My new offering – A Ramayana rendering

August 16, 2018

I am happy to announce my new book ‘Atma Vidya in Adhyatma Ramayana: Selections on Self-Knowledge from Adhyatma Ramayana’.

 

Book Cover Complete

 

The book is a translation of narratives on Self-Knowledge, selected from the Sanskrit treatise ‘Adhyatma Ramayana’.

The context is this…

As a spiritual epic, Ramayana is perhaps unparalleled in the history of the world. So deep is its  impact across the people of India and Asia, so many are its tellings in so many different languages, that the tale of Rama endures across time, as a voice of consciousness, a quest of righteousness, a seed of cultures, a mirror of mankind…

Contemporary researchers have recorded existence of at least three hundred different Ramayana-s , with at least twenty five in Sanskrit language alone. And among these stars in the cosmos of Ramayana-s. there is ‘One’ treatise that shines as the pole star of ‘Atma Vidya’ – Self-Knowledge. That is the ‘Adhyatma Ramayana’ – literally, the ‘Ramayana of the Self’.

Like all good things in Indian experience, there is no consensus regarding it’s origin. While  the treatise is traditionally attributed to be a part of ‘Brahmanda Purana’, authored by Vyasa, there are other views. However, there is a consensus that ‘Adhyatma Ramayana’ is the treatise on which is based the  Ramacharitamaanasa of Goswami Tulasidas. That by itself should give an indication of the  power and influence of this treatise on Indian Rama consciousness, across time.

The ‘Adhyatma Ramayana’ contains ever so many discourses on spirituality, covering all paths – Karma, Bhakti and Jnana. But the core aim and emphasis is Jnana – ‘Self Knowledge’.

As one more humble offering in the endless garden of this Ramayana, I have attempted to translate into free verse in English, all those parts of this Ramayana wherever there appears any narrative on Self-Knowledge, whichever be the path –  Karma, Bhakti or Jnana. The galaxy of narrators is a beauty in itself, which includes Gods, sages, men, women, animals, even, Rakshasa-s…

Titled as ‘Atma Vidya in Adhyatma Ramayana: Selections on Self-Knowledge from Adhyatma Ramayana’, the book has been published by Ramana Maharshi Centre of Learning, Bengaluru. It is my great good fortune that the book has been blessed with a Srimukha by the Jagadguru Shankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham. By the Grace of Rama, the book has come out in the ‘Ramayana month’ of Karkidakam / Aadi.

Those who are interested in buying the book can write to ‘Rasa Experience of Art’ at the email id: rasa.experience@yahoo.in .

Glory to Rama!

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Searching for Uruputtur

January 16, 2018

This is an India special…

Sankar, a friend of mine has the initial “V” in his name, which signifies his ancestral village ‘Vorupattur’. Instinct and family memory indicated that the village was somewhere in the North Arcot district or thereabouts (North Arcot of fifty years ago was a larger district than what it is now)… And he has been searching for this place all his life. In that ‘search’, yours truly too joined ‘eyes’.

One idea that came to mind was that the place name was probably ‘Urupattur’ … Internet did provide scores of people searching for the same place… And no positive finds… One did find people having ‘Urupattur’ in their names, and prominently so among Sri Vaishnava-s. One found that the great sage Nathamuni of 9th century CE had a disciple Urupattur Achan Pillai.. Enquiry with Vaishnava friends drew a  blank as to where that Urupattur was. Then through a good friend, one spread the ‘search net’ wider, and he managed to speak to a very learned Vaishnava scholar whose ancestors hailed from Urupattur. The scholar, a nonagenarian, said that he too had done extensive search and had not found the place. He said that perhaps the village may have been in Nellore area of Andhra and may not be extant now… One lead was that many people had migrated from Urupattur, and come to Pon Valainda Kallattur near Chengalpet. Another school of thought was that Urupattur was not a place name, but a title.. Somehow that didn’t sound right.. It did sound so much a place name… And if people still proudly carry it in their names, and have been doing so for generations, it must have been a prominent place… Some mentions could be found in the Net of the village probably being in Kanchipuram district, perhaps near Orikkai or Thandalam… But some people of that area from whom one enquired did not know of any village of that name…

Then someone came with a lead that the  village was now known as Upputtur (or some name close to this) and was near Namakkal.. That was close… And Nathamuni hailed from a place near Kaatumannar Koil, which is not all that far away.. So maybe…

Further seeking, I came across a blog which mentioned of Urputtur which existed many centuries ago in Andhra, where Vaishnavas had migrated to. To quote – “According to Historian Prof B.S.L. Hanumantha Rao who wrote ‘ social mobility in medieval Andhra’ mention that a large number of villages had tamil migrated srivaishnavite families such as Satlur, Vangiparru, Karambichedu, Puthur, Urputtur, Viravalli, Kundur, etc. in Karma Raashtra (present Guntur-Vijayawada area) settled during 8th and 9th centuries spreading vedism and Azwaar based Vishnu’s paratatvam.” (Click here for the blog post) .. That was a lead… Sounded like the Urupattur one was searching for…

Searching current maps of the region one could locate Satlur, Viravalli etc in the Guntur-Vijaywada region.. Names had slightly changed… For eg Karambichedu was the present Karamchedu… But one could not find Urputtur…

Searching further, one came across a research document (Click here to read), which mentioned Urputuru. It gave details of two copper plates of 8th and 9th century where someone from Urputuru had been donated a village…

Perhaps the name had changed… Could it be Upputuru or Upputur now? One then searched for Upputturu, and Bingo, there it was… In Parchur mandal of Prakasham district, bordering Guntur. And adjacent to Karamchedu.

