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Bhagat Namdev ji Life and Teachings

April 10, 2022 07:26 PM
Bhagat Namdev ji (Painting)
Dr Amrit Kaur

Bhagat Namdev Ji also spelled as Nam Dev Ji, his full name being Namdev Damaji  Relekar is one of the 15 Bhagats whose hymns Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji are included in Sri  Adi Granth Sahib. In compiling Sri Adi Granth Sahib Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji, in addition to the hymns of his predecessor Sikh Gurus and his own hymns included the hymns of 15 Bhagats, 11 Bhatts, and four others closely associated with the Sikh Gurus. These 15 Bhagats include (i) Bhagat Jaidev Ji (ii) Sheikh Farid Ji (iii) Bhagat  Trilochan Ji (iv) Bhagat Namdev Ji (v) Bhagat Sadhna Ji (vi) Bhagat Ramanand Ji  (vii) Bhagat Ravidas Ji (viii) Bhagat Kabir Ji (ix) Bhagat Sain Ji (x) Bhagat Dhanna Ji  (xi) Bhagat Pipa Ji (xii) Bhagat Beni Ji (xiii) Bhagat Bhikhan Ji (xiv) Bhagat Sur Das  Ji and (xv) Bhagat Parmanand Ji. Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji (1666-1708) gave this  Holy Scripture the final form by including the hymns of the ninth prophet-teacher of the Sikhs Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib and thereby gave this Holy Scripture the name Sri Guru Granth Sahib which is the eternal Guru of the Sikhs. This Holy  Scripture is unique in the sense that it includes the hymns of Hindu as well as  Muslim saints belonging to various castes and creeds which include Muslim, Rajput  Brahman, Jat, washerman, calico-printer, chamar, kasaee, weaver, and barber born in different parts of India. 

Gurdwara Bhagat Namdev ji, Ghoman, Gurdaspur District, Punjab, India

In Sri Guru Granth Sahib Bhagat Namdev Ji's 61 hymns in 18 Ragaas have been included. He was born on October 29th (October 26th according to some scholars) in  1270 AD in the village Narsi Bamni also spelled as Narasi-Vamani, District Himgoli of  Maharashtra. His parents were Sri Dam Sheti Ji also spelled as Damsheti Ji and  Shrimati Gonabai Ji. His caste was chheemba (calico-printer). Janabai the family's maid servant and a Bhakta and poetess in her own right has recorded the tradition that Namdev Ji was born to Gonabai Ji as a result of her worship of Vithala in  Pandharpur District Sholapur of Maharashtra. In two of his hymns, he has mentioned that he was a chheemba. It is worth mentioning that Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji while visiting Maharashtra visited all the key religious places and also visited Narsi Bamni.

Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji also visited the Naag Naath Temple which is also called  Aundha Naag Naath Temple in the Hingoli District of Maharashtra. In his hymn which exists on Page 1164 of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Bhagat Namdev Ji has said: I am of a  low social class, O Lord, why was I born into a family of fabric dyers? 

When his age was less than 11 years he got married to Rajabai Ji also called Rajai Ji daughter of Gobind Shetti Ji also spelled as Govindasheti Sadovarte. He had four sons Narayan, Mahadev, Gobind, and Vithaal, and one daughter named Limba Bai. 

Sri Guru Ram Das Ji in his hymn which appears on Page 733 of Sri Guru Granth  Sahib talking about Bhagat Namdev Ji says that God turned his back on the persons of high classes such as Kshatriyas and Brahmins and showed his face to Namdev which means that God Almighty blessed Bhagat Namdev Ji. Sri Guru Ramdas Ji (SGGS, Page 733) says that Namdev loved God Almighty whom people called calico-printer. But God Almighty turning his back on Kashaatriyas and Brahmins blessed Namdev. Sri Guru Ram Das Ji in this hymn (SGGS, Page 451) has stated that Namdev loved the Lord, the people called him a fabric dyer. Sri Guru Ramdas Ji  says that God Almighty turned his back on the egoists and slanderers and blessed  Bhagat Namdev Ji.

Bhagat Namdev Ji received the gurhati (the first food ritually given to a new-born  baby) from his father. He spent the early years of his life in worshipping Shiv Ji and  Vishnu Ji. But later on in the company of Vishobha Khechar Ji and Gyandev Ji he attained spiritual knowledge and changed his views. He adopted Vishobha Khechar  Ji as his Guru. Out of his life span of 80 years he spent a large part in Pandharpur also called Pundrikpur in District Sholapur of Maharashtra. At Pandharpur several persons became his disciples.

