Tukārām (1608–49) was a Marathi religious Saint-poet of the Hindu theistic “Bhakti” movement. Often considered the greatest writer in the language, Tukārām’s abhaṅgas, or “unbroken” hymns, are among the most famous Indian poems.
Born in Dehu, near Pune, modern-day Maharashtra state, Tukārām was the son of a shopkeeper and was orphaned in childhood. Failing in business and family life, Tukārām relinquished the world, pursued wholeheartedly the God-experience, and became an itinerant ascetic. Tukārām studied the works of other proponents of the Bhakti movement—notably, the Bhāgavata of Eknāth and the abhaṅgas of Nāmdev.
Tukārām is understood to have composed over 4,000 abhaṅgas, verses in Abhaṇga meter. Prayerful in character, most of his abhaṅgas were addressed to the God Viṭhoba of Pandharpur.
Tukārām’s abhaṅgas express practical advice for the ordinary man and woman: he described, “God favors those who make themselves worthy of His favor …,” and God is “like a lamp for which the master of the house and the thief are alike” (Abhaṅga 1330.) Devotees are warned of the tyranny of the senses, “Give me not the company of women … for by them I forget God’s worship … their beauty is the cause of hardship” (Abhaṅga 3347.)
An edition of Tukārām’s poems translated into English by J. Nelson Fraser and K.B. Marathe was published in 1909–15 and reprinted in 1981. Dilip Chitre’s Says Tuka (1991) and Chandrakant Mhatre’s One Hundred Poems of Tukaram (2015) are popular modern translations.
A donkey that is made to have bath in a sacred river does not become a horse. He, who does not have a pure mind, does not listen to any good advice. Even if a sweet juice is fed to a snake, there won’t be any reduction in its poison.