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Tukaram

A Brief Biography

1608-1649

Introduction
Tukaram, a Vaishnava bhakta, was a true man of God. Tuka constantly sang the praises of God, or Krishna. It was the constant singing about God which led Tukaram to compose his abhangs. It is these abhangs for which Tuka is most famous. The abhangs are unique in the world of literature. They are often called poems, but they don't have the artful imagery associated with poems. I don't know if they had meter or rhyme, since I haven't heard them spoken aloud in Old Marathi, the language in which they were written. The abhangs express Tuka's feelings (whether elation or frustration) and philosophical outlook, yet they are not prose any more than they are poems. During his 41 years, Tuka composed over

5,000 abhangs. Many of them speak of events in his life, which make them somewhat autobiographical. Yet, they are focused on God, Pandurang, and not Tukaram. His abhangs became very popular with the masses of common people. It was this very popularity that caused the religious establishment (the high caste Brahmins) to hate and persecute Tukaram. After all, he was causing them to lose their power over the people.

Events in the Life of Tukaram


Most of the biographical information we have about Tukaram comes from Mahipati's Bhaktalilamrita (chapters 25-40). However, Mahipati wrote his account in 1774, more than a century after Tukaram's disappearance. Moreover, he does not reveal his sources. This creates a big problem for historians. Tukaram was born in 1608, in the small village of Dehu in the South Indian state of Maharashtra. His father was Bolhoba and his mother Kanakai. He had two brothers. Savaji was his older brother and Kanhoba was younger. Even though they were from the low born sudra caste, the family was well to do and had a high social standing in the village. Nonetheless, Tuka's life was full of difficulties. These began when his father became ill, and Tuka had to begin supporting the family at the young age of 13. Shortly thereafter, both his parents died. Tukaram's problems only mounted; death of his family members and economic hardship seemed to plague him. During his life, he had two wives. The first, Rakhumabai, died of starvation during a severe famine. Tuka felt ashamed and embarrassed by his lack of ability to get enough food to save his wife's life. His second wife was younger than the first. Her name was Jijabai (also called Avali), and she constantly nagged Tukaram and complained about his inability to hold a job and properly support his family. She began to consider God her enemy, and made Tuka's home life miserable. He also had three sons, named Santu or Mahadev, Vithoba and Narayana. Narayana was considerably younger than Mahadev and Vithoba, and was a great bhakta like his father. Tukaram had two principal disciples. The first was a Brahmin from Kadus named Gangadhar Maval. He became Tuka's secretary, following Tuka everywhere and transcribing his abhangas. The second was Santaji Teli Jaganade, who also helped write down Tuka's songs. They had no desire but to be with Tukaram. When Tuka led the kirtan, they would lead the chorus in response. Playing kartals and vina, they would often dance in ecstasy.

Initiation
One thing that makes Tukaram unique among Indian saints is that he never took diksha, formal initiation from a guru. Rather, he was initiated by Lord Hari himself, in a dream Tuka had in 1619. Tuka dreamed that he was on his way to the temple after purifying himself by bathing in the Indrayani river. He carried tulasi leaves in his hand. Suddenly, he saw a brahmin (who was actually Lord Hari disguised as a brahmin) in his path. Tuka gave the brahmin the tulasi leaves and offered dandavat pranams, laying prostrate, face down, on the ground. The brahmin was very pleased. So, he placed his hands on Tuka's head and gave him the mantra 'Ram Krishna.' The story continues in

Bhaktilamrita, chapter 33, verses

162 through 178.


