Shri Narasimha Saraswathi
According to the Holy Scripture Shri Guru Charitra, which contains the biographies of Lord Dattatreya and His first two incarnations, Narasimha Saraswathi is the second Datta Avatar (incarnation) in the Kali Yuga and the reincarnation of Shri Pada Shri Vallabha.
Shri Narasimha Saraswathi’s purpose was similar to that of Lord Dattatreya himself.
His mission was to restore Sanatana Dharma among men and show them how to liberate them from the cycle of births and death. He also brought forth a renaissance of the classic Brahmin virtues and disciplines prescribed by Adi Shankaracharya (An Indian philosopher and theologian who consolidated the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta), to whose lineage He belonged.
Shri Narasimha Saraswathi propagated that the principles and disciplines described in the scriptures were strictly followed to attain moksha (liberation). The Brahmins are the spiritual custodians of the community and society. According to Him, in the Kali Yuga, Brahmins have digressed their discipline and spiritual heritage. Narasimha Saraswathi was a Saint and Avatar whose influence significantly impacted society in an age where the Hindu culture had lost touch with their core values.
Because of Sri Narasimha Saraswathi’s stay in Ganagapur, it has become a place of pilgrimage for thousands of people daily. People of all origins and faith sought His advice, healing, and blessings. He never made any distinction regarding caste, creed, or status of people who came to him. He cared for all men, women, poor or rich.
Shri Narasimha Saraswathi is considered the second Avatar of Dattatreya and the rebirth of Shri Pada Shri Vallabha.
In the holy book Shri Pada Shri Vallabha Charitamrutam, the hagiography of the first Dattatreya incarnation, it is said that Shri Pada Shri Vallabha once saved a poor but pious woman named Ambika from committing suicide. Later He gave her the boon that He would take birth as her son in her next life.
He was born in the year 1378 A.D. in Karanjapur (in the state of Maharashtra, India), on Pushya Suddha Vidiya as per Hindu Calendar, which usually comes in January/February as per the Gregorian calendar. His parents were Madhav Sharma and Amba-Bhavani with the surname Kale. Importantly, his mother had performed the ‘shani pradosh’ ritual in her past life, which had been advised by Shri Pada Shri Vallabha. Astrologers assured Madhava Sharma (his father) that their child was indeed a divine incarnation. They also prophesied that he would renounce all worldly ties and that he would uplift the fallen souls. He was named Narahari at birth and later became known as Narasimha Saraswathi. The name signified that he was the dispeller of the sins and miseries of human beings.
Instead of crying after birth, the infant uttered the eternal sound ‘Aum’ at birth. His mother could not breastfeed him when he was an infant, but with just a gentle pat by the baby on her breast, the milk started flowing. The child Narahari grew up to be a handsome boy of five, but he could not speak, and the parents were very much worried about it. One day, the boy conveyed to them through gestures that he wished to be invested with the sacred thread. When His holy thread ceremony (Upanayan) was performed, Narahari was able to recite all the Vedas and immediately give lectures on them. The parents were overjoyed, but their joy did not last.
After the ceremony, He asked for permission to leave His parental home and live as a renunciate to fulfill His life purpose. His mother was initially against His wish. However, Narahari then laid His hand on her forehead, giving her the vision of His true stature as Dattatreya and made her remember their past life together, in which she made a promise not to restrict His spiritual endeavour. He then again told His mother that He was not meant to go through the common stage of a householder but straight to a life of renunciation.
Before he left his parental home at the early age of eight, He gave a boon to his mother that she would beget three sons and a daughter and that He would stay until her next son was born. After his mother had more children, He covered His head with a piece of cloth, put on wooden sandals, covered His body with the ochre robe, and wore a codpiece. Taking a staff in His hand, He set out from His home in joy to fulfill His mission, which was to revive faith and uplift the people morally and spiritually. The young Narahari eventually arrived in Kashi, where He became a disciple of Shri Krishna Saraswathi in the lineage of Shri Adi Shankara and received the name Shri Narasimha Saraswathi. He formally took the vow of lifelong celibacy. Thus, he became a full-fledged renunciate who has transcended the opposites of joy and sorrow, and the limitations of a self-centered will.
