The Mother Divine
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B.N. Mullik (Kinkar Vishwananda)
From the temple the party came to the palace of the Beras where a large gathering of villagers had been waiting for some time to have ‘Darshan’ of Baba. But it was a very orderly crowd. The people were quite satisfied with having the ‘Darshan’ from wherever they stood and there was no attempt by anyone to barge forward and come near Baba. The arrangements made in the palace for Baba’s stay as well as for accommodating the members of his party were, mildly put, luxurious. The Beras had given up all their living accommodation for Baba and his party. The kitchen was spacious and so was the eating place. Everything had been well thought out and arranged to suit Baba’s convenience and comfort. Bera Didi had even contrived to set up in Baba’s bedroom an artificial miniature Ganga amongst hillocks with genuine Ganga water.

It would be useful here to divert a little and give a brief account of the present Bera family. Shri Jangjit Singh, who is known amongst the Gurubhais as Bera Dada, is the son of Thakur Prithvi Singh. The ‘Jagir’ of Bera has been coming on in the possession of this family for over 200 years. Thakur Prithvi Singh was one of the most outstanding polo players of India and he, along with Rao Raja Hanumant Singh, Thakur Kishen Singh and the Maharaja of Jaipur, formed a team which was not only unbeatable in India but throughout the world. Thakur Prithvi Singh naturally was very fond of horses and spent lavishly on entertainments. The result was that, when he died, he left practically no movable property and cash and his immovable property, i.e., house and lands were mortgaged for three lakhs of rupees. Bera Dada had a younger brother and two sisters to look after and also his widowed mother. When he was married to Smt. Rajendra Kumari, the cousin of Maharaja Hanumant Singh of Jodhpur and returned to Bera with his bride, they did not even have a cot between themselves what to say of bedding and other necessities of living. They had to wait for her dowry to arrive before they could even sleep at night. It is from this position of financial bankruptcy that, with Bera Didi’s loyal and devoted help and guidance, Bera Dada was ultimately able not only to give his two sisters in marriage but also to pay back the entire debt and bring about vast improvements in the land under cultivation and bring new land under development. He has kept his head up even though, under the Zamindari Acquisition Act, he was deprived of his Zamindari and all land more than the stipulated area. This is an example of hard and honest work which brought good result and throughout the period of the struggle Bera Didi stood by her husband and acted as his philosopher and guide.

After taking ‘Pranam’ from the assembled people, Baba went for a little rest. The midday meal was ready in time and everyone was pleased with the quality and the quantity of food produced. In the afternoon, there was a large gathering and men and women came by batches to offer their respects to Baba. There was no confusion and pushing and everyone observed order and did not cause inconvenience either to the hosts or to themselves. The local ‘Kirtan’ party started ‘Kirtan’ and it was amazing to find outside Bengal, in this far off Rajasthan, a ‘Kirtan’ party which could almost match its skill against Baba’s chief singer, Mahananda. There was a men’s ‘Kirtan’ party as well as a women’s ‘Kirtan’ party. All these parties had been trained and practiced under Bera Didi’s supervision. It was learnt that it was she who had spread ‘Naam’ not only in Bera village but in all the villages within a radius of 7/8 miles from Bera and ‘Naam’ had become a daily routine in every village and a daily routine in the lives of many people. Another astonishing and pleasing feature was that all the women, either belonging to the high families or to the field labour class, came wearing their traditional dresses with full vale covering their faces; only their two palms were visible. Amongst them even Bera Didi was indistinguishable. This maintenance of the old Indian tradition and culture was something which pleased Baba tremendously and he repeatedly pointed out the high sense of morality and traditionalism in these Rajasthani ladies which he had not found anywhere else in India.

Amongst the distinguished visitors were the Maharaja and Maharani of Nagod (their daughter is married to Bera Dada’s eldest son, Maharaj Amar Singh of Idar and his wife, Surendra Kumari (Bera Didi’s eldest sisters known amongst the Guru bhais as Idar Didi), the Thakur Saheb of Ghanerao and his eldest son and several other Thakurs of nearby places. But the real attraction of the show was the common mass and their love and respect for Baba. Crowd went on coming till 10 O’clock at night from villages which were quite far off and Baba learnt with pleasure that Bera Dada has made arrangements for the feeding and accommodation of every individual, man, woman and child, in his house and courtyards and had served them with sumptuous food.

