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

 

Kotwal of the Capital – 2

January 3, 2016

Picking up the thread on Swami Prabhudatt Brahmachari ji…

The great sage (Maharajshri) Swami Akhandananda Saraswati has written in his book “Paavan Prasang”, that he considers Swami Prabhudatt Brahmachari to be the one who was instrumental in making him into a public narrator of spiritual Katha. And those in the ‘path’ know that it is to Maharajshri that we owe, in a very large part, the traditions of Bhagavata Katha in the form that we see now, all over India. Brahmachari ji used to hold year-long naama-samkeertan festival in his ashram in Prayag (Jhusi).  He invited Maharajshree to give discourses on Srimad Bhagavatam. It is here that Maharajshree met the great sage Udiya Baba too. (One gets an idea of the great confluence of sages in Brahmachariji’s Jhusi Ashram.)

Maharajshree narrates an incident about Prabhudatt Brahmachari that happened in Ayodhya. After the stay at Jhusi Ashram, Udiya Baba and many of his followers left for Ayodhya, walking. Maharajshree and Brahmachari ji too went with him. In Ayodhya, they found another great scholar-sage, Shri Anjaninandan Sharan, coming to offer traditional welcome to Udiya Baba. (A word about Anjaninandan Sharan ji. He was a high-court lawyer, who later renounced worldly life and retired to Ayodhya, where he compiled the magnum-opus book “Manasi Piyush”. It is a masterly “commentary of commentaries” on Ramacharita Maanas, and has since been brought out as a massive seven-volume set by Gita Press, Gorakhpur. ) Seeing Anjaninandan ji coming, Brahmachariji offered his respects to him by falling on the ground and prostrating to him. Seeing Brahmachariji in front of him, Shri Anjaninandan Sharan too fell on the ground, in prostration to Brahmachariji. Seeing these two sages prostrating, their followers on both sides, threw themselves forthwith on the ground, in prostration. It was an amazing sight. All were on the ground. Only Udiya Baba was standing, and was laughing in merriment.

Just imagine the depth of Bhaava of Brahmachariji, as indeed of Anjaninandanji!

In another context, Swami Venkatesananda, disciple of Swami Sivananda, writes   – “….Prabhudatta Brahmachari, who had quite a number of ashrams in North India. He wanted to do some writing, and felt that he needed complete isolation, undisturbed seclusion; so, he bought himself a houseboat, and anchored it in the middle of the river Ganges. He went on doing his work undisturbed. In the meantime, the ashrams were being run by somebody else.

One day, one of his lieutenants went to see him, and said, “You know, So-and-so who is running the ashram in such and such a place is stealing, cheating, doing this and that!” This holy man heard all that, smiled, and didn’t respond. The man asked him, “What are you going to do about it?” He said, “Nothing. God has not appointed me a magistrate. That is not my job, that is his job.”

Based on the above, one would well think that Brahmachariji would be the last person to include political activism in his ‘job profile’ – and one would think wrong! Even as a youth, he participated in freedom struggle, and was imprisoned several times by the British (once, along with Nehru). Indeed, he was one of those who felt the need to be engaged with political apparatus for causes that he felt right.

In the first elections of free India, he contested as an independent candidate against the great leader, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru! And his election symbol? A boat.

Nehru was aiming to bring sweeping legislative changes in Hindu code, and Brahmachariji took it upon himself to stand against it. And in this stand, he was offered support by Swami Karpatri Maharaj’s party (Akhil Bharatiya Ram Rajya Parishad) and other Hindu political groups. But all said and done, it was never a real contest, with Nehru having a superstar status in the political stage, and Brahmachariji being a Sadhu who knew little of realpolitik. You can’t observe Mouna and do a political campaign, can you! Brahmachari had as much chance as Nehru would have had, had Nehru challenged Brahmachari to a debate on Brahma Sutra or Upanishads!

But the contest was not without its moments!

Here are some excerpts from an article, ‘Cymbals and Symbols’ – a report that was published in ‘Time’ magazine (issue of Jan 28th, 1952).

“By plane, ship, train, automobile and bullock cart, India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had been campaigning all over the country, stirring up votes for India’s four-month-long first general election. He had traveled 23,000 miles, made as many as ten speeches a day, addressed 5 million people. In fact, he had been just about everywhere but in his own constituency in Allahabad. There was no need to canvass Allahabad, he said rather airily.

Last week he got distressing news. His only opponent in Allahabad, 52-year-old Prabhudatt Brahmachari, who wears a luxuriant grey beard, orange-and red-rimmed spectacles, a saffron robe and a long white loincloth, had been quietly building up the vote. Quietly was the word for it: he had done it without uttering a single sound, except an occasional loud laugh.

