Rang Avadhoot (1898-1968)
H.H. Ranga Avadhoot (Paduranga Vitthal Valame) or well known as Pujya Bapji - descent on 21-11-1898, Kartik Sukla 9- Birth place, Godhra (Gujarat), India, with bright school and college career joined independence movement. He worked sometime as teacher, and took active part in social and political activities. He left all these, and came to Nareshvar in 1923.
Bapji stayed with holy mother, Rukmamba, guided many on spiritual path, wrote many works, inspired many for social and religious activities.
Bapji left the world bodily on 10-11-1968 (Kartik Krsna 30) at Harwdar.
"There was another great being called Ranga Avadhut, whom I used to visit now and then. He was a great scholar and came to our Ashram twice. He lived on the banks of the holy Narmada River and would bathe three times each day.
He always traveled on foot. He would never sit in a car, but occasionally he would ride in a horse carriage. He was a great Siddha.
People used to look upon Ranga Avadhut as a divine incarnation. He wore a loincloth and often carried a long stick. He ate simple, light food. He spoke very little and in plain, straightforward language. He was so completely free of pride and ego that he had become love incarnate. He used to meet people punctually. He listened to others' questions about their pains and pleasures and gave them advice. I loved him very much. He was such a great Siddha that people considered him the incarnation of Guru Dattatreya."
Excerpt from Secret of The Siddha's by Swami Muktananda ©SYDA Foundation
LOVE OF SANSKRIT
Orthodox Brahmanas insist upon their children, of either sex to memorize some devotional compositions in Sanskrit - such as Rama-Raksha, Vishnu Sahasranama,Shivamahimna Stotra, Shreemad Bhagwad Geeta (espically the 1 5 th chapter), etc. This much recitation was expected from the children before they were burdened by the studies at school Shree Rang had learned all these by heart as he was Brahmari by birth.
Apart from comt-nitting to memory the aforesaid hymns, Shree Rang evolved an aspiration for the study of the ancient and classical language Sanskrit when he was studying in 5th standard. He was adequately quided by the school teachers to go ahead in the studies of Sanskrit and hts progress was ostensibly rapid.
Hundreds of Sanskrit didactic verses were on the tip of tounge of Shree Rang. The three hundred verses composed in Sanskrit by the famous poet Bhartruhari were also mastered by him within a very short period. Apprised of his mastery over Sanskrit Kakasaheb Kalelkar selected him for writing a commentary in Sanskrit on "Sadhbodhsatkam ( a compliation of one hundred didactic Sanskrit verses). With great zeal Shree Rang under took the work and completed it in masterly manner. The commentary entitled as balbodhini was later published by the Nareshwar Publication Trust.
From his school life Shree Rang was able to talk in Sanskrit. In his later life he met and honoured niany eminent personalities in the field of Sanskrit. Despite his reluctance, once, Shree Rang was forced to preside over an annual function of the Sanskrit Vidvat Sabha, at Vadodara.
In his youth when Shree Rang was a School teacher; he was asked to write a manpatra ( a letter commemorating the achievements) which was to be presented to the famous scientist Dr. Prafulla Chandra Roy, when the latter visited the Gujarat Vidyapeeth, at Ahmedabad.
After casketting the letter presented to him by the Gujarat Vidyapeeth, Dr. P.C. ROY specifically mentioned in his ' Thanks giving' speech that he was highly pleased to receive such a letter written in Sanskrit and printed on Khadi ( hand-spun -cloth) . Till then he was honoured by such letters in English, Hindi, etc. printed on papers only.
It was his love for Sanskrit that induced Shree Rang to compose may hymns and poems in that language.
CLOTHING OF BUTTOCKS
Shree Rang, then a child below ten, was playing, once, in the street in front of his house. Fie was all clad with a langoti only.
Mother Rukmamba, by chance came there and only with a langoti. She immediately said, "Babu, what a boy you are. Please go inside and put on panties. "
"Why for ?" Sliree Rang.
"Don't you know? The Collector of this region is expected to go by this way, now. One should try to be in all one's fairness at such occasions."
"It is ashamed of seeing me next to nakedness, he will come forward and clothe my buttocks. " Replied Sliree Rang unconcerned.
Profession and Quest for Spiritualism
THE REAL INSPECTION
Shree Rang was a teacher in those days at the Raslitriya Adarsh Vinay Mandir, Ahmedabad. He was teaching Sanskrit in that school. The Secondary school was recognised by the Gujarat Vidyapeeth, Ahmedabad.
Once, there was inspection of the school. The inspector, accompanied by the then principal of the school, I Shree Ramshankar Tripathi, was going through all the class-rooms of the school, one after another. When both of them came at the class-room of which Shree Rang was the class-teacher, the principal looking to his wristwatch told the inspector , "I am afraid, the class-teacher c)f this class is not in the class. He must have been in tiffin-room for his luncheon."
"How 's that - so early ? Is it the time for lunch ?" asked the inspector in astonishment.
"This is the fixed time for Shree Valame, the classteacher to take his lunch. By this very agreement he has accepted this job." Principal.
The inspector presented no comments for that purpose.
The inspector and Lhe principal then entered the class room. Upon their entry in the class all the students immediately greeted the guest and the principal saying 'Namaste'and kept themselves standing.
The principal asked the students to sit down and then requested the inspector to ask some questions, if he desired, to the students.
The monitor of the class was watching the whole class by keeping himself standing in a corner. All the students were writing their assignment without making any kind of noise or voice. The peaceful and well disciplined atmosphere of the class, conducted by Shree Rang, created a very good impression upon the niind of the inspector.
The maps, charts, photos, pictures etc. hung on the walls of the class reflected a remarkable sense of art. The cleanliness of the class, the neat and tidy dress of the students....... on the whole, all the aspects of the class pleased the inspector above par. Of course the very highschool was famous for its ideal functioning, however, the class-room of Shree Rang had its own note-worthy status.
Staying for sometime in the class-room, the inspector and the principal thought of going to some another classroom. Accordirnigly as they were stepping out of the classroom, Sfiree Rang returned from his lunch.
Looking to Shree Rang, the principal introduced him to the inspector. Shree Rang immediately greeted the inspector with folded hands saying "Namaste". The inspector countered by saying "Namaste" and asked him, "Do you have your lunch, so early, Mr. Valame?"
"If you don't mind, Sir, I may kindly clarify my position." Saying so Shree Rang explained the cause of his early lunch, "All the people generally get up at about 6 o'clock in the morning and have their lunch at about 10 o'clock i.e. after four hours from rising their beds. While I take my meals at 8.oo A.M. i.e. comparatively late by two hours,asmyday beginsat2-00 AM".
The inspector easily understood the tint of sarcasni in the reply from Shree Rang. However, he did not argue a bit with Shree Rang. On the whole the inspector was very much pleased with the modesty inherent in Shree Rang. On the contrary hearing such an unexpected answer from
Shree Rang the inspector burst into laughter and complimented hini for his appropriate functioning of his class.
Shree Rang, afterwards, politely requested the inspector to get in the class-room. He said , I don't know, whether you have inspected my class."
"Your class has already been inspected by me. "
"Thank you, Sir, but doesn't it sound a bit funny that the class was inspected in the absence of its teacher ?"
"No, not at all. Methinks, that may be construed as the real inspection.
"If you don't mind, Sir, you may observe my method of teaching and if deemed proper favour me by offering your valuable advice to get rid of iiiy short-comings."
"No need, Mr. Valanie, All is O.K. with you and your class, " Saying so the inspector marched ahead along with the principal for another class-room.
From his early life Shree Rang-was observing fast on Thursdays. So, while serving -is a teacher at Vinay Mandir, Ahemedabad, on every Thursday he used to send a particu lar schoolboy - to purchase 'Pendas' from a particular confectioner. Everytime one rupee was given to the' school-boy and, he was asked to purchase 2OOgms. pendas. Of course, this was done before the school hours or in the recess.
Though the shop was the sanie and the size o.f the pendas'same; yet the number of pendas always varied. it was noticed by - Shree Rang, however he kept mum about it.
The remaining amount from the rupee given to the school-boy for the purchase of the pendas was also never counted or checked by Shree Rang.
This state of affairs continued for some Thursdays. However,Shree Rang never complained or grumbled about the quantit,/ of the pendas or the amount returned by the said school-boy. But one day seeing Shree Rang alone the boy approached him and sitting by his feet suddenly started weeping
The school-boy kept on weeping for a while. After the outburst of his weeping was somewhat calmed down Shree Rang gently held the boy up and asked, "Why do you weep so much , my dear boy ?"
The soothing touch of Shree Rang engendered a feeling of self-confidence in the boy. However with sobs he said, "Sir I am guilty of theft. "
"What theft?" Asked Shree Rang startled.
"Sir, you used to send me every Thursday to purchase pendas. Everytime you gave me a rupee for the purpose.
Shree Rang was listening to the boy with fatherly affection.
"Caught by unfair designs, " continued the boy, "I formed a bad habit to eat some of the pendas from the packet..... also when I observed that you never verified the amount returned to you by me; I started keeping sc)me money for me. Sir, I have cheated an ideal school teacher indeed I now .....
"Forget it my boy, " caressing, the boy said Shree Rang, "Do you think that your misbehaviour passed unnoticed by me? Not the least..... By the way was it not my duty to repay your service in cash or kind ?"
"I can't judge it, Sir. But you have been very kind to me. Please forgive me. Henceforth I will prove myself worthy of your trust."
"You repent of your misdeeds. That's enough." saying so Shree Rang patted the school-boy and asked him to forget it.
EFFICACY OF THE HYMN
"Will you please favour me, Brahmacharin ?" A young and energetic sanyasin asked Shree Rang.
Shree Rang was a school-teacher in those days. His dress was that of a commen man; but his spiritual practices were beaming forth from within himself which influenced the sanyasin. And by the very reason he addressed Shree Rang as ' Brahmacharin'. Moreover, he was bachelor in those days (He was bachelor throughout his life) and a bachelor is known as 'Brahmacharin' in most of the Indian languages.
"In what respect ?" Asked Shree Rang the sanyasin.
"I long for the holy and highest seat of the Shankaracharya." With sparkling eyes replied the fairskinned sanyasin.
"Is that the highest seat in the universe ?"
"Certainly not. But it's my ardent desire to get myself known as Shankaracharya, in future." said the sanyasin.
Shree Rang looked at the sanyasin for sometime. An ochre-coloured robe hung loosely on his person and a saffron sash around his waist added charm to his personality. His radiant face had a unique blending of peity and humility.
"Is it not better to be free from any kind of desire ?" Shree Rang asked the sanyasin.
The sanyasin thought for a while and replied,. "it is a supreme state to be free from all kinds of desires. But ---- I can't hold myself. On and often I dream about the holy seat of Shankaracharya."
"Well, if consecrated as Shankaracharya, you will have the authority to guide the people in the field of religion, I know," Shree Rang.
"Exactly, Brahmacharin ! " exclaimed the Sanyasin.
"Tell me, What should I do for you ?"
"Please copy the Dattatreya - stotram in your handwriting and give it to me " the sanyasin.
"Is that all ?"
"Yes, I'll read the accomplished hymn for ten thousand times. I am sure, it will yield fruits and I'll be the Shankaracharya. I pray you. Please write down the hymn for me."
Dattatreya - stotram is a famous hymn composed by the sage Narad. It is incorporated in the Narad-puran. All prominent aspects of Lord Dattatreya are precisely narrated in it. The hymn is considered as an accomplished one. Its recitation, with all one's heart, has an inherent power to fulfil the cherished desires of the devotees.
"It's easily available. Why don't you procure it?" Shree Rang.
"Excuse me, Brahmacharin. But I wish to have the hymn written in your own handwritting. You may be an ordinary man, merely a teacher, for the society; but I see you as spirituality incarnate."
Shree Rang asked the sanyasin to keep quiet. It implies that he disliked to be'praised by anybody.
Immediately afterwards Sh ree Rang started to copy the hymn. Within few minutes it was written. He then touched the hymn to his forehead and with good wishes handed it over to the Sanyasin. The sanyasin also took it from Shree Rang with great veneration and bowed down before him with deep respect.
The same sanyasin, in future, adorned the seat of Shankaracharya at Dwarka upto his last breath. He was then known as His Holiness Chandrashekharananda.
