The Mother Divine
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Amalendu Ganguly
Ghazipur is a small district town in East Uttar Pradesh situated on the banks of river Ganga. It is about 50 kms from Varanasi connected by meter gauge rail and regular bus service. On the other side of the river opposite Ghazipur there is a small village named Tarighat with a railway station of the same name. It is connected to Dildarnagar about 10 kms away on the main Eastern Railway broad-gauge line between Mugalsarai and Mirzapur. A passenger from West Bengal and North Bihar may come to Tarighat by this route also via Varanasi and saving a few hours of travel time.

One may be inquisitive why the location of an unknown village has been mentioned. Now that I have come of age crossing 72, reminiscences of some small incidents happening 40 years ago entering Ghazipur district. Tarighat and occasional moments of interaction with the Godly Saint Baba Sitaramdas Omkarnath come to my mind.
I heard the name of Baba about 45 years ago when both of my parents, had Guru Mantra and Diksha from him at Vrindavan. My mother took this incident deeply and perceptible changes were gradually noticed in her day to day life thereafter. She became very devoted to Guru and somewhat unattached to family matters. She spent hours in Puja Room chanting Guru Mantra and always longing for Guru Darshan.

In January 1960, I was transferred to Govt. Opium Factory, Ghazipur. It is a unique and only factory of its kind in the country. In those days around 1000-1200 tons of opium produced and collected annually in the country would be transported here for storage, processing, sale and use. The operations were carried out under very strict supervision and control to avoid pilferage. Ghazipur is also known for production of quality rose and keora water. The city in the 19th century was also a seat of great Saint Pahari Baba. Swami Vivekananda visited him and expressed a desire to accept him as shishya and be his Diksha Guru but the saint declined and said his Guru was awaiting him elsewhere. Incidentally I visited Pahari Baba's Ashram, a couple of times. It was a simple, old house with hardly any visitor. There however, existed one underground cell and lot of old manuscripts. In this cell, Pahari Baba used to meditate completely forgetting his self and the outside world. It is not known whether the manuscripts are still there, but if retrieved the research could prove quite valuable.

During my eight years stay in Ghazipur, I became familiar with a number of Bengali families. There was one Roy family. I do not recollect the exact name of Shri Roy. He was about 70 years living in his own house with wife, an unmarried son and two unmarried daughters and a partially crippled younger brother. By profession, he was a kaviraj and had a chamber in the city. Because of indifferent health, he would be indoors mostly and his son Shyamal would be looking after the chamber. He and some others in the family had Diksha from Baba Sitaramdas Omkarnath.

In due course, I learnt that Baba had made a beginning of establishing an ashram at Tarighat on Ganga banks near the railway station. There were not many helping hands. Mr. Roy and Shyamal were very sincere and did whatever little they could do for the ashram in the initial stages. I also came to know that Param Gurudeva, Dasharathi Dev (Baba's Diksha Guru) left for his heavenly abode from Tarighat, the site being a room of the present railway quarter of the Station Master. Baba perhaps therefore named the Ashram as Maha Prayan Math. During every visit to Tarighat, Baba always spent some time in this room.

I did not know why once in a while I visited this ashram crossing Ganga in a boat and spent a few hours, walking on the sand, and observing nothing so characteristic, except a piece of land bounded by broken bamboo strips and two or three thatched, small rooms where some pujas would be performed daily by one Kinkar Om Nath. He was very young, extremely simple, boyish in look and so innocent but highly devoted and attached to Baba. Gradually we became closer and he was very affectionate to me and my family. I also remembered another devotee Kinkar Satchidananda. I started calling them as "Dada". Once I spent a noon with them in the ashram. During conversation, Satchid Da referred to a couple of small incidents relating to Baba. On special requests, both these devotees visited my quarter but did not enter the house, expressing that at this stage of austere life, their code did not permit them to enter. Back then I did not realize the reason of their action- but now perhaps I partially do.

