CHAPTER - 20

It was the time of Thiyagaraja Music Festival at Thiruvaiyaru. Jitendra had arrived to participate. He was put in a spacious modern bungalow which had been secured for his exclusive use. It consisted of two wings. One of the wings he occupied. The other was allotted to Varadachari family with whom stayed Bharathi. She was entrusted with the responsibility of looking after the comforts of the Swamiji. She would also act as a secretary to him. She was her full-time attendant. The bungalow was well removed from the bustle of the town. It stood alone within a large compound.

Bharathi was brimming with joy during the previous one week that she could hardly sleep. Both Jitendra and Bharathi had three or four music sessions everyday. Soon she had come to feel that her vocal music was just vapid unless it was accompanied by The Swamiji on the violin. Jitendra too felt the same way. His play on the violin was just a mass of discordances unless the vocal music of Dhivya united with it. It was a case of organic blending and psychic rapport. In their union was born a host of heavenly rhythms with which both were infatuated. Eventually Dhivya had begun to feel that her music existed only for Jitendra's violin. Similarly Jitendra too felt that his violin had practically no use or relevance for him unless it accompanied Dhivya's vocal renderings. They discussed Higher Music, and enlightened each other. They found each other's music more and more mellowed every day. Dhivya or Bharathi, by whichever name he called her, she found in it too a lot of music, honeylike music.

Bharathi felt particularly blest every moment she was in his company. It was like a mortal sitting with an immortal and sharing a feast of music. She was all the time conscious that she was face to face with an impalpable and imponderable presence. She could feel his aura, and felt delighted to soak her whole being in it and to experience it, and later to summon back to her mind the full force of it whenever she was alone. She felt herself like a speck of dust before him. When each day the session was over, he would stand up out of courtesy for her, as to a fellow-artist with a talent and knowledge far in excess of his own. She would kneel on ground before him and put her head on his feet in devotion for almost a minute, and then stand up and take his blessings. The great doors of the bungalow were generally closed. They hardly opened except to dignified visitors who had previous appointment. There were two men who always posted themselves at the door to keep guard, and to announce or answer visitors. Nothing was allowed to hinder the privacy of the Swamiji. A Puja room also had been set up for him in the mansion. There was a garden in the backyard which yielded everyday quite a surfeit of scented flowers, a whole basket of them, in dazzling colors. Swamiji performed his Puja everyday from 6 A. M. to 8 A. M. He would chant Mantras and Slokas from Vedas and other holy books. Bharathi would take the basket of flowers into his room exactly at five minutes to six. She would sit with him for meditation and assist him in the performance of the Puja.

Normally Bharathi would get up at 5 in the morning, finish her bath, wear freshly washed clothes, put on vermilion on her forehead, comb her hair, put some flowers on her plaited tresses, and then when she entered the presence of the Swamiji, with a foaming cup of hot coffee, she would look like a nymph fresh from some faraway seraphic regions, looking holy all over. Jitendra would sometimes be amazed at the splendor of her face and figure. She would look like a receptacle in which the light of God overflowed. Jitendra would for a long moment be entranced. Bharathi seemed to complement something which was missing in him or of something he was deficient. He had never seen the face of Goddess Annapoorna. In fact, nobody had. But Dhivya could supply both an idea and an image. Annapoorna was the patron-deity of his family.

Jitendra could recall a discussion he had once with a great sculptor who was in charge of making stone images of gods and goddesses for a temple in Karnataka. He was a famous sculptor and had a masterly knowledge in Shilpa-Shastras, the science and Art of sculpture. He had elaborated to him, during a discussion, the necessity of concentrated prayer to the god or goddess in question and the performance of a set of devotional rites. Then, the god or goddess concerned would themselves guide the sculptor and provide inspiration and work through his intelligence. According to him, when it was the case of making a goddess, the sculptor should not deviate from the structural proportions of the figure to be sculpted mentioned in the Shilpa-Shastras. For a goddess, the breasts must be slightly outsized, well rounded, high set, and flaringly seductive. The body must be slim, but the posterior must be large and weighty. The figure should be less where it ought to be less, it should be more where it ought to be more, large enough to hold the eye where it should be large, the waist must be particularly slender. The grace and beauty should be of a kind that simply excelled. Even as there were different Samutrika Lakshanas for different classes of women mentioned in the erotic literature written by the Rishis, there were very detailed prescriptions on how the figure of a goddess must be sculpted, be it out of stone or metal. The sculpture of a goddess, made according to the Shilpa-Shastra and after observance of the rites enjoined on the sculptor, acquires pulsating power, the life-throb, the moment it is completed and installed after performance of the specified Pujas. It is called Prana-Prathishta, infusing life into sculpted deity. It is from that moment on a live entity. If it happened to be the sculpture of a naked goddess, the vaginal mound should be particularly great-sized, large and heavily fleshed. Hard and sleek. In fact, one should make all these sculptures with utmost Bhakthi. And besides, a sculptor or even a painter should be a highly virtuous and religious man, and should be wholly void of sex till at least he had completed his work.

