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Pandit Shiv Prasad Chaudhari-Khatkhate Baba

A great Kashmiri saint with Divine powers

By Dr. B.N. Sharga

India as we all know has been a land of spiritual pursuits of a very high order from times immemorial, with the main aim to become one with the Supreme Being to drink the nectar of eternal bliss. There are various paths to reach that stage where the difference between the man and God cease to exist and he develops supernatural powers to perform miracles. No doubt it is a tedious path, which requires deep meditation and concentration of mind in seclusion to attain that supreme state.

Khatkhate Baba

Khatkhate Baba

Picture Courtesy: Pt Vishnu Narain Sheopuri

Our holy scriptures clearly mention four objectives of human pursuits; Dharma, Aastha, Karma and Moksha to be taken up in the given order to attain the final goal, where Dharma is the cultivation and practice of the code of moral conduct consistent with and as ordained by our holy scriptures in the first place of life. Obviously these would include, understanding and cultivation of the devine traits as fondlessness, steadfastness in knowledge, purity of heart; charity; total control on human desires and senses, austerity, compassion, study of holy scriptures, speaking the truth, modesty, forgiveness, uprighteousness and above all yogic exercises and deep meditation to achieve excellence in life.

For maintaining the purity of the body and thought one has to avoid non devine traits like arrogance, self conceit, anger, pride and excessive attachment to worldly possessions. Only those who go deep into the meditation and take long dips into spirituality know the principles operating with in. As they progress in spirituality the seed of these antakaran i.e. perception grows into a huge tree and then its fragarance emanates from all the sides.

This is the state in consonance with the Vedic mahavakya aham Brahmasmin i.e. the self is supreme. This is emancipation where the self merges with the Supreme Being.

There are several ways on treading the path of spirituality which have been elaborated extensively in our holy scriptures like Kama Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Dhyana Yoga and Jnana Yoga. Vedas are the source of ultimate truth, which enumerate that self is not just the body, it is the provider to it some thing higher which is consciousness.

Kashmir an abode of Lord Shiva has produced a number of God men, saints, ascetics and sages in different times with supernatural powers to perform miracles who had innumerable followers venerating them. Each one of them had his own style and approach for achieving enlightenment through the realization of the inner self to become one with the ultimate cosmic energy which we call as Brahma. One such outstanding holy man was Pt. Shiv Prasad Choudhari, who after attaining the saint hood became popular as Khatkhate Baba among his very large number of devotees. Though his level of spirituality was the same as that of famous saint of Deoria in U.P. known as Deoraha Baba, but unfortunately not much has been written about him or about his supernatural powers to perform the miracles so far.

Pt. Shiv Prasad Chaudhari’s ancestors originally used to write Razdan as their surname; but when they started living near Chaudhari Bagh in Rainawari they started writing Choudhari as their new surname. His ancestor Pt. Shanker Das Chaudhari was a mansabdar occupying some high position in the administration during the rule of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb (1658-1707) in Kashmir. He earned a lot of fortune and built a number of houses in Rainawari.

Then during the governorship of Saif Khan (1668-1671) over Kashmir Pt. Shanker Das Chaudhari’s son Pt. Mahesh Das Chaudhari became a well known builder of Kashmir and through the various construction works which were undertaken by him in the valley, he earned a fabulous fortune for him and started living like an aristocrat with great pomp and show. He laid a beautiful garden on the Mughal pattern near Nishat Bagh on the banks of Dal Lake and built a four kilometer long road to connect this garden with his ancestral house in Rainawari. He also constructed twelve bridges at suitable distances on this highway to facilitate the movement of traffic. One of that old bridge still bears an inscription giving the date and the name of its builder as Pt. Mahesh Das Chaudhari.

The subedar of Kashmir Saif Khan could not digest the name and fame of Pt. Mahesh Das Chaudhari and out of sheer jealousy said sarcastically the following Persian couplet to express his anger and annoyance.

Chaudhari Mahesh bagh na karad

Dar dile Saif Khan dag karad

which means in English that Chaudhari Mahesh did not lay a garden. He simply created a scar in the heart of Saif Khan. These developments strained the relations between the subedar Saif Khan and the members of the Chaudhari family and the former started taking coersive measures against the latter to settle his personal scores. Under such unfavourable and hostile conditions his descendant Pt. Badri Nath Chaudhary then migrated from the Kashmir Valley around 1730 for better and peaceful living with the Kafla of other Kashmiri Pandits during the rule of Mughal emperor Mohammad Shah Rangiley (1719-1747). He first came to the imperial capital Delhi and from there he moved with his family to Bareilly which was the capital of Nawab Ali Mohammad Khan then.

