Unexplored Places & Stories

India is a nation which existed since thousands of years. It may have received its geographical identity in the year 1947, but, prior to that, it existed right from Afghanistan to South East Asia. The people living on the banks of river Sindhu were termed as Hindu, by the raiders who attacked this nation very frequently. Thus Hindu religion was born. Since this country has a history of many thousands of years, there are many sects, communities, belief systems, identities. What is wonderful is that they all co-exist. Tolerance is embedded in our DNA.

Old civilizations carry alongwith it many tales, some real, some imaginary, some on the borderline. The story which i am going to tell you in this article is for you to surmise. Though the place and the proofs are there, the story for some will be outright imaginary.

It so happened that, I was at my native place last summer, my native place is in a coastal belt of Maharashtra very near to Goa.  By standards, my village is a relatively developed village, with telephone exchange, schools, marketplace, medical clinics etc.  To contrast my village, just about four kilometers away from my village lies a beautiful hamlet called Talawane. This place somehow never stops to fascinate me, one for, it is the village of my mother, her birthplace, her house is nestled in the lush green mountain. It remains nearly inaccessible during monsoon. One finds a ‘Math’ or “Ashram or Hermitage” while traveling to Talawane, it belongs to Yogiraj Parshuram Bharati. I had heard many a time before this place, it sounded bit mystic to me and so during one of my trip, i decided to visit this place. The place is easily accessible by road, one has to descend few meters from the road to reach this beautiful location. Its a small place, a small temple, near the trunk of a tree there is a small curve, which people says was created as Yogiraj Parshuram Bharati would sit there meditating. The place has some strong energy, if only one can feel it, maybe because it is very quite and serene, no rush of travelers or pilgrims to this non-decrepit place. 

I wanted to know more about this saint, this mystic, this yogi. I inquired about him with the locals, but, they could not help me much. I returned to my village, which is 3 kms away. I inquired about this saint here too from some old people with the hope that they would be able to quench my inquisitiveness. But, they too were of little help. I was desperately waiting for my network signal so that at least google would help me out, but, even today no material is available about this place or this saint. I resigned to fate that i would perhaps never find anything much.  

It was night, at around 11.30 or so, some strange feeling overtook me and i went to our prayer place where some very old books were kept and i found what i was looking for the whole day. It was a book, it was in very bad shape, the pages were soiled and it seems the book was at least fifty years old. It was a book on the life of Yogiraj Parshuram Bharti.  Perhaps, my strong desire to know more about this saint resulted in elements guiding me to the book.

I don’t really know the name of the book or the author, as the pages were torn. But it was written in style of a biopic. The story in the book goes on to tell that Yogiraj came from Kolhapur, he belonged to Navnath sect, he stayed there atop a hillock and as a practice every afternoon he would blow a conch, it provided as a signal to the village at the foot of this hillock that Yogiraj needed food. Villagers devoutly brought something to eat for this saint. One such afternoon, he blew the conch to discover that nobody bothered to bring him the food. The saint took it as a signal that his stay in that place was ending. So, he left the place and in search of a peaceful and secluded place, he traveled all the way to nearby district of Sindhudurg and chose this particular village, Talawane. It is written that there was the thick jungle, even today one finds the place full of trees and shrubs and grass. Yogiraj meditated here and did many yogic practices. His name and fame spread soon. The royal family of Sawantwadi accepted Yogiraj as their Guru. 

The book became very interesting to read and i forgot the timing and chose to read it full that very night. The book further went saying that there was one Yogi near Shiroda who was doing some tantric practices to attain immortality. Yogiraj Parshuram Bharati chose to prevail upon the tantric to give up his plan as the cycle of life and death must not be disturbed by anybody. The tantric yogi won’t relent. So, Yogiraj Parshuram Bharati cursed the tantric that his experiment would bring him misery. The tantric cursed him in return that Yogiraj too would fail in his practice. Yogiraj was teaching Yogic exercises to the king of Sawantwadi. The curse of Yogiraj worked and the tantric had a tragic and painful end to his life. One fine day, the king of Sawantwadi was practicing some yogic postures and in one such posture (i believe it was Shavasana), he laid still and breathless like a corpse. The royalty and nobles gathered and they thought the king had died. Yogiraj was some 30 kms away, but, had a vision, what was happening, he decided to rush to the palace to stop the family from cremating the body. To cover the distance, it is written that fascinating book that he threw a banana leave in the Kiranpani river and ordered it to take him to the village Banda, where the body was to be cremated. He managed to reach near the site but heard gunshots and surmised that the body was cremated and the salutary firing was being done. The curse of the tantric worked too.