Between 1960-1963, I had darshan of Baba a few times when he visited Tarighat. There would hardly be any gathering around him and one could have a very close and satisfying darshan and even some small conversations. Once he enquired, “who are you?" Before I could say anything, a devotee disciple said "I am his Bhakta.” Perhaps it was not an appropriate assessment. I had gone there more out of an unknown curiosity and some kind of an attraction and for a look of Baba. I did not have any special religious bent or attitude but at the same time I was not against traditional values.

The first darshan of Baba struck me and the figure remained stamped in mind. He was very lean, rib cage prominently visible, free flowing grey beard, strands of coiled tufted hair on head and a pair of wooden sandals worn as a garland. He walked with a little limp. The wooden sandals belonged to Param Gurudeva Dasharathi Dev.

On another occasion during darshan- Baba asked, "What do you do here?" I answered, "I am working at the Govt. Opium Factory." Without any thought I further expressed if he could kindly accede to visit the Opium Factory once with me, at his convenience, I would be grateful. I did not have the maturity to realize that Baba was much above these worldly affairs. He simply laughed and asked, "Do you consume opium?" I said “No". I also casually mentioned that my parents living in Agra (U.P.) were his disciples. To my surprise, he remembered them and said, “You are from Galsi.” (Galsi is a village in Burdwan district on the Grand Trunk Road). I nodded. Hereafter whenever I met Baba, he called me his ‘addicted’ son. Obviously it was a reflection of his humor.

Another incident comes to my mind. Around 1961, Baba for some reason decided to suspend all his daily activities, meditate in isolation away from the hustle and bustle of people and devotees. He would not converse or meet anybody and his whereabouts be kept unknown. This was a hard decision but definitely had a reason that I realized much later in life. This meditation was undertaken at the Tarighat ashram. I learnt from Shyamal. He quickly got built a small, circular, all covered hut- something like an igloo with straw for Baba's meditation purpose. In spite of restriction, I could not resist temptation to have his darshan. So one late afternoon I accompanied my colleague Vidya Prakash and crossing Ganga in a boat, reached the Tarighat ashram. Om Nath Da the only devotee attending on Baba was a little surprised to see us but greeted as usual and asked about my welfare. Thereafter I enquired if Baba's darshan was possible. Pointing towards the hut, he said Baba was in meditation and his coming out was not known. However late evenings, he would usually be out for a while and then I could have a look of him, but from a distance. I kept on waiting but Vidya Prakash became restless and wanted to return as no boat would be available for crossing the Ganga after sunset, more so as the sky suddenly became overcast with black clouds, threatening rains. I was in a dilemma yet continued to wait anxiously. To my great relief, Baba came out of the kutir. I stood up and gathering courage slowly, went up to him, did pranam and simply said, "I have come just to have your darshan." Baba did not say anything, he smiled and pointing towards the sky asked with hand movement, how we would return. His darshan and smile made me very happy, as if I had achieved something special. Without thinking, almost immediately, I said, "If it be your wish we would be able to go back". The next moment a boatman was shouting, "Would anybody return to the city"? Baba looked and indicated to rush to theboat. So both of us ran for the boat and returned home. Vidya Prakash commented that but for the boat we would have been stranded overnight at Tarighat causing anxiety to family. I expressed apology to him but personally felt happy, and even now derive satisfaction over the incident.

In 1963 and early January of 1964 lot of activities including construction of a temple were going on at Maha Prayan Math, Tarighat. I paid a visit in the second week of January, 1964 and found a good gathering. Most of the visitors were from West Bengal. Among them, there was an aged, bulky and blind person who appeared to be quite active than the rest. On enquiry, I learnt that he was one Mr. Banerjee (his full name I do not recollect but the name is correct), a great devotee of Baba. He was the main person undertaking the construction of the temple and had come from Calcutta accompanied with a group of people including the masons. I was surprised at his enthusiasm and went forward on my own to exchange preliminary introduction and pay regards. I also came to know that Baba would be at Tarighat ashram and a special puja would be performed by him on the 14th of January, the Sankranti Day.