Click here for a link about Upputturu village…

To quote from the link above : “The old name of Upputur was lavanapuri Agraharam. Once upon a time Upputur was the chola Kings capital. It has larger area about 8 miles circle. this King built famous temple which are very historical named amareswara swamy temple which is constructed about 1500 years ago and chennakesava venkateswaraswamy temple about 1200 years ago.”…

Could this be the Urputturu/Uruputtur/Uruppattur/Vorupattur?

It is possible… Sankar sure is interested to explore…

Signing off on the note – Maybe.. Maybe… 🙂

Aksharamanamalai – Tamil and English

January 7, 2018

Aksharamanamalai is a divine outpouring of Bhakti and Jnana, ‘seen’ and composed by Ramana Maharshi, little more than a hundred years ago… A powerful hymn, the composition has been a ‘taraka mantra’ for devotees, and is sung every day by ever so many people… The composition has been translated and sung in some other Indian languages as well.

This blog writer had the privilege and blessing of translating the holy song into Hindi, some years ago. And the later, in 2014, the centenary year of Akshramanalai, he had the great honor of translating the song into English. He presented this during a seminar of Ramana Centre, Bengaluru in early April 2014. He presented this once more during the Golden Jubilee Celebration of Ramana Kendra, New Delhi, which was held in end April, 2014. And then later he presented this in Ramana Kendra, Chennai as well.

And then as a fulfillment of a heartfelt prayer, he could present this in Sri Ramanasramam as well. On December 16th, 2017, this was sung in the New Hall adjoining the Mathrubhutheshwara and Ramaneshwara Mahalinga shrine at Sri Ramanasramam. The original Tamil verses and the translated English verses, were sung alternatively, individually. My better half Ambika, sang the Tamil verses, and yours truly sang the English..

Sharing a youtube of the audio recorded that day.

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Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramanaya! Arunachala smaranam!

 

A book is born

January 3, 2018

It’s been a while once more… So, at first, wish one and all a very happy new year.. A wonderful year, that started with the Supermoon… The 2nd was Arudra Darshan, the day sacred to Nataraja, the Dancing Lord, Shiva… And today, 3rd Jan, 2018, is the Jayanti of Sri Ramana Maharshi. The star of Punarvasu, month of Margazhi, one day after the Arudra Darshana….

And on this sacred day, I am happy to share the news that a new book of mine has been offered at His shrine –  a translation of one of His works – Upadesha Saram …

Upadesha Saram is one of the finest treatises in Vedanta. Ramana Maharshi had first composed it in Tamil (title ‘Upadesha Undiyar’) sometime in 1920-s, and also composed the same treatise in Sanskrit, Telugu and Malayalam as well. In just thirty beautiful verses, the whole ocean of Vedanta philosophy is conveyed in all simplicity, directness and beauty. In 1928 CE, Kavaykantha Ganapathi Muni wrote a Sanskrit commentary on ‘Upadesha Saram’. This was published by Sri Ramanasramam in 1941. And in 1950-s a young Dandi Swami (monk), from North India, wrote a Hindi commentary, based on Muni’s Sanskrit Commentary. That young Sanyasi, Swami Swaroopananda Saraswati, now adorns the Holy Peetham of Dwarka as the Jagadguru Shankaracharya.

By great good fortune, I was blessed to translate the treatise and the two commentaries into English. This was serialized in the ‘Ramana Way’ magazine, of Ramana Maharshi Centre for Learning, Bengaluru. And now, the revised version has been compiled as a book, ‘Upadesha Saaram of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, with Bhashya and Translation.’ This book was offered today, on Ramana Jayanti day, at the altar of Ramana, at Sri Ramanasramam.

The cover pages:

US Book Cover Jpg.jpg

Hope to publish this as an ebook as well, very soon….

Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramanaya!

 

 

 

Gandhiji’s Works – The thrust, in sum

October 2, 2017

That day again… That great day… October 2…

And I was remembering Prof K Swaminathan (1896 – 1994), Padma Bhushan…

The Scholar-teacher-poet-Gandhian who did the monumental job of editing 99 of the 100 volumes of the ‘Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi’, which he did over a period of thirty years… A work so wonderful that it has received praise from all over… Here is one from a column in ‘The Hindu’...

These 99 volumes were a monument to editorial integrity and scholarship. The South African historian Uma Dhupelia-Meshtrie has called the series “astounding”, a view that will be endorsed by scholars all over the world. The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, or CWMG as it was affectionately abbreviated, was something its initiators and executors could justly be proud of. There were few parallels anywhere; perhaps only the Weimar edition of the works of Goethe had the same authoritative status as the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi. (The comparison with Goethe is apt, for he matches Gandhi in having written or reflected upon virtually ever

Now, coming to the point of this blog post…

I have had the privilege of having passed in front of the eyes of the great Professor… And spending some time with him.. Chatting about this and that.. About Gandhiji and Ramana Maharshi… Poetry of Muruganar and Subrahmaniam Bharati… Memories….

Today, on Gandhiji’s birthday, I searched my book shelves and pulled out a Prof K Swaminathan birth centenary tribute souvenir book.. I was looking for a memory… And I found it.. It is a poem by Professor KS… A beautiful poem.. A telling insight… A few verses that reveal what the whole CWMG is about…

I quote from a tribute penned by La. Su. Rengarajan, titled ‘A National Institution’… Here goes..

Quote-begin

Years ago, with his innate love of poetry and wise humour, Prof. Swaminathan summed up the thrust of the hefty volumes of the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi in the following verse…

[Hundred] hefty haystacks
Cluttering up the landscape
Hold within their entrails hidden
Half a dozen needles.