"162. Sri Hari, at the same time, told Tuka with His own lips the names of the gurus in His line. I request you, wise hearers, to listen with your ears with reverence. 163. "Raghava Chaitanya a Vaishnava bhakta. Keshav Chaitanya became his disciple. Baba Chaitanya is My name." So God said to Tuka. 164. "Never leave the worship of Sri Pandurang. Never leave His feet." Tuka was made happy in heart by this, and pressed an invitation on his sadguru. 165. "I ask you, my master, to come at once to my home, and make it holy (by Your presence). You can cook with Your own hands, and eat until it suffices you." 166. Listening to Tuka's words, the Husband-ofRukmini said to him, "If you will kindly give me a quarter of a sher of ghee, I will come to your home." 167. Hearing these words of the noble Brahman, the Vaishnava bhakta said, "Certainly", and taking the Brahman by the hand, Tuka brought him to his home. 168. The Vaishnava bhakta said to his wife, "God has come to our home. Give him all the materials he may require for cooking, and as much ghee as He may ask for." 169. Hearing these words of Tuka's, his wife fell into a great rage. Said she, "Where has this damn Brahman come from? Where have I got the quarter of a sher of ghee to give him? 170. He brings constantly any sort of Brahmans to our home. He has burnt up our copper vessels, and left me nothing but earthen ware. How am I to carry on my domestic life?" 171. While the quarrel was raging more and more the guru suddenly left. Such was the dream that the noble Vaishnava had that day. 172. When the Vaishnava Tuka came into his waking state his heart felt remorse. Said he, "The dear sadguru met me, and took me over to the other side of the ocean of this life's experiences, 173. and all he asked for was a

quarter of a sher of ghee. But because the quarrel in our home became so great, God at once left. 174. But He did tell me the names of those in the line of gurus, Keshav Chaitanya, Rahgava Chaitanya, and His own name of Babaji Chaitanya, and He gave me the mantra 'Ram-Krishna-Hari.' 175. It was on the tenth day, in the bright half of Magha (February) on a Thursday, which He saw was an auspicious day, that He accepted me, and then at once the guru left." 176. Tukaram, in his love, composed three abhangs on this theme. If they are continually sung in love by any, they will not be troubled by the cares of the worldly existence. 177. Such was the mercy of the sadguru, which was shown to Tuka in a dream. The pious God-loving bhaktas, understand this from personal experience as in the Hari-kirtans they listen to such stories. 178. The line of Gurus has continued by the same method (through dreams). Tuka gave the mantra in a dream to whomsoever he especially loved. And that miracle is still going on."

Miracles
In addition to posthumous miracles, Tukaram performed many miracles during his lifetime. He fed a multitude of people eventhough he only cooked for one. He turned iron into gold on more than one occassion. He made the dumb speak and brought the dead back to life. He changed the water in a well from brackish to sweet, instantly calmed a very vicious dog, and once while at the home of an elderly brahmin couple, made lamp oil appear out of thin air. Yet, he was no magician. His total devotion to Pandurang was the force behind these amazing feats. This was known to Tukaram, as evidenced by the fact that he never showed the slightest bit of pride or arrogance. Tuka always remained humble, meek and simple.

Tuka Feeds the Multitude


Once a large band of pilgrims, lead by Chintaman Dev, arrived in Dehu. They were on their way from Pune to Bhimashankar, and decided to spend the night in Tuka's home town. The pilgrims camped in a flat, open area, a small distance from the jungle. Merchants from the town came, and set up their food stalls in a circle around the pilgrims. When Tukaram came upon the scene, he immediately offered his sincere respects to Chintaman Dev by bowing down before him on the bare ground. Both their hearts felt great spiritual joy. Then Chintaman Dev asked Tuka for a favor. Addressing Tuka as "you God-loving Vaishnava bhakta", the pilgrims' leader asked Tuka to cook enough prasad to feed his whole group. Feeling honored, Tuka went home to get the items necessary for cooking. He returned, but only had enough flour, rice, dal and ghee for one person. Thinking that the ingredients he brought were insufficient, he felt perplexed as to how he could fulfill Chintaman Dev's request. As he was a fully surrendered soul, Tuka naturally prayed, "O God Supreme, Husband of Rukmini, supply enough material for all." He prayed in this way as he cooked, then offered the food, with loving devotion to Lord Pandhari (Krishna). Much to Chintaman Dev's amazement, as they distributed the prasad, the pots stayed stayed full until everyone had been fully satisfied. Afterwards, they invited Tuka to sit with them and they listened to his kirtan. When dawn came, the pilgrims left for Bhimashankar.

