Nagadandi, Achchabal, Anantnag
Manmohan Dhar, New Delhi
the early thirties, Kashmir was visited by a large number of well educated young
sanyasins, mostly belonging to the Shri Ramakrishna Mission, from various parts
of India. Local intellectuals, interacting with them, were impressed by their
deep knowledge of the Vedas, Vedanta and the Gita and their spirit of
renunciation. Kashmiri intellectuals, elite and the laity, had already got
glimpses of the vision that Swami Vivekananda had woven for the whole world and
of the panaroma, depth and range of the spiritual, cultural and catholic
heritage of India.
On the 11th of September 1893, Swami
Vivekananda spoke as follows at the Parliament of World's religions in Chicago,
The present convention, which is one of the
most august assemblies ever held, is in itself a vindication, a declaration to
the world of the wonderful doctrine preached in the Gita :
"Whosoever comes to ME, through
whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the
end lead to ME"
"Sectarianism, bigotry, and its
horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this earth. They have
filled this earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood,
destroyed civilisations and sent whole nations to despair..."
(A retaste of the gruesome tragedy was
experienced on the 11th September 2001 in New-York, after 108 years. If causes
persist, effects persist too)
In his concluding speech on the 27th of
September 1893 Swami Vivekananda thundered and declared as follows-
"...if anybody dreams of the
exclusive survival of his own religion and the destruction of others, I pity him
from the bottom of my heart, and point out to him that upon the banner of every
religion will soon be written, in-spite of resistance : `Help and not Fight',
`Assimilation and not Destruction', `Harmony and Peace and not
All this and other writings of Swami Vivekananda
had made deep inroads in the mental make up of the intellectuals of Kashmir and
they were, therefore, always on the look out for some-one amongst the visiting
monks to the state, who would disseminate, at-least to some extent, the
spiritual aura, effulgence and dynamism of Swami Vivekananda's personality.
With this rather detailed background, it would
perhaps be pertinent to present a pen picture of a saint who appeared to be in
the most ancient mould of sanyasins, who struck one as descending straight from
the heights of Himalayas, naked save a loin cloth, lost in the awareness of the
innermost self, exuding in his eyes ecstasy and bliss which was totally
"few understand the power of thought.
If a man goes into a cave. Shuts himself in, and thinks really one great
thought, ...that thought will permeate the walls of that cave, vibrate through
space, and at last permeate the whole human race. Such is the power of
The thoughtful silence of this young sanyasin
was eloquent, speaking and hypnotic and his smile was soothing, full of love and
He was spotted, in Kathleshwar temple, at
Zaindar Mohalla, Srinagar, Kashmir. The temple had broken dome and, therefore,
was open to vagaries of weather. A makeshift tent was made of bushels of grass,
inside the temple, where he was found resting his head on the `pranali'
of, the `Shiva linga', lost in deep meditation.
When disturbed by cautious and respectful
intrusion, he came down to the level of normal awareness, but still the hangover
of divine intoxication was apparent in his blissful smile and his eyes, both
giving impression of embers of spiritual fire burning within him. He commanded
awe, affection and instant devotion. The word went round and men, women and
children came to bask in his celestial presence.
Meanwhile, winter started setting in, but he did
not light any log fires, as was wont with `Naga' sadhus, who used to visit
Kashmir on their pilgrimage to the holy cave of Amarnath. He stayed on in
Kashmir and started moving to the hills at short intervals, in sun-shine, rain
and snow. For reasons best known to him his favourite haunt was Naran-Nag,
beyond Wangat, which is situated on the road to Sonamarg. Near Wangat he made
contact with a Muslim mystic by the name of Sobur Sheikh. Between them, they
used to communicate by exchanging (naswar) snuff powder. Being a
predominantly Muslim area, he picked up a smattering of the Kashmiri language,
which he spoke with a sweet Bengali accent. As time went by, he made deep
inroads into the hearts of the local Muslims.
Although, at first with respectful and awesome
caution, yet drawn to him by Irresistible attraction, local people of all
grades, of all communities of varying intellectual attainment, men, women and
children gathered round him to sit in silence in his presence, to breathe and to
feel the subtle waves of peace and spiritual elation, un-aided by words,
speeches or discourses; yet at times words fell softly and sweetly from his
mouth. They conveyed more than their meaning. A look, a touch, a smile was
enough recompense after days of waiting or miles of trekking to sit in his
soul-elevating presence. Such was the power of his love.
