150 Thomas Jefferson Quotes on Life and Freedom

Thomas Jefferson, born in rural Virginia, was a gifted student who excelled in classical languages and had an outstanding legal mind.

Known for his articulation of colonial independence ideals, Jefferson’s “Summary View of the Rights of British America” (1774) foreshadowed the Declaration of Independence, which he authored.

He also helped abolish primogeniture and promoted religious freedom and public education.

His political career included serving as Virginia’s governor, America’s minister to France, secretary of state, vice president and eventually the third President.


His presidency was marked by a devotion to limited government, the landmark Marbury v. Madison case, foreign affairs challenges and the significant Louisiana Purchase.

Despite his achievements, he grappled with contradictions, particularly regarding slavery.

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After retirement, he founded the University of Virginia. Controversies over his relationship with his slave, Sally Hemings and his slave-owning status endure.

Jefferson died on July 4, 1826.

I have listed below some of the most powerful quotes by Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson Quotes on Life

1. “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

2. “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

3. “I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

4. “Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

5. “The government you elect is the government you deserve.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

6. “Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

7. “If you want something you have never had, you must be willing to do something you have never done.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

8. “I’m a greater believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

9. “I cannot live without books.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

10. “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

Best Thomas Jefferson Quotes

11. “The oppressed should rebel, and they will continue to rebel and raise disturbance until their civil rights are fully restored to them and all partial distinctions, exclusions, and incapacitations are removed.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

12. “Ignorance is a poor tool in a battle of wits.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

13. “Christianity is the most perverted system that ever shone on man.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

14. “I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

15. “I look to the diffusion of light and education as the resource most to be relied on for ameliorating the condition, promoting the virtue and advancing the happiness of man.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

16. “Evil triumphs when good men do nothing.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

17. “Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

18. “Be polite to all, but intimate with few.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

19. “Never spend your money before you have earned it.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

20. “Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time, who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done, if we are always doing.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

Famous Thomas Jefferson Quotes

21. “Do not bite at the bait of pleasure till you know there is no hook beneath it.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

22. “To learn, you have to listen. To improve, you have to try.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

23. “I predict future happiness for Americans, if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

24. “I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

25. “A lawyer without books would be like a workman without tools.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

26. “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

27. “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

28. “Rebellion to tyranny is obedience to God.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

29. “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

30. “The equal rights of man, and the happiness of every individual, are now acknowledged to be the only legitimate objects of government.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

31. “A democratic society depends upon an informed and educated citizenry.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

32. “A society that will trade a little liberty for a little order will lose both, and deserve neither.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

33. “When the people are afraid of the government, that’s tyranny. But when the government is afraid of the people, that’s liberty.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

34. “The man who stops advertising to save money is like the man who stops the clock to save time.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

35. “I had rather be shut up in a very modest cottage with my books, my family and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon, and letting the world roll on as it liked, than to occupy the most splendid post, which any human power can give.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

36. “Every generation needs a new revolution.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

37. “Health is worth more than learning.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

38. “It is neither wealth nor splendor; but tranquility and occupation which give you happiness.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

39. “Men of quality are not threatened by women of equality.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

40. “Peace is that brief glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

Great Thomas Jefferson Quotes

41. “There is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal people.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

42. “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

43. “One man with courage is a majority.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

44. “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

45. “A well informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

46. “The only security of all is in a free press.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

47. “The possession of facts is knowledge; the use of them is wisdom.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

48. “Love your neighbor as yourself and your country more than yourself.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

49. “When the subject is strong, simplicity is the only way to treat it.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

50. “I sincerely believe that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies, and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

51. “All men are created equal and have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

52. “The art of governing consists simply of being honest, exercising common sense, following principle, and doing what is right and just.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

53. “The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

54. “When angry count to ten before you speak. If very angry, count to one hundred.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

55. “Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

56. “Peace and friendship with all mankind is our wisest policy, and I wish we may be permitted to pursue it.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

