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!
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
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…