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Ancient and Modern Ascetics in Kashmir

- An Introduction by Sh. G. N. Raina

The history of India has for its landmarks not wars and emperors but saints and scriptures.
- Dr. S. Radhakrishanan

The nations have a history as well as geography. They grow not by the sun and stars, the wind and rain but by the creative Spirits who by precept and practice, work toward the establishment of universal brotherhood of man, overcoming the artificial barriers of caste, creed or colour.

In the last millennium, Kashmir, as also the rest of India, has produced a galaxy of great saints, seers and savants who have enriched, elevated and refined life and helped the people at large in distress. In India, we have had illustrious God-men like Kabir, Tulsi, Surdas, Tuka Ram, Srikrishna Chaitanya, Eknath, Narsi Mehta, Tyagaraja, Dhyaneshwar, Tiruvalluvar, Namdev, Mirabai, Dayanand, Guru Nanak, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Vivekananda, Swami Ram, Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi, Ramana Maharishi, Sri Satya Sai Baba, and Sri Aurobindo. In Kashmir, too, we have had the great fortune of producing greatsaints like Lalleshwari, Rupa Bhawani, Sheikh Nuruddin, Parmanand, Rishipir, Jeewan Shah, Lassa Sahib, Anandji, Ramji, Sahib Kaul, Manas Razdan, Zaikak, Kakaji Mastana, Grata Bab, Ramjoo Tabardar, Vidya Dar, Shankar Razdan, Bhagwaan Gopinath Ji, Kashkak, Sona Kak, Nandlal Ji, Swami Lakshman Joo, Sati Devi and Mathura Devi.

These saints belong to all times and to all nations. They transcend the bonds of communities and conventions, place and time. They are born to serve God by serving His creatures. A saint, a seer and a sage is, indeed an universal phenomenon.

In the present troubled times when the people of the Valley, Kashmiri Pandits in particular, are passing through untold miseries, the only solace comes from our glorious philosophic and spiritual traditions enriched by our saints and sufis. The sayings of Lalla Arifa echo and re- echo to this day. She sang in the language of the masses. A mystic of the purest ray serene, Lalla urged the people to rise above caste, creed and colour and see the light within.

    "SHIV CHHUY THALI THALI ROZAN,
    MO ZAAN HYUND TA MUSALMAN,
    TRUK AY CHHAUK TA PAN PANUN PARZANAV,
    SOI CHHAY SAHIBAS SATI ZANI ZAN"

    (Siva is all-pervading and present in each particle. 
    Never differentiate between a Hindu and a Muslim.
    If you are shrewd and intelligent, know THY SELF. 
    There lies acquaintance with god".)

Long after her, Parmanand gave us a recipe for attaining peace of mind.
"SANTOSHI BYALI BHAVI ANAND PHAL" 
(Contentment leads to perennial joy and bliss.)
We have not been able to collect details of most of our saints and seers. But a good number of them are represented here and most of these have been drawn from our special numbers issued in the past. We are grateful to the learned authors whose articles on various saints have been reproduced here for the benefit of all, particularly our youth, who, I am sure, will derive inspiration and strength from the lives of these Sages and Seers.

