Kanifnath or Kanhoba Incarnation and Teachings

Kanifnath (कानिफनाथ) is a Hindu saint. He is one of the nine Mahayogis of Navnath Sampradaya. He is a Maharashtrian version of the name Kanhapad, a Siddha poet. Kanifnath is considered as an avatar of Prabuddha Narayan is one of Nav Narayan. Kanifnath was a yogi belonging to the Jalandhar branch of Nath Sampradaya. He was a disciple of Jalandharnath. Siddha Spirituality acknowledges the great Yogi for his teachings.

Kanifnath’s various names

Kanifnath is recognized as one of the nine Mahayogis of the Shaivic Navnath Sampradaya and one of the most remarkable personalities amongst the Mahasiddhas of the Vajrayana Tantrik traditions of India and Tibet. He appears under various names in different stories, such as Krishnacharya, Krishnapada, Kanhupada, Kanpha, Kanha-pa, Kanha, Acharya Charyapa, Kaniphanath, Kanari-Nath, Kanupa, Kanhoba in Maharashtra, and more. His presence dates back to the 10th century.  

Both traditions agree that he was a prominent Siddha Yogi and, at the same time, a pandit (highly learned man) with a lot of disciples. In the book Chaturasiti-Siddha-Pravritti, he is listed as the 17th of the 84 Mahasiddhas.

श्री कानिफनाथ चालीसा | Dibhu: Divya Bhuvan
Kanifnath Samadhi

Incarnation of Kanifnath

Vishnu’s command – In the forest of the Himalayas, the semen of Brahma fell for the purpose of Saraswati. A little of it fell in the elephant’s ear. Now Prabuddha Narayana should enter it and appear as ‘Kanifnath’.

The story of Kanifnath’s birth

Twelve years later, Agni God returned to Lord Dattatreya to visit his son, Jalandhar. In twelve years, Jalandhar had become proficient in all disciplines. The Agni God was happy to see that. Later, when Agni God and Jalandharnath went to meet Shankara, who told them that it was time for Kanifnath to be born. He also said that he would be born from the ear of an elephant in the Himalayas. Jalandharnath also expressed his desire to make him his disciple. On hearing this, Agni God said, “But tell me where the elephant is. I’ll look at all the following arrangements.”

Then Shankar took Jalandharnath and Agni God to a certain place in the Himalayas. There was a huge elephant wild and crazy. They all started thinking about how to get closer to him. Then Jalandharnath said that I have studied with Lord Dattatreya for twelve years. Believe in my knowledge and command me. Then Jalandharnath approached the elephant and he used Mohini Vidya (Hypnotism) to subdue it. The elephant became very quiet. Sixteen-year-old Kanifnath came out of the elephant’s ear as soon as Jalandharnath called closer to the elephant.

Conflict with Gorakshanath

In Nathas’ first version of Kanifnath’s story, he appears as a mighty but arrogant Nath Yogi, who gets into conflict with Gorakshanath and later tries to challenge him several times but always loses to him. There are various interpretations of the legend about him, varying in story details to a greater or lesser degree but having the same narration.

Hevajra Sadhana

In the second story of Kanifnath as Kanupa, he is shown as the Vajrayana Siddha, the disciple of Jalandharnath, who initiated him into Hevajra Mandala Sadhana.  Hevajra’s name is composed of two syllables  “he,” meaning compassion, representing the male aspect, and “Vajra,” wisdom, the female aspect, which together offers the path beyond the illusory world. After practicing Hevajra Sadhana, Kanifnath attained extraordinary yogic powers and became intoxicated by them, enjoying demonstrating them everywhere, indiscriminately. In the end, Kanifnath paid the price for his arrogance by a sorceress, whose fatal curse caused his death. 

Not much is mentioned about Guru Gorakshanath in the second story. Both stories have differences from each other but have similarities of geographical places, and it seems that the author of one of the stories was aware of the other. However, it is difficult to say which of them preceded the other.

