Sri Sri 108 Swami Ramdas Kathia Babaji Maharaj was known as “Kathia Baba” and it was after him that the sadhus of this sampradaya came to be known as Kathia Baba. He was called ‘Kathia Baba’ because he wore a wooden belt (Kaath) around his waist and a wooden loin cloth (kowpeen) to cover his loins. The practice of wearing this Kaath and kowpeen was already prevalent amongst the sadhus of this sampradaya. However it was only when Sri Ramdasji gained fame that the term ‘Kathia Baba’ came into prominence. In the opinion of many sadhus of his time, Sri Kathia Babaji Maharaj was a sage on par with Sri Garga Muni and Sri Narada.

Although the exact year and date of birth of Sri Ramdasji is unknown  it has been estimated that he was born around 200 years ago in a village called Lonachamari in The Punjab on the day of Guru Poornima. He was the third son of his parents and a favourite child of his mother. At a very young age of four he was advised by a Paramhansa to meditate on Lord Rama. Since then he always tried to chant the raam-naam in his mind. Once when he was out herding his cows in a field, he met a divine looking sadhu. Sri Ramdasji was about 5/6 years old. The sadhu asked for something to eat. Sri Ramdasji brought a huge quantity of flour, sugar, and ghee for the sadhu. The sadhu blessed him and said, “You will become a Yogiraj one day.” When he heard the sadhu say this, Sri Ramdasji felt that his attachment to the world had vanished in a trice. After his Upnayan sanskaar (sacred thread ceremony) Sri Ramdasji learnt the scriptures from a teacher. He stayed at his teacher’s home and learnt Vyaakaran (Sanskrit Grammar), Jyotish (Astrology), Smriti, Vishnusaharanaam (thousand names of Lord Vishnu), Srimad Bhagwad Gita, etc. Of all these, Srimad Bhagwad Gita was very dear to him.

After his return from the guru’s home, he decided to attain sidhi of the Gayatri Mantra. He sat under a banayan tree and began the japa of the Gayatri Mantra. He attained his goal and Devi Gayatri appeared before him in physical form and blessed him. There was still some japa to complete however, a heavenly voice instructed him to go to Jwalamukhi and do the remaining portion of the japa. He started his journey to Jwalamukhi without delay and on the way he met a divine looking sadhu with huge matted locks. Sri Ramdasji was so attracted towards that saint that he immediately sought diksha and sanyaas from the sadhu. Sri Ramdasji became an ascetic at a young age of 17-18 after he received sanyaas from his gurudeva, Sri Sri 108 Swami Devadasji Kathia Babaji Maharaj. Sri Devadasji too was a very powerful and realized saint. He could sit in samadhi for six months at a stretch without moving or without taking any food. Even otherwise he did not eat any food.

Sri Ramdasji lived with his guru for many years and served his guru with utmost devotion and care. He obeyed the most difficult instructions of his guru without flinching and with a lot of patience. His gurudeva taught him Ashtanga Yoga, Hath Yoga, instructed him in the use of many mantras and many other spiritual practices necessary for a yogi. However Sri Devadasji tested the patience and devotion of his disciple in many ways. Sometimes he keep Sri Ramdasji without food for several days, and other times he would provide him with delicacies to see whether his disciple’s mind is swayed by food or lack thereof. Sometimes he would hurl insults which would be difficult for a normal human being to ignore or swallow. This was to see if the disciple is swayed by insults or responds in a tit for tat manner. Once Sri Devadasji pointed to a spot and said to him, “Ramdas, sit here and do not move till I return.” Sri Devadasji left and did not return for eight days. Sri Ramdasji remained seated at the same spot for eight days without getting up. When Sri Devdasji returned to find him sitting as he had instructed, he was very pleased and said, “This is how you should obey the orders of the guru. God showers His grace on the disciple who follows his Gurudeva’s orders without guile and with sincerity.” Pleased with his unflinching devotion and selfless service, Sri Devadasji granted many boons to Sri Ramdasji. Before that however he put Sri Ramdasji to the test for one more time. Feigning anger, he started raining blows on Sri Ramdasji’s body and beat him up without mercy. He used his chimta to rain blows on his disciple and curse him all the while saying things like, “Why are still after me? All my other disciples have left me and yet you are the only one who won’t leave me alone. Go away, I don’t need anybody to do anything for me.” Sri Ramdasji bore all this without a trace of anger or any other emotion. His body was aching all over from the blows his guru had rained on him. At the end of it all he said to Sri Devadasji, “Maharaj, I consider you as God Himself. There is no way I would ever leave your side come what may. However, I cannot bear this torture at your hands any more. I will bring you knife and you can sever my head from my body and put an end to all this. However, as long as there is life within my body, I would never ever leave you.” Sri Devadasji was very happy with his disciples steadfastness and gurubhakti and said to Sri Ramdasji, “Today I tested you for the last time, I am very pleased by the devotion you have for your guru. I grant you the boon that you will attain complete realization of God. You words will never come untrue and you will receive the darshan of your ishta devata.”

After the evanescence of his gurudeva, Sri Ramdasji immersed himself in severe penances. In summers he sat in the centre of a ring of fire created by burning Kandas (dried cakes of cow dung which are used as fuel for cooking in rural India). In winters he immersed himself in cold water and meditated throughout the night. Finally his Gurudeva’s boons came true and he attained complete realisation of God at a place called Sailani ka Kunda in Bharatpur. He covered all the pilgrimages of India on foot and finally came to live in Vrindavan. He lived on the banks of the Yamuna River for many years and finally at the request of some local Brajawasis he came to live in Kemarvan and built a small cottage there. Later one of his disciples, Sri Tarakishorji Sharma Chowdhury, built an ashram on that land. The place is still known as ‘Kathia Baba ka purana sthan.’

Sri Ramdas Kathia Babaji Maharaj’s life is full of countless divine incidents and although he lived as an ordinary person amongst the Brajawasis, he was renown as a powerful saint and as a Yogiraj. At the request of one Brajawasi, Sri Channu Singh, he used his will power to convert a dreaded dacoit, Gosaiyaan, into a sadhu. The saints and ascetics of Vrindavan annointed him as,‘Brajabidehi Mahant’ and ‘Srimahant of the Chatursmpradai.’ Sri Ramdasji lived for around 120-125 years. It is impossible to describe his life in detail in such a limited space. He willingly left his mortal body in 1910.



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