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Saturday, August 11, 2012

In the name of Guru

A visitor to this village will have no difficulty figuring out why it is called bhakton ka gaon (village of worshippers). Loudspeakers blare bhajans from different corners and almost every surface is plastered with pictures of god men and god women.

From Jai Gurudev to Asaram Babu and from Ma Nirmala Devi to Prajapati Brahmakumari, every god man or woman popular in North India has a visible following in the village which lies in Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh.

This multitude of gurus also means that different forms of greetings are in use. Thus while someone will shout 'Jai Gurudev', another will say 'Hari Om', leaving the casual visitor confused as to what the most appropriate greeting is. In fact your greeting becomes your unique identity in that it allows instant slotting.

Not only grown ups, even children in the village claim deep knowledge of God and religion derived as it is from the teachings of various gurus. While many gurus have a strong following, the most popular are Jai Gurudev, Asaram Bapu, Om Shanti Om and Nirmala Devi who along with their other spiritual brethren operate as franchises in the village.

There is stiff competition to win over followers and inroads by new gurus, though difficult, are not unheard of. Such is the faith in the power of gurus that all good tidings--a child who survives a nasty fall or a drunkard who kicks the bottle are attributed to his/her blessings. Technology is considered an ally for it enables the devout to access the guru’s teachings even when busy with the affairs of the world. Sanjay, a local who runs a paan kiosk says, “Bapu reaches millions of his followers through television. I use my mobile to listen to him when I am away.”

The first man of god to make his impact felt in the village was Jai Gurudev. One Nekram was his follower and took it upon himself to rescue the village from the clutches of crime and liquor. This he did by relaying Gurudev’s teachings to the villagers. The truth about the “virtuous” life finally dawned on the villagers and they gave up liquor and non vegetarian food.

Rabdi, a village in Unnao district, becomes a magnet for new age healers and gurus, morphing a nondescript hamlet into an abode of the devout. The gurus are making the best of it, collecting donations and votes for their political masters when needed, finds out Rajan Prakash

Raj Kumar Nishad, a former pradhan of the village, who is the third generation of village headmen from his family, says, “Every home produced liquor once upon a time. People from a radius of 10 km flocked to the village and arguments and fights under the influence of alcohol were common. The Panchayat would have to intervene almost regularly. Non vegetarianism was rampant. But thanks to Nekram that changed. For the last eight years the village has been trouble free and the police have kept away. Forget brewing liquor, no one even drinks it now.”

Ironically though Jai Gurudev’s teachings initiated the heart change, they also became the reason for the entry of other godmen.

A follower lets in, “According to Jai Gurudev’s teachings, a follower has to donate 10 percent of his earnings. However, many in the village could barely make ends meet. These were attracted to others.” Phoolchand Garv, president of the Jai Gurudev Satsnag Dal says his estimate is that the number of followers in the area has exceeded 16,000.

The pursuits have not remained merely spiritual. Politics has followed. In the last Vidhan Sabha elections, since Jai Gurudev supported Mulayam Singh Yadav, the SP candidate Kuldeep Singh Sengar, a weak choice, won the local seat.

Rajkumar, a resident says, “We will not even vote for our own relative against the guru’s wishes.”

Despite the strangle hold of god men and women, there is no temple in the village. That is attributed to the fact that once a person takes a guru and becomes a satsangi, he is not permitted to worship anyone else.

Ramnaresh, a follower of Jai Gurudev says, “All Gods exist within the guru, hence why waste time by praying to any one of them individually? Worshipping the guru is like worshipping the all subsuming ocean.”

Spirituality has also made possible women’s empowerment. Gangajali (35), a mother of six obtained deeksha from Asaram Bapu in Haridwar one-and-a -half years ago, even though her husband did not.

She says, “My husband did not dissuade me. He asked me to stop cooking non vegetarian food. He lends a hand on household chores”. And though all seems fine, Gangajali is a little upset about the fact that her husband considers Jai Gurudev his mentor.

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Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

I know this is totally off topic but I had to share it with someone!