57. “Industry, commerce and security are the surest roads to the happiness and prosperity of people.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

58. “How soon the labor of men would make a paradise of the earth were it not for misgovernment and a diversion of his energies to selfish interests.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

59. “Eternal Vigilance is the price of democracy.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

60. “The olive tree is surely the richest gift of Heaven. I can scarcely expect bread.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

61. “Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far. The Europeans value themselves on having subdued the horse to the uses of man; but I doubt whether we have not lost more than we have gained, by the use of this animal.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

Top Thomas Jefferson Quotes

62. “Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

63. “The sun has not caught me in bed in fifty years.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

64. “Not less than two hours a day should be devoted to exercise, and the weather shall be little regarded. If the body is feeble, the mind will not be strong.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

65. “In the environment, every victory is temporary, every defeat permanent.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

66. “May I never get too busy in my own affairs that I fail to respond to the needs of others with kindness and compassion.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

67. “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

68. “The people will not understand the importance of the Second Amendment until it is too late.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

69. “It is to secure our rights that we resort to government at all.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

70. “We will be soldiers, so our sons may be farmers, so their sons may be artists.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

71. “If the body be feeble, the mind will not be strong.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

72. “I have given up newspapers in exchange for Tacitus and Thucydides, for Newton and Euclid; and I find myself much the happier.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

73. “Ignorance of the law is no excuse in any country. If it were, the laws would lose their effect, because it can always be pretended.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

74. “The Bible is the cornerstone of liberty.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

75. “Let the eye of vigilance never be closed.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

76. “I view great cities as pestilential to the morals, the health, and the liberties of man.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

77. “Whenever you do a thing, act as if all the world were watching.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

78. “Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

79. “Give up money, give up fame, give up science, give the earth itself and all it contains, rather than do an immoral act.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

80. “Paper money is liable to be abused, has been, is, and forever will be abused, in every country in which it is permitted.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

81. “But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have been called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

82. “Let us in education dream of an aristocracy of achievement arising out of a democracy of opportunity.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

83. “Equal rights for all, special privileges for none.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

84. “Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

85. “But friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life, and thanks to a benevolent arrangement the greater part of life is sunshine.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

86. “The sovereign invigorator of the body is exercise, and of all the exercises walking is the best.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

87. “Of all exercises, walking is the best.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

88. “The man who would choose security over freedom deserves neither.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

89. “Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

90. “The art of life is the art of avoiding pain; and he is the best pilot, who steers clearest of the rocks and shoals with which it is beset.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

91. “The most fortunate of us, in our journey through life, frequently meet with calamities and misfortunes which may greatly afflict us; and, to fortify our minds against the attacks of these calamities and misfortunes, should be one of the principal studies and endeavors of our lives.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

92. “Delay is preferable to error.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

93. “The genius of architecture seems to have shed its maledictions over this land.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

94. “Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

95. “Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

96. “We need a revolution every 20 years just to keep government honest.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

97. “Let those flatter, who fear: it is not an American art. To give praise where it is not due, might be well from the venal, but would ill beseem those who are asserting the rights of human nature.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

Wise Thomas Jefferson Quotes

98. “A mind always employed is always happy. This is the true secret, the grand recipe, for felicity.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

99. “The sheep are happier of themselves, than under the care of wolves.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

100. “The course of history shows that as a government grows, liberty decreases.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

101. “It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

102. “The end of democracy and the defeat of the American Revolution will occur when government falls into the hands of lending institutions and moneyed incorporations.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

103. “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

104. “A candle loses nothing when it lights another candle.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

105. “Without health there is no happiness. An attention to health, then, should take the place of every other object.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

106. “All men are created equal.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

107. “The best defense of democracy is an informed electorate.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

108. “Hemp is one of the greatest, most important substances of our nation.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

109. “No generation has a right to contract debts greater than can be paid off during the course of its own existence.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

