Shri Sadguru Lalita Maauli

On 26th April 1906, Akshaya Tritiya, a girl child was born in the room adjoining the Shri Gopal Krishna Temple at Karkal in South Kanara district in Karnataka. The Lord seemed to have cast His protective mantle on Lalita Maauli even as she came into this world. Her father, Amrithrao Kalyanpur, was a leading lawyer, brilliant and upright. Her mother Girijabai was a pious lady, a follower of HH Shrimad Pandurangashram Swamiji of Shri Chitrapur Math. Her uncle, Shivrao Kalyanpur, had renounced a lucrative medical practice and become a yogi at Ramanashram at Thiruvannamalai. Born of such lineage, it was no surprise that Lalita Maauli imbibed bhakti, jnana and vairagya early in life.


    Lalita was five when she lost her mother and barely thirteen when she was given in marriage to Devrao Hattangadi, a school teacher in Mangalore. Both events hastened her maturity. She combined a convent education with the practice of dhyana, sadhana and namasmarana. Her open questioning of outdated rites and rituals often shocked orthodox minds.


    Even as a child, she was fascinated, not by dolls, but an idol of Ganapati. She smothered it with garlands of colourful flowers, chanting the name of the Lord and singing bhajans from Sant Raghavdas’ Gurubodha, Sant Jnaneshwar’s Haripatha and Sant Tukaram’s Abhanga. Meanwhile, she developed a passion for the Shri Krishna Jayanti Vritakatha of Sant Ramavallabhdas in Marathi which was out of print. Devrao frantically combed the town and managed to get the last two remaining copies for his wife.


    Suddenly one day, the Ganapati idol vanished, and Maauli was inconsolable. A search in the loft magically revealed a panchadhatu idol of Balakrishna which she promptly installed in the empty shrine. Thus began the annual Shri Krishna Jayanti celebrations which continue to this date. Thereafter, her yearning for a vision of Lord Krishna became unendurable.


    Hearing about the mystical powers of Kaala Saadhu, a new ascetic in town, she silently implored him to grant her a vision of the Lord. Amazingly, he appeared in her dreams. “Are you still in slumber?” he said, “Awake! Arise!” Following his instructions, she rushed to Sanadi Sakharamrao’s the following day: that was how Maauli first beheld the colossal dark saint who became her spiritual guide who later gained fame as Shri Nityanand Baba of Ganeshpuri.


    Maauli’s serious illness in 1930 was the turning point in her life. She lay unconscious for three days. On the fourth day, she felt a noose tightening around her neck. Suddenly, to the divine sound of a conch-shell, the resplendent figure of Lord Vishnu broke out of a blue haze, riding the Garuda. With a single flash of His sword, He ripped off the noose. The place resounded with the chanting of ‘Achyutananda Govinda’. Maauli opened her eyes – she was surrounded by her family who had lost all hopes of her recovery. The chanting, she amazingly discovered, had come from her own lips! During this incredible Vision, she acquired a wealth of spiritual knowledge from the Lord. She perceived that 24 years thence she would break away from narrow domestic ties and embrace the Universe.


    Shortly afterwards, Maauli lay in bed at the Egmore Hospital in Madras recovering from major surgery. Even there, she impressed her fellow-patients with her knowledge and insight. Spirituality was but a single facet of her personality.


    Maauli truly lived up to the ideal that ‘work is worship’. Devrao’s position as Headmaster of the District Board School, barred her from participating in the Non-cooperation Movement. However, having stood first in the Karnataka State Hindi Examination, she attended the 1933 Congress Convention in Mangalore. She demanded and established a Hindi Bhasha Prachar Centre at Udipi, and urged Hindi students of all age-groups to conduct processions boldly singing Hindi patriotic songs in British India! She scripted and directed Hindi plays for children and wrote for the Hindi magazine ‘Murli’, disguising her identity under several pen-names! One such magazine bears a hand-written complimentary message from Mahatma Gandhiji.


