Jnaneshwar was a great saint born in Alandi, near Pune, in Maharashtra in 1271. He was actually a realized soul even while he was a boy. The story of his life is described here briefly.
Jnaneshwar’s father Vithalpant was a grihasta Brahmin who was inclined towards adopting Sanyasa. One day, driven by the passionate urge to discover the Brahman, he went to his guru and took Sanyasa. However, the guru was unaware of the fact that Vithalpant had not taken permission from his wife before adopting Sanyasa – it is considered unacceptable for a man to take Sanyasa without first obtaining permission from his wife. A grihasta is expected to produce children and later on, if he were inclined to Sanyasa, he must leave his wife in the care of his son. It is a great sin for a man to leave his wife uncared for and take on the Sanyasa path. When the guru discovered that Jnaneshwar’s father had not obtained permission, he was reprimanded badly and sent back to his home to live with his wife. They lived together happily and produced four children, one of them being Jnaneshwar. All the four children went on to become great spiritual leaders, being born out of a realized father. But his community ostracized him for the grave sin of adopting family life after adopting Sanyasa. After a lot of struggle in raising the children, both the husband and the wife were so disgusted with being insulted that they left their mortal bodies.Jnaneshwar was all but eight when the tragedy of his parents’ death struck him. He tried to learn the Vedas and be a true Brahmin and take care of his siblings at the same time. But, he was not accepted as a disciple by any Brahmin because of his father’s sins. He begged and pleaded several famous teachers in the Pune area, but nobody wanted to teach him. The scholars challenged Jnaneshwar to many debates. This young boy was born as a realized soul and it was easy for him to debate well. When he was chided for losing his Brahmin Jaati because of his father’s sins, he replied that he was a Brahmin by varna and not by jaati and there would be no way for him to lose this Brahmin status. In another debate with a scholar, when he claimed he understood the Vedas, he was chided “You understanding the Vedas is as improbable as a buffalo reciting them”. Hearing this, Jnaneshwar just smiled at the buffalo standing before him and touched its forehead. Immediately the buffalo started reciting the Vedas. The scholars were then convinced that Jnaneshwar was a saint indeed, despite being only a little boy.
Jnaneshwar went on to be a great yogi and a mystic saint. He widely preached the importance of varna, as opposed to jaati, and spread a spirit of bhakthi in the hearts of the people of Maharashtra. He preached in the local vernacular of Marathi even though he was well versed in Sanksrit, in order to be reachable by all local people. He produced an astounding and thorough commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, in Marathi – the Jnaneshwari Gita. He is respected and worshipped by all Indians even to this day. We consider him one of the greatest yogi saints of all times. He attained maha samadhi when he was only 22 years old.
There is a more detailed account of Jnaneshwar here also: http://www.hvk.org/articles/0702/75.html