110. “Never trouble another for what you can do yourself.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

111. “The contest is not between us and them, but between good and evil, and if those who would fight evil adopt the ways of evil, evil wins.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

112. “Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

113. “Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

114. “He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it the second time.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

115. “Coffee – the favorite drink of the civilized world.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

116. “I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

117. “The God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

118. “If ignorance is bliss, why aren’t more people happy?” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

119. “The boisterous sea of liberty is never without a wave.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

120. “We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

Insightful Thomas Jefferson Quotes

121. “He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

122. “Freedom, the first-born of science.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

123. “A Man’s management of his own purse speaks volumes about character.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

124. “The greatest calamity which could befall us would be submission to a government of unlimited powers.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

125. “What we learn to do, we learn by doing.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

126. “It is as useless to argue with those who have renounced the use of reason as to administer medication to the dead.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

127. “I am for freedom of religion, and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendency of one sect over another.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

128. “God grant that men of principle shall be our principal men.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

129. “Does the government fear us? Or do we fear the government? When the people fear the government, tyranny has found victory. The federal government is our servant, not our master!” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

130. “If I had to choose between government without newspapers, and newspapers without government, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose the latter.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

131. “If you have to eat crow, eat it while it’s young and tender.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

132. “Exercise and application produce order in our affairs, health of body, cheerfulness of mind, and these make us precious to our friends.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

133. “Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

134. “The cost of freedom is eternal vigilance.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

135. “Everything yields to diligence.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

136. “A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

137. “I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Already they have raised up a moneyed aristocracy that has set the Government at defiance. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people to whom it properly belongs.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

138. “A prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a people who mean to be free.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

139. “No man will labor for himself who can make another labor for him.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

140. “When you abandon freedom to achieve security, you lose both and deserve neither.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

141. “Who then can so softly bind up the wound of another as he who has felt the same wound himself.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

142. “Never use two words when one will do.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

143. “The Central Bank is an institution of the most deadly hostility existing against the principles and form of our Constitution.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

144. “The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

145. “There is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

146. “I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

147. “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

148. “When tyranny becomes law, rebellion becomes duty.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

149. “The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

150. “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” ~ (Thomas Jefferson).

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Short Biography of Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson, a key figure in American history, served as the third U.S. president from 1801 to 1809 and was the main writer of the Declaration of Independence.

Thomas Jefferson Quotes

Before his presidency, he held important roles, including the U.S. secretary of state and vice president.

Jefferson’s political journey included representing Virginia during the American Revolution, serving as its governor, and being the U.S. minister to France.

Full name Thomas Jefferson
Born April 13, 1743 Shadwell, Virginia Colony
Died July 4, 1826 (aged 83) Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S.
Resting place Monticello, Virginia
Political party Democratic-Republican
Spouse Martha Wayles​(m. 1772; died 1782)​
Parents Peter Jefferson (father)Jane Randolph (mother)
Alma mater College of William & Mary
Occupation Politician, Lawyer
Allegiance United States
Branch/service Virginia militia
Years of service 1775–1776
Rank Colonel
Unit Albemarle County Militia
Battles/wars American Revolutionary War

A co-founder of the Democratic-Republican Party with James Madison, he opposed the Federalist Party’s views.

Jefferson’s rivalry and friendship with John Adams were notable, leading to his presidency after defeating Adams in the 1800 election and securing a second term in 1804.

