e Brahman Maha Mandal Jammu and Kashmir
 
 
Profile of Pandit Keshav Bhatt Jyotishi
 
     
 

[ A profound scholar of astrology and a pioneer printer in one - that was Pandit Keshav Bhatt Jyotishi. His greatest claim to fame, however rests on his untiring efforts in publishing cheap editions of ancient religions texts of Kashmiri Hindus and making them available to the common people. For this he would go from place to place in Kashmir, almost door to door, and collect original manuscripts from people who were most loathe to part with them. Perhaps he was the only scholar after Buhler to have done that with a good measure of success. But for him many of these texts would have been lost or remained obscure especially those on Kashmiri Hindu rituals and religious practices. The Krishna Printing Press, which he set up in Srinagar, came handy to him for printing the texts and also to eke out a modest living for himself. We at 'Unmesh' feel proud in paying a tribute to the great scholar's memory and in telling our readers about his life and accomplishments.]

 

For the older generation of Kashmiri Pandits, Pandit Keshav Bhatt Jyotishi (KBJ) has been a familiar name, for the Panchang (almanac) he edited and published would reach almost every Pandit household in Kashmir. It evoked, and still evokes, reverence in the hearts of those who are aware of his deep knowledge of Hindu astrology. For them his word in the field bore a stamp of undisputed authenticity. KBJ in turn owed it to his ancestral tradition with proclivity towards astrology running very strongly in the family.

Born in Srinagar in 1873 in an erudite Brahmin family, KBJ, only emulated his grandfather Pandit Sat Ram, his father Pandit Prasad Bhatt and uncle Pandit Mukund Ram when he chose Sanskrit religious texts and astrology as his specialized field of study. Both the father and the uncle acquired proficiency in these subjects under the tutelage of his grandfather, a well known scholar of his times. Uncle Mukund Ram, a Shaivite scholar, rose to be the Chief Astrologer at the court of Maharaja Pratap Singh, while father Prasad Bhatt also earned a name for his study of astrology. Surpassing both of them, KBJ acquired a mastery over the subject almost to the extent of becoming a legend in his lifetime.

The Bhatts' ancestral house at Jogi Lankar, Rainawari, a locality of Srinagar, overlooked a beautiful scene on the flowing canal, evoking an atmosphere of serenity. It was in this house that young KBJ would remain absorbed in study, sitting on the grass mat near the window on the left with piles of books neatly rising above the floor all around him. Devoting himself entirely to learning the Shastras, he virtually shut himself from worldly pleasures which had little attraction for him. While following his scholarly pursuits, KBJ began his career as a school teacher at Nunar, a picturesque village not far off from Tulmula (KheerBhawani). Dedicated to his work and committed to giving quality education to his students, he would traverse all the distance from his home at Rainawari to the school at Nunar on foot - he simply could not afford the bus or tonga fare to his place of work. Fond of him and full of respect for him, his students would often come to his home also where he would clear their doubts and help them in solving their difficulties. An inspiring pep talk on moral values to help them in their overall development was an usual.