Sant Gadge Maharaj
Most of the lower class people in villages were uneducated and poor. They worshipped khsudra gods like Maraai and Shitala Devi. Lambs, hens were sacrificed to keep the Gods happy, to cure a disease or for a good crop.
Debuji was born in such society. Though uneducated, he fought against animal sacrifice and untouchability. He taught the importance of cleanliness and hygiene through practice. He built numerous dharmashalas, Gorakshan centers, food donation centers for handicapped and old homes all over Maharashtra.
Debuji was the only child of Zingraji and Sakhubai. After the death of Zingraji he and his mother went to live with his maternal uncle. Within years he became an excellent farmer, herdsman, singer and swimmer.
He was married to Kuntabai and had four children. A lover of animals, he opposed animal sacrifice since childhood. Even when his friends, relatives and the people of his caste forced him to sacrifice animals, he preferred to face their anger rather than kill the animals.
Debuji was a very courageous man. Once a Saukar came with his guards to take hold of Debuji’s farm. Despite the fear expressed by his family and the villagers he single handedly fought them all.
Fed up with the material world, one day he left his home. He kept wandering from village to village. He worked for alms. Took up cleaning villages. He also started building Ghats on the river Purna. Slowly people started joining him in his cleaning activity. He preached the villagers on the importance of hygiene.
He found many followers. Among them were people like Dr. B R Ambedkar, Acharya Atre. Money started pouring in the form of donations. This was used for building activities.
Realizing the plight of Harijans, he built a dharmashala for them in Pandharpur, Nasik, Pune, Alandi and Dehu. To stop the slaughter of cows he built a Gorakhan center in Vidarbha. He started food donation centers for the handicapped, and poor. He built homes for the old who had no place to go. He also worked for the upliftment of the people suffering from leprosy.
Source: 'Sri Gadge Maharaj' by Go. Ni. Dandekar