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Articles from Pre-1998 Issues 

Jagat Guru Bhagawaan Gopinath Ji

by B. N. Fotedar

On the 30th December 1993, hundreds of men, women and children surged to the newly built prayer hall for Bhagawaan Gopinath Ji, at Bohri, Talab-Tilloo, Jammu, chanting the mantra 'Om Namo Bhagawate Gopinathaya'. Their faces reflected joy and radiance and extreme pride. The event.was the inauguration of a newly built prayer hall and the installation of Bhagawaan Ji's marble statue there in, for hours, devotees thronged the place and paid their homage and sought blessings from the immortal saint. One was left wondering about the personality of this saint who could so inspire people even after throwing away his mortal coil, 25 years ago.

Before dwelling on the life sketch of Bhagawaan Ji, it will be relevant to recall the role of saints in this world. Saints hallow this world. When man forgets the ultimate purpose of life, saints appear and with the surging tide of their devotion redirect the course of humanity. These saints have no creed, cast, colour or country Their approach is universal. It is out of the prayer of a whole society that a saint is born to show human beings the path of righteousness for self-realisation. Our country has produced a galaxy of saints and sufis who have not only enriched the life here but also left their deep imprint on the culture and way of life of the people.

Such a saint was Gopinath Ji, who in his life time achieved great spiritual enlightenment that people in affection addressed him as Bhagawaan (Gopinath Ji). He was born on the 3rd July, 1898, in a humble Bhan family in Srinagar, Kashmir. He is stated to have read upto the middle standard (a rare achievement during those times). He was well conversant with Sanskrit, Persian, English and old Sharda languages. He started his life with a grocer's store but after 2 years he closed it and took up employment in a printing firm. He gave up this job also after about 2 years much against the wishes of the employer who wanted him to continue. After this, he took to the path of spiritualism. He began his spiritual quest with frequent visits to the great shrines of Kashmir like "Goddess Sharika" at Hari Parabat, Srinagar, as well as shrines of 'Khir Bhawani, Jawalamukhi, Jayastheva Bhagwati, Gupt Ganga, Badar Kali and Mahadev hill. He often stayed at these shrines for long periods. He made 2 pilgrimages to the holy Amarnath cave. He remained celibate throughout his life and lived with different relatives from time to time. He resorted to intense Sadhna at 39 years of age at 'Rangteng" in Srinagar for about 7 years. He renounced all other activities and immersed himself in the contemplation of Parambrahma. It is stated that during this period he did not allow anyone to enter his room and even disliked any sweeping . His only companion was a 'Diya' (oil lamp). After 7 years, he shifted from this place and moved to other relative's homes by turn. From 1949 till his death on the 28th May, 1968, he stayed at one place at Chandpora, Srinagar. The later part of his Sadhana was devoted to the worship of Lord Shiva and Lord Narayana, though it is not clear to which he gave priority in his heart. May be he had made a synthesis of both.

From 1949 onwards, people flocked to offer their homage to Bhagawaan Ji. They were sometimes seen occupying in even the stairs outside his spacions room. He sat on his Asan for 24 hours and took no food except a cup of Kashmiri tea (Kahwa). He smoked his chillum continuously gazing heavenward as if in communion with higher beings or absorbed in intense Sadhana. It must have been his intense Sadhna which sustained his body without regular food, though the physical effects of emaciation etc were apparent. He, however, made light of these problems and once exclaimed that the body was all muck and perishable, meaning thereby that it was the spirit or the soul that needed to be nurtured and cared for. He never preached and seldom spoke directly. He would some times mutter to himself which the devotees present could not follow or understand. His body had to be nudged when he was requested to reply to a query. During the later part of his Sadhna (for about last 20 years of his life), the practice of lighting of a 'Dhooni' (sagri type in which wood or characoal is burnt) was adopted in which he made the usual offerings. He would sometimes poke the fire with a pair of tongs himself. However, a few days before leaving his mortal coil he had desired the lighting of tbe 'Dhooni' to be stopped.

It is believed that saints do not normally interfere with the laws of nature but they are known to help people in their difficulties. Bhagawaan Ji followed this practice of helping human beings in distress and when this was.pointed out to him he averted that ants cannot on their own cross a river unless they were carried on strong shoulders. The reference was to the guiding role of saints in crossing the ocean of Maya. He was filled with compassion and was fond of listening to classical and sofiana music. This encouraged the classical singers to sing in his presence usually on Sundays. These singers included Hindus and Muslims alike and all were welcome in his presence. He was fully conscious of his surroundings and to the threat of the security of Kashmir and indeed of other parts of India and made herculean efforts on the spiritual level to ward off such threats in 1947 and then again in 1965.

A few incidents of help to his devotees are briefly stated here though there are scores of such incidents in which Bhagawaan Ji played the role of a messiah.

In 1947, he asked a devotee who was posted at Baramalla to move to Srinagar with all his belongings. This was 2 months before the raiders looted the town and razed the buildings to the ground.

A lady who had been confirmed for leukemia was given 'Bhasm' by Bhagawaan Ji and was cured of the disease much to the surprise of her doctor a leading physician at that time.

In 1946, after paying his obescience at the holy shrine of Amar Nath, he detained his party for a few hours much to their chagrin while all other Yatris were seen going on. When he finally allowed them to move, they found that a freak cloudburst had rendered the Yatris who had proceeded there, miserable with cold and drenched at Mahaguns pass, a few miles away from the holy cave.

A devotee had a serious problem while attending to the marriage of the daughter of a relative. The marriage ceremony was performed in one room but in the other the father of the bride was in his death throes. The devotee was perplexed and approached Bhagawaan Ji for help. Bhagawaan Ji uttered the words loudly "Tell him to wait till tomorrow." Thereafter, Bhagawaan Ji accompanied the devotee to the site of marriage and saw the bride and bridegroom off. The father died the next day.

Such was the spiritual eminence of Bhagawaan Ji that one day a learned Acharya from Banaras visited him and enquired of the only devotee present there in the morning about the spiritual status of Bhagawaan Ji. The devotee was perplexed as he could not make such an assessment but Bhagawaan Ji came to his rescue after coming off his reverie and recited saloka No.6 of chapter XV of Shrimad Bhagwat Gita. Translated this verse means "that the sun does not illumine me nor the moon nor the fire that is my supreme stage reaching which one does not return to life."

Even though Bhagawaan Ji never moved out of Kashmir, a lot of people from outside knew him and came to pay their homage to him. Even after he attained 'Nirvana' people not only from India but also from far away countries like Australia came to seek his blessings. His Ashram in Srinagar is still intact even though all the surrounding buildings have been targets of arson.

There is therefore no doubt that his spiritual eminence and prowess are the guiding principles to which people are attracted, some for redressal of their worldly ills while others for their spiritual advancement.

Let this beacon light guide people to spiritual progress so that this country regains her position of leading the world to high thinking and great moral values.
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