Researchers of the future
With fine-toothed combs
And salaries to earn
May perch on each pile,
Attack it and ransack it
And search, search, search
For the passages that pin-point
The message of these pages,
But Rudra rages
Thro’ the eyes of all the sages:

Learn the lesson now.
This very hour,
’Tis dismal sorrow
Waiting for tomorrow.
Joy is nowhere
If not now here.
Be bold
In thought
Burn the lot, burn the lot.
Behold
In thought
Beneath the ashes hot
The molten metal form
A bead of gold, Ram;
The seed of life, Ram;
A deed of power, Ram;
The work of love, Ram;
Ram, Ram Ram.

Unquote

And while I found this gem  of a memory, I stumbled upon another pearl in the same article… Helps get a perspective on the above ‘thrust’…

Quote

Earlier, in August 1984, the Professor delivered the K Santhanam Memorial Lecture at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan at Madras. He ended his 8-‘page speech with the following paragraphs:

Ramana Maharshi once remarked, “They say Hanuman is Chiranjivi. It does not mean that a certain monkey goes on living for ever and ever. It only means that there will always be on earth someone who serves Rama as your Gandhi does now!”

In the forties, Masti Venkatesa Iyengar and I met often and loved to find in contemporary politics a reflection of the Rama story. Like Hanuman, Gandhi served his Master, not always wisely. Too much in a hurry, he offered to carry off Sita on his shoulders. He thoughtlessly set fire to Lanka. He wasted time in Madhuvana, and so on. Gandhi ought to have listened to Rajaji (who knew Rama’s mind better) instead of to Patel, Nehru, and Azad. These IF-s of history notwithstanding, Hanuman deserved to win the pearl necklace from Sita’s hands, and Gandhi, the name and fame of Father Of the Nation.

Unquote

And so, in the memory of that Mahatma, let us at least lisp that song of his…

Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram…

Some Jallikattu, if I may…

January 15, 2017

Its been a long time since one blogged… So a big Hi first, how have you been, and a Very Happy Maattu Pongal to all!

I was listening to an old recording of Swami Akhandananda’s discourses… (He was a great sage of Brindavan… A rare combination of a shrotriya [master of Veda-Shastra] and a Brahmanishtta [a Self-Realized Sage])…. Swamiji mentioned an interesting point about Dharma… He said that Dharma gives one a certain latitude to non-conform as well.

For eg, take the festival of Holi. It is well known that on that day many people indulge in Bhaang and other herbal-highs… On the day of Holi, such indulgence has been permitted in tradition… On days other than Holi, it is not. It is not even legal, one presumes. Supreme Court wouldn’t hear of it I am sure. But on that one day, the law just looks the other way – and perhaps winks.

Or take Diwali (Deepavali)… On Diwali night, many people offer Lakshmi Puja by gambling the whole night! That is the tradition… On other days, the same people would (mostly) refrain from gambling….

Now, these ‘exception’ days, act as a safety-valve of a pressure cooker. That one day of diversion, allows the adrenalin in man an outlet… And keeps him in bounds of mainstream law on other days… That is the way the traditional society manages emotional needs of man… Rather than putting a blanket ban, give a controlled exception… Have some plasticity… Make the structure earthquake-proof (by giving that “play’ in the foundation)… It is to keep the overall structure of society within bounds of Dharma that some exceptions are permitted in tradition, when a person can non-conform…

Ok now… Take a deep breath… This whole brouhaha about Jallikattu.

Here is what DrikPanchang says about the festival today – called “Maattu Pongal” (Pongal of Cows)…

“Mattu Pongal – In Tamil Nadu Makara Sankranthi is celebrated as Pongal. The day following Pongal festival is known as Mattu Pongal. The day of Mattu Pongal is dedicated for livestock worship. People in rural areas worship cows and bulls and decorate them with different colored items.

The day of Mattu Pongal is notoriously famous for Jallikattu.  Jallikattu is a bull taming sport played in Tamil Nadu as a part of Pongal celebrations on Mattu Pongal day.”

Today is Maattu Pongal. Happy Maattu Pongal!

On this day, cows everywhere in Tamil Nadu, are celebrated.

Here is a picture of a cow being offered worship in Sri Ramanasramam (Click here for blog source )

asram-cow

The post describes the festival – “Maattu Pongal the third day of the Pongal or Harvest festival is the day consecrated to the cows. Everywhere, on this day, cows are bathed and decorated with flower garlands and then puja is performed to them with offerings of sweet pongal and fruits. In Ramanashram too, it has always been the tradition right from the time of Bhagavan to celebrate Cow Pongal in a graceful way. Devotees will remember that Sri Ramana was very fond of the cow Lakshmi and He used to feed sweet pongal to Lakshmi with his own hands on Cow Pongal day.”

Here is a picture of Ramana Maharshi with a new born calf.

img-20170115-wa0004

Indeed, one should witness Maattu Pongal in Tamil Nadu to experience the sheer joy of cooperative joyousness of man and cow. Cows with bells on horns, horns gaily painted, turmeric and kumkuman applied on head and body, garlanded with lovely flowers, and sometimes with garlands of murukku and other eats…. Being offered worship, formally… And being given a Pongal feast…. What a joy…

And as one of the sideshows of this day, happens the Jallikattu…

Why create a ruckus over it?

It is an “exception”.. A safety-valve release of adrenalin…

And what better release than this? Here are a couple of quotes about bullfighting from Ernest Hemingway…

ernest

And one must hasten to add that Jallikattu has a fundamental difference from Spanish bullfighting. In Jallikattu, the players compete to hold and hang on to the hump of the bull, and the one who manages to hold on till the bull reaches the finishing line wins. No ropes, sticks, whips, weapons are used. It is hand to hump sport… (For more info please click this link )

jalli

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So, I think we should take the balanced view on Jallikattu, and understand the context as well… The numbers are not many… Happens once a year, as per tradition… And it is outweighed heavily by the celebration and worship of all cattle that day…

The numbers and cruelty is not even remotely comparable to what is routinely accepted in society when it comes to Butchery of birds and animals for food – day in and day out…. Here is a youtube video of Paul McCartney…

So – if you really want to protest about cruelty to animals, you know where to go…

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Now coming to the matter of Law…

Law is known better as “letter of law”, and is a technical thing. And I am not qualified to speak of that. There are many experts weighing in on that, and we can hear them…

I wanted to share a more general view on Law – from ancient tradition.. And this has nothing to do with Jallikattu specifically.