The anecdote which is very commonly narrated about Bhagat Namdev Ji is related to his worship of Thakur Ji (idol). His father was a worshipper of Thakur Ji. One day  his father had to go to some place and he instructed Bhagat Namdev Ji to serve milk to Thakur Ji. Like his father he gave a bath to Thakur Ji and also put a tilak (saffron  mark) on the forehead of Thakur Ji. Then he put milk in front of Thakur Ji and  requested with folded hands that Thakur Ji should drink that milk. Bhagat Namdev Ji  has narrated this incident in his hymn which appears on page 1163-64 of Sri Guru  Granth Sahib. In this hymn Bhagat Namdev Ji has stated that taking the golden cup he filled it with the ambrosial milk and placed it before the Lord. He requested Thakur  Ji saying that: 'Please drink this milk, O my Sovereign Lord God drink this milk and  that will make my mind happy. Otherwise, my father will be angry with me. The Lord looked upon Namdev and smiled. Viewing his prayer and his dedication and determination Thakur Ji blessed him and drank that milk. The God Almighty said that this one devotee abides within my heart. The Lord drank the milk and the devotee  returned home. In this way, Bhagat Namdev Ji was blessed with the Blessed Vission of the Lord's Darshan. 

Bhai Gurdas Ji (Vaar 10, Pauri 11) has narrated this incident as follows:-

One day his father who used to serve milk to Thakur Ji had to go away on some  errand. He instructed Namdev Ji to serve Thakur Ji and also serve milk to Thakur Ji.  Namdev Ji gave a bath to Thakur Ji and brought milk of Kapil (brown) cow. He also a  put a Tilak on Thakur Ji's forehead and then he prayed whole heartedly with folded  hands that Thakur Ji should drink that milk. In view of Namdev Ji's dedication and  determination Thakur Ji became kind and blessed him with His Darshan (holy  glimpse) and also drank that milk.

There is another famous anecdote about Bhagat Namdev Ji and Aundha Nagnaath  Temple in District Hingoli of Maharashtra which appears on Page of 1164 of Sri Guru  Granth Sahib. Once when he was chanting Bhajans in front of this temple with his  senior Gurus like Jnanadeva Ji and Vishobha Khechar Ji and few more Varkaris, the  temple pujari told them that their singing in front of the temple was disturbing their  routine pooja and prayer and asked them to go away from the temple. The temple  pujari insulted Bhagat Namdev Ji and said that he was of a lower caste why he had come to the temple. The pujari asked Bhagat Namdev Ji to go away. He says that I  picked up my blanket and went back, to sit behind the temple. As he uttered Glorious  praises of the Lord the temple turned around to face the Lord's humble devotee.  Here but God Almighty in order to be in the sight of the pinning devotee and listen to  his Bhajans, revolved the temple. It is testimonial to that miracle why Nandi is  located on the back-side of the temple. Now the devotees who go to visit that temple  enter the main entry and then go to back-side of the temple to have a holy glimpse of  Shivling. 

In his hymn which appears on Page 1164 of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Bhagat Namdev  Ji says: 

Laughing and playing I came to your temple, O Lord, while I was worshipping I was  grabbed and driven out. I am of a low social class, O Lord why was I born into a  family of fabric dyers. In his hymn which appears on page 1292 of Sri Guru Granth  Sahib Bhagat Namdev Ji says calling me low caste and untouchable, they beat me  and drove me out, what should I do now, O Beloved Father Lord? The Lord turned  the temple around to face Bhagat Namdev Ji. He turned his back on the Brahmans.

As mentioned earlier Bhagat Namdev Ji adopted Vishobha Khechar Ji as his Guru.  When he went to Naagnaath Temple to meet Vishobha Khechar Ji for the first time  Vishobha Khechar had turned himself in the form of a leper and was sitting with his  wounded foot on the Shivling i.e. stone image representing Lord Shiva. Bhagat  Namdev Ji was very much upset to see this. Vishobha Khechar Ji asked him to place  his foot where Shiv Ji is not present. Wherever Bhagat Namdev Ji placed his foot he  found that Shivling was present under it. Bhagat Namdev Ji understood that God is  not only present in Pandharpur. He is all-pervasive. Vishobha Khechar Ji asked him  to lift him and take him outside. Bhagat Namdev Ji did this inspite of the fact that his  clothes got stained with blood. Vishobha Khechar Ji became happy and turned  himself into his real form. Thus Bhagat Namdev Ji adopted him as his Guru. 