Once Shree Rang had been on an excursion to Kedareshvar. There is an age-old temple of lord Shiva on a hillock in the woods of Utkantheshvar on the banks of the river Vatrak.
A rippling brook of crystal clear water amidst the cluster of audumber trees flows from the rocks atop. The downward flow of the brook passes through a 'Gaumukhi' (cow's mouth) to bathe the Lord Shiv. The brook further on submerges into the river Vatrak.
There is a caravanserai near the temple. It does not provide adequate facilities to the travellers. However, the pilgrims and tourists visit the place occasionally.
As Kedareshvar is a lonely place, a tiger from the nereby jungle used to go there daily at mid-night. It used to recline in the courtyard of the caravanserai for as much time as it wanted. 'Though there was strong iron-grill around the verandah of the caravanserai, it was not advisable to stay there overnight.
The whole of the day of these excursionists was passed gayfully roaming here and there disregarding the nocturnal inconveniences. Soon the yellow-reddish evening drove away the brightness of the day. But the beautiful atmosphere of the evening also proved a shortlived phenomenon as the unknown hand spread a black blanket tucked by the twinkling stars all around.
As usual the tiger turned up at mid-night at the spot. As soon as it arrived there it growled. The reverberating sound caused a great panic in the hearts of the boys. But Shree Rang who had formed the habit of chanting the name of the Lord Dattatreya from his childhood and had a deep faith in HIM could gather himself soon.
All the boys had considerably a close look at the yellow creature. Though the eyes of the boys were contented by the sight of the tiger, their hearts were beating speedily. They knew that the tiger was habituated to be at rest there to its satisfaction. However, they all wished that it would be better if it left the place early. Thank God that the tiger by that time did not noticed the stunned tourists and stretched itself on, the soft and cool soil in the courtyard of the temple.
By this time Shree Rang was acutely aware of all his friends' plight, so to get rid of the panic-stricken situation he suddenly stood tall and impregnable and striking a bamboo-stick violently against the floor called out loudly 'Guru Dev Datta. ' And lo! Without looking hither and thither the tiger dashed off the courtyard. Seeing the tiger bolted away the boys heaved a sigh of relief and praised Shree Rang for his resourceful bravery, nay, more than that, for his devotion to the Lord Dattatreya.
While serving as a school-teacher, on many occasions, Shree Rang had to go on for trips with his fellowteachers, friends and students. The trips were generally arranged for the holy and idyllic places in Gujarat. Mount Abu, (now in Rajasthan), Ambajee, Gabbargadh, Aranyeshwar, Kedareshvar, Shoolpaneshvar, Utkantheshvar etc. were the places visited by him with his group. Though he was bodily present with the trippers, mentally he was constantly searching for a place suitable for his spiritual practices to be undertaken as soon as possible.
When Shree Rang was in near future freed from the bondages of his service, he decided to go to the Himalayas. By that time, somehow he happened to know a good deal about a saint named Dada Dhunivala of Saikheda. There used to be a small fire-place in front of the saint Dada and small logs of wood were kept constantly burning in it (Such a fire place is called 'Dhuni' in Hindi language and as such the saint Dada was named after it as Dhunivala - a saint with Dhuni).
Dada Dhunivala was apparently a very eccentric person. Whatever placed before him by the visitors was immediately thrown into the dhuni by him. The dhuni in no time used to consume the offering ultimately transforming it into ashes.
It is customary to take with us something while going to visit a temple or one's guru (guide in spiritual path) or any other saint, seer, etc. Shree Rang who was from his very childhood always respected and practised the rightful customs and traditions, took with him a mango as an offering to Dada Dhunivala. He placed the mango in front of Dada and lay prostrate before him. As S'o.Dn as Dada took the mango from Shree Rang, tolthe amazement of ail the visitors present at that time, he stared to eat it.
Shree Rang was highly pleased to see that his offering was gladly and instantly accepted and eaten by Dada Dhunivala. It was undoubtedly a good omen for Shree Rang.
Dada Dhunivala was always seen surrounded by visitors. People, nearly from all walks of life used to go to him for his guidance as well as to obtain his benediction for fulfilment of their cherished dreams. Shree Rang was absolutely indifferent towards the mundane achievements. So he thought it to be wise to see Dada in loneliness and waited for the opportunity. At last, at midnight, anyhow, he got entered in to the place where Dada was fast asleep. Shree Rang thanked God for the occasion and kept himself silently by the side of Dada eagerly awaiting for a brief break in his,sleep.
After a while Dada moved a bit and with eyes closed caught hold of a stick lying at hand and started beating a cow loosely tide to a post near him. The pet animal, irrespective of the blows of the stick did not stir in any degree; not even showed any signs of protest and continued its rumination. Shree Rang was astonished to see the unusual behaviour of the cow.
"Were the strokes of the stick love-borne ? ----- Did they tickle the cow? --- Did the cow preferred to be treated like that ?---Is Dada deliberately trying to dissuade me from meeting him?... Why so much a queer behaviour ? -- "And many more questions would have crowded in the mind of Shree Rang ; but the unexpected words from Dada put an end to them.
"Renouncing home and hearth he has set out for the Himalayas --- What lies there ? --- It won't serve ---- He should go back ---- He is destined to stay on the banks of river Narmada ---- "
Aghast, Shree Rang was fully convinced that the words from Dada were meant for him only, as nobody else was present there. He again bowed down his head in reverence before Dada and left the place.
Again on next day Shree Rang approached Dada and with folded hands asked politely, 'Should I put my head on your feet?"
"By all means, my lad." Dada.
Overjoyed immediately Shree Rang lowered his head and put it.on the holy feet of Dada with profound veneration. Dada gently caressed him for sometime.
After a while Shree Rang said, "At first, I desired to undertake spiritual practices in the peaceful atmosphere of the Himalayas. But now 'I wish to stay with- you. Please permit me to do so. "
"No need to stay here. Go to a forest ---- in a lonely place not far from here ------ The place on account of your penance will be a heavenlike spot in future ---- Go ------- Go - ------- Leave this place for another one. " Dada.
Shree Rang again bowed down his head in reverence before Dada Dhunivala and left the place for his return journey.
As suggested by the saint Dada Dhunivala, Shree Rang left Saikheda in search of a place, on the banks of river Narmada, for his spiritual practices. On his way back he went to Mortakka ; where lived a saint, named, Chandrashekharananda.
His Holiness Chandrashekharananda was totally indifferent towards the worldly affairs. Many times , he was also seen without any piece of cloth on his person. How strange ! A man, renunciation incarnate had a penchant for collecting good books. And once, in the cource of conversation he had told Shree Rang that he was too much fond of reading and had by that period read many books. But later on he was fed up with reading. However, he did not cease to collect and store books and volumes. Only for the purpose of guidance to the aspirants in the field of spiritualism the books were stocked by him.
When Shree Rang went to the peaceful hermitage of H. H. Chandrashekharananda, he found that he had gone to Indore. So immediately Shree Rang wrote a letter to him
stating in it that he desired to undertake some spiritual practices under his guidance and for that purpose he might be allowed to stay with him for a period of about ten months.
Soon Shree Rang received a message from H.H. Chandrashekharananda. He was informed that H.H. Chandrashekharananda was to leave this world within a short period. Therefore, the purpose of Shree Rang would not be served and that he should return to his place.
On receiving such an information there was no other alternative for Shree Rang and had to leave Mortakka for Vadodara and he did so.
When Shree Rang went to Vadodara, he was informed by a man, who was a school-teacher, that he should see H.H. Langada Maharaj who was a disciple of H.H. Sachchidananda of Shinor. The man further informed him that Langada Maharaj was an eccentric person. However, Shree Rang approached the saint H. H. Langada Maharaj.
How gracious! H.H. Langada Maharaj cordially welcomed Shree Rang and advised him to select an isolate place on the bank of the Narmada, somewhere between Shoolapaneshvar and Bharuch.
Thereupon Shree Rang thought that his Gurudev H.H. Vasudevanandasarasvati wished that he should stay in Gujarat and propagate the Datta-cult. And by this very reason he might have been asked to return to Gujarat by the saint Dada Dhunivala.
SELECTION OF NARESHVAR
Shree Rang finally decided to undertake spiritual practices on the banks of the Narmada. While thinking about any suitable place, he happened to remember the name of Shree Ratanial of Ranapur. A brahman from Sarkhej, Ratanlal, was a school-teacher at Ranapur. He was a very pious man and as such Shree Rang though*, of staying with him. Actually Shree Rang stayed in one of the small rooms in the campus of the school where Ratanlal was serving. So long as Shree Rang was at Ranapur he accepted only daily food from Shree Ratanial.
Shree Hargovinddas Kanjibhai Soni alias Daskaka of Ranapur was a goldsmith by profession and a social worker as well. People in and around Ranapur always used to approach him to solve their house-hold problems, which were adequately solved by him. In the matters of disputes between two persons or parties the impartial judgement passed by Daskaka was always accepted and acted upon by both the persons or the parties as it might be. The generous and philanthropist Daskaka also respected and served the mendicants, saints and seers and the like passing through Ranapur. He, however, respected Brahmanas more than any other kinds of pilgrims.
Once accompanied by Shree Rang, Ratanlal happened to go to Daskaka. Shree Rang Kept himself outside in the court-yard and asked Ratanlal to go in the house of Daskaka. Without any argument he did so. But later on, the course of conversation when Daskaka learned from Ratanlal that a brahmari accompanied by him stayed outside; he hurriedly moved outside and requested Shree Rang to go inside the house.
Shree Rang entered the house of Daskaka and stood silently by a wall. Daskaka brought a small carpet and stretched it out before Shree Rang. Thereupon, Shree Rang politely declared that it was against his principle to accept a carpet brought by anybody else. He then himself spread a small carpet brought with on the floor and sat upon it. The piety of one's own seat (carpet, mat, etc.) is strictly observed in the course of spiritual undertakings.
Ratanial gradually apprised of the spiritual practices of Shree Rang to Daskaka. Being glad to know about him, Daskaka expressed his respect by bowing his head before Shree Rang and placed some coins also in front of him. Shree Rang smiled a bit and told serenely that he had renounced to beg or ask for money, nay, had even decided not to touch it at all.
The coins placed before Shree Rang by Daskaka lay untouched by him.
Daskaka was astonished to see such an attitude of a spiritual aspirant., Equally he was over joyed to meet such a rare guest who was totally different from the other itinerant pilgrims. He again bowed down his head in reverence before Shree Rang and politely prayed him to come to his House whenever he wished so and accept at least some milk, fruits, food, etc. Shree Rang acceeded to his request and kept his words.
Presently Daskaka came to know that Shree Rang was in search of a place for Iiis penance, that wolild fiave been a spot preferably in the area between Shoolapaneshvar and Bharuch. And that too on the banks of the river Narmada. Pondering over the matter for some time, Daskaka , who was well acquainted with that region, suggested him ' a place, Nareshvar. In short it was Daskaka of Ranapur who became instrumental in mentioning the holy and tranquil place, Nareshvar, to Shree Rang. It is near Lilod, a village at a distance of some 10 k.m. from Ranapur.
GIVE UP NARESHVAR
Once; Shree Shivprasad Dave, from Vadodara, tn the course of conversation told Shree Pang, "I've followed nearly all the guide-lines given by you, Bapji. About one item, only, I'm uncertain. "
" What's it ?" Shree Rang.
"As advised byyou I've not yet given up chewing of tobacco. "
"Give up visiting Nareshvar, instead. " Shree Rang.
WHOSE PRESTIGE ?
On the occasion of celebration of Datta-jayanti at Nareshvar, once, it was noticed that the influx of the devotees was far more than the calculated one beforehand. So, one of the organisers, in apprehension, approached Shree Rang and said, "Bapji, I'm afraid, It's tough time. Hard to cope with the situation. The prestige may be lost. "
" Whose prestige ? Yours or mine. "?
Being boggled about the words of Shree Rang the organiser could not say anything.
Thereupon, in a soothing tone said Shree Pang, "Friendl've no prestige since I've surrendered myself completely at the feet of my guru. It is HIS celebration. He is to bother about it. Please, go in the
kitchen and take on. "
The organiser went into the kitchen with slow pace and returned cheerful (There was enough of provision for the visitors.)