I have an interest in Indian epics.

Here is a scene from Ramayana…

When Bharata comes to forest to ask Rama to return to Ayodhya… Rama questions him on how the Kingdom administration is being carried on by Bharata. One of the verses is:

कच्चिदष्टादशान्येषु स्वपक्षे दश पञ्च च।
त्रिभिस्त्रिभिरविज्ञातैर्वेत्सि तीर्थानि चारकैः।।

Rama asks Bharata: Do you keep under your surveillance, employing in each case three spies, each unknown to the other and to the rest of the world, the activities of 18 important authorities of other countries and the fifteen of your own?

Now, one of the 18 authorities that Rama is alluding to is one called as “prAdvivAka” – an official of justice.

Who is a prAdvivAka?

Govindaraja’s ‘Bhushana’ commentary on the above Ramayana verse says:

प्राड्विवाक: व्यवहारप्रष्टा । तल्लक्षणमुक्तम्– “विवादे पृच्छति प्रश्नं प्रतिप्रश्नं तथैव च । प्रियपूर्वं प्राग्वदति प्राड्विवाकस्तत: स्मृत: ।।” इति।

(PradvivAka is an examiner of  worldly matters. His characteristic is mentioned as “In a dispute, he asks questions and counter questions. He puts his questions in a pleasing manner, and so he is known as prAdvivAka”)

(prAd – questions, with vivEka – discerning intellect – and so prAdvivAka)

Now, the fundamental attribute of a person holding the office of prAdvivAka is that he should be a scholar of Dharma Shastra, and a thorough knower of prathA (tradition).

Here is a cut-paste from the Net:

“Raghunandana, the 15th/16th commentator from Bengal and an encyclopaedic author of 28 treatises clearly stated in his discourses on Vyavahara (Vyavahara tattva) that Lokavyavahara or popular custom, convention or the existing social practice enjoyed far superior edge over Sastric norms. He elaborated that if there was a dispute of larger dimension which could not be solved locally, the parties would report to the king or the Zamindar. The king would appoint an expert – Pradviveka (usually Brahmin, but occasionally a ksatriya with exceptional ability) proficient in both Sastric norms and customary practices. He questioned both parties, and after careful consideration he was expected to offer his opinion. Finally, the king would pronounce the final verdict as the supreme authority, though he was expected to ratify Pradviveka’s opinion under usual circumstances.”

So… In our traditional concept of prAdvivAka administering justice, local tradition, custom, practice is extremely important to be understood when viewing what is right or wrong. And our Ancient system of justice provided for it. And please note, Bhushana’s definition mentioned earlier – “He puts his questions in a pleasing manner, and so he is known as prAdvivAka”… Will the learned courts take note!

So here’s my two rupees (still a valid coin!)

Local tradition has jallikattu. It is a controlled affair, and a part of one day of Pongal harvest festival which is dedicated to celebrating cows. It is a sport. It releases Adrenalin. Let it be. Regulate it, where needed. Let it be an exception to be allowed on a special day. Remember Holi, Diwali etc… Add Pongal…

Some cud to chew…

krishna

Hare Krishna!

 

Kotwal of the Capital – 6

April 15, 2016

Happy Ramanavami to all!

Shri Rama Jaya Rama Jaya Jaya Rama!

Let us commence our journey with kotwal of the Capital.

April 1986…

The sculpted idol of Hanuman is ready in Karkala, Karnataka. Brahmachari ji and a group of devotees are now all set to travel with the idol and take it to New Delhi. Shreepaad Baba is also there with them now. Baba is conversant in many languages – and so is a great help for Brahmachari ji.

The truck-trailer for carrying the idol has arrived.

Brahmachariji and group go to Udupi Krishna temple and have darshan of the Lord. One of the desires of Maharajshree is that the Delhi Hanuman temple should have a chariot like the one at Udupi Krishna temple, so that a ceremonial idol of Hanuman can be taken in procession along some major roads of Delhi….

On First of May 1989, the trailer commenced its journey. After a short distance, the trailer broke down under the load of the massive Hanuman, and the journey came to a halt. To reach the main road, one had to traverse a few kms of kacchaa (unpaved) road… And the trailer had got stuck in that kacchaa road itself. A new axle had to be transported from Bombay and an additional trailer arranged. This would take time. Local well wishers would tell Brahmachariji that he should visit this or that local temple and pray for relief from obstacles. He faithfully visited every temple…. Axle and trailer arrived by 15th May. Once again the journey commenced on 16th of May – and once again, the tyres burst. This was the story that repeated for the next few days.. Fix the tyres, move a few kms, then tyres burst… And wherever the trailer stopped, local people would make a beeline and there would be a festive atmosphere as they collected for Darshan of this huge Hanuman on the trailer.

Somehow or the other, by and by, they made it to the highway – and by end of the month they had reached a village named suratkalaam where the axle broke once more.

Their primary destination was the railway yard at Mangalore. To reach that they had to cross a road bridge. And for crossing that they needed ‘permission’ from the state road authorities. And as Hanuman would have it, the authorities firmly denied permission, stating that the bridge would not be able to bear the load of the humungous Hanuman. So they were stuck in Suratkalaam, with no permission to go further. Meanwhile, the press started carrying reports that Hanuman himself, perhaps, did not want to proceed from there!

