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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.