Maharaj was a Perfect Master in the tradition of Nath Siddhas.
Different stories are told about the birth and early life
of Shankar Maharaj. But the following story of his birth and initiation
by his guru appears to be most authentic, having been told by
Maharaj himself to his prime disciple Dr. Nagesh Dhaneshwar
of Nagar, about 200 kms from Pune.
Once Dr. Dhaneshwar asked Maharaj his age. Instead
of answering, he asked him to judge his age from physical examination
since he was a medical doctor. Dr. Dhaneshwar judged his age to
be more than 125 years. Maharaj agreed with him and told him that
he was born in about 1800 at Mangalwedha (near Pandharpur) in
the family named Upasani. He used to be a very naughty as a boy.
Once, when he was seven to eight years old, he went chasing a
deer. The deer entered the forests on the banks of the river Chandrabhaga
towards a place called Machnur.He followed it and soon reached
a Shiva temple. When he was about to shoot the arrow a large sanyasi
came, lifted the deer and held it in his arms .He said My
child, why do you kill the innocent animals? If you want to hunt,
hunt wild animals, but dont kill this nevertheless
he shot the arrow at the deer in the sanyasis arms.
It hit him but became blunt and fell down. Another arrow also
met the same fate. he become confused but the sanyasi smiled,
kept the deer down, came near and fondled him. Thus Maharaj got
Sparshdiksha or initiation by touch of the
Yogi, who was no other than Swami Samarth of Akkalkot.
Maharaj stayed with him for six months during which he gave him
all knowledge and instructed him to go on pilgrimage.
He went to the Himalayas where he did a very
hard penance .On returning from there he spent his time with Siddha-Yogis
in and around Vriddheshwar (near Nagar) which is known as the
center for meditation of several Nath Siddhas in the past.
Maharaj remembered having received Dakshina from Peshwas
hands in Shanniwarwada in Pune, the seat of Peshwas rule. After
the British took over Pune, he met a British Collector who developed
a faith in Maharaj and considered him his Spiritual guide. He
took Maharaj to England where he stayed for ten years teaching
the yoga path to this British officer.
Being asked by Dr. Dhaneshwar whether this is
how he is able to speak such good English, he said, No
Doctor, he who understand the principle which is beyond the source
of all languages and who becomes one with it, knows any language,
even the language of animals and birds. He becomes the energy
itself therefore he is able to decipher the vibration. I understand
the English language perfectly .I have read complete Shakespeare
.He had rich experiences of life. Among his plays, I Like Hamlet,
Macbeth, Othello and Romeo-Juliet.
One can surmise therefore that at the time of
samadhi Maharaj was about 150 years old.
It is not clear when Maharaj came to Maharastra,
Pune in particular. From the biography of Dr. Dhaneshwar who was
born in 1899, it is seen that Maharaj met him at Nagar when he
was a schoolboy, that must have been around 1910 when Maharaj
was already past hundred .He used to move frequently between Nagar,
Pune, Solapur and Akluj, also visiting in places with Shri Dattatreya
influence like Gangapur, Narsobawadi, Mahurgad and Girnar.Wherever
he went he attracted devotees.
In appearance Maharaj is described as Ashtavakra
or bent in eight places. Maharaj had a short stature, but was
ajunubahu or having long hands reaching below his knees.
Most noticeable were his large and bright eyes and a child like
expression on his face.
In later years he had a beard .He often had a
brandy bottle in his hand and a hunter whip with him. He used
to address people by the swear words, but without malice. It was
believed that if Maharaj rebuked anybody he got rid of misfortunes.
He used to talk with lisp which was due to his unusually long
tongue. The immense kindness and compassion of Maharaj were consistent
with his being a Nath Panthi in the Guru tradition.
According to what Dr. Dhaneshwar told "The
aim of a Nath Panthi is to help people without bothering
about his own personal liberation. Because of the compassion for
all living, he takes birth again and again all over the earth
in all communities and not necessarily ordained as a Nath Panthi
during that birth. It is because of such selfless liberated
souls that the fabric of human society is maintained."