After the visitors stopped coming at midnight, members of Baba’s party got the opportunity to exchange words with him. Then Bera Dada, Bera Didi and Idar Didi also came in. Many pleasantries were exchanged and this intimate gossiping went on till long after mid-night.

On the morning of 4th December there were about 60 ‘Diksharthis’, the largest number so far at any place in Rajasthan and they were all common people. Strangely they were mostly illiterate. Apparently the incidence of literacy is not high in this part of Rajasthan. Then Baba wanted to go out and see the town and also Bera Dada’s farm. So Bera Dada took him out in a jeep. People in the town were very happy to see him and raised shouts of ‘Jai’. On arrival at Bera Dada’s farm, Baba enquired about the type of crop he raised and was told that he raised mostly two kinds of cash crops, mustard and ‘jira’, both of which fetched high prices in the market. Wheat and barley were also cultivated but the quantity depended on the needs of their own consumption. Baba got down from the jeep at Bera Dada’s farm and sanctified it by the dust of his feet. Incidentally, Bera Dada, on the basis of an idea given to him by his wife, had built a small dam at his own expense and this served to irrigate nearly half of his land. The other half was irrigated by tube wells and some portion was left to the vagaries of monsoon. Bera’s had a large dairy and there were about 60 cows whose milk was source of additional income. All the cultivation was being done by tractors and Bera Dada himself and his brother drove the tractors.

Baba returned to the house at about mid-day. It took an hour to give ‘Mantra’ to the ‘Dikshartis’. There were a large number of people to pay respects and this went on till half past two in the afternoon. After his mid-day meal, Baba had a little rest. At 5 O’clock there was a meeting in which a good crowd had assembled. Baba’s ‘Pravachan’ was read out by Shri Dhurvajyoti, Vishwananda, Jayendu and Hans. Then there was very high grade ‘Kirtan’ by Mahananda and his group, and this went on till about 9 O’clock when the function ended. But there were a large number of people yet to be met and Baba, in spite of being tired, remained sitting to receive their ‘Pranam’. Bera Dada and Bera Didi were running from place to place looking after everybody’s comfort and to ensure that everything was going on according to plan. They had practically no sleep the previous two nights and they had been running from Bera to Jodhpur and to Udaipur and back and yet there was no decrease in their activities. On this day there was a special ‘Kirtan’ by young girls and it was very pleasing to hear such ‘Kirtan’ outside Bengal. Baba wanted ‘Prasad’ to be distributed to the entire group of people (nearly 200) who were present and the Bera’s immediately came out with a large quantity of fruits and sweets. Indeed there was no shortage of any kind in the Bera House. Baba sat up till about 1 O’clock and many members of the party, including the Beras, sat round him to hear him give some of his most interesting discourses on divine life. He stressed time and again that no great austerity, no great penance, no great ‘Tapasya’ was needed to attain salvation; all that was needed was ‘Ahaar Shuddhi’, ‘Sadachar’ and ‘Upasana’ and above all ‘Naam’. He stressed that it was ‘Naam’ alone which was sufficient to relieve the world of all the ills it was presently suffering from. It was not till after 1 A.M. that the hearers dispersed to have their night’s rest.

An early start was to be made on the 5th of December when Baba was to leave Bera and go to Jodhpur. The morning ‘Phal-Bhog’ had been arranged at the house of Bera Dada’s younger brother just on the outskirts of the town on the road to Jodhpur. Incidentally, the two brothers live in a joint family and there is complete unity between the two and Bera Didi’s ‘Deorani’ (wife of Bera Dada’s younger brother) is a rare character who has identified herself completely with Bera Didi and considers the latter to be her goddess and ‘Istha’. There was the usual crowd at the time of departure and Baba was in very good mood and he took ‘Pranam’ from everyone and left Bera Dada’s palace at 8 A.M. reaching his brother’s house at 8.15 A.M.. The reception here was as warm as at Bera Dada’s palace, though the number of people who had collected was less. Bera Dada’s younger brother and the Deorani had made every arrangement to make Baba happy and comfortable. Baba’s party left this place on the way to Jodhpur at 10 A.M.