His movements were as unpredictable as of that
wind, as he moved bare-footed, from high mountains to the far corners of the
length and breadth of the valley, in sunshine, rain or snow. I have seen snow
collecting on his bare shoulders. He wore no clothes, as stated earlier, but
carried only two possessions : His `Kashkole' a handy container made from the
hard cover of a pumpkin, used as a begging bowl, normally carried by `Naga'
sadhus and a small bottle of snuff (naswar). One day when he left to go
to the mountains he forgot to carry his `Kashkol'. After traversing a short
distance he suddenly found that he had no `Kashkol' in his hand and retraced his
steps to pick his major possession. Then, while crossing the nearby bridge on
the river Jhelum, he could not reconcile with his attachment for his `Kashkol'
and dropped it into the river, never to carry it again.
Writes Swami Vivekananda, in his small pamphlet
"...in India, even an emperor on the
throne wants to trace his descent from some beggar-sage in the forest, from a
man who wore the bark of a tree, lived upon the fruits of the forest and
communed with GOD. That is the type of descent we want, and so long as holiness
is supremely venerated, India cannot die."
It was not surprising, therefore, that doors
were flung wide open for him and with open hearts, he was sought for and
received in every home. Considering what Swami Vivekananda has said, it appeared
as if he had come to Kashmir straight from the Vedic Age.
Such was Swami Ashokanandaji Maharaj for about
twelve or thirteen years. During these year of silent communication, he gave
stray hints of his mission and his, childlike, unconditional and complete
devotion to Shri Ramakrishna Parmahansa. These were the years during which he
prepared the ground in Kashmir in which to plant the seed of the deepest,
subtlest and pristine message of Shri Ramakrishna and the ideal of Divine
Motherhood. Pictures of Shri Ramakrishna, Ma Sharada and Swami Vivekananda
found their place, for daily worship, in the shrines in the homes of the
devotees of Swami Ashokananda Ji. In small gatherings, particularly of
youngsters, English version of the Gospel of Shri Ramakrishna was read. I, along
with other young boys, to name a few : Manakakji Tarozdar, Trilokinathji
Tarozdar and others, used to go into raptures of Divine fervour while reading
the gospel. We would feel we were part of the crowd at Dakhineshwar and felt
recreation of the same atmosphere in Swamijis presence, after a span of nearly
Devotional and classical, vocal and instrumental
music, was played in his presence. I still remember the classical songs sung by
Babaji Rao, in ragas :
`Bihag', `Kidar', `Shankara', `Malhar', `Bhairao',
`Kamod' etc. Shri. Jialal Kharoo's
Dilruba and Sitar playing became a daily feature and so did of my uncle,
Vidhlalji Dhar and of Swaroop Nath ji Tarozdar's, with tabla accompaniment by
Harinath ji Tarozdar's. Professor Kanjilal of Sri Pratap college, used to play
Sitar in masterly depth and range. One got surcharged with divine fervour and
lost in its ecstacy. One lost the count of people who got the privilege of
sitting in his silent, smiling and spiritual presence. No discussions appeared
appropriate. All that one needed was to be in tune, mind, heart and soul.
Looking back, I now feel, that Divine Shakhti,
in her own mysterious way was working on Her own plans. Shri Harinath Tarozdar,
an unflinching devotee of Swamiji, traveled all over the valley, to locate a
place where a thatched mud hut could be built for a brief sojourn and rest for
Swamiji Maharaj. In the lap of the mountains, amidst dense forests, with a small
perennial fresh water spring tucked in, in an obscure corner; a place was found
at Nagadandi, near Achchabal Mogul gardens and acquired a most beautiful mud hut
with thatched roof and an `L' shaped narrow verandah on the east and south side,
Swami Ashokanandaji Maharaj
Photographed by Manmohan Dhar in Calcutta
Vivekanand Kendra, Nagadandi, Achchabal,
Anantnag, Kashmir, India
I have seen about a 12 ft. long snake, with skin
of a beautiful pattern resting full length on the eastern side of the verandah.
Seeing me it crawled into the gap in the mud plaster of the 2 ft. high railing.
I never saw it again and took no notice of it. Swamiji Maharaj used to sit in
the south-west corner of the same verandah. Right in front of him, on the front
wall, was a foot long and beautiful likeness of Jesus Christ on the cross, in
three dimensions. Devotees, of all communities, rich and poor, used to sit in
front of Swamiji, on the south side verandah. It was not unusual to see Swamiji,
playing sitar, sitting in the south-west corner of the verandah. His sitar
playing, in classical ragas, transported the spiritual ambience of the forest
surroundings to a higher plane of awareness of peace and fullness.
Discharge from the perennial spring,
miraculously increased. On the down stream side two ponds, on two different
levels, were built by devotees, with three picturesque water falls, delivering
water from the upper pond to the lower one. Flowers were planted. A small temple
was built, with likeness of Shri Ramakrishna, Sharda ma and Swami Vivekananda
placed on the shrine. Swamiji Maharaj used to sit, in the open air, reclining on
a stone sleeper which was supported on a pine tree. Visitors to Swamiji, in the
salubrious and forest surroundings, presented a setting straight from the Vedic
age. Evening and morning worship was conducted in the temple. Gradually, the
whole set up assumed the semblance of an ashram and Swamiji Maharaj gave
in the name of.
