Naatha Sampradaya worships Lord Shiva, and is a firm believer that Shiva is the Guru (guide) of all. The sampradaya believes that the Shiva incarnates himself into human Gurus and works for the uplifting of the universe. Gorakshanatha has said that Aadhinatha Shiva is the Shiva bestowed with power. That means the divine power is not separate from Shiva, it is within and is solely responsible for the origin, the present condition and decline of the universe and Shiva without the power is just like a corpse. That is the I in the Shiva refers to the power. They are close related to each other like the Moon and the stars. In this way the Naathapantha is worshipper of Shiva and hence the Naathapanthiya yogis ask for alms while chanting “Jaishankar Bholenath” or “Alakh Niranjan”. All the four streams of Knowledge, Yoga, Dharma and Worship culminate in the Naatha Sampradaya and the Sadhaka becomes the achiever and receives the treasure of ultimate freedom throughout his/her life. And hence this pantha is called as the Pantharaj. This sampradaya is also known by the name of Avadhootmat, Avadhoot Sampradaya, Yogamarga, Siddhamat, Siddhamarga, and Siddhasampradaya.
Naathpantha is the Gurumarga. “Gurustu sanmarga darshan sheel” is the supreme principle of this pantha. Naathpantha has given immense contribution towards protecting the culture of Hindudharma. At this time Naathapantha and Gorakshanatha toiled endlessly for purification of Hindu principle of universal goodwill. Naathapantha chiefly identifies with the movement of public welfare and hence hymns have been scripted in abundance for relieving the sufferings.
The Naatha tradition in Maharashtra and Jnandeo
The Naathapantha movement was at its peak till the end of tenth and twelfth century. The sampradaya had gained immense popularity among the general masses. Nivruttinatha and Jnaneshwar were instrumental in taking the Naathasampradaya to the nook and corners of Maharashtra. Nivruttinatha was born in 1273 while Jnandeo was born in 1275. Gahaninatha had bestowed knowledge to Nivruttinatha and Gahaninatha was the disciple of Gorakshanatha. That means Gorakshanatha’s period must have been in eleventh century. Also the period of the guru of Gorakshanatha and the pioneer Nathan in the naathasampradya i.e. Shri Machchindranatha’s period must have been in the ninth or tenth century. Jnaneshwar Maharaj and the foremost poet in Marathi i.e. Mukundraj were naathapanthiya.
The Jnaneshwara’s Guru Tradition
The hierarchy in this tradition is viz. Aadinatha – Machchindranatha – Gorakshanatha, Gahaninatha – Nivruttinatha – Jnaneshwar. Gorakshanatha had bestowed knowledge upon Trimbakpant who was the great grandfather of Jnaneshwar. Also his grandfather Govindpant and elder brother Nivruttinatha had taken blessings from Gahaninatha.
Saint Jnaneshwar had explained the importance of the pantha to the people. Saint Ramdas and Saint Tukaram have referred to this pantha with deep gratitude. Samartha Ramdas refers Naathasidha with great respect in his praise about all the saints. In such a great pantha worship of idols, Vedas are not given importance also casteism and relgionism do not find any place. Whoever walks down the path of ultimate freedom by repeating the good deeds in his mind can enter into the Naathapantha. The pantha firmly believes that everything is included in the Self that is there in the Universe. Gorakshanatha has stipulated the regimen for a naatha yogi (to which he calls as “rahani”). He says, strict celibacy, control over speech, physical and mental purity, faith in knowledge, disregard for external glamour, extreme dislike towards liquor and animal meat these are the rules which must be followed strictly by a naatha yogi. Guru is highly regarded in the pantha hence he suggests – niguru na rahita (i.e. one should be without a guru). Naathapantha also accepts with equal ease the good deeds followed in Hindu religion or sampradaya viz. rituals, sagunpooja, four class system (varnashram vyavastha), hom-havana, sanyasashram, agnihotra, etc. Gorakshanatha and other main siddhas of the Naathapantha propagated the principles of denounce, science of yoga and knowledge of self throughout the country. Jnaneshwar further added the aspect of bhakti to the pantha and rejuvenated the philosophy through the warkari sampradaya.
Another such Naatha parampara was present in Maharashtra during the times of Yadavas. That is the tradition of Mukundraja. It originated from Aadinatha and furthere continued with Harinath-Raghunath- Mukundraja. Both these traditions gifted Maharashtra with the science of Yoga and knowledge of self.
All the above mentioned principles of Naatha sampradaya are compulsory for the Naathapanthiya yogis. But they are not easy to follow for common people. The principles of the sampradaya can be followed by taking care of one’s family and carrying out all responsibilities in a proper manner. The only requirement for this is of limitless devotion and unquestioned faith in Naatha.
The Contribution of Naathapantha
This whole writing exercise is done with an aim to remove the misconceptions and an anonymous fear in the minds of the people. Naathapantha is a very simple, straight-forward and easy to follow path. Naathapantha has originated only for the welfare of humans. The social system in the tenth and eleventh century was deteriorated to a great extent. The society was infested with heightened chaos, false prestige, atrocities and adultery. Machchindranatha and Gorakshanatha did yeomen job to put a control over all these evils. The tantriks were defeated and the worship was purified. The sampradaya, which was complete with respect for self-respect, opposition to external glamour, stress on purity of inner self, importance of the body in worship, burning desire for uplifting of people, and use of earthly languages for the purpose became a motivating force for many a saints and sages. In this way, Gorakshanatha built up the Naathapantha and propagated it. Even though the Pantha gave prominence to self respect it never derogated the sciences. It emphasized on purity of inner self but never criticized the dharma of rituals. The women were given freedom of worship yet the atmosphere in the mathas was kept pure. Yoga was important for the pantha still it kept devotion equally close to self. It took up the role of a co-ordinator and accepted the principle of diversity in the greatness of saadhanama. Due to the purity of life and greatness of some of the towering personalities of the pantha, it has maintained a subtle attraction and honorable curiosity among the masses.
