|Late Shri Janaki Mandal ji, the grandfather of Revered Swami Bhagirath Baba, was a resident of Lalganj, a village under Rupauli Police Station of Purnia District in the state of Bihar, India. He was an intensely devout person, and used to organise every year a series of discourses on Bhagwat (a Hindu scripture illustrating the exploits of all the incarnations of Lord Vishnu, especially that of His incarnation as Lord Shri Krishna) for a fortnight spanning from Amavasya (New Moon Day) to Poornima (Full Moon Day) of the Hindu month of Vaishakh (coinciding with the month of May usually). It was during one such occasion that Swami Bhagirath Das ji was born - on Tuesday the 22nd May of 1943, the 11th day of the light half of the month of Vaishakh - while the discourse on the Bhagvat was going on. It is for this reason that Late Shri Janki Mandal ji gave the name ‘Bhagvat Mandal‘ to him. His venerable mother, Late Mrs. Dhanasi Devi, took ill immediately after his birth and, thus, the onus of his upbringing fell upon his grandmother and aunt (father’s sister). So, Bhagirath Baba got very little opportunity of receiving his mother’s milk. Swami Bhagirath Das ji was very quiet or calm by nature. He loved sitting quietly in solitude. His family members would get amazed by his temperament. Even in his childhood days he displayed a natural attraction for sages; seeing hermits or sages he would run to them and pay his obeisance. He did not have much inclination towards studies; he preferred rather to sit alone with his eyes closed. When his grandma and aunt went to the farm field, he, too, would accompany them, and as they got busy with their farming work, he would sit on the boundary-mend of the field in a cross-legged posture and close his eyes. This would surprise them. They tried to divert his attention by calling his name loudly from afar, but this would have no effect on him. Then they would move closer and shout again. Getting annoyed at being disturbed he would abruptly stand up and leave alone for home. When he grew up as a child, his family members wanted him to go to school, but he did not evince any interest. Following a lot of loving persuasion and pressuring by his parents, he started going to a private school for studies. There he displayed a very sharp memory and grasped very quickly whatever was taught to him and, thus, came to be loved very much by his teachers. After two years he shifted to a primary school with the kind consent of his parents. Mr. Arvind, the Principal of this school was struck by his quiet disposition and paid him special attention. One day Mr. Arvind told him, "Your name is Bhagvat which is also the name of a puran (puranas are a class of voluminous work in Sanskrit dealing with aspects of ancient Indian history, legend, mythology or theology). In our country, there was a great, virtuous king named Bhagirath; he had, by dint of his Herculean penance, brought the Ganga River down to the earth. That is why, I would like to give you a new name ‘Bhagirath‘." And he himself wrote ‘Bhagirath Mandal‘ (Mandal being the surname) on the cover page of one of his notebooks. Since then, people began to call him ‘Bhagirath‘. Later, when he joined into the personal attendance of His Holiness Maharshi Mahi Paramhans ji Maharaj, looking at his exemplary self-less and devoted ‘seva‘ (service) to his Guru, people began to call him ‘Gurusevi‘ (One who serves the Guru). Thus, he is known by the combined name ‘Gurusevi Shri Bhagirath Baba‘.
