By Sanjay Godbole
Baba Ramdev, the most venerable for the majority of Hindus in the Sindh Province of Pakistan, has relationship with the Rajputana Province in India. In the Tomar dynasty of Delhi, which is also called Tunvar’, there was a king called ‘Anangpai’. In the year 1412 A.D. at ‘Runecha’ in Rajasthan ‘Ramdev’ was born in the ancestry of this king ‘Anangpai’. The name of Ramdev’s father was Ajmal and the name of his mother was ‘Mainade’ ‘Ramdev’ had a brother named ‘Viramadev’. Once ‘Ramdev’ and ‘Viramdev’, while playing with a ball wandered and drifted forwards a place called ‘Pokhran’. After some time ‘Viramdev’ returned home but Ramdev went further and further and reached directly to the cottage of “Siddha Yogi Balaknath”. [Siddha Yogi means he who has attained or achieved Siddhi in Yogic science] Balaknath favoured Ramdev and became Ramdev’s Guru [mentor] and in that capacity gave him a wise counsel in the form of a Mantra [A codified matrix adoring a deity]. Ramdev slew a cruel and wicked person called ‘Bhairav’. Due to the atrocity and oppressive behaviour of’ Bhairav’ people addressed him as a demon. Ramdev set free the area around Pokhran from the clutches of Bhairav. Under instructions from Balyogi Ramdev and his father populated this deserted area once again, around Pokhran.
Ramdev practised ascetic exercises and successfully attained many achievements [feats]. Due to these Godsent powers achieved by Ramdev both Hindus and Muslims became his followers and devotees. Ramdev, in 1458 A.D. or around it through profound meditation achieved permanent trance [In Yogic terms, body and soul getting Separated by will power.] This was at ‘Runecha’ and Runecha therefore was known and called as ‘Ramdevada’.
At the place of the mausoleum of Ramdev (Where he entered into the state of trans, that is) a big fair is held in the month of Bhadrapada and Magha (the sixth and the eleventh month as per the Hindu calendar). Innumerable devotees flock here from Gujrat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The priests who perform the worship and other allied rituals in the Ramdeva’s temple are called ‘Rikhiya’ or Bhagat’. Some devotees sport the Gold or Silver pendents with the image of Ramdev carved on them as pendants or necklaces. Some spiritual and religion oriented booklets, such as ‘Ramdev Leela’, ‘Ramdev Chalisa’ have been written & published for ‘Ramdev’. At the time of pilgrimage’ his devotees recite the devotional Hymns praising Ramdev throughout the night and remain awake. Such devotional songs pertaining to Ramdev Baba are plenty. Ramdev whom the Hindus call Baba Ramdev is called ‘Ramsa Pir’ by the Muslims. The lines of the devotional song are on the tip of the tongue by all
devotees. The above lines mean “Oh the Pir of Runecha, kindly accept our respectful greetings. You only are our master.” The reason as to why this great saint, who always spoke out against injustice and was engaged in the devastation of the wicked, was called, ‘Ramsa pir, has an interesting story always circulated. Having heard much about the name and fame of Baba Ramdev five Pirs [Muslim saints] from middle east Arabia, came down to ‘Runecha’ to have glimpses of him. When they were felicitated, they remarked that they had left the utensils at their home only, inadvertently, in which they ate. So Baba Ramdev at that very moment, brought to light those very same utensils and fed those pirs. At that time these five Pirs addressed Ramdev as ‘Bado Pir’ and thus Baba Ramdev became a symbol of Hindu – Muslim unity.
Baba Ramdev lived in a town called ‘Jujal’ in Marwad [a portion of Rajasthan]. Ramdev had made his nephew alive by his supernatural power. So also his pear “Saathiya”. Baba Ramdev, was a devotee of lord, Shri Krishna and believed that Truth always prevails’. Every year many hundreds of thousand of devotees visit ‘Runecha’ [about one lakh] from different places for having Darshan [glimpses] of Baba Ramdev. As to the form of Baba Ramdev, it is believed and agreed upon that Baba Ramdev, when alive was always seen, riding a horse. All the pictures of Baba Ramdev, therefore are seen as riding a horse only. Those whose desires, have been fulfilled by the blessings of Baba Ramdev, present, while returning the commitment which they made, while making a vow, small replicas of horses made from cloth and also distribute food to the needy.
Like in Rajputana, Baba Ramdev is a symbol of faith and devotion in the minds of thousands, of devotees. There is a special temple of Baba Ramdev at a place, called Tando Allahyar’ in the province of Sindh in Pakistan. This town is always in the limelight on account of the fair for pilgrimage for Baba Ramdev. In the year 1709 A.D. One Mir Allahyar khan constructed a fort in earth and clay as a protection to his territory, such a fort is called ‘Kachho Qilo’ in Sindhi language. Due to this fort a town near this fort at a distance of three kilometers was called” Tando Allahyar”. The remains of the walls of this fort do exist even to day. The famous folk poet ‘Vatayu’ Fakir of Sindh has his sepulcher near this town only.