During his lifetime, He traveled extensively in the area of the Krishna and Bhima rivers spreading His teachings. The most significant places He stayed were Karanja, Narsobachiwadi, and Oudumber. He finally settled in Ganagapur, which is now in the state of Karnataka, where he stayed the last 20-24 years of his life. He had seven disciples: Baala, Krishna, Upendra, Janajyotim Sadaananda, Madhava, and Siddha. All have the title ‘Saraswati’ suffixed to their names.
One day, He announced his departure from this world, and his disciples were plunged into grief. When the Master got ready for His departure, the natives of the village rushed to him and begged him not to deprive them of His Divine presence, but to stay on. The Lord said, ‘Do not feel sad that way. How can I bear to be away from my devotees? I only seem to leave for Srisailam only to the grosser vision of the physical, but I will ever abide at Gangapur in my real state as the Spirit or the real Self. I will seek my noon alms in this village and accept your loving devotional services. My living presence will be experienced by anyone who bathes in the Sangam (confluence of holy rivers), worships the Holy peepal tree, and takes darshan (vision) of my ‘padukas’ (sacred footwear) here.
A float was prepared on the banana leaves and was adorned with flowers. This float was placed in the river, and Shri Narasimha Saraswathi sat on it. All the disciples offered worship, although their hearts were weighed down by grief. Shri Narasimha Saraswati cheered them up and told them he was going to Kadali-vana (grove of banana trees) near Srisailam (one of the 12 ‘Jyotir Linga’ is located here). Upon reaching there, as a mark of his safe arrival, clusters of flowers would come back floating against the current. Soon after, as per the Master’s promise, clusters of flowers came to them drifting on the river against the current!
Tradition holds that Shri Narasimha Saraswathi took samadhi in 1459 for 300 years to reappear as Swamy Samardh, also known as Shri Swamy of Akkalkot or Akkalkot Maharaj Swamy.
‘The Master can be seen even today by the virtuous and the devout. Only the unrighteous cannot experience His living presence. Taking His daily dip at the holy Sangam, He ever abides there. In fact, He has been blessing devotees with His divine acts (leelas) on countless occasions. The aspirations of those who worship Him there with true love will be fulfilled. Indeed, the Lord is ever-present with those who incessantly adore Him. The miraculous experiences of such will ever remain hidden in their hearts. He is the granter of prayers!’.
Tradition and Gurus
Shri Narasimha Saraswathi comes from the tradition of Sringeri Mutt. Jagatguru Shri Adi Sankaracharya also comes from this same tradition.
The guru-lineage is as follows:
Shankar – Vishnu – Bramha – Vasishtha – Parashar – Vyas – Shuka – Gaudpadacharya – Govindacharya – Sankaracharya – Vishwarupacharya – Nityabodhghanacharya – Dnyanaghanacharya – Dnyanamottamacharya – Dnyanagiri – Simhagiri – Ishwartirtha – Narasimhatirtha – Vidyatirtha – Vidyaranya – Vidyatirthasaraswathi – Malayanandasaraswathi – Devatirtha Saraswathi – Yadavendra Saraswathi – Krishna Saraswathi -Narasimha Saraswathi.
Shri Narasimha Saraswathi had several disciples, described in the Shri Guru Charitra book.
The first and most favourite one was Shri Madhav Saraswathi from Prayag. He also had Bal-Saraswathi, Krishna Saraswathi, Upendra Saraswathi, Sadananda Saraswathi, Dnyanajyoti Saraswathi, and Siddha Saraswathi as his six other disciples.
Siddha Saraswathi stayed with Shri Narasimha Saraswathi at all times and is possibly the original writer of Sanskrit GuruCharitra, which must have been later translated to Marathi by Shri Saraswathi Gangadhar.
It appears that this Madhava Saraswathi’s tradition is more popular in Maharashtra. The final disciple tradition is Shri Narasimha Saraswathi – Madhavendra Saraswathi – Amritendra Saraswathi (Amritananda) -Gaganendra Saraswathi – Madhavendra Saraswathi (Madhav Saraswathi). After Madhav Saraswathi the tradition splits into two branches:
– Eknath – Shrikrishna – Bramhadas.
