From the Saint of Shirdi - In 1941 Sati Godavari Mataji assumed the mantle of her Guru Shri Upasani Baba Maharaj with the strength, simplicity and dignity of a realized being. When she ascended the ‘Gadi’ of spiritual eminence, Mataji was only 26 years old. In the freshness of youth, Mataji had a rare and ethereal beauty of face and form. Today, though she looks deceptively frail and simple, there is a quiet radiance and strength, the strength and radiance of immaculate purity stored up in her. The life eternal flows through her spirit, mind and body, cleansing healing and restoring all those look up to her as the manifestation of Shakti. Soft spoken and gentle, with nothing spectacular about her personality and preaching, Mataji nevertheless encloses in her frail form a dynamic fulfillment of God as Mother.
Tantric philosophy gives great importance to the Shakti aspect of the creator. This aspect is represented in Bharat in the forms of Durga, Chandi, Tara, Kali, Bhuvneshwari and Jagatdhari. According to this branch of philosophy, Shakti represents the manifested aspect of the Divine, where God, is looked upon as personified Divine Mother. To this school of thought we owe the evolution and development of the whole concept of Shakti wherein God asserts himself more powerfully as a female presence. It is maintained that God can become infinitely more lovable, approachable and intimate if He chooses to manifest as Mother. Even at the ordinary human level the mother is looked upon as the embodiment of perfect love. There is scarcely a person who has not, to a greater or lesser degree, experienced the peerless purity of a mother’s heart and the sacrifices she alone is capable of making for her children. There is almost an instinctive and universal turning to the mother’s love as providing a solace for all suffering. Consequently, when the Divine manifests as Mother, that being becomes ever more powerful and irresistible. When Godavari Mataji was born on 24th December 1914, another para-shakti was created in this land. It is no wonder that in his last years Shri Upasani Baba should have told many bhaktas who were about to prostrate themselves before him: “Do not bow to me, worship her, for she is the supreme Shakti and her very darshan will wash away the sins and impurities of men and women”. This was indeed a magnificent tribute of the Guru to one who recognized as his supreme successor.
Godavari Mataji was born on the 24th of December 1914 at the virginal hour just 23 - 1/2 minutes after sunrise, when night meets the day in the unspeakable serenity of dawn. Her parents, like the parents of many Avatars were pious and God-fearing. Godavari’s mother Ramabai had an extraordinary vision which gave clear indication of her daughter’s exalted destiny. One night, while Ramabai was sleeping between her two infant daughters, she suddenly saw a white and unearthly glow fill the whole room with its dazzling radiance. Out of this strange luminosity a lovely apparition appeared, dressed in pure white. his ethereal form came up to them and caressed both the girls and then bending down whispered something in the child Godavari’s ears. Ramabai woke up with a strange elation and conviction that this was not just a dream, but an actual vision. She felt that the radiant visitation was no less than a Goddess who had come down to bless her elder daughter.
This early and portentous sign heralding an unusual destiny was further strengthened by Godavari’s extraordinary qualities, even as a child. Pre-occupied and sensitive, mother took delight in creating for herself with her child’s imagination images of Gods from pieces of stones, and then showed a premature inclination to be absorbed in worship and adoration of these symbols of her creation. Moreover, she had a magic touch, and the food that she touched seemed to grow in abundance. Indeed her touch would unlock, as it were, the Divine storehouse of unlimited resources. The child Godavari’s prodigious memory was another of her assets. She had an amazingly retentive memory which enabled her to recite any poem or passage that was read out to her only once. Another notable feature of Mataji’s early childhood was her instinctive attraction to all holy men, and the reciprocal affection and interest she immediately provoked in the hearts of great Yogis and Mahatmas who probably recognized in this young child great dimensions of spiritual realization. In fact one of these great ones even went so far as to tell her parents: “This daughter of yours is not an ordinary soul. One day she will meet a great Yogi through whom she will realize her exalted status and lead hundreds of souls to their goals”. Indeed the prophecy has been abundantly fulfilled. The full moon day in February 1924 was the starting point, for, it was on that day that Godavari Mataji went to Sakori at the tender age of ten. She was taken there as a visitor, but she recognized in the holy soil of the Sthan her own spiritual abode, and stayed their for the rest of her life as a devotee and disciple, and later as the presiding Mother of the Kanya Kumari Sthan.