Nature of Ultimate Reality, Hevajra Tantra
Hevajra Sadhana

Birthplace of Kanifnath

A few less reliable books and texts are available about Kanifnath’s birthplace, parents, and family. According to Chaturashiti-Siddha-Pravritti, he was born at the place called Soma-puri and was from a caste of clerks (brahmin). In his early years, he became a monk at Somapuri Vihara (modern Paharpur, district Rajshahi of Bengal), built by Raja Deva Pala. Later, he was initiated into Hevajra Mandala Sadhana by his Guru Jalandharnath and practiced it for more than twelve years before attaining siddhis. He had a lot of disciples who he used to initiate ‘into mysteries of Varahi without a head,’ or Vajra-varahi with his consort Goddess Shri Heruka.

The second geographical mention found in the book – Chaturashiti-Siddha-Pravritti, is that Kanifnath undertook a missionary trip to Sri Lanka, accompanied by three thousand disciples. After this, he went to Salaputra, according to the text (the place of Jalandharnath, where righteous king Dharmapala was ruler). Finally, about his death, it is said that he died in a city situated somewhere in the eastern region from Soma puri near the house of Dakini Mandhe. However, there are many more opinions about the details of his biography expressed by different scholars.

Interesting biography of Kanifnath

The first writer in the Bengali language

Kanifnath is known as Kanhupa in Bengal, with a prominent place in the Sahaja tradition there, being one of its siddhacharyas. These first poets wrote in Old Bengali (Apabhramsa dialect) under the name Kanhupada. His dohas are found in the book called Charyapadas or Charyageeti, believed to be one of the oldest books in Bengali, amongst compositions of other siddhacharyas. Out of 50 doshas included in Charya Geeti, twelve were composed by Kanhupa.

These doshas are widely accepted as original and written personally by him and express various aspects of his teachings. As mystical songs, his compositions became popular there and were widely sung by the masses. Those siddhacharyas exercised considerable influence in the later development of the Bengali devotional poetry and were recognized as the first writers in the Bengali language.

Occupation of teacher’s place as Mahant

While Jalandharnath was confined in the well at Ujjain, from which he was finally rescued with the help of Gorakshanath and Macchindranath, his disciple, Kanifnath, occupied his teacher’s place as Mahant. He later founded a Panth that came in line with Gopichand (Chandra), otherwise known as Siddha Sangari, who became one of the eighty-four Siddhas. Gopichand is sometimes given as the name of a Panth. Gopichand is also considered a disciple of both Kanifnath and Jalandharnath. The Kalbeliyas is said to be his disciples. To this line also belong the Sepalas, who keep snakes. Some in this division wear big rings called kundlas, as do the Kanphatas. Others wear them in the lobes of the ears.

Pioneer to introduce the Shaiva idea

Kanifnath was advocating the doctrine of the male-female union called Yuganaddha (in Tibetan Yab-Yum) in the Tantric Vajrayana tradition. It seems that he was one of the pioneers trying to introduce the Shaiva idea of the union of Shiva and Shakti in the Buddhist circles. It was new at that time as Yuganaddha (union) of Shri Heruka and Vajravarahi or Prajna and Upaya.

Traveling towards Sri Lanka

Kanifnath intended to go to Sri Lanka, preaching dharma. He invited his disciples to accompany him and took a group of 3000 disciples with him. When they reached the ocean edge, he left all his disciples to stay there and started moving towards Sri Lanka, stepping on the water’s surface. While doing this, proud thoughts came into his mind: ‘Even my guru would not be able to do this; it’s not a big matter for me.’ At the very moment, this thought came to his mind, he went deep under the surface of the water.

After struggling with waves and feeling great shame, finally, he was thrown by waves back on dry land. When he looked up in the sky, he saw his Guru Jalandharnath, who asked him: ‘O Kanipa, where are you going and why? Feeling ashamed, Kanifnath answered, “For the welfare of the world, I was going into Sri  Lanka, but after feeling  proud that I am greater than you, all my powers vanished at once, and now I am sinking down – I can’t walk on water anymore.”

When Kanifnath took a vow to act by the commands of his guru, his knowledge and spiritual powers returned to him. At once, he became able to move without touching the earth, then seven umbrellas and sounding drums appeared over his head, his feet were leaving imprints in stone, and so on. 