Featured Collections

Acharya Abhinavagupta
Abhinavagupta was a great scholar and Shaiva teacher, who possessed knowledge in all matters relating to Kashmir Shaivism. The versatility of this genius was recognised in his own time. He was one of the best authorities on Shaiva philosophy and various branches of Sanskrit literature.
>>>
Utpaladeva
Very little is known about Utpala, the great mystic Saint of Kashmir, except that he might have lived somewhere in Nauhatta (Navyut) in Srinagar. From some authors on Kashmir Shaivism and his contemporaries we find that he was a Brahmin and lived a married life around the middle of 900 A.D. He was the son of Udayakar.
>>>
Lal Ded
Kashmir has produced many saints, poets and mystics. Among them, Lal Ded is very prominent. In Kashmir, some people consider her a poet, some consider her a holywoman and some consider her a sufi, a yogi, or a devotee of Shiva. Sume even consider her an avtar.
>>>
  Nunda Reshi
S
heikh Nur-ud-din, endearingly and in veneration called Nunda Rishi, has left an indelible mark on the thinking and culture of all Kashmiris. The great sage was one of the twin stars of medieval Kashmir along with Lalleshwari (Lal Ded) with whom he shared the intensity of mystic experience whose profundity remains unrivalled to this day. >>>
Rupa Bhawani
Rupa Bhawani was the second great mystic poet of 17th century. She had a great and deep experience of ups and downs of life. The worldly sufferings showed her the path of spiritual life. Her spiritual 'Guru' was her father Pandit Madhav Joo Dhar who initiated her into the mysteries and practices of yoga. She gave rich mystic poetry to Kashmiri language. In her poetry, we can find the influence of both Kashmir Shaivism and Islamic Sufism.
>>>
  Pir Pandit Padshah (Rishi Pir)
Reshi Pir Pandit was one of the greatest saints of Kashmir of the 17th Century A.D. He was a Karmyogin type of a Saint who helped people both in spiritual and temporal pursuits and he became famous as "PIR PANDlT PADSHAH HARDU JAHAN MUSHKIL ASAN" i.e. Emperor of two worlds and answer to difficulties of all kinds. >>>
Riche Ded
Riche Ded, an eminent poetess, seer and philosopher of Kashmir, who lived through the twentieth century was shrouded in mystery. It was only twelve years after her death that her literary compositions first saw the light of the day. For a while it seemed that the illustrious Lal Ded of the fourteenth century had taken yet another birth.
>>>
  Swami Jeewan Shah
Shah
Jeewan Shah, an outstanding Saint of the 18th Century was born in Motiyar Mohalla of Rainawari Srinagar (Kashmir). A highly evolved Saint with tremendous spiritual power, his miracles are legion. >>>
Swami Parmanand
Parmanand rose to enviable eminence not only as a saint, but also as a poet articulating spiritual insights. Born in the family of a village Patwari he was named Nanda or Nanda Ram, and his persistent endeavour transformed him into Parmanand (Parma Ananda, i.e. Supreme Bliss).
>>>
  Swami Ramji
In the middle of the
19th century AD there lived a Brahmin named Shukdev at Chinkral Mohalla, Srinagar. The Brahmin was a Purohit and lived a pious life. Around 1852 AD (1910 Bikrami), a son was born to him. According to his horoscope, it was predicted at his birth that the baby would grow to be a great saint. >>>
Swami Vidyadhar
Right from his boyhood Vidyadhar astounded everyone by his sharp intellect and humility. He had a sharp memory and a resolute disposition. For his devout behavior and ability, he was deeply loved by his teachers and others. >>>
  Bhagwan Gopinathji
Bhagwaanji was veritably God in the human form. This became unmistakably evident to the discerning among his devotees who found him ever-absorbed in the universal consciousness. He would come down to our plane of consciousness only when prompted to answer queries by the seekers and would then instantly return to his exalted state of divine bliss.
>>>
Swami Kashkak
Manigaam, the silent sleepy village in the north of Kashmir, produced in the early part of this century a gem of a Faqir, a Mastana, who led a normal life of a Grahasta, and, earned his bread by tilling whatever little land he possessed till the end of his life.
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  Swami Nand Babh
Who is there in Srinagar who has not seen at one time or the other, a quick-walking, queer-looking nimble man with a big hat on his head and a tight belt round his waist, taking long strides in quick succession along the streets of the city and elsewhere?