The moment of meeting between Shri Upasani Baba and the child Godavari was filled with ecstasy for both of them. The Master recognized his completion in her who stood before him, looking at him with her child’s gaze of acceptance, and she even at that age, from some ineluctable stillness of her mature self, knew that she confronted her Guru, the one who would be the medium for releasing the imprisoned splendor of her true identity.
Godavari Mataji’s unique out pouring of devotion to her Guru, and the many incredible hardship she suffered with great fortitude and humility in the service of the Master are inspiring examples of what a true sadhana means. As a matter of fact, she suffered calculable hardships and persecution due to the petty jealousies of some women at the Ashram. These women resented Baba’s exalted opinion of this young disciple, and because they could not transcend their own lower natures, they resented mother’s innate purity, and did their best to break it by pouring on her all the scorn and contumely they could viciously devise. But Mother towered over all these difficulties. Her sensitive spirit knew that it was only through the conquest of such fierce ordeals that she could ascend to the heights which her Guru expected and demanded of her.
Not that the mother needed a sadhana to find herself; she was born in liberation, and her birth and apparent efforts were just a leela of her manifested divinity to serve as an example and inspiration to others. Her early life is a moving saga of surrender and devotion which cannot fail to inspire those who seek salvation through the path of Para Bhakti. But, once when asked by a devotee when exactly she had obtained that bliss which is inseparable from self-realization, Godavari Mataji blurted out in a declaration of unguarded spontaneity: “When! there never was a moment when I did not have it!”
Today, Godavari Mataji is perhaps the greatest living apostle of the path of Devotion. She advocates the practice of God-adoration in any way suitable to the temperament and caliber of the aspirant. ‘Japa Siddhi’, according to Mother, has been given to us as a special and easy method of attainment in this difficult Yuga. Mother lays great stress on the powers of the Mantra Shastra, and she usually initiates deserving sadhakas by giving them appropriate Names or Mantras. Those who have been blessed with such initiation by Mataji, know the powerful impact of these mantras on their inner lives and perceptions. Herself the personification of purity, the Mother lays great stress on the gradual cleansing of one’s thoughts, motives and actions. She gives tremendous push to those who seek her Grace for spiritual progress, but at the same time she enjoins on the sadhakas the necessity of persistent effort. Guru’s Grace does not operate until it is drawn down by the persistent hunger and effort. Mataji says: “The highest state man can aspire to is that of God, and to attain it, he has to exert himself. By self-effort man becomes God. Effort can make even God descend on earth, or those of the earth attain heaven”.
Though nurtured in almost monastic traditions of ascetic living, Mataji has had the courage and the vision to reject all formal manifestations of austerities. She has ushered in an era of gracious living, where ‘tyag’, according to her, is to be practiced to control one’s inner life, thoughts and desires.
To look well-groomed and attractive, and to live with beauty, without getting attached in moha, is Godavari Mataji’s way of life. Not for her the arid philosophy of frugal living. The Divine Beloved is the king of Kings, avows Mother, so why go to him in mortification, in ugliness and woe! Thus Godavari Mataji has met the challenges of progress by re-affirming old intuitions in new ventures, in the comprehensive outlook of religion tempered with love. Broad-minded and progressive, indulgent to the minor frailties of her bhaktas, Mataji can none-the-less be exacting in the demands she makes on her disciples. Her demands are almost always for the bhakta’s genuine love, faith and loyalty to the chosen Ishta. The rest will be taken care of is Mataji’s assurance. This adoration of God in his supreme personality gets for the bhakta, not only the knowledge of the nirguna aspect of the Divine, but also brings him the bliss and ecstasy of a union with the personal aspect of God as Ishwara.
Herself a true votary of Beauty, both in its visual and subtler creations, Mother favours ritualism. She strongly advises against a scornful attitude of these humbler methods of worship. On the contrary, Mother encourages the performance of poojas, and maintains that to worship and adorn idols with flowers, jewels and sandal paste is an outlet of man’s primitive aesthetical impulse.
The Kanya Kumari Sthan has sometimes been the target of an unenlightened criticism. It is said that the Ashram and its inmates do nothing in way of social service. But each Avatar has his or her own unique way of spreading the Light. Godavari Mataji feels that the most pressing need of this Yuga is to fashion self-realized Souls. The purpose of saints like Godavari Mataji, Shri Upasani Baba and Shri Sai Baba is two-fold Not only do they uphold dharma, but they make men and women conscious of their own latent Divinity and help them to find it.
Sati Godavari Mataji is a living Incarnation. In a secluded corner of India, in the remote village of Sakori, Mataji is pre-occupied with the Herculean task of creating and maintaining such conditions as may usher in the birth of a greater India.
