My first real meeting with a famous saint happened today and the man was no one but the Shankaracharya of Kashi Swaroopananda himself. The man is the supreme leader and father figure of the Vedic Hindu faith that spreads far and wide in this region. Through stories of the Ramayana, Gita and Hanuman Chalisa, he enlightens his many followers. He tells tales of Ram’s valour and how Hanuman vanquished many demons and Rakshasas. He sits on a large throne made of silver with a silver foot stand. He has his key followers on stage with him along with his announcer and a bodyguard with an armed guard. There are holy men who stand on either side fanning him and giving him air. The man can barely move. Due to his age, he has to be carried around in a huge wheelchair followed by helpers. He is fair with a white flowing beard and mane. He does look majestic when you get closer to him. He is fully covered in saffron robes and Rudraksha Mala. He stood apart due to his presence and size.
The gathering had reporters and people from TV as I got down to making my videos and taking pictures. There was a lot of talk of the Ram Janam Bhoomi issue and how Swaroopananda does not agree with the high court’s order and will go against it. He and his clan want to build the temple at the very spot in Ayodhya where Ram Lalla was born. He recites the Vedas and the scriptures to prove that point. Speaker upon speaker plays the emotional card of Ram Janam Bhoomi. It is said that the old man will only leave his body when the temple is finally made.
The stage was huge with lots of saffron and bright yellow lights. It was easy to film the entire talk as the man spoke through a mike and the sound was good. In between, pilgrims would walk over to touch the man’s feet and pay some money or just get his blessings. Most wanted photographs and were duly obliged. I managed to get an interview with the man along with a photo. We were taken to his room where only key people could meet with Swaroopananda. I managed to get a few minutes with him as the crowd cleared. I spoke to him about my father and he said that if I have done his shred in Gaya, all is done and dusted and I can look forward to enriching life. I touched his feet and then walked out into the gallery.
I have been in the company of a true saint, a spiritual parallel government, a man who is standing up to the nation’s courts with no regard for the law in order to protect ancient Vedic dharma. It seems for these men time never changed. They are still stuck to old dogmas and belief systems.