Late Pandit Sarvanand Koul
was born on November 02, 1924 at Sof-Shali. The residents of Sof-Shali were a simple people, tending to their agricultural activities and livestock, so were the family members of Pandit Sarvanand Koul. Perhaps a microcosm of *Maraz *(South Kashmir) is the village Sof-Shali (ancient Sanskrit name, Saft-Shaleshwar), which sits on the bank of River Brengi. Perched among the chain of mountains from three sides, Sof-Shali is a village in the vicinity of famous tourist resort of Kokarnag in Anantnag district. Wonderful surroundings that bounteous nature provided this village include snow-clad mighty mountain tops at some distance, which send chill and fresh air to the village, as also the gushing water of a mountain-dashed clear stream (Koril stream) and springs of sweet water; and the beautiful stretches of green turf, walnut trees and vast almond and apple orchards, bushes and blooms of wild flowers on its plateaux and slopes. The material scenic beauty of the village and its surroundings does exist unchanged even after Pandit Sarvanand Koul seized to exist.
Pandit Sarvanand Koul was popularly known as 'Premi Ji, the name given to him by late Mehjoor. Premi Ji's sentiments about his beloved home-land were nostalgic. He prided himself as a native of Sof-Shali and poured his heart about the grandeur and beauty of the village in lyric passion as under: *"Tren- andun hendi baal shooban qodratik devar zan, Loleh-dariyavas bathis peth gah cho travan myon Gaam"* (Mountains in three directions looking majestic walls of bounteous nature, on the Love-shore of the River is situated my village so glittering). This was not for no reason ? in addition to the beauty of scenery he saw, he had also felt the inner beauty of the inhabitants of the village. From his child-hood days, he had witnessed Hindus and Muslims co-existing there in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility; and had been listening to the call of a muezzin from a nearby mosque and the tolling of bells from a temple simultaneously.
Sof-Shali had been the confluence of religions and culture from centuries.
The existence of ancient temple of 'Shiv' , 'Kaali Sathapna' and the Shrine of Hazrat Baba Naseeb-ud-din Gazi, situated side by side, made the village a distinguished place that marked out 'Shaivism' and Sufi-ism (*Tasawuf*) as being in similar direction to God-realization. He had a firm belief that the inhabitants of the village Sof-Shali were staunch believers of Sufi traditions, non-violence, tolerance and communal amity. Premi Ji was born to Pandit Gopi Nath Koul and Shrimati Amravati. His mother Shrimati Amravati passed away when Premi Ji was 5-year old and his aunt, Shrimati Gunwati, took upon herself the responsibility of bringing-up and nourishing the young Sarvanand Koul. His father had the distinction of being the first matriculate of Pandit Thakur Koul's clan. Pandit Gopi Nath Koul was drawn towards devotional path at a young age because of his intense desire for self-realization*; *and he used to spend most of his time in the company and service of Saints, Sadhus, *Acharyas*, *Darveshes* and *Faqirs*, who visited him regularly in his *grhast- ashram*. This afforded Premi Ji an opportunity to serve and sit in the company of those endowed with dispassion and knowledge and his young mind was influenced by their discourses and discussions on eternality, virtues, knowledge, bliss etc. Premi Ji's first Guru was his father, Pandit Gopi Nath Koul. He taught him to be simple and righteous and imbibed moral values in his young mind. In his quest for knowledge and accomplishing the noble endeavors, late Shri Niranjan Nath Jyotshi of village Sagam was Premi Ji's guide. I had the privilege of meeting and interacting with late Premi Ji on numerous occasions on regular intervals, which I think was God-sent opportunity for me. My first interaction with him relates to 1967, when I was just 17. Sof-Shali was at a walking distance from my native village (Hangalgund) and I had earlier visited the village on a number of times. Those days, it was a regular feature of a local group of open-theatre performers (*Bhand-Paether)* to perform annually at various Shrines of the area including the Shrine of Hazrat Baba Naseeb-ud-din Gazi at village Sof-Shali. The mimicry of the buffoon characters in the open theatre would attract a large crowd from the adjoining areas. Since I had missed to witness a similar show (*Daerzeh-peather* and *Gosani peather*) by the same group at the Shrine of Hazrat Maan Shah at village Bidder, I visited Sof-Shali to witness their enthralling performance. After witnessing the *Band-Paether*, while I was returning to my home, late Premi ji met me per chance and he helped me to cross the River Brengi, which was in full flow and enroute, I, of my curiosity and inquisitiveness, initiated a talk on ' *Sufism*'. I wanted to know about the 'Rishi Cult' of Kashmir. He spoke to me in the manner a teacher speaks to a Kindergarten student; and made me to fully understand what I was curious to know. What I grasped was: Hazrat Baba Naseeb-ud-din Gazi was a great mystic saint, who preached the message of love, brotherhood and communal amity among the masses irrespective of caste creed and religion. Elaborating further, he said that Kashmir has been the abode of Saints, Sufis and Rishis from times immemorial; who did abstain from indulging in worldly pleasures and comforts of life but did not negate life; and they never withdrew themselves from the *Karma* (actions). Unattached to the fruits of their *Karma*, they did all that was obligated to enrich the quality of the life of common man. He then switched over to Bhagavad-Gita and added that all genuine *Sufi saints* were *Yogis*; who were engaged in spiritual purification and through that they became liberated souls. Premi Ji explained to me what a *Yogi* stood for according to Bhagavad-Gita. I discovered an enlightened person in him. His perception was so profound and powerful that I was transformed into a totally new being. That was the day I started reading Bhagavad-Gita. My meetings and interactions with Premi Ji became a regular feature after that day.