>>>
Swami Lakshman Joo
It is only when you met him, as I did for an interview in 1971, that you would feel his irresistible charm emanating from that sweet child-like innocence which hid from our naked eye his spiritual and philosophic attainments. As a man, he was upright, humble and very generous. Hundreds and thousands flocked to him for succor and he was not found wanting in this respect. Many an afflicted found solace in his presence.
>>>
  Swami Aftab Joo Wangnoo
Swami, was forthright in telling that as the bird employs two wings to fly, one has to practise spirituality and undertake worldly duties simultaneously, i.e., "combine parmarth and vevhar".
>>>
Swami Ashokananda
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.
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  Swami Govind Kaul
His devotional lyrics reveal that he was deeply influenced by the thought-current of Mansurul-Halaj as well and he freely used the popular idiom of his own Kashmiri dialect, being a blend of Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic. His songs are rich in imagery, and the vocabulary he employs to convey his inner experiences suggests, unmistakably, how he too must have followed the same spiritual path that Lalleshwari had treaded several centuries before him.
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Shri Sarada Devi
The Holy Mother, Shri Sarada Devi, symbolizes the ideal motherhood of women, ancient and modern. Her life is an enigma. On the surface, it appears to be just the homely life of a Bengali Brahmin lady, mostly in a rural setting. Yet her deportment discloses unmistakable marks of dignity and love of an order that may easily be called superhuman.
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  Swami Govindananda
Swami Govindananda lived for many years in Kashmir and commanded great respect in the Valley. He was a rare saint, a yogi par excellent, who was visibly discernible as such to the thoughtful among his devotees. He was a fountainhead of inspiration to many truth-seek
ers, who included Kashmiri Pandits in bulk. >>>
Krishna Joo Razdan
Razdan Sahib is proud of Kashmiri language which is the principal medium of his poetic expression. He regards it dearest to the Mother Goddess. He is convinced that salvation for Kashmiris is attainable only by singing praises of the Mother Goddess in Kashmiri language.
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  Swami Kish Bab
He was a Siddha, a Mystic, a man above rituals, ever conscious, awake and alert. A firm believer in the law of Karma, he had seen his previous births and would not hesitate to tell that he has been head of fishermen in one of his previous births.
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Mathra Devi
Our mystic-saint Mathra Devi, came in the 19-20th century. The Devi threw off her mortal frame, after 106 years, at Verinag on January 5, 1985. An embodiment of sadhana and tapasya, Mathra was in many respects the Lalla reborn.
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  Swami Anand Ji Maharaj of Villagam
The life of Bab Sahib as wide and deep as the infinite ocean in which we can dive deep so as to take precious gems of Bhakti. The stories are wonderful and give peace and happiness to those who are afflicted with distress and heavy miseries of this material world.
>>>
Pandit Satlal Siboo
"Mysterious are the ways of nature, which produce vibrations for accelerating the psychophysical potential in the embodied soul. Para-Prakrati is evolutionary process explained in the Kashmir-Shakta school of thought. The 'Bhawani Sahasranama' establishes this fact, which brings co-existence in 'Mood-Prakrati and 'Mool-Prakrati," says a son of the soil of Kashmir, Pandit Satlal Siboo
. >>>
  Pandit Raghu Nath Kukiloo
While he had fathomed the depths of the Shakta philosophy of Kashmir, which he would interpret in his own unique manner, Pandit Kukiloo's understanding of the Vedantic and Shaiva philosophies was equally profound.
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Swami Mast Ram Ji
Swami Jee is full of siddhis, but doe not believe in performing miracles, except where the need arises for the benefit of his devotees and humankind. It is not possible to illustrate and mention about his miracles. These must be seen to be believed.
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  Swami Neelkanth Sharma Ji