Kanifnath obeyed the weaver

Kanifnath, accompanied by his three thousand disciples, arrived at the township Salaputra. There he left his disciples to stay in the camp outside of the city. He found the house where a weaver was living. When he entered the house, he saw that while that weaver was weaving clothes, broken threads were joining themselves without the weaver doing anything. Kanifnath decided that he had found the man his Guru had told him about and obeyed the weaver, humbly touching his feet.

After Kanifnath explained what had happened, the weaver asked  him: ‘Will you follow what I will tell you?’ Kanifnath answered: “Yes, I will obey your commands.” Then Kanufnath started to follow all the instructions of the weaver.

Kanifnath decided to leave the weaver

But after a while, Kanifnath decided to leave the weaver yogi, thinking that he already had all spiritual powers and siddhis. The weaver, wondering about Kanifnath, told him, “Because addiction to power can lead a man of indiscriminate mind to destruction, the same may happen with a yogi who has no proper understanding of how to use his powers appropriately.

All these umbrellas and flying drums are not significant achievements for a yogi. You are preparing to leave, but you have not accomplished the task for which you came here. Your moral state is still far from perfect. Stay here with me and complete your sadhana, as Guru Jalandharnath told you.” 

Kanifnath becomes angry

But Kanifnath was not ready to stay or be persuaded. So he walked to a jungle close to Soma Puri. Kanifnath saw a rose apple tree with a girl sitting under it. He requested her to give him some of the fruits, which she refused. However, he then fixed his stare at the tree for a while, and all the fruit fell to the ground. Immediately, the girl looked at the tree, and all fruits returned to the places they were before. On seeing this, Kanifnath became very angry and put a mantra spell over the girl to immediately fall on the ground, bleeding from all over her body.

Soon people started collecting around and began abusing him for what he had done. So he pronounced another mantra to bring the girl back to her previous state. But while doing this, he forgot to apply a mantra for his protection. So when the girl stood up, the first thing she did was curse Kanifnath with a mantra. As a result, now it was his turn to be stricken with a terrible disease, and blood started flowing from all over his body, from head to foot. 

Goddess Dakini Mandhe

Kanifnath asked his Goddess Dakini Mandhe for the medicine for this blood-vomiting disease that could be obtained only from the mountain Sri Parvat, situated far away in the South of India. When Dakini Mandhe returned with the medicine, the girl tricked Dakini by taking the form of an old lady, crying and saying Kanifnath is dead. Dakini Mandhe threw away the medication, which the old lady picked up and vanished. When Dakini Mandhe returned and saw Kanifnath alive, she told him what had happened.

Kanifnath then realized the time had come to leave his body, so he began giving his last lessons to his disciples for seven remaining days. On the last day, he initiated them into the mysteries of Varahi without the head. After that, he left his physical, and by that time useless body, and entered into the realm of the Absolute Void. Dakini Mandhe searched for the old lady in all lokas, found her sitting inside a hollow tree, spelled a mantra, and killed her.

डाकिनी कौन होती है ? - Quora
Goddess Dakini Mandhe

Visible and invisible disciples

Kanifnath had seven hundred and fifty visible disciples and another seven hundred and fifty invisible or secret disciples, but Gorakshanath was the only disciple of Macchindranath. Gorakshanath was a very great Siddha and had many magical and spiritual powers, mantra powers. In this way, they became two religious communities. In the early days, they were guarding the seat of the kings (fighting ascetics). Some of Kanifnath’s disciples were the Kalbelia gypsies of Rajasthan.

Jogi Nath community, or Kalbeliyas

Gorakshanath, the founder of the Nath sampradaya, was known for his magical powers. Kanip, one of his close disciples, asked for a bowl of venom, thinking that Guru Gorakshanath would not be able to procure it. But the Guru surprised his disciple and presented him with venom from a snake.

The Guru then instructed him that from that time onwards, Kanipa and his followers would be associated with this animal and it would be his responsibility to protect snakes. Humbled by this experience, Kanipa adhered to Gorakshanath’s words, and that is how the Jogi Nath community, or Kalbeliyas as they are popularly known, came into being. This mythological occurrence also explains the traditional occupation of the Kalbelia as snake charmers, snake catchers, and venom traders.

