Guru Gorakshanath (also known as Gorakhnath; estimated c. early 11th century) was an influential founder of the Nath Hindu monastic movement in India. He is considered as one of the two notable disciples of Matsyendranath. His followers are found in India's Himalayan states, the western and central states and the Gangetic plains as well as in Nepal. These followers are called yogis, Gorakhnathi, Darshani or Kanphata.
The details of his biography are unknown and disputed. Hagiographies describe him as more than a human teacher and someone outside of laws of time who appeared on earth in different ages. Historians state Gorakshanath lived sometime during the first half of the 2nd millennium CE, but they disagree in which century. Estimates based on archaeology and text range from Briggs' 11th- to 12th-century to Grierson's estimate of the 14th-century.
Gorakshanath is considered a Maha-yogi (or great yogi) in the Hindu tradition. He did not emphasize a specific metaphysical theory or a particular Truth, but emphasized that the search for Truth and spiritual life is valuable and a normal goal of man. Gorakshanath championed Yoga, spiritual discipline and an ethical life of self determination as a means to reaching samadhi and one's own spiritual truths. His followers are also famous for having been part of the warrior ascetic movement since the 14th-century, to militarily resist persecution against the Islamic and British colonial rule, developing martial arts and targeted response against high officials.
Gorakshanath, his ideas and yogis have been highly popular in rural India, with monasteries and temples dedicated to him found in many states of India, particularly in eponymous city of Gorakhpur. Among urban elites, the movement founded by Gorakhnath has been ridiculed.
Historians vary in their estimate on when Gorakshanath lived. Estimates based on archaeology and text range from Briggs' 11th- to 12th-century to Baba Farid documents and Jnanesvari manuscripts leading Abbott to connect Gorakshanath to the 13th-century, to Grierson who relying on evidence discovered in Gujarat suggests the 14th-century. His influence is found in the numerous references to him in the poetry of Kabir and of Guru Nanak of Sikhism, which describe him as a very powerful leader with a large following, thereby suggesting he likely lived around the time these spiritual leaders lived in India.
Historical texts imply that Gorakhnath was originally a Buddhist in a region influenced by Shaivism, and he converted to Hinduism championing Shiva and Yoga. Gorakhnath led a life as a passionate exponent of ideas of Kumarila and Adi Shankara that championed the Yoga and Advaita Vedanta interpretation of the Upanishads. Gorakhnath considered the controversy between dualism and nondualism spiritual theories in medieval India as useless from practice point of view, he emphasized that the choice is of the yogi, that the spiritual discipline and practice by either path leads to "perfectly illumined samadhi state of the individual phenomenal consciousness", states Banerjea.
The hagiography on Gorakhnath describe him to have appeared on earth several times. The legends do not provide a time or place where he was born, and consider him to be superhuman. North Indian hagiographies suggest he originated from northwest India (Punjab, with some mentioning Peshawar). Other hagiographies on Gorakhnath in Bengal and Bihar suggest he originated from eastern region of India (Assam).
These hagiographies are inconsistent, and offer varying records of the spiritual descent of Gorakshanath. All name Adinath and Matsyendranath as two teachers preceding him in the succession. Though one account lists five gurus preceding Adinath and another lists six teachers between Matsyendranath and Gorakshanath, current tradition has Adinath identified with Lord Shiva as the direct teacher of Matsyendranath, who was himself the direct teacher of Gorakshanath.
The legends in the Nath tradition assert that he traveled widely across the Indian subcontinent, and accounts about him are found in some form in several places including Nepal, Afghanistan, Baluchistan, Punjab, Sindh, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Assam, Bengal, Odisha, Kathiawar(Gujarat), Maharashtra, Karnataka, and even Sri Lanka.