In the year 1933 A.D. the British constructed a canal here resulting into Tando Allahyar being an affluent town in agriculture since water of the river Indus became freely available. The special thing about this town is that prior to partition, Hindus were in majority. After creation of ‘Bangladesh’ many people from Sindh migrated to India even then as on today, Tando Allahyar’ a town of three hundred thousand head count, the Hindu community have sizable quantity of houses and other real estate.
The Hindus, here, are mostly engaged in agriculture. Some, however, profess other professions too. The famous mango grove of sindh is situated here only. Hindus, some of them here communicate in ‘Kachhi Marwadi’ language also. The town of Tando Allahyar is only thirty five kilo meters from Hyderabad (Sindh). There is a long story as to how this temple of Baba Ramdev came into being at Tando Allahyar. One Roopchaud Khatri resident of Tando Allahyar had no issues. This is one hundred fifty years back; he went to Runecha in Rajasthan and prayed in the temple of Baba Ramdev with a request for getting a son. He brought along with him a kindled lamp from Temple at Runecha. In course of time, he got an offspring. As per the directive, which Mr. Khatri received in his dream, he erected a temple of Baba Ramdev at Tando Allahyar and placed the lamp in the kindled state in the temple. From that day onwards, that lamp has been burning in the same kindled state, for almost one hundred fifty long years. The trustees of the Temple here, say “Our ancestors have never allowed this lamp to be put out.” The people of Tando Allahyar have a firm belief that’ The lamp shall continue to be lighted and kindled till the Moon and the sun do exist and this world continues to last. A replica of the letter ‘Om’ has been artistically erected above the flame of the lamp. After the incidence of Babri Masjid, at Ayodhya in India, this temple at Tando Allahyar in a retaliatory reaction in Pakistan was demolished. The lamp, however, continued to be in the kindled stale, untouched. The residents of Tando Allahyar consider this fact as heavenly miracle. The temple which occupied only twenty square meter, has now, after renovation, expanded to an area of one hundred square meter.
Just as Warkari’s ( Pilgrims who visit Pandharpur in Maharashtra every year without fail) from all nooks and corners of Maharashtra, flock to Pandharpur for glimpses of lord vithal, similarly Hindus of Sindh in Pakistan come to Tando Allahyar for Pilgrimage of Ramdev. People in Pakistan address Baba Ramdev as ‘Ramapir’. Since majority of people are peasants or agriculturists by profession, they conveniently leave for the above pilgrimage at Tando Allahyar in groups, after finishing their major operations such as sowing etc for their harvesting. People of various casts and communities congregate here such as Bhils, Koli, Bagdi, Sanyasi, Menghwad, Khatri Luhar, jogi for the pilgrimage. I was acquainted with Mr. Ishwardas, the head priest of the temple and trusty of the Hindu community over here. He told me that every pilgrim has to follow in all, twenty four rules. The important rule is that flags on which, symbolic foot prints in vermillion or Red lead are made and such flags are dedicated to the temple. Such flags are erected in a room near the acme and displayed there. All pilgrims come to the temple barefooted. Such white flags, in Sindhi language are called “Dhajja”. After dedicating and erecting the flag, certain religious rituals are required to be performed . After that some people give copious donations as per their capacity. The festival begins on the tenth day of the Shukla Paksha of the month of Bhadrapada [the sixth month as per the Hindu calendar]. In the temple of Ramdeva, there is an equestrian idol of Ramdev. This idol has been newly established in the temple. There are pictures of Goddess, lord Shiva, lord Vishnu and even Sai Baba displayed the devotees break coconuts and give it to the temple when worshipping, Sweets are also distributed. Incense is burnt before the Idol. Every evening ‘Pooja Aarati’ – a worship where devotional songs are recited in front of the deity, with many participating in this Aarti. People reaching Tando Auahyar from all corners of Pakistani cities have the glimpses of this sacred lamp with faith and utmost belief. There is a very big fair, organised under the banner of the festival of Ramdev, during which an open market for clothes, toys & various articles is held.
Some times ursine shows of bears and animal circuses are also arranged here. Mr Haji Ali Bakhshi, the leader and the head of Magsi Baloch community, from Tando Auahyar has kindly given permission to make free use of his fifty acres of land at the time of this festival. At the time of festival under the auspices of District collector (Nazim) services are provided and security is arranged. Many devotees come saying devotional songs and praising the deity to the temple and stay in the empty space overnight. All the pilgrims are given food free of any charges from the community kitchen. Shri Ishwardas informed me that during the fair of Ramdev in the year 2009, about 50000 devotees attended the fair of Ramdev. This fair and the pilgrimage of Baba Ramdev or Rama pir is a living example of Hindu Unity, religious fervour and cultural tradition of Hindus in Pakistan. Many Hindus in Pakistan are not aware of the history of Baba Ramdev. For them, Ramdev is a divine and supernatural personality. All people have deep love for Ramdev. As the date of festival approaches near and near, all Hindus are full of Joy and enthusiasm, and they flock the temple at Tando Auahyar in Multitudes. The devotional songs rhymed in India and Pakistan are almost similar. All the traditions and cultural practices are identical. Hence one could easily surmise, that Mela (fair) Ramdevda and the Pilgrimage of Ramdev in Pakistan are the two facets or dimensions of the same cultural tradition.