(Chapters from Shri Gulabrao Maharaj’s biography in English by Shri. Sharad Kopardekar.)
57. The Last Illness
One day, at Amravati, when Shri Maharaj was worshipping Shiva the idol broke down. Shri Maharaj said, “The last days have come.” All devotees were startled to hear this. Some of them rushed for a thermometer. But the thermometer showed normal temperature. Dr. Bhat and Dr. Joshi examined Shri Maharaj. Unfortunately, what Shri Maharaj had said came true— The doctors said that Shri Maharaj was suffering from tuberculosis for which there was no cure at that time.
Shri Maharaj said that he would like to treat himself by Ayurveda, the oldest medical science of India and expressed a desire to stay in Pune. He said, “Pune is just 16 miles from Alandi, the place of Samadhi of Shri Dnyaneshwar Maharaj and I would like to spend my last days near Alandi only.”
Shri Maharaj came to with Shri Babaji Maharaj Pandit, Nanaji Kavimandan, Dattu Bhuyar, Maroti Ramekar, Rangubai and some of his other devotees.
Some rooms were rented in a bungalow on the Shankarshet Road in Pune. It was decided to take the treatment of Maharshi Annasaheb Patwardhan, the then renowned Ayurveda practitioner.
Maharshi Annasaheb Patwardhan visited the place, examined Shri Maharaj and prescribed medicines. Nanaji Kavimandan would bring the medicines prescribed by Maharshi Patwardhan. Shri Maharaj was not eager to take medicines. But Nanaji would persuade him to take medicines at the prescribed time. Dattu Bhuyar, the brother of Manakarnikabai, would clean the room, change the clothes of Shri Maharaj every day, and would do the necessary nursing. Rangubai looked after the kitchen. She prepared food for Shri Maharaj as per the advice o Maharshi Patwardhan and persuaded Shri Maharaj to eat it. Shri Babaji Maharaj Pandit would stand attendance at the feet of Shri Maharaj twenty four hours. Shri Maharaj in spite of this serious illness, tried to complete some of his books. Shri Babaji Maharaj Pandit took the dictations of Shri Maharaj. There was a shower of anxious letters inquiring after the health of Shri Maharaj from all corners of the country. As per the instructions of Shri Maharaj, Shri Pandit replied to all these letters. He advised them not to come to Pune.
Shri Maharaj was only 34 years’ old and was in the prime of his youth. He was six feet tall. He had a broad chest. His hands were unusually long, almost up to his knees. His hairs were curly. His face always radiated a glow of happiness. But unfortunately day by day his illness got worse. His strength deteriorated. The medicines given by Maharshi Patwardhan failed to get any response.
Unfortunately Shri Maharaj could not go to Alandi on the last Guru Poornima, the full moon day, which is the day marked for the worship of the Guru (spiritual master). He sent Shri. Mandhare to Alandi on his behalf. In fact Shri Maharaj wanted to go to Alandi personally to take the Darshan of Shri Dnyaneshwar Maharaj. But his devotees persuaded him not to do so. Shri Maharaj had tears in his eyes. He did not accept even a drop of water until Shri Mandhare came back from Alandi and gave him the sacred water.
The day of Janmashtami, the day of the birth of Lord Shri Krishna was approaching. The image of Lord Shri Krishna which Shri Maharaj used to worship at Amravati was brought to Pune. Shri Maharaj was so weak that he could not even sit up for the worship. So he instructed Nanaji Kavimandan to worship Lord Krishna on his behalf.
In the last days, Maharshi Patwardhan used to come three times a day to see the health of Shri Maharaj. Shri Maharaj became weaker and weaker. Though his condition was worsening fast, Shri Maharaj was conscious up to the last moment. He kept talking to all those devotees who came to visit him.
58. Darkness: Darkness All Around
In the last three days, no outsider was allowed to meet Shri Maharaj. So Shri. LR Pangarkar, Keshavrao Maharaj Deshmukh and some other devotees who had specially come to Pune could not meet Shri Maharaj. They were permitted to have the Darshan of Shri Maharaj from a distance only.
Every one of the devotees was worn down with anxiety. Every one was restless. Nobody knew what to do to give relief to Shri Maharaj from the ailment from which he was suffering. All were going through their daily routine mechanically. Every moment was critical as Shri Maharaj lay on the bed with eyes closed.
The last day, i.e., the 12th day of the white half of the month of Bhadrapada dawned. (20th Sept. 1915 AD). In the early morning Shri Maharaj called Shri Babaji Maharaj Pandit in a feeble voice. Shri Pandit bent down over him to bring his ear close to the mouth of Shri Maharaj. All the other devotees in the house were standing around him. Shri Maharaj said, “Pandit, I have not given you anything. I have not taught you anything. But all books are available to you. Please read them and you will understand everything.” Shri Pandit realised that those were the last moments of Shri Maharaj’s life. Shri Pandit could not bear this. With great difficulty he controlled the tears in his eyes and the sobs in his heart.
After a few moments Shri Maharaj again called him and said: “It is said that at the time of death, one has to bear the agony as if thousands of scorpions are biting him. It is true.” And that was all. Everything was over. Shri Maharaj had heaved his last breath.
The day had dawned, but the devotees felt it was darkness, darkness and gloom everywhere in all directions. All the devotees were sobbing with uncontrollable grief.
As per the last wishes of Shri Maharaj, this sad news was not communicated to anybody. Those who were present in the house joined the funeral procession, the ‘MAHAYATRA’. The last rites were completed in simplicity. Shri Anantrao, the son of Shri Maharaj, lighted the pyre. Within a few minutes the body of Shri Maharaj was surrounded by flames.
Shri Babaji Maharaj carried the ashes of Shri Maharaj to Prayag and consigned them to the river Ganga.
Though the body of Shri Maharaj is not there, every devotee of Shri Maharaj believes that Shri Maharaj is not dead. Hundreds of devotees have experienced that Shri Maharaj is still living and he answers each and every prayer offered to him in sincerity. Anybody who prays for his Darshan gets it. All the devotees believe that his help and guidance is available to them whenever prayed for. They believe Shri Maharaj is immortal. He can never die. So the devotees of Shri Maharaj do not observe the death anniversary of Shri Maharaj. Indeed the soul never dies and incarnations like Shri Maharaj continue to watch over and guide the footsteps of the erring humanity.