Once, a lady, who was fortunate to get one pair of sandals of Shree Rang, asked him, " Bapji, how to worship the sandals ? Is there any special procedure ?"
"No, nothing like that. True devotion only is enough to worship the sandals. " Replied Shree Rang calmly.
Nareshwar - Earlier Days
NARESHVAR - PAST
In the course of trekking of the river Narmada Shree Rang happened to come to Nareshvar. It is a holy place of yore and was formerly known as Kapardeeshvar.
When Shree Rang came to Nareshvar, it was as good as a piece of wood-land. Tall trees such as peepal, neem, audumbara, banyan, etc, were the sentries of the place and foxes, wolves, poisonous snakes and scorpions as well as various kinds of lizards, insects, etc, were the real estate-holders of it. To add to its dreadfulness there was a crematorium nearby. For the common man, in short, Nareshvar was a horrible spot to stay in.
Though the place, Nareshvar - was somewhat rocky, in those days ; thorny bushes and brakes, wild grass and varied creepers, etc, had covered the ground all over. Only in the glade stood one temple, delapidated enough, of the Lord Shiv.
On arriving at Nareshvar at the very first instance, Shree Rang, the lonesome stranger to the place entered the temple. With folded hands and with great devotion he stood before the Lord Shiv and prayed for a while.
When Shree Rang came out of the temple, to his surprise he was caught by an unusual sight. Two peacocks and one cobra were sporting together; while the crows, doves and different kinds of sparrows and birds were frisking about.
Looking to the rare sight for sometime, Shree Rang was convinced that the place indeed might have been a holy one, in past. Otherwise such a non-violent phenomenon was impossible. - Anyhow inspired by the peacock-cobra incident and earlier advised by Daskaka of Ranapur Shree Rang decided to stay at Nareshvar at least for the period required for his spiritual ' Sadhana' and did so accordingly. At this very place he read Datt-puran for 108 times.
There was not a single hut, cottage or shanty to dwell in. Only under a neem tree Shree Rang settled himself. It was Daskaka who managed to erect a small hut at Nareshvar for Shree Rang. Daskaka also provided some utensils and other sundries for the use of Shree Rang.
THE NEEM TREE
The Neem-tree behind Rang-mandir is the centre of attraction and reverence to the people visiting Nareshvar.
Though the deeply rooted strong trunk of this neem tree is rising higher and higher upto the sky: the emerald -green and delicate branches bend down towards the ground forming a canopy by themselves.
The uprising branches of this neem tree as if once served as guards in the air, so as not to allow the evil elements in the atmosphere to go down and distrub Shree Rang. Simultaneously, these branches disclosed the celestials that a blessed human being, in no way inferior to them was peacefully, exercising austere penance under their cool shade.
The bitter leaves of this neem-tree stealthily extracted sweetness from, the sweet-hearted Shree Rang and have become sweet (devoid of acrid taste.)
The immoveable and mute neem-tree is an unselfish friend of Shree Rang in disguise and witnessed the vicissitudes in his anchorite life.
Under this neem-tree, the then great saints and seers met with Shree Rang. Philosophers had discussion with him about the upliftment of the human beings in general here only.
Reputed person alities in various fields, such as literature, science, music etc. had been fortunate enough to display their talents before Shree Rang and sought guidance and blessings from him under this neem-tree.
Anguished people from all walks of life accosted Shree Rang ior the elimination of their woes under this tree.
What a wonderfu I tree ! Was it in its previous state an accursed soul, who might have realised supreme bliss in the services of Shree Rang now ?
However, automatically one is reminded of the neem-tree whenever Nareshvar is thought of.
LORD DATTATREYA - THE CARE TAKER
Shree Keshavdas Sheth from Sarkhej, once had gone to see Shree Rang at Nareshvar. After a brief chat with him Keshavdas asked for water to drink.
Shree Rang told him that he was not well and hence could not bring water from the Narmada that day.
Keshavdas was astonished and distressed to here those words.
"What a pity ! Haven't you informed anybody about your sickness ?" asked Keshavdas in a voice choked with anxiety.
"Omniscient Lord Dattatreya knows every thing ".
" That's true. But you have chosen quite a desolate spot for your penance. few people know about your stay here."
"Everything is ordained by Lord Dattatreya. I am sure, he has sent you here ..,ok after me. " Shree Rang. Then pointing to a corner he further said, " Friend, please, get the pitcher from there and fill it with water from the Narmada. I am too is in need of water only, now."
Shree Keshavdas affectionately served Shree Rang by fetching water from the Narmada.
Once, at mid-night when Shree Rang was asleep in the verandah of Datt-Kuteer, two masked dacoits dressed in black and armed with lethal weapons came there for theft.
In no time one of the dacoits sat near the head of Shree Rang and the other one set himself at his feet. Though awakened by the hustle he did . not get up and decided to watch the movements of the dacoits.
"Get up, ye bawaji. Open the door of your hut. " Said one of them sternly.
"It's bolted only. You may open it. "Replied Shree Rang without getting up.
"You boob, follow us inside and hand over your belongings. Be quick. "Roared the other one.
"My cottage is a treasure-chest. In it lies the wealth of the universe. Take away as much as you would like to have. "Shree Rang, who had surrendered himself to the Almighty, replied calmly.
Hearing the unexpected reply the dacoits were dumbfounded. However, one of them asked, " Aren't you afraid of us ?
"Not the least." Shree Rang said further, " I'm all alone. What's there to bother about ?"
"If anybody will try to beat you up, what will be, your reaction ?"
"None has till this day hurt me. Come on. One of you may catch up me while the other try to blow down. Then only my reaction will be revealed. "'Shree Rang.
Baffled by the uncommon answers from Shree Rang the two dacoits were humbled down. They certainly realised that they had come to a wrong place.
The dacoits then hurried back to the spot where they had tied their horses. Within minutes they mounted the horses. All the rest of the night the dacoits whipped and lashed their horses to go far away from the place of Shree Rang; but they found themselves around Nareshvar only. At last, at the day-break, the dacoits could get away from the place of penance of Shree Rang i.e. Nareshvar.
LORD DATTATREYA - THE PROTECTOR
Once a poacher, maybe with the intention or otherwise of killing the other birds for cooking purpose, shot a peacock. The wounded creature soon died. Then to save himself from the punishment the morally debased poacher put the corpse of the peacock in the old caravanserai near the temple of Lord Shiv at Nareshvar. The wily man thought that the matter would be known the next day and Shree Rang, who had been living alone there would be punished or asked to leave the place.
Next day, early in the morning, hardly Shree Rang had finished his meditation, Kamaldas, an artless admirer of Shree Rang came panting and said faltering, " Bapji, a great misfortune awaits you".
" What's It " asked Shree Rang casually.
Kamaidas gave a full account of the happenings.
" It's horrible. Killing of peacocks is unlawful. What shall we do now ?"
"Leave the matter to me, Bapji, "Said Kamaldas without hesitation and set out for finding some way out. He then asked a villager, going to Lilod, a village nearby, to send a police to Nareshvar to investigate the matter.
On his arrival there, the police grasped the truth in no time and arranged for the destruction of the corpse of the peacock by plunging it into the Narmada.
All was over within a short time.
"It is you (Lord Dattatreya) who creates and brushes aside the calamities to test the adequacies of your devotees." Muttered Shree Rang and engaged himself as usual in his routine.
Standing in the chest-deep water of the river Narmada once, Shree Rang was offering prayers to the Sun. With eyes shut ; hands folded and the whole body quite steady lie was in fact totally dumb, deaf and blind to the whole world at that time.
An abrupt uproar erupted from the shore.
What was it ?
The people ashore witnessed three crocodiles approaching Shree Rang from the three different directionsEast, South And North.
"Crocodiles, Bapji,crocodiles, " shouted the people.
Shree Rang was engrossed in his prayers and the distance between him and the crocodiles was diminishing rapidly.
"Enough of prayers, Bapji, crocodiles. " The tumultuous noise of the people struck him again.
Shree Rang opened his eyes slowly and looking around grasped the frightful situation in the twinkling of an eye. Immediately he took some water in his hand and with the chanting of some incantations sprinkled it in all the three directions from which the crocodiles were rushing to him.
Then looking to the crocodiles he said, " Have you come here to bless me, oh, celestials ? And that too in such a peculiar form ? I think I am blessed now If you desire to be blessed by me, all right, I bless you. Now please, get away from this place. All the children, men and women ashore are panic struck by your emergence. So please, now go away. " Saying so he again sprinkled some water towards the crocodiles and they disappeared in the river instantly.
SCORPIONS: NAY. TRINITY.
At night, one day, in front of the verandah of the old cellar, Shree Rang was lying on a mat. Shree Modikaka, his nearest disciple was seated at his feet and both were engrossed in gossiping.
Accidentally Modikaka noticed a scorpion crawling slowly from the eastern side upwards near the head of Shree Rang.
"Scorpion, Bapji ! yelled Modikaka.
Shree Rang raised his head : looked at the scorpion and moved a bit aside. Meanwhile Modikaka brought tongs from the hut of Rukmamba. Cautiously he caught the scorpion and set it free beyond the fencing.
The talk between Shree Rang and Modikaka was resumed further.
After half an hour, another scorpion, a bigger one, approximately six inches in length, emerged from the western side. It was creeping to the same spot where the first one was detected. Vigilant Modikaka caught sight of the horror and abruptly tonged the poisonous creature. It was set free beyond the fancing as was done in the case of the former one.
Regardless of the passing night Shree Rang and Modikaka continued their conversation, which encompassed various subjects such as religion, philosophy, social and cultural matters, etc.
Within a short time, afterwards, third scorpion was seen by Modikaka. It was approaching speedily towards the same place where the former two had been spotted.
"Big scorpion, Bapji, " Burst aloud Modikaka.
Shree Rang stood up and cast a glance at the scorpion. It was indeed a horrific one about the length of nine inches. The dark blue - black coloured scorpion was verily a herald of death.
"Bring bigger tongs, " Saying so to Modikaka Shree Rang properly pressed the scorpion by the end of his walking stick. The deadly poisonous insectivorous creature wriggled and writhed to set itself free from the agony. Its violent movements rather implied that the natural course of life of the forest dwelling creatures is unnecessarily obstructed by the human beings.
By that time Modikaka brought a bigger tongs and skillfully caught the scorpion and set it free beyond the fencing.
Trinity-Brahma (Creator), Vishnu (Sustainer) and Mahesh (destroyer) in disguise of the scorpions had come to inform him that Shree Rang needed rest and hence the endless conversation should be stopped thought Modikaka. Immediately then bowing before Shree Rang in reverence he departed from him to his own room.
CLEANLINESS IS GODLINESS
The smokers, especially, villagers from rural areas do not care to throw about the stubs of bidis [Bidi- (Rural cigarette) - Tobacco stuffed in the dried and rolled up leaves of some peculiar trees] and cigarettes anywhere. Some smokers even disregard, at times, he troubles of non-smokers beside them. Whenever urged to, from within, they start smoking. Sometimes, smokers defile
sanctity of the peaceful and clean abodes of religious importance.
All those factors were known to Shree Rang and as such in the beginning of his stay at Nareshvar, when a group of villagers had once came to visit him, he himself before hand, declared, " I know, many of you are smokers. I don't mind it. But I earnestly request you not to smoke in the premises of this place. This is a spot, exclusively selected by me for penance. It should be clean and free from any kind of pollution."
"We all agree with you Bapji said the villagers.
"Moreover, the smoke emanating from bidis cigarettes is unbearable to me. It may cause me vomitting too. So I pray you not to smoke here.
One of the villagers stood up and said, " Bapji, we ashamed of smoking. But from our childhood we a habituated to smoke. Nobody objected to it. Even our parents and elders in our family never advised us to abstain from it. It is as if one of the parts of our lives, now."
"May be. But the precincts of Nareshvar should not and never witness a single curling of smoke from bidis or cigarettes at any time. "Shree Rang.
"We'll never disregard your words, Bapji", assured the villagers.
"Thank you, friends. May I say something more . Shree Rang.
"What ?" The villagers.
"If allowed to smoke," continued Shree Rang," it ma pose another problem. As you know, I am the only dwelle of this place. The butts of bidis and cigarettes thrown away anywhere, here, shall have to be swept aside by me only Will it not waste precious time of my penance?
