Shri Narasimha Saraswati नरसिहसरस्वती (Nrusimha Saraswati) is considered the second avatar of Shri Dattatreya. The only way we know about his life is through the remarkable and most influential book in Marathi literature, Shri GuruCharitra written by Shri Saraswati Gangadhar, one of the most talented poet and philosopher ever known in Marathi literature in Maharashtra.
Shri Narasimha Saraswati (henceforth referred in the article as Shri Guru) is considered as the incarnation of Shri Shripad Shri Vallabha who lived in Kuravpur. Shri Narasimha Saraswati is considered as the Guru by the Datta-Sampradaya people. His life story as given in Shri GuruCharitra is read and followed by hundreds of thousands of devotees. Shri Saibaba is also considered in this lineage of the Swamis or Gurus.
His name is Narahari or Shalgramdev that was kept at the beginning. His father's name is Madhav and mother's name is Amba-Bhavani. They lived at Karanjapur which is modern Lad-Karanja in Maharashtra. His surname is Kale.He was born in Deshastha Brahmin family. At Lad-Karanja there is the original house where he was born. Although the house is no longer in the original shape, but still some parts remain and have been converted in to a temple.
The study of his life and life events have put his time to be from 1378AD to 1458AD when he took Samadhi in Kardali-van (Jungle of Kardali trees). The only documented source of his life is Shri GuruCharitra. The writer of this book did not have direct contact with Shri Guru, but possibly had the original Sanskrit version of the Guru-charitra in front of him written by one of the four disciples of Shri Guru. The disciple is Shri Siddha. The whole book is written as a conversation between a disciple Namdharak and Siddha.
His Guru Tradition (Guru-Parampara)
Shri Narasimha Saraswati comes from the tradition of Shringeri Math. Jagatguru Shri Adi Shankaracharya also comes from this same tradition. The guru-lineage is as follows: Shankar - Vishnu - Bramha - Vasishtha - Parashar - Vyas - Shuka - Gaudpadacharya - Govindacharya - Shankaracharya - Vishwarupacharya - Nityabodhghanacharya - Dnyanaghanacharya - Dnyanamottamacharya - Dnyanagiri - Simhagiri - Ishwartirtha - Narasimhatirtha - Vidyatirtha - Vidyaranya - Vidyatirthasaraswati - Malayanandasaraswati - Devatirtha Saraswati - Yadavendra Saraswati - Krishna Saraswati -Narasimha Saraswati. Shri Vidyaranyasaraswati (1295CE-1386CE) was the heading the Shringeri math from 1380CE to 1386CE. Although there are several names in between Shri Narasimha Saraswati and him, one must remember that it is not necessary that the subsequent successors to the Shringeri peeth (throne) were young, as the age of the disciple could be more than his guru. In fact Shri Sayamdev and his son Nagnath (forefathers of Shri Saraswati Gangadhar) both were disciples of Shri Narasimha Saraswati at the same time. Shri Narasimha Saraswati's love of music possibly comes as a tradition from Shri Vidyaranya to Shri Narasimha Saraswati. Shri Vidyaranya was very fond of music.
His Disciple Tradition (Shishya Parampara)
Shri Narasimha Saraswati had several disciples who are described in Shri GuruCharitra already. The first and most favourite one was Shri Madhav Saraswati from Prayag. At that time he also had Bal-Saraswati, Krishna Saraswati, Upendra Saraswati, Sadananda Saraswati, Dnyanajyoti Saraswati and Siddha Saraswati as his six other disciples. This Siddha Saraswati stayed with Shri Narasimha Saraswati all the time and is possibly the original writer of Sanskrit GuruCharitra which must have been later translated to Marathi by Shri Saraswati Gangadhar.
Among the last 4 disciples who were present when Shri Narasimha Saraswati took nijanandagaman (a type of samadhi), Siddha Saraswati was the only Sanyasi disciple of Shri Narasimha Saraswati and the other 3 were family men. It appears that this Madhava Saraswati's tradition is more popular in Maharashtra. The final disciple tradition is: Shri Narasimha Saraswati - Madhavendra Saraswati - Amritendra Saraswati (Amritananda) - Gaganendra Saraswati - Madhavendra Saraswati (Madhav Saraswati). After Madhav Saraswati the tradition splits in to two branches: Eknath - Shrikrishna - Bramhadas. Vitthal Saraswati - Ambika Saraswati - Amrit.
