Many civilizations from time immemorial have the habit of worshipping icons, murals, carvings, animals and sometimes human beings also as incarnations of God. In India, worshipping saints as Swamiji’s (God incarnate) is very much in vogue. There are iconoclasts who never believe in such form of worship. Also, there are intermediaries who sang, “If you consider it as a mere stone it is a stone, if you consider the same as God, it is God,” thus fixing the onus of judgment with the individuals. This is a story of such a Saint worshipped as a Swamiji by villagers. He had opponents too. The story deals with the theme “who wins the war.”
Suri, young lad in his twenties came to his native village after several years on completing his graduation.
Suri is the abbreviation for Surya which is abbreviated from the full name Surya Narayanan. Surya Narayanan means Sun God. Suri was born because of worship to the Sun God, and the same name was attributed to him.
Suri’s master was his grandfather who was a retired schoolteacher. For any clarification, he would reach listen only to him, and his answer would be the final.
Also, for the particular problem the village was facing, only an old timer could have a reply.
The village Kurinji was without rainfall for a decade. The word Kurinji means hilly areas. Kurinji residents had not seen clouds for ten years. Lands had become barren; plants had become dry. First, animals fell to the ground and died because of thirst and hunger. Then newborn babies began to die. The most tragic part of it all was parents administered milk from poisonous plants which killed their newborn babies. The situation became the worst when farmers committed suicide; they were unable to bear the loss because of failed crops.
“Grandpa, why is our village alone not having rainfall?” was his question. All the surrounding villages had rainfall, only Kurinji did not. The reply he expected was to place the blame on the hill which shielded them from the rain. But the answer was different and unexpected.
“My grandson, you were in town for your studies. You could not know what happened here,” his grandpa said.
“What happened?”, He asked.
“It is because of the curse gave by that holy man.”
“What?” Suri was shocked, “This is the 21st century, and you are talking about a curse,” he asked in disbelief.
“You do not know it; he had amazing mystic powers. These bloody villagers aroused his anger, and now his curse is the reason for this miserable plight.”
“Sorry grandpa, I cannot believe this,” Suri asserted.
“Please lend me your ears and hear the full story and then you will believe it.” The old man narrated the incidence as a story.
“Nobody knew where from he came, nor his name, age, etc. One day a villager saw him sitting on the hilltop, he escorted him to this village. On seeing his unshaven face, he thought him to be a Saint and worshipped him. Soon the villagers fell in line to worship him. They had the utmost faith in him. He barely spoke. Sometimes he kept absolute silence for many days altogether.
The days which followed his stay were our golden days. Rainfall was regular, and crops flourished well. All auspicious happenings took place in the village. The villagers contributed their might to him as a reward for all his blessings. They believed God himself had sent this God-man to help them solve all their problems. They preferred calling him Swamy or Swamiji to give more respect.
Muthu, however, did not like this. You see, Muthu was an ex-serviceman who declared himself as an iconoclast and questioned all the events in the village. His prime target was the God-man. He abused the local people who were worshipping the visitor. Yet, the villagers continued to praise the God-man. “All that was good took place after Swamiji’s visit.” But Muthu refuted the claim stating that there were so many mishaps and deaths after his visit. “Will your Swamiji accept responsibility for these mishaps also?” he asked.
On a particular day, there was a great commotion in the village. People ran out of their houses to see what was happening, (“I also rushed to the spot,” grandpa.)
The scene which we witnessed was horrible. A rustic lady of age around thirty was pulled using her long hair, and she was crawling on the road, crying and praying for mercy. Several people were seen abusing her with unbearable vulgar comments.
Muthu who was pulling her, dropped his hold when they reached the house of the village head known as village Munsif, who rushed outside and enquired about the matter.
“Munsifji, you hear this treacherous affair, make an inquiry and punish the guilty,” Muthu roared.
“Wait, I will hear, first, let me see who this lady is.”
The village head was astonished to see Valli, a servant maid who used to help all the people especially the Swamiji.
At this moment Suri interfered to get a clarification.
“Which Valli Grandpa? Is she…?”
“Yes, you guessed right. It was the same Valli who worked in this house as your maid when you were a young boy.”
“What happened Valli? Tell us.”, the village Munsif asked.
Only silence was the reply.
“How will she tell? She is a sinner,” Muthu again roared.
Village head pacified him, “Don’t interfere, let her talk!”
Only the sobbing sound was the reply.
“She won’t open her mouth, let me say.”
The villagers looked at him anxiously.
“She is pregnant now.”
The onlookers were stunned.
“Yes, she is not married but three months pregnant now. Do you know who is responsible for this treacherous act?
“Who..? You tell us.”
He pointed out at the holy man sitting on a nearby platform raised beneath a neem- tree and shouted, “This beggar is the father of the baby lying in her womb.”
All were stunned.
“Muthu, don’t talk rubbish. He is our Swamiji.”
“Swamiji! Ha, Ha, Ha…,” Muthu gave a big laugh. “Is a sex maniac who raped an unmarried girl your Swamiji?”
Some of Swamiji’s supporters spoke out. “Muthu, don’t blame a holy man.”
“Am I putting the blame, let himself answer that.”
Swamiji was keeping silence.
“You know Swamiji is keeping silence today. He chose today for creating trouble.”
“Then let Valli tell her version.”
“Valli, now you tell us who is responsible for this?”
