PRITAM DAS, MAHANT
PRITAM DAS, MAHANT (1752-1831), an Udasi saint, was born in 1752, according to some sources in 1722, in a Sarsvat Brahman family of Hoshiarpur district of the Punjab. His original name was Karam Chand. His early education was limited to preliminary Urdu. He left his home at the age of 11, and started travelling from place to place in the company of itinerent sadhus until he was formally initiated as a disciple of an Udasi saint, Sarigat Das, who renamed him Pritam Das. Soon after his initiation, Pritam Das set out on a pilgrimage of holy places in North India and Nepal. Later, he became a disciple of Mahatma Bankhandi (1763-1863), the well known scholar and preacher of the Miharishahi subsect of Udasi Sikhs. Bankhandi gave him the title of nirbdn, i.e. one who had overcome his desires and passions, and set him on his career as a wandering monk. During his travels in the South, Pritam Das met Nanak Chand, an uncle of Diwan Chandu Lal of Hyderabad, and se cured from him a donation of 7,00,000 rupees to establish a central seat for the Udasis.
This materilized in the form of the Parichayali Akhara set up at Allahabad in 1779. In 1781, Pritam Das founded a monastery called Nirban Akhara at Amritsar, popularly known as Sarigalvala Akhara because of a heavy iron chain (sangal, in Punjabi) which hung at its gate.Between 1781 and 1784, Mahant Pritam Das, in collaboration with Mahant Santokh Das of the monastery now known as Brahm Buta and with the help of local Sikh Sardars, dug a water channel, hansK, off the Shahi Nahar (the predecessor of the present Upper Ban Doab canal) ensuring perennial supply of water to the sarovars or holy tanks in Amritsar.
During the Kumbh fair at Haridvar in 1819, the Udasis were attacked by a group of BairagTs who resented the former marching out in a ceremonial procession with Sikh Scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, amidst it. Mahant Pritam Das enlisted the help of some Sikh chiefs who were attending the fair and got the Bairagis suitably punished. Mahant Pritam Das died at Amritsar in 1831.
1. Randhir Singh, Udasi Sikhan di Vithid. Amritsar. 2016 Bk
2. Khalsd Samdchdr. 25 October 1962