– Vitthal Saraswathi – Ambika Saraswathi – Amrit”
Before leaving home at a very young age of eight, Narasimha Sarawathi told His mother Ambika why He would choose a life of renunciation. The following quote summarizes very well the purpose of human life according to His teachings:
“Life is like a bubble. Death might knock at any time and snatch us away. Every moment of human life is precious and is the God-gifted opportunity for man to regenerate himself spiritually and speed up to the blessed state of self-realization. In the earlier Yugas, man’s life was long. The life stages prescribed by the Shastras (precepts, a book of rules or manual) were all right then. However, in the Kali Yuga, men have only a short span of life and do not have the earlier Yugas’s longevity. If one goes through life slowly, without pursuing higher purposes of life, and if life is cut short, isn’t this birth futile?
One should cultivate Vairagya (dispassion) towards worldly pleasures from the early stages of life. One should not fritter away one’s energies in human foibles. The world is illusory. If one doesn’t use discrimination and does not cultivate Vairagya, one would sink into the mire of samsara and will let the precious life go to waste. One should set one’s mind on life’s goal and strive to achieve it from the early stages of life, because who knows when he will be snatched away by death. Losing one’s life without the realization of God is the greatest tragedy for a human.”
Tradition and Gurus
The Aim of His incarnation is to bless Maha Siddhas (Great sages), Maha Yogis (Great Saints), and to Uphold Dharma (righteousness) through them in the Universe. To impart knowledge to the ignorant through his actions, engage in sportive plays [leelas], and perform miracles was part of His mission.
To be eligible to receive the grace of Shri Pada Shri Vallabha, the ego in us should die. All types of egos must become weak. Only then will we be able to understand His power, His grace, and His true nature. No one can come to his Samsthan (temple) in Peethikapuram without His will, however rich they may be or how saintly they may be.
Saraswathi (Sriguru) Asthakam
Indu koti teja keerna sindhu bhakta vatsalam
Nandanaatrisunu Datta mindiraaksha Sri Gurum
Gandha maalya akshataadi brunda deva vanditam
Vandayaami Naarasimha Saraswateesa Paahimaam. 1
Moha paasa andhakaara jaata doora bhaaskaram
Aayataaksha Paahi Sriyaa vallabhesa naayakam
Sevya bhakta brunda varada bhooyo bhooyo namaamyaham
Vandayaami Naarasimha Saraswateesa Paahimaam. 2
Chitta jaari varga shatka matta vaaranaamkusam
Satya saaara sobhitaatma Datta Sriyaa vallabham
Uttamaavataara bhoota kartru bhakta vatsalam
Vandayaami Naarasimha Saraswateesa Paahimaam. 3
Vyoma vaayu teja aapa bhoomi kartrumeeswaram
Kaama Krodha Moha Rahita Soma Soorya lochanam
Kaamitartha Daatru bhakta Kaama dhenu Sree Gurum
Vandayaami Naarasimha Saraswateesa Paahimaam. 4
Pundareeka aayataaksha kundalemdu tejasam
Chandadurita khandanaartha dhandadhaari Sree Gurum
Mamdaleeka mouli maartaanda bhaasitaananam
Vandayaami Naarasimha Saraswateesa Paahimaam. 5
Veda saastra stutya paada maadi moorti Sree Gurum,
Naada bindu kalaateeta kalpa paada sevyayam
Sevya bhakta brunda varada bhooyo bhooyo namaamyamaham
Vandayaami Naarasimha Saraswateesa Paahimaam. 6
Ashta yoga tatva nishtha tushta jnaana vaaridhim
Krishna venee teeravaasa pancha nadee sangamam
Kashta dainya doora bhakta tushta kaamya daayakam
Vandayaami Naarasimha Saraswateesa Paahimaam. 7
Naarasimha saraswathisa namamastha maukthikam
haarakruthya saaradena gangaadharaakhyaatmajam
dhaaraneeka deva deeksha gurumoorthi toshitam
Vandayaami Naarasimha Saraswateesa Paahimaam. 8
Naarasimha saraswateesa ashtakam cha yah pathet
Ghora samsaara sindhu taaranaakhya saadhanam
Saara jnaana deergha aayuraarogyaadi sampadaam
Charu varga Kaamya laabha nityameva yah pathet
Holy Sites and Pilgrimages
Shri Narasimha Saraswati spent most of his life in the Krishna-Bhima basin, which today comprises the tri-state region of Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh.
The most significant places are :
- Karanja The birth place of Sri Narasimha Saraswathi
- Narsobawadi and Audumbar, Shri Narasimha Saraswati’s sites of penance.
- Ganagapur Sri Narasimha Saraswati’s abode for 24 years