FOURTEEN kilometres from Srinagar city on the foot hills of Harishwar Hill is a village called Khonmoh. The original name derived from the word Khenmoksh, meaning Moksha in a second for the abode was also there. Harishwar, originally Harshi- Har means the Lord of Giver of Happiness and eternal peace/Moksha.
This village has produced men of high calibre both in spiritual and material world. It is said that the famous historian and writer of Rajtarangini, Kalhana also belonged to this village.
On the roadside of this village is a pond known as Somnag and on the bank of this Somnag is an Ashram called Shanti Mahesh Ashram. As the name suggests, the Ashram was built by Swami Maheshwar Nath and the word Shanti was added by. Swamiji, saying our aim is 'search for peace'.
The village had a mixed population of the Hindus and Muslims. Among the Pandits lived a pious family of Dhars. Swami Maheshwar Nath better known as Bhagwanji among his disciples and devotees, was born to Vishwa Nath Dhar of this family.
Bhagwanji's family was poor and so his father could not give him proper education. About his educational career, Swamiji would sometimes say "I was a student of Third Standard (at Khrew) when the school inspector visited the school for inspection. Having been extremely happy with my intelligence and replies, he ordered the Head Master to promote me to Fifth Standard. This is all I have studied." Due to financial strains, Swamiji had to give up his studies and at the tender age of 10, he was kept as a servant in the family of Shri Narain Joo Parimoo at Purshyar.
The behaviour of the housewife, where Swamiji was working as a servant, ultimately changed the course of his life and he took refuge at the feet of Holy Mother Sharika at Chakreshwar.
He visited Mother Sharika daily for many years. He would do tapasya at the feet of Mahakali and Saptrishis. Sometimes, while in a cheerful mood, Swamiji would say: "While I would be busy in meditation, when it would rain, no drop of water would touch me and when it was hot, a patch of cloud would cover me up."
Like all other saints, Swamiji also had to face a lot of problems in his spiritual life. He had to undergo lots of tests before Mother Sharika directed him to his Guru. The story of the meeting of the Guru and the disciple is a strange one. I narrate it here:
Bhagwanji was instructed to go to the bank of the Jhelum (near Bana Mohalla) and asked to follow a Brahmin who would be wearing a particular dress and would come there early in the morning for performing the daily Sandhya.
On the particular day, Swamiji reached there well in time, waiting anxiously and impatiently to have a glimpse of his Guru, the true friend of both the worlds. One can imagine the condition Swamiji must have had at that time - a moment of life for which he had waited for years and prayed to Mother Goddess with tears in his eyes.
The person arrived on the scene but the suspense was there; his face was covered with a towel. He did his Sandhya, took his Kamandal and started back, Swamiji followed him.
The suspense continued as his guide went to a meat shop, purchased meat and entered a particular lane. The lane was familiar to Swamiji as in this lane lived one of his cousin (father's sister's son). The anxiety increased all the more as he knew almost everyone there, but had never heard about any godly man living in the area. The person entered the house of the cousin of Swamiji. Swamiji would later said: "At that point I lost my wits". He followed him to his room and, to his utmost surprise, found the person now his guide to be none other than his cousin. On seeing Swamiji, he said (referring to the Mother Goddess) "she had none left other than me," Here started the formal relation of Guru and Shishya.
His Guru remained a secret saint till the end with only Swamiji and a few of his disciples knowing about it. He was so hidden that even his wife did not know anything. She once said to Swamiji about her husband that his body remains cold like ice during nights. Swamiji advised her not to disturb him. However, unknowingly she had disturbed him one night and the result was that he had some bleeding next day.
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". The famous Kashmiri bhajans of Kashmiri saints like Swami Parmanand, Krishan Joo Razdan and Vishan Joo were the attraction of his Satsang. He would say that in Kaliyug, the best way of God realization is via Satsang and Bhakti.
Swamiji was a firm believer of Prarabdah - the destiny. Though Swamiji, as we have heard, has done many miracles in his life, but he would never claim them. He would stress on praying to Mother Goddess. Nothing is outside the ambit of Prarabdah, what God (Narayan) has written on your forehead cannot be undone. The only way to overcome is to surrender unto the holy feet of the Almighty. He would quote the famous Kashmiri saint Lalleshwari and say:
"O man, why are you trying to make rope of sand. You cannot pull your boat through this. What Lord has written in your destiny none can change that."
Swamiji would advise his disciples that they should not crave for material things, not even Siddhis and Uoksha - our aim should be to go beyond both.
To people visiting him for material benefits, he would quote the local quotations which mean:
"For the desire of Heaven and due to the worry of Hell, people come to your Lord, who will come to you selflessly - who has that much of patience."
Swamiji would be glad to see a true and sincere seeker. He would listen to him patiently and advise accordingly.
"It is not good for a saint to make himself public" and would quote Laleshwari:
"Lalla, I wander having locked my heart. Anybody, who makes a show of himself, has ditched himself into the well, give him to be fed to a devil."
Swamiji was revered by all the contemporary saints of his time. In his youth, he used to visit Swami Vidyadhar who would both love and regard him. Swami Gashkak of Gautam Nag held Bhagwanji in high esteem. People who have seen both the saints say that they were just like each other.
Swamiji had written many poems but one day he burnt them all, only a few remained which give us an insight into the high spiritual state of Swamiji.
Once a Muslim saint, alongwith his disciple, visited Khonmoh. The two met and the dialogue began. The Muslim saint then said to Swamiji; "Let us sing a Leela in the praise of Mother Goddess (Khir Bhawani). I will state the first line and you follow with others". Bhagwanji gladly agreed and we got a unique and beautiful Leela in praise of Mother Goddess which is very much loved and liked by devotees even now.
Bhagwanji went into Maha Samadhi in January 1990 immediately after migration from Srinagar, after a brief illness. At that time, Swamiji's age was around 79 years which means that he must have been born somewhere around 1911.