet and ballad (Shahir) poet. By enrapturing and awakening the despondent society, he guided them on the right path and awakened Maharashtra’s emancipation. Eknath was a devout disciple of his Guru and wrote under the name of Eka-janardana meaning Eka (nath) of Janardana.
He wrote a lot of verses (ovi), Abhanga, Gavlani. The Eknath Bhagwad, a commentary on the eleventh canto of Sanskrit Bhagwat Purana, an ancient script, written by him is very popular. There are altogether 1367 Shlokas (verses), on which he wrote 18,810 Ovi. The original Bhagwat has 12 chapters. It is Purana based poetry that blesses the listener and reader. The Bhavarth Ramayan was written by him for which he wrote 25,000 ovi and was completed by his disciple with 15000 more ovi. His Rukmini Swayamvar is extremely popular. His hymn to God Dattatreya is also famous. This great soul created abundant literature and enriched the Marathi language. Most importantly, he meticulously prepared an authentic edition of the Dnyaneshwari. Eknath was a MahaVaishnav (a great follower of the Vaishnav sect of Brahmins), a devotee of God Dattatreya and also of Goddess Jagdamba.
He has given us a simple and straightforward message:
Eka Janardani Sopa, Vithtalnaam Mantra Japa
(Listen to Eknath, keep repeating the name of god)
In 1599 he took jalsamadhi (jal:water, samadhi:the soul discards the body) by wading into the River Godavari.