Jagdish Saheb and I left Kharsia on January 31st by train for Kudurmal. Mahant Jyotir Das Shastri is the present Acharya (religious teacher) at the Kudurmal ashram. This was the first ashram founded about five hundred years ago by the son of Dharam Dass Saheb, Chudamani Nam (also known as Muktamani Nam). He was succeeded by Kulpati Nam. They dwelt in a two storey white concrete building with a red tiled roof. A few yards away from this building are the samadhis (tombs) of Chudamani Nam and Kulpati Nam Sahebs. These are now holy shrines and many people visit them to pay their respects. There are many other tombs of other sadhus and mahants within the compound. The ashram has a central courtyard that is often used for religious gatherings. There are several acres of farmland surrounding the ashram, and they grow various types of crops for use by the ashram and for sale.
There is a story about Muktamani Nam which states that he used to sit on a huge rock in the midst of the nearby river, and he would seem to disappear, and would be seen next on the coast at Puri – a distance of several hundred kilometers. No one seems to know how he got from one place to the other so quickly, and there is a rumour that he must have found an underground tunnel through which he travelled.
It was at Kudurmal that a council meeting was held in 1933 to decide on who should succeed Daya Nam Saheb, as he did not have an heir to succeed him. Daya Nam Saheb married three times in an effort to have an heir to succeed him but, unfortunately, he died at about the age of thirty without an heir. At this meeting, for which a concrete throne was built on the grounds, it was decided that a son should be adopted to succeed him, and the adopted son of the most senior widow was chosen as the heir to Daya Nam Saheb. In 1936 or 1937, Grindhmani Nam was adopted, and he is the present Hazur of Damakhera Ashram. He has been at this post for approximately forty years now. The Damakhera ashram had been occupied by householder mahants. Grindhmani Nam Saheb has one living son and three daughters, one son having died some years ago. His son who is now in high school is Prakashmani Nam and he will be succeeding his father. (He is now the Hazur, succeeding his father).
We spent one night at the Kudurmal ashram, and the following day went to the city of Korba where Mahant Jyotir Das is building another ashram on two acres of land. We spent one night there, and on February lst at 5:30 a.m. we took a bus for a five-hour trip to Damakhera. We arrived at there around midday in the midst of a huge Mela (fair) celebrating Basant Purnima – a spring celebration on the full moon day.
Damakhera is a huge ashram with many buildings, and it was estimated there were about five thousand people in attendance. We were served tea and this was followed by a delicious lunch. We had the opportunity to meet Grindhmani Nam (whose name prior to becoming Hazur was Chaturbhuj Das) and had some discussions with him. He is a very gentle and soft-spoken person, and we were glad to meet him. As we were not able to stay for the function he gave us, as is the tradition, a dhoti (cotton wrap worn by men from the waist down) and some money. At this ashram we saw the samadhis (tombs) of Ugra Nam Saheb and Daya Nam Saheb. Beside them was the samadhi of Daya Nam’s brother. Just outside the building housing these samadhis were the samadhi of Grindhmani Nam’s adopted mother (the senior widow of Daya Nam Saheb), and the samadhi of his deceased son. Visitors to the Damakhera ashram visit these samadhis to pay their homage to the deceased Acharyas of the Kabir Panth in this area.
The Acharya at the time of Daya Nam Saheb was Kashi Das, a monk who became the first Acharya of the Kharsia ashram, which is now the headquarters of other ashrams managed by monks. On becoming the Acharya of Kharsia, he assumed the name of Grindhmani Nam. (note: The same names are used by both Damakhera and Kharsia Acharyas). He was succeeded by Bichar Das whose name was changed to Prakashmani Nam. Prakashmani Nam was a scholar in Sanskrit and Hindi and he wrote several books, and a huge commentary on the Bijak of Satguru Kabir. His work has been appreciated by various Sanskrit scholars. After Prakashmani Nam passed on, Narine Das, whose name became Udit Nam, succeeded him. He is the current Hazur at Kharsia.
You will note that the Acharyas who have headed the Kabir Panth have changed their names on assuming their positions. This is because the names of all the heads of the Kabir Panth have already been chosen up to forty-two generations in the future. Each one thus succeeding the previous leader must change his name to conform to the preselected name.
There are a few ashrams that are affiliated with the Damakhera Ashram and are governed by householder mahants. As you can see from the above, there are two Hazurs in the line of Dharam Dass — one a monk, currently Hazur Udit Nam Saheb, and one a house-holder currently Grindhmani Nam Saheb. They both adhere to and propagate exactly the same teachings of Satguru Kabir.
[I gathered the above information from the late Mahant Shri Jagdish Das Saheb, and from the places I visited]