Radhe Maa was born in the village of Dorangla in the Gurudaspur district of Punjab, India. Her father, who now leads a retired life, was an officer in the Punjab government.
Radhe Maa had a compassionate heart even as a child. When a friend described Radhe Maa as rich because she brought alooo parathas in her tiffin and not dry rotis like everyone else, she came up with a plan. Radhe Maa asked her mother to make her extra parathas and made sure every morsel her mother packed was distributed among her friends. She contended herself with the dry rotis her friends were happy to share with her.
Radhe Maa, who was loved by all, was called Gudia by her father. When she was five, fate struck a cruel blow, and Radhe Maa received the first shock of her life.
She lost her mother.
Radhe Maa studied till she reached Std X. She was a receptive student and a popular one too. She loved listening to Gurbani and would also spend hours in a Kali temple close to her house. Even as a child, Radhe Maa was considerate, sensitive, delicate and helpful. Her teachers and friends in those early years remember that she also had the gift of prophecy. The same teachers and classmates are now her devotees.
At an age when children play with dolls and toy houses, Radhe Maa’s mind was keener on bhakti.
She was also known for her fairness among friends. They would come to her with their disputes and she would adjudicate matters between them. She would also impart lessons in the ethics of friendship, which always found an eager audience with them.
Guru Maa was married when she turned 18. She was very young and unprepared for such a big responsibility that called for big changes in her life.
Her husband Shri Mohan Singh of Mukerian village in district Hoshiarpur was one of five brothers in a well-to-do joint family. The family owned a popular sweetmeat shop in the village. As the years rolled on, Radhe Maa gave birth to two sons. Shortly after, her husband decided to explore business opportunities on foreign shores, leaving his young wife and two children behind.
Radhe Maa felt a strange emptiness after her husband who had been the center of her married existence left. It was not easy for her to cope.
However, Radhe Maa was not daunted. She had time on her hands and a god-given skill – sewing. Eventually, she took to tailoring and even taught the skill to other girls in the neighbourhood. Thanks to her initiative, a number of women in the village developed a skill that helped them supplement their family incomes.
Whatever time remained after giving sewing lessons, Radhe Maa devoted to reciting the Gurbani. However, despite her busy ways, her family worried for her and she was often seen lost in thought. Her father took heed of her state and took her to Mahant Ramdin Das 1008, the caretaker of the Paramhans Bagh Dera, who was 130 years of age at the time.
The venerable Mahant was impressed with the devotion of Radhe Maa and remarked to her father that she appeared to be a radiant spiritually gifted soul. He further added that she was welcome to visit the temple attached to the dera whenever she wished. From that day onwards, Radhe Maa began to visit the dera every day and offer worship to the deities there. Her devotion to Lord Shiva was so intense that she experienced the first stirrings of vairagya. A day came when she lost all interest in all worldly matters, including her family and marriage. Her husband was abroad when this happened.
Around the age of 23, Radhe Maa decided that she was no longer a householder and dedicated herself completely to God. However, devotees who had in those months attached themselves to her refused to let her wear the robes of a sannyasin. They adorned her as an act of devotion and Radhe Maa did not turn down their offerings. So, while she had a prosperous family, a husband, two children and all comforts of the world, she turned her back towards it all and dedicated herself to her spiritual practices. Radhe Maa’s sensitive, kind, generous and resplendent personality attracted numerous devotees to her. Some began to invite her home when they held pujas, satsangs and chowkis. To honor the wishes of her devotees and to spread her message of bhakti Radhe Maa took to a life of spiritual wandering.
Around this time, a young girl from Mukerian whom the congregation knows today as Choti Maa came for Shri Radhe Maa’s darshan. She became a regular at the darshans and in a few months committed herself to a lifetime of service to Radhe Maa. Choti Maa, who hails from an affluent family, has been in Guru Maa’s service for the last 15 years. She has two brothers who are settled in Australia.
