CHAPTER - 36
The lectures continued for the next four days. And then they were over. On the last day Jitendra was loaded with garlands, laced Shawls and other ceremonial honors. Many fell at his feet, including all the prominent leaders of the village, and took his blessings. There were speeches from the leaders of the village thanking him and extolling the worth and immense effect of his discourses. There were many people who were in tears on the last day. Even ordinary folks were unwilling to see him leave the village. The Swamiji was to leave Marthandam the day after the next. He would leave by 10 A. M. from his lodgings by car to Hyderabad from where he would take the flight. A small convoy of cars would follow him up to Hyderabad. Important elders of the village, including Gora Reddy, would be accompanying him, and would see him off at the airport.
The day of his departure had dawned. The police had arrived to keep order. All the outer gates of the Swamiji's lodgings had been closed to prevent people getting in. No one, not even the leaders of the village were to be admitted. The Swamiji would not like to be disturbed since he had to perform certain special Pujas in the temple as well as in his room. Only one car would stay inside the compound to take him. All the village elders were to wait in their other cars outside the gate, and join him when his vehicle eased out. And so there was inside the compound only Bharathi and her parents in their outhouse. Nothing that took place inside could be seen from out. So too nothing that took place on the outside could be seen from the inside. The compound walls were high enough. There were heavy crowds collecting already. Since all the gates had been secured fast the common people, though they clamored for getting inside, could gain no entry. The police outside exercised strict control.
It was now 9, o'clock. The Swamiji had finished his Puja at the temple. He sat in meditation for an unusually long hour. Then he performed Pujas in his own Puja room at the lodgings. Bharathi sat with him for the Pujas and meditation both at the temple and in his lodgings. Bharathi was in tears since the previous evening. Sometimes she went into some room, closed the doors, and wept. When there was about a hour for the Swamiji to start on his departure, Bharathi wanted to go through a small ceremonial proceeding in her own residence. She would place the saffron-robe which he was to wear that day in her Puja room and offer it worship. She asked for the Swamiji's permission. He smiled and agreed. She had already kept her Puja room washed, cleaned and decorated. She had hung strings of jasmine, rose, chamoaka and lily flowers in every possible place in the Puja room. She had lighted incense sticks. She took the saffron-robe in both her arms, hugging them with love and reverence, weeping all the way, to her Puja room. She put it on a tray. She waved before it lighted camphor on a brass plate. She put a lot of flowers on it and sandal paste and sacred ash. She fell before the robe and wept. She sat in meditation before it for some time, then prayed, then uttered the Guru Mantra twelve times. Then she kissed the robe several times over. She prayed to the robe to pardon her if she had committed any sin and if she had shown any irreverence to it at any time. She asked the robe never to part company from the Swamiji, and help him perform his mission to the world. She begged it to keep for ever guard over his life, his chastity and purity and fortify him against all temptation. She then hugged it again, wept and kissed it again over and over. She then laid herself before it full length and chanted the Anna Poorneswari Mantra. Then she carried it against her bosom to the hall in the Guest House where the Swamiji was waiting. He was in his pajamas and shirt sleeves. Then she asked him amid sobs to permit her to put the saffron-robe on him herself and button it up. He wept, smiled and stood in order to let her don him the sacred attire with her own hands. She was now finished with it. He looked as he had at times looked her in her inspired moments like a god that was wearing a garment of fire. Jitendra then wanted to speak something to her but the words failed. He was getting emotional. She also wanted to speak something, but could only weep and choke.
There was still half hour to go for the Swamiji's departure. The time was now 9-30. The single chime that the clock on the wall gave forth seemed to echo back from the farthest depths of the sky. Then the temple bell rang. They rang again and again. He steadied his eyes on her. She stood like a goddess, like a bride standing before the cosmic fires lit by God as before the solemnization of a wedding.
The Swamiji who had gone into a room to check up something in his suitcase, now came out into the hall, and stood. Bharathi fell at his feet, and asked him to give her his parting benediction. She stood up and waited for his blessing. He refused.
"Why Swamiji, why. I admit I am a sinner, have the heart to pardon me. You are great, you are holy, you are to me my only God. A disciple had no other God. I have already done my penance. Bless me, Swamiji, I beg you, I beg you, I beg you a hundred times, Swamiji, bless me or I will die".
Again he refused.
"Only the purest of the pure, the holiest of the hollies, the most blessed of the blessed can bless you. You are not a sinner, Bharathi, you are not a sinner at all. You are a young girl. You have the right to love a man, and expect sex from him. You are not a Sanyasini. You are a young girl in full bloom with all your vital urges poised in expectation of fulfillment. Sex is not prohibited to you. But it is prohibited to me. My sin probably was the worst one could think of. With so great a sin on my heart, how can I bless you. I am a sinner Bharathi, I am a sinner, I am the worst sinner. A sinner deserving of the worst hell. If I bless you, gods won't pardon me. They will damn me with eternal perdition. There is only one way to reduce the magnitude of my sin, and even possibly to get absolution from it. That one way is for me to beg you to forgive me. Forgive me, Bharathi, forgive, my little child. My sweetest darling, forgive me. Won't you, Bharathi?"
She began to tremble and could not stop from trembling. Her weeping became loud, long and unstopping. She wept desperately. She wept as she had never wept before. She knelt and wept, and beat the floor with both her hands, choking and weeping. She struck her head on his feet. She refused to get up. Jitendra too wept like a child.
"Get up, Bharathi, please get up. There is one thing which you could do for me, That would earn for me the pardon of God. Will you do it for me, I beg you to kindly agree ".