Shri Ramakrishna Mahasamelan Ashram
All this was not planned, but happened by Divine
Dispensation, a mystery that can only be explained by the following
expressions of Swami Vivekananda Ji Maharaj :
Describing Kashmir, Swamiji wrote to Srimati
Indumati Mitra sometime in September 1897 :
"This Kashmir is a veritable heaven
on Earth. No where else in the World is such a country as this. Mountains and
rivers, trees and plants, men and women, beasts and birds-all vie with one
another for excellence. I feel a pang at heart not to have visited it so
On the 1st October, 1897 he wrote to
Sister Nivedita :
"I shall not try to describe Kashmir
to you. Suffice it to say, I never felt sorry to leave any country except this
paradise on Earth; and I am trying my best, if I can, to influence the Raja in
starting a centre here. So much to do here and the material so hopeful..."
And again on 3rd November, 1897 Swamiji wrote to
Sister Nivedita :
`I have been here (Jammu) for fifteen days
to get some land in Kashmir from the Maharaja. I intend to go to Kashmir next
summer I am here and start some work here'.
But why was Swami Vivekanandaji Maharaj so keen
to set up an ashram in Kashmir? Answer to this question is not within the
capacity of a normal intellect to find. Could it be because Shri Ramakrishna
said his next incarnation would be in the North-West.
Over the centuries Kashmir has been the cradle
of cultures. Buddhism came here and the World got `Mahayan' Buddhism. Kashmir
Shaivism is the pinnacle of Indian philosophy discounting the belief that this
world is false. Shankracharya came to Kashmir with the glow and fire of `Aham
Brahma', but latter he wrote `Saundarya Lahiri' in praise of the Goddess
Tripurasundari, and in one of the Shankracharya Ashrams the image of Goddess
Shardha is being worshiped. This Murti was brought from Sharda peeth, in
Kashmir, now in Pakistan. According to extensive research carried out by German
and other authors, from the Christendom itself, Jesus Christ is believed to have
been in Kashmir before and after crucifixion. There is a mosque right in the
heart of Srinagar, the summer capital of J & K state, where Jesus is
supposed to have been buried. Sufism and Kashmiriat are an amalgam of Hinduism,
Buddhism and Islam. Over the millenniums Kashmir is and has been special on many
counts apart from its geography and unparalleled natural beauty.
Swamiji's remarks, therefore, have indeed
a Divine import and cannot be considered as random or casual.
Swami Vivekananda could not visit Kashmir again
and thus his wish to set up an Ashram in Kashmir, where `he had
"found", so much to do and the material so hopeful'; remained an
unfulfilled dream. He had the vision of Maha Kali at Khir Bhavani, where he was
inspired to write his famous poem, `Kali the Mother'
It was at Achchabal that he `suddenly decided to
go to Amarnath' writes sister Nivedita. As he entered the cave, reports Sister
Nivedita, it seemed to him as if he saw Shiva made visible before him. He said
afterwards to sister Nivedita that in the brief moments he had received from
Shiva the gift of Amar-not to die until he himself had willed it. His
dream, however, though unfulfilled during his lifetime, was already registered
in the cosmic time to be made a reality, under a divine dictate, by a source
intimately, divinely and equally connected with Shri Ramakrishna.
In the divine scheme Kashmir, it appears, has
had a role to play. And to appreciate the sudden appearance of Swami Ashokananda
ji in Kashmir, in the above context, the following spiritual link and mystery
appears relevant and self-explanatory.
Swami Ashokananda ji was the disciple of Swami
Satchitananda ji Maharaj from East Bengal, who was initiated and given sanyas by
Holy Mother, Ma Sharda. Their commitment to Shri Ramakrishna ideology was total.
They operated outside Shri Ramakrishna Mission organisation, as do many others.
The emphasis, however, has been on man building and the propagation of
Divine Motherhood. Cosmic forces got to work to fulfill the celestial dream
of Swami Vivekanandaji.
He, Swami Ashokananda ji, was also from East
Bengal, and was born in a Mukherji family, on Friday, the 10th of February,
1911. His premonistic name was Deenabandhu Mukherji. His school mate was Shri
Chandi Prashad Mukherji, an eminent Chartered Accountant and for several years President
of the Institution of Chartered Accountants, India.
Mr. C. P. Mukherjee, particularly referred to
his childhood and stated that right from his birth Deenabandhu gave the
impression of being an outsider, very intelligent but lost in a world of his
own. Naturally, his brother was totally disgusted with him and did not spare the
rod and at the age of 8 (eight years) he sought shelter in the ashram of Swami
Satchitananda ji Maharaj, who, as mentioned earlier, was an initiated disciple
of the Holy Mother, Sharda Ma, spiritual consort of Shri Ramakrishna. He had to
undergo severe regimen of spiritual discipline, which he did with utmost
dedication and total surrender to Lord Shri Ramakrishna and ma Sharda. During,
his stay at the Ashram, he was given sanyas and the monastic name of Swami
His Guru Maharaj held him in very high regard
and made no secret of the heights of spiritual excellence he had achieved.