We offer our humble homage and tribute to this splendid parampara of radiant Gurus -- Shri Sai Baba, Shri Upasani Baba and Godavari Mataji. In their vigorous Bhakti cult there is also a touch of mysticism which lifts their teachings to the stature of a redeeming Gospel.
Women Revive Lost Art of Vedic Priestess
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In 1922 Sakori was a small village in Pune, India, when Shri Upasani Baba Maharaj settled there to live in the burial grounds to continue his spiritual sadhana. He was 52-years-old and had just completed several years of hard penance under the guidance of the great saint, Sai Baba of Shirdi. He lived and breathed the Vedas and wanted to re-establish the right of women to perform all Vedic rites in Sanskrit as was done in ancient times according to scriptural injunction. But in 1922 performance of Vedic rites was the domain of men only, and he received horrendous opposition from the Brahmin community. He built a bamboo cage and confine himself in it for 15 months, saying, "I have undertaken this bondage to liberate my devotees," and he became famous for mastering the siddhi of being present at different, distant places at the same time. Throngs of devotees offer namaskaram to him. He persisted against vehement opposition and founded the Upasani Kanya Kumari Sthan as an ascetic order for kanyas or maiden brahmacharinis to serve as Vedic priestesses. Upasani Baba trained them to use Sanskrit as the common language for daily communication and to perform all Hindu rites including the ceremonies of name-giving, sacred thread initiation, marriage and funeral. They also maintained a small farm with many cows which were treated with the utmost love and care.
In 1924, a 10-year-old girl named Godawari arrived in Sakori with her mother and received a garland and special blessing from Baba. Godawari was among his first disciples, and when she was just 18, Baba took her into the ashram's inner sanctum and removed a Rudraksha mala from his neck and put it on her, gave her mantra diksha and spoke about her spiritual destiny as his successor, saying that she had been a great saint in her previous life. She became known as Sati Godawari Mataji. In 1941 Upasani Baba visited Satana, his birth place, for the last time and installed twelve Jyotirlingas with his own hands. He soon laid down clear instructions for the future work of his Kanya Kumaristhan, then attained Mahasamadhi in December 1941 and was entombed at the ashram.
Mataji took her guru's reins at the tender age of 27, and the ashram blossomed under her spiritual tutelage. Most kanyas came with the consent of their parents, and Mataji admitted them to the ashram with mantra diksha and bound them with the threefold, lifetime vow of physical purity, strict celebacy and daily worship. At the height of the ashram's success, there were 150 brahmacharinis there. Fifty-eight of them received formal initiation, 23 by Baba and 35 by Mataji.
There are now 48 kanyas at the ashram. The present ashram chief, Devital, a disciple of Upasani, was seriously ill as a child and could not be helped by any medicinal treatment. She was cured with the mystic Angara or holy ash given by Baba received his diksha at the age of 13 and devoted herself to the work of the ashram. Another 60-year-old kanya, Suniti, came to the ashram at age 23. She knew Sanskrit and set the Sanskrit sutras on musical notes for easy recitation. Fifty-three-year-old Yamuna came to the ashram at age 20. She explained that all the brahmacharinis wear brown and saffron-colored garments, and that they don't have liking for flowers, scents, jewelry or anythings to physically adorn themselves. Though provided all available modern facilities, these kanyas are naturally inclined from within toward their guru, ashram and something beyond.
The ashram is surrounded by a sturdy compound, and no one is permitted to visit the brahmacharinis, not even relatives. They wake up at 5 A.M., observe silence until 9 A.M., and do the daily work of the ashram such as sweeping, cleaning and laying rangoli drawing in front of temples. They are vegetarians and prepare their own food. Everyone knows the other person's job, and they are trained to do everything and anything, whether it is sweeping, washing, cooking, feeding the poor, singing or chanting, cattle-house cleaning, giving spiritual discourses or attending to village problems, including distribution of free homeopathic medicines and rendering all human services with a missionary spirit.
Although these kanyas come from various states, castes and creeds, their conduct and worship is common to all. They are quite expert in performing the srauta ritual and the Ganesha, Vishnu, Rama, Guru, Chandra, Surya and Rudra yagas. The materials for rituals are produced and preserved at the ashram, and the sacred fire is kept ablaze at the yagasala around the clock. A number of followers of Upasani Baba and Mataji often visit the ashram, and the resident kanyas perform Purohitya rites for also paid to teach Vedic mantras and ride bicycles to religious events in the village for this purpose. They are expert in Samagama and are invited from all over India in cities like Pune, Hydrabad, Kolhapur and Banaras. All dakshina or fees received go to the ashram.
