Jagannath (Gash) Manwati
Having weathered 84 years of my life, I am the last
living member of Manwati clan who has had the
honour of having lived about 15 years of his life
concurrently with revered Thakurjoo Manwati, my
perfect householder, 'Baijigur', as we used to
call him, had two sons and two daughters. His
elder son Lt. Sarwanand was issueless and his
second son Lt. Vedlal was not blessed with a male
sibling, so I filled the vacuum and became the pet
child in the family who ued to tuck himself along
'Baijigur' for nearly seven years of my formative
and impressionable age till he attained his
Nirvana in 1999. It is perhaps 'Baijigur's grace
that I vividly remember many eye-witnessed
episodes of his life without the time-lag effect.
teacher by profession, Thakurjoo has acquired the
degrees of Munshi Fazil, an Honours in Urdu, on
the basis at which he was, perhaps, appointed a
teacher in a government primary school. But he had
mastered Sanskrit, Persia and even Arabic on his
own volition which helped him in the deep study of
the Vedantic scriptures, the Quran and the Bible.
He was a voracious reader, a prolific writer and
an impromptuo composer.
services took him from village to village, his
longest posting being at Sopore. Not much is,
therefore, known about the earlier years of his
life. However, towards the fag end of his career,
he was transferred to Gurgari Mohalla Primary
School in Srinagar. It is said that Bawa Balwant
Singh, the then Inspector of Schools, reportedly
an awesome and disciplined officer, on his couple
of annual inspections to this school found always
'Alif', the first alphabet in Urdu, written on the
black-board of the classroom. On a subsequent
inspection, he made a caustic remark, "Masterji,
I find you and your students are still on 'Alif'
even after three years." Masterji, with all
humility, which was the hallmark of his character,
explained for more than half an hour the esoteric
meaning of the alphabet. The inspector was
flabergasted and apologised for his sarcastic
remark and simultaneously offered if he could do
anything for him. Masterji pleaded that he should
not be transferred from the school till his
retirement, because "it is here that I have
merged with Alif."
I saw a poem composed by my daughter-in-law. I
reproduce an extract of the poem which is
pertinent in the context and perhaps a
quintessence of Thakurjoo's explanation of 'Alif'.
it Alif or call it Cardinal One
Represents Cosmic Oneness
Manifestation of 'Allah' and 'Adidev'
I ventured to Walk
the Staff of 'Alif'
a Blind I was lost in the Universe
Mahatma Gandhi, in his post-retirement years,
Masterji used to organise evening prayer meetings
at Dewan Bagh - now Karan Nagar, where people trom
all walks of life and strata used to assemble to
hear his discourses in which he used to quote
profusely from the Gita, and the Bible.
strict vegetarian, 'Baijigur' was no advocate of
rituals or dogmas. There was no traditional 'Thakur-Kuth'
(household pooja room) hi his small dwelling. A
room strewn and stacked with books in the house
was his 'Karma-sthan', where he would be immersed
in the books and often lost in deep pensive moods.
He firmly blieved that the Supreme Lord lived
within everyone and search for Him outside was an
exercise in futile.
(Your body is the repository of all Gyan
(knowledge). You have'nt to look for it outside)
at his prayer meetings, he would exhort people
to keep clean their mind/conscience of worldly
dirt and dust.
your mind sparkingly clean.
of dirt and rust.
this, I say, as the essence of life)
is sad that the original manuscript of 'Amrit
Sagar', a collection of his 200 and odd poems,
mostly in Kashmiri, unfolding the subtleties of
Spiritual Truth, based on his personal experience,
is not traceable.
poem had on the top the 'Raga' mentioned on which
it was based and metered, whicl1 gave insight into
his knowledge of Shastriya Sangeet. Often he would
correct Govind Baba, a musician disciple of his if
he would commit an error in putting a certain poem
to particular raga.
always used to be gathering of religious scholars,
medicants and sadhus coming from distant places
like Banares and down South having discussions and
deliberations on divergent features of
metaphysics. Though the pecuniary position of the
family was not that bright, yet there used to he
10-12 persons there daily who would partake food
at his place. Lest this would earn a frown in the
family, Masterji would often remind:
can we, who are ourselves
in the world
to play host to one another
the fact remains,
is His Grace which ensures
for us all.)
remember there was a big earthen pitcher kept
outside his room which used to be filled with
fresh water on each Sunday morning. Thakurjoo
would put his hand and stir the water reciting
some inaudible mantes. This water used to be
sought after by people of all faiths coming from
far-off places like Baramulla and Muzzafarabad for
treatment of malaria which was quite prevalent in
those days. Sunday was called 'Aushadi Day' in the
Some six months before Masterji attained his
Mahasamadhi, he bade a tearful farewell to his pet
cow 'Parvati' and sent her to Sopore wherefrom she
was brought. The incident of the cows departure
created a sort of conmlotion in the house. When my
father enquirecl about it, 'Baijigur' said:
"Why grieve? Parvati has gone to her home,
soon I shall depart for mine
"<verses>" (These mortal remains
are now tattered beyond repair.) Some time later,
a carbuncle appeared on his stomach which proved
humble teacher has attained venerable status of a
Guru and the aroma of his preachings had mingled
with the air of Kashmir. No wonder then that on
the day of his Mahasamadhi, right from his
residence at Gund Ahalmar, Srinagar, to the
cremation ground at Dewar Bagh, all the
shopkeepers downed their shutters and joined the
funeral procession with Raghunath Rathi - the
famous bard of the times leading the Viman
procession singing his poems.
portraying the mood of the people on the day of
Mahasamadhi of the poet-saint of Kashmir, Rathi
wrote an elegy, paying his tributes to Thakurjoo
Manwati which became a household 'cry' in Kashmir.
the nectar of Thakurjoo's preaching keep the
celestial fire burning in all the hearts.