If that sculptor happened to see Dhivya, he would be delighted to take her as a model for making a sculpture of the Goddess Annapoorna. She was a girl that inspired Bhakthi, spiritual consciousness and at the same time give a mighty impetus to one's artistic resources. As days went by, when Jitendra saw Bharathi the first time every morning, he would chant mentally a short prayer on the Goddess which usually began with the words "Anna Poorne Sadha Poorne". And whenever she served him with food, he would liken her to the Goddess, the Giver of food to all creations, not merely food to satisfy the hunger of the body and the senses, but also to all the hungers, the yearnings and the eternal cravings of the Spirit. She was the mother to all creations. Lord Shiva himself begged his food from Her with the skull of Brahma as His begging bowl. In course of time, Bharathi began to dominate his mind as the Goddess Annapoorna. Later whenever he offered worship to the Goddess of this name in the temple dedicated to her in Benares, it was the face of Dhivya that took hold of him. He would imagine himself standing before her with the begging bowl, the Bhiksha Paatra.

Jitendra had arrived three days before the commencement of the festival. His coming to Thiruvaiyaru made a great sensation in the town. Any number of legends and fables circulated from house to house and street to street. They had never seen him before, but had come to know of him from the newspapers. Now his arrival in Thiruvaiyaru was flashed in banner lines in the dailies which printed his photograph that covered more than one fourth of the front page. He had come to Thiruvaiyaru once or twice before to attend the music festival when he was a student, Varadachari went about saying to everybody. But this was the first time he came to Thiruvaiyaru as a Sanyasin. No VIP could ever become so popular in the space of just a week. People talked of the tons and tons of money his parents had left him which he had spurned, and all of which he was using for charitable purposes. They talked of his extensive and unrivaled reading in the Vedas and the scriptures. They talked of the miracles he could perform. They talked of the uncommon musical gifts which the Goddess Saraswathi, the Goddess of Learning and Art, bestowed on him in a dream, and which he lavished on his violin. There were also stories about how the violin came to him, and each story was a wild invention of some imaginative gossip-monger. Everything they said about him was riotously fantastic. They talked of his Himalayan Guru who had taught him the Ashtama-Siddhies, the eight miraculous powers. They talked of the divine grace that shone over all his being. Wherever he went crowds collected. They said that by a mere sight of him one got oneself washed of all one's sins. Quite a number of these myths took their origin from Varadachari who had never had any scruples in such promotional ventures and laudable experiments.

Jitendra disowned each one of these tales as seriously and as jocularly as he could, but they persisted. Every big man of the place thought it a privilege to be in his company, be it for even just a couple of minutes. Priests and temple functionaries came in batches to have his dharsan. Each of the outstanding musicians that had come to participate in the Music Festival took his turn to see him, and talk a bit about music and also about the moral decadence of the times, and how Sanyasins like him could generate spiritual consciousness among people. Varadachari's stocks rose simultaneously. He claimed all the credit for the Swamiji's presence at Thiruvaiyaru. But whatever the stories, the discerning scholars and Pandits could not fail to be struck by the vastness of the Swamiji's learning and his absolute dedication to the propagation of Dharma and Satya. None of them could deny that there was something that was sublime and spiritually cleansing in his presence. There was an unspeakable grace on his person. One or two of the festival organizers vouched that a divinity of a very high order constantly distilled in him when they were in his company. This was a Sanyasin of unshakable will. There was so much of the Himalayas in him that took everybody's eye. The great were dwarfed. Everyone felt humble. Jitendra was left in continual unease and embarrassment.