On passing Class III with flying colours, he expressed his desire to the Principal Mr. Arvind Babu, "Sir, I wish to get admission to the Class IV at Dholbajja School, because there I would be able to continue up to Class VII." Giving his consent to the proposal, Mr. Arvind asked him to come prepared the next day. When Bhagirath Baba went to him the next day, Mr. Arvind Babu was ready. Bhagirath Baba touched his feet. Mr. Arvind blessed him and took him to Mr. Madan Babu, the Head Master of Dholbajja School and got him admitted there. Bhagirath Baba was struck with fever the same evening as he returned home from the new school. However, the fever slowly subsided and he subsequently began to attend the school regularly. He continued at the school till he passed the examination of Class VII. While in the Sixth, he was awarded the Merit Scholarship by the Welfare Department of Government which used to be granted to a select few meritorious students. While returning home after having taken the last paper of Class VII, Bhagirath Baba, walking through the Baluka Maidan (name of an open space or ground), asked his friend, "Praksah (name of his friend)! Which stream of study are you going to opt for at the high school - arts or science? (In those days, arts and science streams used to be separated right from Class VIII. However, now a day a common curriculum is followed till the Class X.) Prakash ji (‘ji‘ or ‘Babu‘ are the terms used to call someone respectfully in India) replied that he would pursue a course in medicine. Reacting to this, Bhagirath Baba said, "Well yes! You can pursue medical education because your father is rich and can afford to bear the higher fees. But my father is poor. He will not be able to manage the required expenses. I think that in case I could not continue my studies further, I would seek the shelter of some Mahatma (Great Soul, or sage), serve him and practise all that he would command me to do." No sooner than he had said this that a miracle happened. He saw an old-aged Mahatma dressed in saffron clothes sitting on the ground. He had a broad forehead, a swollen gland (or protrusion of flesh) on the left side of his head, long white hair, flowing beards and thick moustaches. The Mahatma was constantly staring at Bhagirath Baba as if he was telling, "Have a good look at me. You have to be in my service only." Looking at the Mahatma, Bhagirath Baba respectfully bowed his head, closed his eyes and offered his pranam. Then as he opened his eyes, Mahatma had disappeared. What was more amazing was that the Mahatma had manifested himself to Bhagirath Baba alone; Prakash ji had not seen him. From that very day devotion to God took deep roots inside Bhagirath Baba who once again developed distaste for formal studies. Nonetheless, he did take admission, obeying the instructions of his father, to Class VIII at a High School about three kilometres from his village, but could not appear at the annual examination of Class VIII. He still got admitted to Class IX at Dholbajja High School and continued his education for some more time. However, just before the Half Yearly examinations were to commence, he, as advised by his father, joined a training programme on eradication of small pox. And with this his formal education came to an end. After the completion of training, he stayed back home and began to assist his brother in domestic assignments. Every now and then the captivating picture of the Mahatma, who had shown himself on the Baluka Maidan, would flash before his eyes. Looking at his keen affinity for satsang (spiritual gathering) one day an old satsangi from the village, Late Shri Hanuman Das ji told him, "My Guru, Maharshi Mehi Paramhans ji Maharaj is coming to Tikapatti (a place nearby). Please come along, if you so desire, to have his darshan (glimpse)." Bhagirath Baba, drawn by an unknown force, proceeded to the place with other co-villagers on the scheduled date. He was left dumbfounded to look at the sage who was seated on the stage, "O My God! This is precisely the same Mahatma who had granted his divine darshan to me on the Baluka Maidan!" He could not believe his eyes. He offered his heartfelt pranam to Him from a distance. Suddenly a spontaneous feeling flashed through his mind, "Now I need not wander any further. I shall be in the service of this great soul all my life. He alone would be my guide." The very next day i.e. on the 9th December 1966, Sadguru Maharshi Mehi Paramhans ji Maharaj initiated him at 9 PM. After being initiated when Bhagirath Baba went to Maharshi Mehi to pay his respect the next morning, he began to gaze at him constantly as if they been very old acquaintances; Seeing him looking at him Bhagirath Baba got Goosebumps. This time also he was come over with an inner feeling that Gurudev would surely keep him in his personal service. He made an offering of five annas (sixteen annas would make one rupee of Indian currency then) at his Holy feet and went back to the Satsang Hall. In the morning session of satsang when the Revd. Guru was being escorted to the stage, the volunteers in their efforts to make way for him made people gathered there stand on two sides. Bhagirath Baba also stood on one side to have a glimpse of Gurudev from close. Walking towards the stage as Gurudev came near him, he stopped briefly and began to look fixedly at him. "Why Gurudev keeps looking at me repeatedly? There must be something to It." was the thought that crossed his mind. At the end of the afternoon session of satsang, Bhagirath Baba offered his pranam to Gurudev and came back to his native place, Lalganj, and began to practise meditation regularly as instructed. On one moon lit night, Bhagirath Baba recounts, he was sleeping in his Southern veranda with his head to the north. It was about 2:30 or 3 AM. He suddenly felt that somebody was pressing his stomach with a cudgel or stick. Then he heard the voice of Gurudev, "Oh! What is this? It is the time to meditate and you are still sleeping? Get Up!" He suddenly woke up and saw Gurudev in his front; He was slowly retreating (moving backwards). Bhagirath Baba was stunned, "How come Gurudev is here at my house so late in the night!" In the light of moon he could clearly see Gurudev who slowly disappeared. Great sants like Gurudev oblige only deserving or worthy disciples in this way with his divine glimpse and precious instructions. After this wonderful experience, the urge to serve him became all the more intense in Bhagirath Baba. God always listens to prayers of genuine devotees; Gurudev was to very soon fulfil this wish of his.