While the team knocked on all doors, none opened. The driver of the truck-trailer and the team of workers decided that it was fruitless to wait and so they simply left the trailer and returned to Bombay. Meanwhile, Shreepad Baba had left for Bangalore to meet with the State Highway authorities and get their permission for moving the trailer. Brahmachariji was distraught, and he did Satyagraha… As such he lived on a meager diet of vegetables and Ganga water – and now he declared that he was giving up even that – until Hanuman moved to Delhi.

And the monsoon broke out in June. During that period the road traffic in that route is severely affected. So, everything was going wrong…. The whole of June, the trailer was grounded in Suratkalaam.

Meanwhile, Brahmachariji was feeding Hanuman every day with a diet of Sankeertan – of Rama Nama – for that is the food of Hanuman…. As for himself, he stopped taking even Ganga water by the middle of June. He was on a total fast. After much pleading, he took some juice on 23rd.

On 23rd, a Sri Jagdeesh Chandra Batra, a barrister devotee of Brahmachariji arrived. And Shreepad Baba returned from Bangalore on 25th, successful in getting some sort of permit.

Mr Batra meanwhile talked to local authorities in Mangalore and came up with a brilliant alternative. The idol could be transported to Perambur station – which is attached to the Mangalore port, then they would not need to cross the road bridge at all. Moreover, the Port authorities were willing to extend all help (of cranes etc) to help transport the idol. So suddenly the Sun shone.

However the eclipse was never far away. The Government authorities sent a notice saying that the trailer should not be moved even a bit without written permission from the authorities. So more obstacles had to be crossed. Finally, permission was obtained, and the trailer reached the Mangalore port railway yard on 6th of July – full three months after being ready to move from Karkala. Around 11th of July – the train left for Delhi. It was a slow coach transportation, and there were several halts and breaks of journey. Finally, the special wagon carrying the idol reached Tughlakabad station of Delhi only on 2nd of August. As in all places of halt in between, huge number of devotees gathered for receiving and worshipping Hanuman…

Now was the next great task of moving the massive Hanuman from Tuglakabad to the Ashram at Basant Gaon. They could start only on 12th August, but the trailer broke down on the way – as before. After a halt of 24 hours, the trailer moved again, and they could finally reach Basant Gaon on 13th August around 11 pm. There, the trailer again broke down under Peepal tree that was in the vicinity of the Ashram. And there he remained unmovable for the next few weeks….

The folks working on moving the idol were at their wits end. They tried to use all engineering power, with multiple engines on the job – but the idol could not be moved. Finally, giving up, they came to Brahmachariji and put up their hands. Brahmachariji smiled and asked them to give some Laddoo as Bhog to Hanuman. Quickly thy went and got two packets of Laddoo. Brahmachariji laughed and said that this is too little for this huge Hanuman. And then 40 Kgs of Laddoo was organized, which Brahmachariji personally offered as Bhog to Hanuman, speaking to him all the while. And then, on his ‘go’ signal, they tried again, and this time, with no difficulty, with just a single engine, the idol was moved and placed in the courtyard of the Ashram… It was 1/Sep/1989.

The task remaining on hand was lift the huge idol and install it on the ‘Peetha’ that was designed for its base. For this, the contractors were demanding huge sums – excess of 30 or 50 Lakhs of rupees. At end, one of Brahmachariji’s ardent devotees, Shree Jaya Prakash Gaud, a leading industrialist, took this task upon himself – and set about working on this heart and soul.

Meanwhile, Brahmachariji was still on his discipline of eating next to nothing. He was resolved not to break this until Hanuman was made to stand on his designed position.

As work progressed, soon it was month of Magh – and the annual Magha festival in Sangam was on hand. Brahmachariji never missed a single day of bathing in Sangam during that period. And so he left for his Ashram at Jhusi, Prayag.

Meanwhile, work went on and Hanuman was finally standing – almost in the final position – in the designed base. The date  was 24th of January, 1990. Cries of Jay Hanuman filled the air of Basant Gaon…. On hearing this news, Bramachariji came from Prayag, and with tears streaming, he feasted his eyes on Hanuman. Work was still in progress… And Hanuman was made to finally stand in the proper position by midnight of 24th Jan. But Brahmachariji was not there to see that as he had to return to Prayag earlier in the night – he would not break his niyama of bathing every single day in Sangam during magha mela in Prayag.

After the Magh mela, Brahmachariji came away to Sunrakha village, near Brindavan, where he had renovated the Ashrama of Saubhari Rishi, in whose lineage he had been born. A Mela had been organized there, and Brahmachariji, in failing health, attended that.

After that, he came away to his Ashram in Brindavam, and his health was fast deteriorating. Second week of March, 1990. Devraha Baba would send someone to enquire about Brahmachariji’s health every hour or even several times an hour – so critical was Brahmachariji’s condition… Baba would send Aushadhi (medicines), but Brahmachariji was not taking any. He had but one strong desire left. To go to his Hanuman in Delhi. Bowing to his will, his devotees brought him to Delhi. He arrived at Basant Gaon Ashram in the evening.

Seated in front of Hanuman, he gazed at the Lord, his eyes streaming non-stop. Then he asked to be taken on a parikrama (circling) of the idol, even as he sat on his chair and entered Samadhi state. The next morning, at dawn, he merged into the Infinite Light. The date was 11th March 1990.

His last project done, he merged in His Hanuman – the Kotwal of the Capital.

Jai Siya Ram!

Signing off this series with a photo of great Guardian … Taken in Jan 2016 – twenty six years since the great installation…

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Basant Gaon Hanuman

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** Concluded. Sri Rama Jayam **

Kotwal of the Capital – 5

March 29, 2016

Shree Ganeshaya Namah!

Let us come back to the story of the Guardian of the capital.

