1 - Birth and Childhood
The divine parents
In India, in the state of Maharashtra, there is a small village
Nandani situated in Shirol hamlet in the Kohlapur district. In the
19th century, there lived Appa Joshi, a very pious
priest. He was always engrossed in conducting his daily religious
rituals and was very helpful and hospitable by nature. He would
receive with open arms everyone who needed food and shelter. He
was a practicing priest and conducted religious ceremonies and rituals
for the people of Nandani as well as for those in the neighboring
Appa was a great devotee of Shri Narasimha Saraswati
- the second avatar (incarnation) of Lord Dattatreya
(the holy trinity - Lord Brahma, the creator; Lord Vishnu, the preserver;
Lord Shiva, the redeemer - in one form). On every Saturday and on
every full moon day, Appa would visit Wadi - a place where Shri
Narasimha Saraswati stayed twelve long years during his lifetime.
To date, his wooden padukas (feet impression / footwear) are symbolically
worshipped. On every visit, Appa would ritualistically attend to
his divine service and then feed the priests and the poor.
Appa had a wife named Annapurna. Her prime cause
of unhappiness was that the couple unfortunately did not have any
children. She would often request her husband to pray Shri Narasimha
Saraswati to grant them a son, as a boon. However, Appa would disregard
her wish, as his standpoint was that Shri Narasimha Saraswati who
can bestow Mush (ultimate merging with God), should not be troubled
with trivial requests. It was like asking peanuts from an emperor
who could give gold and diamonds.
Once on his regular pilgrimage to Wadi, Appa performed his usual
rituals and works. When it was time to return home, there was an
extremely heavy rainfall causing the river Krishna to flood. Appa
was stranded at Wadi for the night. Whilst sleeping there, he had
a dream in which Shri Narasimha Saraswati appeared and promised
him that he, Shri Narasimha Saraswati himself, would take birth
as his son. On his return home the next day, he revealed his dream
to an ecstatic Annapurna.
Soon, Annapurna was pregnant. During pregnancy, she would crave
for solitude and peace. She would be most happy in secluded places.
Often she would go and sit for long in the temple dedicated to Lord
On Sunday, February 7, 1836, [in the month of Magha,
5th day after full moon, according to Hindu calendar],she gave birth
to a healthy, radiant child - a son. A group of astrologers predicted
that this divine child would remain a celibate and guide thousands
on the spiritual path. Appa Joshi and Annapurna named their son
Shrikrishna because of his attractiveness and allure
which was similar to that of Lord Krishna (an incarnation
of Lord Vishnu). Unlike normal babies, Shrikrishna disliked being
confined to the cradle or being supported on the lap. He would,
instead, be constantly crawling on the floor. Annapurna tried to
breast-feed him but he would drink very little. Surprisingly, he
was yet very healthy. But even at the age of three years, his mother
had to forcibly feed him the small amount of rice and milk.
To the despair of his anxious mother, Shrikrishna would not speak
even at the age of five years. Her friends and neighbors would advise
her to perform certain rituals like worshipping the peepal (betel
tree) tree and feeding the priests and the poor. Annapurna would
abide by all their advice. As time passed by, Shrikrishna started
speaking but no one could comprehend what he was saying. This disturbed
Shrikrishna reached the age of seven years. His parents decided
to arrange for his Upanayana ceremony (thread ceremony - a spiritual
initiation conducted by the Hindu Brahmins for their children at
the age of seven years). During the ceremony, the sacred Gayatri
Mantra (chant to Goddess Gayatri) was recited in Shrikrishna's
ears. All that he could repeat were the first two words of the mantra
twice, "OM BHURRA, OM BHURRA", causing a peal of laughter
from all those present. Appa Joshi was calm and unperturbed, as
he was aware that the life of a divine child had to be different
from an ordinary child's growing up stages.
Shrikrishna started to play with the children of his neighborhood.
He would mount a high rock and sit on it as if seated on a throne.
