Nobody knows from where and how Dadaji came. Gauri Shankerji is the first one to whom Dadaji showed his Shiv 'roop'. Gauri Shankerji was a very big disciple of Lord Shiva. Sometime in the 18th century, he set out in search of Lord Shiva when, someone told him that its said that 'Narmada kanker, Shiv Shanker' (Shiv ji can be found in the river Narmada). He traveled all the way from somewhere in Afghanistan and reached the banks of the river Narmada. When he did not find Lord Shiva there he asked the people around if Lord Shiva could be found anywhere. He was told that Lord Shiva might be found on the banks of the river and he must start walking along the banks in order to search for him. So started Gauri Shankerji's 'parikrama' (circumambulate) of Narmada ji.
Over the years during his 'parikrama' many other 'sadhus' joined him and formed a 'jamaat' of around 200 'sadhus'. One of these 'sadhus' was Dadaji maharaj. Dadaji used to do a lot of 'seva' (service) of all the 'sadhus' in the 'jamaat'. In the night when everyone else would be sleeping, he would make 'maalpoa' and 'halwa' (sweets) in big vessels for the entire 'jamaat'. Whenever there was a shortage of 'ghee' (form of cooking oil), he would go to 'Maa' Narmada, dip his utensils in the water and it would get filled with 'ghee'. Later, when the 'jamaat' had enough provisions of their own, he would go and return the 'ghee' to 'Maa' Narmada.
After completing 12 'parikramas', when Gauri Shankerji still did not find Lord Shiva, he was saddened and grew disillusioned with life. He decided to end his life by taking 'jal samadhi' (water burial). When he started to walk towards the river, a little girl held his finger and asked him what he was doing. Gauri Shankerji was in an angry and disappointed mood and he replied back that it is of no concern to the little girl what he was doing. The girl replied that she knew that he was going to end his life in the river because he did not find Lord Shiva. Gauri Shankerji's anger had still not subsided and he shot back "who are you?", to which the little girl replied that she was Narmada. A slightly subdued Gauri Shankerji then asked her why she had not fulfilled his wish for 'darshan' of Lord Shiva. 'Maa' Narmada told him that Lord Shiva is in the guise of a young 'sadhu' named Dadaji, in his 'jamaat'. Gauri Shankerji knew who Dadaji was and found it hard to believe that he was Lord Shiva. So 'Maa' Narmada told him to go and meet Dadaji. Gauri Shankerji was skeptical that once he would go to see Dadaji, 'Maa' Narmada would disappear and what if Dadaji is not Lord Shiva. 'Maa' Narmada told him that she will appear again when he would meet Dadaji.
Dadaji maharaj was sitting on his heels and washing utensils when Gauri Shankerji came behind him and called out to him. Dadaji turned his head around to look over his shoulder and appeared to Gauri Shanker ji as Lord Shiva. Gauri Shanker ji could not believe what he was seeing and rubbed his eyes thinking that maybe he was hallucinating. When he opened his eyes he saw Dadaji sitting and again in a few seconds he saw Lord Shiva in Dadaji's place. When this carried on for sometime, Dadaji said to Gauri Shankerji that if he was still finding it hard to believe then he should come closer and touch him. When Gauri Shankerji touched him with his hands Dadaji again revealed himself in Lord Shiva's form. Lord Shiva was in the legs folded and sitting posture when Gauri Shankerji touched him. At this point 'Maa' Narmada appeared and on seeing the two of them together said that she was glad to see that Gauri Shankerji's lifelong dream of doing Lord Shiva's darshan had come true. She then disappeared.
Gauri Shankerji's aim in life was fulfilled and he said to Dadaji 'ab aap hamari gaadi sambhalo' ('now you sit on my seat'. Meaning that Dadaji should take over the 'jamaat'.) Dadaji replied 'hum tumhari gaadi pey tatti kartey hain' (I shit on your seat). He told Gauri Shankerji that he has no interest in taking over the responsibilities of the 'jamaat' and that he will be leaving the 'jamaat' now. He also told Gauri Shankerji that he should not reveal immediately to the 'jamaat' that Dadaji is Shiv roop and that he should take the 'jamaat' a few miles further before revealing the truth. Dadaji parted ways with the 'jamaat' and went to Sainkheda. Gauri Shankerji took his 'jamaat' a few miles further to Koksar where he revealed the truth to others and took 'jal samadhi'.