Without a word, Valli pointed her finger to the Swamiji.
Shock and disbelief were reigning high.
“Valli, don’t bluff, we will kill you by stoning..”
They started to collect stones.
“Stop it, if anybody attacks her I will shoot you..” Muthu took the rifle which he was keeping as the only proof for his military connection and which he used to hunt birds.
“He is the culprit. He has destroyed the life of the poor girl who was assisting him.”
The wind changed sides. There were whispers. People did not know what to do.
The holy man got down from the platform and started walking towards the hill.
“Where are you going? you take Valli also”, so saying Muthu ordered Valli to accompany him.
Then the most unexpected event happened.
A lad from somewhere rushed towards the Swami and cried, “Swamiji, please forgive me, I am the reason for this. I had to keep silence because Muthu threatened both of us. He wanted to blame you. Please, all of you forgive me.”
So saying he prostrated before the crowd.
The villagers changed the target. They started stoning Muthu. Nobody was afraid of his rifle, and he had to flee and never was seen in the village.
Within thirty minutes, the lad tied the knot to Valli, and the village head declared that they were legally married.
But Swami did not return to his place. Any amount of persuasion did not deter him from his decision to leave the village.
He walked fast, climbed the Kurinji hill and vanished into the other side of the mountain.
This happened ten years ago. Once the holy man left the village, rains failed, all the fertility and prosperity went off, and we are living in perpetual sorrow. God punished us for doubting Swamiji”.
Grandpa finished his narration.
“Oh, I am very sorry to hear all this grandpa. Did you not try to locate him and bring him back?”
“Yes, some of us located him in Tirupati (one of the holiest temple cities of India). We persuaded him to come back. But he refused. He has taken a vow not to come back. He can not break his pledge.”
After a pause, Suri said, “Grandpa, I will visit him along with some villagers and persuade him to come back.”
“Will you? I am pleased,” Grandfather replied.
Next week twenty villagers started the errand to Tirupati. The travelers included family members, women, and children. Persons who had earlier seen the Swamiji guided them.
Tirupati temple town is situated on top of a hill. It was just 200 kilometers from their village. They first traveled by train and reached lower Tirupati. Regular bus service was available, and they reached the temple after another hour travel.
One villager took them to the place where Swamiji was living. It was near a waterfall. On seeing the crowd, Swamiji raised his eyebrows. Suri explained the purpose of their errand. But it seemed he was keeping a vow of silence on this day as well. The villagers prayed for his mercy but of no avail. Then a lady stood up and declared “If you do not come with us, I will jump into this waterfall and die with my baby.” Almost everybody agreed to her proposal. They were of the firm decision that instead of returning and dying in famine, they could very well jump into the waterfalls and die.
Suri explained the situation to him. Everybody was waiting patiently.
Finally, a miracle took place. Swami stood up, and after signing them to follow, he started walking.
“Finally, Swamiji has agreed to come with us.” The villagers jumped in joy.
Arrangements were made to receive him at the railway station which was ten-kilo meters away from Kurinji. He started walking from the Station.
The sky was already dark with dense clouds. The weather reports declared that there would be heavy rain in that area.
There was band music, Nagaswaram (Traditional South Indian music), dances, crackers and fireworks all along the route.
The moment he laid his leg into the soil of the village, raindrops started to come down, which turned into a thundershower in a short amount of time.
Villagers danced and celebrated beyond any control.
But a sudden scream stopped their ecstasy.
“Hey, what has happened to Swamiji?”
To the utter disbelief of villagers, Swamiji fell to the ground and was dead. With utter disbelief and dismay, they started crying.
Then some elders consoled them saying, “He broke his vow which is a promise to God, so he has died. Only his physical body died, There is no death for his soul. The villagers consoled themselves and buried him in the place where he died. It became a place of worship, and people were worshipping him as God for the supreme sacrifice he made.
The story does not end here.
Suri went abroad getting an I.T. job.
He returned home after five years.
He was surprised to see a temple-like structure where Swamy was buried. People showed their gratitude by converting the place into a full-fledged temple with the tomb in the middle.
There was absolutely no rush in the temple. He removed the footwear and entered the temple. His eyes moistened when thinking about the Swamiji.
For ten minutes he was motionless in a meditative state.
Suddenly the presence of a lady attracted his attention.
Oh! She was Valli. Swamiji’s attendant who created great havoc 15 years back. Though she was old then, he could recognize her.
“Valli, is that you?”
“Who is that? Suri, how are you? Do you still remember me? Are you married?”
They spoke for ten minutes, and as they started to leave, they heard a voice of a young boy, “Mummy, I am hungry.”
“He is my son,” Valli told with pride and asked her son to wait in the dining hall.
Suddenly when he saw the boys face, something struck him.
“Valli, you are like my mother. You took care of me in my childhood. I was told you used to wash, feed and take care of me more than a mother. Now you tell me the truth. Who is the father of this boy?”
Then, there was a pause. With a deep sigh, Valli answered, “Yes, you are like my first son. I should tell at least one person the truth. Then only I can have a peaceful death. The father of my son is…”
She did not finish her sentence … she pointed out her finger.
The Swamiji’s tomb was situated in that direction with a large size painting of Swamiji blessing for all those who worship him.
Then, into the kitchen, Valli disappeared.
by Bhimarao Sathyanarayanan