May 2014


We were rowing towards Trilochan ghat when my glance was arrested by this imposing mosque standing on the Panch Ganga Ghat. I asked about it to our boatman Deepu. He told us that the famous Bindu Madhava temple earlier stood at the place. Aurangzeb,  the last mughal emperor got the temple demolished and erected this mosque .
The Bindu Madhav temple is presently housed in a simple nondescript building. The exterior of the building is just like any other house in the lanes of Varanasi. Inside in a low ceiling non ornamental hall at the farthest end stands the revered deity. The deity here is made of saligram stone. Due to the mythological references this temple holds great importance for the pilgrims visiting the holy city.
There in the temple we met two pujaris, Sri Ashok kumar Joshi and Sri Murlidhar Ganesh Patvardhan. There were other pilgrims and travelers too and the priests talked to us in length about the history and Mythological references of the temple.
It is said that when Aurangzeb ordered the demolition of the original temple ,the then pujari somehow took the vigraham of deity with him and kept it hidden for a long time . Later on the idol was placed in this building as near to it’s original place as possible.
This Madhav temple is one of the Panch Madhava temples in India. The other four are
Beni Madhav at Prayag
Kunti Madhava at Pitapuram near Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh
setu Madhava at Rameshwaram
Sunder Madhava at Thiruanantapuram, Kerala
The mythological story related to this Panch Madhav Kshetras goes like this.
Twashta was one of the Prajapatis created by Lord Brahma. He had one son named Vishwarupa. Vishwarupa was very noble and was jitendriya. He once started doing great tapa. Indra became afraid that Vishwarupa might take his kingdom so resorted to all kind of tricks to destroy and disturb his tapsya but all in vain. Then Indra chopped Vishwarupa’s head with his vjrayudh. Indra also lured Taksha to help him in chopping heads of vishwarupa.Vishwarupa is said to have three heads.
On hearing the sad end of his beloved son Twashta got enraged and started homa to creat a massive Asura from his krodhagni. Twashta named him viratasura and ordered him to defeat Indra to avenge the death of his elder brother.Viratasura defeated Indra but later on the treacherous Indra befriended him and killed him . Thus Indra acquired the sin of Brahmahatya ,which is considered to be worst kind of sin. To absolve himself of this great sin Indra consecrated these Panch Madhava temples .
So it is believed that a pilgrimage to these Panch Madhav Kshetram has a power to absolve one off all one’s sins.
Sans any fanfare the simple quiet premises, heartfelt discussions with pujaris and other pilgrims, my experience in Beni Madhav temple left me positively energized.

To me this temple represented the philosophy that the exterior,our body is perishable while the inner substance, the soul is immortal. The quintessence of our being lies in soul not the body.

 

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Panch Ganga Ghat and the mosque above. The minarets of mosque are not very high as is the case usually.

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The deity at Bindu Madhav temple

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The two pujaris in the temple

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some other pilgrims

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all the pics by Sunder Iyer

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It must not have been more than 10 in the morning , ghats at Varanasi were simmering under the blazing summer sun. While walking along the ghats you don’t find any shade so we were in a hurry to reach the small tea shop near the Kshemeshwar mandir at the ghat. From our last visit we remembered that this chaiwalah erects canopy by stretching bed sheets that provide adequate shade. Sitting under the shade sipping the hot tea,  enjoying the activities on the ghats and communicating to the quietly rippling Ganges had been an enriching experience. The memory of the last visit as if propelled us towards the shop. But Alas ! reaching there we found that the chaiwallah was wrapping his canopy and was ready to leave . His earthen oven was standing silent and cool. I conveyed my disappointment to him .
He smiled and said , ‘Madam, you go to the lane upstairs. You will get tea there and it’s cool too there.
As I was feeling a bit tired due to scorching heat, I decided to take rest behind the wall of the temple. It was shady there and the cool breeze flowing from Ganges  across the open gates of temple was very soothing.
As we were talking to the chaiwallah, an old man ascending the steps after taking bath in the Ganges stopped listening to our communication and then he too sat on the platform of temple.
While Sunder roamed around clicking the shots I struck a conversation with that old gentleman.
He was Gopal ji. a rickshaw puller. When he was about fourteen years old due to some property dispute some relative threw acid on the hands of his father . His hands were damaged and Gopalji had to wear the mantle of the bread winner of the family. He started pulling rickshaw at that tender age and is still continuing with that. Presently he must have been in his mid sixties. Got married his younger sister and brother. The younger brother too left for the heavenly abode some four years back.  Gopalji is living with brother’s family but has to eke out a living too.
During the course of conversation I asked him ,” You have lived a hard life. just fulfilling your duties, responsibilities. Did you never feel like having a family of your own, having some one your very own?” A smile spread across slowly on his face. Something for a fraction of second as if glowed in those placid eyes.
He told,” Could not spare much time for myself. Got the younger brother married. Had the responsibility of ailing father and mother. Time just slipped out of my hand.”‘
I again asked him,”Did you not feel like complaining to God that He chalked out such hard and drab existence for you.”
And pat came the reply seeped in Hindu philosophy. “Why complaining to God? It’s our own doing. must have neglected my duties and lived my life frivolously in the last birth. Only I have to reap what I sowed. After a brief silence he continued,” and as far as having some one of my own is concerned, I don’t deny that during youth I felt the pangs of desire some times but now ….on the ghats of Ganga Maiya often I meet people with whom I bond well till we are together and then we part ways. Life should be lived like that phase by phase. Clinging to it gives pain. Just go on moving like our Maiya here.”
Inculcating deep philosophy and living the same one need not be a man of letters, academician or a sear. An illiterate rickshaw puller can some times do more justice to these deep lessons. Or was it the Beneras impact.
After a heart felt enriching conversation, we invited Gopalji to have a cup of tea with us in the shop upstairs in the lane. After that we parted ways but the meeting will always be engraved in my memory.

 

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pics courtesy Sunder Iyer