At Jodhpur Baba was originally scheduled to stay at the Rai-ka-Bagh Palace as the guest of the ‘Raj Dadi’. But as there was an ‘Ashaucha’ in the family, Baba did not agree to stay there till the ‘Ashaucha’ period was over. So Bera Dada had offered to play the host again at Jodhpur and to accommodate Baba in his house on the Residency Road and had taken the full responsibility for making all the arrangements. To see that everything was in perfect condition when Baba would arrive, Bera Didi and Idar Didi, accompanied by a maid servant in the rear seat, and the driver and a spare driver in the front seat left Bera Dada’s brother’s house in a fiat car an hour in advance that is at about 9 O’clock. And what a fateful journey it turned out to be!

Bera Dada was driving Baba’s car and there was a bus bringing the rest of the party. The road was fair and passed through several villages. It had not yet been aligned properly. Several bridges were down and the traffic passed by diversions. The road passed over the Jawai dam and finally crossed the hills and came into the plains of Marwar. After going for over 2 hours, the car reached the National Highway, Delhi-Jaipur-Ajmer-Abu-Ahmedabad, Leaving the Ahmedabad section to the south, the car sped northwards to Jodhpur and Ajmer. The Jodhpur and Ajmer roads bifurcated at Pali, the one to the North would lead to Jodhpur and the road to the east led to Ajmer.

As Baba’s car reached a point about seven miles from Pali, Bera Dada and the occupants of the front seat were alarmed to see the car in which Bera Didi’s party had left in advance smashed head-long into a tree to the right side of the road. Bera Dada and Vishwananda got down immediately and looked into the car and saw a large pool of blood and a few clothes but nothing else. It was apparent that a serious accident had taken place and both the sisters and at least one of them was fatally wounded. Enquiry from a few local boys who were nearby revealed that two ladies had been badly injured and also the driver and the truck which had come shortly afterwards had taken the injured to the hospital. The boot of the car was empty and the boys said that the luggage had also been taken in the truck. Baba’s car sped forward and drove straight into the hospital compound and Bera Dada and Vishwananda rushed to the hospital building and found Bera Didi seated on a stretcher in the passage in a pool of thick blood. Blood was streaming out of her nose, ears, head and different parts of her body. There was blood all round and nothing but blood was visible but still the lady was sitting erect and repeating ‘Jai Guru, Jai Guru’. When Vishwananda greeted her by saying ‘Jai Guru’, she started chanting ‘Jai Guru’ more loudly. The maid- servant who had accompanied Bera Didi, was lying on another stretcher groaning. She was also badly injured. Idar Didi had several cuts and small fractures but was not incapacitated. The driver was sitting on a chair looking completely dazed but with no apparent injuries. The spare driver had escaped unhurt. Doctors were in attendance on Bera Didi and, when consulted, said that Bera Didi’s nose and jawbones were smashed and there were other fractures which would require immediate surgical treatment. They were emphatic that it would be impossible to remove her to Jodhpur in that condition. We left the decision to the doctors as to whether Bera Didi could be removed to Jodhpur or should be kept at Pali, though at Jodhpur she would be at her home with the Jodhpur Maharaja’s family and it had one of the biggest hospitals in Asia where she would be well looked after. Pali hospital was also a good one but after all it was only a District Hospital with its normal deficiencies. Vishwananda went back to Baba and reported to him what had happened. On hearing about Bera Didi’s injury, Baba came down from the car to see her himself. On seeing Baba coming, Bera Didi started singing ‘Hare Kirshna, Hare Ram’ and, when Baba touched her head, she repeatedly requested Baba to leave her behind and go ahead to Jodhpur as it was getting late for his mid-day meal. But Baba said that he would take her along with him. Baba was then escorted back to the car and, when Vishwananda came back for having the final consultation with the doctors, the latter surprisingly gave the opinion that she could be removed to Jodhpur.