"Certainly Bapil," said the villagers.
"If kept unswept, the remnants of bidis and cigarettes will soon form a carpet spread all over this place or heaps of butts will be soon here and there."
"No, no Bapji. Nothing will happen like that, We'll never smoke bidis or cigarettes in this campus. You're our pole-star. We wish that you should be here for ever to guide and bless us. " the villagers.
PACKET OF SUGAR
Shree Motibhai Patel accompanied with the Patel Kahana I had once been to Nareshvar to visit Shree Rang While returning from there, Motibhai hung a small hand bag on a hook in the verandah of the kuteer.
Looking to the hand-bag, immediately asked Shree Rang, "What is the bag?"
" A packet of sugar is kept in it. "Motibhai.
" What for ?"
"I've seen that visitors from far and near, on and often come here to see you. Many of them are found tired and hungry. I
"Do they expect tea from here ?"
"Certainly not, Bapji. But tea-addicts will be glad to have it and return from this place, rather contented. " Motibhai.
"What about other visitors ? " Shree Rang.
"Other visitors ?" Motibhai.
"There may be other visitors addicted to so man other things. Will you also manage to keep here ready the things they wanted to have?"
"Didn't understand your point, Bapji."
"Coffee, hashish, heroin ----- even liquor-addicts may come here to see me…"Shree Rang.
"What about their reception ? Go on…Pile up tins and tins of tea, coffee as well as hashish and heroin…and also barrels of liquor for the addicts. It is not enough. Arrange to employ one person also with the duty of serving these things to the visitors. " Shree Rang.
Dumbfounded Motibhai had no courage to argue with Shree Rang about the necessity of sugar only. He was convinced that fully intent upon the spiritual practices, Shree Rang would not allow such things to be stored at his place of penance.
However, Nareshvar being located on the track of the trekking of Narmada, some of the benevolent persons thought it wise to keep some edibles ready there for the pilgrims. This point was discussed with Shree Rang. Only on the pretext of serving the pilgrims, he agreed with the proposal putforth and roasted grams only were allowed to be distributed to them from the place of his penance i.e. Nareshvar.
Years ago, Morar, a fisherman staying nearby Nareshvar was working as a sweeper in the ashram of Shree Rang.
Those were the joyous and pious days of Navaratri. Daily at noon, at about 3-00 p.m. bathed again, Shree Rang used to go into his cellar to read Chandipath. Once, before the period of Navaratri was over he had to leave Nareshvar to go elsewhere and he did so accordingly.
On the very next day, as usual, Morar started sweeping the surroundings of the cellar. To his surprise he heard the voice of Shree Rang from the cellar. The recitation of Chandipath was going on in a sonorous voice.
To ascertain the fact, Morar stepped forward to go around the cellar. As he came in front of the door of it, he saw that it was closed and locked.
By this phenomenon Morar was petrified for a moment. But soon he was recovered. However, a series of questions haunted him.
'When did Shree Rang return ?… Actually when he retired to the cellar ?… Who locked the cellar again ? and so on.
In frenzy Morar even climbed a neem tree quite close to the cellar. At that time he resembled Hanuman, the monky chief of Rama, hidden in a Shimshapa tree in the Ashoka garden of Ravana (The king of Lanka). Just as Hanuman, with a sense of awareness studied the gestures and movements of Seeta (Rama's consort), resultant from the vain persuasions and threatenings by Ravana, Morar \Watched the celler, though from outside, with inquisitive mind.
When no abnormity was detected Morar slowly descended from the tree and further noiselessly landed on the roof of the cellar. As the place i.e. the ashram of Shree Rang was a desolate place, calmness prevailed there and as such the recitation of Chandipath was quite distinctly audible from the -oof of the cellar. The recitation, however encouraged Morar to carry on his business. Otherwise he was rather afraid of staying there alone, especially in absence of Shree Rang.
Morar afterwards disclosed the incident to Muljibhai Gor, who in the absence of Shree Rang used to stay at night at Nareshvar.
Muljibhai asserted that Morar was not an ordinary sweeper. He too was devotee of Shree Rang and that he had no cause for fear. Shree Rang was there to protect him. Devout Morar also was more convinced of the powers of Shree Rang and did his job without any apprehension in future.
Shree Amrutlal Nathalal Modi, befriended with Shree Rang in his boyhood and later turned into his close disciple happened to go to Nareshvar within a couple of days after the incident. No sooner did he enter the campus, he was apprised of the happenings by Muljibhai and Morar. Thereupon turning to the cellar said Shree Modi with folded hands, " Jay Gurudev. You are with us."
EVIL SPIRIT WARNED OFF
Once, Mulifoi was returning from the Narmada. Over her head was placed a pitcher filled with water and on her shoulder hung a bundle of wet clothes, just washed. It was midday and all was quiet and calm in the surroundings; except for a bellow from a herd grazing in nearby fields or a casual chirp of birds, at rest, in the trees.
On the way to the ashram, Mulifoi felt that someone was pulling her saree ( Major piece of outer clothing of women in India). At first she thought that gusts of wind might have caused the fluttering. Hence, she neglected it and speeded up her steps. Again after few seconds she had the same sensations of jerky movements. Nay, at that time, she was even being dragged into sideways. So aghast, she looked around to find out the source of the act of pulling her saree away; but none was there to meet her eye.
As no one was in sight of her, Mulifoi suspected some foul play. Moreover, it was well known that Nareshvar was a place beset with ghosts and evil spirits who always relished in harassing the passers by, through such malice.
Nareshvar, in those days was also a crematorium for the seven villages from near and around. Though, in any way, Mulifoi tried to see the invisible Duhshasana, her efforts bore no fruits. Hence, attacked by the evil spirit and repeatedly calling aloud for Shree Rang to come for her help, she started running towards the ashram.
As soon as she was in front of Shree Rang, Mulifoi broke down on his holy feet and wept uncontrolled for a while. Presently calmed down she narrated the whole incident to him. Learning about it Shree Rang immediately rushed to the spot and turning to all directions, in a loud voice exhorted the evil spirits, " Ye, all the evil doers,hark, hark ! No one should be harassed by you henceforth. The whole campus of Nareshvar must be free from your pranks. Harassment to anybody, including animals and birds as well, will not be tolerated."
High sounding voice of Shree Rang reverberated throughout the precincts of his place of penance i.e. Nareshvar, which resulted in driving away the evil spirits forever from it.
Once, a couple, accompanied by their daughter went to Nareshvar. After paying due respects to Shree Pang, the parents of the girl complained before him that their daughter was not putting on bangles. And that to keep hands without bangles, especially by virgins and married women is considered as inauspicious.
Shree Rang quietly listened to them and then asked the girl to bring some water for him to drink. The girl, who had also a deep respect for Shree Rang, without delay, got up from the place and brought a glassful water and placed it before him.
Looking to the hands of the girl Shree Rang qaid, "Sorry, / Can't accept this water brought by the hands, devoid of bangles on. "
Ashamed of her unmannerly tendency, immediately the girl fell at the feet of Shree Rang and begged for his mercy. She also told him that thereafter she would not keep her hands without putting bangles on..
SUPPLY OF POWER
Shree Thakorbhaii N. Patel, a medical practitioner from Bharuch, once, asked Shree Pang, "Bapji, / can't manage to come to Nareshvar, as and when desired by me. How is it ?"
" Why do you long for it ?" Shree Rang.
" For my elightenment. "
" You've electricity at your place. Did you ever try to think about the distance of the po wer-house from your place ?"
"No, never, Bapji. " Thakorbhai.
"Do you often go to the power-house ?"
" Not necessary. Mere proper connection with the power-house
is sufficient to dispel the darkness from my house. "Thakorbhai.
"Exactly. Friend, adopt the same policy. Connect yourseff mentally with Nareshvar. It's enough to get enlightened. " Shree Rang.
Trekking Round the Narmada
TREKKING ROUND THE NARMADA
The river Narmada has its source in the Amarkantak mountain (Madhya-Pradesh). It flows through the three states- Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat. It merges into the Pashchim Sagar (Arabian-Sea) near Bharuch (Guiarat).
There are several sacred places on the either side of the Narmada.- It is believed, therefore, that the trekking along the entire track of it on foot and by visiting the holy places brings one salvation. Hence, from down the ages saints, seers, ascetics, etc. undertake at least, once in life, the trekking round the Narmada. It is a pilgrimage of about 2200 k.m. and as such it takes about three years to complete the trekking. Nevertheless, some devout and determined trekkers complete it within a year despite of many hardships and less comfort. But undeterred by the adversities such as hunger, thirst, illness, fatigue etc. many a time in the course of trekking, Shree Rang completed it within a considerably short period of one hundred and eight days and returned to Nareshvar safely.
In the course of trekking Shree Rang met with saints, seers, radicals as well as fake ascetics and hypocrites. It was also experienced by him that at may places generous people are eager to dole out any kind of help to the trekkers. Nay, they rather persuade them to accept food, clothing, etc.
Conversely, Shree Rang encountered thieves and robbers who were out to sack the pious pilgrims. All the petty belongings of the pilgrims are carried away by these ever hungry people. Not even a single piece of cloth is allowed to remain with the pilgrims by the robbers. Moreover, disappearance and reappearance in and from the dense forests is a child's game for these species. The pilgrims and trekkers set out to obtain peace and bliss by visiting holy places and persons never run after the robbers and go ahead unperturbed. Moreover, robbed off completely the trekkers are compelled to beg for clothes from the nearest human habitation. Some generous and kind people no doubt, hand out food, clothing, etc to the needy ones; but some unscrupulous fellows scold and drive away the meek and miserable lot. These wretched incidents, closely witnessed by Shree Rang made an indelible mark upon his mind which made him sad deeply.
The trekkers are sometimes supposed to face the hordes of barking dogs on the outskirts of villages, in particular. Infuriated by the sight and arrival of strangers, the rusty dogs are otherwise quietly couched here and there. But the wild animals such as tigers, bears, wolves etc. found roving about in the jungles is at times, a real threat to the trekkers. The grace of God only in real sense, saves the pilgrims and trekkers from such difficulties and dangers and enable them to complete the course of holy pilgrimage.
In the course of trekking Shree Rang purposefully refrained from talking in English as well as in Sanskrit. People able to talk in these languages are regarded as educated fellows and are therefore respected and favoured by the general mass by offering any kind of help to them. Shree Rang, who had undertaken trekking only for the purpose of visiting the holy shrines and if possible to meet and serve the saints and seers, deliberately avoided to be known as an educated one. After all he was a pious trekker. Fame, wealth, material gain, undue facilities, treatment meted out to V.I.Ps etc. were absolutely out of his mind while in trekking. Fully relied upon HIM and constantly chanting HIS name he was striding forward and forward.
Once, a man of high position had by chance met Shree Rang on his way. Anyhow, he judged the greatness of Shree Rang and hence to make his further trekking comfortable, to some extent, the man issued instructions to his relatives and friends staying at some of the places coming in the way of Shree Rang that they should provide him all the requisite facilities on his arrival there. But clever Shree Rang sensed the planning and quashed it by changing his scheduled trekking by shortening or delaying stays at those places.
While passing through the regions or localities where Marathi was spoken, Shree Rang deliberately talked in other languages viz. Hindi, Gujarati etc. Because talking in Marathi there, would have gained him respect and facilities. ( Marathi was the mother toung of Shree Rang).
It is well-known that many Gods and Goddesses as well as their so called incarnations are worshipped freely in India. Many kinds of divergent faiths are also studied and followed, there, by their respective followers. Though the ultimate goal of all the faiths is one and the same, the followers of them are not found so much co-operative to one another. Hence, to keep himself away from incurring wrath or favour from the followers of any kind of faith, Shree Rang in the course of trekking, never expressed or advertised the cult, sect or the line of devotion adopted by him. As far as possible he stayed all alone so as to get sufficient time to go further in the field of spiritualism by taking recourse to meditation, chanting His name, occasionally visiting saints and seers, etc.
Though aloof from crowd or bustle Shree Rang was always eager to serve the ailing, wailing, weak and sick. He pulled the thorns from the feet of the affected ones. He served the sick by bringing water, milk, food, etc. from the nearest sources. He also physically supported the lame and crippled ones stumbling over stony and uneven paths and especially along the rocky bed of Narmada.