Here it should be kept in mind that the decline of the Mughal empire started after the death of Aurangzeb in 1707. The subsequent Mughal rulers lost their grip over the administration with the result that various local chieftains and other war lords at various places in the country then started raising their heads and consolidating their positions by waging wars against their enemies to strengthen their power and to expand their area of influence over more territories.

Prior to establishment of the Mughal rule in the country by Babar in 1526. A.D. various tribesmen from Afghanistan used to come to India in hordes through the historic Khyber Pass as adventurers, who used to get the job in the army of different rulers as retainers or as mercenaries being good fighters. These Afghan tribesmen had their population in different pockets of the country. Their main settlements were in Allahabad, Darbhanga, Orissa and Sylhet now in Bangladesh. But these warriors were crushed by the Mughals and a good majority of them were eliminated in different wars. But after the death of Aurangzeb fresh migration of Afghan tribesmen again started from across the border and this time they formed their base in the villages around Agra and Bareilly in western Uttar Pradesh. One Rohilla pathan soldier Daud who came from Kanadhar province of Afghanistan became their chieftain and gradually a right hand man of the Mughal imperial Subedar. He laid the foundation of the Rohilkhand state after the death of Aurangzeb in 1707. After the death of Daud in 1721 his adopted son Ali Mohammad Khan who was serving under the imperial faujdar of Muradabad by depriving the real zamindars and jagirdars their territories, soon formed his big state in the Bareilly district with its centre in Aonla village. In 1727 he further consolidated his position by defeating Mohammad Salih an imperial courtier who was an eunuch and declared himself as an independent ruler.

Pt. Badri Nath Chaudhari who came to Bareilly from Kashmir during this period got a good job in the court of Ali Mohammad Khan Rohilla who was having a total control over the territory between the Ganges river on the west and Garra river on the east Pt. Badri Nath Chaudhari earned so much during this period that his son Pt. Shanker Nath Chaudhari and grandson Pt. Ooncha Nath Chaudhari led a royal life and practically did nothing for their livelihood.

The growing influence of Ali Mohammad Khan Rohilla over the western U.P. upto the Kumayun hills became a danger signal for the Nawab of Oudh Shuja-ud-Daula (1753-1775) who then with the help of Marathas launched a major campaign against the Rohillas and a Treaty was signed on 17th June 1772 in the presence of Sir Robert Barber a British representative of the East India Company to curtail the powers of the Rohilla ruler. The British then launched a major assault against the Rohillas to finish their power. Though Rohillas fought very gallantly and bravely in this war but ultimately suffered a humiliating defeat. Their whole province was then merged with the Oudh kingdom and only Bareilly and Rampur were left in the possession of Nawab Faizullah Khan who was the son of Ali Mohammad Khan.

Naturally visualizing no economic prosperity and job opportunities at Bareilly this Chaudhary family then first migrated to Faizabad in Oudh and then to Lucknow during the rule of Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula (1775-1797) around 1778 which was the most favourite destination for the Kashmiri Pandits then and settled down in Kashmiri Mohalla.

After the Mutiny of 1857 both Pt. Thakur Prasad Chaudhari and Pt. Durga Prasad Chaudhari migrated from Lucknow to Delhi and started living in Bazaar Sita Ram there. Pt. Durga Prasad Chaudhari had a son Pt. Rameshwar Prasad Chaudhary who was born in 1875 at Delhi. Pt. Rameshwar Prasad Chaudhari after completing his education at Delhi went to Rajputana and became a Kutwal of a small principality Khettri there. He was married with Pran Kishori who was the daughter of Pt. Kameshwar Nath Kaul of Lucknow. He had two sons. Chandra Mohan and Shyam Mohan besides five daughters Chandra Mohini, Kishan Kumari, Bishan Kumari, Anand Kumari and Raj Kumari.

