Eknath Sashti is observed on the sixth day (Shasti) of the Krishna Paksha (waning phase of moon) of Phalgun month as per traditional lunar Marathi calendar. On this day, he is believed to have performed Jalsamadhi in the sacred Godavari River and left his body and merged with the Supreme Soul.
Born in the ancient and holy city of Paithan (Pratishthana) on the banks of the Godavari, Eknath Swami continued and enriched the spiritual legacy bequeathed to Maharashtra by Sant Dnyaneshwar three centuries before Justin E Abbott writes that “No one can read the life of Eknath without receiving an inspiration for a higher and better life”. A scholar in Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian, Eknath Swami is best known for his magnificent commentary in Marathi on the Eleventh Skandha of the Bhagavata Purana, I which not only made the scriptures accessible to the common man but I also revived the near extinct vernacular literature.
Mahipati, the great biographer of the Maharashtrian saints, writes I glowingly of Eknath’s exemplary life I which became the touchstone for the I tremendous social change that swept Maharashtra in those times. His simplicity and spirit of hospitality was such that it reached out to everyone irrespective of caste or creed. Mahipati recounts tales of his companionable nature – how he lifted up a Mahar (outcaste) child from the burning sand of the Godavari and carried him home to his mother, how he protected and obtained pardon for an escaped prisoner, how he assuaged the thirst of a donkey by pouring into his mouth the Ganges water he had brought for worship.
When he was twelve years old Eknath heard a heavenly voice from the Siva temple asking him to go to Janardana Swami for initiation. when he reached Devgiri (Daulatabad) he leaned that Janardana Swami was in charge of the fort there. Eknath stayed with Janardana Swami for six years. The Muslim king had great respect for the Swami and every Thursday was proclaimed to be a court holiday so that he could worship the deity Dattatreya without distraction.
There is an interesting story of how Eknath kept awake late into the night, trying to locate an error of one Adhela (half paisa) in his master’s accounts. When he finally discovered the mistake, he danced with joy. Janardana Swami, who had watched everything, told him that he would attain the highest well-being in life if he concentrated his mind in the same way on Lord Krishna. It is believed that Sri Krishna worked in the household of Eknath Swami in the guise of a servant for twelve years so that he could listen to Eknath’s public reading of the Bhagavata and the Jnaneshwari. Eknath Swami revived the spirit of the Jnaneshwari by preparing the first authentic edition of Dnayneshwar’s book, a work of great scholarship, in which he eliminated the many errors, which had crept in since Sant Dnyaneshwar’s time.
Eknath also wrote ‘Rukhmini Swayamvara’ a Marathi Poem based on the story In the Bhagavata about Rukmini, a Vidarbha Princess, who chose Sri Krishna as her husband because of his virtues and Charms. It is an allegory about the union between Jiva and Siva (the human soul and the universal soul). Even now girls of marriageable in Maharashtra are advised to read it for getting a good husband.
Eknath Swami composed his last great work, the Bhavartha Ranayana, up to the forty-fourth chapter of the Yuddhakanda and left it to be completed by his disciple, Gavaji.
His end was drawing near and he foretold that he would pass away on the sixth day of the dark fortnight of Phalgun. On that day, sacred to the memory of his guru in AD 1599 Eknath left his house, repeating God’s names, followed by a crowd. Arriving at Lakshmitirtha, on the bank of the Godavari, he waded out into the water and attained Jala Samadhi.Eknath Sashti commemorating the passing away of Eknath Swami four hundred odd years ago – an occasion to remember this scholar extraordinary who used his learning for the common good, and an opportunity spread his message to everyone irrespective of caste and creed.