PRĪTAM DĀS, MAHANT (1752-1831), an Udāsī saint, was born in 1752, according to some sources in 1722, in a Sārsvat Brāhmaṇ family of Hoshiārpur 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 sādhūs until he was formally initiated as a disciple of an Udāsī saint, Saṅgat Dās, who renamed him Prītam Dās. Soon after his initiation, Prītam Dās set out on a pilgrimage of holy places in North India and Nepal. Later, he became a disciple of Mahātmā Bankhaṇḍī (1763-1863), the well-known scholar and preacher of the Mīhāṅshāhī sub-sect of Udāsī Sikhs. Bankhaṇḍī gave him the title of nirbān, 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 Dās met Nānak Chand, an uncle of Dīwān Chandū Lāl of Hyderābād, and secured from him a donation of 7,00,000 Rupees to establish a central seat for the Udāsis. This materiallized in the form of the Pañchāyātī Akhāṛā set up at Allāhābād in 1779. In 1781, Pritam Dās founded a monastery called Nirbān Akhāṛā at Amritsar, popularly known as Saṅgalvālā Akhāṛā because of a heavy iron chain (saṅgal in Punjabi) which hung at its gate. Between 1781 and 1784, Mahant Prītam Dās, in collaboration with Mahant Santokh Dās of the monastery now known as Brahm Būṭā and with the help of local Sikh Sardārs, dug a water channel, haṅslī, off the Shāhī Nahar (the predecessor of the present Upper Bārī Doāb canal) ensuring perennial supply of water to the sarovars or holy tanks in Amritsar. During the Kumbh fair at Haridvār in 1819, the Udāsīs were attacked by a group of Bairāgīs who resented the former marching out in a ceremonial procession with Sikh Scripture, the Gurū Granth Sāhib, amidst it. Mahant Pritam Dās enlisted the help of some Sikh chiefs who were attending the fair and got the Bairāgīs suitably punished.
Mahant Prītam Dās died at Amritsar in 1831.
Sarmukh Siṅgh Amole