Kanipa refused to do magic

The Kalbellas say Kanipa (Kanifnath) refused to do magic. Instead, he secluded himself in the jungle and practiced samadhi, which requires patience and dedication, leading to moksha (release from the endless cycle of rebirth). Once samadhi is obtained, the yogi can retain his body and stay on earth, possessing all the siddhis.

Only a few yogis are believed to have succeeded in passing beyond the condition of the Siddha (the ‘magician or god’) because once the siddhis have been used, the yogi remains stuck at the level of a mere ‘magician.’ Some believe that this happened to Gorakshanath because he succumbed to the temptation of using his magical abilities.

Teachings of Kanifnath

In the ancient folklore of Bengal and those in Maithili, Assamese, and Odiya languages, there are poems by Siddha composers of their secret sadhana. So also in the Gopichand Ballad or Goraksha Vijaya. The attitude of a yogi regarding the phenomenon of physical death is described in a song of Kanifnath:

The real Self in the state of neutrality is fulfilled in the Void;

At the removal of the physical reflexes and mental attributes, be not depressed

Say how Kanha would not exist,

When he is ever moving about, measuring the three worlds.

A fool is sorry to see the end of a show;

Do the breakers ever dry up the sea?

Men, being ignorant, know not.

They perceive not the fat existing in milk.

In this existence, one neither goes nor comes;

With this outlook, Kanha the yogi fellow departs. 

– Sen (1956:239).

The following song in Old Bengali also reinforces the Tantrik/yogic synthesis:

‘Kanha, a skull-bearing yogi is on his round.

He walks through the township of the body in the same guise.

The vowels and the consonants are the bell anklets at his feet;

The sun and the moon are made into earrings.

He covers himself with the ashes of love, hate, and infatuation;

Supreme emancipation is worn as a string of beads’. 

-Sen (1956: 269).

Everything in the universe is sonorous

Skull is a reference to Kapalin, ‘adorned with skulls,’ a name of Shiva. Vowels and consonants refer to Bij (seed mantra), meaning everything in the universe is sonorous and has its own sound.

The moon is quintessentially female, Shakti, which resides in the Muladhara chakra. The sun is quintessentially male, Shiva, and resides in the Sahasrara chakra. Certain Tantrik exercises cause the rise of Kundalini up through the other five main chakras, reaching the crown of the head when the unification of the two polar principles of sun and moon happens, transcending all opposites.


Kanifnath sings the subtle metaphysical equations of the sahajiyas, of an uncompromising non-dual reality. There is only empty space, and, simply by recognizing that, Mahamudra-siddhi is attained. He rejects the intellectual approach, mantra, and visualization, brahmin ritual, the kapalika’s attachment to tantric appearances and conventions.

However, he sings of the real kapalika as the ideal Sahaja-Siddha who has shaken off all prejudices and partiality, all preconceptions and doctrine, and realized “the ultimate principle of emptiness that arises spontaneously with every movement of the mind.”

Making mind steady in Samarasa

He who has made his mind steady in Samarasa, which is the Sahaja, becomes at once perfect; no more will he suffer from disease and death.

Say, how can Sahaja be explained? (For) neither body nor speech nor mind can enter into it.

In vain does the Guru preach to the disciple, for how can he explain that which transcends the capacity of all verbal means?

 Zealously practice generosity and moral conduct, 

 But you cannot attain siddhi supreme without a Guru 

 No more than you can drive a chariot without wheels. 

 The wide-winged vulture, innately skilled, 

 Glides high in the sky, ranging far away, 

 And the Guru’s potent precepts absorbed 

 The karmically-destined yogin is content.

Goraksha Vijaya

The following is what one version of Goraksha Vijaya from Bengali folklore tells about the origin of Siddhas – how they were born.

I would start my story worshipping the creator, the formless one.

Creating the universe, sky, earth, and under-earth for fun

As if playing with himself, he worshipped himself, unaware

Who brought awareness in him, who was his pair?