Two months after this experience, Bhagirath Baba got the news that Gurudev was to come to Koshakipur, a village five kilometres east of his village, Lalganj. Immediately an impulse arose within him to renounce the household life for good and join in the service of Gurudev. But he preferred to keep this to himself for the time being. Finding an opportune time he told his mother of Gurudev’s programme and requested for her permission to go and see Gurudev as well as to attend the satsang there. His mother kept silent for a moment and then told, "OK, you may go. But come back soon." The very next morning, he kept some eatables and the book "Ram Charit Manas Sar Sateek" (A Commentary on Goswami Tulsidasji’s Ram Charit Manas, written by Maharshi Mehi Paramhans) with him, paid his respects to his mother and left home even before sun-rise. Little did she or anyone else know that he was leaving home for ever! He was accompanied by some devotees from his village. On reaching Koshakipur, he went to where Gurudev was staying, offered his pranam to Gurudev and went to the Satsang Hall where satsang was to be held. When Gurudev took his seat on the stage, he got the opportunity to fan him with a hand-operated fan. This was the beginning of a life of service to Gurudev. It was there after the satsang session that he spoke his mind to his co-villagers. Somehow the news reached Gurudev also who called him and very affectionately enquired him regarding his parents, brothers, other family members, family profession etc. Knowing all the details, Gurudev closed his eyes for some time and then asked, "Suppose your father comes to take you back, what would you do then?" Bhagirath Baba every humbly replied, "I will persuade him to see my view point by explaining everything". Gurudev became silent for a while, and then said, "It is alright. You may proceed to the Ashram (at Kuppaghat, Bhagalpur) and stay there for as long as you wish. For the time being I am not coming to the Ashram. In the meanwhile you can go and live there along with Ramlagan". Then addressing Shri Ramlagan Baba, Gurudev said, "Ramlagan! Keep some eatables with you and take him (Bhagirath Baba) along to the Ashram". Receiving his orders, Bhagirath Baba touched his feet and left for the Kuppaghat Ashram, Bhagalpur with Revered Ramlagan Baba. There he began mainly to look after the cows of the Ashram, to help in running the mess, and do some gardening work also. Whenever Gurudev would come back to the Ashram from his tours, Bhagirath Baba also got an additional opportunity of rendering some personal service to Gurudev. Occasionally, Maharshi Mehi would take him along on some of his propaganda missions, by temporarily entrusting the tasks attended to by Bhagirath Baba to somebody else at the Ashram. On one such trip to Rajgir Gurudev asked him, "For how long would you live with me?" Bhagirath Baba replied without any hesitation, "Life-long, Gurudev!", Gurudev kept silent at this. On returning to Ashram, Bhagirath Baba became busy discharging his duties with utmost concentration, and also availed himself of any opportunity that came his way of doing personal service to Gurudev.