In the course of trekking Shree Rang never begged for edibles. Only some jaggery ( one kind of crude sugar) was his meagre demand. Taking a bit of jaggery mixed with water was enough for him to go ahead. Greedy beggars, scampering from house to house in the vain hope of getting delicious items and that too at the point of cloyed dislike, sometimes, tried to goad Shree Rang to follow them ; but he stayed away from them. Of course, it is opined that begging in course of trekking round the Narmada makes one humble and free from egotism.
Various kinds of miseries were experienced while in trekking by Shree Rang and hence in his later life, when he was settled at Nareshvar, had, instructed the organisers and volunteers there that they should be kind and sympathetic to the needy ones and try to supply them water, food, clothing, shelter etc., at least to some extent. Even today, one witnesses the fact that the instructions and guide-lines issued by Shree Rang, in respect of provision of food, shelter etc, to beggars, trekkers, pligrims, etc. are followed and executed in true spirits.
OBSERVANCE OF RULES
Following rules are generally observed during the course of trekking.
1 . To tread the entire route of trekking bare-footed.
2. Trekkers should try their best to take bath in the Narmada, at least, once in a day.
3. Abstention from taking tea, coffee, cigarettes, hashish, heroin, etc. is advantageous for a trekker, otherwise addiction to such items is likely to make him dependable upon others for getting these things. Moreover, such undesired trend will mar the spirit of holy trekking.
4. Consumption of garlic, onion, brinjals, masur-pulse, etc. is particularly prohibited during the course of trekking.
5. Though hungry, a trekker is not supposed to beg for edibles from houses numbering more than five at a time. Besides this, readiness to face starvation is expected on any day or for days together. In such situation, nothing else but the water from narmada is the only intake for trekkers.
6. A trekker has to cook by himself the raw edibles obtained by begging or doled out to him. Also he himself should carry his meagre belongings. Any service from other fellows, co-trekkers, etc. should be avoided as far as possible. Self-service, and self reliance can only lead a trekker to his pious goal rather quickly.
7. Total indifference towards the quality and quantity of food served or prepared and to the taste and time of meals should be nurtured by the trekkers.
8. A trekker is not supposed to have hair-cut or removing of hair from any part of his body; because the sense of looking fair and tidy perhaps may diverge him from the path of spiritualism as undertaken by him.
9. Not to keep money with. It may, in case, tell upon the life of trekkers.
10. A trekker is expected to lie down upon the bare floors of temples and public-halls or under any suitable shelter. Many times he had to lie down for rest or for going to sleep in bed of Narmada. In any case, use of carpets, mats, sacks, etc. is proscribed during the trekking.
11. Observance of celibacy, in all its true senses i.e. by body, mind and speech is the most important and essential factor during the trekking of Narmada.
LORD DATTATREYA-THE GUIDE
Once, in the course of trekking Shree Rang lost his way and was just about to enter a dreadful jungle. Absorbed in chanting the name of Lord Dattatreya, he could not notice whether the path ahead was leading to anyvillage or a jungle. Away from the noise and nuisance, crowd and tension generally common inhuman -dwellings, he was marching inward alone. Trekking was not amatter of fun or frolic or pastime business for him and hence no friend or a guide, no servant or a cook as well as no vechicle-animate or inanimate was with him. He did not carry evan a backpack loaded with mirror, shaving-set, diaries, books, binoculars, cameras, torch, thermos, etc. alongwith.
At one stage, there were two paths directing in two different directions. Shree Rang was totally unknown about the right path. So he stopped for a while, thinking which track should be followed. Meanwhile, a half-clad robust fellow with sun-burnt black skin appeared before him. A bunch of dried twigs over his head and an axe loosely hung on one of his shoulders showed that he was a woodcutter.
On coming closer, the wood-cutter asked Shree Rang, "Where are you going, bavajee ? Aren't you Parikramavasin ?',
"Yes, I am,"
"You have lost the right track, friend. Come on. Follow me. I'll lead you to the right one."
Saying 'Thank you' to the wood-cutter Shree Rang followed him.
While marching ahead Shree Rang had a brief talk with the wood-cutter. In the course of conversation with him it was known that he was going to a nearby village to purchase some heroin.
As soon as a village was in sight, the wood-cutter left Shree Rang alone and hurried towards the Narmada, Shree Rang thought that he might have gone for drinking water and would return soon. So without waiting for him Shree Rang started to pace forward in the direction of the village.
On the outskirt of the village, before entering in it, Shree-Rang turned about to see whether the wood-cutter followed him.; but he was not in sight. So, directly he went to the shop of a heroin seller where the wood-cutter was expected to go. On enquiry with the shop keeper it was revealed that no such wood-cutter had been there.
Shree Rang waited a bit for the wood-cutter. As nobody turned up to the shop, he said to the shop-keeper, "I'm to stay here overnioht in an inn. I am too much eager to meet the wood-cutter. So, as and when any man, approaches you for the purchase of heroin, please inform me immediately."
Whole of the evening and the night passed away but nobody turned up to the shop for a purchase of heroin. Finally Shree Rang was fully convinced that none else but Lord Dattatreya, in disguise of a wood-cutter had been there to show him the way through the jungle.
"How merciful is Lord Dattatreya" said Shree Rang to himself. "None but he became my guide in my distressed condition."
WHILE IN TREKKING
To trek along the river Narmada is not a matter of walking over a path strewn with petals of roses. As the pilgirms were supposed to tread the path on foot; that too bare-footed, thorns from different kinds of shrubs and trees were the prominent obstruction to desist them from going ahead or at a speed already calculated by them.
Boulders, stones and also very small particles of rocks and sand, at many a place were eager to hurt the feet of the piligrims. Many times the pilgrims had to proceed further with their feet bleeding profusely due to piercing by thorns and particcles of roks. Shree Rang had to undergo the agonies caused by thorns and rocks.
Shree Rang did not prefer to have a hair-cut or shaving in the course of trekking. Therefore matted locks, formed overhead and the untrimmed beard and mustaches gave him an appearance befitting to rogues roaming in remote forests. At times, he was also suspected to be a spy of any agency and pried impertinently into his activities. But soon it was being revealed that he was nothing else but a pious man totally indifferent towards the worldly affairs and always lost in meditation. Moreover, sparkling eyes of Shree Rang always released sublime bliss and peace upon the persons and animals those happened to be in front of him.
Completely relied upon Lord Dattatreya Shree Rang, throughout the course of trekking, whenever felt uneasy, avoided to take medicine. At many an occasion he was caught with fever; sometimes harassed by vommiting; sometimes affected by polluted water. Whatever it might be, regardless of the consequences, Shree Rang never tried or asked for medical treatment from anybody.
Otherwise, now a days, trekkers, especially in Himalayan ranges and the regions alike, stuff their rucksacks with pain-balms, insect - repellents, water purification pills, expectorants, laxatives, etc. to get relief from fever, headache, cough, cold, etc.
Once, Shree Rang was at rest at an inn. Constant walking and irregularity in taking food and sleep, as is experienced-in the course of trekking made him feverish at that time. A police who was ordered to search for sick persons in nearby area of a city approached him and asked, " Are you sick, Bavajee?"
"No. I'm very much tired due to constant walking."
But the feeble tone and the motionless state of Shree Rang could not satisfy the police and he immediately called for a doctor.
On arriving, the doctor examined Shree Rang -and advised him to take some medicine. The doctor further told him that the further track of trekking passed through a city where plague was rampant, Therefore each and every person passing through that city had to be administered an anti-plague injection.
Shree Rang thanked the doctor for his advice but politely refused to take any medical treatment, He said, "Doctor, I need rest only for some hours. I am sure, tomorrow, early in the morning I'll be fresh to go further."
But the doctor said, " I won't allow you to leave this place without anti-plague treatment. I am entrusted the duty of giving anti-plague injections to all the pilgrims and travellers passing through this area."
"I don't want to deviate you from your duty, doctor, but ".....
"It won't do. I'm responsible for your health. "Doctor.
"Well, doctor, should I give you in writing that in case of any mishappening I myself is responsible and none else, " Shree Rang.
But the doctor showed no signs of keeping Shree Rang away from immunisation.
Moreover it has been many times realised that doctors preferably respond in a better way to the queries and treat the patients more sympathetically when they talk in English with them. Taking into consideration this point, Shree Rang argued a bit, in English with the doctor about the immunization from the disease and how anybody can be affected by any disease and that he should be let off, etc. The doctor then could easily assess the intelligence and firmness of Shree Rang and left him at his will.
After departure of the doctor, the police, who witnessed the incidence approached Shree Rang said with folded hands "Bavajee, Don't worry. You proceed further tomorrow in the morning."
"Thank you", Shree Rang.
The police then hurriedly left the place and returned within a short time with some milk and fruits. He placed the things brought by him in front of Shree Rang and requested him to accept them, but Shree Rang courteously declined to accept anything and said. "Excuse me, friend. Normally, I take nothing at night,"
The police said nothing in return. He bowed his head in reverence before Shree Rang and left for his duty.
PRANKS OF AN EVIL SPIRIT
Under the dark canopy of the sky Shree Rang was fast asleep on a mat near a well on the outskirt of a village.
Except intermittent barking of village -dogs and other shrill cries of wild beasts like foxes and wolves, flapping of wings by vultures, perched on the trees in vicinity, etc, all was quiet.
All of a sudden a loud noise that of jumping of a human-being in the well disturbed the sleep of Shree Rang. Awakened, he instantly pricked up his ears to the direction of the noise. He tried to grasp the further movements, but nothing was heard for the time being.
After a while again a similar loud noise was heard from the well. Shree Rang cautiously tried to know the facts about the incidence. But to his surprise nothing was heard further. No rippling noise of the water, no cry for, help, no groaning, etc. reached the ears of Shree Rang.
In a trice again the same kind of loud noice issued forth in the tranquil atmosphere.
Some ominous thoughts overwhelmed Shree Rang.
Who may it be ? A case of suicide ? How thrice? Are three persons forcibly thrown into the well or are some silly pranks by ghosts or evil spirits are going on? Strange enough ! No cry no calling to anybody, no efforts to keep afloat !
Brushing aside the disturbing thoughts fearless Shree Rang called aloud, " Who's there ?..... Why plunging into the water again and again? .......
Friend, are you bored by loneliness ?.... Come along. I am here to talk with you. Get rid Of Your obsessions, if any, in my company. Treat me as your friend or brother.
But no response.
Again Shree Rang said, " Whoever you may be.
Please, keep quiet now and let me take rest for the rest of
Thenceforth no noise was heard and Shree 'Rang had a sound sleep.
ENCOUNTER WITH A TIGER
Shree Rang was striding through the dense forest of Shoolapaneshvar. An age-old relation between rocks and rivers is vividly and picturesquely displayed in this region.
At dusk, one day, he stopped at a spot near the confluence of the rivers Narmada and Dev at shoolapaneshvar. Three ascetics from Girnar already had a halt there for a night. When Shree Rang was about to spread his mat on the rocky ground, though at a short distance from them, they shouted, "Ye Bairagi, away away ! Downwards, please".
Shree Rang meekly moved downwards (some what near the confluence).
It was midnight. Shree Rang was resting. All of a sudden a rustle in the bush,-,s cautioned him. Alert Shree Rang spotted a tiger. So immediately he warned the ascetics against danger. Awakened, they added some firewood to the already ignited fire and kept vigil.
Afraid of the fire the tiger retreated.
Once again after an hour the tiger disturbed Shree Rang and the ascetics. But at day break the tiger, as if eager to have a glimpse of Shree Rang could not restrain itself and bounced in front of him from behind.
Staring fixedly for a moment at Shree Rang the tiger turned about and disappeared swiftly in the jungle.
Aghast, the ascetics accosted Shree Rang and said apologizing, "We knew that tigers come here to drink water. So to save ourselves we forced you towards the river bed. Godly as you are, please forgive us. "
"May God show you the path leading towards righteousness." said Shree Rang and marched ahead.
SALUTATIONS TO NARMADA
Packed with passengers, almost all of the trekkers, the ferry was crossing the Narmada near Vimaleshvar, some 13 KM. away from Hansot (Dist. Bharuch, Gujarat). As it reached mid-stream, the turbulent water, there, forced the ferry to lean on either side alternately. Seeing the ferry being tossed up and down, the passengers got horrified. Some engaged themselves in praying to God for the safe journey. Some weak-hearted began to cry. Some yelled and clung to other fellow-passengers; while some devout persons offered coconuts, flowers, etc. to the river to solicit her favour.