Tuka Turns Iron into Gold


A brahmin was performing a sacrifice to end his poverty by fasting in from of Dnyanadev's samadhi (tomb). To reward him for his intense determination, Dnyanadev appeared to the brahmin in a dream. He told the brahmin to go to see Tuka and bring back whatever Tuka gives him. So, the brahmin went to Dehu, found Tuka and told him his dream. Tuka was disgusted. He couldn't understand why the Lord was making his life more difficult by sending this person to see him. But, he knew that only Dyanadev understands His own actions. He then told the brahmin to go to Lohagav, find a coppersmith named Shivji, and silently take whatever he was given. The brahmin did exactly as he was told, and explained the circumstances of his arrival to Shivji. Shivji didn't know what to make of it. However, it so happened that Shivji planned to have a large outdoor dinner at his home for the local brahmins that very night. So, he invited the brahmin to partake of the feast. After all the brahmins had eaten, pan was served, and everyone felt very satisfied. Shivji then asked the visiting brahmin to come into his house. When the brahmin came inside, the coppersmith picked up four iron harrows (wheelless agricultural implements used to smooth plowed land), placed them on the brahmin's head, and said, "Go at once to Dehu and show these to Tuka." To get back to Dehu, the brahmin had to go by two mountains, named Kanhe and Reke. The brahmin was getting tired from the long journey, so he dropped three of the harrows on the ground, and continued on to Dehu with the remaining harrow atop his head. The brahmin found Tukaram sitting by himself and approached him. Tuka asked whether Shivji had given him any alms. When he showed Tuka the harrow, it turned from iron into gold right before their eyes. Tuka then said to the brahmin, "This gift is from Dnyanadev. Tell no one about this and carry on with your life." The brahmin left with the gold and went straight to the place that he dropped the other three harrows. He searched and searched, but they were no where to be found. Nevertheless, managing to feel satisfied with what he did have, the brahmin returned home.

Tuka Calms a Vicious Dog


There is a sacred bathing place, some distance from Dehu, at the confluence of the Mula and Bivara rivers. Once, Tuka decided to make a pilgrimage and go to that place. Along the way, he had to pass through an uninhabited stretch of countryside where shepherds used to tend their flocks. There was also a very fierce dog that had made this area his home. The dog used to attack travellers along the road, reputedly ripping out their throats and drinking from the resulting pools of blood. Clearly, the shepherds were very much afraid of this dog. When Tukaram passed through his area, the dog ran at him. Tuka didn't feel any fear or concern. As the dog drew near, and crouched, about to lunge at him, Tuka said, "There is no bark in me, and why do you keep it in yourself?" As soon as the dog heard these words, it became silent and lay on the ground. The sheperds couldn't believe it. They came over, and the dog just lay there, like someone's pet. It was the strangest thing they'd ever seen. Tuka continued on his way, loudly repeating names of

God, until he got to the bank of the Bhima river. There he took his bath. On the return trip, the dog followed Tuka home. It observed every ekadasi by refusing to eat and always listened to the kirtans.

Tuka Brings Speech to a Dumb Boy


While on that same journey to the sacred spot where the Mula and Bivara rivers join, Tuka performed yet another miracle. He went to the house of a brahmin while begging for food in Ranjagav. He happened to arrive at the brahmin's house just as the brahmin was performing an agnihotra yagna, a sacrifice of grain and ghee into a fire, accompanied by prayers. The brahmin was very pleased when he saw Tuka, understanding that his prayers had been answered. He served Tuka some food, and then said to him, "I have a son who is eight years old. But, he has never spoken a word. Because of that, the sacred thread ceremony has been delayed since he can't repeat the Gayatri mantra. Tuka had the boy brought in. He gestured for the boy to come near him, and he said, "Say Vitthal. Vitthal." The boy said the sacred name, and began speaking. Tuka stayed there overnight, and the very next day, they performed the boy's sacred thread ceremony.