It is said that Dadaji appeared in 'digamber roop' (without clothes) in the form of Ramlal Dada in Hoshangabad where he performed many miracles. He stayed there for 3 years and again his soul left his body one day when he fell into a well. After a few days he again appeared in 'digamber roop' sitting under a tree with a 'dhuni' (holy fire) lit near him in the Imaliya jungle of Sohagpur. On the request of the villagers he went to Narsinghpur which is situated around 10 – 12 km from 'maa' Narmada. After sometime he left his body again and became one with the universe.
He again appeared as Ramphal Dada in Sissiri Sanduk Gram. Around 1901 he came to Sainkheda to cure people of their sins. He stayed there for many years and performed countless miracles. Around 1929, Dadaji left Sainkheda and traveled to Chiappaner, Bagli, Ujjain, Indore, Navghat Khedi (Badwah), Daudwah and finally Khandwa. He stayed there for 3 days and did 'jan kalyan'. He got ready to move on and started to move when a 'sethani' (lady from the business community), Parvati Bai, came to him and said 'mera daal bhaat ka bhandara khaa ke jaana padeyga' (you must eat these offerings before you go). Dadaji refused her 3 times, saying that he has a lot of work to do. But she kept insisting and lay down in front of his 'rath' (cart). When she refused to budge, Dadaji said 'achha bhai hum to sotey hain, tu teri jaan' (ok, I will sleep now, you do what you want to do). Parvati Bai made an offering to Dadaji from outside his rath and after sometime when he did not wake up, they picked up the offerings and ate it. It had happened on earlier occasions too when Dadaji would sleep for 2 – 3 days at a stretch. After 2 days a strange, sort of mad man went to the police station and told a policeman that all these people are mad and that their Dadaji has taken 'mahasamadhi' and they do not even know this. The policeman came to the place where Dadaji's 'rath' was camped and told the people there this story. They took the policeman to Chottey Dadaji. On seeing them Chottey Dadaji started saying to them "Haan haan bhaiya, Dadaji ney samadhi leh li. Haan haan bhaiya, Dadaji ney samadhi leh li. Haan haan bhaiya, Dadaji ney samadhi leh li." (Yes yes, Dadaji has taken 'samadhi' ). Along with other disciples, Chottey Dadaji got Badey Dadaji out of the 'rath' and laid him on a wooden bed. He then bought that land by paying cash to the owner, 'seth' Gopikishan. He then made Badey Dadaji's samadhi there. Chottey Dadaji lit a 'akhand' dhuni and did 'tapasya' there. He laid down 24 rules, rituals and regulations for Dadaji's samadhi's 'seva' and darbar's 'seva'. Even today these 'puja's', 'aarti's' and other rituals are followed in all the darbars.
Dadaji's name and fame was spreading like a wildfire everywhere when a group of 'sadhus' (holy men) from Kashi decided to test Dadaji and see for themselves if he was indeed as great as his reputation. At the time, Dadaji was staying at Sainkheda. Before the 'sadhus' from Kashi reached Sainkheda, Dadaji kept saying to the 'jamaat' "today is our test, be prepared". The 'jamaat' sadhus could not understand what test he was talking about. The moment the 'sadhus' from Kashi arrived in Sainkheda, Dadaji started reciting the 'Vedas, Shlokas and mantras' (holy scriptures and hymns) loudly. The 'sadhus' from Kashi felt very ashamed and fell at Dadaji's feet.