It was in October 1983 that Brahmachariji initiated the project of sculpting the big Hanuman idol. The task was entrusted to the renowned sculptor Shri Radhamadhav Shenoy and was being done at Karkala in Udupi district.

The 150 ton Hanuman idol took five years to sculpt.

Every year during this process, Brahmachariji would make a visit, inspect the progress, and soulfully pray to Hanuman to get done soon and come over to his planned abode in Basant Gaon, Delhi. As a part of the overall preparations, one of the big questions was as to how the massive idol was to be transported to Delhi. On the advice of the sculptor, it was decided that it could be transported only by rail. And so Railway officials were contacted, and after a lot of preparatory study, a special wagon was designed and made for carrying the 150 ton Hanuman.

And in 1989, the idol was complete, but for some finishing touches which could be done later, on site, at Delhi.

It was time to commence the great Hanumat yatra, the last and indeed the most significant yatra in the life of Brahmachariji – the epic journey to bring Hanuman JI and install him in the capital of India. He was in his nineties… Imagine that… An ascetic activist Sadhu, a great writer, ripe in age and tapasya, putting his whole being to accomplishing one of the most key aims of his life. To install Hanuman, as Kotwal of the Capital…

Before commencing from Jhusi (Allahabad) Brahmachariji visited the great ascetic, Devraha Baba Ji, presumably when Baba visited Sangam for Magh Snaan. The year 1989 was one of Purna Kumbh. Purna Kumbh is special, and occurs when the Mauni Amavasya on Mahakumbh happens to fall on a Monday. This happened on Feb 6th in 1989. One and a half crore people had a bath in Sangam that day…

Brahmachariji took Devraha Baba’s blessings for bringing Hanuman from Karkala to Delhi. A project of this magnitude is bound to suffer from great vighna (obstacles) and it is only divine force that helps overcome them. Devraha Baba was a Siddha, who lived on a machaan by the banks of Yamuna in Brindavan. His following included people from all walks of life, from the pauper to the President, commoners and Congressmen…. (Click here for Wikipedia entry on Devraha Baba)

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devraha baba

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 Finally, Brahmachariji , started from Delhi on 25th March 1989, by AP Express. On 27th, they left Vijayawada for Mangalore. Reaching Mangalore at 8 PM that day, they left by road for Karkala and reached Shukateendra Vatika by 11 PM.

Then started the preparatory worship festival. As the Indian new year as per lunar calendar was falling on 6th April, a new year festival was started. Bhagavata reading, singing  during the day, and Bhagavat Leela plays in the evenings. The festival was concluded on 22nd April, and Brahmachariji concluded this Yajna with avabhruta snaan in the ocean. A huge bhandara (feast) was organized for the people there. While Brahmachariji never ate any rice or roti throughout his life (he lived on a diet of cooked vegetables and Ganga water, on days when he did not fast) – for the relish of the local people, a great North Indian feast of Puri, halwa etc was prepared…

The huge road trailer to carry the idol arrived from Bombay.

Brahmachariji and his retinue were all Hindi speaking people, now in Karnataka, where they had all manners of difficulties in communicating with local authorities. Much to his relief, help came in the form of Pujya Shripad Baba Ji from Brindavan. Brahmachariji had been speaking of him on the night of 26th April, and he, to the surprise of all, arrived on 27th.

Shripad Baba was a mystic, philosopher, scholar, educationist, ascetic…. Indeed, he was an institution in himself.

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Sripad Baba in Jungle

Some details about him….

He was a god drowned yogi. Even as a child, his spirituality was recognized by Anandamayi Ma, who called him a ‘Chota Baba’ (the little Baba). He was an Avadhut, who was as modern in tools as he was ancient in consciousness. He headed the Vraja academy in Vrindavan, organized conferences and seminars, used computers to document research and manuscripts… A fascinating account about experiences with him has been documented by a Russian Professor, N M Sazanovoy – click here to read…

Incidentally, George Harrison (Beatles) has written about him too. He was introduced to Baba by Pandit Ravi Shankar.

Here’s a pic of George Harrison and Ravi Shankar with Shripad Baba…

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Shripad_Harrison_Ravishankar_2.

George Harrison has written about his meeting with Shripad Baba, in his book “I, Me, Mine”… Here are some excerpts below… (excerpts taken from this link)

Everybody was coming up to him all the time and touching his feet. He looked like an old beggar; real matted long hair and wearing an old sack robe, with bare feet. Yet all these swamis with shaved heads and saffron robes were coming and bowing to him and touching his feet.

He took us round to every temple in Brindaban and he was known in all of them. I was a stiff Westerner when we started off, but there was a moment when the atmosphere of the place got to me, melting all the bullshit away.

I thought about this man a great deal as it became a fantastic, blissful experience for me. Later, they gave us some rooms and we slept for just a few hours until he came and got us at 4 am to go for the morning puja in the temple. We’d probably only slept for 3 hours but it was the deepest sleep I ever had in my life and all through the sleep I could hear choirs singing. I still don’t know to this day – I don’t think it was temples I could hear – I think it was something else – all through the sleep I was hearing huge heavenly choirs – it was a fantastic experience….”

“…That morning when we came back from the temple at about 5am, it was still dark, and we sat in a room. Sripad started singing a bhajan (a devotional song) to which we all sang the answering part, repeating it over and over. I got blissed out with my eyes shut, and didn’t want it to stop, even when I felt I was going to stop, we would keep it going on. In the end when it eventually stopped, the sun was so high; it must have been 9 or 10 in the morning – the time had flown by – fantastic.

And so he said to me, “Why don’t you make that into a song?” So what I did was take that old chant

Jai Krishna, Jai Krishna Krishna, Jai Krishna, Jai Sri Krishna,
Jai Radhe, Jai Radhe Radhe, Jai Radhe, Jai Sri Radhe…

and then wrote the English words in between the verses. “It Is He” was for Sripad Maharaj, a wonderful, humble, holy man.”