Swamiji Maharaj knew of absolutely no compromises in the spiritual path. One had
to be perfect in his resolve, in his pursuit and in sadhana. One had to, he
would say, combine the qualities of a prince and a sadhak of total
surrender to his Ishta. He was at the ashram, from what we have been able to
gather from stray hints thrown by him, during conversations; for about eight or
ten years, with his Guru Maharaj. Later, he was sent by Guru Maharaj to Uttar
Kashi for further sadhna. During his travels in the Himalayas, his body, mind,
heart and Atma were tuned to a very high degree of spiritual fervour and he was
allotted a hut near Gita Ashram, next to Swami Shivananda ji Maharaj, who later
on founded the `Divine Life Society'. Ashokanandaji settled to a strict regimen
of meditation and established continued presence of Shri Ramakrishna, Holy
Mother and Ma Kali in him. He had visions and many experiences of conversation
with Shri Thakur (Shri Ramakrishna). Some of these, recounted by him to me, are
of deep spiritual and Universal import.
His Guru Maharaj, however, had plans for him.
When he attained the age of twenty two or twenty three, he was ordered by his
Guru Maharaj to go to Kashmir, shed his clothes, live there braving sunshine,
rain and snow, without any external aid, or use of any of his Yogic powers to
face the vagaries of weather and establish the presence of Shri Ramakrishna,
Sharda Ma and Swami Vivekananda and their pristine message, in Kashmir more by
example than discourse. His primary emphasis was on `Divine Motherhood'.This
we came to know, gradually, in the fifties.
He landed in Kashmir in 1933 or 1934. He was
spotted in Kathleshwar Mandir in early 1933 or 1934 and straight away found his
way into the hearts of young and old, men and women and was, looked after well,
as it were, like a child. His mere presence was peace, joy and unalloyed love.
Words would limit the impact of his almost divine presence. The impact of beauty
is instant, as that of the smile of a child, of a beautiful face. How much more
then of a person whose presence reflects God within. Are words necessary? Isn't
feeling enough. Such was Swamiji Maharaj, when he descended on Kashmir, as if
He did not lay his hands on books yet the depth
of his knowledge of Vedas, shastaras etc., about which he spoke rarely, was
uncanny. His whole personality was, as it were, wrapped in mystery.
His love had and, I am fully aware now, a
perennial quality. His life, his sojourn in Kashmir, where he attained
Mahasamadhi on the 19th of December 1971; and even the establishment of an
ashram at Nagadandi, is a mystery. During the turmoil of the last thirteen years
the ashram has been visited and revered by Muslims, in large numbers. There is
ample evidence at Nagadandi that there are no dividing lines between various
religions and that all hands stretch themselves in prayer to the One And Only
Almighty, in Divine and sincere human love and aspiration.
The following dream of Swami Vivekananda, who
was an integral part of the combined personalities of Shri Ramakrishna and Ma
Sharda, that vibrated through every nerve and heart beat of our Swami
Ashokananda ji Maharaj and in whose name he established the Ashram.
Shri Ramakrishna Mahasamelan Ashram
was being divinely ordained to be fulfilled. Is Nagadandi Ashram going to
grow mysteriously enough, in Kashmir, where the prophetic words and the
following dream of Swami Vivekananda are going to blossom into reality?
"We want to lead mankind to the place
where there is neither the Vedas, nor the Bible, nor the Koran, yet this has to
be done by harmonising the Vedas, the Bible and the Koran".
Mankind ought to be taught that religions
are but the varied expressions of The Religion, which is Oneness, so that each
may choose the path that suits him best.
Kashmir's geography, its place in the cultural
mosaic of India, the relevance of the Indian values in the survival of the human
race, the emergence of religious fanaticism, in pushing the world civilisations
to rid the world, by their joint will, of the conflict slammed on humanity in
the name of God and the clarion call of Swami Vivekananda on the 27th
September, 1893 at the parliament of religions held in Chicago USA, all these
lead us to see a Divine Hand in the shape of things to come.
Jai Shri thakur, jai ma sharda
jai swami Vivekanandaji maharaj
jai guru ! 11th
This article is an excerpt from the book,
"Swami Ashokanandaji Maharaj : His Divine Message", by Shri Manmohan
The author is a techno-expert of
international repute, previous Editor of the Vitasta and a founder member of
Kashmir Sabha, Kolkata.
Mailing Address : C-56, Kailash
Apartments, Lala Lajpat Rai Marg, New Delhi-110 048, India