This favourable change of opinion took place no doubt because Baba desired that Bera Didi should be removed to Jodhpur. It was decided that a doctor and a dresser should also travel with the injured. A new ambassador car was arranged and Bera Didi and the injured maid- servant, Idar Didi and the driver of the damaged car left for Jodhpur with Baba’s car following close behind. Within 20 miles from Pali, several cars from Rai-ka-Bagh Palace Jodhpur, along with a senior surgeon and an ambulance arrived. The Surgeon examined Bera Didi and decided to let her move on in the same car to Jodhpur. At the Mahatma Gandhi Hospital, stretchers were ready to take the patient to the operation theatre. Baba also arrived to bless her and Bera Didi again insisted that she should be allowed to go to Bera house first to see Baba properly settled down before entering the hospital. During the drive from Pali to Jodhpur she had retained full control over herself and was all the time repeating ‘Hare Krishna, Hare Ram’. It was an amazing example of sheer courage and grit exhibited by this Rajput lady. This was the type of courage which must have inspired the Rajput ladies of Chittor in old days to do ‘Johar Vrata’ by flinging themselves into blazing fire to save themselves from the hands of Muslims when Chittor Fort fell to Allaudin’s forces. However, Baba told Bera Didi that she need not bother and he left Vishwananda in the hospital to remain in charge of the patient till her operation was over and till she recovered her consciousness after being put under chloroform. But though his wife was so seriously injured, Bera Dada insisted on going with Baba to the Bera House, to receive him there formally, arrange every detail for his comfort, see that he was properly settled down and ensure that all members of his party had got their lodging and that the kitchen was functioning well and Baba’s food was ready before returning to the hospital.

In the meantime a galaxy of surgeons was attending on Bera Didi in the operation theatre. Their immediate concern was to stop the haemorrhage due to smashed nose and jaw bones. It took three hours to stop the bleeding, block the nose, plaster the left arm which had a double fracture and bandage other cuts. The surgeons felt that the other fractures, however serious they might be, would not cause any serious danger to her life and so they decided to leave these as they were till the patient recovered from the shock. It was at 5 P.M. that Bera Didi was brought out from the operation theatre and taken into the ward. By 7 P.M. she regained her consciousness but she could hardly speak. Her face was almost invisible due to several layers of bandage. Her throat was still being chocked by the blood which was still oozing from her nostrils.

When Vishwananda came to the Bera House at 7.50 P.M., he found everything under a pall of gloom. Everyone had been shocked by this accident and few had taken meals and all were anxiously waiting for news from the hospital. A sigh of relief went round when Vishwananda announced that Bera Didi was still living. He reported in detail to Baba and explained the actual position to others and advised them to hope for the best whilst being prepared for the worst.

In the meantime a large gathering had collected at the Bera House to have Baba’s ‘Darshan’. Baba was seated in the drawing room, open to public view, but he was too pre-occupied in his thoughts and was not speaking to anyone. A Satsang meeting had been arranged that evening by the local people at the Mira Bhawan but Baba wanted it to be cancelled as he was in no mood to go. The Maharaja of Jodhpur and the Rajmata and other members of Jodhpur ex-ruler’s family arrived to pay their respects and remained there till 9 P.M. Incidentally, the Rajmata had rushed up to Pali on hearing that Bera Didi had been seriously injured but, by the time she reached there, Bera Didi was already on her way to Jodhpur. Baba ordered ‘Prasad’ to be given to everybody and he himself went to supervise the feeding.

Vishwananda went back to the hospital at 10 P.M. and found that Bera Didi had still not completely recovered from the effects of chloroform, which was good because she would not feel the full effects of the pain so long as the effect of chloroform remained. After an hour he returned to the Bera House and reported to Baba who was waiting to hear the latest news. Baba then said that “Bera Ma had an ‘Mrituyog’ (a date with death). But she had escaped it”. The whole of Jodhpur were already convinced and were declaring repeatedly that Baba had saved her otherwise it would have been a certain death. That accident had to happen, nothing could have prevented it and it had to happen on this very date, at that very time. But other circumstances had been arranged in such a favourable way that Bera Didi might escape death. Baba’s car was behind Bera Didi’s car, which, though it had started an hour earlier, had lost more than half an hour due to a tire puncture, thus reducing the time gap between Baba’s car and Bera Didi’s car; a friendly truck had appeared immediately behind and the driver had been good enough to take the injured to the hospital; the doctors were in attendance at that time and so immediate first-aid was available. Even after the doctors had given the opinion that she could not be removed to Jodhpur, Baba’s word that he would take her with him to Jodhpur had done the miracle and her condition had so dramatically changed for the better that the doctors changed their opinion and allowed her to be taken to Jodhpur- a distance of about 50 miles by car.