*

Shripad Baba joined Prabhudatta Brahmachari Ji, to help him in this great journey of bringing Hanuman from Karkala to New Delhi…

                                         ** To be continued **

Kotwal of the Capital – 4

March 2, 2016

Continued…

So it was, that during his Yatra to Rameshwaram, when he halted in Bangalore, Brahmachariji decided to get the huge idol of Hanuman sculpted in Karnataka.

To think is to act… A group of devotees put their minds together and decided that the best place to get the idol made was in Karkala, in Udupi district.

Karkala is a beautiful, green place at the foothills of Western Ghats, next to the Arabian sea. The place is historically famous for its black granite rock bed, which has been the source of some great temple idols across time. The granite rock bed here is said to be a few hundred meters deep. The town, which dates back more than a thousand years, derives its name from “Kari Kallu” which means “Black Rock”, in the local languages.

To quote from Udupi pages  :

Karkala situated about 35 kms. from Udupi, is the headquarters of the Karkala Taluk. About, 52 kms. north-east of Mangalore, is known primarily for the statue of Lord Bahubali (Gomateshwara). The 45-feet tall statue is estimated to weigh 80 tons. Besides its colossal size, the Karkala statue is rendered more striking by its situation on the top of a huge granite rock, 300 feet high, on the verge of a picturesque little lake. This image was erected by a Jain king in 1432, in memory of Bahubali (the first Tirthankara) who renounced the world at his most victorious moment.

Here is a picture of the Gomatheshwara idol. This is the second tallest statue of Gomatheshwara in Karnataka ( the tallest being the one at Shravanabelagola in Hassan district).

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Gomateshwara_Statue,_Karkala.

Karakala town is like a portal to other great religious centers such as Sringeri, Kolluru ( Mookambika), Udupi, Dharmasthala etc. During the times of Portuguese invasion of Goa and the inquisition of Hindus, a section of Gauda Saraswata Brahmanas fled from Goa and came to Karkala, where they were given refuge by the local Jaina King. They Saraswats built a temple for Lord Venkateshwara, which is called Padu-Tirupathi (Western Tirupathi), which  is now one of the main attractions of Karkala.  Right in front of this temple is a temple of Hanuman. Known as Veera Anjaneya temple, this has a unique idol of Hanuman – around 15 feet tall, standing in a warrior pose, one hand on hip, other raised up above the head (as if about slap his opponent), hair flying… It is said that this idol was discovered when the land in Anekere (where there is a lake) in Karkala was being dug…

They say that Tipu Sultan was an ardent devotee of this Lord, and gifted a silver necklace that the Lord wears till this day.

Here is a picture of Veera Anjaneya of Karkala

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Veera-maruthi-karkala.

So, such is the place chosen by Brahmachariji for sourcing his Hanuman, the Kotwal of the country.

From available literature it is not clear if he had darshan of Veera Anjaneya at Karkala, but one would guess that he would have had Darshan, for he spent a lot of time in this small town. With Rama Nama Sankeertana traditionally chanted on special days in the temple, surely Brahamachariji would have been drawn here…

Coming to the year 1983….

After deciding to commence the project, Brahmachariji came with a group of devotees to Karkala. In Karakala, he stayed in Shukateendra Ashrama, a beautiful traditional Ashrama, where around 50-60 students studied traditional Vidya.

The next morning, Brahmachariji visited the quarry and inaugurated the project of sculpting the idol of Hanuman. Sri Radhamadhav Shenoy, the famous architect / sculptor, had agreed to the work of sculpting the idol of Hanuman. He came from a family-line of sthapathi-s (traditional Indian architect / sculptors), and his grandfather had been awarded a recognition by the President of India. He was so happy taking up this assignment of Brahmachariji that he waived all material c osts – (of the massive stone etc), and took only the fee for carving.

That evening Brahmachariji’s group put up a Bhagavata Charita Leela show in the Ashram.  They performed Shiva Leela as well. These were based on the ”Bhagavati Katha” penned by Brahmachariji. Although the play was in Hindi, the local students and people, who were ignorant of the language, enjoyed the show thoroughly. For Bhakti is Bhava after all – and then again, it was being performed in the presence of a Siddha Purusha – Prabhudatta Brahmachari Ji.

Dvivedi ji writes that at night, when Brahmachariji was about to retire, he asked him – “Maharaj ji, where are we going to get the massive resources needed for this project?” To this question, he says, Brahmachariji laughed, and said – “Hanuman Ji will make take care of all his arrangements himself!”

Very soon, the news spread far and wide that Brahmachariji was getting a massive idol of Hanuman made for installing as the Kotwal of the Capital in a temple in New Delhi. So funds started coming in. But would funds alone do for such a project? Surely, without the nod of God, not a blade of grass moves – what then to talk of such a massive undertaking….

Maharaj Ji was perhaps in his eighties then. The project to sculpt the massive 40 feet idol would take a few years. Brahmachariji returned to his Ashram in North India. Every year, he would make a trip to Karkala to inspect the progress. Applying the dust from the feet of the idol on his head, he would pray to Hanuman, again and again, to please come to Delhi soon. He would chat with Hanuman in merriment.  And so it went on… For five years… After which time, the sculpting was more or less done….