One Plank. Back in 1921, Brahmachari, like Nehru, came under the spell of Mahatma Gandhi, but Brahmachari became a Sadhu, or holy man. He took vows of silence and celibacy, was jailed several times by the British (once along with Nehru), set up a camp on the banks of River Ganges to study the Hindu epics, and wrote the first 60 volumes of a 180-volume biography of Hindu god Krishna! One day last October he cried out : “Hey nath Narayan!” (meaning, “Oh, Lord God,” the holy man’s only departure from silence). And an attendant brought him his Shaeffer fountain pen and paper. He wrote: “If today I participate in an election, it’s because my inner voice bids me to do so.”

“Nehru, he said, is a ‘black Englishman [who] studied in the West…’

“Holy Man Brahmachari toured Nehru’s constituency in a 1931 Dodge sedan accompanied by a troupe of Hindu singers. To the chanting of Hindu psalms, he danced on the platform, rhythmically tapping a pair of small brass cymbals. A disciple read from a pamphlet he had written…”

“Hearing that Brahmachari’s pamphlet had sold 76,000 copies, Nehru came rushing back to Allahabad last week…”

The article adds – “This week, as Allahabad voters went to the polls, Nehru seemed to have his constituency under control again. The whole country was pretty much his, too.”

In that election, Nehru got 233571 votes, while Prabhudatt Brahmachari got 56718 votes ( click here for election results site )

Here is a picture of Brahmachari, that was carried in the Time article referred above.

 

New Doc 12_1

He lost the election all right, but never lost his sense of political purpose.

One of the most important causes that seized his heart was the protection of cows.

(Indeed, the deep regard for cows in Indian consciousness can be understood from the fact that the election symbol of the mighty Congress party was a pair of bullocks carrying a yoke. In 1967, the Congress party had a split. While the original party continued with the old symbol, the new faction led by Indira Gandhi chose the symbol of a cow with suckling calf).

Brahmachari was one of the leaders of the movement against Cow-slaughter in India. This became a life-long battle for him with the powers that be. He toured the length and breadth of the country for his campaign. In 1966, he formed SGMS (Sarvadaliya Gorakshana Maha-abhyaan Samiti ) which included people from all sides, even some Congressmen. He announced that a huge Satyagraha would be held on 7th November 1966, followed by a hunger strike. It is estimated that lakhs of people came to Delhi for this Satyagraha. Sadly, the situation turned out of control, there were reports of vandalism, police resorted to firing, resulting in six or seven sadhu-s dying, and many were imprisoned. The Home Minister, Gulzari Lal Nanda, had to resign his post.

In 1967 he went on an indefinite fast on the issue of Cow-slaughter. He broke the fast after 80 days after Government intervened and gave some assurances.

It is said that Prabhudatt Brahmachari had four deep desires

  • To build a temple of Hanuman in Delhi, with a 40 foot tall Hanuman idol
  • To build a temple of Vishnu (60 foot tall idol) in Indraprastha (Delhi – perhaps the Purna kila region)
  • To put an end to cow slaughter
  • Release of Ramjanbhoomi

Of these, there is but one that he could see happen.

The Hanuman in Delhi… The Kotwal of the Capital….

All said and being done, one may agree or not with his political positions. But one cannot deny that he was a great ascetic who sought to bring his voice to bear on the political landscape. And he did that using Gandhian method of non-violent Satyagraha.

Signing off this post with a poster of Paul McCartney (of the Beatles) – lending his golden voice to the cause of the Moo!  (There is this video too of his too, titled “If slaughterhouses had glass” …Click here to see on youtube… )

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Paul mccartney

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** To be continued **

Les Miserables – Chennai pe charcha

December 4, 2015

I would like to keep this short. That said, I would like to start with the rather long opening line of Dickens’s Tale of Two Cities – “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”…

Chennai in the Crisis that Had No Name….

How did it feel for me? Pardon me, if I say that this last week was a bit like what one experienced during the tense times of watching 26/11. For us here in Chennai, with no electricity, water-water-everywhere-but-not-that-much-to-drink, pounding-pounding-pounding of non-stop rains, with the knowledge in one’s bones that this one was the real thing – the disaster that we were afraid to even fear… The knowledge that out there, there would be thousands and thousands who would be suffering far more than I, and the feeling of guilt that accompanies that silent knowledge… And then, by the time it was Day 3, and still no signs of end, the desperate question, “is this for real? Is this really happening?”

And when the rains did seem to stop, the deluge that followed… With the waters being released from the bursting catchment lakes…. With sudden rivers flowing through city streets….