Maharaj did not stay long at any single place.
He used to move from devotee to devotee. He was fond of smoking
honeydew (popularly known as Pilo hatthi) cigrattes. He
was also fond of drinking brandy and appeared to be often intoxicated.
He used to like the scent (attar) of hina and loved music.
Maharaj used to drink with a purpose. His drunken
appearance helped him in keeping unwanted people away. Only those
people who saw Maharaj beyond the external looks could come to
him. There are instances when Maharaj drank and another person
nearby got drunk. Some people to whom Maharaj gave a brandy glass
and asked them to drink it told later it was not liquor but nice
tasting coconut water. Maharaj was fond of wearing rings and jewels
but he could throw them or give to others easily.
The life of Shankar Maharaj has been full of
miracles he performed to help his devotees. Such miracles are
associated with many Yogis. The miracle includes the knowledge
of past and future events, creation of matter going from one place
to another instantly, being at several places at the one time,
feeding a multitude from the small quantity of food and so on.
Maharaj did these miracles to instill faith in them and to draw
people to spiritual path. Maharaj had said, "I am a slave
of the simple and teach lessons to the scoundrels. I am the blotting
paper of egotistic persons. I cannot tolerate ego. I suck it out."
Maharaj had large number of devotees and disciples
world over. Dr Dhaneshwar, Maj. Abhyankar and his son Dattareya
, Raobahadur Navale from all from Nagar; G.K Pradhan and Keshavbhai
Asher from Mumbai, Raosaheb Mehendale and his wife Taisaheb, Vasudev
Pandit, Baburao Rudra, Mamasaheb Dhekane, Yellubahi and Gosavi
all from Pune, Mr.Girme and Mr. Vasant Kulkarni from Akluj, are
some of well known names from the large family of disciples. Maharaj
gave spiritual guidance to millions, who are evolving spiritually
under his protection even today.
Dr Dhaneshwar was his principle disciple. According
to Maharaj, their association was for more than six hundred years.
Being Nath Panthis in the earlier births also and closely
connected to Gahininath. Maharaj had shown him the place where
he i.e. Dr Dhaneshwar used to do sadhana in the caves in the Vrishdheshwar
hills near Nagar in the previous birth .He was a very capable
person and Maharaj gave him all his knowledge. Maharaj first appeared
before Dr Dhaneshwar when the latter was a schoolboy but the real
training started just after his Graduation in medicine. Maharaj
used to visit him often and throw things around. This used to
make the doctor angry. One Day, Maharaj scattered some importance
articles here and there. Doctor, who was under tension due to
personal worries asked Maharaj to leave and when he did not, pushed
him down the stairs. As a result of this outburst the doctor became
When the doctor recovered from unconsciousness
he found his head was on Maharajs lap and Maharaj was gently
caressing his head with love of a mother. At that moment he suddenly
realized the real nature of Maharaj. He realized that the Gurus
love is deeper than mothers love. From that moment he completely
surrendered to Maharaj.
Raosaheb Balwantrao Mehendale who was a barrister
and his wife Taisaheb Mehendale were also close disciples of Maharaj
. One of his friends Sardar Mirikar was instrumental in
bringing Raosaheb to Maharaj.
Maharaj initiated Tai Saheb and asked her to
give discourses on Dnyaneshwari (an exposition on Geeta).
The Mehendale couple left Bombay and settled in Pune in their
ancestral house Mehendalewada at the Appa Balwant Chowk in Pune.
