Touch Of A Sanyasi

 

Part 1:

 

He was nothing like his name. They named him grandly as Thiruvikraman (after the One who measured the three worlds with His feet), and left him as an orphan at the age of nine. The villagers arranged with the priest of the Easwari Shrine to take care of his food and shelter. Thus the priest who was single became his foster father. The Shrine was at the end of a short mud-track leading off from the main street in the village. Behind the Shrine, was their living quarters – a small room, a water-well that never dried up and a cattle shed  that was home to a couple of cows gifted by the rich farmers of the village.

 

Called Thiru by the villagers, he grew up into a lanky lad of eighteen, always around to do odds and ends at the Shrine. He cleaned up the premises twice a day and fetched flowers for the priest for the daily puja in the mornings and evenings. He took the cows out for grazing during the day and brought them back to their shed in the evening, milked them twice a day. At other times of the day and at night, he was present at the Shrine like a guard though the Shrine had no valuables worth stealing – there were only garlands of flowers and no silver, gold or gems, while the priest went about attending to a few more temples and shrines in nearby villages. Villagers were fond of Thiru bringing clothes and food for him on Fridays and on special occasions such as the full-moon days when most villagers thronged at the Shrine.

 

One evening, a sanyasi, on his way to Kashi (the city of Benares) arrived at the village. He was warmly received with poorna-kumba (ceremonial welcome) and taken by the villagers to the Easwari Shrine where he chose to spend the night. It was their dharma that they should be spending every night at a different place. Villagers, men and women alike, streamed to the Shrine to have a darshan of the holy man who sat under a tree outside the Shrine. He had a kind face and a luster that prompted the villagers to pour out their problems and seek his blessings. He patiently listened to them and advised them on possible solutions and mitigating work-around’s.    

 

Right through the evening, Thiru attended to the sanyasi’s sparse needs diligently and watched the proceedings from a respectful distance.  Late night when everyone was gone, and the sanyasi was ready to retire, he rolled out a jute coir mat with a coir pillow on the porch floor, brought him a kuvalai (a glass) of milk and some fruits to partake; and asked him if he needed anything more. The sanyasi said that would be all and added that he would like to have a word with him in the morning before he departed on his onward journey. 

  

In the morning, Thiru woke up, came to the front porch to find sanyasi already up and in meditation under the tree outside the Shrine. He quietly went back to his morning chores – filling up the thavalai’s (brass vessels to hold water), milking the cows, plucking flowers, taking bath…

 

Arising out of meditation, the sanyasi completed his morning ablutions. After the morning puja at the Shrine, he called the priest and Thiru to his side. The sanyasi thanked both of them for their hospitality and inquired about Thiru. He said he wanted to do something for him. He instructed Thiru on a special mantra to be recited 1008 times sitting in a lotus position facing Easwari, eyes focused on the flames of a kutthuvilakku (an multi-faceted oil lamp on a stem and pedestal), before the sun-rise every day for a full month. On completion, he would be blessed. The sanyasi added an important injunction that he should not share this knowledge with anyone at anytime in his life. He did not elaborate what would happen at the end of the month. Nor Thiru or the priest asked. If he ever wanted to give up what he gained, he should recite the same mantra for three days similarly however at midnight. The sanyasi promised to visit again while returning from Kashi in a year’s time. He collected his meager belongings and took leave of them.

 

As per the sanyasi’s instructions, Thiru recited the mantra diligently and faithfully for a full month. At the end of the month, nothing out-of-the-ordinary happened. Though Thiru’s faith in sanyasi’s words was abiding, it was not an idée fixe for him; he soon forgot all about it amidst his daily activities.

   

One day, an invitation reached the priest from the Raja who was celebrating his son’s first birthday by performing an aayush-homam (a ritual performed usually on the first birthday of a baby seeking longevity of life), to attend the homam and bless the baby. The priest was making preparations for the visit when Thiru expressed his desire to go with him; Thiru had never seen the palace and the Raja. The priest saw no problems with that. He made arrangements for continuation of the puja’s at the Shrine and for the care of the cattle during his absence. That done, they left for the Raja’s palace where the homam was organized. Little did they know life was never going to be the same for Thiru after this ceremony. 

 

(To be contd.)

 

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