Dehu – the holy city of Saint Tukaram

Maharashtra has been the land of saint-poets of the Bhakti movement. One of the most popular saints there is Saint Tukaram of Dehu! He is known for his most loved, simple and extremely touching abhangs which devotees still sing with devotion. His compositions are as famous in kirtans as they are sung in musical programs with the same devotion and enthusiasm.

Almost all the compositions of Sant Tukaram are written in Marathi language. Due to not being familiar with Marathi language, I was not able to read and understand them. But due to the devotion inherent in them, I definitely listened to them. I used to enjoy listening to them a lot. That is why while searching for Hindi translation of his compositions, I reached his village in Dehu, near Pune.

I was curious to know more about Sant Tukaram and his works. I had seen only one image of him in which he was singing bhajans with an ektara in his hand. Just like Meera Bai, who must have been his contemporary saint-poetess.

Devotional history of Dehu

Saint Tukaram was a saint of the early 17th century. Dehu had become famous as Shri Kshetra. It was considered to be the favorite place of Pandurang Vitthal.

We all know that the abode of Lord Vishnu's Vitthal form has been Pandharpur where he has been worshipped along with his wife Rakhma. Then when and how did Dehu come into the category of a holy city?

Dehu is situated on the banks of the Indrayani River. It is believed to be related to the story of Indra's arrival. The Indrayani River is a tributary of the Bhima River. You all know that the Bhima River is a popular river at whose origin the famous Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga is situated. Further ahead, the Bhima River also goes to Pandharpur.

Saint Tukaram Kirtankar is the eighth descendant of Vishwambhar Buva who lived in Dehu. Vishwambhar Buva was a great devotee of Pandurang. He used to go to Pandharpur to meet his Pandurang on the Ekadashi day of every fortnight. We all know that on the day of Ekadashi all Vishnu devotees fast and follow self-restraint.

As Vishwambhar Bua grew old, he started having difficulty in reaching Pandharpur on every Ekadashi day. He requested Pandurang to guide him and get him out of this dilemma. Pandurang, also known as Vithoba, appeared in his dream and instructed him to search for a place where he could see Tulsi leaves, flowers and Bukka. Vithoba also instructed him to excavate that place.

The next morning Vishwambhar Bua went out in search of these three things. On the way, he saw these three things in the middle of an mango tree. He started digging that place. What a surprise! Immediately he found the idols of Shri Vitthal and Rakhmabai from there. Meaning, God himself decided to come near the devotee as that devotee was now unable to travel.

These idols were installed on the banks of the Indrayani river with due rituals and temples were built all around them. These idols are considered to be self-manifested.

saint tukaram

Child Tukaram was born in a wealthy family. He received education in business and agriculture from his father. But his parents died when he was very young. The complete responsibility of the family business fell on his shoulders. He was skilled in his business. But after several sudden deaths in the family, he started feeling apathetic towards his business activities.

Saint Tukaram Maharaj Dehu
Saint Tukaram Maharaj Dehu

He meditated for 15 days on the Bhangiri mountain without taking food or water. After this, when he came down from the mountain, his face started looking radiant like a saint. He started writing Abhangas and singing them. He was greatly influenced by poet-saints like Sant Gyaneshwar, Namdev, Eknath and Kabir.

One day, due to a misunderstanding, he threw his books of Abhangas in the Indrayani river and started doing penance sitting on a rock on the bank of the river. He did penance for 13 days without taking any food or water. All his books kept floating on the water. They did not decay even a bit. Now a temple has been built around this rock.

It is believed that Saint Tukaram departed for the other world while singing abhangs. That is why there is no tomb of his anywhere.

Dehu is the place where Saint Tukaram was born and where he spent his entire life.

Dehu Darshan

Dehu is located near Pune, about 30 kms away. I hired a taxi from Pune and we set out to visit this small town situated on the banks of the Indrayani River.

Saga Temple

With the help of Google Maps, we reached Dehu. First of all, we reached a relatively new temple called Gatha Mandir. There are sugarcane juice jugs on both sides of the road leading to Gatha Mandir. From there, we entered the temple premises. The entire complex in front of us was covered in white colour. A huge temple was situated on my right.

Gatha Temple DehuGatha Temple Dehu
Gatha Temple Dehu

The premises were grand. I wondered if Tukaramji would have lived in such a grand place? It reminded me of Kabir Chauraha in Varanasi. That too is much more grand than the simplicity implied in Kabir's words.

With the help of stairs situated between two huge elephants, I reached inside an octagonal room. In the middle of that huge room is a huge statue of Sant Tukaram which is made of Panch Dhatu. Tukaram is sitting in a seat and is absorbed in his devotion. He has that well-known Ektara in one hand and a book in the other.

The grand statue of Saint Tukaram in Gatha Mandir The grand statue of Saint Tukaram in Gatha Mandir
The grand statue of Saint Tukaram in Gatha Mandir

There are many rooms around his statue whose walls are made of marble. His 4145 Abhangas are written on them. Some walls are also decorated with the 108 names of Tukaram. There are many paintings in between them which depict some scenes described in his Abhangas. The entire artwork is displayed on two floors.

