Pt. Mansa Ram Razdan

Pt. Mansa Ram Razdan

BL Tamiri

In the downtown Srinagar, near Banamohalla branches off a street, famous as Razdan Kocha.

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 ofRazdan Sab or Dooni Sahib.

Pt. Mansa Ram Razdan belonged to a family of great scholars.

His grandfather, Pt. Baskar Razdan, author of many books, had written a commentary on sayings of Lal Ded in Sanskrit verse.

He had deep knowledge of astrology.

His son Pt. Jagar Nath Razdan made his mark as an outstanding astrologer, by forecasting accurately a solar eclipse. The Pathan governor rewarded him with a big jagir.

Prof. JS Grewal, the distinguished authority on Sikh history, describes Pt. Mansa Ram Razdan as a saint "Who was incomparable for his piety and asceticism and his knowledge of astrology".

He was much venerated by Kashmiri Pandits in the early nineteenth century, and later. His math at Qiladar, Gujrat (Punjab) was a shrine of great pilgrimage.

It was customary for new couples among Kashmiri Pandits, domiciled in northern Indian towns, to visit the math soon after the marriage.

This practice was prevalent till partition. During saint’s lifetime, whenever somebody was in distress, he would come to seek his blessings.

Saint Mansa Ram was born to Pt. Jagar Nath Razdan on the 5th day of the bright fortnight of Ashad. He had his formal education upto ten years of age. Subsequently, he gravitated towards spirituality. The saint possessed sharp wit and was compassionate towards all, irrespective of status.

Initially, he meditated at Roopa Lank in Dal Lake. Later, he set up his ashram at home itself. The ashram was located in the same building where Tiny Tots School stands today. Till Kashmiri Pandits' displacement, the ashram room was intact. It had a havan kund. Saint Mansa Ram used to keep Duni (flame) lit up all the time. For this, he earned the sobriquet of 'Duni Saab'.

Though the great saint's life and his teachings have not attracted the attention of Kashmiri Pandit scholars, yet a few books - - 'Sant Mala' (urdu) by Pt. Rughnath Dhar, Kashmiri Saints (Urdu) by Pt. Sarvanand Charagi, and'Composite culture and Saints' by Pt. KL Kalla and Pt KL Dhar throw some light on some of the anecdotes connected with the saint's life. Unfortunately, the descendants of Pt. Mansa Ram have also not recorded the history related to the saint. Fragmentary references are, however, available in books on late medieval history of Punjab.

Pt. Mansa Ram Razdan was married at the age of sixteen. His wife died only two years later. He married again, this time the daughter of a widow. The widow had been advised by some astrologer, in view of evil stars of the girl, to seek her son-in-law with due care.

An interesting anecdote has been related by Pt. Sarwanand Charagi. Saint Mansa Ram as a child had put some clay in his month. When his mother opened his month to take out the clay, she was awestruck to see the picture of whole cosmos in it. On the advice of her husband, the mother did not publicise the spiritual greatness of the child.

Pathan rule was bad times for Kashmiri Pandit community. It bore the brunt of religious and political persecution. Saint did not confine himself merely to spiritual activities. Providing relief to victims of persecution was always closer to his heart.

Leading Pandit notables - Pt Nand Ram Tikku and Raja Dina Nath Madan and many others were his disciples. While Saint Jeevan Saab of Rainawari, also his contemporary, relied on his miraculous powers to provide relief to the victims of persecution, Pt Mansa Ram used his access to Pandit nobility to ensure humane treatment to his biradari community.

Pt. Mansa Ram never compromised on it since the very survival of the community was at stake. There are two interesting anecdotes which testify to it.

Pt. Nand Ram Tikku was Prime Minister at Kabul. He had instructed his younger brother, Pt. Hardas Tikku, Dewan during Pathan rule, to take due care of Saint Mansa Ram. On one occasion, Pt. Hardas Tiku disregarded his request. As per the legend, Saint fell into a trance, with an inner voice speaking 'Hardas is no more worthy of this post. Some one else should come'.

Soon after, Pt. Hardas fell out of favour of Subedar Abdullah Khan and was subsequently put in prison. Dewan Hardas was later on killed by Subedar Azam Khan in 1813, when he was hardly 35.

Birbal Wangnoo was another high-ranking official during Pathan rule. He was a disciple of Saint Mansa Ram and always acted on saint's suggestions. Once the saint sought some favour for a person, Wangnoo cleverly excused saying that the grant of favour could put him in trouble.

He avoided by further suggesting that he would do the needful in Jammu, away from the watchful eyes of Pathan Governor. Pt. Mansa Ram was compelled to move to Jammu, expecting a favour in his disciple's case. When he reached Banihal, he came to know that Wangnoo had been detained in connection with some embezzlement. The saint felt distressed, when the entire clan of his cousin Atma Ram Pandit, was wiped out in a massacre at Purushyar. The massacre was the outcome of a palace intrigue hatched by Pt. Dila Ram Quli. The tyrant Governor Azad Khan killed 37 members of the Pandit family. Only Atma Ram and his son Sudarshan survived. Razdan Saab's mother and Atma Ram's mother were real sisters.

Soon after the massacre, Atma Ram and his son went into hiding in a milkman's cowshed. Saint Mansa Ram was held in high esteem by the Pathan governors too for his spiritual powers. After the massacre, the saint instructed his cook to look into if there were any survivors. After 3 months cook brought the news that Atma Ram and his son were hiding safely.

Atma Ram passed away in hiding three months later. The milk-man contacted Razdan Saab for disposing of Atma Ram's body. His entire clan would have been in danger, had the governor come to know that he had sheltered Atma Ram. The milkman brought Sudarshan to Saint's home.