Shree Rang kept calm all the while. Amazed with the artless attitude of his, some passengers approached him and asked, "Aren't you afraid of drowning ?"
"No loss or gain awaits me, if I'm drowned in the current or reached safe ashore. " Shree Rang replied unruffled.
"Say' Jaya Narmade' at least once, you dunce. " Said some horrified persons to Shree Rang.
"You seem to be the trekkers."
"Of course, we are."
"Well, then it behoves you to be indifferent towards life and death. What harm is there if the mother Narmada will lap us now ?" Shree Rang.
Hearing these unexpected words, some passengers virtually mistook Shree Rarg as a lunatic and left him alone. At the same time some devout passengers came closer to him and beseeched him to pray to Narmada on behalf of all the passengers to get out of the danger.
Shree Rang closed his eyes for a while and then started praying in a low tone, " You are the only savior, oh, mother Narmada. It is well known through ages that you punish the sinners and grant life and happiness to your devotees. All these travellers regard you as their mother. So, please, let the avowed journey of these passengers be completed danger free. I bow before thee, Oh. mother."
Saying so Shree Rang bowed before the Narmada with folded hands and prayed whole heartedly. The impromptu prayer (originally in poetry- "Vande Narmada" proved
effective and the ferry reached safely the other bank.
No sooner did the passengers land on the soft sand they acclaimed in great reverence " Vande Narmada " (Salutations to Narmada.)
At and around Nareshwar
Shree Rang had stayed for some days at Aranyeshvar, near the village Titodara. Shree Ratanlal alias Mahatma from Sarkhej was with him at that time.
It was rainy season. So due to heavy rains, one day, the Narmada was inching fast upwards. The temple of Lord Shiv where Shree Rang and Ratanlal had stayed was sure to be submerged in the rising flood.
The worshipper of the temple being a compassionate fellow, exhorted Shree Rang and Ratanlal to leave the place for some other safe abode as early as possible. The villagers from Titodara too implored Shree Rang to vacate the place temporarily, as they had many time, in the past, witnessed the level of the flood waters at Aranyeshvar. Finally Ratanlal also thought it wise to go to the village Titodara for a day or two and told Shree Rang accordingly. But Shree Rang seemed reluctant to go elsewhere.
"Do you remember,Ratantal, recently I had trekked Narmada on foot all along its entire track on both the sides? Methinks, now, mother Narmada wants to circumvent me. " said Shree Rang calmly.
Ratanlal, shivering to to the, spines kept silent and stayed devoutly with Shree Rang.
Shortly afterwards, the turbid and turbulent waters of the flood passed ahead swirling around the temple, while Shree Rang was engaged in prayers.
Shree Ratanlal feeling relieved of the danger thanked God and bowed to Shree Rang.
A PURCHASE BY HEART
It was late Shree Hargovinddas Kanjibhai Soni alias Daskaka of Ranapur (Dist : Miyagam, Gujarat) who at first suggested Shree Rang about the holy place Nareshvar for the spiritual practices. Flaving personally also realising tranquility and sanctity of the place Shree Rang settled at Nareshvar for penance. Generous Daskaka.' now and then was serving him by providing with whatever the latter needed.
Muliben (reverentially now called as Mulifoi), the daughter of Daskaka, at that time did not so much appreciate the tendency of her father of serving the pilgrims, hermits, etc, On the contrary she always criticised that those so called idle vagrants were virtually a burden to the society and should not be pampered by supplying food, clothing, etc. However, being submissive to her father Muliben never disobeyed Daskaka and formed a habit of serving the nomadic lot.
Astute Daskaka though had early realised the greatness of Shree Rang from the very beginning; Muliben had no knowledge of it. However, she was a cultured young lady. She had by that period read Shreemad Bhagavad Geeta, stories from Ramayana, Mahabharata, etc. and as such while going to nearby cities like Vadodara, Bharuch, etc. she used to ask Shree Rang whether he needed something. But detached as he was demanded nothing from her. Soon Muliben was impressed by the indifferent attitude of Shree Rang and developed a regard for him.
Once, while going to Bharuch Muliben visited Nareshvar and pressed Shree Rang to ask for something.
"If at all you want to bring something for me; please, bring some incense only"
"Surely, Bapji.... Thanks for giving me an opportunity to serve you". Muliben.
"Whether you would purchase the incense by heart for me; it would be realised by you also."
"How ! Muliben.
"Usually, I sprinkle the incense on the ignited coal or dried small twigs in the evening between 8-00 P.M. and 9.00 P.M."
"At the 'time it is fragrant here; you will realise its sweet smell at Kahana too" Shree Rang.
"Let us see." saying so muliben left for Bharuch.
In those days Muliben was staying with her husband at Kahana; at a distance of 5 kms. frorm Nareshvar.
"On return from Bharuch Muliben went to Nareshvar and placed a small packet of aromatic powder before Shree Rang and expressed her reverence to him with folded hands and head bowed down. After sometime she started for kahana. On the way to it she had forgotten about the purchase of the incense for him.
In the evening, as was his routine Shree Rang put some of the incense-powd-er over the ignited coal and the atmosphere was instantly aromatic and antiseptic. At the same time a sweet and pleasing scent emerged in the house of Muliben at Kahana.
When Muliben real i sed the fragrance intensely she wondered about the phenomenon, She at first searched her own house to find out whether any of her family members had sprinkled any aromatic substance over ignited coals. But it was not so. Thereafter she scurried to her neighbours and enquired about the incense. But to no avail.
Ultimately she recalled the words of Shree Rang, "Whether you would purchase the incense by heart for me, it would be realised by you also. "
Muliben rushed to know the time. It was 8.30 P.M.; the same short spell of time announced by Shree Rang. Muliben was too stunned to speak.
Tears rolled down her cheeks and with folded hands turning to the direction of Nareshvar she said, " Forgive me, Oh, saint. I am an ordinary lady. I am unable to judge your greatness. Please forgive me..... Fr,ogive me, oh, saint of Nareshvar!"
BARREN SHE-BUFFALO TURNED FERTILE
It was the year 1936. The first Atithi - gruha (Guesthouse) at Nareshvar \%as under construction. The place selected for the Atithi gruha was naturally at a far more higher level than the river-bed of the Narmada. It, therefore posed a great problem to fetch water from Narmada to meet the requirement of the construction. To solve the problem to some extent a villager proffered a barren shebuffalo. His contribution in whatever forii, it might be, was readily accepted and the she-buffalo too worked all right.
When the construction of the Atithi gruha was completed, with the consent of the said villager Shree Rang asked Shree Chaturbhai to carry it to his residence.
"Serve this docile animal by heart", said , Shree Rang."Provide fodder, shelter, etc.' to it and see that it will repay you soon."
Shree Chaturbhai a social-worker from Diver, at first I instance, was surprised by the sterile gift , However, he meekly obeyed Shree Rang and carried the submissive animal to his place.
In course of time to the surprise of Chaturbhai and all the villagers it was noticed that the barren she-buffalo had turned fertile and soon delivered a calf and consequently
proved a milk-yielding one.
It is rightly said that God executes the words of saints.
(Adapted from the article by "Avatar Lila-Samya Vandhya Bensh Dusvi Dev" by Shree Jayantilal Acharya in Nareshvarno Nad, August 1984).
THE LORD PERVADES ALL
It was the foundation ceremony of a cellar at Nareshvar. The cellar was specially designed as per the instruction from Shree Rang.
Many of the devotees of Shree Rang had visited us hence was Nareshvar for the occasion and all the camp buzzing with activity. When all the religious rites were over, the gathering of the devotees was asked to take seats for the meals.
Battalions of volunteers were serving with dishes. Some volunteers were engaged in supplying water while some of them were spared to guide the visitors. When all the dishes were ready and the devotees had occupied their seats; one of -the members of the manaainq committee came to the fore and prounced loudly "Avaduth Chintan Shree Guru Dev Datt" (Hail ! Supreme Guru Lord Dattatreya).
Such kind of invocation before commencement of meals, especially in connection with religious functions is customary in India. The people eager enough to consume the sumptuous meals followed religious invocation with great enthusiasm and started to eat.
At that very moment Shree Rang came at the spot. He cast a glance at the visitors and greeted them with folded hands. Shree Rasiklal Vyas from Bharuch, who witnessed the perfomance of Shree Rang asked him "How is it that you have honoured these people with folded hands?".
"What do you mean ?"
" These are all commoners. " Rasiklal
" You are mistaken; " corrected Shree Rang "Don't you know, what our culture professes ? The Lord dwells in all the creations-animate and inanimate."
"I know it Sir" Rasikial.
"How do you forget then ? Lord Dattatreya is undoubtedly here in the form of all these visitors. Should I not pay my due salutations to him ?"
Rasiklal was nonplussed to hear the answer and kept mum.
Rarely, one finds such a great man as Shree Rang who regards all the universe as incarnation of the God.
MUSTAFA WAS GRACED
The 48th Rang-Jayanti was to be celebrated at Por(Gujarat) in the presence of Shree Rang. purpose he was being taken from Nareshvar to Por Via Itola.
Out-side the railway station of Itola near the eastern gate, there was a small shop of sundries. The shop-keeper was an old muslim, named Mustafa. He was a very pious man and had a sense of respect for all the saints and seers inrespective of their caste or religion. When he learnt that Shree Rang was going to Por Via ltola, he became glad. Moreover when it was known to him that the procession carrying Shree Rang was to pass by the road where his shop was located, his joy knew no bounds.
'How should I pay my respects to Shree Rang ? Should I honour him by t-nere garlanding? Should I present a piece of cloth to him ? should coconut, bananas, apples etc. be offered to him ? A volley of such thoughts made Mustafa restless. At last he decided to Ihonour Stiree Rang by applying scent only to his body.
As planned by the organisers, on the day preceding the celebration Shree Rang arrived at ltola and from there he was being taken to Por in a procession. When the colourful procession came near the shop of Mustafa he jumped down irom his shop with great enthusiasm with a small vial of scent in its hand. He tried to go near Shree Rang by jostling through the lively mass. But as he was an old man he could not succeed in his efforts and was pushed by the crowd to the rear. He could only see Shree Rang from a considerable distance and returned to his shop in pensive mood with the vial of scent, intact, in his hand.
"Am I so sinful as not to be able to adore the great saint of my region with scent ? .... Saints are believed to be prophets and therefore are divine and omniscient. Shree Rang has been known as a saint, perchance, he will come to know about my keen desire to adore him and will fulfill my cherished wish..." Again a series of thoughts converged in the mind of Mustafa.
On tire same day, at midnight Shree Rang appeared before Mustafa in his bed-room and said, "You have brought some essence for me, is it so?"
"Yes, my Lord." Mustafa.
"Why delay? Apply it to . my body."
Mustafa got up from his bed, rushed to the cupboard and took the vial of the scent out and without wasting a second applied the scent to O'hree Rang all over.
"Are you satisfied?" Asked Shree Rang smilingly.
"At the fullest. " replied Mustafa with a sense of gratification.
"May the Lord bless you. " Disappeared Shree Rang on uttering these words.
Was it dream ?
Confused Mustafa got up from his bed. He observed that it was mid-night and darkness prevailed in his room. Further he noticed that all the doors and windows were bolted. How then there was Shree Rang in his room ?.... Mustafa hurriedly went to the cupboard. It was locked. He opened it and in a trice took hold of the tiny bottle of the scent. To his surprise he found that the vial of the scent though corked tightly was empty.
Next day, early in the morning Mustafa left for Por. On reaching there he saw that already a long queue was formed in the decorated tent to honour Shree Rang. He quietly joined the queue.
The volunteers and the devotees close to Shree Rang, at that time wondered about the fragrance emanating from his body. They all knew that he never allowed anybody to apply perfume to him.
The queue was peacefully pacing forward. When in due course Mustafa was in front of Shree Rang he fell like, a tree, axed to it's roots, at the feet of the great saint. With a voice chocked for a moment Mustafa said, "Ye, Lord, how merciful you are ! You have accepted my scent. I am very much grateful to you.
Shree Rang looked at Mustafa with benign smile and gave him a coconut as a sign of grace.
