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Early life[ edit ] Bahinabai has written an autobiographical work called Atmamanivedana or Bahinibai Gatha, where she describes not only her current birth but also twelve previous births. As per the account, she was born in Deogaon Rangari or Devgaon R near Elloraor Verul in northern Maharashtra, where she spent her childhood.
Her parents, Aaudev Kulkarni and Janaki were brahmins , the Hindu priest class, and considered their first child Bahinabai as a harbinger of good fortune. Bahinabai started reciting the names of God from an early age, while playing with her mates. When Bahinabai was about nine years old, she with her parents and husband, had to leave Devghar due to a family dispute. They wandered with pilgrims along the banks of river Godavari and begged for grain, as customarily wandering holy men do.
They visited Pandharpur , the city which hosts the chief temple of Vithoba, in this period. By the age of eleven, she with her family finally settled in Kolhapur. Bahinabai reports a spiritual encounter with the calf.
The calf, in Varkari literature, symbolises a person who has attained the highest state of yogic concentration in the previous birth, but due to some fault, is forced to take birth as a calf. Bahinabai with the calf also attended the Kirtana of the famed swami Jayaram. Jayaram patted heads of the calf and Bahinabai. At its burial, Bahinabai fainted and lay unconscious for days. However, Bahinabai did not find happiness in the life of a dutiful wife and turns to bhakti, at the same time serving her husband.
As her fame spread, her husband is portrayed to have been jealous of the attention Bahinabai received. Her hot-tempered husband is reported to have abused, beaten and confined Bahinabai to the cattle-shed.
When all methods fail to deter her, he decided to leave Bahinabai, who was three months pregnant at the time. If my husband goes off, renouncing the world, Pandurang Vithoba , what good will it do me to live among men? How can I survive? Why should the stone god Vitthal Vithoba and the dream saint Tuka Tukaram deprive me of the happiness I know? The family of Bahinabai went to Dehu , the home-town of Tukaram and paid their respects to him.
In Dehu, Bahinabai gave birth to a daughter, who she named Kasibai. But, she was distressed and mediated suicide. Tukaram in her vision, stopped her and blessed her with poetic powers and prophesied that she would have a son who was a companion in her previous birth, thus Bahinabai is believed to have started composition of poetry, the first of which were dedicated to Vithoba.
Finally the family moved to Shirur , where Bahinabai practised a vow of silence for a while. She then visited the saint Ramdas and stayed in his company until his death in Afterwards she returned to Shirur.
On her death-bed, Bahinabai told Vithoba her son that he had been her son throughout her twelve previous births and also in her current thirteenth birth, which she believed was her last. Further, she narrated the tale of her twelve previous births, which are recorded in her autobiography.
Her poetry reflects her compromise between her devotion to her husband and her god Vithoba. Some abhangas extol the merits of a pativrata, others advocate pure devotion to God which may lead to the ire of society. Others advocate the compromise. She also speaks of pravrtti action and nivrtti quiescence , personified as wives of manas the mind.
Both of them argue over their own superiority, winning a particular moment in the debate and finally reconciling and together directing the mind to its ultimate goal. In her own life, Bahinabai sought to balance these two: pravrtti — the duties of a virtuous wife and nivrtti — renunciation of the world. She regrets her female birth as she was kept away from the knowledge of the holy scriptures like Vedas and sacred mantras , by the male-dominated brahmin society.
Therefore the path of renunciation is not open to her. Abbot Poona, Scottish Mission, Some verses are given in Tharu pp.
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