Razdan Saab's ashram was frequented by Sadhus from different parts of India, particularly during Amarnath Yatra. Sadhus used to stay for many days at the ashram. Razdan Saab asked one of the sadhus to escape during the night. The dead body of Atma Ram was brought strealthily to the ashram. The following morning it was announced that a Sadhu had died. Sudarshan was brought up under the care of Razdan Saab. Why did the Saint abandon Kashmir, no details are available.

However, during his journey to Jammu, chroniclers have recorded two miracles. Once, a shopkeeper's wife had inadvertently put some poison into the milk offered to the saint. When the family came to know about the mistake, they felt worried. The poison had no effect on the saint.

Pt. Mansa Ram started living in a Kutiya at Chenani, near Udhampur. The fame of his spiritual powers reached Raja of Chenani too. The Raja invited the saint on the shradh of his father and desired to see the physical form of his father. The saint agreed on a condition that Raja’s deceased father would be allowed to depart after the ceremony. Inadvertently, the Raja forgot to bid farewell to his deceased father and began to take meals. The saint refused to join the meals, arguing how he could take food in presence of his deceased father. The Raja realised the mistake and bid farewell to his father. The Raja was so pleased with the saint that a whole village (Gohar) was granted to him. The saint set up an ashram there.

Meanwhile, Saint’s mother and wife also reached Gohar. His mother passed away here, while the wife gave birth to a son. He pleaded with his wife to return to Srinagar and allow him to live at the ashram. She refused to agree. Then the saint ran away to the forests.

The wife left her new born son at the ashram and began to look for her husband. She took a vow to commit suicide in case she failed to locate her husband. Three days later he came to see her but did not talk to her. Finally, he agreed to stay for one year with her in case she returned to Srinagar later. She agreed. After a week they returned to the Kutiya.

As she was worried about the child, the saint asked her to catch the big toe of his foot and close her eyes. She was bewildered when she found her newborn sucking her thumb. After her return to Kashmir, the son was named 'Sant Ram'. The Raja of Chenani was also kind to Sudarshan, the son of saint's cousin, Atma Ram, when the former feared threat to his life in Kashmir.

After sometime the saint left for Punjab, reaching pargana of Herat. He established his Dhuni at Kotla Qiladar, a large village adjacent to Shadiwal and devoted himself to the worship of God.

Kotla Qiladar was built during the Mughal times by Miran Beg Mughal. Kotla is famous for fine sugar and hair-dyes manufacture.

Raja Dina Nath Madan, the Finance Minister of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, considered Pt. Mansa Ram as his spiritual guru. He rebuilt his shrine and granted in perpetuity the revenue of two villages, including Kaleke, for this establishment by way of Kharch-i-Dhuni.

Author Ganesh Dass, who visited dhuni Saab and wrote his Char Bagh-i-Punjab in 1847 saw dhuni constantly burning. It is said when the saint lit up dhuni at the Qiladar, it was seen burning at his Razdan Kocha ashram also.

In a related miracle, the saint once came to know that the Mehkhal ceremony of his son was going on in Srinagar. He did not talk to anyone on that day and told his servant not to prepare meals for him. He took divinely meal late, coinciding with the conclusion of thread ceremony. His devotees were amazed to see to it.

It is said that on the actual day of thread ceremony, his relations at Srinagar were awestruck to find him there, performing the yagneopavit ceremony. The following morning he again appeared at his Qiladar ashram.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh often visited the saint at his ashram. For durbar ceremonies Pt. Mansa Ram was taken on elephant to give his blessings to Maharaja. The saint was generous to his biradari members, who came to visit him at Qiladar. Lal Kaul's ancestors had served the Mughals as officers of thenaqqarkhana. Lal Kaul was a minister in the Kabul Court. He often used to visit Kashmir to keep track of the political situation.

Somehow he developed strained relations with Azam Khan, the subedar of Kashmir. This disturbed him mentally. He went to visit his spiritual guru, Pt. Mansa Ram and had a chance meeting with Maharaja Ranjit Singh there.

The latter extended him an invitation to visit Lahore. When Ranjeet Singh sent Diwan Chand to conquer Kashmir in 1819, Lal Kaul accompanied the expeditionary force as commander of Rawalpindi Brigade. Lal Kaul subsequently became governor of Multan.

Another Kashmiri Pandit, Roop Kaul, a native of Rainawari, was employed in Maharaja Ranjit Singh's durbar. His brother Narayan Kaul, being least interested in studies, also left for Lahore. He was baptised by a naga sadhu on the banks of Ravi to spiritualism. Following sadhu's death, Raja Dina Nath Madan too had come to attend his cremation. Roop Kaul, who had come along, found his brother Narayan there. Narayan stood like a statue, with his eyes closed and not talking to anyone. Raja Dina Nath advised Roop Kaul to take his brother to Pt. Mansa Ram Razdan. The saint described Narayan as a true Karmyogi and offered him three spoonfuls of Halwa. Thereafter, Narayan left for Kashmir and stayed at Narparistan, close to Razdan Sab’s ancestral home.

Narayan's fame spread far and wide. People began flocking to him to have his darshan. Narayana's biography has been compiled by Vasudev. Governor of Kashmir and his Vizier Ganesh Das often visited him. The Britishers too were puzzled to witness Saint Mansa Ram Razdan's spiritual powers. They called him 'Baba' and donated many villages to him. Lepel Griffin, an English officer and contemporary of the saint Mansa Ram Razdan refers to 'Dhuni Sahib' in his chronicle of Punjab.

The saint passed away in 1826. Pt. Ravi Madan has in his possession photograph of Raja Dina Nath with Pt. Mansa Ram Razdan.

*The author is working on a book “Rainawari Through Ages”, a socio-historical study of Rainawari suburb of Srinagar.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

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