And the other city… The noble Chennai… No dhakka-mukka in the few shops that opened up… No sudden sky-rocketing of prices… Ordinary people helping each other… Many going out of their way…. The dignity of India… While it lasts… Surely, this wont last, and soon commerce will take over… As will politics….

Remember, we had no TV. Our phones were out… Most of us were in complete Radio Silence. And when the first crackle of signals did come, there came the SOS-s from friends and relations… Each of us perhaps knew some people, personally, who were marooned with water coming up to first floor… Wanting drinking water, and milk if possible… Even as I write this, I have a cousin’s family whose only mode of transport is by boat, and they have no electricity yet – and they have at least four people at home who are above 80 years of age – and so please don’t say ‘Why can’t they go to Bangalore?’

And again, even as I write this, the rains have started once more.. Maybe just a short and sharp shower… But such has been the pounding of last week, that we shall be suspicious of every shadow of a shower….

Oh I could go on.. But here’s some plea, if I may

Let us, as a nation, get our disaster-management act together…

Do not inundate sufferers with dozens of different agency numbers and options, out of which we hesitate to call any (Take your pick Army, Navy, Boat Agencies. Food relief folks Government Bodies etc etc). Please have ONE number that people should call – and let that number be manned by a Command and Control centre that routes the right relief to the right place.

Take control of communication. People may not have phones working. How do you get messages to them? Have clear and purposeful messages. Get them across. Do not make the sufferer sift for signal from a flood of meaningless noise.

For sure the rescue workers from Army, Navy and other Government agencies did terrific work. Help them by having a well designed Disaster Management Plan. Let each one know exactly what they would be doing. And let there be an overall control mechanism….

As I write this, I see a message in one of my groups where someone is asking – “Can someone suggest what medicines need to be got? One relief truck is coming from Bengaluru”. One more helping hand waving uncertainly…

One more request… This one to news channels.. Please do not come to Chennai and interview people in Hindi (although, I humbly submit ki some of us can match you gaali to gaali in khadi boli) … And if you can, please do not bring in words like Secular etc into this conversation. You agree to that, and I grant you your right to scream from your studios that your channel saved Chennai… And tomorrow (why tomorrow, even today), you may go back to your recently all too familiar ‘Papa beats Momma’ theme of ‘India Intolerance Unlimited’.

mujhe tumse kuch bhi na chahiye
mujhe mere haal pe chhod do
mujhe mere haal pe chhod do


(… ai maalik tere bande hum… )

 

Kotwal of the Capital – 1

November 10, 2015

Tucked away in the heart of New Delhi, in the upmarket Vasant Vihar area, in a locality known as Vasant Gaon, is this temple of Hanuman. A massive Hanuman idol stands tall here. Sculpted out of a single granite rock, it is forty feet tall, and weights a hundred and fifty tons. It is installed on a twenty five feet foundation.

And this was my first visit to this temple. To me it was amazing that I had never been here before. Having spent many years in Delhi, surely I should have known of this temple. How can you miss a 45 foot Hanuman? Well, at least I have moved out of Delhi for some time now, but my friend Ravi, who came along with me now to this temple, has been in this very area all his life. And he too had never visited the temple, although he had heard of its existence. It was one of those things… It was right there, and yet wasn’t visible until you cared to see!

Hanuman - Basant Gaon

What a sight! A tall Hanuman could be seen, right at the back of a long flight of steps that led up to an open-to-the-sky temple courtyard. The sounds of a katha greeted us from the courtyard. Many young Brahmachari students were sitting and listening. They would have been students of the Sanskrit School being run here. Some elders, including priests, were also in the audience. It was informal (Oh the informality of open skies!), one felt like a bird in lazy flight. We were all chakora birds, Hanuman was the full bright moon. In the presence of this massive Hanuman, one felt as secure as a baby in his parent’s care.

I had come looking for this temple, having recently read about the amazing sage who founded it.

His name was Swami Prabhudutt Brahmachari.

The Wikipedia entry about him is rather bare-bones. Here is what it says:

Sant Prabhuduttji Brahmachari was an Indian guru and freedom fighter who ran a Sanskrit school in Basant gaon, New Delhi. He founded his ashram at Jhusi to organize Kumbh Mela. He became close to Golwalker in nearly 1950 and then Rajendra Singh and Golwalker persuaded him to stand against Nehru on the cow protection platform and against the Hindu Code Bill. In 1951, he openly challenged Jawaharlal Nehru’s election to the 1st Lok Sabha from the Allahabad constituency, challenging Nehru’s stance on the ideology of Hinduism in independent India.

This all-too-brief description hardly does justice to the persona that he was.