Spiritual programs like the discourses, bhajans and
kirtans were held in Mehendalewada which became a center
of solace for people who were frustrated in life and needed a
relief. These discourses from Taisaheb used to impart deeper bliss
to the listeners and they used to feel the meaning of their life
being unfolded. It was as if Shri Shankar Maharaj was speaking
through her, for he had already told that I myself cannot
give discourse. I need some intelligent person with pure mind
This incident of giving darshan of the
desired deity was unique. Sir Chunilal Mehta, once Governor of
Bombay Presidency in British Raj was a close friend of Raosaheb
Mehendale. He was a kind natured person and scholar, well versed
in both Western and Indian literature. He used to attend the discourses
in Mehendalewada. One day he told Raosaheb that inspite of his
vast reading, travelling all over India visiting holy places,
he felt something was lacking in his life. This was just before
Taisahebs discourse on Dnyaneshwari was to start.
The stanzas Taisaheb had selected that day related to seeing
manifested God. Sir Chunilal was considerably influenced and said
that he wanted to experience something like that. Raosaheb took
him next day to meet Maharaj who was at that time in Mama Dheknes
house. Maharaj was as usual reclining on a cushion, laughing and
talking to himself. Lady Mehta sat with Taisaheb on ground. Sir
Chunilal stood and did namaskar to Maharaj. Raosaheb spoke
to Maharaj and told him that Sir Chunilal had come with his wife
to meet him. Maharaj first ignored him and then fixed his eyes
on Sir Chunilal who instantly went into a deep trance, tears started
flowing from his eyes. And then Sir Chunilal ran to Maharaj and
fell on his feet making them moist with the tears. Lady Mehta
was also in a similar condition. Sir Chunilal later told that
in those moments Lord Vishnu his personal deity had appeared before
him. Sir Chunilal was still in trance for a long time. The feeling
of incompleteness left Sir Chunilal permanently. Thereafter Sir
Chunilal continued to remain in that internal trance state. He
never went any more on pilgrimage to holy places.
A few months before taking samadhi Maharaj
had chosen the present site. It was a farmland owned by one Mr.
Malpani who had agreed to give him the land. A few days before
the samadhi, Maharaj told to his devotees, who had gathered
at Mama Dhekne's house, "These clothes have become old. They
must be discarded." everybody realized he was referring to
his body and not real clothes. He then asked them to gather there
after four days and that he would make 'khichdi' for them.
Four days later, when they gathered at Mama Dhekne's house, Maharaj
himself cooked the 'khichdi' and distributed it. Then Maharaj
said, "Dnyaneshwari is not to be read. One must live
by it. This world has been saved only by the advice of the Saints
and Dnyaneshwari He who fills his life with Dnyaneshwari
will surely have a happy life. I have nothing more to say."
And with that he bid good-bye to those who had gathered, except
Dr. Dhaneshwar, Gosavi, Dnyananath, Mehendale couple, Mama and
Mami Dhekne. He said, "For Yogis and liberated persons, samadhi
should be taken at an auspicious time. This time is coming on
Vaishakh Suddha Ashtami. I am going to deposit this material
body in the ground that day."
During the next ten days or so, Maharaj broke
all outside contacts. Only the usual group used to visit him at
Mama Dhekne's house. Not a word was spoken. On the seventh day,
that is the day before the samadhi, he told Mami,"
Give me just a cup of tea. Inside the shelf spread a small mattress
and keep a cushion. I am going to take bath and sit here. I don't
want to speak a word nor meet anyone. The door should not be opened."
And they did accordingly.
Mama and Mami were sitting the whole night in
front of the shelf keeping watch. At four o'clock in the morning
voice came from inside the shelf, "Make further arrangements.
Take care of this material body. This flame of Dnyanadeo is now
It was April 24th 1947. People gathered to have
a last sight of the body of the Master. Next day around noon the
body was taken in procession to the place and by the route indicated
by Maharaj. Ground was dug at the indicated place for the body.
About five o'clock in the evening the body was interred and in
no time only a mound of garlands was all that could be seen.
An unusual thing about Maharaj has been that
even after samadhi he visits his devotees Most visits have
been out of a need to save them from calamities or to give guidance.