Pt. Nilakanth Sharma was born at Dab Wakoora, Shadipur (Tehsil Ganderbal, Srinagar), on 21st June, 1888 to Pt. Shankar Joo and Sukhmal. His family originally belonged to Ganpatyar locality of Srinagar. Pt. Ramjoo, one of his ancestors, had gone in adoption to a Sharma family of Dab Wakoora. >>>

Karunamai Maa
Karunamai Maa believed in purity in all phases of life. She taught that cleanliness of mind is as essential for the spiritual growth as physical one. She adored deities in temple with choicest dresses and ornaments and was herself dressed well. She lived by the principle of "sound mind in a sound body".
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  Master Zinda Kaul
Masterji built his personality brick by brick. The foundation for this was provided. by the Hindu mystic lore especially by the Kashmir Shaivism. Vedanta and the Upanishads also acted as the cementing link to make it more broad-based. Both are portrayed most eloquently in his 'Sumaran'.
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Swami Nand Lal Ji
Swami Nand Lal Ji was a brahmachari and was incarnated with sainthood by His Holiness Swami Lal Ji of Banaras. Swami Lal Ji, a great yogi, was so much impressed with the deeds of his shishya that at one point of time, he would offer his Aasana to him, which the latter would not accept as it is not right in the Guru-Shishya relationship.
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  Posh Bub
“Posh Mot” hardly needs any introduction. A religious leader of integrity and a spiritual guide imparts religious guidance to number less devotees and disciples. >>>
Swami Harkak Ji
Param Gyani Shri Swami Har Kak ji Maharaj of Bamhama (Kupwara), Kashmir alias Shri Swami Hari Ram ji Dhar also affectionately called as Swami Har Bab Ji by the simple masses of Northern Kashmir. Swami ji was born in village Bamhama, Kupwara in B. Samat 1960 on Asuj Krishna Pakshi Triyadashi (1903) BC in a common Kashmiri Pandit Gharana of Dhar - a farmer and served as an ordinary employee of P.W.D. as well.
>>>
  Swami Nilkanth Ji
His brother was Ramchand Janda, known in the vicinity of Drabiyar popularly as Ramajanda. He was a shopkeeper selling all sorts of goods besides healing people from various ailments. His eye drops were a guarded secret. Over the age of 90, he wore a white T-shirt and Khaki shorts and then you would see him riding his bicycle through the summer breeze of Srinagar. 
>>>

Saint Poet Madsudhan Razdan Saint Poet Madsudhan Razdan

Kashmir the abode of Shiva and Shakti has given birth to many saints, seers, sofis and poets. In the field of literature, especially in spiritual poetry, we have seen works of Lelded, Nund Reshi,  Permanand Krishan Joo Razdan, Shamas Faqir etc who maintained high values of humanity among general masses through their poetry. >>>

 

Paramhans Swami Poornanand ji Saraswati

It was sometime in 1958 our family came in contact with a saint of great merit,  Paramhans Swami Poornanand ji Saraswati.  He was staying at Shesharma, a village on the outskirts of Udaipur district.  Hehailed from Kashmir.  It was on our intense persuasion he agreed to stay with us. >>>

 

Janki Nath Dhar Sahib

A pious and religious minded man Sh Kanth Nath Dhar  of Dhar, Sahib family and Bhardwaj gotra living at Khan-kahi-sokhta  Safakadal Srinagar Kashmir  and married to Shrimati Kudmali of Badeepora (Chadoora) from  very renowned pious Bhat family, were bestowed with four sons. The  eldest son born on 28-4-1902, was very lovely charming and shining like a star. The boy was very brilliant graceful,religious minded and well devoted towards his parents and Krishn preima, from his very child hood and named Nandlal. >>>

 

Swami Syamanandji MaaharajSwami Syamanandji

Swami Syamanandji Maaharaj was born at Ganpatyar, Srinagar in the Jattu family with the Gotra Dev Bardwaj. His original name was Som Nath. He lost his father Sh. Mahadev Jattoo at a very young age. Being the elder son of the family he took all the responsibilities of his family and worked hard to fulfill their needs. >>>

Kamlawati KachruKamlawati Kachru

Smt. Kamlawati Kachru (maiden name as Radha) was born in the family of Kouls (nicknamed as Bonis), residents of Reshi Mohalla, Habbakadal Srinagar. Her birthday as per tithi is Kartik Shukla Paksh Dwadashi and the birth year approximately around 1905. Her father namely Shri Gopi Nath Koul died at his tender age of 28 and the duty of bringing up the family fell on her mother Mader Dedi and others.  >>>