He would call on his friends saying, "Come to me! Surrender
to me! Take this holy water and holy ash. These will ward off evil
and save you." The ignorant children and their equally ignorant
parents could not grasp the meaning of the gems uttered by this
divine child. Instead they thought he was a fool. Shrikrishna's
words are similar to those described by his namesake Lord Krishna
in the Bhagawat Geeta (holy text) instructing his
devotees thus, "Leave all your rituals and surrender to me!
Only I can save you from your sins and bless you with Moksha."
One day Shrikrishna asked his mother's permission to go to a nearby
village Mangasoli to visit the temple dedicated to Lord
Khanderaya (another name for Lord Shiva). Annapurna was
greatly worried about her son going anywhere alone. She worried
as any doting mother would worry about their seemingly helpless
child - how would he find his way, who would feed him as he still
had to be forcibly fed and so on. Overhearing their conversation,
Appa Joshi interrupted them. He readily allowed Shrikrishna to go
for the pilgrimage. The anxious but helpless Annapurna packed a
few snacks for her son and instructed him to return at the earliest.
The Barren Woman
Shrikrishna started his journey. On the way, he came across a village
- Bedagagram. On its outskirts was a well. Shrikrishna decided to
take a bath in it. He kept his clothes and the bag of snacks on
the wall of the well, and jumped in the well. No sooner had he soaked
himself in the water, a dog ran away with his bag of snacks. A little
while later, a lady came to fetch water from the well. Hurriedly
Shrikrishna came out and found his bag missing.
Naturally, he questioned the lady about his bag of snacks and accused
her of stealing it. He directly asked her, "Would you do such
a thing to your own child?" The woman was understandably upset,
as she did not have any children of her own. She told the divine
child, "I have not seen your bag nor taken it. Come to my house
and I shall feed you." Shrikrishna readily went with her. She
laid in front of him a feast of rice and milk. However, he did not
touch it. The lady, therefore, sat next to him and with lots of
love started feeding him with her own hands. Shrikrishna ate all
the food without making any fuss. Whilst eating, he thought, "By
feeding me, all her sins have been washed away. She will be blessed
with a son." After finishing the meal, he verbally blessed
the lady and told her she will bear a son. Then he started to leave.
She repeatedly pleaded with him to stay overnight. He adamantly
refused. She gave him some fruits to carry with him for the journey.
Shrikrishna started on his onwards journey. In time, his blessings
fructified. The lady bore a son. Throughout life she remembered
Shrikrishna. She, later, attained Moksha.
Temple of Lord Khanderaya
Upon reaching Mangasoli, Shrikrishna went to the temple of Lord
Khanderaya. He paid his obeisance and prayed, "O God, I am
so happy to visit this place, to see you. You are Shiva! But, alas
where is Goddess Parvati (name of Lord Shiva's
consort)? Where is Nandi (name of the bull that
is Lord Shiva's vehicle)? You are fond of bhasma (holy ash ] but
here, there is only bhandara [turmeric powder). O Lord, you killed
the demon Malhara, hence here you are also named Malhari,
the enemy of Malhara. O Lord, I pray to you to appear before me.
Till you appear, I shall sit here without taking in food and water."
No sooner had he prayed and made his petition, an old Brahmin appeared
before him and said, "O child, do not be so adamant, sitting
here without food and water. In these days, God does not appear
before human beings by praying thus. Please take the holy prasad
(eatables offered first to God) and go home." Immediately,
Shrikrishna retorted, "how could you read my mind and know
my plan? Anyway, it's only been a few years since Lord Vithoba (Lord
Vishnu is known in Maharashtra state by this name) appeared before
Namdeva (saint of Maharashtra, contemporary of
Shrikrishna)". Hearing this, the old man disappeared. Suddenly,
Lord Shiva along with Goddess Parvati and Nandi appeared before
Shrikrishna. Lord Shiva said to Shrikrishna, "You are a part
of me. Now, go home. Later, meet Shri Swami Samartha at Akkalkot.
You are born to help people and take them onto the spiritual path."
Saying thus, Lord Shiva and his entourage disappeared. An exuberant
Shrikrishna happily started on his journey home.
A week had passed since Shrikrishna had started his journey. His
mother Annapurna was worried and anxiously awaiting his return.