Observing his true devotion Revered Ram Lagan Baba submitted to Gurudev on the 15th August 1971, "Sir, kindly initiate Bhagirath ji into monk hood (renunciation) by giving him the robes of recluse". Most venerable Gurudev replied, "Yes, I have full faith in him. I will initiate him into monkhood." Then he turned to Bhagirath Baba, "Bhagirath! Come with the saffron clothes meant for a monk." Bhagirath Baba brought the monk’s saffron clothes and placed them in the hands of Gurudev. Gurudev kept those clothes for sometime in his hands, and then handed over them to Bhagirath Baba saying, "Put these clothes on". When Bhagirath Baba took the clothes from his hands, Gurudev asked, "Do you have some Prasad (offering) with you?" Bhagirath Baba replied, "Yes Lord! I have a few bananas with me". Gurudev then commanded, "Peel off one banana and put a small piece into my mouth". Bhagirath Baba took the peel off one banana and respectfully fed Gurudev one piece of it with his own hands. Gurudev then asked, "Now wash my mouth with water." Bhagirath Baba cleaned his hands and washed Gurudev’s lips. Then he put on the monk’s saffron robes and bowed himself down at the lotus feet of Gurudev, who blessed him. Thenceforth he appointed Bhagirath Baba into his personal service and entrusted the tasks hitherto assigned to Bhagirath Baba to some other person. On that very day Gurudev told him, "My son! You have been given an opportunity to serve. Do not let it ever go." With folded hands, Bhagirath Baba replied, "My Master! This body is meant only to serve you. Put it to any type of service you deem fit." About a week after this initiation into renunciation, Gurudev asked him, "Bhagirath! How would like to serve me - as a disciple or as a son?" Bhagirath Baba says, I thought I had already become a disciple by getting initiated, so why to miss the golden opportunity of becoming his son, too!" So, he promptly replied, "Sir, as your son." From that very day Gurudev began to address him as ‘son‘ and love accordingly.
Occasionally, Gurudev would also instruct Bhagirath Baba to address the gathering during spiritual sessions, and he obeyed his instructions. Once he gave a speech of about 8 to 9 minutes during the Annual General Convention at Manasi. After his speech, Gurudev remarked, "I ask this young chap to speak because he would propagate Santmat one day" to the thunderous applause of the gathering. Besides showering his fatherly affection Gurudev would also teach Bhagirath Baba some of the finer secrets of meditation and Santmat. One day Gurudev asked him one question related to meditation and was extremely glad with the appropriate answer given by Bhagirath Baba.
Gurudev initiated Bhagirath Baba into the Surat Shabd Yoga (Yoga of Divine Sound) in 1980. One day Gurudev, pleased with his dedicated service, remarked, "May your son live long!" Puzzled with the statement Ram Lagan Baba who was also standing there asked, "O Master! Is this a blessing or a curse (for a recluse)?" Gurudev smiled and said, "A disciple is also like a son."
In 1984 Gurudev authorised Bhagirath Baba to give initiation to the deserving seekers in the Santmat tradition. One day Shri Dal Bahadur Baba (another monk) approached Bhagirath Baba and said, "I travel far & wide to different parts of the country of Nepal. People there are not so well off. They can not afford to travel this far (to Bhagalpur), but they are very eager to get initiated. If you could convey my request to him, it would be a great obligation unto me." Bhagirath Baba assured him of passing the message on; and at his request, Gurudev, who he himself deemed to be fit for the job, authorised Dal Bahadur Baba as a preceptor.
The service offered by Bhagirath Baba is worth emulating for all the disciples. He served his Guru in all possible ways, such as bathing him, serving him water & food, take him on a stroll, carry him in his lap from one place to another, to the stage, the toilet etc. He remained with him all the time like his shadow and promptly obeyed all his instructions considering it to be his highest duty. He would also recite from the holy seripltures in spiritual gatherings. He took utmost care of sanity and cleanliness during big conventions, keeping gatherings of devotees under good control etc. All these tasks he kept on discharging till the last moment of Gurudev’s life.