A Case of Demonic Posession Cured


This is a my favorite miracle story, partly because it's different from the others and partly because the story brings out two very nice points. What makes it different is that rather than Tuka being personally present, it was his instruction that allowed the miracle to take place. This leads to the first point, that carying out the instruction of the guru is much more important than being in the physical presence of the guru. The second point the story makes is that repeating the name of God is a great sacrifice. This nicely illustrates Krishna's statement in Bhagavad Gita that repeating the name of God (japa) is actually the greatest sacrifice there is, when He tells Arjuna, "Of sacrifices I am japa" (10.25 yajnm japa-yajo 'smi). One day during kirtan, Tuka sang an abhang that said something to the effect that if a person were to chant God's names as they walked along a path, every step would be a sacrifice made to God. There happened to be a very pious brahmin from Lohagav at the kirtan. When he heard that statement, it struck a nerve, and he very much took it to heart. He began the practice of tying a knot in a piece of string every time he took a step, while repeating the names of God. He did this for about a year, and then the miracle took place. Elsewhere, there was a brahmin who was posessed by an evil spirit or demon. He went to Harihareshwar to render special service to the deity there in the hopes of becoming free of the evil influence. After a time, the demon mainfested itself and said to the brahmin, "If you will give me the good deed of one sacrifice, I will leave you, and I also will be set free." The brahmin didn't have the wherewithall to perform a sacrifice, so he began travelling, looking for someone who would give him the good deed from their sacrifice. He went to many different parts of India, until he finally ended up in Lohagav. The pious brahmin who lived in Lohagav and had been tying knots in a string for a year, heard about the posessed man, located him, and told him to

come to his house. When the posessed brahmin arrived, the other brahmin cut one knot off the string, and washed it in water. Then, he told the other man to drink the water, which he did. The power of the name is so strong that it made the demon leave the man immediately. He fell to the floor, and lay there unconscious for three hours. People from the town gathered around to see the strange sight, and they said, "See, Tuka's words are true. Our eyes have witnessed their truth." The brahmin who had been posessed was now happy. This miracle was seen by many people and therefore became widely known.

Tuka Improves the Water in a Well


Once, Tuka was invited to Lohagav to perform kirtan. There was a big feast for the brahmins, and the kirtan lasted well into the night. It so happened that there was a well nearby that had brackish water. No one drank from it. The following day, Tuka took a bath in the well, as if it were a holy place. In other words, Tuka left his clothes on. The water immediately became sweet. The well is known as the Coppersmith's Well and can be visited in Lohagav to this day.

Tuka Produces Lamp Oil


There was an elderly brahmin couple in Lohagav, who invited Tuka to their house for one of their Monday night celebrations. No one else came, so it was just the three of them. Suddenly, the lamp started to go out, due to lack of oil. The couple didn't know what to do. There was no one to send to the bazaar to buy more. Tuka said, "You have an empty bottle in the house. See if it may contain some oil." The woman got the bottle, and much to her amazement, there was plenty of oil in it. The old couple was much relieved. And perhaps, most wonderful of all, the oil never ran out as long as they lived.

Tuka Restores Life to a Dead Boy


The way this story is told in Mahipati's Bhaktalilamarita is so nice, I didn't want to spoil it by telling it in my own words. The following is a quote from the Bhaktalilamrita, chapter 38, verses 67 through 90. "Still another event occurred, which, if saint or sadhu hears it told, becomes absorbed in it. 68. One day the Vaishnava bhakta was performing a kirtan in Lobagav. A pavilion had been erected, and many flags fluttered on every side. 69. People had heard of Tuka's great fame, and a crowd of two thousand had assembled from other towns. All of the town itself, young and old, sat listening with reverence. 70. The astrologer of the town was an extremely pious man, and regularly listened to the kirtans. His son was suffering from a very serious disease. At times he fainted away. 71. The Brahman would leave his son at home, and come to listen at the kirtan, for, said he, "That which is to be, cannot be escaped." Indifferent to things around him he sat listening. 72. After three hours of the night had passed the angels of Yama (God of Death) took the child away. The wife lifted the corpse, and brought it into the Hari kirtan. 73. She said to Tuka, "If you will bring my boy to life at once, then only are you surely a Vishnu bhakta, otherwise you are a hypocrite. 74. My husband thinks only of you, and from

