It is beginning of September. We have hired a taxi and are driving towards Ranakpur from Rajasamand. This is a season of Jaatrus, the devotees of Baba Ramdev Peer. The devotees are everywhere on the way. Some of these devotees are walking alone, some of them are part of a small group and some are moving in a large group. Some among these devotees are walking barefoot and a few of them have taken a vow to complete this Jatra crawling all along. Many of these Jaatrus are from rural background and are walking with a worn-out school bag on their back, probably with all necessary things for the yatra in their backpack. What draw my attention are the young, probably newly-wed couples, walking hand-in-hand as if they are on a mission to complete this jatra to seek Baba’s blessings that as they would be completing this journey they also complete the journey of life facing challenges together with equal enthusiasm.
There are devotees on bikes, with or without pillion riders, families in jeeps, large group of devotees on tractor-trolleys, buses and even on camel and bullock carts. Most of these devotees are carrying banners and flags in their hand or tucked somewhere in the vehicle. Many ‘ramrasodas’ are also operational; in these temporary kitchens, durries are spread and the Jaatrus are welcome to take rest and are served free food with warmth by fellow devotees. Music is being played loud here; something that I dislike and find cacophonic.
These devotees are coming from far and wide irrespective of their caste, creed and religious differences. All Jaatrus are moving towards Ramdevara, where Baba Ramdeva took samadhi at a young age of thirty-three only. These devotees are seeking his blessings for health, love, peace and money. The devotees of Baba Ramdeva are spread over Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Mumbai, even in Sindh in Pakistan. Baba is revered by all, Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Muslims.
Baba Ramdeva Peer, a Hindu folk deity, is believed to be the re-incarnation of Lord Krishna. From the time of his birth itself he possessed miraculous power and devoted his life for the upliftment of downtrodden and poor in the society. His fame spread far and five peers from Mecca decided to test him. They arrived to meet the baba; when the food was served to them, they informed baba that they cannot eat that food as they have taken a pledge to eat food only in their own bowls which they forgot in Mecca. Baba smiled at their insistence and denial, and soon they saw their bowls miraculously appearing in front of them. The food was then served in those bowls only. These Peers were convinced of Baba’s magic and became his followers forever. The tomb of these five peers today lie adjacent to Baba’s.
Baba Ramdeva Peer is the chief deity of Meghwal community. Baba was strictly against caste system and embraced all followers regardless of their caste and social status. One of his ardent follower was Dalibai. She used to accompany Baba on his mission to spread the idea of equality and establish an egalitarian society. Dalibai used to spread his message through her bhajans. Baba was so fond of her that he used to consider her as his sister.
When she learnt about Baba’s decision to take samadhi, she rushed to meet him. When she saw the pit being dug for Baba’s samadhi, she smiled and claimed that this is not for Baba’s Samadhi but for her own. According to folklores, Baba Ramdeva and Dalibai had an argument over the samadhi-pit surprising the devotees and disciples. When there was no consensus among the two, Dalibai suggested that if the samadhi diggers will find three feminine signs of bangles, comb and thread that would substantiate her claim. The digging resumed and to the surprise of curious devotees all three items predicted by Dalibai were found. Baba has to agree for her wish. She then instructed Baba to take Samadhi after three days. To me such folklores are clear examples of how guru allow their followers to take center-stage. The gurus are won over by the love and affection of their devotees and they accept the supremacy of their Bhakti with modesty. Baba Ramdeva sang Dalibai’s bhajan for three days and took samadhi as instructed. Now, Dalibai is considered the kuldevi by Meghwal worshipers. The kuldevi’s are tutelary goddesses and are important features of religious tradition in Rajasthan.
We are returning late from Ranakpur as we left the temple after attending the arti. The way-back is pitch dark and deserted, we are passing through jungle, and to make matters worse it starts raining. There we saw young devotees both male and female braving the situation, moving towards Ramdevra with equal determination.
Hats off to their Bhakti!