Posts Tagged ‘Jawaharlal Nehru’

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 **

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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…