Indigo Indian of Mystic
by H. N. Kaul
am no great believer in men who claim direct liaison with the GOD (emphasis
nine). To me all Godmen are fraudmen, whom I dare not touch with a ten-feet-long
Naturally, I hit the
ceiling when my god- fearing and god-abiding wife asked me, one fine morning, to
accompany her to a Godman, wrapping me up with a lot of crape about the supposed
miraculous powers of the holy man and the likely material benefits I could get.
I may have had a bite at the bait but before she could hook me up for the visit
she slipped and that settled it for me. Being mortally afraid of droppers and
junkies I put my foot down-and I knew I hurt her-when she told me the Godman was
a hash-addict. It was in the winter of 1967- 68, hardly three months after my
In the summer of 1968,
while cooling my heels in Kashmir on a sandwiched holiday, my wife continued her
efforts to bring me round to a visit to the holyman and this time I had to
thwart a two-pronged attack as my sister-in- law Jai, a committed devotee, had
joined forces with my wife. But I was so scared by the mere thought of
confronting a junkie that I refused to budge even an inch despite the
provocations, temptations and nagging they tried to corner me with. And when it
was time for us to say thank you to the vale and dale and tie our shoelaces for
the return journey to our joint in Delhi, it happened. My wife trooped in, with
puffed cheeks and blood-shot eyes, a picture of misery and grief and broke down:
"He's left us."
And to my sympathetic
enquiries she cleared the riddle amid sobs. The Godman was dead.
I thought, and felt a surge of relief through me. But to show my concern for her
grief I presented her my sympathies rolled in butter. I even volunteered to pay
my homage to the saint by joining his funeral procession. This was great comfort
to her and I had nothing to be scared of. "Who is afraid of the dead - even
I kept my word and was at
the spot on the dot. But I was stunned to see the size of the crowd - a funeral
crowd any national leader would have envied. And what struck me most was the
devotion of the people more than their grief. They said their grief with rose
petals and tears.
For some time curiosity
welled up in me to know why so many sane people were drawn to a dope but the
bustle of hectic life in Delhi, put the lid down on my inquisitiveness and I
parked the thought of Godman in the closed shelf of my brain and forgot about
him the way I forget all the trifles that cross my way.
But it was not to be so.
One day when I returned back from my work very late, tired to the bones and
ready to hit the sack, I failed to recognize my bedroom. A Godrej-size cane-rack
had pushed the yacht-size bed to the corner and string of coloured bulbs had
given the room a festive look. My wife, in lotus posture, eyes closed and string
of beads in her hand was seated like a statue in front of the rack. I nudged
forward and looked into the rack. An old man in typical Kashmiri Brahminical
attire was staring at me from within the rack. He was supporting a six tier
Muslim turban and wearing a 'pheran'. He was deeply drawing at his 'chellum'
with the tongue of a flame licking his broad and furrowed blow and his luminous
eyes were penetrating through me like X-ray. For a few minutes I could not take
my eyes off him. It was an impressive photograph in a chrome frame.
I jerked my wife out of
her reveries. She promptly introduced me to the Godman, pointing an enthusiastic
finger at the photograph and she kissed the locket, with another mini-portrait
of the saint studded in it, with reverence. And so the Godman, despite my
apparent disliking, started staying with me right in my bedroom and in the heart
of my wife. And I had to stay with him to compromise peace at home. I had my
misgivings as I thought the ghost of the saint in my bedroom will be standing
like a ten-feet-tall concrete wall between me and my wife. But it was not so. I
managed peaceful co-existence with the godman.
Satya Sai Baba, a south
Indian Godman with a liberal crop of Negroid hair that shaded his head like an
umbrella was the most sought- after Godman those days and I decided to cash on
his popularity to make a fast buck and steady my fast declining bank blue.
Somehow, I managed to gatecrash and got an audience with the saint and wrote a
50 page sketch of my impressions. The booklet was sold before it hit the stalls.
Though it fattened my bank-roll a bit, it did not make me any wiser about Godmen
and I continued to love Godmen like plague. Then two small happenings softened
me a bit and I began to waver but, yet, I was not fully sold to the idea.
I prize two things in
life: my son Ashish and my liquor. One day Ashish suddenly doubled up in pain
and his yelps and shrieks were piercing through my heart like lances. It was
midnight and I was trying to ring my doctor out of his slumber when my wife
brought Ashish to me, parked him in my lap, opened a rusty tin box, scooped up a
pinch of ash and put it in the crying child's mouth. Suddenly like a taut wire
let loose at both ends, the child's stiffness vanished and he calmed down.
Within five minutes he was his giggling self again with no pain or sickness. I
smiled through misty eyes in utter disbelief: How could a pinch of ash calm a
child, who seemed dangerously ill? This was the poser that was raising its hood
like a cobra in my mind and biting into my convictions. I had a mind to get the
ash chemically examined but gave up the idea lest it may lose its healing touch
for Ashish. Since then a pinch of holy ash is the first medicine we try on
Ashish whenever he gets ill. Dr. Arya's regular visits for check-up are of
course there but we have not taken the child specialist into our confidence
about our potent drug. I might have been shaken in my convictions a bit but I
was still unconvinced.
Doctors had advised me to
cut down my liquor as my liver had lost its potency to keep track with my
intake. Like all good things in life, I stubbornly disagreed with the advice and
fell like a pole axe. I was not bothered much about the liver but the pain was
unbearable and I had started living on pethidine shots and mandril tablets. But
it was a temporary relief and I was not getting well. My guts were in mess.
Touched by my plight, my wife tried her wiliest best to persuade me to swallow a
pinch of the holy ash-she has a swell stock of the ash- but firstly because of
the pride of my convictions and secondly because I never wanted her to score
over me, I brushed her aside. I was writhing with pain but would not give up.
