The Bond That Spirals Up - I

Updated: Aug 7

Maharaja Prafulla Chandra Bhanja Deo And His Gurudev

 

The shrieks of unrestrained laughter filled the air and made its way up, defying gravity. Annoyed by the sudden noise of the children downstairs, Sri Sri Thakur got up and pacing the floor with heavy footsteps, he called in a deep and sonorous voice, “Bimala!”


Bimala Maa, Thakur’s adopted daughter, climbed the stairs timidly, reached his floor and before Sri Sri Thakur could ask any question, she clarified, “Raja Saheb laughed after listening to the record, so I also burst out laughing.” Thakur chided, “Raja Saheb is a nobleman of repute. Is it decent to laugh along with him in such a loud voice? Is this how you have been brought up? Haven’t you been taught how to maintain decorum, how to behave in society?”


The Maharaja of Bastar, Prafulla Chandra Bhanja Deo had a royal, majestic appearance. His body was of a golden hue, jewels adorning his ears. He wore a silk Punjabi and dhoti with a golden zari border. Aristocracy radiated in his bearings. But above all was his lack of pride and an everlasting expression of heartfelt joy on his face. That day, Raja Saheb came in with some records and a gramophone. His wish was to play the newly released records for Sri Sri Thakur to listen to. He began one song and started laughing in tune with it.

The lyrics of the Bengali song were as follows:

“Kshapa bhanglona tor mayar ghum,

Tui bishoy mode matta hoye sore aachha bemaalum.

Buno payarar bachcha poshe, shuk bhebe khachhe tum,

O na bolbe keshto, sunbi spasta daakchhe

Bok Bokum Kum.”

This is a folk song with a deep philosophical reality that declares, “You are crazy! When will you wake up from this illusion? You are still asleep surrounded by this material splendour. You have domesticated a wild pigeon and are kissing him thinking it to be a parrot. But he won’t be able to chant the name of Krishna. He will only sing, Bok Bokum Kum.” As the song played, Raja Saheb filled his mouth with air, bulging and broadening his throat, mimicking a pigeon, making funny faces and singing the last line ‘Bok Bokum Kum’ in different ways and roared out laughing. Looking at his antics, Bimala Maa also started laughing uncontrollably. Even after being rebuked by Sri Sri Thakur for his laughter a few times, Raja Saheb didn’t know how to stop. When Thakur would hear him laughing so loudly, he would quip with a grin, “This child has some mental issues.”


Another incident has also been noted down in the book, ‘Nilachale Thakur Nigamananda’, written by Leela Maa. One day, Raja Saheb was invited to Fani Bhai’s home for lunch. After Sri Sri Thakur had his food, the prasad was served to the royal guest. The royal guest was carefully led to the place arranged for him. The lunch was laid out on a big plate with many small bowls around it filled with a variety of dishes. Seeing this, Raja Saheb started laughing. He didn’t know how to eat with his own hands as his mother used to always feed him. So, a spoon was given to him. But by the time he finished eating, the place had become so messy with food falling down all around him. Before the others could react, Prafulla Chandra rolled on the floor laughing at himself. Hearing the noise, Sri Sri Thakur came out of his chamber. He found the reason and went back a bit annoyed. After Prafulla Chandra left, all the attendants were called and given a good scolding. Sri Sri Thakur said, “What was the need for such an arrangement?” One of them answered in a quiet voice, “He is a king, royal and dignified. Wouldn’t it have been improper not to serve him with due respect?” Raising his voice, Sri Sri Thakur said, “What respect? He has come to have prasad at his Guru’s home. He should have been treated like the rest. So, what if he is a king?”


The King of Bastar, Maharaja Prafulla Chandra Bhanja Deo, was Sri Sri Nigamananda Dev’s disciple in the path of Tantra. He was born with the qualities favourable for Tantra Sadhana. He was the only son of Routray Sridama Chandra Bhanja, the younger brother of Maharaja Srirama Chandra Bhanja Deo. For a long time, Sridama Chandra Bhanja Deo didn’t have any child of his own to carry on his name. Many astrologers had predicted that he wouldn't have any children and so he had given up the wish of having a kid. One day, riding an elephant, he set out to supervise his lands on the outskirts of Baripada. After travelling for quite a distance, in the middle of a place filled with water, the elephant refused to move forward. The mahout started pushing him with his goad, a sharp metal hook, but the elephant didn’t budge an inch. Sridama Chandra Bhanja alighted from the back of the elephant as he was curious to find out what the matter was. What was it that obstructed the passage of the elephant? He put his hand underneath the water and searched. His fingers touched a self-manifested Shiva Linga. Astounded and filled with wonder, he prostrated before the Shiva Linga and prayed, “O Mahadeva! Lord of the Lords! Have mercy on me. I have been aspiring to hold my son in my arms. Please grant me with a son and fulfil this desire of mine. I will come here every day to pray and pay my obeisance to you. I will build a five-gem studded temple for you the day I am blessed with a son.”


