MY EXPERIENCES IN INDIA-1985 #6
We hired a boat to take us on the river to see the ghats. The boatman narrated as we went, naming the various ghats and their builders. There were a total of three hundred and sixty ghats, built by rich or famous people, and dedicated to various deities. At one end there was the Panch Ganga Ghat, where Swami Ramanand lived, and where Satguru Kabir was initiated by him. There was a shrine housing statutes of Swami Ramanand, Tulsi Das, and Satguru Kabir right on the waterfront. There were rooms upstairs for devotees to rest and spend some time. Swami Ramanand’s Ashram was destroyed by Aurangzeb, who was the son of Shah Jahan, builder of the famous Taj Mahal. Aurangzeb, in his zeal to spread Islam, destroyed many famous temples in India, including Vishvanath Temple of Varanasi, Ram Mandir of Ayodhya, and Krishna Mandir of Mathura. A mosque was built on the spot where Swami Ramanand’s Ashram was, but the mosque is not used now, as it is considered unsafe since two of its domes have broken.
We next visited the Vishvanath Temple, dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva. Before going into the temple we had to buy some flowers and leave our shoes at one of several vendors. We then walked through a very crowded, narrow, and dirty street to enter the temple, which was poorly lit and the floor was wet and cold. It was also very crowded and noisy. People were offering prayers, flowers, and other gifts at various parts of the temple. I did not go through the whole temple, but went outside instead to take photographs of its golden dome.
We also visited the Kabir Bagh (garden), where Hazur Udit Nam Saheb maintained an ashram and a school for young monks. There were about thirty students in attendance who lived there, worked in the garden, tended the cows, did their studies, and worshiped. Diagonally across from the Kabir Bagh was the Lahartara Lake, where Satguru Kabir was found by Niru and Nima in 1398. The lake had been silted over, and was covered with water hyacinths and other weeds. There was one portion to the left that still had visible water and water lilies. There were houses all around the lake, and it no longer looked as it must have been in the days of Satguru Kabir. On this site, Hazur Saheb was building a three-story Smarak (memorial temple) in honour of Satguru Kabir and the Kabir Panth. When finished, it will be a beautiful building housing offices and a printing press in the basement. The third floor will house a congregation hall. Entrance from the outside will be on the second floor. Construction has a long way to go yet, and was delayed mainly because of lack of funds. It will certainly be very good if devotees everywhere could contribute towards the completion of this central ashram, dedicated to the Kabir Panth religion.
While Jagdish and I were staying at the Kabir Kirti Temple in Varanasi, we made an all day trip to visit Magahar where Satguru Kabir took samadhi. We hired a car and driver and left Varanasi at 5:30 a.m. and returned at 7 p.m. The road was generally narrow and rough so travelling was somewhat slow. There was a couple, who were both Kabir devotees from Mauritius, whom we met in Varanasi. They accompanied us on the trip to Magahar. On the way, we passed many towns and villages. There were farmlands all along the road. The distance was approximately 220 kilometres and it took us about four and a half hours to reach Magahar. The narrow road leading from the highway into Magahar, was lined on both sides with trees of mango, jamun, fig and tamarind.
The area we were interested in was where Satguru Kabir’s samadhi is located. We did not go into the town of Magahar. The samadhi was just outside the town in a spacious country-like setting. It is situated on seven acres and was built by Vir Singh Baghel, who was a king of Varanasi. He erected the Hindu section of the samadhi, which contains the ashes of the original flowers that were found under the shroud when Satguru Kabir departed from the physical body. It is a temple-like building about twenty feet square, and at the centre of it is the samadhi made of stone. We had to enter a door with a gate in order to enter the samadhi chamber.
To the left of this Hindu-built samadhi approximately twenty-five yards away is another similar square building housing another samadhi built by Bijli Khan Pathan, who was a Muslim ruler of Gorakhpur. This samadhi was also made of stone and one had to enter through a door with a gate in order to gain access to the inner samadhi chamber. Both of these samadhis were covered over with a shroud. One can walk all around the samadhi within, the chamber being approximately twelve feet square.
Between these two samadhis there is a low concrete wall. This area is managed by Satguru Kabir’s devotees. These devotees who live on the property are householders, and they have children. It was a very nice day, the temperature was approximately twenty-eight degrees centigrade and sunny. We had lunch in the front garden under some shady trees, and one of the devotees brought water for us to wash and drink.
The Indian government has now taken over the care of the ashram and has purchased twenty-five acres surrounding the original seven acres. It is now in the process of constructing a thirty-two acre memorial park dedicated to world religious unity. The government will spend approximately thirty million rupees and finish the construction in about five years. This will be a unique monument in the world, as it represents two major world religions accepting one great saint, Satguru Kabir, as a spiritual leader. The government has acknowledged the potential for the future good by creating such a park as it holds, in high regard, the teachings and efforts of Satguru Kabir in establishing unity between all people. The government has erected a sign in front of the property warning people that it is protected government property and that anyone causing damage to the property will be prosecuted.
To be continued.