After his initial schooling, Late Premi Ji was admitted in a Mission School at Anantnag and he passed his Matriculation from Punjab University, Lahore. Later, he passed his B.A, M.A. B.Ed from Srinagar. He was married to Oma Ji, a girl from a well-to-do and respectable family of village Hangalgund (Anantnag) in the year 1948. Although for a period of few years, Premi Ji served in Village and Khadi Industries Board of GOI and Industries department of Punjab yet he joined his preferred vocation in the education department of J&K as teacher in 1956. He had a burning desire to become a teacher so that he could strive with heart and soul to raise children up to highest perfections of mankind to share the huge responsibility. Knowing fully well that the job of a teacher had no promise of wealth, still he chose teaching as profession; he wanted to be a social engineer to socialize and humanize the young; and he wanted to act as a pivot for the transmission of intellectual traditions and technical skills from generation to generation to keep the lamp of civilization burning. He retired as Head Master from Government High School, Larrnoo (Anantnag). As teacher he proved his mettle and came up to the expectations of his students and created a niche for himself.
In literal art, Premi Ji used the language for its aesthetic and evocative qualities? He was a great poet! His poetry is the blossom and fragrance of human knowledge, thoughts, passion, emotions and language. Shayir-e-Kashmir Mehjoor has acknowledged his poetic genius by recording "If the flower like 'Premi' is nurtured well to blossom to its full, the immense perfume of the flower shall make the garden of art and literature fragrant". He was associated with the progressive group of poets of Cultural front, led by late Dina Nath Nadim, at a crucial phase when the Kashmir was recovering from the onslaught of raiders and villains of peace. *Nendeh Karnay Nero Kasht-Karo, Nav-Bahar Aao Vatnaki Yaro *(O tiller of the land, set out to de-weed the rice crop; in thy beloved country, the new spring has appeared) is one of his most popular poems. The intensity, feeling and the passion in the poems of Premi Ji is remarkable. He had gained proficiency in prevailing literal languages of the times including Urdu, Hindi, Kashmiri, English and Persian. He has authored more than 24 books. His translation works of Bhagavad-Gita in Urdu verse; Ramayana in Kashmiri verse; Tagore's Gitanjali in Kashmiri; and Russian folk tales in Kashmiri in a most simple and easy-to-understand manner are his outstanding contributions to the treasure-house of literature.
Premi Ji witnessed many political changes in undivided India including the then Maharaja-ruled state of J&K which had a strong impact on his young mind. Throughout his life, he conducted himself with dignity and nobility in doing his Karma (actions). People were attracted to Late Premi Ji because of his simplicity and truthfulness in life and purity of mind. He had the privilege to meet and interact with the towering personalities of India including Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Azad, Ali Mohammad Jinnah, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Rabinder Nath Tagore, Devinder Satyarthi, Harivansh Rai Bachan, Balraj Sahni and Ali Sardar Jaffri. He was a freedom fighter. From 1942 to 1946, he worked underground during the "Quit India Movement" and during 1946-47, he was arrested six times.
Premi Ji was a great human being; a man of dignity, honor and values; and a friend of needy and the poor. Never did he, knowingly or inadvertently, wish or cause harm to anybody through his words and actions. He was a great soul!
For 22 long years, he studied the Bhagavad-Gita that contained sublime thoughts and practical instructions on *Yoga*, Devotion, *Vedanta *and *Karma *(Action) to accomplish the task of its translation in Urdu verse. He had grasped and grasped well the teachings of Lord Krishna that the body was made of fire, water, air, earth and ether, and one day it had to disappear into these elements; the soul is neither born, nor does it die; Whatever happened, happened for the good; whatever is happening, is happening for the good; and whatever will happen, will also happen for the good only. Premi Ji feared no body except the God.
Premi ji was a firm believer of *Ahinsa* (Non-violence). A man of firm conviction, as he was, would embrace death than to abandon his cherished belief of *Ahinsa*. During the intervening night of April 29/ 30, 1990, three masked men barged into the home of late Premi Ji and asked him to accompany them to their Master for some discussion; and he did not gaze with wonder on them neither was he panic-stricken. Premi Ji and his son, Virender Koul, accompanied the masked men and their dead bodies were found on May, 01, 1990. They were both brutally murdered. All those who knew Premi Ji very closely can say with authority that even when he may have seen his death as imminent, he must not have begged for his life by saying, "forgive me, have mercy," and instead he must have gladly said to his tormentors, "If my Lord wills that, let me get killed at your hands". The life of a worshipper of *Ahinsa ended* in *Hinsa *(violence). That was the sojourn of a Karmyogi!