(From “Gulabrao Maharaj: A Biography” by Sharad Kopardekar).
Shri Gulabrao Maharaj has been one of the greatest saints of the twentieth century. He lived a short life of only 34 years from 1881 A. D. to 1915 A. D. But in this short span of life he did really great work. He was a practicing yogi, an inspired poet, a prolific writer, a profound philosopher and a saint who had realized God. He wrote 131 books on various subjects in Hindi, Marathi and Sanskrit. For decades, during his life and even after that he bas been guiding his followers on the path of spirituality through his literature and teachings.
- ANCESTRAL BACKGROUND
Shri Gulabrao Maharaj hails from Madhan, a small village 23 miles away from Amravati in northern Maharashtra. The forefathers of Shri Gulabrao Maharaj had been living in Madhan for generations. Shri Ranojirao, the grandfather of Shri Gulabrao Maharaj, was an ardent devotee of Lord Mahadeva. He used to observe a fast every Monday, the day of Lord Mahadeva. He read religious books regularly. During Navaratri, the Nine Nights Festival, Ranojirao fasted for a continuous period of nine days and on the Mahashivaratri, the festival of Lord Mahadeva, he fasted for a continuous period of eleven days. During the period of fast, he would take only a small quantity of burnt cow dung as the sacred “prasad” of Lord Mahadeva. He continued his practice of observing these fasts meticulously for decades with great faith and ardent devotion.
Once at the time of Mahashivaratri, while observing the fast as usual, Shri Ranojirao had a sacred dream. Lord Mahadeva himself appeared before him in full divine glory. Shri Ranojirao was overwhelmed with ecstatic rapture. He touched the feet of Lord Mahadeva with reverence and prayed for His blessings. Lord Mahadeva smiled and said : I am very happy with your devotion. I give you my blessings. A great saint will be born in your family. He will spread the message of spirituality all over the country and will bring about a great awakening for the upliftment of the masses. “Lord Mahadeva left Ranojirao in a beatific trance and disappeared. When Ranojirao woke up with a start, he was full of divine happiness. He exclaimed most devoutly, “Let my dream come true. Let me have a saint born in my family who would spread the message Of spirituality all over the country.”
In course of time, Shri Ranojirao got four sons. He had no daughter. His four sons were known as Raghuji, Bakaramji, Narasabhau and Gonduji. The first three sons did not have any child. Gonduji, the youngest son, was married to Aloka, the daughter of Shri Vithoba Savai Patil from Loni Takli a nearby village.
Shri Ranojirao had told his sons about his divine dream. Gonduji and Alokabai remembered and constantly thought of the dream. They too were great devotees of Lord Mahadeva. Both of them followed the path of devotion laid down by Shri Ranojirao. Like their father they too fasted on Mondays, Navaratri days and the Mahashivaratri days. They lived a very pious and devout life. They read religious books regularly, and never missed a religious discourse arranged in Madhan or a nearby village. All the year round, in all seasons, whether it was shivering cold or rains, early morning they would go to the temple to worship and pray to Lord Mahadeva in all earnestness.
- BIRTH OF SHRI GULABRAO MAHARAJ
By the grace of Lord Mahadeva, Alokabai became pregnant. All the members of the family were happy with this news. The event was celebrated with expression of gratitude and prayers to Lord Mahadeva, During pregnancy Alokabai had a series of divine dreams. She saw Lord Mahadeva in His various forms in full glory. The Lord showered His blessings on her at the time of each appearance.
For her delivery Alokabai went to her parents at Loni Takli where she gave birth to a son on the 6th of July, 1881 (Ashadha Shuddha Dashami, shaka year 1803). It was after many years that a child was born in the Mohod family. So the naming ceremony was celebrated on a grand scale and the child was named Gulab i.e. , rose. Thus was fulfilled the great boon granted to Ranojirao by Lord Mahadeva Himself; for, the boy when he grew up became the now famous Saint Shri Gulabrao Maharaj, who brought light into the lives of millions who came to him for spiritual guidance.
Gulab was a bonny attractive infant with exceedingly beautiful eyes. Women of the neighbourhood used to call the child “Sunder Narayan” i.e., the “Beautiful God.” Many Of them would say that child was the Lord Krishna personified. They used to go to Alokabai every day for caressing the baby most lovingly.
Alokabai stayed with her parents until the child was six months’ old. Then she returned to her husband’s house in Madhan. Here too the women took a great liking for the child instantly. They used to admire his sweet face and healthy form but were most attracted by his lovely eyes. They would sing songs to say that Lord Krishna himself had come to Madhan in the form of “Gulab”, the new arrival in the Mohod family. Some of them were so enchanted with the child that they forgot all sense of time in caressing him.
- SHRI GULABRAO MAHARAJ BECAME BLIND
When Gulab was only nine months old, his eyes somehow got infected. Old ladies in the neighbourhood suggested some herbal medicines. One such herbal medicine was procured and was put into the eyes of infant Gulab. Alas! It worked disastrously for instead of his eyes being cured, Gulab lost his sight completely. He became blind. Alokabai wailed With agony. She was prepared to sacrifice her life for getting his eyesight back. The neighbouring ladies wept their eyes out when they heard of the calamity. More medicines were tried, but nothing worked. Gulab had gone blind completely for ever.
Thus it was that Gulab lost his physical eyesight. But Lord Mahadeva in His infinite kindness compensated him by opening his psychic eyesight. For, in course of time, it was observed that the intellectual and mental faculties of Gulab developed much more rapidly than those of an ordinary child. Curiously enough the child Gulab began to develop the sixth sense unlike any ordinary human being.
- CHILDHOOD OF SHRI GULABRAO MAHARAJ
Alokabai the mother Of Gulab was greatly worried ad the time about her blind son. “What will happen to my blind son? How will he live his life without his eyes, she would wail. But she found that Gulab was in no way affected by all this. He was always happy. He never wept. He would spend his time in playing alone for hours. Alokabai kept an eye on him all the time even while she was busy in her household work. She was always afraid that Gulab might stumble against something and fall and hurt himself, or that he might hit against a wall. But blind Gulab moved in the house as any other normal person would do. He never stumbled against anything. He would never hit against a wall or a closed door. He would even go to the neighbouring houses without the help of anybody. He would play pranks as any other boy with eyes would do.
When Gulab was four years old, Alokabai got a child, a daughter. After the birth of this child Alokabai became seriously ill and for want of proper medical care her illness got worse day by day. Already she was heartbroken by the disaster that had befallen Gulab. The weakness after the child birth had sapped all her power Of resistance and she soon succumbed to her illness. This sudden death of his mother was like a bolt from the blue for Gulab. Rangi, the newly born daughter Of Alokabai, also did not survive for more than a few days.
It was most unfortunate that blind Gulab had thus lost the love and affection of his mother when he was just four years old. The death of his mother must have left a deep scar on the mind of the child Gulab. But outwardly he remained and unaffected. Gonduji, the father of Gulab, was worried as to who would take care of the blind boy in the absence of his mother. But Lord Mahadeva in His great mercy took pity on the child and inspired Savitribai (mother of Alokabai and grandmother Of Gulab who was moved with compassion. She came forward to take him under her protection and shower her love and affection on her blind grandchild. Gulab was the only child of her lost daughter. She took him to Loni Takli to live with her. Gulab stayed there the next six years.