  Swami Man Kak
Swami Sidh Bab   Swami Shyam Lal ji
Sharika Ji  

Swami Kral Bab

Swami Hari KrishnaSwami Hari Krishna   Swami Maheshwar Nath Ji
Swamiji was a devotee of Lord Krishna. He would believe in Satsang. A Sarang would be always with him and referring to that Sarang, he would say: "This is my true companion".
>>>
Swami Haldhar Ji
Swami Haldhar Ji was an example of an ordinary man developing into a superman under very trying circumstances. He was under the full control of an almighty Power without any offer of resistance on his part. Out of the bounty of Lord’s grace, he enlightened others.
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  Thakurjoo Manwati
This humble teacher has attained venerable status of a Guru and the aroma of his preaching had mingled with the air of Kashmir.
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Saint-Poet Mirza Kak
After Lal Ded, Sahzanand and Roopa Bhawani, the Valley was again blessed with the birth of one more saint- poet Mirza Kak, who contined the Vakh parampara in Kashmir. Vakhs are the quintessence of spiritual and religious sayings and utterances of mystics and saints.
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  Swami Himmat Kak
Swami Himmat Kak was born in the year 1845 and attained Mahasamadhi in the year 1912. He hailed from Goshi-a village in Kupwara District well known for being the abode of a number of pious men and women.
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Swami Grata Bab
Kashmir has been rightly referred to as 'Rishi Vaer.' All rishis and mystics have not been men or women of scholarship and erudition. They were, however, human beings given to renunciation, contemplation and compassion to attain spiritual heights. They were either married persons or recluses. Swami Grata Bab was one such recluse, whose actual name was Pandit Prasad Joo Koul.
>>>
 

Pt. Mansa Ram Razdan

This street stands witness to the high learning and the spiritual traditions of the Kashmiri Pandit community. Kashmir's greatest saint of the past 250 years - Pt. Mansa Ram Razdan lived here during the Pathan rule. The street commemorates the exalted spiritual status of Saint Mansa Ram Razdan, also known by the names of Razdan Sab or Dooni Sahib. >>>

Swami Shankar Razdan
Swamiji was not only a saint, he had great literary attainments. One of his more important contributions to the Kashmiri literature is his Ramayana in Kashmiri verse in Sharda script. He has left behind many Vakyas which are a source of inspiration to the faithful.
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  Swami Sonakak Ji
Swami Sonakak, one of the greatest mystic saints of Kashmir was known variously as Sona Bab (father), Sona Bayu or Sona Matoo (spiritually possessed).
>>>
Khwaja Lassa Sahib
In the first part of this century, it was a common sight for the people of Kashmir to see a Muslim Saint roaming on the streets of Srinagar, with a loose long gown (PHIRAN) hanging down his shoulders. This was Khwaja Lassa Sahib of Nowhatta, Srinagar.
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  Pandit Radha Krishan Kaul Mohtsib
Few know him but those who came in contact with him could not but feel deeply impressed by his saintly nature, contentment and deep dispassion. He was a true Karma-Yogi. To serve mankind as one's larger self was the hall-mark of his life.
>>>
   
Articles
Mystic Trends in Kashmiri Poetry
Kashmir has given a lot to the Indian Poetics and Literature. Kashmir has produced many Sanskrit scholars and mystics. The cultural life of Kashmir has had the impress of great mystics.
>>>
  In the Abode of Saints
The land of Kashyap Rishi standing aloft the northern periphery of the Punyabhumi, called Bharat, has been described as the jewel in the crown of the Indian subcontinent. No wonder then that this land of absorbing beauty has, of yore, been the home of gods and goddesses and saints and seers.
>>>
Saints And Sages of Kashmir
The saints of Kashmir are to Kashmiri Pandits their ancestors and they represent their heritage. Each Pandit has a 'gotra', a link to his clan, established by a Reshi, a saint long ago. There are over a hundred gotras. Thus Kashmir is also called Reshwar, meaning a habitat of reshis.
>>>
 