Similarly, there were 3 men, a lawyer, a doctor and a teacher who did not believe Dadaji to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva. They thought that if Dadaji was truly an incarnation of Lord Shiva then he would not have any problem in having poison as Lord Shiva did. They went to Dadaji with garlands of rose, sweets and a bottle of poison in their bag. The moment Dadaji met them he said "Oh you got sweets and flowers for me. Give give!" He took out the bottle of poison from their bag and drank it. The three men were shocked and left after realising their foolishness without any doubts in their mind about Dadaji.
While in Sainkheda, Dadaji performed many miracles. Holy men from all over India used to come there to seek his blessings.
In Sainkheda, Dadaji used to sit under a 'Bel' tree with his 'Dhuni' lit next to him. A big worshipper of Lord Shiva, named Jeeja Bai used to stay in Sainkheda. One day when she opened the door of the Shiva temple she was astounded to see Dadaji sitting in place of Lord Shiva. Thinking that her eyes must be deceiving her, she turned to look where Dadaji used to sit and saw Lord Shiva in his place.
It is said that people could come to Dadaji anytime they wished to but could not leave without his permission. A man, Saligram Patel, came to Dadaji to seek his blessings. He stayed with Dadaji for almost 17 to 18 days and had still not got the permission to return to his home and family. One night while sitting with his 'jamaat' of 'sadhus', Dadaji called this man and ordered him to fetch some water from 'Maa' Narmada. Upon doing as asked, Dadaji told the man to pour the water in the 'dhuni'. As soon as he did that, Dadaji started abusing the man and ordered him to leave for his home immediately. The man totally shocked and wondered how he would reach home in the middle of the night without any transport. Since he was ordered to leave for home, he did not have any other choice but to do as told. When he somehow did manage to reach his village he saw that all the houses in the village, except for his, were burnt to ashes. On enquiring he realised that when he was pouring water in the 'dhuni', as told by Dadaji, the whole village was on fire and only his house did not catch fire.
Dadaji was very fond of children. Once a young boy who was studying under a streetlight in the night was put in the lockup by a policeman on suspicious grounds. When Dadaji heard about this, he got so angry that he went and broke all the streetlights with his stick. The policeman put him also in the lockup along with the young boy. When the policeman came out after locking up Dadaji, he saw Dadaji standing on the road with his stick in his hand, smiling at the policeman. The policeman rushed back in and saw Dadaji standing in the lockup. He got so scared that he immediately freed Dadaji and the young boy.
In Sainkheda, a very worried lady once came to Dadaji. She told him that she has to get her daughter married but cannot afford it as she is very poor. Dadaji told her that he will come to her house in the morning. Next day, early in the morning, Dadaji came to her house and when she greeted him, he said to her 'move aside, I want to pass stool'. He went to her kitchen, sat on her 'chula' (stove) and passed stool there. He then got up, told her to cover his stool with ash and left her house without saying anything. The lady's husband chided and scolded her for this, saying that what kind of Guru she has, of all the places why did he come to their kitchen and pass stool. Angrily he told her to throw out the stool and clean their 'chula'. When she picked up the ash covered stool she felt it to be a lot heavier than expected. But she still went ahead and threw it outside. When it fell on the ground and the ash blew off it they noticed that it had turned to gold! They picked it up, washed it, put it in a plate and took it to Dadaji. From a distance Dadaji started saying to her "why are you showing it to me, go get your daughter married". When the woman and her husband came closer to Dadaji, he said "don't you understand? I have done this to get your daughter married." The woman went home and sold a part of that gold to fund her daughter's marriage and made jewellery from the remaining gold. Even today the descendants of the woman who got married, have the jewellery which was made of Dadaji's stool that had turned to gold.
There are many such cases where Dadaji has rescued his devotees from terrible mishaps. Dadaji was one such saint, who never preached, never had to take support of any mantras or holy scriptures. He would do 'jan kalyan' (benefit the masses) by just blessing people. Anyone who was sick mentally or physically would go seek his blessings and Dadaji would hit them with his stick, abuse them and they would get cured. Such was the greatness of this 'sant' (saint). Our lovable Shri Dadaji Dhuniwaley. JAI SHRI DADAJI KI.