Glory of Bharath  »  Santh Darsan
Mukta Bai

Muktabai or Muktai was a saint in the Varkari tradition. She was born in a Deshastha Brahmin family and was the younger sister of Dnyaneshwar, the first Varkari saint. Muktabai wrote forty-one Abhang through out her life span. "Tati ughada dnaneshwara" is one her most insightful works, being a conversation with saint Dnyaneshwar. It is considered to be a milestone in Marathi literature. According to Mukatabai, the definition of saint is "Saint jene vahave; jag bolane sosave" or a saint is the one who can digest criticism of people.

Traditional history
According to Nath tradition Muktabai was the last of the four children of Vitthal Govind Kulkarni and Rukmini, a pious couple from Apegaon near Paithan on the banks of the river Godavari. Vitthal had studied Vedas and set out on pilgrimages at a young age. In Alandi, about 30 km from Pune, Sidhopant, a local Yajurveda brahmin, was very much impressed with him and Vitthal married his daughter Rukmini.

After some time, getting permission from Rukmini, Vitthal went to Kashi(Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, India), where he met Ramananda Swami and requested to be initiated into sanyas, lying about his marriage. But Ramananda Swami later went to Alandi and, convinced that his student Vitthal was the husband of Rukmini, he returned to Kashi and ordered Vitthal to return home to his family. The couple was excommunicated from the brahmin caste as Vitthal had broken with sanyas, the last of the four ashrams. Four children were born to them; Nivrutti in 1273, Dnyandev (Dnyaneshwar) in 1275, Sopan in 1277 and daughter Mukta in 1279. According to some scholars their birth years are 1268, 1271, 1274, 1277 respectively. It is believed that later Vitthal and Rukmini ended their lives by jumping into the waters at Prayag which is the confluence of three rivers, the Ganges, Yamuna, and the now extinct Saraswati, hoping that their children would be accepted into the society after their death.

Earlier the couple set out on a pilgrimage with their children to Tryambakeshwar, near Nashik, where their elder son Nivrutti (at the age of 10) was initiated in to the Nath tradition by Gahininath. The paternal great grandfather of Dnyaneshwar had been initiated into the Nath cult by Goraksha Nath (Gorakh Nath). The orphaned children grew up on alms. They approached the brahmin community of Paithan to accept them but the brahmins refused. According to the disputed "Shuddhi Patra" the children were purified by the brahmins on condition of observing celibacy. Their argument with the brahmins earned the children fame and respect due to their righteousness, virtue, intelligence, knowledge and politeness. Dnyaneshwar became the student of Nivruttinath along with his younger siblings Sopan and Mukta at the age of 8. He learnt and mastered the philosophy and various techniques of kundalini yoga.

On one occasion, Muktabai wished to cook sweet buns for her brothers. So she set off to the village to get a clay plate from the potter to roast them. A prominent leader of the village, Visoba, who was very cruel to the children, scolded her and ordered the village potters to refuse her request. As she returned home, she was weeping with sadness. Jnanadev asked her to prepare the dough. He then bent down, touching the floor with his hands and heated his back red-hot, asking Muktabai to roast the buns on it. She did so and happily gave them to her brothers. With shock and amazement, secretly watching this miracle through a window, Visoba Chaati, realised the power of these extraordinary children. He rushed inside the hut and picked up the crumbs of the buns, as their prasad. Seeing this, Muktabai exclaimed, "O khechara (mule) turn back!" These words completely transformed his heart. He fell at their feet, crying and begging their forgiveness. When he asked them to accept him as their disciple, Nivritti requested Muktabai to initiate him. After that Visoba left the village in order to spend the rest of his life in deep contemplation and sadhana. He achieved Self-realisation and became the guru of Saint Namdev.

Likewise, Muktabai was responsible for removing the covering in the mind of Saint Namdev. When they met Namdev in Pandharpur, Nivritti, Jnaneshwar and Sopandev, in humility, prostrated before him. Namdev was filled with pride, because everyone in Pandharpur regarded him as a great saint. Muktabai, with great compassion for this sincere devotee, wished to remove this short-sightedness by giving him the cosmic vision. Thus, she did not fall at his feet, as her brothers did, but requested Gora Kumbhar (the potter saint) to test the pots. Gora Kumbhar understood and with his testing rod, began hitting the heads of Nivritti, Jnanadev, Sopandev and other saints who were present. All of them remained calm and quiet, upon which Gora Kumbhar proclaimed them fully baked. When he hit Namdev on the head, Namdev began shouting at him, thus Gora Kumbhar proclaimed him half-baked. Namdev was furious at this insult and ran to Lord Vittala in the temple. The Lord told him that they were right because he was seeing God only in Lord Vittala, rather than as the all-pervading Creative Presence. He was asked to go to Visoba Khechar, and through his practical teaching Namdev became fully enlightened.

- October 11
- December 09

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