By: SAROJ THAKUR
The call of the Deoth Sidhdh by (Photo: Saroj Thakur)
High atop the hillock, the temple stands erect, filling the hearts with devotion and piety – that search for renewal of faith. It was a hot sultry day when we decided to visit the famous Baba Balaknath Temple. We all were a little restless for various reasons and had little to talk to each other as well. Being enclosed in the home for another day, with nothing worthwhile to do, was getting on the nerves. It was like getting an escape and run to a place seeking Shanti that we decided to go to Baba Balak Nath temple. It is at a distance of 45 km from Hamirpur. While driving to Deoth Sidhdh, each one of us was immersed in our own world. It was Enrique who did all the singing in the car keeping us entertained or it was just that we pretended to hear him sing and not really listening to him!
It was a good decision to go to Deoth Sidhdh as the temple was not as crowded as it generally is on Sundays. Moreover, it was kind of off-season to visit the temple these days.The rainy season had added to the beauty of the area as everything looked verdant and freshly bathed in rain water. The forest just looked majestic and the thin serpentine road wavering its way to Deoth Sidhdh from Shah Talai took my breath away. Could something be so beautiful? My nerves got soothed by the bewitching beauty of the scenery or it is the general atmosphere of peacefulness that soothes ruffled nerves? I suddenly had a feeling of being in safe hands where all my problems would be taken care of. With heart filled with fresh invigorating energy, we started to ascend the steps to the abode of the Baba Balak Nathji. The ascendance to the temple had few devotees. We three – me, my husnabd and my daugher – marched up with hearts filled with prayer. Looking down the valley and imagining an incident from the past when whole of the countryside might have reverberated with the roars of the lions that stood tamed in front of a small child, made me feel the power of the deity that might have roamed this jungle.
Climbing higher (Photo: Saroj Thakur)
Immersed in all the stories that I had heard about the temple and the deity, I kept on ascending the steps. I felt tired. I was really worried as I always pride myself for being an avid walker. But the tiredness was a sign of failing health. We, the mortals, know about the short stint of life that we are bestowed with but instead of making the best use of it, we waste it in rather useless and futile endeavors. This plain truth dawned upon me. And I promised to be a bit careful henceforth to make my life and that of people around me a little better.
My heart was suddenly filled with faith. It is the faith of the people that makes them run to this temple situated so away from a big town. The majestic hill fills the heart and mind with awe for the superhuman power that controls all our actions. With head bowed and prayers oozing out from every pore of our being, we three made our way to the temple. KS, my husband, separated from us when he took the path for the cave where the idol is kept and this place is restricted for females. Once here, I started questioning the logic of barring women from entering the shrine. Is it not true that it was Devi Parvati who bestowed Babaji with eternal childhood, a woman? Rattni Mai, another woman, had provided food to Baba Ji when he seemingly grazed her cattle? Then why are we, the women, deprived of having his darshan? Finding an answer to the question that baffled me as a small child and today as well when I am about fifty, I remain unanswered.
I stood along with my daughter at a gallery that is just parallel to the shrine and tried peeping through the backs of men impeding the darshan. I wondered, how long would we be the ‘second handers’ rejoicing in getting only what comes our way! Standing at the place where from I could see the inner sanctorum a little clearly, I wondered about the long unfathomable cave that still held the mystery of Babaji. I was awe struck with the god’s workmanship that man could never match and questioned once again the man-made rules barring us from the shrine. But gathering reins, I immersed in the faith that had driven me here. I was dumb and didn’t know what I had come to seek. Seeking peace in our life? I felt something touch my very being and I knew that without saying anything, He understood the prayers coming from the heart of a mother. Once again I thought of the Golden strand of Hair that has always filled my heart with piety.
I watched around and found devotees from different places thronging the place. But the common factor that bonded all of them together was the unfailing belief in the miraculous power of Babaji. I found newly weds with high hopes of a wonderful life ahead who had come to seek blessings. The chooras in the brides’ hands filled the air with twinkling sheen in the bright light of sun. There were others who had come on a thanksgiving pilgrimage. The deity had been generous to fulfill their wishes and they had come to fulfill all that they had promised in return. I was astounded to find a great camaraderie among all the devotees where caste, class and creed didn’t matter at all and people distributed the Roat made of wheat and jaggery to all and sundry.
Taking photographs is prohibited in the temple so we waited till we got out from the main temple and went still further up. The scenery down in the valley was marvelous. And I wondered how some devotees crawl all the way from Shah Talai to the temple; such is the feeling of devotion that the rugged terrains don’t deter the devotees.
It was time for Langar and we went up to the Langar hall. The aroma of Rajmah filled our nostrils. Once again I thanked god for it being an off-season, as the devotees were small in number. I remembered an earlier incident when the surge of crowds had made me literally wade inside the Langar hall while my son and husband had been left behind, with door for men kept closed. Here, we had enjoyed a favour being women. But my son was so angry that he refused to take food in the Langar Hall for the haughty attitude of the sewadars at that peak period. Poetic justice—I would call it!
We usually fast while visiting any temple and till we’ve had the darshan; so we were eagerly waiting for the sumptuous meal waiting ahead to satiate our appetite. Having taken the food, we rested on the staircase for a while. This was the time that we took some shots of the majestic temple standing proudly on the hillock with a deep green valley downhill.
One with music (Photo: Saroj Thakur)
Some roaming Sadhus sat relaxing under a Peepul tree while we had so many things at the back of our mind, even while seemingly relaxing! I envied the Sadhus and wondered about their life. It must have been a wonderful experience for these recluses to live each day as a new day. But does it serve the purpose of life?
I was happy to be the one who had come to the temple with a heart filled with a prayer to be bestowed with so many wishes, and I hope fervently that very soon I would again come back to thank the deity for having fulfilled my wishes.