Jitendra presided over the inaugural function of the Festival. His presidential speech was one to remember. He put forward some advanced views and certain innovative ideas which kept everyone's mind actively moving. Quite a few of these ideas he owed to Dhivya. But to avoid her an embarrassment he omitted to mention her name. She had also had already made a request to that effect. The sponsors and the other leading musicians would not leave him unless he gave them a performance on the violin. And he did. He did it so well that it felt like a treat. He had to stop off and on for the deafening ovation to subside. He drew most of his inspiration from the musical angel Bharathi who sat in front of him among the audience. There was no one who did not acknowledge him as a potential master-musician. He was so young and his music was already so profound. There were marvels for him to achieve yet in the years to come. The Ragas he rendered on the violin were Anandabhairavi, Durbar, Saranga and Gamboji. Dhivya had selected them for him.

Dhivya's turn came on the fourth day. She rendered three Krithis of Thiyagaraja in ragas Kanada, Reethi Gowla and Kapi. The intoxicated audience sat motionless. They could not even bring themselves to clap. But still they did. And when they did it was lustily enthusiastic and echoing. She was adjudged as one of the best talents by the great Vidwans present on the dais.

Jitendra stayed in Thiruvaiyaru till the end of the festival and left only two days later. He had to be present on the festival dais everyday. The exact time was left to his convenience. But there were visitors who were a regular strain on him, and sometimes they left him no time to go to the venue of the festival. In between Dhivya would come to serve him his food, or to take some dictation, arrange his wardrobe, prepare hot water for his bath, or to provide some music if he felt bored and wanted some diversion. One day she had a vision in a flash as she was cleaning up the puja room. The whole building had turned into a great temple. She was a bride in it in gorgeous clothes and jewels, sitting on a lotus flower that seemed to fill half the building. She held a vessel of gold in her hand in which there was Amirtha, the ambrosial food of the gods.

As usual, Varadachari's wife found her bed her sole haven. Her chief pleasure was to stretch her legs on it and feed her vanity with all sorts of idle musings and worthless fantasies about women whom she disliked or envied. No less was her pleasure in asking Dhivya to massage her legs, and while Dhivya did, to make her more and more aware that she was a woman in stark poverty, that she was an orphan with practically none to care for her except her and her husband, and then to embarrass her with an excess of her wretched sympathy and kindness and to talk condescendingly of her plans to make her future bright. What these plans were she wouldn't say, but would always talk in a circuitous manner. Bharathi was thankful for that, because she didn't want to know. Even if she offered to tell, she would refuse to listen and quit her presence. She was too much of a self- esteeming girl and wouldn't accept any help from any one unless it was in return for something she had done. And Varadachariís wife was an artful woman capable of any amount of atrocious but gilded lies. She never wanted anyone she knew to flourish or be talked well of. Sometimes the hard prickings of this unfeeling woman would be too much for her to stand. Then she would excuse herself and break away, saying there was a lot of work in the kitchen awaiting her. Varadachari was busy most of the time with festival work.

She would directly go into the hall where she would sometimes find the Swamiji seated on the sofa, reading or writing. She automatically gravitated into his presence whenever it was possible and whenever she was free of work. The place where he sat and all its vicinity had become for her a charmed territory. It had a healing effect. The place was charged with the benign aura of his exalted presence. And she could feel it acting as a sort of spiritual nourishment on her feelings. The place actually felt like a temple. The vision she had had seemed to possess a living soul. It pursued her and engrafted continually on her consciousness.

On the fifth day of the festival, her adoptive-father Saptharishi with the president of the Asthika Samajam of Marthandam village and a few other prominent citizens of the place met the Swamiji and asked him to make a visit to their village and stay there for a fortnight and give a serial discourse, Upanyasa. They had come with a plateful of flowers, sweets, fruits and Prasadam from their own village temple which they placed at his feet and reverently saluted. Jitendra received them all with great courtesy. He agreed to their request. He gave them a date which fell about two months after. Jitendra knew that Marthandam village was Bharathi's place and that Saptharishi was her foster-father. Bharathi had already expressed to him that in about a month she was leaving Varadachari's household for good so that she could be with her parents and be of some concrete help to them. She would employ herself as a music teacher, and do missionary work also for the Swamiji. After sometime she would become a full-time worker doing whatever he bade her do. Jitendra just laughed, an absolutely elastic and noncommittal laugh.