One of my great grand uncles was a deeply spiritual man. A great devotee of The Goddess Kali, his life was one long prayer. Born in a royal family in Orissa (India), he had distanced himself from luxuries and riches of life from an early age.
His sole purpose in life was self realisation through invoking the Mother Goddess. She was the world to him. Early morning, he would make adorable garlands and perform elaborate ‘puja’ by decorating the idol of Mother Kali. His royal room resonated with mantras of the divine Mother. In the evenings, he would sing devotional songs to please the Mother. He would cry and beg Her to visit him once.
His siblings would often make fun of his ‘obsession’. Some people called him mad and all this worried his parents.
But one day, something happened that brought a huge impact on everyone in that palace. My grandmother often recounted this story to us and would end it with a message. I shall convey my grandmother’s message towards the end of this real life story.
One day, few of his friends thought of pulling a prank on him. It was a mean thing to do. But they thought that he needs to be jostled out of his devotional stupor. They paid money to a fierce looking dark Harijan(formerly known as untouchables) lady and asked her to dress up like Goddess Kali and materialise in front of my uncle. She was not to touch him.
It should be remembered that in olden days, caste system was rampant in India and touching a Harijan meant defiling one’s religion. They were not allowed inside the temples and lived in the outskirts of a town or village.
The dark lady was coerced into doing this and she relented. Adorned in red sari and overladen with jewellery, the lady hid herself in my uncle’s prayer room. She had painted her tongue red and looked quite intimidating. On the dusky evening, my uncle arrived for his evening ritual.
He did his customary Shashtang Pranam ( it means that eight limbs of the body, namely, two hands, two legs, two arms, chest and forehead, touch the ground while saluting. A form of complete surrender and letting go of the ego). And then he raised his head to see the lady sticking out her tongue in the form of Kali. For a moment, he just laid there too stunned to speak. It was a horrifying sight for a non-believer.
But he experienced an unspoken joy within him. He washed her feet with tears, took her hand and made her sit by him. He looked like a little baby enjoying the company of his dearest mother.
Meanwhile, the Harijan lady was too uncomfortable to speak. But seeing him in that state she was transformed. She actually felt like being his mother, his goddess Kali. She touched his head and cried out of affection for the pure soul.
His friends soon entered and shooed the lady away. But my uncle was in the state of bliss. They told him that he had been fooled. She was not Goddess Kali but a low class Harijan. He was defiled and needed to be purified by a priest. He just thanked them and said, “You don’t know. I am pure now. This is all my Mother’s doing. She came to me in the form of that great lady”.
My grandmother said that great grand uncle immersed himself all the more deeply in prayers after this incident. People left him alone to his worship. His faith remained unshakeable till the end and some say that he achieved enlightenment.
My grandmother would sum up the story by telling us, “People had laughed at him for touching the feet of a Harijan lady, but they were fools. He was actually touching the feet of ‘his’ Mother Goddess. He had actually seen ‘his’ God. It was the integrity of his faith that mattered.”
People say and interpret things according to their own convenience and perspective but what matters the most to a person is his own faith. Faith really makes one do and achieve the unthinkable!