By the time the business prospered and went bust Tukaram had already married twice.
When he was 14 Tukaram was married, as was the custom in those days. First, he was married to Rukhmabai. She turned out to be a devoted wife but was constantly dogged by ill health due to chronic asthma. So his parents decided that Tukaram should take a second wife. That is how Avalibai, also called Jijabai, came into his life. She was the daughter of a rich shopkeeper of Pune. Despite her nagging nature, she stood by her husband when he faced difficulties on the business front. By that time Rukhmabai had died of starvation along with her son in a terrible famine. Tukaram had also lost his eldest sister-in-law in an earlier famine. Four years after he entered business, Tukaram lost his parents. In the same year his eldest brother became a mendicant.
Tukaram had six children: three daughters – Kashibai, Bhagirathi and Gangabai – and three sons – Mahadev, Vithoba and Narayan. Narayan was born four months after Tukaram’s death. The girls were married in a miraculous manner. When they came of marriageable age the saint was under pressure to find suitable bridegrooms. One day he found three boys belonging to his community playing in the street. He brought them home, married off his daughters to them and later held a wedding feast! Not a whimper of protest was raised by anyone. Bhagwan Vithal, undoubtedly, had a hand in the whole affair.
GOD TO HIS RESCUE
Misfortunes do not come singly. Tukaram put his shoulder to the wheel and soldiered on. One night a great storm broke out while Tukaram was driving an ox cart with a sack of grain. His companions had gone ahead. The saint cried in anguish, “The filthy world! I have embraced it! Hence my troubles! My father is dead; my brother has abandoned everything; I am bankrupt; hence my shame. Here I am; my companions have left me; no one will lend me a hand with this sack! O Hari, God of gods, I have no friend but thee! Run to help me!” As he spoke he saw a wayfaring man beside him. “It was Hari who had come to help him,” says Mahipati. “Who are you?” asked the stranger, “Blocking the road in this way?” “I am a dealer in grain,” said Tukaram, “and my companions have gone ahead.” Then the sympathetic stranger put forth his hand and in a moment laid the sack on the ox. After that he stepped forward and showed Tukaram the way, till they came to the Indrayani River which was high in flood. But the stranger led the way and they crossed safely. Tukaram stood amazed. “Suddenly,” says Mahipati triumphantly, “a flash of lightning showed Tukaram that his companion was wearing a pitambar (the usual yellow silk robe of Vishnu), had a sparkling kaustubh jewel round his throat, and wore a rosary of tulsi beads round his neck.”
After the storm and rains it was the turn of drought. Hari once again came to the rescue of his devotee. In the hope of making money, Tukaram set out with bags of chillies for the Konkan region. On the way he constantly chanted the name of Hari. After reaching the sea, he unloaded his oxen under a pipal tree near a Shiva mandir. The villagers came and asked his price. He answered, “You know the usual price, don’t you? Take what you want,” and he let them fill the measure themselves. At first they feared he would check them, but his thoughts were far away, and he never interfered with them. The news spread through the village, and people came tumbling over each other. “We will pay you later on,” they said. “Very good,” said Tukaram. Some took handfuls, others kilos, according to their strength, and at last one rascal said, “I have plenty of money at home, I want a sack of chillies.” “I will trust you,” said Tukaram. Pious men understand God’s purposes, but not the hard hearts of the wicked.