Janabai was a Marāthi religious poetess in the Hindu tradition in India, who was born likely in the seventh or the eighth decade of the 13th century. According to folklore, she died in 1350.
Janabai was born in Gangakhed, Maharashtra to a couple with first names rand and Karand. Under the caste system which rigidly existed in India, the couple belonged to the lowest caste. After her mother died, her father took her to Pandharpur. Since her childhood, Janabai worked as a maidservant in the household of Damasheti, who lived in Pandharpur and who was the father of the prominent Marathi religious poet Namdev. Janabai was likely a little older than Namdev, and attended to him for lifetime. Tradition says that they died on the same day.
Pandharpur has high religious significance especially among Marathi-speaking Hindus. Janabai's employers, Damasheti and his wife, Gonai, were very religious. Through the influence of the religious environment around her and her innate inclination, Janabai was all along an ardent devotee of Lord Vitthal, and she was also gifted with poetic talent. Though she never had any formal schooling, she thus composed many high-quality religious verses of the abhang (अभंग) form. Fortunately, some of her compositions got preserved along with those of Namdev. Authorship of about 300 abhang is traditionally attributed to Janabai. However, researchers believe that quite a few of them were in fact compositions of some other writers.
Along with Dnyaneshwar, Namdev, Eknath, and Tukaram, Janabai has a revered place in the minds of Marathi-speaking Hindus who belong especially to the warakari (वारकरी) sect in Maharashtra. In accord with a tradition in India of assigning the epithet sant (संत) to persons regarded as thoroughly saintly, all of the above religious figures including Janabai are commonly attributed that epithet in Maharashtra. Thus, Janabai is routinely referred to as Sant Janabai (संत जनाबाई).
Janabai composed over 340 devotional songs, abhangas; they survived by being included in collections of Namdev's own works. Some of Janabai's songs tell of the lives of her fellow Varkari and of the various incarnations of Vishnu, but the most distinctive are those that tell of her personal relationship with the god Vitthal. She sees Vitthal as her mother (a view not uncommon among the Varkaris), but also as her fellow-serving maid, and ultimately herself.
In one of her poems she sings:
Let me undergo as many births in this world as You please, but grant that my desires are fulfilled. They are that I see Pandharpur and serve Namdev in every birth. I do not mind if I am a bird or a swine, a dog or a cat, but my conditions are that in each of these lives, I must see Pandharpur and serve Namdev. This is the ambition of Namdev's maid.
In another place, Janabai writes:
Give me only this girl, O Hari, that I shall always sing Your sacred Name. Fulfil my only desire that You will accept my humble homage and service. This is all that I desire. Have mercy on me and fulfil my desires. I want to concentrate my eyes and mind on You and have Your Name on my lips. For this the maid Jani falls at Your feet.
That sums up the philosophy of Janabai and how she attained her desired goal. So intense and sincere was her devotion to Vithoba that the Lord Himself used to lighten her household duties, which, as she became old, she found unable to perform. By her service and devotion to God, she completely succeeded in effacing herself and she got completely merged in Him. A great soul-Janabai! And a greater Master-Namdev!
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"Where can I found the abhangs of Sant Janabai?