A simple and easy way of worship for all is to read (parayana) the granthas of the sampradaya. Navanatha Bhaktisaar is the standard grantha of the sampradaya and it is very illustrious and one gets guaranteed results after reading it. These readings are done on individual as well as collectively. This grantha is especially read during the month Shravana in many villages. Some people read this grantha on daily basis. Women can also perform reading of the book. Hence this grantha is revered in the context of Navanatha worship.
The Birth Stories of Navanathas
In the Naatha sampradaya only nine Narayanas have incarnated as Navanatha on the earth. The navanathas and Navanarayanas are as follows:
(1) Machchindranatha – Kavinarayana
(2) Gorakshanatha – Harinarayana
(3) Jalandharnatha – Antarikshanarayana
(4) Kanifnatha – Prabuddhanarayana
(5) Charpatinatha – Pippalayana
(6) Naganatha – Aavirhotra Narayana
(7) Bhartarinatha – Drumilnaraya
(8) Revananatha – Chamasnarayana
(9) Gahaninatha – Karbhajan.
These incarnations of Navanatha are created for the welfare of the people. A reference to the effect is found in the grantha “Shri Navanatha Bhaktisaar” in the beginning.
Machchindranatha was born to a fish in the river Yamuna. While he was in womb of the fish he listened to the sermon given of Lord Shankara to Goddess Parvati. When at last, Lord Shankara asked Parvati about the essence of the sermon Machchindranatha replied from the womb of the fish that, “only a single force (brahma) is filled in the whole universe. It is the only essence of your sermon.” After completion of the gestation period of the fish a divine child was born. Further this child was brought up a fishermen couple named Kamik and Sharadvata.
This divine great personality was born out of a garbage dump. Machchindranatha had given holy ash to
a lady called Saraswati for conceiving a son. But she threw the holy ash in the garbage on the saying
of her neighbour. Twelve years later Machchindranatha returned to the village, and asked Saraswati
about the child. She was frightened and told him the whole story. Machchindranath gave a call and
immediately rushed a child with hallows from garbage. This child was nobody but Gorakshanatha.
Once upon a time a king named Brihadrava was performing Somayajna at Hastinapur.
Antarikshanarayana entered into the flames of the yajna. After the completion of the yajna, a bright
child was obtained from the place of yajna. This child was Jalandharnatha.
Once upon a time Brahmadeva was attracted towards goddess Saraswati. At that time a drop semen fell down and was carried away on winds and it entered into an ear of an elephant roaming in Himachal Pradesh. Afterwards Prabhuddhanarayana entered it as pre-planned and Jalandharnatha ordered to get out of the ear of the elephant. This is how Kanifanatha was born.
The birth story of Charpatinatha is equally unearthly. Once upon a time, when all the gods had assembled on the occasion of Parvati’s wedding, the semen of Brahmadeva fell due to the effect of Parvati’s beauty. At that time Brahmadeva crushed the semen with his heel. Thus it was divided in two parts and out of one part sixty thousand Walkhilaya sages were born. Another part fell into a river and stuck into a reed. As planned earlier one of the Navanathas i.e. Pippalayan entered it. And thus originated a child, which became famous as Charpatinatha afterwards.
Long ago a female serpent had consumed the semen of Brahma and the fetus was developing in her body. After completion of the gestation period the serpent laid an egg. And from the egg Vatasiddha Naganatha was born.
The birth story of Bhartarinatha is equally mysterious and unbelievable. It is not possible to unearth the mystery behind it no matter how hard we imagine.
Once upon a time Surya fell in love with the heavenly beauty of Urvashi and excreted semen. A portion of this semen fell into the alms utensil of sage Kaulik. The sage by virtue of his inner knowledge came to know that Drumilnarayana is going to take birth from the semen after 3103 years. Hence he kept the alms utensil (Bhartari) in a secured place, and as planned Drumilnarayana entered in it and came to life in the form of a child was born. This child is known as Bhartarinatha.
In early period Brahmadeva’s semen fell on the banks of river Reva and as planned Chamasnarayana entered it. And ultimately Revananatha was born in child form through it.
Once upon a time when child Gorakhsa was playing with other children, he made a statue out of clay. He was chanting the Sanjeevani Mantra in order to learn it by heart simultaneously making the statue. As he was chanting the Sanjeevani Mantra suddenly the statue came to life. This child was nobody else but Gahaninatha. At a later stage he was brought up a Brahmin called Madhu and his wife Ganga.
These birth stories of Nathas are unthinkable. These mysterious stories further gave rise to more mysteriousness about the Nathas. Still if we give a little deep thought the mystery behind these stories is solved automatically. We come to know from these stories that the Nathas are ayonisambhava.
The navanathas took bodily possessions for the sole purpose of serving the downtrodden.
They understood that the knowledge about the gods and those of Vedas will become ineffective and the common people will be left with no choice. Hence they created melodious lyrics and brought meaning in the life of these people.)