Prabhudutt Brahmachari was born in 1885, in a village in District Aligarh, in a poor Brahmana family. Early in his life, he took deep interest in Sanskrit studies, and also took a vow of lifelong celibacy. Leaving home, he went off to study in Gurukula, in different places, leading up to Varanasi. Swami Karpatri Maharaj was one of his co-students.

He was also drawn by the fire of freedom struggle and became a follower of Mahatma Gandhi. Becoming an activist, he jumped into the fight for independence, and was interred in jail by the British, undergoing rigorous imprisonment. One of his prison-mates was Jawaharlal Nehru. The irony is that he would later stand against Jawaharlal Nehru, in the first elections held in independent India.

Swami Prabhudutt Ji was deeply spiritual, and undertook tremendous tapasya, right from his early years. He became a wanderer, and met many sages, including the great sages Udiya Baba and Hari Baba. He was deeply inspired by these two saints, and took every opportunity to take their guidance. Fired with dispassion, he decided to go away to Himalaya, and not return until he attained the Supreme State of Spiritual Jnana. Udiya Babaji, sensing this fire in him, encouraged him by showing him a picture he had, of Buddha. In that picture, Buddha was seen in almost skeletal state – his body completely wasted by the intensity of Tapasya. Showing him that picture, Baba told him a related shloka

इहासने शुष्यतु मे शरीरं त्वगस्थिमांसं विलयं तु यान्तु |
अप्राप्य बोधं   बहुकालदुर्लभं इहासनान्नैव समुच्चलिष्ये ||

In this seat, (where I do tapasya), well may my body dry up, my flesh and bones decay; But without attaining Self-Knowledge, which is extremely difficult to obtain even after eons, I shall not stir from this seat, whatever it takes.

Perhaps the picture was one like this

Buddha

Taking this upadesha, Prabhudutt ji left for the Himalaya. But after serious Tapasya, he became very ill, and could no longer continue. Breaking his resolve, he returned to the plains, and going to Udiya Baba, he conveyed his state. Baba was a Jnani, who could gaze into the heart, and see such things as eyes of flesh do not see. He was kindness itself, and said – “No problem. In failures, seeds of success lie hidden. You have a pravrtti (predilection) for reading and writing. Go write books”.

And so began the writing life of Prabhudutt Ji. And what a library he has written. Starting with the life story about Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, he went on to write on a whole range of subjects. His magnum opus is Bhagavati Katha. This is a series of 118 parts, each of 200 to 250 pages. The first 68 parts are a rendering of Srimad Bhagavatam in traditional Hindi (Vraja bhasha), including translations and commentaries on key verses of Bhagavatam. Parts 69-74 of the series contain a commentary on Bhagavad Gita. Parts 74 to 106 contains commentaries on 191 upanishads. Imagine this… 191 Upanishads!! This is incredible! Perhaps no one else in history has done commentaries on as many Upanishads.  Parts 107 to 118 contain explanations of different schools of Indian philosophy and a commentary on Brahma Sutra.

For writing this magnum opus, he opted for complete solitude. Delegating all his secular work to others, he acquired a houseboat which he anchored in the middle of Ganga river. And there he worked undisturbed, focused fully on his writing work. What a tapasya!

The Bhagavati Katha is respected as a great spiritual classic. The Vraja language verses are sung with devotion even today… And we had been privileged to hear some of them during this first visit of ours, to this temple of Hanuman in Vasant Gaon, New Delhi…. Bhagavati Katha was being narrated now…

Swami Prabhudutt Brahmanchari’s main Asram is in Jhusi, near Allahabad, where he is said to have done terrific tapasya of Gayatri Mantra, standing in a state of Samadhi in the waters of Ganga …. In this Asrama, he held vibrant festivals of Nama Samkeertan, which were attended by some of the greatest sages of North India of those times.

Swamiji felt that Hanuman was the “Kotwal”, the Guardian, of the capital of India. And so he had this temple built in Basant Gaon, which then, was in the outskirts of Delhi, on the way to the Palam Airport. The temple was completed and inaugurated in 1990.

Swamiji lived to see the “Kotwal of the Capital’ installed. And he passed away the same year, at the ripe age of 105.

More about the temple and the sage, in the next post…

Monoliths with no name

October 30, 2015

Some forty years ago, when my father was bringing us all back from some pilgrimage, I saw a landscape with some standing rocks that looked so fascinating, that their memory etched in my mind. We were returning by car, and I remember that we were either going to or from Vellore in Tamil Nadu. Now, these rocks were like four ancient pillars, standing next to each other, like sentinels of time, withstanding erosion of eons.