A member of this Chaudhari clan Dr. Jeevan Lal Chaudhari subsequently settled down with his family at Mathura. He was a homoeopathic doctor and was married with Vimal Kumari who was the daughter of Pt. Shiv Narain Upadhyaya of Top Darwaza, Lucknow. Somehow he developed a bad habit of gambling and lost everything. His brother Pt. Raja Lal Chaudhary had a dry cleaners shop at Agra in Raja ki Mandi locality, which was later on completely destroyed in a fire accident. He was married with Chandra Mohini who was the daughter of Pt. Raj Narain Saraf of Kashmiri Mohalla, Lucknow. Now Dr. Jeevan Lal Chaudhari’s son Jawahar Lal Chaudhari lives at D-65/2 Indira Nagar, Lucknow - 226016. He is married with Archana the daughter of Pt. Bishan Narain Shivpuri of Allahabad. His sister Shyam Kumari is married with Pt. Rishi Kumar Yaksha the son of Pt. Kailas Nath Yaksha of Lahore.

Another member of this Chaudhari clan Pt. Thakur Prasad Chaudhari, who was born around 1830 at Lucknow after completing his traditional education first became a sarishtedar and then a Tehsildar at Delhi where he used to live in Gali Prem Narain of Bazaar Sita Ram with his family members. He had two sons Janki Prasad and Shiv Prasad.

Pt. Janki Prasad Chaudhari was born around 1855 at Delhi. After completing his education he became a Tehsildar and then a deputy collector in the then United Provinces. He was posted in Bahraich around 1902 as a deputy collector.

Pt. Thakur Prasad Chaudhari’s younger son Pt. Shiv Prasad Chaudhari was born around 1859 in his ancestral house in Gali Prem Narain of Bazar Sita Ram, Delhi. After completing his education from the Delhi College the British appointed him as sarishtedar in Mahakma Bandobast of the Rae Bareli district of the then United Provinces around 1875. He was married with Sharika Shuri who was the daughter of Pt. Bhola Nath Kaul Nala of Kashmiri Mohalla, Lucknow. After his marriage he started living in Kashmiri Mohalla, Lucknow where he used to come on weekends from Rae Bareli where he was posted at that time. His wife was extremely beautiful and so he was very much attached with her and used to love her like any thing. But the destiny had something different in store for him. His wife died at a tender age due to some complications while giving birth to a child for want of proper medical aid as antibiotic drugs were not discovered by that time and a very large number of women used to die due to such complications. This tragic incident gave a tremendous shock to Pt. Shiv Prasad Chaudhari and completely shaken his soul. He suddenly lost all interest in worldly affairs and resigned from his government job. He then without telling anything to his near and dear ones and to the other members of the locality left for an unknown destination after putting up a lock in his house.

It is still a great mystery as to what he did after that and where he lived. Whether he had gone to Kashmir to seek solace or to Himalayas for deep meditation under the guidance of some spiritual Guru is not clear. But when he reappeared again around 1886 in the Etawah district of Uttar Pradesh he had attained the sainthood by that time and had also developed supernatural powers to perform miracles.

The whole Etawah city was in the grip of Cholera epidemic at that time. Many people were dying every day due to this dreadful disease. He not only saved the lives of many people from this disease by his magic touch, but also eradicated this disease completely from the city limits and thus became quite popular with the masses almost overnight due to his supernatural powers. The people started venerating him like a saint. As he used to walk on the streets of Etawah wearing a kharaun a wooden sandle on his feet with a mace in his hand producing a sound so his devotees named him as Khatkhate Baba out of their love and respect for him. The stories about his healing touch and supernatural powers soon started floating in different directions and the people started coming to Etawah from all over the country to have his darshan and blessings.

Khatkhate Baba then for his deep meditation and some other spiritual pursuits built his hermitage on the bank of the Yamuna river on an elevation away from the Etawah city at a place known as Yamuna ki Tarhati on Etawah Agra national highway about 4 kms from the Gwalior bypass.

There are many interesting stories about his supernatural powers and his spiritual prowess. It is said that once the whole Etawah city faced the danger of being submerged by the floods in Yamuna river. The water of the flooded Yamuna river also started entering into his hermitage which was located at a considerable height from the bed of the river. He then like Moses threw his mace with a force on the flooded river and lo be hold the water level of the flooded Yamuna river at once started receding. His devotees present there became awe struck by this supernatural phenomenon and started singing peans about him for this miracle to their relatives and other acquaintances.

It is also said that whenever he used to do his prarayam his body used to rise two feet above in the air from the ground thus scientifically becoming lighter than air i.e. he used to create a sort of vacuum in his body in that mudra by exhaling a deep breadth by his yogic powers.

