The History of Maharashtra is endowed with great Marathi poet saints whose brilliant works and wisdom sayings have remained the source of inspiration to millions. The poets of Maharashtra belonged to the period between 13th and 17th centuries and were the prominent personalities of their time. These poets were drawn from all the strata of the society; their humble background made it easier to connect them to masses.
If the poets of Maharashtra are to be arranged chronologically, the name that would top the list is Jnaneshwara or Jnandev. He was a saint par excellence. His most famous quotations and illustrations are collected in his work named "Jnaneshwari". He was a bold man who openly criticized his contemporaries. He founded Warkari community which is still prevalent in Maharashtra. Other eminent works of this great soul are Amritanubhava, Bhagwad Gita in Marathi, and Changadeva. Though he died very young, yet his work has remained alive in the lives of people and enlightened their lives from centuries.
Another poet whose name is equally popular is Namdev. Born in lower caste, he spent his entire life in worship of Lord Vithoba and in doing penance of his father's death for which he considered himself responsible. A friend of Jnanadev, he did many pilgrimages all over India. His famous sayings are quoted in Guru Grantha sahib, a sacred book of Sikhism. His works are in Marathi as well as in Hindi. He died in 1350 and his burial remains were placed at Vitobha temple's entrance.
Eknath who was a gem among the devotional poets of Maharashtra was born in the 16th century. He was a man of principals who is known for writing literature of highest quality. He was a master of bhakti and sainthood. He edited Jnaneshwari, the most famous work of Janadev. Marathi literature is enriched with his scholarly works. He was a staunch supporter of Advaita religion. He was also a man of compassion and piety. Some of the most notable works of this Marathi poet are Shukashtak, Rukmini Swayamvar, Chatushloki Bhagwad, and Bhawarth Ramayana.
Another name that arises in mind while listing learned poets of Maharashtra is that of Tukaram. A poet of 17th century, he was a man of simplicity and frankness. He is considered the highest point of the towering mountain whose foundation was laid by Jnandev. He was a highly learned man whose works are comparable to that of Shakespeare and Goethe. His works are incorporated in Guru Granth Sahib. Tukaram is famous for intelligent discourses that he used to give; in these discourses his main emphasis was on love for mankind. His preaching was influenced his from day to day life. He opposed blind faith in orthodox rituals and laid stress on enlightenment.
Other Poetical Gems :
Sheikh Muhammad was a contemporary of Tukaram and one of his prominent works is Yoga-Sangrama which is written in the form of songs. This composition has illustrations of his spiritual struggle with yoga. Guru Ramdas who was a master of Chatrapati Shivaji was also a man of vision and intelligence. His vigorous prose is collected in "Das Bodha" which lays emphasis on Vedanta. It also has several rules that apply to the ruler and the ruled.