In his hymn which appears on Page 1165-66 of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Bhagat  Namdev Ji says that Kazi's and other Muslims did not like Bhagat Namdev Ji's  worship of Ram. They complained to the Muslim King that he worships Ram and not  Khuda. The king called him and appealed to him to worship Khuda instead of Ram.  When Bhagat Namdev Ji refused to obey the order of the king even though he found  no difference in 'Ram' and 'Khuda' and also that he did not like that anyone who  does not believe in this should force someone to have a different view. Thus the king  gave him many tortures. The king tried to get him trampled by an elephant. Laying  Bhagat Namdev Ji in front of an elephant the Mahaut started beating the elephant to  make him step forward to trample Bhagat Namdev Ji. But the elephant ran away. The king tried to bribe him by saying that if he starts taking the name of Khuda, he  will give him gold equal to his weight. But Bhagat Namdev Ji refused this offer. Bhagat Namdev Ji worshipped God with such determination that every time God  Almighty reached to save him. The king asked Bhagat Namdev Ji to revive to life a  dead cow otherwise he will kill him. The king got his feet tied with rope. Bhagat  Namdev Ji successfully revived the cow to life. Seeing this the king, Kazis and many  other Muslims bowed before him.

Another anecdote mentioned by Bhagat Namdev Ji which occurs on page 657 of Sri  Guru Granth Sahib is that some persons of so called high castes due of enemity  demolished his jhugee. Because of poverty Bhagat Namdev Ji did not afford to  construct a new jhugee. The God Almighty got a new jhugee constructed which was  very beautiful and firm. The people were very much impressed by the beauty of this  new house. One neighbouring woman came to him and asked him about the name  of the worker who had constructed such a beautiful home. Bhagat Namdev Ji  praised God Almighty for this. She said that I shall pray him double wages. Tell me  who is your carpenter? He replied 'O sister, I cannot give this carpenter to you.  Behold my carpenter is pervading everywhere. He worshipped God Almighty with  such determination that God Almighty came to his help every time. 

As the above discussion shows Bhagat Namdev Ji in his hymns has described many  incidents of his life. He tells about serving milk to Thakur Ji (SGGS, Page 1163), how  God Almighty rotated the Dehura (SGGS, Page 1164 and Pages 1292), how the  jhuggi which was demolishing by his enemies was turned into a new jhuggi (657)

and how the Muslim king gave him tortures (SGGS, Page 1165-66).

Talking about God Almighty Bhagat Namdev Ji says (SGGS, Page 485) God is  present here and there and everywhere. There is no place in the world where he is  not present. In water and on earth You are present everywhere. 

Bhagat Namdev Ji (SGGS, Page 973) says that the Guru has shown me the sixty eight places of pilgrimage within my own heart, where I now take my cleansing bath.

Bhagat Namdev Ji says that while doing the daily chores, our mind should be focused on the Lord. He says (SGGS, Page 972):

One Universal Creator God. By the Grace of the True Guru: The boy takes paper,   cuts it and makes a kite, and flies it in the sky. Talking with his friends, he still keeps his attention on the kite string. My mind has been pierced by the name of the Lord like the goldsmith whose attention is held by his work. The young girl in the city takes  a pitcher, fills it with water and puts it on her head. She laughs, and plays and talks with her friends but she keeps her attention focused on the pitcher of water. The cow is let loose, out of the mansion of the ten gates to graze in the field. She grazes up to five miles away but keeps her attention focused on her calf. Bhagat Namdev Ji says,   listen O Trilochan: the child is laid down in the cradle and the mother is at work,   inside and outside, but she holds her child in her thoughts. 

Describing his love for God Almighty Bhagat Namdev Ji (SGGS, Page 693) says:

As water is precious in the desert, and the creeper weeds are dear to the camel and the tune of the hunter's bell at night is enticing to the deer, so is the Lord to my mind.  Your name is so beautiful Your form is so beautiful, Your love is so very beautiful, O  my Lord! as rain is dear to the earth and the flower's fragrance is dear to the bumble  bee and the mango is dear to the cuckoo, so is the Lord to my mind. As the sun is dear to the chakvi duck, and the lake of mansarovar is dear to the swan and husband is dear to his wife, so is the Lord to my mind, as the raindrop is dear to the mouth of the rain bird and as water is dear to the fish, so is the Lord to my mind.  Many seekers, Siddhas, and silent sages seek Him, but only a rare few behold him.  Just as your name is dear to all the universe, so is the Lord dear to Namdev's mind. 