Once he was moving on a street in the Etawah city. He saw a big crowd at one place. On reaching there he found that a dead body of a young man was placed on the street and the wife of the deceased was wailing near the corpse. He then forcefully hit the ground with his mace and asked as to what has happened. Why all this fuss, this man is alive take him to his place. The people present there became completely stunned when they found the young man coming back to life and then going back to his residence like a perfectly normal human being with no problem of any kind. The people then touched the feet of Khatkhate Baba to show their reverence towards that great saint and to seek his blessings.

Khatkhate Baba had the habit of taking his bath early in the morning before the sunrise to perform certain Yogic asanas after that. For this purpose he used to go to the other side of the river from his hermitage. He used to cross the Yamuna river by walking over the surface of its water wearing his wooden sandle as if walking on some metallic road. One could very well imagine his devine powers and his capacity to perform such supernatural phenomenons beyond human imagination by such acts, which have now become legends.

Whenever Khatkhate Baba used to come to Lucknow from Etawah to meet his in laws living in Kashmiri Mohalla at that time, he used to stay in a house having a big Neem tree in its courtyard, which was adjacent to the historic haveli of Kaul Shargas. In the same house the famous Urdu poet Pt. Ratan Nath Dar Sarshar also lived for some time before migrating to Hyderabad where he died in 1903. Khatkhate Baba used to perform various Yogic feats in this house during his stay. Sometimes he used to make his body so light and weightless due to certain Yogic exercise that his body used to lift up in the air like a hot air balloon upto the top of the Neem tree in the courtyard of that house. The list of such miracles performed by Khatkhate Baba is very long and it is not possible for any body to summarize all of them in one go.

Pt. Brahma Nath Sapru who was a deputy collector and a descendant of Pt. Moti Lal Sapru of Rani Katra, Lucknow came under the magic spell of Khatkhate Baba. He became so much impressed and overwhelmed by the devine powers of Khatkhate Baba that the former left his job and renounced all the worldly pleasures to become an ardent disciple of Khatkhate Baba. He then became famous as Swami Brahma Nath. He then in 1903 with the blessings of Khatkhate Baba established a Sanskrit Vidyapeeth in Etawah with an aim to make it a centre of spiritual learning and for teaching Vedantic philosophy to its students. He also established a big library with a vast collection of original Sanskrit texts, rare books and manuscripts besides some rare texts in Sharda, Pali and Sanskrit language on tampatras and bhoj patras.

Another member of this Sapru clan Pt. Suraj Nath Sapru also had spiritual bent of mind. He used to perform certain miracles at times. He was the spiritual Guru of my eldest bua. Mrs. Janak Dulari Gurtu who used to take regular spiritual guidance from him. When her only surviving son Swaroop Krishna Gurtu died in 1952 she then called Pt. Suraj Nath Sapru with great hope that he would perform some miracle to revive her son. But unfortunately nothing of that sort had happened. He then around 1960s migrated from Rani Katra, Lucknow to Kanpur and started living there with his family in the civil lines area near the Christian cemetery. He was married with Rajeshwari the daughter of Pt. Kunwar Krishna Raina of the Jaora State.

A big Yajna was organized by the disciples of Khatkhate Baba in the premises of this Sanskrit Vidyapeeth in 1911. A large number of saints and sages from all over the country came to participate in this Yajna, and to pay their obeisance to Khatkhate Baba. Elaborate arrangements were made for their boarding and lodging. While preparing the meals for the Bhandara the Halvai felt the shortage of ghee. It was not possible to bring more ghee in such a short notice from the city. Khatkhate Baba then suggested to bring water from the Yamuna river in place of ghee. As soon as the Yamuna water was placed in the vessel for frying the pooris it at once turned into ghee and thus the bhandara was nicely managed without any problem by his devotee to the full satisfaction of one and all present there. The next day Khatkhate Baba asked his disciples to bring ghee from the market and then told them to pour the same into the Yamuna river to make up the losses.

On the auspicious day of Budh Purnima in 1930 Khatkhate Baba left his mortal frame and took Nirvan at the age of about 71 years. After his passing away his brother in law Pt. Laxmi Narain Kaul Nala reserved a room in the upper storey of his house in Kashmiri Mohalla, Lucknow for his worship where his portrait and other personal items were kept and his day of Nirvan used to be observed with great reverence and devotion. The following story in poetic form was recited with great fervour to throw light on the different aspects of his spiritual life.

Jo bhakt hain aur moitkid hain beshumar.

Duniya mein khushnaseeb hain uftad mein dastgar.

Katib mein sabke hain aur sabke tan mein jaan.