That memory remained with me, and I did ask Cyril, a friend of mine in Ranipet (near Vellore) whether he had sighted any such rock formation. He said he may have, and tried to locate that site by asking others. But the trail led to a blank.

And then, last Sunday, on 25th Nov, when I was on the road on the way to Tirupathi, in the horizon, I saw them…

IMG_20151025_102223

That’s it, I said…

Driving nearer, I clicked again

IMG_20151025_102218

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These are pretty tall monoliths. I guess they would be a hundred feet or more in height.

Here is a picture from the other side.

Monoliths TN 2

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Had this been America or Europe, it would have become a place of importance from Geology point of view, and made into a tourist attraction. Perhaps, souvenir replicas would have been sold, small restaurants sprung up, and in a controlled manner, a rope-way or some way to go to the top… But this is India… One should be thankful that these have not been blasted by Granite quarry men. (One could see that granite quarry folks had cut into rocks in that area. But for some mysterious reason, they had spared these monoliths…)..  In a country where hundreds of temples that are hundreds (some thousand and more) years old are all in various stages of neglect, what chance do some stray monoliths stand? Sigh..

But who knows. Maybe the site is documented by the authorities as geologically important and declared a protected site in some Government circular. Let me grant the benefit of doubt.

I guess that we were probably traveling from Tirupathi to Vellore when I saw them the first time, decades ago. But yes… After four decades – magic happened, and I saw these monoliths from my memory spring back into matter.

Signing off with one more pic. Jai Ho!

Monoliths TN 1

Dilli in waiting…

October 2, 2015

October tip-toes in…

Early morning walk in my customary park…. Summer is surely over, but winter is not yet in… The morning walkers present a somber picture… Tensely quiet… None of the bluster of summer, nor the fight of winter… They walk listlessly, as if they are not sure whether they are waiting to write a will or to inherit from one… There is expectation in their strides, and yet there is resignation in their eyes… Old ladies are sitting on park-benches and cud-chewing some topic or the other in the manner of Goddesses of twilight passing judgments on daylight matters, more out of habit rather than with purpose…. Girls (Ladies), young and old, are doing yoga, holding poses, stopping time, looking at the sky, locking their eyes on some unseen God, who, surely, would blink first… A cluster of senior citizens are standing in a circle and doing their own thing – clapping hands, doing some stretches, and ending up with Laughter Asana, laughing HA-HA-HA-HA in unison, thrice… Each time louder than the previous time… They know that time shall have the last laugh… So HA HA HA…

The shrubs are displaying the last flowers of the season… Take-it-or-leave-it blossoms…

Walking along two elders chat about “nothing lasts”. “Let us take this walk. Who knows how many cells have died in our body, and how many born since we started this walk. In fact, the whole blood stream is completely replaced every six months…” says, one to the other. “Yes, yes, that is why three months average is best measure of blood sugar” says the other to the one. They both heartily agree, and say “HbA1C”, in one voice, like two children trying out a nice new word… Rumpelstiltskin…

88! (“Two fat ladies!”, shout the Tambola criers, when they announce the number 88.) Well, two eights are walking, and one tells another, about a third 8 who is not present – “uskee Thyroid problem hai… That is why itnee soojee hui hai … (She has a thyroid problem. That is why she is so bloated).

Two kids playing shuttle cock… Up and down, back and forth, like a tease of time…

A couple of stray dogs are basking in the sun. One is on his back, legs up in the air, allowing the Sun to gaze at his navel. And the other sits a short distance away, unconcerned, examining his own fur, as if checking if they are ok for the coming winter…

The wide lawns are covered by a dew carpet. Looks like moisturizer spread across earth’s skin that is soon going dry …

Mortality is in the air… Every creature is transacting from a perch of frailty… Winds are holding their breath…

Life now, seems like this flower in the park… Streaks of color… The white of age…

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1-IMG_20150930_064452*

दिनयामिन्यौ सायं प्रातः
शिशिरवसन्तौ पुनरायातः ।
कालः क्रीडति गच्छत्यायुः
तदपि न मुञ्चत्याशावायुः ॥

Day and night, dusk and dawn
Winter and spring, on and on…
Time sports , Life runs away,
Yet no respite from desire-storm sway..

Hickery, Dickery, Dock!

Rama Katha… An episode from Sundara Kaanda

September 6, 2015

Athato…

Hanuman lands on top of Lambaa mountain in Lanka, crashing through the forest tree carpet, and as he lands, he is covered with flowers, so much so that he looks like an ape made of flowers.

More…

Watch. A ustream recording of the katha narration….

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Siyaavar Ramachandra ki Jai… Pawan-sut Hanuman ki Jai…


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