(Abridged and adapted from an article…"Ratre Swapnama Jai" - by Shree Govind Upadhyay - Shree Rang Darshan, April-May 1970).
THE DOG : BUCHIA
There was a dog (probably in the years 1942-to 1951) at Nareshvar. It was named Buchia. Though its floppy ears were shorn out by someone in its early days it wore a good look.
Buchia had some rare characteristics. It never touched or smelt the edibles partially eaten by others and therefore it was always served with fresh meals. Secondly no volunteers of the ashram had ever troubled to clear out the puddles of Buchia as it had formed a habit to go outside the campus for defecation.
Buchia in its hey-days had a . sturdy body of considerable stature. By nature it was very sagacious. It never hugged excitedly on unfamiliar persons seeking entry into the ashram especially at night. Its timely barking was enough to announce to the ashramites the arrival of the new comers.
Buchia also served as a guide for the people who visited the ashram of Shree Rang. Many times it led the visitors to the Narmada at the predawn hours or late at night and also to the railway station at odd hours. Its lionlike presence, on the whole was quite dependable.
Though Buchia was apathetic to the activities of the ashram during day-times, it was quite vigilant at night. The failing of a leaf or fruit from any tree, the creaking of the doors of the rooms of the inmates and the main - gates, the sound of roving of small boats and rafts plying through the Narmada, etc. kept Buchia stood on its legs. The ashram along with its surrounding area was the beat of Buchia and as such it was never confined to any kennel or pen throughout its life.
In its last days, Buchia was personally looked after by Shree Rang and the mother Rukmamba. When the feeble Buchia was unable to consume or digest hard diet, Rukmamba sedulously fed the quadruped with milk. When Buchia breathed its last Shree Rang himself, with the help of the other ashramites reposed it at a sliady spot in the sacred confines of the ashram.
A small monument is erected in memory of Buchia near the bookstall at Nareshivar. It is called shvansamadhi.
REVA SINGS IN A MELODIOUS VOICE
In was in the year 1961. The Narmda along with its tributaries was forcefully, surging ahead. The ever rising level of the flood-waters was inundating the riverine villages one after another at a great speed. Standing crops in the fields ashore were being washed away. The bovine wealth on either bank of the river was also abating per second.
Situated on the western bank of Narmada Nareshvar was also not spared froi-n the deluge. The devotees of Shree Rang present at that time in Nareshvar assembled around him and apprised him of the impending disaster.
Though conscious already of the flood, unperturbed Shree Rang arose from his seat and with the retinue of his devotees walked to the cabin of water-works upto which flood-waters had levelled up.
Shree Rang calmly cast a nonchalant glance at the vast passing expanse of the Narmada. The mirky and whirling water was flowing down-stream with a peculiar sound.
Shree Rang was highly delighted by the low-pitched sound. Nay, the sound inspired him to pray to Narmada in a poetical composition.
The unbeckoned lyric reads as - "Gayatri Reva Run Madhurum (Reva (i.e. Narmada) is singing in a melodious voice).
After the prayer Shree Rang worshipped the river Narmada with some flowers, offered a coconut and a piece of cloth to boot. Then with folded hands he said, " Mother, be merciful."
How surprising ! The rising waters of the Narmada started receding from the moment Shree Rang begged for mercy.
CENTRE OF ATTRACTION
From dawn to dusk people were pouring into the house of Shree Mistry at Rajpipla; whore Shree Rang had stayed for some days. A man in the neighbourhood wondered about the affairs.
The said man at first went along with some of his friends to the house of Shree Mistry. He observed that the people gathered there were eager to listen to a few words from Sliree Rang. Some were adoring him with garlands; while some were absorbed in meditation. Sometimes 'Lliere was a recital of devotional songs.
The man stuffed with curiosity became restless. He wanted to know the real reason of the people going to the Mistry's house to enjoy the presence of Shree Rang. Moreover, he himself also was being attracted towards Shree Rang and visited the place many times.
Once, the man could not resist himself and directly approaching Shree Rang asked him," Why have you come here, Sir ?"
"I am not here on my own, I've been brought here, replied Shree Rang smiling.
"Will you, please, tell me, why the people - young and old, male and female assemble here all the while ?" asked the man.
"I don't know. You may straightway ask them".
The man, little puzzled could, not do so and after sometime arose from his seat to go home. By then Shree Rang called him and asked, "Friend, why do you come here so aften ? Many other people come here, it's all right. Some of them might have come here only once. But what about you ? I have noticed that you were here several times. Why so?"
"I can't explain, Sir, But whenever I am free from my daily routine affairs, I have an urge to come over here. Some mysterious, superhuman,sublime spirit has pervaded this atmosphere, I feel so . But what's.... that.... I can't interpreted uttered the man helplessly.
"That which is beyond interpretation or definition; but existence of which you cannot deny is divinity. The realisation of it dispels our miseries and that is the real centre of attraction which draws every body towards it" Shree Rang.
FOR LADIES ONLY
Accompanied by Shri Jagannath Trivedi, his humble disciple, Shree Rang happened to board a train, at Varnama railway station. Both were going to Ahmedabad.
It was a second-class compartment meant' for ladies only'. Some of the male passengers, having already occupying seats at the windows misled Shri Jagannath Trivedi to take the compartment as a general. Also there was no spare time at his disposal to search for accommodation elsewhere, Shree Jagannath had to lead Shree Rang hurriedly into the compartment 'For ladies'.
The train left Varnama and within an hour arrived at Vadodara. Accidentally one of the conductors on duty passing by the said compartment noticed the presence of the male passengers in it. Immediately he got in the compartment and asked the passengers to shift to the other ones.
Getting up from his seat Shree Rang said to Jagannath, "it was pardonable enough so long we were unaware of the fact. But now when we have witnessed the reality it would be improper to travel in this compartment."
"Indeed, this is a compartment specifically meant for ladies. Lack of time and inadvertence on my part put you in trouble. " Jagannath.
"Never mind. " Shree Rang.
Meanwhile many recalcitrant passengers were blatantly refusing to shift to another compartment on the plea of shortage of accomniodation, want of time, callousness of railway authorities to the sufferings of passengers, etc., Some unprincipled passengers vainly tried to persuade Jagannath for not to go elsewhere. But Shree Rang who was determined to get down from the compartment asked Jagannath not to mind the false advice of those passengers.
Jagannath picked up the luggage and asked Shree Rang to follow him and finally they both alighted from the ladies compartment before the conductor approached them.
Shree Ramanbhai from Sisodra who had come to see Shree Rang at Vadodara railway station appeared before him. Being apprised of the situation by Jagannath, Ramanbhai was amused too. He instantly disappeared in the multitude of the passengers and within a very short time returned with two tickets for Ahmedabad (reservedfirst class) and gave them to Shree Jagannath.
Once, a mendicant went to a tribal woman and said, "Dear sister, Bapji appeared in my dream and asked me to take food at your place."
The gullible woman in order to respect the words of Shree Rang, though uttered in a dream, sold some of her belongings and entertained the mendicant with a sumptuous meal.
Serving food to anybody and at anytime is an accepted principle in the cultural heritage of India. However, the hasty action taken by the woman displeased her husband, who picked up a quarrel with her later on.
Again after two days the same mendicant visited the same woman and said, "Bapji told me to stay for a night at your place ' . It was what I dreamt last night. Please prepare, therefore, a comfortable bed for me."
The serene woman, though surprised a bit by the unexpected demand from the mendicant, conveyed it to her husband and insisted on to make suitable arrangements for the overnight stay of the guest at their place.
The husband of the woman suspected a foul play in the matter. Therefore, he thought it wise to see Shree Rang and seek his advice. So hurriedly he lead his wife to Shree Rang and told him about the awkward demand of the mendicant who was totally unknown to them.
Shree Rang, thereupon, im I mediately said, " Don't be so much emotional. Be reasonable. Before taking any decision or action try to understand the background of the matter in its true colours. You know that I never take sweets. Likewise, never I insisted upon specific cot or bed as well as soft and silky bed-linens, etc. In such case, how will I direct anyone to you to ask for delicious dishes and cosy beds."
(Adapted from "Ak Patrakar Na Anubhav" by Shree Prashant, Bharuch, published in "Shree Rang Darshan", January 1970).
WHEREVER YOU GO
Baji Patel, a villager from Bhilod ' ia once cordially invited Shree Rang to be his guest. Shree Rang was moved by his candid behaviour and accepted the invitation. After a while the Thakur of Bhilodia called on Shree Rang and insisted that he should stay at his house when he is in Bhilodia.
"I'm first invited by Baji Patel, so I'll stay at his place." Shree Rang.
"It would be inconvenient to you to stay there.' Thakur.
" Whatever it may be, I'll stay there only." Resolutely said Shree Rang.
Normally, it was the adopted policy of Shree Rang to be the guest of the devotee who invited him first. There was no reservation regarding the status of the devotees. He may be a king or a pauper. So on reaching Bhilodia he stayed at the house of Baji Patel. It was a very small and totally inconvenient place. Moreover, the days were hot. All the family members of the Patel were at the service of Shree Rang. They alternately engaged themselves in fanning him with the fans made of palm leaves to ward off the heat.
What a sense of service? The whole family of Baji Patel despite of their poverty and meagre resourses tried to provide comfort to Shree Rang with whatever was at their disposal.
Looking to the circumstances, the ever mindful Shree Rang prayed the Lord, " Oh merciful Dattatreya, please take pity on the family-members of my host, The poor man, Baji Patel, along with his family is taking too much trouble to get me relief from the heat. The ha'nds of the family members must have been tired.' Oh, God let the air be cooled down a bit."
The earnest prayer of Shree Rang was heard by the Lord and within' moments dark clouds, rushed over the area of the locality where Baii patel lived and showered drops of cold water for some time.
After a while the Thakur of Bhilodia came to the house of Baji Patel. He was surprised,to see the soil wet, the trees and plants bathed in fresh water and the atmosphere cool. He asked Shree Rang, " How come it rained only upon such a' small patch of land ? Even the weather is cool here. While at my place it is dry and scorching. The clouds of hot dust are on rampage there while cool and watery clouds loom here."
"The Lord seems to be merciful upon the family of Baji Patel "Shree Rang.
"Should I say..... God is with you? Wherever you go He is with you" Thakur.
Shree Rang smiled only.
HONORED BY MUSLIMS
Shree Rang was above all religions, sects and cults. Once he visited a town where the muslims were in majority. One of the muslims,there observed that many of the people from the town were mad after Shree Rang. Amongst them were Hindus as well as Muslims.
The muslim thought that Shree Rang definitely must have been an apostle or a saint, etc. Otherwise, the people from different faith would not have become so eager to meet and serve him with so much reverence. Nevertheless, in order to test Shree Rang , the muslim led his old and ailing r-aother to Shree Rang and'politely said, " Sir, my mother, despite of adequate medical treatment, of late, is not at all keeping well."
Shree Rang was a mute listener.
The muslim continued, " Sir, Excuse me. I am simple minded fellow. I am in fact unable to guage your divine powers. However,, I request your holiness to grant good health to my ailing mother."
Shree Rang judged the muslim instantly. With closed eyes he concentrated for a while on the supreme power i.e. omnipotent God and then uttered the words," Oh God, I pray you for the good health of this old muslim lady. Oh Almighty, if I am a muslim in true essence ; then my prayers should bear fruits at the earliest."
To the amazement of the people, within a very short time the shattered old lady showed some signs of improvement. The muslim, the son of the old woman who was somewhat skeptical about the divine powers of Shree Rang was humbled by the incidence and paid due respects to him.
From the picturesque region, Konkan hailed a learned brahman, Shree Govind Vitthal Alavani.
Shree Alavani, later known as Alavanidada stayed at Surat for a period of about thirty six years (1926-1962). He was well versed in Sanskrit and had studied the Rigved to the core. At Surat he earned his livelihood by conducting and directing religious functions, rites and rituals abiding by the scriptures.
In the year 1963, distressed by some family-affairs, Alavanidada was seeking solace and guidance from any saint or seer. By his good luck, by that time, somebody suggested him to see Shree Rang to get rid of his worries. Eager as he was, Alavanidada wrote a letter to Shree Rang about his woeful condition and sought a redressal of it. Ever punctilious Shree Rang asked Modikaka to reply the letter stating in it that he was to go to Surat to attend the discourses on Shreemad Bhagawat by.the renowned exponent Shree Ramachandrashastri Dongre Maharaj, in near future, and that Alavani should meet him there. Modikaka did accordingly.