From that day onwards, both husband and wife started praying to Lord Mahadeva earnestly. They observed a fast every Monday with austerity and didn’t even take water. A year passed and by the grace of the Lord, his wife became pregnant and a son was born to them on 9th May in the year 1909. That day, the construction of the Shiva temple also started at the site which came to be known as Baruneeshwara Temple. The son, born with the blessings of Lord Mahadeva was none other than Sri Prafulla Chandra.


Ever since his childhood days, Prafulla Chandra had always been fascinated with worshipping and praying. He also showed a great interest in the study and analysis of Sanskrit literature. By the grace of God, whenever he used to sit down to meditate, he would start uttering Sanskrit verses. One day, in that meditative state, he composed two verses in praise of Mahamaya Maa Jagadeeshwari. His father was taken aback by this sudden poetic outburst and immediately showed the two verses to the court priest. The priest was also surprised. He exclaimed that if one could recite such verses without studying Sanskrit, then with proper education, he would surely bloom into a great scholar. He continued that the child might have come into this world to seek enlightenment and pursue his sadhana that was left out, incomplete in his last birth. The scriptures also pronounce that the life force, ‘kundalini’, of such great souls is already awakened and hence he possessed the poetic power and mastery in Sanskrit, the language of the Gods.


So started Prafulla Chandra’s Sanskrit training. Two tutors, vedic pandits from Southern India, were appointed to teach him and make him proficient in singing the vedic hymns, ‘Sama Gaan’. One scholar from Mithila taught him the Rudradhyaya from Yajurveda and another scholar taught him the nuances of Sanskrit grammar. The pandit who taught him Sanskrit grammar was Sri Narayan Tripathy who was an ardent devotee of Devi Tara. On Devi’s instruction, he had secured an ancient manuscript written on palm leaf from a flowing river. In it was written the mantras of Tara Devi and the rules of their application. Realizing Prafulla Chandra to be the worthy inheritor, he handed over the manuscripts to him and said that what he was bestowing upon him was a priceless gem, the outcome of his life’s penance. The one who practices the mantras written in that manuscript, becomes empowered with amazing poetic skills and his life improves immensely in this world and after. Prafulla Chandra started vocalising and chanting these mantras every day. In a few days he noticed that he had become an articulate orator and his poetic ability showed significant growth. Miraculously, within a week of chanting this mantra, a marriage proposal came for him. Tara Devi came in the dreams of both his parents and instructed them to accept the proposal.


In 1927, he got married to the princess of the state of Bastar. By prudence, both the bride and the groom had the same name. The name of his wife was, Shrimati Prafulla Kumari. Prafulla Chandra was only eighteen years old when he got married. Prafulla Kumari was very beautiful and devoted to her husband. After getting married, he immersed himself in marital bliss with his wife and for six months he completely forgot his chanting, meditation and worship. After the wedding, both of them went to Kashmir and stayed there for five months. While roaming around the mountainous landscapes of Kashmir, he met a Tantra Sadhu in a cave. During his discussions with him, he came to know that the Sadhu was a disciple of Sri Tailanga Swami and a worshipper of Adyaa Mahashakti. After returning from Kashmir, they stayed in Kolkata for six months.


One fateful night during this stay, Maharani Prafulla Kumari woke up shrieking loudly in the middle of their sleep, having witnessed a ferocious dream. She had seen a rare image of a blue hued Saraswati and heard a voice from above, “Your husband has completely forgotten me. Tell him to start chanting and continue worshipping. Withdrawing from his daily rituals will be inauspicious for him.” After hearing these instructions of Maa, Prafulla Chandra became alert and came back to his senses. He understood that Maa’s mercy was on him and hence She came to wake him up from his slumber. The following day, he started his worship, meditation and chanting once again. One night, he dreamt of a dark lady, her long hair flowing, wearing a blood red attire who advised him, “O dear! In order to obtain Shakti, you must take shelter of Shiva in the form of Guru. The disciplines like Veda and Tantra can only be inherited from a Guru. So, find your Guru and get initiated by him.” Thus began the search for Guru. He travelled around several places, searching far and wide. At one point, he was astonished to stumble across an enlightened man on the banks of river Narmada. Their discussion covered topics of Tantra and Yoga. Once, while he was sitting beside him, the sadhu told him, “You won’t find your Guru here. Go back to Kolkata. Your search for Guru will come to an end soon. Be patient.”

… to be continued



Portrait of Maharaja Prafulla Chandra Bhanja Deo at Bastar Palace

Image Courtesy: Matru Prasad Jyotiranjan

Inspired by Krushnapriya Mohanty's essay 'Maharaja Sri Prafulla Chandra Bhanja Deo'





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