the day he began to do so, we have been suffering loss, and disaster. You have poured water (destroyed) on your own worldly affairs, and have made our condition the same as yours." 75. With this interruption in the midst of the kirtan all minds were perplexed. Just as when one is eating some dainty food off a plate some one should mix poison with it. 76. Seeing the trouble he was in, Tuka closed his eyes, and brought Pandurang before his imagination, by concentrating his mind on Him. 77. Then he prayed, "Victory, victory to Thee, 0 God, Lover of Thy Bhaktas, Supreme-Lord-of -Heaven, Pervader of the Universe, Omniscient-One, Dweller-at-Pandharpur, Shri Vitthal. 78. In former times Thou didst perform many wonderful deeds, the glory of which the Vaishnava Bhaktas sing. Now here in this place prove them to be true, making the evidence that of our experience. 79. A confusion has arisen in our worship, and what could be a worse death than this? Take the disk in Thy hand, and put an end to this interruption, 0 Vithoba. 80. If Thou wilt not come here, then I truly will not preserve my own life." While the God-loving bhakta was saying this, many tears flowed from his eyes. 81. While Tuka was thus pleading for help, the Lord-of-Pandhari at once appeared. He awakened Tuka, saying, "Why are you troubled? 82. You, who are the chief jewel among bhaktas, have with you the life-giving nectar. When you repeat it in the kirtan, the life of the child will return." 83. When Shri Hari gave him this assurance, he was very happy. He then opened his eyes, and awakened his hearers. 94. Said he, "Clap your hands, and snap your fingers, and all of you shout the name of Vitthal. Thereby great hindrances are removed. Have no doubt of this." 85. Thus requested by the Vaishnava bhakta, all the audience began to worship, The loud noise, as if in visible form, seemed to have descended to the earth. 86. Cymbals, the vina, and drums sounded in tune with the shouting of Vittal's names. Great was the sound of the clapping of hands, and snapping of fingers. The enthusiasm was unlimited. 87. For three hours in this manner the audience carried on their worship. And Tuka, losing his illusion of body, became one unconscious of body. 88. The Lord-ofPandhari then performed a miracle. You fortunate hearers, listen. Life returned into the corpse, that had been placed in the midst of the kirtan. 89. The child sat up in the Hari kirtan, and began to worship with feelings of love. His mother was near him, and she fell at Tuka's feet. 90. The whole audience rejoiced, shouted, "Victory, Victory," and clapped their hands. The custom of repeating Hari's names became more and more established."

Tuka's Body Illuminates the Night


Once again, we find our hero in Lohagav. Tuka was leading such an ecstatic kirtan that he and everyone else lost bodily consciousness. Even the man whose job it was to keep the lamps filled lost consciousness. As time passed the lamps all went out. Then, a wonderful thing happenned. Tuka's body began to glow and completely illuminated the room. When the kirtan ended, Tukaram sat down, and suddenly it became dark. The audience regained their bodily consciousness, and all the lamps were light. However, none of the oil that had been brought for the lamps had been used up. The oil jar was as

full as it had been when the kirtan began. Everyone there was amazed at what had happened.

An Extraordinary Relationship
One of the truly remarkable things about Tukaram was his intimate, personal relationship with God. This goes well beyond strong feelings or the once-in-alifetime mystical experience. Please read on to get a taste of the nectar which flowed so profusely, back and forth, in this very special relationship.

