Sant Gadge Baba was born on 23rd February 1876 in a small village Shengaon of Amaravathi District of Maharastra State. His real name was Debuji. Zingraji was his father a village washermen and Sakhubai was his mother. Zingraji was addicted to liquor and became a pauper when Debuji was born. Soon after the death of his father he was brought up by his uncle in his younger days. He had no occasion to go to school and get his education. He could not be satisfied with the food served by his uncle and his mother. Sakhu made Debu to go for cattle herding. He has a fine resonant voice and he would sing his songs often bhajanas to the gathering of his playmates and in the night even in neighbouring villages. He became very popular. Hambirrao was his grandfather very much admired with Debuji in his sincereness in work and he employed him in his farm. With in a short duration of 6 to 8 months he trained himself in ploughing, harrowing, weeding, plant cutting and other operations.
Debu married at the age of 15 and became an industrious farmer and a person to recken within the village community. After Hambirrao, Chandrabhan his son has to look after the family. But he had relief since Debuji was looking after the whole family. In the same village a greedy man named sahukar Banadji Tidke was cheating illiterate local people by giving loan and grasping their property. Chandrabhan also took loan by mortagaging his land and he could not redeem it. Debuji cultivated his land and repaid the loan in instalments soon after every harvest and requested the receipt from sahukar for his payments. At last he purchased a 5 acre land from sahukar, but sahukar postponed executing its sale deed to Chandrabhan even by repeated approaches. Chandrabhan told this to all his family members about this incidence in tears. Debuji consoled him. He fixed the date to take the possession of purchased land and one fine morning with a long bamboo pole gone to the piece of land and sat on the land. The sahukar with his muscle men came to attack Debuji with weapons. Debuji resisted well like a tiger evgen with great injuries and the sahukar afraid of his adamance and came to compromise.
One day after his son's death Debuji went to Runnochen, a place of pilgrimage on the banks of Purna. There he had a dip in the river and lost his rupee coin tucked at the waists. He could not recover the coin. It was a trifling incident sitting on the bank of the river and started meditating. He thought that like the coin lost in the sand, the men removed by the death could never be recovered, as they disappear into the vast endless expansion of time. What was the meaning of all this? Was death a nagation of life? What was the meaning of the great teaches like Dyneshwar and Tukaram? Their mission in life was to arouse people from the slumber of ignorance and to exhort them to take a pure, purposeful and selfless life.
One day while he was watching in crops by sitting on the mochen, a strange man appeared before him in mid day look him to a nearby village and spent two days. In another incident, the same ascetic came to his residence calling out lovely 'O' Devidas, Gods disciple. Thinking that the sage has come, he immersed in thoughts, without taking food. He went to temple to sing songs of Tukaram and Kabir. On returning home he could not sleep and in night he started from home by taking a earthen pot and a stick. He renunciated his wife, son, and family life followed the footsteps of Lord Buddha. Great Elightened one. From then he was called as Gadge Baba. Gadge means an earthn pot used for begging food and Baba is a nick name for father of fatherly person.
He left his home in 1905 and well over 50 years he kept on moving village to village and from town to twon as long as he could stand on legs. He was making lightening trips. If one day he was in Nagpur, and the next day he would be at Wardha or Amravathi. If it were a longer journey, he travelled by railway always without a ticket. He always sit on the floor of the carrieage next to water closet to avoid gazing of other passengers and railway inspectors. Once he was caught and he was kept under custody for a day or two. Once out, he would board the next available train but, in later years he came to be known as the Great Baba, the railway staff was most courteous to him and offered him all amenities and conforts, but he denied them.
His main effort was to educate the people in leading the life of purity and cleanliness both in physical and spiritual sense. He craved for the simplicity of life. His teachings were simple for even uneducated and illiterate persons to grasp their significance. Baba's resolution was to free himself from the bonds of the caste and become a casteless perosn. He had two fold objectives in his mind, first it establish complete identity with the poor downtrodden and secondly to find out the hardships and miseries they suffered.
In the later stage people flocked and listen to his Bhajanas and Kirtas. Bhajan is a recital of devotinal songs which attracted everybody. While he sing Gopala! Gopala! Devakinanda Gopala! the man kept his work aside came to greet him and the women would like to have a glimpse at the man while he passes on the road. In his Bhajan and Kirtanas he was attacking on untouchability, dowry, child marriage, casteism, violence in the form of bloody annual sacrifices, usury of sahukars, ignorance, superstition of the people, their unclean habits and tolerance for filthiness in public places. Thus he had enough insight about the process of social progress. He was much distressed to see pilgrims and he constructed ghats, dharmasalas includes ashram, salas, schools by raising donations through his admirers. The Sahukar Tidke who was once the enemy repented on seeing Baba and contributed biggest donation to his movement.
Baba's achievements drawn the attention of thinkers, politicians, writers and artists towards him. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the architect of free India's constitution adn a greatest crusad or against untouchability was his most admirer. Gadge Baba felt for the betterment of the lost of untouchables through dharmasalas which convince Dr. Ambedkar. Dr. Ambedkar met his and held discussions with him on socal problems. Dr. Ambedkar looked Baba as his guru than a master. Before he relinquished Hindu fold and embraced Buddism Dr. Ambedkar has consulted Gadge Baba and sought his blessings.
Once Baba was watching the construction of dharmasala, a young man Mr. B.G. Kher rebuked him as 'You are a hypocrite, you cheat people. Gadge Baba calmly replied to the young man "To be sure you are an educated man, why don't you then teach us ignorant man like me how to behave ? Later Baba met the young man in Bombey in connection with the problem appointing trustees to the Dharmasala. On seeing Baba Kher bowed to Baba and apologised for the kind of words. Later when kher became the Chief Minister of Maharashtra he was given a Government Vehicle to Baba to intensify his activities on prohibition and abolition of untouchability. One minister in the Cabinet of kher wrote a brilliant article in appreciation of Gadge Baba's extra-ordinary powers of communication and service of the poor downtrodden people. At last Gadge Baba died on 20th December 1956.