Chronology of Life Events
Shri Narasimha Saraswati lived from Shaka 1300 to Shaka 1380 as per most of the scholars. The main events of his life are given below with the possible years and dates are fixed as per the description of the lunar and stellar events calendar mentioned in Shri GuruCharitra. Sha.1300 (1378 CE) : Birth Sha.1307 (1385 CE) : Upanayan Sha.1308 (1386 CE) : Left his home Sha.1310 (1388 CE) : Took Sanyas Sha.1338 (1416 CE) : Arrival back home at Lad-Karanja Sha.1340 (1418 CE) : Gautami-Tatak-Yatra गौतमी तटाक यात्रा (travel along the banks of river Gautami) Sha.1342 (1420 CE) : Stay at Parali-Vaijanath परळी-वैजनाथ Sha.1343 (1421 CE) : Stay at Audumbar औदुंबर (near Bhilavadi) Sha.1344-1356 (1422 CE-1434 CE) : Stay at Narasoba Wadi alias Narasimhapur Sha.1357-1380 (1435 CE-1458 CE) : Stay at Ganagapur गाणगापूर Sha.1380 (14 January 1459 CE) : Nijanandagaman निजानंदगमन at ShriShaila श्रीशैल Mountain
Life and Work
In Shri GuruCharitra Chapter 11 onwards is the description of life story of Shri Narasimha Saraswati. After he was born the first words he said were OM which are considered very holy. However, until he was 7 he did not utter any other word other than OM, so his parents were worried about his speech ability. However, he showed by hand gestures that after his Upanayana (Munja) he will be able to speak. In fact after his munja was performed he was able to speak all the vedas and even started delivering lectures on it. This was remarkable for a 7 year old kid and many senior learned Brahmins in the village started coming to him for learning! He left home and went for Kashi-pilgrimage and took Sannyasa at Kashi from Shri Krishna Saraswati. The second part of his name comes from this guru, who eventually named him Shri Narasimha Saraswati. This is a Sanskrit name. Now he became the Guru. After visiting several holy places he returned back to Karanja, met his parents. He was possibly of age 30years that time. After that he further visited various places and finally settled in Ganagapur (now in State Karnataka) for the last few decades of his life. All of this is reported in Shri GuruCharitra. One of the most important event in his life (towards the end) was the meeting with the Muslim king (Sultan) of Bedar who is possibly Allauddin-II of the Bahamani Sultanate who was ruling that area that time. These rulers were different from the Delhi Mughals and there were four such states which were existing that time. Many times "chahu rashtra" term occurring in Shri GuruCharitra possibly points to this.
The king visited Shri Guru because he was suffering from a blister which was not curing. No one was able to cure, so he was advised to visit Shri Guru, and after visiting him he was cured. Among the Bahamani kings, only Allauddin-II is supposed to have died due to the blister as per the records of his court historians. This king was very moderate and did not destroy temples or old monuments. He also was supposed to be quite friendly towards the Hindu communities.
The work of Shri Guru has to be seen in the context of the time he was born and social turmoil the society was facing that time. The Muslim attack was imminent and the famous Vijayanagar empire was destroyed. The brahmins of this time had started working for the new rulers and were losing all the past traditions. The revival of the Sanatan Dharma (the old Hindu Religion, as revived by Jagatguru Shri Adi Shankaracharya) was to be revived again.
The main teaching of Shri Guru has been that the life of Brahmins is fully covered by the rules given in the old scriptures and they are to be strictly followed by them in their daily lives to achieve happiness and ultimately moksha (the final attainment of soul where the soul is liberated from the cycle of rebirths). He insisted on his disciples to follow these routines. This improved their confidence and self esteem which was very essential at the time the attack of a foreign culture was going on. This feeling penetrating through the generations, gave a special sense of self esteem and pride which eventually resulted in the coming up of the fighters like King Shivaji and Peshwas in later years in Maharashtra.
Shri Guru helped all the people from all the communities and can be seen in his life stories.After the meeting with the Muslim king, he thought that his fame has gone to such an extent that now all types of people will start coming in, and will start troubling him and his disciples. Thus he decided to take samadhi. He left for the jungle of Kardali (a type of tree). Shri Swami Samarth of Akkalkot, who is considered as his avatar, is supposed to have come from Kardali-van (Jungle of Kardali). Although the time difference between them is a few centuries. The Datta-sampradaya people believe that Shri Guru re-incarnated as Shri Swami Samartha of Akkalkot .Datta-Sampradaya, many Muslim fakirs or Pirs are also accepted as devotees of Lord Dattatreya. However it is not clear how Muslims (other than sufis and to some extend shias) viewed it. Some of them were declared as apostate by wahabi/salafi/sunni Muslims.