There were still some people sitting around Baba till midnight when he lay down for rest no doubt thinking of Bera Didi. The rest of the party also went to take rest. It was a day of climax and anticlimax. The prospect in the morning had looked so bright and yet by mid-day it had ended dismally. It was no doubt due to Baba’s grace and his love for Bera Didi that she had been saved from the worst that might have befallen her.

Baba was now in Jodhpur, which had been the capital of Marwar for the last five hundred years. The ruling family belonged to the clan of Rathore Rajputs who traced their descent from Kush, the son of Ramachandra. Their earliest settlement can be traced to the land of the five rivers, i.e., the Punjab and they were then known as Rashtrakutas. At the time of the Kurukshetra war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, the then Rashtrakuta King, Shalya, fought on the side of the Kauravas and led the Kaurava army for one day before being killed in battle. In the stupa erected by Asoka, Rashtrakutas are mentioned and even then they were probably in Punjab. Later in the beginning of the Christian era at least a part of the tribe, if not the whole of it, migrated to Deccan where it came to be known as the Rattas. In this time the Rattas were known as Balhars. In the tenth century A.D., according to the histories written by the Arabs, the Balhar King was the greatest king of India and could be reckoned among the four great kings of the world. They were on terms of war and peace with the Solanki Kings of the Chalukya dynasty of South. There was intermarriage also between these two royal dynasties. Ultimately the southern branch of the Rattas got separated from the northern branch which was holding sway over Kanauj and other parts of modern Uttar Pradesh, with capital at Varanasi. The southern branch, because of its great power, came to be known as the Maha-Rattas or the Marahattas whom Shivaji ultimately led to victory against Aurangzeb to found the Maharashtra Kingdom. Another branch of the Rashtrakutas or Rattas ruled over Gujarat but acknowledged the sovereignty of the Balhar kings.

The northern branch divided into two sub-branches ruling over different parts of the Ganga basin. Here they came to be known as Rathores. When Jaichandra was the king in Kanauj, his daughter, Sanyogita, was abducted from the ‘Savyamber Sabha’ by Prithviraj, the Chouhan king of Indraprastha (Delhi). Legend has it that Jaichandra felt the insult so much that he invited Shahabuddin, the Afghan marauder, who was then hovering on the boundaries of Bharat, to come and destroy Prithviraj. Shahabuddin was defeated at the first encounter and Prithviraj held him as a prisoner but later, in a mood of generosity, let him free and allowed him to return to his country. Shahabuddin attacked a second time with a bigger force and this time tables were turned on Prithvi Raj, who was captured and taken to Ghazni. To escape further humiliation, Prithviraj, on finding an opportunity, killed Shahabuddin and immediately afterwards committed suicide.

But the Muslims had set their foot on the soil of India and were in possession of Delhi. They went on pushing along the Ganga basin and, in course of time, attacked even Kanauj. Jaichandra lost several battles and at last, in shame, drowned himself in the Ganga. He was succeeded by his son, Harishchandra, who then had only a few districts under his control the rest having passed into the hands of Muslims. But Harishchandra was not left in peace and was attacked by Altamash and Harishchandra’s family had to shift from one place to another. Then Siha, the younger son of Harishchandra, decided to give up Kanauj altogether and migrated to Marwar. Col. Tod writes “Here in the land of Kher, amidst sandhills of Luni (the salt river of the desert), from which the Gohils were expelled, Sihaji planted the standard of the Rathors”. His descendants have ruled Marwar since then after extending their dominion over other Rashtrakutas (Rathores) who had settled there from an earlier date, probably by direct migration from Punjab. The first capital of this new Rathore dynasty was at Nagana, where the family deity, Chakreshwari, was brought from Kanauj by Lumba Rishi at the time of Rao Dhutada, grandson of Siha. It was at the time of Rao Jodha Singh that the capital was shifted from Nagana to Jodhpur and the Jodhpur fort was built on a spur of the hill. As the above chronology shows, the Rashtrakutas or the Rathores were great warriors and, at one time on other, had held sway practically over the whole of India, from Gujarat in the west to Bengal in the east, from Karnataka in the south to Nepal in the north. At the time of Indian independence, the ruling princes of Jodhpur, Bikaner, Idar, Kishengarh, Ratlam, Sitamau, Sailana and Jhabua were descendants of Rao Siha.

(to be continued in the next issue of The Mother)