Kanifnath and poetry

Although Kanifnath sings, “…. I am the Kapali, and I have put on a garland of bones . . .”, he also sings the subtle metaphysical equations of the sahajiyas. It may be that the Kapali (or kapalika) is for him a state of mind and that he never practiced the literal interpretation. 

Kanhoba or Kanifnath rejects the intellectual approach, mantra, and visualization, brahmin ritual, the kapalika’s attachment to tantric appearances and conventions. Kanifnath sings of the real kapalika as the ideal Sahaja-siddha who has shaken off all prejudices and partiality, all preconceptions and doctrine, and realized “the ultimate principle of emptiness that arises spontaneously with every movement of the mind.”

Kanifnath’s holy sites and pilgrimages

Kanifnath temple, located at Madhi

The Kanifnath temple, located at Madhi near the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, contains his samadhi, decorated with beautiful stones and carvings. The unique thing about this temple is that the main shrine is in a closed room, and only men are permitted to enter it. It is not just walking through a door!

However, it is interesting that people of all sizes and shapes can get into the shrine. When one reaches the temple around sunset. The evening light shines beautifully on the temple as there are no other hills around.

Kanifnath Temple Madhi 앱 다운로드 2021 - 무료 - 9Apps
Kanifnath Temple, Madhi (Maharashtra)

Kanifnath temple on a hill

The temple of Kanifnath is situated at Saswad, which can be reached from Pune, India. There is also a story that goes far back when Rani (Queen) Yesubai and Balraje Shahu Maharaj, the First, during the 17th century, were under siege by the Mughals (invaders to India).

Kanifnath temple near Saswad – Places near Pune and Mumbai
Kanifnath Mandir, Saswad, Pune (Maharashtra)

Kanifnath shrine in Shirdi

There is also a Kanifnath shrine in Shirdi on the way to Lendi, which Baba used to visit in his lifetime.

Frequently asked questions

Before posting your query, kindly go through them:

Who is Kanifnath?

Kanifnath is considered as an avatar of Prabuddha Narayan is one of Nav Narayan. Kanifnath was a yogi belonging to the Jalandhar branch of Nath Sampradaya. He was a disciple of Jalandharnath.

How was Kanifnath incarnated?

Vishnu’s command – In the forest of the Himalayas, the semen of Brahma fell for the purpose of Saraswati. A little of it fell in the elephant’s ear. Now Prabuddha Narayana should enter it and appear as ‘Kanifnath’.


Which are other names of Kanifnath?

He appears under various names in different stories, such as Krishnacharya, Krishnapada, Kanhupada, Kanpha, Kanha-pa, Kanha, Acharya Charyapa, Kaniphanath, Kanari-Nath, Kanupa, Kanhoba in Maharashtra, and more.




  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanifnath
  • https://mydattatreya.com/anifnath/
  • https://spiritualcave.com/stories-of-navnath-9-yogis/

Related Posts


  1. कानीफ नाथा बद्दल सविस्तर माहिती दिली त्या बद्दल धन्यवाद अशीच माहिती पुरवली तर ज्ञानाचा संग्रहात भर पडेल धन्यवाद

    1. Thanks a lot, dear! I’m trying my best to provide authentic and rare information regarding Navnath for my valuable readers. I hope my valuable readers are availing of the benefits and knowing about these Mahayogis, who selflessly worked for the upliftment of the people. Please stay tuned for knowing about them. Take care and stay safe!!!

  2. कानिफनाथ नाथ सम्प्रदाय के एक योगी हैं। उनके द्वारा प्रवर्तित योग मत हेवज्र साधना और शैव योग साधना का समन्वय है। यह नाथ पन्थ में वामार्ग के रूप में कहा जाता है। नाथ सम्प्रदाय के कई भक्त कानिफनाथ जी को राजयोगी भी कहते हैं।

    1. Thanks for your valuable opinion, Saheb! Navnath were the masters of Yoga and they are primarily known as Yogi. Kanifnath was also one among them, who mastered the various Yogas. It is a new thing for me that Kanifnath is also known as Rajyogi by Nath Sampradaya. Good to know. Please take care and stay safe!!

Comments are closed.