I was itching for a smoke
and pleaded with my wife for a fag, despite doctor's strict warning. It was one
in a hundred chance, if I know my wife as I should, expecting the usual harangue
of: "liquor and cigarettes are poison to you", I was pleasantly
surprised when she readily gave me a butt of a Charminar, she dug out from the
folds of her purse. Though my brand is different and I don't relish butts but
being off the fag for over a week I readily accepted her generosity and hungrily
puffed the-life out of the butt. I felt a surge of relief passing through my
body. It was all balm, blue and Sunny. I felt like a king lighter, happier and
better. A fag after three days is just like posting maiden kiss on the lips of
love and with these pleasant thoughts I slipped into deep slumber after five
days of agony and tossing about in the bed. And when I came out of it my wife
attributed my miraculous escape from the clutches of death not to the
liver-extract and terramycine and the hundreds of tablets and capsules I had
consumed but to the healing touch of "Bhagwaanji"-her Godman.
"How does your
Bhagwaanji come in?" I asked partly in anger and partly in surprise.
Charminar was Bhagwaanji's" she told me and showed me scores of half smoked
cigarettes in her purse.
I decided to find out more
about her "Bhagwaanji", whom she had now made the honorary physician
in absentia of us both, me and my son Ashish. And my quest began in right
Indians seeped in deep
superstition have elevated thousands of mortals to the status of Godhood all
through the ages and this tradition of creating halo of Godhood around men and
women has continued to this day. And it is the unflinching faith of the devotees
more than the miracles of these Godmen that have made them great. Grapevine in
India is the most effective medium of circulation. While the few among thousands
of such Godmen have circulated all over the country, many more despite better
achievements have remained obscure. At least fame is not all that Godly. And
Gopinathji Bhan, whom his devotees identify with the God, or atleast with the
God's closest circle has not reached all over the country like Satya Sai baba or
all over the globe like jet-age Swami Maharishi Mahesh yogi, the once spiritual
head of Mia Farrow and Beatles. Except within his own community in Kashmir and a
few individuals outside the state, he has not been in the spotlight despite
being spiritually more robust and miracle-wise more stunning.
Naryana Bhan was a man
sold out to the idea of God and the devoted most of his time in pursuit of a
chance meeting with the Almighty. But wordly-wise, he knew spiritualism was no
substitute for a square meal and hence did business in pashmina wool. And like
every good Kashmiri Brahmin, his spiritual pursuits did not prevent him from
marrying and raising good many children. He martied Hara Mali, who her father
believed was the incarnation of Goddess Ragyina-the deity who relishes milk. And
Gopinathji Bhan was born off the conjugal explosion of tbe two spiritual sparks.
He was the second of three brothers and two sisters. Naryana Bhan bequeathed
property to his stepmother and spiritual legacy to his son. Some father!
Gopinathji cried his
arrival on July 3, 1908 in his ancestrical house at Banamohalla, in the heart of
Srinagar. But the family had to shuttle around thanks to the liberal attitude of
Gopinathji was not averse
to studies and passed middle. He lost his mother at the tender age of 12 and
started earning his bread and butter at the age of 16 as a compositor. But born
free, he shook off the shackles of subordination and opened a grocery shop. He
carried on for ten years but then gave up.
He churned the gist out of
scriptures and showed special preference for Gita and Vedas. Most of the time he
remained within than without. No one, not even his biographer, Mr. S.N. Fotedar
are sure about his Guru. Some say it was his father who initiated him into the
realm of mystic while some others feel it was the holyman Balak Kaw but the
majority opinion is that Zana Kak Tufchi, a local Godman should be credited with
attended the anniversary function of Tufchi religiously and even cleansed dirty
pots at the function. Few of the staunchest followers believe that he was his
own 'Guru' and got the word direct from the 'God'.
Guru or no Guru,
Gopinathji knew the ropes and rose high in the coterie of local Godmen. He was
so high in the estimation of his devotees that they started calling him "Bhagwaanji"-The
God. Never before in the history of Kashmir has a mortal been elevated so high.
First it was deep study of
scriptures, then brooding concentration to unfold the self, then visits to
shrines, then burning ambers and pulls at the hashish-chellum. Step by step he
climbed up and a few who saw in him the saviour, clung to his apron strings. He
neither offered help nor shrugged them off but sustained their faith with a
miracle now and then. The cult spread, his devotees had found a Messiah and they
entombed him at Kharyar, a comparatively unknown temple in Srinagar. The faith
spread, so did the devotees multiply and those who had not seen him in his
mortal form did draw inspiration from his life-like statue. Faith, they say, is
a horse, you can ride when in distress.
What miracles? Many
devotees come forward with tales of the powers of this holyman. They are men and
women whom it is very difficult to disbelieve. He showed many devotees,
including Pt. Nila Kaul, Goddess Sharika in human form. Sixty people were served
tummy- ful of lunch prepared for six souls. He predicted wars with the accuracy
of the minute. He healed those given up by the best brains in medicine. He read
thoughts, both wicked and noble, like an openbook. He was here, there and
everywhere at the same time and many sane people vouche for it. His commitment
was total. He gave everything without asking anything in return. He shunned
publicity and abhorred fame. He carried his laurels with indifference. He was a
Godman but never said so.
A piece of mind.
Anniversaries, holy fires, books and pamphlets, 'Bhajans' and Kirtans are good.
They keep the clan bonds strong. But look beyond the statue of the great man,
untie the knots of talisman and don't freeze himin stone. It is polluting not
honouring. Let the Indigo Indian spread the fragrance of mystic east for all to
smell and refresh. Open the portals of Kharyar for the world to see that God is
a man at his best.