With the passage of time, more and more devotees began to invite Guru Maa to their homes to bless their families with her auspicious presence. Devotees found their lives enriched with Guru Maa’s blessings and experienced calm in their hearts. Over the years, she visited Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Amritsar, Guraya, Phagwara, Ambala, Kurukshetra, Panipat and Delhi. Wherever she went, she would glorify God, chant his names and pastimes and also ask people to do the same.
It was during one of these visits, Radhe Maa and Choti Maa visited Phagwara that they met the 12-to13-year-old who is today known as Talli Baba. Deeply impressed with Radhe Maa’s character, the boy’s father had no qualms in allowing him to enter her service. Talli Baba is today among Guru Maa’s foremost sevadars.
A few months later, Radhe Maa along with her close attendants undertook a pilgrimage to Haridwar where she threw herself into austerities. Lord Shiva appeared to Radhe Maa in a dream and granted her a boon. Any devotee who with a pure body and mind attended nine chowkis of Maa Durga and followed it with a darshan of Radhe Maa would have all his wishes granted by Lord Shiva.
After the boon was granted, Radhe Maa came to Delhi and lived for three years at home of a devotee Rambhaj Agarwal where she was served by his family. She also blessed the homes of other devotees with her presence and guided them as they offered pujas, kirtans and bhog to God.
Some devotees from Mumbai requested Guru Maa to visit the city. Honoring their sincere wishes, Shri Radhe Maa graciously accepted their request. A few months later, Guru Maa was in Mumbai holding bhajans, satsangs and overseeing pujas.
It was during this visit that the Gupta family from Mumbai entered Radhe Maa’s service. Their devotion to her and their commitment to her spiritual mission endeared them to Radhe Maa. When they requested that Guru Maa make their home her permanent abode, she, to their happy surprise, agreed. It has been 10 years since she graced the city, and the Gupta residence, which is now called Radhe Maa Bhavan by her devotees, is where she stays seven to eight months a year. The Gupta family holds a Mata ki Chowki every 15 days which is open to all devotees free of cost. During the chowki, Maa Jagdambe, Lord Shiva and other deities are honored with prayers and bhajans. Devotees also have a satsang and darshan of Radhe Maa on the night of the chowki. Devotees across the world continue to request Guru Maa to bless their homes with her presence as they have always done, and she as always continues to honor their request.
It has been close to 30 years since Radhe Maa took to a life of service. Her mission to serve all continues uninterrupted through her Mata ki Chowkis and Langars that are free and open to all without exception. In the spirit of service, she embodies in her person the values of the shastras articulated by Goswami Tulsidas who has said ‘Shruti kahe param dharam upkaara’ (The sacred Shrutis say that doing good to others is the highest of religious duties).
While darshans are scheduled during chowkies which are held once a fortnight, Guru Maa spends the remaining time in her sadhana which includes, pujas, havan and meditation, and she speaks but sparingly. She does not leave the room where she grants darshan for months at a stretch. This space is held sacred by devotees of Guru Maa and is referred to as her gufa. Radhe Maa also shares her spiritual knowledge with devotees when she deems it fit. Her teachings emphasize the need for selfless bhakti and for complete surrender to God who is the supreme provider.
Devotees who wish to address their queries to Guru Maa or seek her guidance are asked to speak to Choti Maa for guidance sessions that are called vachan.
Radhe Maa’ life is a study in contrasts. Her response to all challenges in her life has been to intensify her bhakti for Lord Bholenath. She believes that there is nothing that cannot be achieved if one prays to Lord Shiva and asks her devotees to do likewise. The result of her steadfast devotion is clear for all to see. Over the years, she has walked closer to the light of God shining within her and has guided her devotees along the same path.
She has neither a trust, nor a palace to her name. She has not initiated a new religious order. Her devotees across the world and their unshakable faith in her glory are her only wealth. Is it any wonder that her devotees have created permanent gufas in their homes that are lovingly cleaned, decorated and offered incense and prayers every day?