By Swami Harshananda
Sometimes transliterated as: Namdev, NAmdev, Naamdev
Nāmdev lived in A. D. 1270-1320. The path to perfection as shown by the scriptures is twofold:
- The jñānamārga - the path of knowledge
- The bhaktimārga - the path of devotion
Out of these two, the latter is much easier to practice and hence more popular. In this regard, the contribution of the various saints of the Bhakti Movement, spread over a long period, 7th to 18th century, is stupendous. They not only saved the society from the impact of the external forces of aggression but also helped it to achieve greater internal cohesion and unity.
The saints of Maharashtra, starting with Sant Jñāneśvar or Jñānadev, held sway for over five hundred years in this field and revolutionized the life of the common people. One such saint, a musician and composer of great repute was Nāmdev, a contemporary of Sant Jñāneśvar himself.
Nāmdev was born on the Kārttika śuddha ekādaśī day, a day considered as very sacred for the worship of the Lord Viṣṇu. His father was Dāmāśet, a tailor by profession and Gonnāī Bāī was the mother. Once, when Nāmdev was a little boy, he was asked to take milk from his house and offer it to Lord Pāṇḍuraṅga at the nearby temple. When he did so and found that the stone image was not drinking the milk, he became so remorseful that he decided to break his head against the stone pedestal. Moved by the child’s intense faith and devotion, the Lord appeared before him and actually drank the milk. Though the parents would not believe his version, they were wonder-struck to see it for themselves, the next day. This experience made them give Nāmdev full freedom to pursue the devotional path of singing and praying.
In course of time, Nāmdev was married to Rājaībāī who proved to be a devoted wife and a great help in his spiritual pursuits. Nāmdev started living in Paṇḍharpur itself, spending most of his time in singing the abhaṅgas composed by him. Once, all the contemporary saints and devotees of Lord Pāṇḍuraṅga assembled in the house of Gorā Kumbhār. Sant Jñāneśvar, their leader, jokingly asked Gorā to test whether the ‘pots’ that had assembled their, were ‘well-baked’ or not. When Gorā started the test, by gently stroking the heads of the saints who had gathered, with his pot- shaping stick, Nāmdev protested against this rude method of testing, because of which, he was declared as the only unripe, unbaked, pot. However, on the advice of the Lord, he got spiritual initiation from a qualified guru named Visobā Khecar thereby completing his evolution into full sainthood.
While on a pilgrimage to various sacred places, he is said to have performed the miracle of the water of a deep well rising to the ground level and a temple of Śiva turn in the direction of his group which was singing devotional songs at the back of the temple as per the orders of the priests. Nāmdev has composed a large number of abhaṅgas which are popular in Maharashtra even now. He has praised the path of devotion in preference to the path of knowledge. Eighty of these abhañgas are in Hindi which have been included in the Ādigranth the sacred scripture of Sikhism.
- He lived in A. D. 1275-1296.
- It is also spelt as Nāmadeva.
- It falls on the eleventh day of the bright half of the month of Kārttika, known as Utthāna or Prabodhinī ekādaśī, usually in November.
- Abhaṅgas are the Marāṭhī devotional songs.
- Gorā was the potter.
- It is the Granth Sāhib.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore