ALMAST, BHĀĪ (1553-1643), Sikh preacher and head of a dhūāṅ or branch of the Udāsī sect, was born in a Gauṛ Brāhmaṇ family of Srīnagar (Kashmīr) on 26 August 1553. He was the son of Bhāī Hardatt and Māī Prabhā, and was the elder brother of Bālū Hasnā, another equally prominent preacher of the sect. Almast's original name was Ālū he came to be called Almast (lit. intoxicated, in a state of ecstasy, indifferent) because of his mystical proclivities and indifference towards worldly affairs. He was also called Kambalīā or Godaṛīā because he would normally be dressed only in a ragged blanket (kambal, in Punjabi) or godaṛī, a light quilt or padded sheet. Young Ālū was hardly past his adolescence when he left home in quest of spiritual knowledge. In 1574, he came to Ḍerā Bābā Nānak where he fell under the spell of Bābā Srī Chand, the elder son of Gurū Nānak and founder of the Udāsī sect. He served at the dehurā or mausoleum of Gurū Nānak, and for his livelihood tended a flock of goats. It was here that he began to be called Almast. Bābā Gurdittā (1613-38), the eldest son of Gurū Hargobind, who had succeeded Bābā Srī Chand as head of the Udāsī sect, deputed Bhāī Almast to preach the message of Gurū Nānak in the eastern provinces. He first went to Puri in Oṛissā where he established a shrine to commemorate Gurū Nānak's visit to the Jagannāth temple. The shrine, known as Gurdwārā Maṅgū Maṭh, is still in existence.
In 1633, Bhāī Almast went to Nānak Matā formerly known as Gorakh Matā, where Gurū Nānak had a discourse with the Nāth yogīs under an old pīpal tree, and where a shrine dedicated to him had later been established. The place had been reoccupied by the yogīs who had razed the Sikh shrine and burnt down the pīpal tree. Almast applied for help to Gurū Hargobind who reached Nānak Matā in June 1634, chastised the Nāth intruders and restored the Sikh shrine. According to local tradition, he even miraculously rejuvenated the burnt pīpal tree. Bhāī Almast spent the remaining period of his life at Nānak Matā from where he sent out his eight principal disciples to preach in various districts of eastern India. These disciples established Sikh shrines at places visited by Gurū Nānak during his first udāsī or absence from home on a preaching journey.
Piārā Siṅgh Padam