So, when he came back home, she was happy to see him. Shrikrishna
looked more radiant, glowing, illuminating with spiritual enlightenment.
Annapurna did wonder as to "who would have fed him or if he
was really a yogi (ascetic)?"
Prasad from Pandharpur
Since Appa Joshi was a practicing priest for Nandani and its neighboring
villages, the villagers often called upon him to perform the requisite
rituals. Once when he was invited to the Jambhali village to perform
some rituals, Shrikrishna accompanied him.
After the religious ceremony got over, one of the guests - an old
lady started to complain that this year she had lost the chance
of going to Pandharpur (place of pilgrimage) to see Lord
Vithoba. People consoled her that she could take the pilgrimage
next year instead. This made her cry inconsolably, "I am over
sixty years of age. I do not know whether I'll be alive next year
to make my visit." Hearing her predicament and finding her
sincere in her urge to visit Lord Vithoba, Shrikrishna told her,
"Don't worry, you need not travel all the way to Pandharpur,
instead I shall give you the prasad here." He went out and
returned immediately with two packets of prasad and gave them to
the old lady. Everyone started laughing at this act of a "foolish
child". The old lady opened the packets. Suddenly, there was
a stunned silence - for one packet contained churmure ( rice popcorn)
and the other contained bukka (perfumed black powder applied on
the forehead) - these are offered as prasad of Lord Vithoba, available
only at Pandharpur.
Hereafter, people started viewing Shrikrishna differently. Their
attitude towards him became more reverential. Many started often
visiting him. They found his irrelevant uttering contained answers
to their questions, solving many of their problems.
Shrikrishna leaves home
After two years, when Shrikrishna was twelve years old, he felt
it was time to leave his household in Nandani for good, to go to
Akkalkot. He, therefore, asked his mother's permission. Annapurna
was shocked! She pleaded with him to stay, not to leave them alone.
When Appa Joshi became aware of Shrikrishna's intent, he resolutely
told his wife, "Do not stop him. Let him do what he wants to
do. The very purpose of his birth is to help people on their spiritual
journey. We do not have the strength nor the power to stop him."
With heavy hearts, Appa Joshi and Annapurna bade adieu to their
son Shrikrishna. On his part Shrikrishna assured his sorrowful parents
that he would appear to them whenever they remembered him. Thus,
Shrikrishna left his family and home in Nandani.
Mere words cannot describe the grief of the distraught parents.
It was similar to the great sorrow suffered by Nanda
and Yashoda, when Kanhaiya (Lord
Krishna's childhood name), their foster son, left Gokul and went
to Mathura. Likewise, Appa Joshi and Annapurna constantly remembered
their son Shrikrishna and repeated his name like a mantra. After
a short period, his unhappy parents passed away. They attained Moksha.
Shri Swami Samartha of Akkalkot
Shrikrishna traveled on foot towards Akkalkot where Shri Swami Samartha
- the third known incarnation of Lord Dattatreya - was staying.
Days before Shrikrishna's arrival at Akkalkot, Shri Swami Samartha
had been restless. He was constantly heard excitedly muttering,
"Krishna's coming, Krishna's coming". As Shrikrishna approached
the boundary of Akkalkot, Shri Swami Samartha speedily came out
of his math (ashram or abode of a holy sage), his disciples and
devotees followed suit. As soon as Shri Swami Samarth saw Shrikrishna,
he held his hand and rushed him to a nearby forest so fast, that
those who were following them, could not locate them. Shrikrishna
and Shri Swami Samartha remained at an unknown place in the forest
for seven days. What divine play was enacted in isolation is not
known. Perhaps the elderly Shri Swami Samartha charted the divine
course of future action for the young Shrikrishna to undertake.
Since they were both incarnations of Lord Dattatreya in manifestation
at the same time, it is very unlikely that Shri Swami Samartha gave
any spiritual initiation to Shrikrishna. Perhaps because of the
age difference, people inferred that Shri Swami Samartha was Shrikrishna's
Guru (Spiritual Master who leads us from darkness to GOD). It is,
though, well known that Shrikrishna had great love and respect for
Shri Swami Samartha, whom he held in extremely high esteem and which
was equally reciprocated.