On the fateful Sunday, the 8th June, 1986 at about 11 A.M. Gurudev asked him, "Beta, aj mujhako moong ka usana khila do" (My dear son, please give me the boiled preparation of the green gram to eat today). Bhagirath Baba got the dish prepared by the Chef, Shri Guru Prasad Baba, and fed Gurudev, and offered him water to drink. On getting order, he did Gurudev’s hair at about six in the evening and served him water to drink frequently. After some time, he asked Gurudev again, "Sir, would you have some more water?" shaking his head mildly, Gurudev said, "Nay" (No). This was to be Bhagirath Baba’s last conversation with Gurudev. After this, Gurudev started to slowly gather or withdraw himself within and subsequently merged into his true self or the Almighty. By dint of his round-the-clock dedicated selfless service, Bhagirath Baba got blessings of various types from Gurudev.
Once Gurudev had gracefully blessed him saying, "May you live long! Your devotion would be completed in this very birth. People would take you overseas as well. I have given everything to you… etc." One day when Shri Shivanand Baba, a resident of the Ashram came to offer his pranam, Gurudev asked him, "Who would propagate Santmat after me?" With folded hands Shivanand Baba answered, "Whomever would you select for the job, Lord!" Then pointing towards Bhagirath Baba Gurudev said, "He will do it." A nervous Bhagirath Baba asked, "O Lord! How would I be able to undertake such a big responsibility?" Gurudev assured him, "Why do you get so nervous?" Bhagirath Baba recalls, "One day Gurudev was reclining on his cot after having a bath. Suddenly he started uttering - O Lord! O Supreme Lord! May Bhagirath come to imbibe whatever virtues there are in me! He repeated this sentence five times. Then he continued, "O Lord! O Supreme Lord! May Bhagirath not come to have whatever demerits are there in me! He repeated this sentence three times." "I started wondering", continues Bhagirath Baba, "Gurudev does not have any demerits or deficiencies. He has blessed the lives of so many people. Then why did He say - May Bhagirath not come to have whatever demerits there are in me?" The all-knowing Gurudev read his mind and said, "My deficiency is that I am not able to walk on my own feet. I wish you never suffer from such debility". Reminiscing further Bhagirath Baba says, "One evening at about eight Gurudev was reclining on His bed. Sitting near His bed I was fanning him with a towel to keep flies and mosquitoes away from Gurudev. Looking at me, Gurudev asked me, "were you my relative in the previous birth?" I said, "It is why, You have kept me with You."
Three or four days before He was to depart this world, Gurudev told him, "When I shed my body, offer my stick, too, along with my body to flames." His order was executed. Bhagirath Baba placed Gurudev’s urn in His room.
After the departure of Maharshi Mehi from this world, Bhagirath Baba started his long and hard meditation in the holy cave of Kuppaghat in which Maharshi Mehi had realized the Self and achieved salvation. That continued for about three years. He got some disturbance because of visiting the cave by the devotees. He tolerated it and built a small cave on the bank of river Ganga in the premise of Kuppaghat Aashram. In that cave he started his continuous and unceasing meditation from the year of 1990 to 1991. After that he started propagation of Santmat on the kind request of Satsangis (Santmat-devotees).
Bhagirath Baba began to initiate seekers since 31st May 1987. More than 28,400 persons have taken initiation from him so far. Devouts from abroad like Sweden, Australia, USA, Holland etc. enjoy the spiritual talk with Swami Bhagirath Baba. His speeches directly touch the hearts of the audience and cast a magical influence on them. The headgear (turban) he puts on presents a striking resemblance to Swami Vivekananda who had incarnated to keep the flag of his Guru Swami Ramkrishna Paramahansji Maharaj flying all over the globe. Similarly, Bhagirath Baba, too, is playing the flag-bearer of Santmat which was so painfully nurtured & propagated by his Guru, Maharshi Mehi Paramhansji Maharaj.
He has authored five books that are full of spiritual insight, namely, "Maharshi Mehi ke Dincharya Updesh" (Life & preachings of Maharshi Mehi), Santmat Tatva-Jnaan Bodhini (Quintessence of Santmat), Apne Guru Ki Yad Me (In the remembrance of Own Guru), and Maharshi Mehi Chaitanya Chintan (Self-conscious Thinking of Maharshi Mehi). These all books are in Bharati language.