    Working for women’s liberation, she sought all-round education for women and encouraged their participation in games, music, art and dramatics. She started a sewing class and stitched dresses free of charge for the needy. She made a contribution to every local organization: the Ladies’ Club, Health Committee, Adult Education, the Seva Dal, Home for the Destitute and so on.


    Her tremendous will power made up for her delicate physique. She took on countless responsibilities. In appreciation of her selfless service and upright nature, the British Government appointed her as Honorary Presidency Magistrate. Despite her busy schedule, she managed to balance her social and domestic commitments with constant meditation.


    Devrao’s tranfer to the sylvan surroundings of Karkal was a boon to Maauli’s need for peace and quiet. Her spirituality began to blossom. Though Baba’s whereabouts were unknown, His spirit provided constant guidance from within. She also sought and received advice from Swami Ramdas of Kanhangad (Ramnagar).


    In 1942, Maauli was soaked in bhakti. Her life became an endless flow of songs of devotion – in Marathi, Hindi, English and Kannada. She would go into a trance for hours, uninterrupted by thoughts of the outside world.


    In 1944, when Devrao was posted to Moodbidri as Principal of the Jain High School, Maauli continued her teaching activities and social commitments. But her mind was absorbed in spiritual pursuits.


    In 1945, learning of Baba’s whereabouts, she visited Ganeshpuri to seek his advice and blessings. She also attended Shri Chitrapur Mathadhipati HH Anandashram Swamiji’s discourses during his visits to Moodbidri.


    On the occasion of a visit to Shri Chitrapur Math along with her husband Shri.Devrao in 1954, a ‘Laghurudra’ was performed on their behalf, and after the ceremony Shrimat Anandashram Swamiji instructed the priest of the Math to make arrangements for giving upadesh of ‘Mahavakya’ to Maauli on account of her spiritual advancement, and told Shri.Devrao that she would be a Vishwa Premi.


    In 1956 Baba advised Maauli to make Panvel her abode, counseling, “ Your life is for the upliftment of humanity- ‘Paramhansa Diksha’ has been given to you. Lead a ‘Brahma-nishtha’ life- in constant union with the Absolute Brahman. I have given you my ‘Shakti’. No force in the world can touch you. Lead a fearless life in Panvel”. Thus it was that Devrao and Maauli entered their vanaprathashram at the Gurukul.


    On 2nd February, 1962, during Mahagola Yoga or Ashta-Graha Yoga, a rare conjunction of planets, Maauli had the Ultimate Spiritual Experience.


    Having had a vision of Adi Shankaracharya, Maauli consecrated the ‘Maha Saraswati Peetha’ on 5th February 1962. The peetha is a seat of higher learning, a centre for the study and propagation of Atma Vidya.


    In February 1963, HH Anandashram Swamiji graced her abode at Panvel at the concluding ceremony of the Vasudev Mahamantra ‘Japayajna’. And in March 1965, He formally inaugurated the Shri Nityanand Nilaya Gurukul at Panvel. Thereafter, HH Parijnanashram Swamiji visited Panvel twice, as also the present Mathadhipati of Shri Chirtapur Math HH Sadyojat Shankarashram Swamiji visited in 1999, and camped for a day in May 2001.


    Lalita Maauli's life was dedicated to the Lord, to the unfolding of the Ultimate Reality in her discourses and writings. Spiritual aspirants came to Panvel seeking blessings and guidance. The afflicted and distressed sought and found healing, peace and comfort, till finally, on 5th February 1997, Maauli left her mortal coil, leaving behind valuable guidelines for spiritual seekers.


    In 1976, a few of her devotees painstakingly collected and compiled all her writings in Marathi and English. A part of that collection was published in 2006, to commemorate Maauli’s Birth Centenary year. It seeks to lead the sadhaka’s mind, through contemplation, to the Lord – the immeasurable source of joy, bliss, love and peace……


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