NĀMDEV (1270-1350), saint of Mahārāshṭra who composed poetry of fervent devotion in Marāṭhī as well as in Hindi. His Hindi verse and his extended visit to the Punjab carried his fame far beyond the borders of Mahārāshṭra. Sixty-one of his hymns in fact came to be included in Sikh Scripture, the Gurū Granth Sāhib. These hymns or śabdas share the common characteristic of lauding the One Supreme God distinct from his earlier verse which carries traces of idolatry and saguṇa bhaktī. In the course of his spiritual quest, Nāmdev had, from being a worshipper of the Divine in the concrete form, become a devotee of the attributeless (nirguṇa) Absolute.

         According to the generally accepted version of the current traditions, Nāmdev was born in AD 1270 to Dāmāsheṭi, a low-caste tailor, and his wife, Gonābāī, in the village of Narasī-Vāmanī, in Satārā district of Mahārāshṭra. Janābāī, the family's maidservant and a bhakta and poetess in her own right, records the tradition that Nāmdev was born to Gonābāī as a result of her worship of Viṭṭhala in Paṇḍharpur. Nāmdev was married before he was eleven years of age to Rājābāī, daughter of Govindasheṭi Sadāvarte. He had four sons and one daughter. Under the influence of saint Jñānadeva, Nāmdev was converted to the path of bhaktī. Viṭṭhala of Paṇḍharpur was now the object of his devotion and he spent much of his time in worship and kīrtan, chanting mostly verses of his own composition. In. the company of Jñānadeva and other saints, he roamed about the country and later came to the Punjab where he is said to have lived for more than twenty years at Ghumān , in Gurdāspur district, where a temple in the form of samādh still preserves his memory. This temple was constructed by Sardār Jassā Siṅgh Rāmgaṛhīā and the tank by its side was got repaired by Rāṇī Sadā Kaur, mother-in-law of Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh. In his early fifties, Nāmdev settled down at Paṇḍharpur where he gathered around himself a group of devotees. His abhaṅgas or devotional lyrics became very popular, and people thronged to listen to his kīrtan. Nāmdev's songs have been collected in Nāmdevāchi Gāthā which also includes the long autobiographical poem Tīrathāvalī. Tradition ascribes more than two thousand hymns to him, but the actual number does not seem to exceed one hundred and fifty, counting those preserved in the Gurū Granth Sāhib.

        Nāmdev died in AD 1350 — according to one tradition at Paṇḍharpur and according to the other at Ghumān, in the Punjab.


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  2. Macnicol, N., Psalms of Maratha Saints . Calcutta, 1919
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  6. Māchwe, Prabhākar, Hindī aur Marāṭhī kā Nirguṇ Sant Kāvya . Varanasi, 1962

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