My Association with Saints
I come from an orthodox family. My parents observed all Hindu festivals and rituals-- fasting over a month at a time (Magh). My father taught me Sandhya when I was only ten years old. When I completed the tenth year (Primary Classes) in my native village school of Murran, >>>

Shankar Ramayana by Swami Shankar Razdan

Over the ages Kashmir has had its compliment of Rishi, Munis, Saints and Sufis who helped common people discover the truth. Among them lived in the middle of the last century, Swami Shankar Razdan, who was revered by all for his spiritual attainments. Swamiji was not only a saint, but also had great literary attainments. One of his more important contributions to the Kashmiri literature is his Ramayana in Kashmiri verse which he wrote in Sharada script.  >>>

 

Adi Shankracharya's Visit to Kashmir

Kashmir has been a sacred place a seat for learning. Swami Paramahansa Yoganranda tells us in 'Autobiography of a Yogi'-"Mythological tales in Purana say that the Himalayas are abodeof Shiva-King of Yogis". So does Kalidas describes the Himalayas as"The massed laughter of Shiva". 'The Hindu Tradition' mentionsthat Kashmiri was a center of Shiva Worship and according to some traditions, it was from here that the devotional Shaivism passed on to the rest of India. >>>

Swami Vivekananda in Kashmir

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A LIST OF SAINTS

Jaman Ded  Lived about 200 years ago. She was often found roaming about in the mountains near the Amar Nath cave. 
Rishi Pir  Lived in the time of Jehangir. 
Zanana Zui  Resided at Rainawari (Srinagar), was contemporary of Rishi Pir. Lived about 1570 A.D.
Krishna Pandit Taplu  Resided at Bhori Kadal (Srinagar). He discovered the shrine of Khir Bhawani which had become unknown during the Muhammadan rule. His descendents practise fortune-telling by looking into the Brihat-Katha. 
Bhasker Razdan  Grandfather of Manas Razdan. Wrote a commentary on 60 sayings of Lalleshwari in Sanskrit Verse. Lived about 250 years ago. 
Krishna Kar  Resided at Rainawari (Srinagar); was contemporary of Rishi Pir. 
Manas Razdan  Resided at Bana Mohalla. He practiced austerities at Qiladar, Punjab, which has since become the Mecca of the Kashmiri Pandits. 
Sodi Woni  Had darshan of Shiva at Shishram Nag. 
Jiwan Sahib Lived about the middle of Eighteenth Century of Christian era. Resided at Rainawari.
Zana Sahib  Was the Guru of Chana Sahib. 
Mirza Kak Lived at Hangalgund - a village above Achhabal, about 100 years ago. His sayings in Kashmiri verse are current among the people. 
Nidhan Sahib Lived at the village of Moran (Avantipora Tehsil). Died in Sambat 1925. 
Chana Sahib  Lived at Rainawari. Died in Sambat 1928. 
Gopal Sahib  Lived in a hut under a Chenar tree at Barbar Shah. 
Isher Sahib  Died in 1880, having lived to an old age. Lived at Habba Kadal.
Govind Baju  Lived at Rainawari.
Manas Matu  Died in 1878 A.D. having lived to an old age. 
Anand Ji  Died at an advanced age at Jama Nagar, a village near Shopyan in 1917 A.D. 
Lal Shah  Died at Rainawari in 1918 A.D. at an advanced age. 
Labi Shah  Lived at the Tulmula village during the governship of Colonel Miyan Singh. 
Ganesh Das  Lived at Gush, a village in Uttar Machipura. 
Thakar Prashad Choudhri alias Bawa Presidh Nath This ascetic's ashram is at Etawah. Bawa Braham Nath was the Mahant of his ashram.
Source:
The Kashmiri Pandit
by Pandit Anand Koul
Thacker, Spink & Co.
Calcutta

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