9th Chapter : Beginning
Bhuvana was sitting by the steps of the temple and listening to the clanging of the bells inside sanctum sanctorum, where her father – the head priest was performing morning rituals. Slowly the sweet scent of the incense, wafting out of the temple, and the rhythmic sounds of mantra chants worked their magic on her and slowly picked her up on their wings to carry her to the dreamland. Her dreams were always vivid, colorful and full of life. There was a lotus ponds complete with the most beautiful fairies, the big floating leaves supported the angels singing the melodious songs and the floral vines served as swings on the over hang of the tree branches. See can actually see the goddess of music Saraswati, sitting there and gently playing on the strings of her favorite instrument Veena and weave a cosmic fabric around her ecstatic soul. She was lying on the bed of flowers, besides the tall Kadamb tree, lost in the melody that was playing on her mind and watching this divine drama unfold around her in misty haze of rainbows, flowers and the back drop of the forest. There, in the middle of the pond, the dancers are now gathering, to give heart to the body of music that was being manifested around her. The soft clap of dancers, tapping of their feets and swirling in their joyous union of desire with love, was reaching towards a soft crescendo. The rising tempo of the music, slowly got Bhuvana, on her feets and she slowly started swaying along with the beat, turning round and round with one of her hand over her head, another on her waist. Her heart merged in the music that was reaching out to her from her innerself. There, beyond the pond, on the edge of the forest, a soft light revealed a young boy, enraptured in the music of souls. When he caught her eyes, he started walking tentatively towards her, with a question in his eyes, wonder on his face and hesitation in his steps. As the music around her moved on to the higher notes, the dancer’s twirling merged in the haze of motion and colorful clothes; and she clearly saw the young boy’s face, smiling but shying away to meet her eyes. She slowly stopped to look at him fully. Before she could ask anything, she found her heart reach out and held the boys hand and smiled. At that moment she heard her father’s stern voice. “Stop, don’t move another step” and her euphoric vision came crashing down around her. She was startled and before she could see her father, who was standing on the steps of the temple, she saw young Bhikshu at the bottom steps, stopped in mid track with his hand extended to as if to reach out to hold her hand. Now she was not sure that all that she saw was only a dream.
She looked at her father and realised that he was refusing to allow this young Bhikshu from coming into the temple so she asked him, “why not let him come in to pray after all he is also one of the young monks, from the Monastery in the forest?”. Then her father told him that this boy is of lower cast and can not be allowed to come in side the temple and desecrate the purity of the place. Her father was actually furious with the monastery and did not approve of their methods and practices as they were allowing every one from every cast to become a monk. Like this boy, who was ordained a Bhikshu, after only few months of training and they have allowed this boy and his family to live in the monastery for last few years. The young boy was from the family of Mallahs (Boat Man) a lower cast, from the village down the river, when his father lost everything in the flood many years ago. They had been taken in by the Kumar – the revered Prince into the Monastery, where his father did small works around the monastery and his mother worked in the community kitchen serving the Bhikshu and the monks. Bhuvana was surprised to feel the anger in her father’s voice and but still could resist herself from asking her father, that he never had any issue in crossing the river in their boat, if they were untouchables. This made her father angrier and he brushed the boy aside while climbing down the steps, and informed her that he always purified himself after crossing the river with the holy
Ganges water and Vedic Mantras. Finally with a stern look both at his young daughter and the boy, giving instructions to her to clean up the temple floor and light the lamp before it gets dark and come home early. With a final warning not to play around with the young children on the way back home and get to house before it gets dark, her father hurried off to their hut in the village, further down the river.
She liked her father very much and was inspired by him to a great extent in serving the temple because of the devotion his father has to the temple and the deities living in this ancient temple. His disciplined attitude towards the rituals around the temple was unbroken for years together and his daily routine was cast in stone. Whatever happens around his father, the family or in the village, it never changed, even in times of ill-health, his father manages to do things on his own other wise get his disciples to follow the strict routine. She some times used to wonder, whether father even realised the mantras, invocations and the chants that he performed daily in front of the temple deities, have a meaning too. Though she revered her father, but she sometime felt that he usually speak the words, rattling off sounds as a routine which was what the generation before him and his ancestors had done. Some times it saddened her. Some times when she was alone in the temple, after cleaning of the place, adorning the deities, with garlands, flowers etc, she talked to them, how they are, are they happy and do they want to come out and play with her. Krishna was her most favorite friend and many times her savior as she used to hide behind Him every time, her mother was angry with her or father wanted her to sing bhajans to his rich patrons – yajmans who were visiting her father.
