by Shanker Nath Fotedar

 

Chapter I
THE BIRTH, THE ANTECEDENTS AND THE FAMILY

Bhagawaan Gopinath Ji was born on the auspicious Friday, the l9th Har, 1955 (Bikrami), corresponding to 3rd July, 1898 AD at Bhanamohalla, Srinagar (Kashmir), in one of the most highly esteemed Bhan families of the Kashmiri Pandit community.

Bhagawaan Ji's grandfather was Shri Lachhman Joo Bhan, a Wazu Wazaarat (the equivalent of a Deputy Commissioner of these days) in the Dogra regime in the princely State of Jammu and Kashmir.

His father, Pandit Naraayan Joo Bhan, did the pashmina wool business. He was spiritually very advanced and devoted most of his time to religious pursuits. He gave up his ancestral home and other possessions in favour of his stepmother.

Bhagawaan Ji's mother, Shrimati Haara Maalee, was a very pious lady. She was the only daughter of Pt Prasaad Joo Paarimoo, a saint whom people used to call Zada Bharata. He had no issue and adopted a son. Shortly after, while in samaadhi at the Kshir Bhawaani Shrine at Tulamula, he had a vision of Shri Raajnaa Bhagavati, who chided him for having adopted a son, as She Herself was taking birth in his house. Soon after, was born to him a daughter who was destined to be Bhagawaan Ji's mother.

According to Shri J.P. Paarimoo, a flrst cousin of Bhagawaan Ji from the mother's side, Pt Prasaad Joo Paarimoo was a co-disciple of Swaami Anand Ji of Jamanagari, Shopian. Kashmir. 'Satsang' was held as a matter of routine at his house. His second daughter, Zapri Dedi, lost her husband at the very early age of thirteen. She was initiated by her father into japa-yoga and progressed well on the spiritual path, being recognised as a saint when she was around fifty.

Bhagawaan Ji's maternal uncle, Pt Bhagawaan Dass Paarimoo, was a devotee of the Divine Mother in her Shaarikaa Bhagawati form. He performed every day the parikrarnaa of Haari Parvat, the abode of Shri Shaarikaa. 'He would be back home at dawn. De- silting the holy spring at Pokhribal (at the foot of Haari Parvat) once or twice a year was a regular practice. Gopinath was the man to descend into the spring and perform the laborious work of removing the mud, the accumulaled rotten flowers and other things which had settled at the bottom of the spring because of the indiscriminate offerings of the devotees to the spring. An annual yajna was performed at Pokhribal. Sat-sang, and the teaching of the various scriptures like Yoga Vaashishtha was a regular feature of our domestic routine'.

Bhagawaan Ji had two brothers. The one elder to him was called Pt Govind Joo Bhan, He was an employee in the Customs and Excise Department, and died in 1946 AD. He was a bachelor and maintained Bhagawaan Ji. His younger brother, Pt Jia Lal, was a draftsman in the State PWD and had been adopted in a family of the Kaaks living at Sathu, Srinagar. He was married but had no issue. He, too, was spiritually very advanced and very liberal towards saadhus and the poor. He passed away in 1964 AD.

Bhagawaan Ji had two sisters. The sister elder to him, Shrimati Deva Maali, was widowed at an early age after giving birth to two daughters. It was her tender care that sustained Bhagawaan Ji during the period of his rigorous saadhanaa. She remained with him for a major portion of his life, taking care of his food, clothing and so on. She died in 1965 AD. She had two daughters. The elder one, Shfimati Kamalaa Ji, died after giving birth to a son and two daughters. It was in her house that Bhagawaan Ji lived for about eleven years at Chondapora, and gave up the gross body. Shrimati Dev Mali's younger daughter, Chaandaa Ji, is alive. Before Bhagawaan Ji moved to the house of Kamalaa Ji, he lived in her house for about ten years at Rishi Mohalla, Srinagar. She served him very well during this period and also when he lived at Rangteng, Srinagar (1930-37) during the period of his intense saadhanaa.

Bhagawaan Ji's younger sister, Shrimati Jaanaki Devi, was widowed at an early age after giving birth to two sons and two daughters. She, too, used to serve him on specific occasions and was very much devoted to him.

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