It means that an ordinary
animal serves the mankind throughout its life and
even after its death its body is useful. Several
things can be prepared out of its hide and bones
for the benefit of the man. But this is not the
case of mankind. After the death of a man nothing
is being utilised out of his mortal remains. So
long a man is alive, if he does the work for the
benefit of mankind and be useful for all, his name
will remain even after his death.
Our Swami Ashokananda
comes under the category of the immortals by his
service and his name has been well
He was born in a poor
Mukherjee Brahmin family in a small village in
Jessore district now in Bangla Desh. When he was
of three years age, his
father died and he was left
alone with his elder brother aged 12 and widowed
mother. Being poor, they had to live a hard life
on the earnings of the lady and her first son.
Our Dinabandhu, to be
known afterwards as Swami Ashokananda, was a very
calm and quiet natured boy but his elder brother
was of rash temper. Even for a small fault he used
to beat poor Dinabandhu and his mother was very
much worried about the behaviour of her elder son.
Dinabandhu was enrolled
in a school as per tradition at his fifth year. He
had to walk bare-footed in adverse conditions to
his school far away from his home. His teacher was
also of harsh temper and if the boy was late on
any day he too used to beat him. Neither in the
school nor at his own home he was getting any
affection and he started to remain absent from the
school frequently and preferred to sit under a
mango tree in deep contemplation.
One day he was severely
beaten up by his brother for his frequent absence
from school and he was warned that if he persisted
in doing so, he would be driven out of his house.
His mother also admonished him without realising
the boy's plight. The poor boy could not tolerate
such kind of treatment for long, both in the house
and in the school and one day he took to his heels
It was said that for
years he did not appear. Some said that he went to
Himalayas, some that he was doing Sadhana in some
unknown place. After a prolonged period of
absence, he came in contact with His Holiness Shri
Sachitananda Maharaj known as Dadaji. Dadaji was a
staunch disciple of Holy Mother Sharada Devi. He
was a renowned Sanyasi of those days. Under
Dadajis kind guidance, his spiritual pursuit
It was not known as to
how he was called Ashokananda, though some
attributed that he was called so because of his
constant meditation for hours under an Ashoka tree.
One day in the early
hours of dawn, he had a dream in which a young
tall Sanyasi of divine face standing before him
and keeping his right hand on his head as an 'Ashirwad'
and advising him not to waste his time there but
to go to Kashmir valley instead, and try to
continue the incomplete work which he could not
finish himself during his lifetime.
When Ashokananda woke up,
he could not still get over the dream and
mentioned this to Dadaji and on his advice left on
his quest to Kashmir.
Sometime in 1935-36, he
reached Sumbal and stayed there for a year or two.
He was not satisfied and moved this time to a
hilly place near Achhabal village which later came
to be called Nagdandi. This place was surrounded
by thick pine trees and had many natural springs
gushing with clear water. In Kashmir valley, Nag
means spring and there were many such springs:
Kokar Nag, Beri Nag, Anant Nag, Nag Dandi etc. In
this area, Ashokananda selected a gigantic pine
tree and sat under it for his Sadhana.
He sat bare-bodied
regardless of snow and rain and none knew that
such a person was residing there for a long time.
The jungle was thick and none would dare to enter
it as it was under the control of the Maharaja of
Kashmir for his hunting sprees. The place was
inhabitated by a number of tigers, panthers,
wolves and several varieties of stags.
Swamiji was absolutely
fearless and the dangerous animals also were not
afraid of him and hence there seemed to be a close
rapport between them. Many times, the wood cutters
appeared to have noticed Swamiji in deep
meditation and many animals Iying about him
without fear. The news soon spread and people
started flocking to see this unusal sight and have
the darshan of Swamiji. It was said that many
times Swamiji used to order the animals to go away
from near him to permit the visitors to come close
to him and they used to obey him like tamed
Once Maharaja Hari Singh
of Kashmir, accompanied by his guards happened to
pass through the jungle when he espied a young
Sanyasi sitting under a pine tree in deep
meditation. He was surprised to see the wonderful
sight of a radiant young Sanyasi still as if in
trance. He and his guards dismounted and watched
him for more than half an hour but still there was
no movement of any limbs of Swamiji. Suddenly a
horse neighed and disturbed the silence. Swamiji
opened his eyes and saw before him some royal
person and his attendants, standing with fear and
awe writ on their faces for having disturbed him
The Maharaja was quick to
offer his apologies but Swamiji smiled this away
and soon both of them fell into a long close
conversation. Maharaja Hari Singh was deeply
impressed by Swamji and after receiving his
Ashirwad left the place with his retinue promising
to call on him again. Then began his frequent
visits to Swamiji and Yuvaraj Karan Singh was also
one of those who accompanied his father when he
Their visits in turn
encouraged visits by others and as no proper
shelter was avilable for all, a small hut with a
kitchen was constructed in the beginning.
Gradually some disciples donated lands and some
more lands were also purchased and
more rooms were
His discourse at Satsang
was becoming popular and many people from other
parts of Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi, Bombay, Kanpur
and even from abroad started to visit the Ashram.
He was a very good singer and used to play on
Sitar or Been. Soon a small temple for Thakur Sri
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and a guest-house were
also added. By 1948, the Ashram acquired about 7
acres of land and an apple orchard was started to
make the Ashram self-sufficient for its
maintenance. The Ashram has now about 800 fruit
bearing trees of 17 varieties. The revenue earned
by the auction of annual crop harvests meets the
major share of the expenses of the Ashram.
The period between 1935
and 1970 was a golden era for the Ashram. It
became a pilgrim centre attracting people from far
and near, without distinction between rich and
poor, caste and creed, literate and illiterate.
Thousands used to take part in Sri Ramakrishna and
Ma Sharada jayanthis celebrated here.
Swami Ashokananda was a
perfect Sadhak but he never performed any
miracles. His sound advice and kind look were the
only remedy he offered to those who visited him.
He was so simple that even in the severe winter he
wore only a simple dhoti and a chaddar which
impressed the visitors very much. Occasionally he
used to visit Bombay, Delhi or Calcutta at the
pressing invitations of his admirers and
During the later part of
1970, Swamiji was not keeping well. He was anxious
about the continuance of the work after him. Being
an ardent disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, he was keen
that the Ashram should be taken over by Sri
Ramakrishna Mutt. He also came to know of the
reluctance on the part of Sri Ramakrishna Mutt to
take up any new commitments due
to their own
preoccupations with other centres. He sent an
invitation to Sri Eknathji on the advice of a
Sri Eknathji visited
Kashmir and called on the Swamiji
who was sick
and a bed in Dr. Giyalal Ogra's house at Srinagar.
Swamiji told him of his
interest in handing over the Ashram to Sri
Ramakrishna Mutt or to the Kendra for its proper
running after him.
Sri Eknathji too was
reluctant to accept the proposal and he informed
Swamiji that he will talk and persuade Ramakrishna
Mission authorities to accept his offer.
However in the meantime
Swamiji passed away and in his will he expressed
his desire to handover the properties of the
Ashram to Ramakrishna Mission or Vivekananda
Soon it became clear that
Sri Ramakrishna Mutt was not taking up the Ashram
and thus it came into the possession of the
attained the Maha Samadhi in December 1971. As per
his wishes, his mortal remains were cremated at
the premises of the Ashram which he used to call
his Tapo-bhumi and Karma-bhumi. Thousands of his
devotees thronged to the funeral, covering long
distance from Jammu and other areas to Nagadandi.
His eternal Soul
continues to shed its blessings on the Ashram
which was dear to him.