But she brushed aside these thoughts for now and focused her self on the young Bhikshu, standing in front of her, looking at her with his soft questioning eyes. She moved down the steps and motioned the young Bhikshu to follow her to her favorite spot near the bank of the river, the kadamb tree and sat on her favorite small stone slab left untouched by the master craftsman from centuries ago, who made many of the temple’s sculptures as well as the deities. She always felt that they have left this for her, knowing ages ago, one Bhuvana will be sitting here and watching the river flow by, and softly singing songs in the praise of
Krishna and His stories of playful pranks with the Gopis of Vrindavan.
For a girl of 11 years old, Bhuvana was a confident and mature girl. This maturity came from her upbringing by her stern and devout father and religious mother. She was more confident when she was in the temple premises; she was like the princess who owns everything and every one around. The temple was her home for most of the time. She is comes here, early in the morning, to clean the temple, gather flowers from the flower bushes around and make beautiful colorful garlands of marigold, Jasmine, hibiscus etc. Then later on dress up the deities, adorn them with garlands, temple jewelry etc. Then set up the place for her father and his two young disciples who were learning from her father for almost 10 years now. Her father was well known around the land as a Vedic scholar and many students come to him from many villages to learn Vedas, Hymn and Mantra and various Vedic rituals. The two disciples now accompany her father to most of the Vedic rituals his father was asked to perform around the neighbouring villages. They were now her guru brothers, almost adopted by her family. She most of the times joined them in learning Sanskrit, Veda’s and story’s from Purana’s and Upnishads. She used to get immersed in joy when her father recited many of the stories from Krishna’s childhood from the sacred Bhagwatam and felt so much pleasure when he recited in his full throated voice, the hymns praising her favorite friend
Krishna. Her Guru brothers, Vishwadeva and Gnanadeva, also took upon themselves to train her with songs and playing of Veena and sitar, that they have learned from another pundit, in the neighbouring village, where their Guru had send them for few months.
After few hours of learning, she usually gets up to go and fetch food for the deities in the temple. Her mother, this time accompanies her to the temple and with another ritual the temple deities are offered food. Then her father and gurubhai’s will sit on the temple floor and eat their food called prasaad (Offering from God). Finally, she and her mother will get to eat and she stays back to clean, do some tending works around the temple fields. Her father will go back home to take afternoon siesta. The she had the whole day in front of her to play around the temple with Guru bhai’s and if they are busy, she had made many friends around the temple, the river, the trees, the stones to play with. Or simply sit on this stone to watch the soft flow of the river, passing by the temple and her day.
After making herself comfortable on her favorite spot, she finally asked young Bhikshu, what is his name and what he is doing here? The young Bhikshu softly said that his name is
Krishna and he has been living in the monastery beyond in the forest for last 8 years. He said, “Since childhood, whenever I closed my eyes in solitude, I heard the Krishna’s song, the same song that you sing in the morning every day. And one day when I was searching for the fire wood in the forest, I came across this temple and saw you for the first time singing that song”. “For many months now”, he added shyly, “I have been coming here to the temple to hear you sing. Few months back, Kumar – The prince among the monks, asked my guru Ji to initiate me in the order of Bhikshu and since then I have been practicing meditations, and learning to think about life and simple living, going over to the village asking for alms and trying to calm my mind and find peace but my mind is not at peace”. He now looked down on the ground and continued, “Today, after many days of agonizing over my minds playful unrest, I asked my Guru Ji, why I am not able to focus on Buddha, calmness and peace? Then he asked me to come and meet you. I don’t know why but he wanted me to meet you, so I am here”. The young Bhikshu then slowly bent down on his knees and asked earnestly, holding her hand as a small child would and asked “Tell me, why?”
In that instant Bhuvana’s life changed forever, in that life time….
… to be continued.
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