The Nath tradition states that its traditions existed before Gorakhnath, but the movement's greatest expansion happened under the guidance and inspiration of Gorakshanath. He produced a number of writings and even today is considered the greatest of the Naths. It has been purported that Gorakshanath wrote the first books on Laya yoga. In India there are many caves, many with temples built over them, where it is said that Gorakshanath spent time in meditation. According to Bhagawan Nityananda, the samadhi shrine (tomb) of Gorakshanath is at Nath Mandir near the Vajreshwari temple about one kilometer from Ganeshpuri, Maharashtra, India. According to legends Gorakshanath and Matsyendranath did penance in Kadri Temple at Mangalore, Karnataka. They are also instrumental in laying Shivlingam at Kadri and Dharmasthala.
The temple of Gorakhnath is also situated on hill called Garbhagiri near Vambori, Tal Rahuri; Dist Ahmednagar. There is also a famous temple of Gorakhnath in the state of Odisha.
The Gorakhnath Math is a monastery of the Nath monastic group named after the medieval saint, Gorakhnath (c. 11th century), of the Nath sampradaya. The math and town of Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh is named after him. The monastery and the temple performs various cultural and social activities and serves as the cultural hub of the city. The monastery also publishes texts on the philosophy of Gorakhnath.
The Gurkhas of Nepal and Indian Gorkha take their name from this saint. Gorkha, a historical district of Nepal, is named after him.
There is a cave with his paduka (footprints) and an idol of him. Every year on the day of Baisakh Purnima there is a great celebration in Gorkha at his cave, called Rot Mahotsav; it has been celebrated for the last seven hundred years.
A legend asserts, state William Northey and John Morris, that a disciple of Machendra by name Gorakhnath, once visited Nepal and retired to a little hill near Deo Patan. There he meditated in an unmovable state for twelve years. The locals built a temple in his honor there, and it has since been remembered with
Korakka Siddhar (தமிழ்: கோரக்கர்) (Devanagari: गोरख्खर्) is one among the 18 Siddhars and also known as Goraknath amongst Navanathar. Agattiyar and Bogar were his gurus. His Jeeva samadhi temple is in Vadukupoigainallur of Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu. According to one account, he spent a portion of his growing-up years in the Velliangiri Mountains in Coimbatore.
Other sanctums related with Korakkar are Perur, Thiruchendur and Triconamalli. Korakkar caves are found in Chaturagiri and Kolli Hills. Like other siddhas, Korakkar has written songs on Medicine, Philosophy, and Alchemy.
The Bengali Community located in these states and neighbouring country of Bangladesh have a sizable number of Yogi Brahmins (Also called Rudraja Brahmins/ Yogi Nath) who have taken their name from this saint.
There is a very famous temple of Baba Gorakhnath in Jagatsinghpur district of Odisha. Legend says that the saint also visited this place and performed 'Tapashya' under a banyan tree. Gradually he was surrounded by white ant mound. In this place, the deity is worshiped by the name 'Siddha Gorakhnath'. It is believed that he is the direct incarnation of Pashupati Nath, i.e., Lord Shiva.
Gorakhnath Temple is located in Odadar village in Porbandar District. The Odedra Maher believe in him as their guru and Is their Ishtadev of Odedra Maher.
Romola Butalia, an Indian writer of Yoga history, lists the works attributed to Gorakshanath as follows: "Guru Gorakhnath is thought to have authored several books including the Goraksha Samhita, Goraksha Gita, Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati, Yoga Martanada, Yoga Siddhanta Paddhati, Yoga-Bija, Yoga Chintamani. He is believed to be the founder of the Nath Sampradaya and it is stated that the nine Naths and 84 Siddhas are all human forms created as yogic manifestations to spread the message of yoga and meditation to the world. It is they who reveal samadhi to mankind."
The Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati is a very early extant Hatha Yoga Sanskrit text attributed to Gorakshanath by the indigenous tradition which describes the Avadhuta, as Feuerstein (1991: p. 105) relates:
"One of the earliest hatha yoga scriptures, the Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati, contains many verses that describe the avadhuta. "