God Disguised as a Human Helps Tuka


One night, Tuka was caught alone in a thunderstorm. The night was black as can be, wild animals were roaming around the jungle under cover of darkness, and the rain came in torrents. Tuka's companions had left him, and he had no one to help him lift a large bag of grain onto the back of his water buffalo. Being very sad, and feeling himself useless and abandoned, he prayed to Pandurang to help him. Hearing his love accompanied by a call for help, Krishna appeared in the form of a traveller. The traveller asked Tuka why he was sitting in the middle of the path in the jungle. Tuka explained that he was a grain merchant, but couldn't lift the bag of grain. With that, Krishna picked the bag up with one hand and placed it on the back of the water buffalo. Knowing Tuka could not see the path, Krishna said, "Follow me." Due to material bewilderment, Tuka was unable to recognize the Lord. They continued until they got near the Indrayani river. The river was flooded, and surged violently in front of them. Tuka became anxious, not knowing how to get the heavy bag of grain accross the river, once it was off the buffalo's back. Krishna put his chakra under the water, and told Tuka that it would not be necessary to take the bag off the buffalo. Upon saying that, Krishna crossed the river on the chakra, followed by Tuka and his buffalo with the bag of grain. Tuka was astonished, and thought that God must have sent the traveller to him. Just then, a flash of lightning revealed the traveller in front of him had four arms. Tuka was filled with joy. Mahapati then describes Sri Krishna in the following way, "At His waist was a shining yellow garment. On His throat flashed the beautiful Kaustubha jewel, around His neck was the Vaijayanti garland. His glorious face was full of charm. His bodily complexion was dark, but shining, and besides this, sandalwood paste had been rubbed over Him. There were jewels set around the glorious Shrivatsa mark, and in His crown, precious stones sparkled. Brilliant earrings flashed light. In His mouth His teeth sparkled like diamonds. On His feet the todar and vanki bells tinkled, and Tuka was amazed at the sight." Though it seemed the flashes of lightning were responsible for giving Tuka this glorious sight, they were merely the material instrument Krishna used to show a glimpse of Himself to His loving devotee. As Tuka watched Him, He was still the fellow traveller walking in front. They finally reached Tuka's home, and the traveller helped Tuka lift the grain off the buffalo, and set it on the floor. While Tuka took care of the needs of his water buffalo, Krishna disappeared into the night.

God Reveals Himself to Unwilling Avali


Avali, Tuka's wife hated Pandurang because she considered Him, the object of Tuka's overwhelming devotion, to be the reason Tuka was unable to work and support his family in a proper way. One day, she got a thorn in her foot, while Tuka was away in the mountains. Krishna appeared to her in all His splendor. He was dark complexioned, very beautiful with His lotus eyes, slender waist and yellow garment. His brilliant crown was studded with colorful jewels. He had beautiful earrings that reflected the sun as He moved. Around His neck were the Vaijayanti garland and the Kaustubha jewel. The tiny bells and vankis that He wore on His feet made sweet, tinkling sounds. As soon as she saw Him, Avali said to herself, "What is this damn guy doing here!? He made my husband crazy. All the problems in my domestic life are His fault! He probably just came here to laugh at me." So, she turned her head. But Pandhari was there. She looked away, in every direction, but no matter where she looked He was there. She closed her eyes, and He was there, too. "Why is He persecuting me?" she thought to herself. Krishna understood her mind, and assured her He had nothing to do with her problems. Pandurang explained that He was in the same condition she was in, always chasing after Tuka. "You didn't have food, so I created an abundant harvest. But, Tuka didn't take it. How is that any fault of Mine?" Saying this, Pandhari picked Avali up, and put her on His lap. Then He painlesly removed the thorn from her foot, looked at her in a compassionate way, and she forgot all her worldly troubles. After some time, the two of them went off to the mountains to find Tuka. Avali wanted to bring him some food. When Tuka looked up and saw Avali with Pandurang walking a few steps behind her, he felt as if he were seeing day and night together. When they drew near, Tuka grabbed Krishna's feet, and was overcome by all emotions at once. Then, the three of them sat down together in silence.

God Inspires Tuka to Become a Poet


One night, while Tuka was sleeping, Krishna entered his dream. He did not come alone, but brought the great poet and bhakta Namdev with Him. Krishna told Tuka that long ago, he had instructed Namdev to compose one billion verses to praise and honor Him. However, Namdev didn't finish all the verses. He was fifty five million short. Krishna told Tuka that he was to finish the last fifty five million verses for Namdev. Krishna then finished His instructions with the admonition that Tuka not waste his words describing unimportant things, and that he should start writing immediately. Tuka was in ecstasy when he woke up. This event is described in one of his abhangs.