Now, coming to Basant Gaon, where the idol was planned to be installed. This was one of the three primary Ashrams of Brahmachariji (the main one being in Jhusi, Allahabad, and the other one in Brindavan). Up until the 1960-s or later, the area of Basant Gaon was open lands… A dry, arid, rocky sort of area – there was a village here – which was peopled largely by people of Jamadagni Gotra. It is said that the place where the current temple of Hanuman is situated, was originally a pond. The locals remember that in the 1940s there was a massive feud between some peoples in this area, resulting in the death of several people in this vicinity. Again in the early 70s, there was some local feud, which was, thankfully, not as deadly as the one in the 40-s. Suffice to say, that this area has seen strife. For whatever reason, Hanuman-ji decided to come to this place, and ever since then, the place has not only become one of peace – it is today, perhaps, one of the most expensive, prime areas, of New Delhi City…. Vasant Vihar…

Lets go back to year 1989….

The idol of Hanuman had been sculpted and was ready for transportation from Karkala…

The great Hanumat Yatra was to begin….

** To be continued **

Kotwal of the Capital – 3

February 10, 2016

Let us come to the story of the Hanuman Mandir at Basant Gaon, New Delhi, which was established by Maharaj Shri Prabhudatta Brahamachari Ji.

The installation of this massive idol of Hanuman, as the Kotwal of the Capital, was the last labor that this Hercules of spirituality undertook.

After my first Darshan of the temple in November (Click here for the blog report ) I wanted to get some details about this great installation…. As I searched the Net, I did get some information, but they were somewhat anecdotal. Searching around, I found a link to a site which gave details of Brahmachari Ji’s books, and in that I found a two volume autobiography that he had written – called ‘Apni Niji Charcha’. I checked with the Basant Gaon temple, and they did not stock the books of Prabhudatta ji. They told me to check in his Ashram at Jhusi or Brindavan. I called some numbers listed on the Net, but things happen at their own pace in the timelessness landscape of Indian spirituality, and I did not manage to get the books. Sometime in December, a friend of mine was on a visit to Brindavan, to Ananda Vrindavan Ashram (of Maharajshree Swami Akhandananda Sarawati). There being an Ashram of Prabhudatta Brahmachari Ji in Brindavan too, I asked my friend to check about the availability of the books there. To cut to a long story short, some process was set into motion, and by the grace of Maharajshree, the Vol 2 of ‘Apni Niji Charcha’ came to me by courier, sent by his Sanyasi disciple. This is a continuance of the Ahaituki Kripa of Maharajshree on this undeserving one. It was a book of around 350 pages, and I approached it with some trepidation. But I need not have felt any, for it was such a wonderfully written book. The pages just flew. Considering that this book was written after he had completed 110 volumes of Bhagavati Katha – one can well understand that the writing hand was simply in the zone – dancing with the divine. I read that book end-to-end, but did not get details about how the Hanuman mandir got to be made. It was but natural, because the Hanuman temple was done in the last years of Prabhudatta Ji, and these books had been written earlier (around 1978). At the end of the book, there was a mention of the red-faced-one (Hanuman) now ‘camping on his head’, and asking him to install a Hanuman idol in Delhi…. He conveys his conversations with Hanuman, where he tells him to catch hold of someone else, for where could he go for the means to build such a monument… He ends that parley by asking Hanuman to assign some man of means to enable the project, and that he would then carry out Hanuman’s command….

So that was as much as I could find from the autobiography.

In January, I visited Delhi again.

I reached on 22nd Jan, Friday. On Saturday 23rd Jan, I visited this temple again, with my friend Shiva. It was night time, and the atmosphere was divine. I chanced to ask a pujari if there was any ‘lekhni’ (write up) about the temple. To my pleasant surprise, he said that there was. On my enquiry he said that there was a book which described how the temple got to be made. And that I could buy one. By the time I finished the Darshan at the temple, he brought a copy from somewhere, which I grabbed gratefully. It was a book titled ‘Hanumat Yatra’, written by Dr Vidyadhar Dvivedi, a close disciple of Prabhudatta Ji. I started reading the book the same night, and finished it at around midnight. And that was a blessing. Because, as I came to know, the idol of Hanuman was installed on 24th of January, 1990. I had the book in my hand on the very date!

Here are some details about the idol of Hanuman, as described in the book.

Project start: October 1983
Height of idol: 40 feet
Width: 12 feet
Weight: 150 tons
Installed on : 24 January 1990
Idol type: Carved in Granite
Where sculpted:  Karkala (Karnataka)
Sculpted by: Sri Radhamadhav Shenoy

How did this project actually kick off?

It was sometime in 1983.

Brahmachari ji had gone with a group of people on Yatra to Rameshwaram. His first stop was at Bangalore. There, he happened to visit a temple of Hanuman, which was atop a hillock. The temple had a huge idol of Hanuman, made of black stone.

(One guesses that the temple he visited would have been the Pressana Veeranjaneya temple, at Mahalakshmi layout, Bangalore… There is an interesting story behind this temple. In the 1970s, there was a huge rock, 22 feet tall, that stood on top of a hillock here. The local people decided to paint a picture of Hanuman on this rock. Then they started worshipping the painting. It was soon decided that the rock should be sculpted to form an idol of Hanuman. The project was undertaken by the local community. And the idol of Hanuman was made. Prana Pratishtta was done, and the energized idol was formally inaugurated in 1976… ( To know more click here )

Here is a picture of that Hanuman…

Hanuman-bangalore
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After darshan of Bangalore Hanumanji, when Prabhudatta Ji was back in his place of stay, he was lost in deep thought. He then conveyed to the author, Dvivedi Ji, that he wished to have a similar idol, even larger, of around 40 feet height, to be installed in the Basant Gaon Ashram in New Delhi. He desired to get the idol made in Karnataka itself. He said “Delhi has been the Capital of India not just from recent times, but from ancient times of Kaurava-Pandavas. Our Hanuman Ji there would protect the capital, acting as the Kotwal (Chief Official Guardian of the Fort or Country), and would be known as the ‘Kotwal of Delhi’”.

A Sadhu’s sankalpa….

Bol Siyavar Ramachandra Ki ….

Jai!

  • To be continued