Sri Guru Ram Das Ji in his hymn which appears on Page 733 of Sri Guru Granth  Sahib talking about Bhagat Namdev Ji says that God turned his back on the persons  of high classes such as Kshaatriyas and Brahmins and showed his face to Namdev which means that God Almighty blessed Bhagat Namdev Ji. Sri Guru Ramdas Ji (SGGS, Page 733) says that Namdev loved God Almighty whom people called  calico-printer. But God Almighty turning his back on Kashaatriyas and Brahmins blessed Namdev. Sri Guru Ram Das Ji in this hymn (SGGS, Page 451) has stated  that Namdev loved the Lord, the people called him a fabric dyer. Sri Guru Ramdas Ji  says that God Almighty turned his back on the egoists and slanderers and blessed  Bhagat Namdev Ji.

Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji (SGGS, Page 487) says that by worshipping God the low caste person Namdev became a high ranking saint. 

Under the influence of saints Jnanadeva Ji Bhagat Namdev Ji was converted to the  path of Bhakti. As such Vithala of Pandharpur became the object of his devotion and he spent much of his time in worship and kirtan and chanting hymns mostly composed by himself. Bhagat Namdev Ji composed poetry in Hindi as well as in  Marathi. 

Earlier he believed in idolatry and sarguna Bhakti but later on he became a devotee of the attributeless (nirguna) Absolute. 

Bhagat Namdev Ji's songs have been collected in 'Namdevachi Gatha' which includes a long autobiographical poem 'Tirathavali'. Dharampal Single and Baldev Singh Baddan in their list of 67 Saint poets have put Bhagat Namdev Ji's name at number one. As per tradition, more than 2000 hymns have been ascribed to him, but the actual number does not seem to exceed to 156, counting those preserved in Sri  Guru Granth Sahib.

In the company of Jnanadeva Ji and other saints, Bhagat Namdev Ji roamed about in the country and later came to village Ghuman in Tehsil Batala, District Gurdaspur of  Punjab. He lived in this village for about 18 years. Bhagat Namdev Ji left for his heavenly abode from this place in 1350 AD. His sacred memory is preserved in

Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Baba Namdev Ji in this village. Inside this Gurdwara, there is a samadh of Bhagat Namdev Ji. This memorial was constructed by Sardar Jassa  Singh Ramgarhia and the Tank by its side was got dug by Sada Kaur, mother-in-law of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. It is believed that the hymns which are included in Sri Guru  Granth Sahib were composed while he was living at Ghuman because the language of these hymns seems to have been influenced by the Punjabi language. In this  Gurdwara birthday of Bhagat Namdev Ji is celebrated four days before the birth anniversary of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji. Bhagat Namdev Ji's leaving for his heavenly abode is observed in this Gurdwara during January 12-18 every year. Presently S.  Tarsem Singh (Mobile No. 94177-36233) is President of this Gurdwara.  

In Bhagat Namdev Ji's sacred memory in village Bhattiwal, Tehsil Batala of District  Gurdaspur, Punjab Gurdwara Nameana Sahib has been established. In this village, two more Gurdwaras (i) Gurdwara Khoohi Sahib and (ii) Gurdwara Khundi Sahib have been established. 

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References used in this write-up include:

(i) The Encyclopaedia of Sikhism published by Punjabi University, Patiala, Part  III, 1997. 

(ii) Mahan Kosh by Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha (1930).

(iii) Pandran Bhagat Sahiban by Sukhdev Singh Shant (2018) (iv) Vaaran Bhai Gurdas Ji: Vaaran Gian Ratnavli, Shiromani, Gurdwara  Parbandhak Committee (1990)

(v) Darbari Das (Bhai) Parchi Gosain Namdev Ki in Parchian Bhagtan Kian (Ed)  Gurcharan Singh Sek (1991)

(vi) The book Punjab De Sant Kavi by Dharampal Single and Baldev Singh  Baddan (2006).

(vii) Sarbjinder Singh's book Divine Revelation (1999) 

(viii) Atlas: Travels of Guru Nanak by Fauja Singh and Kirpal Singh (1976) (ix) Prabhakar Machwe's book Sant Namdev (2010)

(x) Macauliffe's book The Sikh Religion (2009)

Although reference has not been given at each place

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