Thakurjoo Manwati

Thakurjoo Manwati

Poet-Saint of Kashmir

- Jagannath (Gash) Manwati

Having weathered 84 years of my life, I am the last living member of Manwati clan who has had the honour of having lived about 15 years of his life concurrently with revered Thakurjoo Manwati, my first uncle.  A perfect householder, 'Baijigur', as we used to call him, had two sons and two daughters. His elder son Lt. Sarwanand was issueless and his second son Lt. Vedlal was not blessed with a male sibling, so I filled the vacuum and became the pet child in the family who ued to tuck himself along 'Baijigur' for nearly seven years of my formative and impressionable age till he attained his Nirvana in 1999. It is perhaps 'Baijigur's grace that I vividly remember many eye-witnessed episodes of his life without the time-lag effect.  A teacher by profession, Thakurjoo has acquired the degrees of Munshi Fazil, an Honours in Urdu, on the basis at which he was, perhaps, appointed a teacher in a government primary school. But he had mastered Sanskrit, Persia and even Arabic on his own volition which helped him in the deep study of the Vedantic scriptures, the Quran and the Bible. He was a voracious reader, a prolific writer and an impromptuo composer.  Thakurjoo's services took him from village to village, his longest posting being at Sopore. Not much is, therefore, known about the earlier years of his life. However, towards the fag end of his career, he was transferred to Gurgari Mohalla Primary School in Srinagar. It is said that Bawa Balwant Singh, the then Inspector of Schools, reportedly an awesome and disciplined officer, on his couple of annual inspections to this school found always 'Alif', the first alphabet in Urdu, written on the black-board of the classroom. On a subsequent inspection, he made a caustic remark, "Masterji, I find you and your students are still on 'Alif' even after three years." Masterji, with all humility, which was the hallmark of his character, explained for more than half an hour the esoteric meaning of the alphabet. The inspector was flabergasted and apologised for his sarcastic remark and simultaneously offered if he could do anything for him. Masterji pleaded that he should not be transferred from the school till his retirement, because "it is here that I have merged with Alif."  Recently I saw a poem composed by my daughter-in-law. I reproduce an extract of the poem which is pertinent in the context and perhaps a quintessence of Thakurjoo's explanation of 'Alif'.
Be it Alif or call it Cardinal One
It Represents Cosmic Oneness
Its Manifestation of 'Allah' and 'Adidev'
Whenever I ventured to Walk
Without the Staff of 'Alif'
Like a Blind I was lost in the Universe
Like Mahatma Gandhi, in his post-retirement years, Masterji used to organise evening prayer meetings at Dewan Bagh - now Karan Nagar, where people trom all walks of life and strata used to assemble to hear his discourses in which he used to quote profusely from the Gita, and the Bible.  A strict vegetarian, 'Baijigur' was no advocate of rituals or dogmas. There was no traditional 'Thakur-Kuth' (household pooja room) hi his small dwelling. A room strewn and stacked with books in the house was his 'Karma-sthan', where he would be immersed in the books and often lost in deep pensive moods. He firmly blieved that the Supreme Lord lived within everyone and search for Him outside was an exercise in futile.
    (Your body is the repository of all Gyan (knowledge). You have'nt to look for it outside)
(Often at his prayer meetings, he would exhort people to keep clean their mind/conscience of worldly dirt and dust.
 (Keep your mind sparkingly clean.
Divested of dirt and rust.
Accept this, I say, as the essence of life)
It is sad that the original manuscript of 'Amrit Sagar', a collection of his 200 and odd poems, mostly in Kashmiri, unfolding the subtleties of Spiritual Truth, based on his personal experience, is not traceable.  Each poem had on the top the 'Raga' mentioned on which it was based and metered, whicl1 gave insight into his knowledge of Shastriya Sangeet. Often he would correct Govind Baba, a musician disciple of his if he would commit an error in putting a certain poem to particular raga.  There always used to be gathering of religious scholars, medicants and sadhus coming from distant places like Banares and down South having discussions and deliberations on divergent features of metaphysics. Though the pecuniary position of the family was not that bright, yet there used to he 10-12 persons there daily who would partake food at his place. Lest this would earn a frown in the family, Masterji would often remind:
 (How can we, who are ourselves Guests in the world
Claim to play host to one another
When the fact remains,
It is His Grace which ensures
Victuals for us all.)
I remember there was a big earthen pitcher kept outside his room which used to be filled with fresh water on each Sunday morning. Thakurjoo would put his hand and stir the water reciting some inaudible mantes. This water used to be sought after by people of all faiths coming from far-off places like Baramulla and Muzzafarabad for treatment of malaria which was quite prevalent in those days. Sunday was called 'Aushadi Day' in the household.     Some six months before Masterji attained his Mahasamadhi, he bade a tearful farewell to his pet cow 'Parvati' and sent her to Sopore wherefrom she was brought. The incident of the cows departure created a sort of conmlotion in the house. When my father enquirecl about it, 'Baijigur' said: "Why grieve? Parvati has gone to her home, soon I shall depart for mine "<verses>" (These mortal remains are now tattered beyond repair.) Some time later, a carbuncle appeared on his stomach which proved fatal.  This humble teacher has attained venerable status of a Guru and the aroma of his preachings had mingled with the air of Kashmir. No wonder then that on the day of his Mahasamadhi, right from his residence at Gund Ahalmar, Srinagar, to the cremation ground at Dewar Bagh, all the shopkeepers downed their shutters and joined the funeral procession with Raghunath Rathi - the famous bard of the times leading the Viman procession singing his poems.  Later, portraying the mood of the people on the day of Mahasamadhi of the poet-saint of Kashmir, Rathi wrote an elegy, paying his tributes to Thakurjoo Manwati which became a household 'cry' in Kashmir.
 May the nectar of Thakurjoo's preaching keep the celestial fire burning in all the hearts.

Source: Koshur Samachar

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