Quick Facts about Thomas Jefferson

  • Thomas Jefferson, born on April 13, 1743, was the third President of the United States, serving from 1801 to 1809.
  • He was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence.
  • Jefferson was the nation’s first Secretary of State and the second Vice President.
  • He represented Virginia at the Second Continental Congress and served as Virginia’s second governor.
  • Jefferson was appointed U.S. minister to France from 1785 to 1789.
  • He was a founder of the Democratic-Republican Party.
  • Jefferson won the presidency in 1800 and was reelected in 1804.
  • As president, he purchased the Louisiana Territory, doubling the size of the United States.
  • He reduced military forces and expenditures after peace negotiations with France.
  • Jefferson’s relationship with slavery is complex; he owned slaves yet condemned the slave trade.
  • He probably fathered at least six children with his slave Sally Hemings.
  • Jefferson was a proponent of democracy, republicanism, and individual rights.
  • He was born at Shadwell Plantation in Virginia to Peter Jefferson and Jane Randolph.
  • Jefferson inherited Monticello, which he redesigned into a neoclassical masterpiece.
  • He was educated at the College of William & Mary, studying mathematics, metaphysics, and philosophy.
  • Jefferson was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1767 and served in the House of Burgesses.
  • He married Martha Wayles Skelton in 1772, with whom he had six children, two surviving to adulthood.
  • Jefferson drafted a bill for religious freedom and took a leading role in abolishing primogeniture.
  • As governor of Virginia, he moved the state capital to Richmond.
  • Jefferson authored the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.
  • His “Notes on the State of Virginia” was a detailed account of Virginia’s geography, resources, and society.
  • He was appointed to the Congress of the Confederation, recommending an American currency based on the decimal system.
  • Jefferson proposed the Land Ordinance of 1784 to establish states in the western territories without slavery.
  • As Minister to France, he played a significant role in shaping U.S. foreign policy.
  • Jefferson opposed Alexander Hamilton’s fiscal policies as Secretary of State.
  • He was a key figure in founding the National Gazette to counter Federalist policies.
  • Jefferson supported France against Britain in the 1793 conflict.
  • As Vice President, he presided over the Senate with minimal intervention.
  • He wrote the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions in response to the Alien and Sedition Acts, advocating states’ rights.
  • Jefferson’s advocacy for states’ rights contributed to the discourse leading to the Civil War.

Top Questions about Thomas Jefferson

Q: What role did Thomas Jefferson serve during the American Revolutionary War?

A: Thomas Jefferson represented Virginia at the Second Continental Congress and served as the second governor of Virginia during the American Revolutionary War.

Q: How did Thomas Jefferson contribute to the early political landscape of the United States?

A: Jefferson, along with James Madison, organized the Democratic-Republican Party to oppose the Federalist Party, and he served as the nation’s first secretary of state and its second vice president before becoming president.

Q: What significant purchase did Jefferson make as president that expanded the United States?

A: As president, Jefferson made the significant Louisiana Purchase from France in 1803, which doubled the nation’s geographic size.

Q: How did Jefferson address the issue of piracy and foreign trade during his presidency?

A: Jefferson defended the nation’s shipping and trade interests against Barbary pirates and aggressive British trade policies.

Q: What was one of Jefferson’s key legacies in terms of foreign policy?

A: Jefferson is known for his peaceful acquisition of the Louisiana Territory and his support for the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Q: What stance did Jefferson take on education in his early career?

A: Jefferson was an advocate for public education, believing it to be the foundation of “republican government.”

Q: Describe Jefferson’s architectural contributions to his personal residence.

A: Jefferson designed his primary residence, Monticello, as a neoclassical masterpiece in the Palladian style, and he was heavily involved in its design and construction throughout his life.

Q: What was Jefferson’s approach to handling British and Native American relations as a legislator in Virginia?

A: Jefferson sought to weaken Spanish colonialism and British control in the trans-Appalachian West and North, aiming to aid in the pacification of Native Americans.

Q: How did Jefferson’s tenure as Secretary of State influence U.S. foreign relations?

A: As Secretary of State, Jefferson sought to decrease American dependence on British commerce and to expand commercial trade with France.

Q: What was Jefferson’s stance on the federal government’s power, as reflected in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions?

A: Jefferson advocated for nullification, allowing states to invalidate federal laws they deemed unconstitutional, reflecting his belief in limited federal government and states’ rights.

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Chandan Negi
Chandan Negi

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