Sakori has become sanctified by the presence of Upasani Baba, Godavari Mataji and their kanyas and is now a sacred pilgrimage site as is the nearby village of Shirdi which Sai Baba made famous. The physical spots that attract pilgrims to Sakori are the Samadhi shrines of the Upasani Baba and Godavari Mataji, the bamboo cage in which Baba did his sadhana and the yagnasala where the kanyas perform yagas. As the sanctity of every famous temple in India is kept alive by the daily round of pujas performed by skilled and kanyas. All this is dramatic testimony to the efficacy of Baba's and Mataji's inspired vision for the spiritual upliftment of women serving selflessly as brahamacharinis, and also to the respectful awe and obesience that these kanyas receive from devotees of Maharashtra.
For information, contact: V.L. Manjul, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune 411 004, India.
Article copyright Himalayan Academy.
By : Dr. S. N. Tipnis, M. A., Ph. D.
Sati Godavarimataji, the guarding spirit of the Shri Upasani Kanya kumari Ashram at Sakori which is at a distance of about 5 K.m. from Shirdi, has completed sixty years of her life and has entered the sixtyfirst year in last month. This auspicious occasion was celebrated on a grand scale at Sakori. We wish her a long life to shower favours on her devotees.
SATI GODAVARI MATAJI
Swami Sivananda, the renowned saint of Rishikesh, wrote in one of his works, "Shri Godavari Mataji is an asset to Bharat-varsha She has set an example for all the women of India to follow." In these glowing terms, he has aptly portrayed the personality of Mataji. Shri Godavari Mataji is one of the Women-Saints of modern India, who have added lustre to Indian soil. She has been continuing its glorious tradition.
Shri Godavari Mataji was born in the year 1914 at Shegaon, a remote village in the province of Btrar. She belonged to a high brahmin family, known for its piety and religious culture. At the age of 9, she had the darshan of Shri Upasani Maharaj, the renowned saint of Sakori. At first sight, Shri Upasani Maharaj said to her, "This all belongs to you. You will have to see to its management." His prophetic words came true literally.
Once Mataji came to Sakori, she preferred to lead the ascetic life. She was initiated in the Spiritual Path by Shri Upasani Maharaj in 1928. Since then, she is leading the life of dedication and devotion.
Following in her foot-steps a number of Kanyas (Brahma-charinis) embraced spiritual life. Thus the ideas of the saint of establishing a religious Institution for women became visualised.
After the passing away of Shri Upasani Maharaj, Shri Godavari Mataji, who is his foremost disciple, has become the head of the Institution and she is continuing the noble mission of his life.
Kanyakumari Ashram is one of the Institutes for women who want to lead religious and monastic life. The Kanyas are busy in performing religious austerities throughout the whole day and remain absorbed in divine contemplation. Occasionally, they perform Yajnas under the guidance of Shri Mataji.
The Institution of Yajna is another unique feature of this Ashram The Yajnas are performed by the Kanyas, who are skilled in it They chant the vedic mantras with a correct intonation of the Svara They perform nearly 7 Yajnas throughout the year.
Shri Mataji along with the Kanyas has so far performed a number of Yajnas at almost all the important places in India. About a couple of years before, Mataji undertook a continental tour and visited a number of countries. Shri Mataji was accorded a grand reception everywhere, and thousands of people took the benefit of her sacred darshan. Particularly at Paris, Antwerp and London, programmes of vedic recitations were arranged. The chanting of the vedic hymns by the Kanyas was very enchanting and left the audience spellbound. The Archbishop of' Canturbury, who was present on one of these occasions, highly appreciated it. Perhaps, Mataji may be the first woman-saint, who visited the West, carrying the torch of ancient wisdom, and who unfurled the banner of Vedic Culture.
Mataji is a very radiant personality. She is the living embodiment of Divinity. She is the symbol of Peace and Purity. Drawn by her magnetic personality, thousands of persons stream into Sakori to secure her blessings and benediction. They come from different corners of India. Occasionally, there are visitors from the West. Being the pilgrims of Eternity, they come to seek her guidance and grace. Indeed, Mataji serves as a beacon light to countless souls, who are groping in the dark and guides them to the domain of Everlasting Peace, Happiness, Kaivalya and Moksha.