The stories are fascinating, one is at liberty not to believe it and just discard it as mere fig of imagination of fertile mind of the author who wrote this book.  But, yes, even today, one could find a straight patch of different color in the waters of Kiranpani river, it may have some geographical or scientific reasons to it, but, it matches with the place mentioned in the book. It is said that the water in the pond at the Ashram turns milky on the day when there are celebrations in the Ashram. The Royal Family of Sawantwadi till recently used to donate sums to this place, I am not aware if it is still done.

Many of my readers would discard all this and say its unreal, it’s unscientific, my intention about writing is not to be judicious, I just wanted to place before what was written in the book in connection with this place and Yogiraj Parshuram Bharati. Even today, many people like me are surfing the internet to know more about this Yogi, may be I have done my bit to spread the information, howsoever, scant it may have been amongst such people.

You may carry any opinion about the story, but, at least as a tourist place, one can certainly visit, at least when you are near to this place.

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The slow death of a Paradise

Travelling has always been helpful for me to grow up as an individual. Travelling by buses or by trains gives that extra opportunity to observe the landscape, the locale and the natural beauty. Being from Konkan a land where lord was utmost liberal in ushering natural beauty, has only helped me in enjoying the nature all over. Last week i traveled to my native place and it has given me two stories to write…

Travelling to native place, especially during summer time has been kind of a routine for most of the people from coastal best of Maharashtra. No wonder you will find the trains, buses and now even flights full during this season. I have been to my native place countless times and am witness to changing times, sadly enough, the change is not for good though.

There was a time when Konkan was a serene place, the only mode of reaching there was a red state transport bus, the journey of which was nightmarish to say the least.  However, in the hindsight, i sometimes feel that it was good that there was least connectivity from urban world. People were sanitized from the ills of modern lives. There was greenery everywhere, the summer vacation meant that you would be treated with real Alphonso mangoes, jack fruits, cashew nuts and other seasonal fruits. Those who enjoyed sea food would also get it in abundance. Life moved at slow paced, the needs of the village folk were minimal and hence they had time in aplenty. I would spend my evenings near the Terekhol Creek where my brother ran a small canteen. Villagers would flock that canteen and i would listen to endless tales of village politics, ghosts, evil spirits and other such stories which i would not get to hear in city. At times i would treat myself at the cost of my father or my brother by attending a “Dashavatari Natak” which ran till early in the morning. Those were magical days, people were simple, their aspirations simple and lived in complete tandem with nature. Both never violated each other.

With changing times, the reach of Konkan Railway, the extension of mobile services, the splurge of cable television meant that the remote hamlets of Konkan too started dreaming of coming in tune with changing times. People felt that they have been left far behind and so the mad rush began. The politicians milked the people showing them dreams of turning Konkan into California.

My part of Konkan, from where i belonged, which is called as “Tal Konkan” was still very scenic, still very virgin. In early part of 1990s the Usha Ispat Company first appeared in the scene at Redi some 04 kilometers away from my village. The company promised employment to local youths. However, soon it was found that the nature of job was that of labourers.  Cheap labourers and Engineers were hired by company and brought all the way from UP.

People started renting out their houses to these migrant employees and their families and soon the intrusion began. After some years another big company landed and it started buying land, people found easier way of making money by selling off their land. Then after some years a politician brought the entire stretch of coast of my village barricaded it and announced that he would build a private port and jetty, from where the manganese would be shipped to other part of the world. The annual ritual of Ganesh Visarjan was blocked as the coast was barricaded. People by then started realizing the folly they had made, but it was too late and the wheel was already turned and now could not be stopped.

This time when i visited my native place, from Sawantwadi to my native place, i found plots, where once cashew and mangoes were grown, rice was tilled, were now on sell, hoardings of builders announcing proposed row bungalow projects were on display on these plots.

I deliberately visited villages like Talawane & Kondura during my recent visit as i had heard that there was rampant mining. The entire stretch once was as greener as it could be with coconut, cashew, betelnut, mango and other plantations. Today the entire plantations are cut off and the mountains are barren and are dug all over. The mountains which once looked as a bride now looks like a wounded ailing person shouting for help. For few thousands or lakhs people are selling off their lands to these land and mining sharks.

What happens with this sudden richness? Do people grown financially literate enough to ensure proper investment of this new found richness? The answer is NO. People start renovating their houses, build bungalow, buy new gadgetry, cars, bikes. Today, younger generations of rural folks have better mobile phones than we in the cities have. The money so earned do not last even a generation. What next?

The same story happened in Thane district in 1980’s. When people started shifting to Kalyan Dombivli belt the local Aagri people, who were the land tillers sold off their land to builders and developers for few lakhs and now they are nowhere to be seen.

My Paradise is sliding the same way. But, alas, no one is prepared to listen. I do not say that change should not happen. Konkan should also progress, but most certainly not the way it is happening right now.