Is raks ko samajhte hain bas uske kadredan

Duniya mein unke bhakt hain masroor shaad haal

Unka jo dar khwab mein nahin to kya majaal

Phale phoole hain sab chamane dahar mein kamaal

Jo unke das hain who sada rahenge nihaal

Shakir jo unke dhyan mein aur unki yaad mein

Kya kya gul khilae hain mere baghe murad mein

Prasidh Nath the unke the mursheed be panah

Unka bhi zikr karna hai mujhko yahan bayan

Pheri lagai Etawah mein ja baja

Us wakt wahan log the haize se mubtala

Sara shahar Etawah magzane ranj ke gham mein tha

Beemar subke sab achchha na koi tha

Pheri lagaye unhone aur di yeh sada

Sunle khatkhata hai aur chet ab zara

Do teen roz baad unki tali yeh bala

Tab log unko kahne lage baba khat khata

Sabke sab moitkid the unke bahre kazad mein

Aaliwoh khandan ke woh hardil kurban the

Pandit the aap mazmue aal sukha wari

Sharistedar daftare deputy kamishnari

Pahna libas fakirka thi chor naukri

Sub par the meharban zare bandaparvari

Khalak ameem apka mashhoor aam tha

Bilakhte aur faiz unko dil-o-aziz tha.

Ek martabe ka zikr hai bahre jaman badah

Aur badte badte unki kutiya ke pas aa gaya

Tab apna danda unhon ne usko dikha diya

Forun utar gaya goya kabhi charaah na tha

Pani gadon mein rah gaya aksar mukam par

Zahir yeh unka mauazza hai rasmo aam par.

Bhakton ko khwab mein nazar ate the gah bagah

Yeh baat such hai jiska parmatma hai ab gawah

Kahate jo the khwab mein hota tha sach zaroor

Ki hota tha unke muazzon ka ghain se jadoor

Zarron ko aftab darakshan bana diya

Pani ki boond ko par gultan bana diya

Li kankari jo haath mein to ban gayi who lal

Yeh faiz yeh daya yeh karamat yeh kamal

San pas dharm aaphain who suhibe vikaal

Kul unke mauzzon ka zikr hai yehi nihaal

The devotees of Khatkhate Baba after his Nirvan built his Samadhi at that spot besides a temple. Later on a museum was also built in this premises in which the holy relics of Khatkhate Baba are being kept well preserved. There are other artefacts of that era in the museum which are being looked after by the Archaeological Survey of India. A large number of devotees of Khatkhate Baba had also donated their properties in Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, U.P. and elsewhere to his ashram as charity. To look after these properties and for their management a Trust was constituted under the chairmanship of Pt. Kishan Mohan Nath Raina of Kanpur. But unfortunately like many other Trusts and Asthapans formed by the Kashmiri Pandits from time to time, some vested interests later on it is alleged sold out the properties of this Trust to mint easy money. Now Thakur Harihar Singh Kushwaha a non Kashmiri Pandit is wholesole incharge of this Kashmiri Pandits’ Trust. Pt. Shyam Prasad Chaudhari a distant relative of Khatkhate Baba who was a member of this Trust now lives in Kidwai Nagar, Kanpur. Due to his advancing age and failing health he is not taking any interest in the activities of this Trust any more.

Though Khatkhate Baba was one of the greatest spiritual saints of the 20th century with devine powers but due to want of publicity not much has been written about him except some distorted stories and versions about him by some immature writers without doing any exhaustive research work on him and his life.

Every year on the auspicious day of Budh Purnima a large number of pilgrims from different parts of the country come to Etawah to pay their obeisance at the samadhi of Khatkhate Baba and a big mela is being organized by the district authorities to mark this occasion. There is also a plan to develop this spot for religious tourism.

The Kashmiri Pandit community has produced a galaxy of outstanding saints, sages, savants, and ascetics with devine powers who dedicated their entire life for the emancipation of the entire humanity by spreading the message of love and compassion without any difference of caste, creed or religion. The need of the hour is that an exhaustive research work should be taken up on their lives and teachings to preserve the same for posterity as a part and parcel of our rich cultural heritage. Simply by talking in the air will not solve any purpose. One can only achieve his aim by a strong will and firm determination and not by wavering over the matter in a Hamletonian way of to be or not to be. Thomas Fuller has very rightly observed.

He that can not forgive others break the bridge over which he must pass himself; for every man has the need to be forgiven.

Kashmiri Writers B.N. Sharga
 

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