There is a temple on the first floor which is dedicated to Sant Tukaram's presiding deities Pandurang Vitthal and Rakhma Bai. While roaming in the premises, we realize that Sant Tukaram has left behind a rich heritage filled with his unlimited devotion. I was overwhelmed while roaming in the entire premises.

While roaming in this complex, I was also reminded of Tulsi Das Temple of Varanasi and Valmiki Temple of Ayodhya. The walls of these temples also have verses from the complete Ramacharitmanas and Ramayana respectively engraved on them.

There are pictures of various incarnations of Lord Vishnu on a huge panel.

A beautiful description of the Gatha Temple is written on a panel which is as follows:

  • charity of the wealthy
  • People's Cultural Center
  • holy place of pilgrimage for devotees
  • Property of Warkaris
  • pride of maharashtra
  • Essence of India
  • A guiding light for all

Gurukul, Annapurna Bhawan and Gaushala

Within the Gatha Mandir complex, near the main temple is the Sant Tukobaraya Gurukul for students. I did not go inside. From the outside, it looked like a modern and well-maintained Gurukul.

Further ahead is Matoshree Bahinabai Annapurna Bhawan where food is served to the visiting devotees. This food is available free of cost. If you wish, you can donate some money. Above the dining hall is a room where spiritual meetings are held. 'Jai Jai Ram Krishna Hari', this sankirtan is chanted continuously throughout the premises. I have always loved live kirtans. For you here Kirtan organized in Ayodhya I have brought a gift for you.

Going a little further, there is Shridhar Gaushala in front of the river.

I only felt the lack of greenery and trees around the main Gatha Mandir. The work of this temple is not yet complete. Perhaps after some time greenery and trees will also come here. For more information about the temple, visit their website. Website But look.

Vitthal Temple on the banks of Indrayani

There is a small but ancient Vitthal Rukmini temple near the Gatha temple situated on the banks of the Indrayani river. To reach this temple, one has to climb down a few steps to the ghat. There are rock pavilions around the temple where devotees can sit and rest for a while.

Indrayani River in Dehu Indrayani River in Dehu
Indrayani River in Dehu

This temple has idols of Vitthal and Rakhma. There are also ancient stone idols of Ganesha and Hanuman. The many trees around make the atmosphere pleasant. The number of devotees here was not very high. I found this place very peaceful. The best place for contemplation, meditation and meditation. The calm water of the Indrayani river and the compassionate aura of Vithoba make our mind one with this holy environment.

There is a small souvenir selling centre nearby from where you can buy small statues of Vitthal-Rakhma, Sant Tukaram, Sant Dnyaneshwar Maharaj etc.

Jagadguru Sant Shri Tukaram Maharaj Institute

This is the main temple which was built by Vishwambhar Buva, an ancestor of Sant Tukaram. Built in typical Maharashtra style, this is a rock temple. An arch pointing towards this temple is installed on the main road. There is a statue of Sant Tukaram on the main gate in front of the temple complex.

Jagadguru Sant Shri Tukaram Maharaj InstituteJagadguru Sant Shri Tukaram Maharaj Institute
Jagadguru Sant Shri Tukaram Maharaj Institute

As soon as we entered the complex, our first sight fell on a small Hanuman temple. After this is the Ram temple. There is a temple in the middle of the complex, inside which are the idols of Vithoba-Rakhma which were found from this place. This is an attractive temple full of fine carvings. After seeing it, it can be estimated that it must be about 200 years old from the period of Saint Tukaram. That is, this temple must have been built in the 15th century.

There are rock steps from the temple towards the river. But for some reason, the path leading towards the river from here has been closed. There are many attractive paintings depicting the life of Saint Tukaram in the corridor around the temple.

Tukaram Maharaj Rock Temple

This is an important temple located on the side of Vithoba temple. Inside it is kept the same rock on which Tukaram ji sat and meditated for 13 days. There is no wonder that this is a very sacred and revered place for the devotees of Tukaram.

Manuscripts in the rock temple Manuscripts in the rock temple
Manuscripts in the rock temple

Inside a small temple located in a corner of the complex are handwritten copies of the compositions of Saint Tukaram.

There is a Deepstambh built in Maharashtra style and a Tulsi Vrindavan inside the complex. There is a small Garuda temple under a tree nearby.

Inside a pavilion you can see a silver palanquin. I guess this is the palanquin of the Warkari Yatra. There is an Ektara hanging on the wall. But I could not find out whether this Ektara actually belongs to Sant Tukaram ji.

Some tips for visiting Sant Tukaram Temple Dehu

Sant Tukaram on postage stamp Sant Tukaram on postage stamp
Sant Tukaram on postage stamp
  • Dehu is located near Pune city. You can stay in Pune and visit Dehu as a one-day trip from there.
  • I did not see any big centres for food or refreshments around the temple. But I did see small shops for fruits and fruit juices around the temple.
  • Entry to all temples and institutions is free. If you wish to donate some money, you can certainly do so.
  • All temples remain open throughout the day.
  • There is a huge crowd of devotees here on the days of Ekadashi and Pandharpur Wari Palki. Keep this in mind while planning your trip.

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