Shortly afterwards, at the meeting with Shree Rang, at Surat, Shree Alavanidada narrated the unhappy condition faced by him and urged Shree Rang to bestow peace and bliss upon him. Shree Rang, therefore told him to come to Nareshvar. Nay, he told Alavanidada to stay there for ever. He agreed to the proposal of Shree Rang and went to Nareshvar. He was there for nearly sixteen years (1 963-1978).
For self-realisation, Alavanidada undertook various religious courses as suggested by Shree Rang at Nareshvar. Chanting of the Gayatri for 1, 25,000 times, constant and faithful repetition of 'Dram' incantation, devout reading of Gurucharitra, recitation of Chandipath for thirty six times, etc.' was the difficult and reliable line of activity followed by him for a certain period. This resulted in acquiring honour and grace from Shree Rang above par for Alavanidada.
Whenever any religious function was to be celebrated at Nareshvar, immediately Alavanidada was asked by Shree Rang to conduct it. Though a band of learned brahmanas was being invited for the purpose, Alavanidada was regarded as the head-priest to look after it.
He too proved himself worthy of the assignments. Without or at times with minimum remuneration he used to perform the religious ceremonies as ordained by the scriptures. Shree Modikaka, once, had said about him that only a man like Shree Alavanidada, totally free from greed and need could stay and serve at Nareshvar . On the occasion of the performance of 108 Datt-yag, at Nareshvar, it was Alavanidada who had explained the correct method of its performance to Shree Modikaka.
Shree Alavanidada was very punctual in dispensing with the duties entrusted to him. All the functions routinely performed from early in the morning to late at night, at the various holy places and shrines at Nareshvar were invariably attended by him. Moreover, no work was insignificant for him to avoid or neglect; likewise no work was important for him so as to take pride and honour in doing it. Regardless of rain, winter and summer he was also found always at the service of the pilgrims and visitors going to Nareshvar. He was also ever willing to receive the lettered visitors at his small room for the purpose of discussions and deliberations on religious and cultural subjects.
After death of Rukmamba, one day, Alavanidada approached Shree Rang and said, "So long as your mother was alive, you tried to stay at Nareshvar. But now, I'm afraid, your devotees will goad you to visit their places on and often. Naturally, your stay at Nareshvar will considerably be less then what it was till now. "
" Possible." Shree Rang.
"How shall I bear the pangs of separation?" Alavanidada.
"What do you want me to do about it?"
" Give me your holy Padukas (sandals). They will be 'you' for me all the time. "with tears in his eyes said Alavanidada.
"Surely. But see that you'll preserve peity of them. Agreed?"
Kind at heart, as he was, Shree Rang gave his wooden sandals to Shree Alavanidada as a pious gift. Later on, the same sandals were handed over by him to Shree Keshavlal of Navagam.
How strange? When mother Rukmamba was cremeted the obsequies were performed by Shree Alavanidada. The final rituals of hers were also directed by him at Mortakka. The same pious fellow had the honor to perform the final rites and rituals of Shree Rang also.
Shree Shivprasad Dave, the then lecturer in Sanskrit at M.S. University of Vadodara had been to Nareshvar, once, to participate in a seminar about ' Life and Letters of Shree Rang Avdhoot'. After the function was over, he stayed there overnight.
At the time of dinner, in the evening Shree Dhirubhai Joshi (lecturer in Sanskrit at Vallabh Vidyariagar, Gujarat), one of the conveners of the seminar noticed that Shivprasad Dave had kept himself aloof and did not attend the dinner. So, immediately Dhirubhai Joshi approached him and asked, "How is it? Aren't you taking your meals?"
"No, thanks," Shivprasad.
"It won't do. Come along. We wish your company". Dhirubhai.
"Sorry, friend. I can't dine with you. My troubles of acidity forbid me to do so."
"Oh, I see. What things will be acceptable to you?" Dhirubhai
"I'll take some milk only." Shivprasad.
As desired by him, Shivprasad Dave was served with milk only at the time of dinner.
Tenth anniversary of Shree Rang was to be celebrated on the very next day. On such occasions learned brahmanas are invited to perform some rituals and afterwards offered meals and things like clothes, utensils etc. in addition to'Dakshina'. So early in the morning of the anniversary Shree Dhirubhai Joshi, as if propelled by some unseen force approached shivprasad Dave and requested him to accept the invitation for the meals in connection with it. Was Dhirubhai not aware of the acidity with Shivprasad ? Certainly he was. But he couldn't hold himself and asked Shivprasad for the meals. WithQ,ut hesitation Shivprasad also accepted the invitation and kept himself ready for it.
On whose behest and in haste the invitation was accepted by Shivprasad Dave ? Certainly, it was true devotion to Shree Rang which induced him to accept the invitation. However, afterwards he said to himself," I'm suffering from acidity. I'm advised by doctors to abstain from so many hard to digest preparations. But.... how should I disregard the 'Prasad' of Bapji ? Whatever is to be served before me would be nothing else, but 'Prasad' of Bapji. I'm invited today for the lunch on account of his anniversary and hence I will accept the food. Guru stands above the God. One's Guru is his saviour. How will he then do harm to his disciples ? Come, what may, I'll eat all the items offered in honour of my Guru. Why to bother about the troubles ? Perchance, my ailments and troubles may run away after taking the pious food."
At the appointed time, midst chanting of the mantras the rituals were completed and the brahmanas were asked to take their meals. Brushing aside all the doubts and apprehensions Shivprasad eagerly consumed . and enjoyed all the delicious preparations-sweet, spiced, fried with ghee and oil; hard, soft and juicy; hot and cold;.etc. to his heart's content.
Though in the beginning of the meals Shivprasad felt a bit of acidity; he soon realised that it was vanished completely. It didn't show it's signs since then. This incident reminds one of the line from Dattabavani "Pet Pidthi Taryo Vipra (A brahman was completely relieved of his severe stomachache (by the grace of the Lord Dattatreya).
Nareshvar, today is an idyllic place. While the emerald green garden and the grove, provide peace, the temples and other places of worship spotted here and there shower bliss upon the visitors. Except the cellar, where Shree Rang undertook and practised severe penance, all other sacred places are liberally utilised by the pious visitors for their spiritual undertakings. visitors coming from near and far off places are given adequate shelter at Nareshvar, irrespective of their race, creed, sex etc. - Free boarding is also available throughout the year for the visitors at Nareshvar.
Rang-mandir is the main attraction of Nareshvar. The imposing statue of Shree Rang in immaculate white marble, installed in Rang -mandir is a unique piece of art. The surrounding four walls of green and white marbles at large form an impressive back-ground for the statue.
Matru-Mandir in front of Rang Mandir consists of a white marble statue of Rukamamba,
Matru Smruti Shaila is just near the Matru-mandir. There is also one bust of Rukmamba at the foot of the Matru Smruti Shaila. Matru-mandir and Matru Smruti Shaila remind the visitors of the inherent good qualities of a real mother.
Between Rang-mandir and Matru-mandir there is a covered court yard. The ceremony of worshipping the sandals of Shree Rang is usually performed in this courtyard. Discourses on religious and cultural topics by eminent scholars are also held at this place. It being the central-place the musical programmes are also arranged there.
Prayer-hall is an oval -shaped structure. The name of the building itself denotes the purpose of the place. The life-size and multicolour pictures of Shree Rang therein, draw the attention of the visitors instantly. At one end of it, there is a statue of Lord Dattatreya. The artistically carved wooden canpoy over the statue is a remarkable work of art. A wooden swing for the Lord Dattatreya and a chair used by Shree Rang are also stored in the Prayer-hall.
Dhyan-mandir is a typical building. The ground floor houses a library Sarasvati-mandir. The collection of books, there, is a feast for the aspirants in the field of spiritualism.
There is a spacious hall on the first floor of Dhyanmandir. Articles viz. apparels, bowls, sandals, sticks, pens, etc. used by and presented to Shree Rang are neatly preserved and artistically exhibited in the hall. To add to the charm and importance of the hall; on all its four walls hung attractive Coloured pictures depicting the main incidents from "Shree Guru Lila Mrut" (Well-known literary work of Shree Rang). These pictures are drawn by Shree Pramod Patel, an artist famous for the linear-designs and appropriate colour-combination. Shree Pramod Patel is a student of the world renowned artist Ravishankar Rawal.
Near Dhyan-mandir there is a book stall run by Shree Avdhoot Sahitya Trust. There one can get all the literature by and about Shree Rang. Also photographs; photogravures, key-chains bearing the photos of Shree Rang, etc. are sold tliere.
Adjacent to the book-stall there is Shvan-samadhi a monument in memory of the dog- Buchia who was a pet of Shree Rang.
Shanti-Nikunj, at Nareshvar is a peaceful abode. It is a small building having one large room. Especially the books read by Shree Rang are preserved in it. The room is sparsely furnished. Thpre are also some life-size oleographs of Shree Rang to boot. The garden around the Shanti-Nikunj is spectacular.
Apart from the number of rooms built (some of thet are donation-based) for the visitors to Nareshvar, some are specifically reserved for sanyasins, saints and the like.
The age-old temple of Lord Shiv is just near the kitchen and the boarding house.
The cleanliness and piety of the Place -Nareshvar is commendable. The prohibition to tune in radio, transistors etc. helps in maintaining peace. By this very rule Nareshvar has become very much conducive to the aspirants for peace and bliss. The ever dutiful staff stationed at Nareshvar do not allow anyone to mar the sanctity of the place in any way.
Though Nareshvar is visited daily by different kinds of visitors-from the tiny tots of kindergarten to the renowned saints and seers, it may not be mistaken that the place is generally meant for tourists and trippers. After all Nareshvar is a holy place in all its splendor.
WHO IS POOR ?
A cousin of an ex-ruler of one of the then States in India, after garlanding Shree Rang placed a bundle of bed-she ts in front of him. Immediately Shree Rang asked him, "For whom?"
"For your sake Bapji".
" One bed-sheet and two langots fulfil my requirement. /, therefore, don't desire to keep any more pieces of cloth in stock. " Shree Rang.
"You may give them to any needy persons. "
" Splendid. You're the proper person I've met. Please accept. " saying so Shree Rang shoved the bundle toward him.
" How, Bapji, you've mistaken me as a pauper?" "Asked the fellow in dismay.
" I've observed that you possess everything. Yet daily you beg for moreandmorefromthe God. While a beggarorapoorpersonisfound satisfied with meagre supply. Dear friend, decide, who is poor or needy?"
Shree Rang was once bathing in the Narmada. Abruptly ot7e man armed with a lethal weapon rested upon his shoulder appeared before hit-n and asked, " Where's Maharaj?"
Shree Pang was reverentially addressed as 'Maharaj' by his devotees and admirers. Naturally, people visiting him used to caH him 'Maharaj.'
The man, with a weapon, by appearance looked like an assailant. Looking at him for a while, Shree Pang, with deep-rooted faith in God thought a bit- If I'm destined to die in the silky stream or in the soft sandy bed of the holy Narmada, what a good luck awaits me. Be it so. Cerlainly, how gracious would it be to die such a decent death than to leave the world as a stinkard.'
Immediately, with folded hands and head bowed down Shree Rang said, "Friend, I'm the 'Maharaj'for whom you are looking. "
The unpolished fellow stared for a moment at Shree Pang and afterwards suddenly broke down at his feet and said, "I'm here to have your'darshan! Bless me, please. "
When the flow of conversation touched astrology, one by one, each traveller started haggling about the good and evil effects caused by the planets afar.
Shree Pang, surrounded by the co-travellers, ' could not tolerate the baseless and uncertain opinions expressed by the half-baked fellows. He, therefore, said in clear terms, " Friends, please listen to me. From a doorman to the high-ranked minister, all the employees of the court respect the person, who is a friend of the king. Likewise, all the planets, who are slaves of the lord of universe ie. Omnipotent God, keep away from his devotees. They don't dare to harass him. "
' (The devotees of Shree Rang who had travelled with him from Nareshvar to the various pious places in Maharashtra, in the year 1950).
Pujya Shri Rang Avadhoot