Ganesh and Krishna Dine with Tuka


Chintaman Dev had heard that Tuka used to take his meals with Krishna. He found it very difficult to believe, and wanted some proof. So, he invited Tuka to come dine with him. All the brahmins sat on the floor in a row. Tuka sat about six feet from them. When the server put down plates, Tuka asked for two additional ones. When asked why, he replied that they were for

Ganapati and Krishna. Tuka brought the image of Ganapati to his mind, and asked him to come and simply take the food, without going through any effort of his own. Ganapati accepted, and appeared. Chintaman Dev was most impressed and thankful to Tuka for having brought his favorite deity to dine in his home. "Now invite Pandurang" Chintaman Dev told Tuka. So, Tuka did the same thing. He brought the image of Krishna into his mind, and invited Him to come eat. With that, Krishna appeared. Both he and Ganesh ate in traditional Indian style, with the fingers of their right hands. Though only Tuka and Chintaman Dev could actually see Ganesh and Krishna, the others who were present could see the food vanishing from the two plates. All the brahmins became awestruck. Tuka brought water so Ganesh and Krishna could wash their fingers. Then, he served them pan. Both Krishna and Ganesh took their leave of Tuka, and vanished. Chintaman Dev was most appreciative, embraced Tuka lovingly and thanked him profusely.

God Comforts Tuka


After Tuka had been forced to put the manuscripts of his abhangs in the river and been publicly humiliated, he became very sad. He decided to starve himself to death right in front of the temple. During his plight, Krishna assumed the form of a child and came to comfort him. Krishna explained how he was always there to help His devotees, citing the example of Prahlad and his wicked father, Hiranyakashipu. He then told Tuka that He was sitting under the water, holding the manuscripts, assuring Tuka they would be safe. Then the child left.

Krishna Comes to See Tuka


One time, Tuka wrote Pandhari a letter, and asked a group of pilgrims who were heading to Pandharpur to deliver it for him. When they arrived in the sacred city, the pilgrims went to see the Lord there. They entered the inner most area of the temple, and saw the Husband of Rukmini standing there on a brick. One of the pilgrims said, "Tuka is not physically well and is not able to walk all the way here. But he has written You a letter, which I will now read to You, eventhough You already know its contents." Krishna was so moved by the letter, that he said to Rukmini, "My dear Tuka is not well. We should go see him, and console him." Rukmini said, "Pious people come here to see You. If you aren't here, they will be disappointed. Why not send Garuda to bring him here, instead." Krishna agreed. In a flash, Garuda appeared before Tuka, who was still standing on the road, looking in the direction the pilgrims had gone in. Garuda said, "Due to your absence, Krishna is feeling much grief. Since you are not able to walk to Pandhari, I have been sent by the Lord to bring you there." He then handed Tuka the letter that Krishna. Krishna wrote, "So long as Vaikuntha and Kailas last, you Tuka, may live. And you alone have authority over My glory, animate and inanimate. You are not able to bear this separation from Me, and I feel the same way toward you. So, please get on Garuda's back and let Him bring you here. Do not refuse." Tuka looked up, and said to Garuda, "How can I do this. It is improper. You are the Lords carrier, whereas I am the bearer of

His sandals. If a toe ring is made of gold, still it should not be worn on the head. Tell Him of my condition and bring the Lord here." He then fell at Garuda's feet. Garuda quickly returned to Pandharpur, offered His respects to the Lord and described the events that had taken place. Krishna listened to His messenger and felt great affection for His devotee. Krishna then told Rukmini, "We will go to see Tuka." After a few days, the pilgrims returned home to Dehu. Tuka was still standing in the spot in the road where he had given them the letter. They told him that Krishna and Rukmini were coming to see him that day. The pilgrims then went to their respective houses. Tuka stood in the road, waiting most anxiously for Krishna's arrival. Tuka feared the Lord wouldn't come, so he prayed with all his heart and brought the picture of Krishna before his mind. Suddenly, Garuda's wings flashed in the sky. Then the Lord descended to earth, along with Rukmini. The two, looking exceedingly beautiful, stood in front of Tuka. Then Krishna embraced him, causing Tuka to regain external consciousness. He saw the incomparably beautiful form of Krishna, and immediately bowed down, holding Krishna's lotus feet. Krishna immediately clasped Tuka to His heart in love. In that way, Krishna caressed Tuka, and they greatly enjoyed each other's company.

