by Chander M. Bhat
Saints and sages all over the world claim to have had
a divine experience, which they say is too rich for words. Such God-intoxicated
persons are called mystics in the technical sense of the word. As William James
has rightly pointed out, ineffability is one of the main characteristics of
mystic experience. It has been very aptly said, “The history of a country is, to
a great extent, the history of its great men and women………” One of the
outstanding figures of 20th century in Kashmir is Bhagawaan Gopinath Ji.
Bhagawaan Gopinath Ji, born at Banamohalla in
Kashmir, was such a great soul who sang the glory of the divine in the prime of
his youth. He was born on 3rd July 1898 AD in one of the most esteemed Bhan
families of the Kashmiri Pandit community. Right from his boyhood he showed some
extraordinary signs to do something extraordinary. As per his biographers this
great soul left the worldly attachments at the age of 39 and practiced intense
saadhanaa. During this period he was so intensely engaged in saadhanaa that at
times he would not eat till days together. As per his biographers, this great
soul had passed 8th standard and it was often seen that at times he would quote
some English sentences. He could also read Hindi and Sanskrit. He was also well
versed in Urdu and Persian. Bhagawaan Ji had also visited different shrines in
and around Srinagar and had learnt different Sanskrit verses by heart. He would
recite these verses while visiting to different shrines. His daily routine
started with morning pooja, which was common in every Kashmiri Pandit home.
After taking a cup of tea at 9 a.m. he would continue the pooja and at times it
lasted for about 12 to 20 hours. During pooja he would fill his chillum and
Bhagawaanji was a born celibate and remained a celibate throughout his life. In
advanced years of his life, he performed some miracles and people thronged to
visit his holy person. By and by he was known in every nook and corner of
Kashmir. It was during the last years of his life that Bhagawaanji was fully
discovered and many personalities from outside Kashmir also started to visit
After the Mahasamadhi of this great soul in the year 1968, a group of persons
who were daily visitors of Bhagawaanji at Chandpora (Srinagar) and devoted to
him started an Ashrama in the premises of Durga Mandir at Kharyar, Srinagar,
which in later years expanded its activities. After the mass exodus of Kashmiri
Pandits from Kashmir Valley, one such ashram was established each at Jammu and
Delhi. Some biographies of this great soul were published and message of
Bhagawaanji spread like incense.
Jagadguru Bhagawaan Gopinath Ji was ‘discovered’ during the middle of the last
century. Today, a century later, there is a call to draw up an agenda for
rediscovering Bhagawaanji. Why ‘rediscovering’? Did we lose sight of Bhagawaanji
somewhere along the hundred-year long route that we have now to discover him
No, that certainly is not the case. We did not lose Bhagawaanji, but after
discovering him we probably did not, or could not, give much time and energy to
getting to know him well enough. The persistent, uneasy feeling that colossal
significance haunts one and value of Bhagawaanji’s place in the unfolding
history of the world is yet to be discovered. Bhagawaan Gopinath Ji is known and
yet unknown, understood and yet largely misunderstood, adored and yet not
The attempts to rediscover giant personalities like Bhagawaan Gopinath Ji need
to be made from time to time. These personalities seem to grow with time,
although it is really our own understanding that grows, reveling greater and
deeper meaning. Those who lived during Bhagawaanji’s time and knew him at close
quarters had, of course, every opportunity to rediscover him.
An attempt needs to be made to draft a possible agenda to rediscover Bhagawaanji
today. This possible agenda will be only possible by working for the draft most
honestly and accurately, which in other sense is called ‘true service’ at the
feet of Bhagawaan Ji.
There were two brothers, one was married, and other was a bachelor. They owned a
farm and shared its produce fifty-fifty. The soil was fertile and they reaped a
rich harvest every year. All went well for a few years. Then something
The married brother began to wake up with a start from his sleep at night and
think, ‘it is not fair. My brother isn’t married. He needs to save much more for
the future than me; a married man with a wife and five kids. I have all the
security in the world. But what security has my poor brother? Who will look
after him in his old age? My kids will care for me when I am old. My brother’s
need is greater than mine.’ With that the married man would leave his bed, steal
over to his brother’s granary and pour there a sackful of his own share of
Now the bachelor brother too began to get these nightly attacks. He would wake
up from his sleep and think, ‘It’s too bad that I should accept an equal share
of the farm’s produce as my brother who has a family to maintain. I am single
and my needs are minimal. He has got to support his wife and children. He
deserves a larger share.’ So this brother would get up, take a sackful of grain
from his stock and empty it stealthily into his brother’s granary.
Once it so happened that they got out of the bed at the same time and ran into
each other, each carries a grain-filled sack on his back!
Years later, when the townsfolk wanted to build a temple (the story of the two
brothers, who had passed away, had leaked out by then) they chose the spot where
the two brothers had met that night. ‘This is the holiest of all places in this
town,’ the elders said, and a temple was constructed there.
This story can serve as a good starting point for our discussion. Yes, service
is indeed a holy act and the place where service is done is a holy place. Above
all, only a holy person can give true service.
Five point programme needs to be drafted for rediscovering Bhagawaanji, which
are discussed as under:
The persons who lived during the Bhagawaanji’s times can work as catalyst in
doing the research work on the life and teaching of this great soul of Kashmir.
Since majority of these people who were closely associated with Bhagawaanji by
one way or the other are scattered all over India, they need to be identified by
way of advertising in the Ashrama Patrika or through Koshur Samachar. The
feedback from these persons will be based on the questionnaire to be published
with the advertisement. This feedback from the persons associated with
Bhagwaanji at Kashami will be an authentic material and the same could be
published in a bookform. This needs an immediate action, as majority of these
people will be in old age. Thus by obtaining the information from these people
will help us in recording the material which has not been published till date.
Several factors influence the attempts to assess the achievements and
significance of World Teachers. Emotion is one of them. Emotions play a major
role in the way devotees and admirers assess the Teacher. An emotional
assessment may be music to the ears of those who are on the same wavelength, but
it usually leaves others cold. Another factor influencing the assessment of
World Teachers is social relevance. Pragmatists assess a personality on the
basis of its relevance to individuals and society. Such assessments naturally
need periodic updating, changing with time. Another factor, which also needs to
be updated constantly, is the historical perspective.
Formation of study circles in respect of life and teachings of Bhagwaanji among
the school going children is another factor, which needs attention. These study
circles leaves a permanent impact on the undeveloped brains and they in turn can
make their personality in coming years. These study circles can highlight the
life and teachings of the great masters in the world and will be a boon in
shaping the future of our offspring.
A masterplan should be drafted for starting a research journal on different
activities of the Ashram and on the life and teachings of Bhagwaanji. One such
attempt has been made by the Delhi Ashram by publishing a bi-monthly journal “Prakash”.
But the standard of this journal does not suffice the goal as the articles on
the history and culture of Kashmir are being published in the said journal. This
journal should exclusively be printed on different themes of ashram and
Bhagawaanji. One column should be kept exclusively for the research articles
contributed by the people who lived in Bhagawaanji’s times.
Lastly let me quote Swami Vivekananda, “Perfect sincerity, holiness, gigantic
intellect and an all conquering will; let only a handful of men work with these,
and the whole world will be revolutionized.”
NOTES AND REFERENCES
Jagadguru Bhagawaan Gopinathji by Sh. S.N.
Fotedar, 1991 edition.
Kashmiri Pandits: A Cultural Heritage by Prof S. Bhat, 1995 edition
The Four Holy Abodes of God by Swami Sadashivananda, 1981 edition
Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda (8 Volumes),
Patrika Vol IX (Special), No: 1