Bharathi had already lost the power to understand or comprehend anything. She felt too tired with weeping. Her mind stood still. It had lost all movement. She was alive, but she didn't feel alive. She simply said, "Yes". She was already lost in a dumb stupefaction. All her faculties had become numb and frozen.
"If I were to get freed of my sin, Bharathi, and again carry the saffron robe on my body, and continue as a Sanyasin, you should permit me to treat you as my mother. I will worship you as the Goddess Anna Poorneswari, the Mother of all creations, the Goddess whom my family had worshipped for generations. I have got my begging bowl among my personal belongings. It was given to me by my Guru when I took to Sanyasa. He bade me beg food with it from at least a few houses once a week preferably on Fridays, or on Poornima days which come once a month. It was not given to me to do that till now. Today fortunately happens to be a Poornima day, Bharathi. You wait at your door with food in a vessel. I will come and stand before you. I will utter a prayer to you as to Mother Anna Poorneswari. Then I will beg my food from you. You will then put the food in my bowl. And after that you will always be to me Mother Anna Poorneswari. That will purify me. Please therefore go and wait at your door with food in a vessel".
"Swamiji, what do you say? I don't understand anything. I don't know what to say, nor do I understand what you say". She screamed and babbled something like a mad woman. Then she left, seeming to understand after all what he meant.
Exactly at ten minutes to ten, he took his begging bowl, Bhiksha Paatra, and offered a Puja to it. In the meantime, Bharathi had got ready the food, put it in her Puja room and had offered worship to it. She had waved lighted camphor before it, and had put sacred ash and vermilion and sandal paste on the vessel in five places, and had uttered the necessary prayers to sanctify the food. It was in a clean shining copper bowl.
Jitendra now walked to Saptharishi’s house, and stood at the threshold. Bharathi was waiting with the food in the vessel. Her parents stood beside her. There was none else. Jitendra then recited three Slokas from Anna Poorna Ashtakam. He then touched Bharathi's feet three times with both hands and offered prayer to them. He did not take off his hands from those red-gold feet decked in shining anklets for about a couple of minutes while Bharathi wept chokingly. And then getting up, he stretched his begging bowl, and called out, "Bhavati, Bhiksham Dhehi, Mother will you give some food ?". With trembling hands, her eyes half closed in prayer she put the food in his bowl, and then fell at his feet. She wept till she swooned. She refused to relax her hands that held his feet. Her hands had become almost one with his feet. She lay like a goddess bedecked in sparkling jewels and bridal costume. With great difficulty, he removed himself and went to the car. Bharathi still lay on the ground in a faint. It seemed she would take some time to recover. The Swamiji couldn't wait till then. He got into the car. The gates of the lodgings were opened. His car came out. There were crowds. They greeted him with affectionate shouting, they put on him garlands and many of them who could go near him got his blessings, Then he took leave of all of them. The convoy started. In two hours they arrived at Hyderabad airport. He emplaned and they all saw him off. All along the flight, he kept a towel against his face and wept into it. Then he closed his eyes and fell into Dhyana, meditation.
About fifteen minutes after the Swamiji had left, Saptharishi and his wife tried to wake up Bharathi. She was dead.
In about four hours, Jitendra arrived at his Ashram. Within about half hour after his arrival, Saptharishi conveyed to him over phone the news of Bharathi's death. Jitendra was shocked. He felt as if struck by a thunder. Inside him, his life fell all of a heap. The light of his life had been put out. The world had become dark. His speech failed. His limbs failed. All that he had prized most in life seemed to fail. He could feel Bharathi inside him like a heap of leaping fires. The blazes wouldn't subside, but roared into every cell of his being. She had become one with him.
However, he managed to speak to Saptharishi for about ten minutes. Then his voice became hoarser, and less audible till it fell away. The phone was then disconnected.
For about a week, Jitendra went into continuous fasting and prayer. And on the final day, on an early morning, Jitendra walked into the mid-waters of the river Ganges, and sat for his final meditation under the roaring floods, fully attired in his saffron-robe. For one hour he could not be seen. Then his dead body was washed ashore by the tumultuous echoing waters. The emerald waters he had held next to God.
On Krishna Jayanthi day, the birthday of Lord Krishna, which fell after a fortnight, there was a special puja as usual, a ceremonial worship according to vedic prescriptions. There was wild clanging of bells, waving of bronze plates with lighted camphor, singing of bhajans, heaps of flowers and profusion of incense sticks that gave off heady scent. But the disciples, as they performed the worship, choked and sobbed, tears running down their eyes.
Now Vikram, one of the disciples, looking through the window, noticed an unusual sight on the Gulmarg tree, the Flamboyant, which was laden all over with red flowers in a riotous opulence. The tree stood near the Hanuman rock on the bank of the river Ganges where the Swamiji often used to sit in meditation. It was broad-bottomed, gnarled, and of a venerable age, grown high with heavy stems. On one of the branches a pair of turtle-doves sat and watched the puja through the temple window. It was early morning. The birds were lighted by the red splash of the rising sun. They were the two guardian-angels of the Ashram.
The disciple, wondering at the unusual spectacle and almost trembling with awe, called the attention of the other disciples to it.
But the next moment the sight was lost. The sun hid behind the great dark clouds. A snow-white mist submerged the tree and the birds.
The worship at the Krishna temple was now getting to a close. The disciples, as they wound up the ceremony, sang in chorus, which was sung everyday at the temple, the prayer which Swami Jitendra loved most. It was from Brihadharanyaka Upanishad :
Lead Us from Untruth to Truth,
Lead Us from Darkness to Light,
Lead Us from Death to Immortality"
"OM, Shanthi, Shanthi, Shanthi".