Bodily Ascension into Heaven


When it came time for Tuka to leave this earth, he did so in an extraordinary way. With both human beings and the denizens of heaven looking on, he got onto the Pushpak chariot and left this world in a flash of light. His body had become transformed, and Tukaram joined the ranks of the immortal.

How Tuka Became Immortal


Tuka's immortality began with his mantra initiation by Lord Hari. When the Lord decided that it would be fitting to give Tuka a mantra in a dream, Rukmini reminded Him that anyone He gives a mantra to becomes immortal. She cited examples from His previous incarnations as Vasudeva Krishna and Sri Ram wherein He made certain beings (Uddhava, Vibishan and Hanuman) immortal by laying His hands on their heads. When the Lord heard this He laughed and said, "You have spoken the exact truth. Tuka is My very dearest life. I am going to give him a mantra so strong that death cannot destroy him." The Lord waited for an auspicious time, and did exactly as He said He would.

Tuka Lets Chintaman Dev In On a Secret


One time Tuka went to Chinchvad to see Chintaman Dev. Tuka and Chintaman Dev were sitting alone together, and Chintaman Dev was remarking how Tuka was so spiritually elevated to understand that all creatures are one, that even the birds were not afraid to land on him. He continued, "You seem in the form of a man, but aside from that there is nothing with which to compare you. In your living bhakti you have spoken so extraordinarily that the Best_Being has become subservient to you.

Nevertheless, Tuka, who are you really? Tell me the truth." In response, Tuka composed the following abhang:

Tuka is less in size than an atom, yet is as large as space. I have swallowed and passed the body That has the form of this illusory worldly existence. I have swallowed and passed the Group of Three* And the light shines in my body. Says Tuka, "Now nothing remains of me, Except sufficient for benevolent deeds."
*knower, known and knowledge Then Chintaman Dev said, "Give me evidence of actual experience and remove my doubts." To satisfy his request, Tuka showed Chintaman Dev a miracle. He split open the skin on his thigh, and there was nothing but pure cotton inside. There was no muscle, bone or blood. It was just like cotton. Chintaman Dev was astonished. He understood that Tuka was not a human being, that he descended as an avatar. What appeared like a man on the outside was worthy of being called God. These are the thoughts that Chintaman Dev had, and he bowed down to Tuka with great humility. However, Tuka didn't care for that, and he raised him up saying, "It is wrong for you to do so." Tuka didn't want the feeling of formality separating the two of them.

Mahapati Explains Tuka's Immortality


This comment by Mahipati is found in the Bhaktalilamrita, chapter 39, verses 196 through 203. "He who was an avatar in a human body, the beloved of the Lord-of-Heaven. 197. In worshipping God Pandurang with his enthusiastic love, he himself became Pandurang. Thus they became two, so that He could enjoy the pleasure of worship. 198. If God alone exists, who is to have a longing, and for whom? There might be a heap of fallen fruit on the ground, but there is need of one to eat them. 199. A mirror may be bright, but it needs someone to look into it. Various may be the fragrance of flowers, but unless there is someone with a nose, they are useless. 200. So if there were no bhaktas, who would know of God's glory? So, although He worships Himself, He makes two parts in the act (God and bhakta). 201. The fourth mukti is the chief over the other three, so it is declared in the Bhagavat (Srimad Bhagavatam). To prove this to be true, Tuka descended as avatar to this earth. 202. He who had performed his musical kirtans, had conquered the difficult Kaliyuga. Therefore, his body had become immortal. His whole body was Brahma in form. 203. There have been great men on this earth, but they left their bodies here. But Tuka, though Brahma in form, yet posessed a human body. This is a profoundly strange thing."

Ascending to Heaven
As the end of the story of Tukaram grows to a close, Mahipati gives us still more details about Tuka's real nature and his relationship with God.