On 6th November 2016, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and BJP president Amit Shah offered prayers at Pitambara Peeth temple complex before heading for a rally at Jhansi, accompanied by Union Ministers Kalraj Mishra, Thawar Chand Gehlot, BJP vice president Vinay Sahastrabuddhe and party’s UP chief Keshav Prasad Maurya. The demonetization of Indian currencies was announced on 9th November 2016 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Whether the two incidences were related can be any bodies guess, but political ambitions and controversies have brought many leaders across party lines to Pitambara Peeth, located inside a dusty countryside bazaar of a small town called Datia near Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh.
In the temple premises, photography is prohibited, and one has to remove all leather accessories before entering the temple premises, which is home to several deities. Inside, priests clad in yellow robes, can be seen sitting cross-legged, chanting mantras. It is believed that two deities of the temple — have powers to grant wishes of those in the field of statecraft and politics. No wonder then, the temple attracts a number of politicians before elections. Special prayers — quiet, continuous chants of mantras called jaap — are conducted by priests, which can go on for months. Following the chanting, a yagna is performed by the devotee. Prayers here are classified according to the nature of the wishes. For instance, if a leader wants to win or retain power, then an exclusive Bagulamukhi anusthan is performed. There is even a special puja called supari sankalp [contract puja]. “Here, priests perform puja for a politician to politically harm rivals and put an end to their careers or for him to achieve specific goals like becoming the chief minister or prime minister or for some other powerful position,” says Ashok Sharma, a journalist.
A top priest associated with the management says leaders ask them to chant 1 lakh to 10 lakh mantras whenever there is a crisis in the country or state. The Scindias have a long association with the temple. Before Vasundhara took over as chairperson of the temple trust, her mother, Vijaya Raje Scindia, had headed it for almost six decades. In 1967, Vijaya Raje declined to be chief minister after toppling the Congress government. She did not give a reason then. Later, in the 1980s, when she was asked to head the BJP, she told L.K. Advani – according to his book My Country, My Life – that she was advised against accepting any public post by the chief priest of Pitambara Peeth. Like Vasundhara, many leaders have come to the temple to ward off controversies. Lalu Prasad made a visit when he was facing a CBI investigation in the fodder scam; General V.K. Singh came calling in 2011 during his birth date row. Varun Gandhi performed a special puja a few years ago. He was, perhaps, following in his grandmother’s footsteps. Indira Gandhi had visited the temple thrice — once when she was out of power post emergency.
The rise of this powerful centre of faith, in the middle of nowhere, has an interesting history. A Shiva (Bankhandeswar Mahadev) temple from the era of Mahabharata existed in the ancient city of Datia, which had gone to ruins due to lack of maintenance. An ascetic, who went by the name of Pujyapad Swamiji Maharaj, appeared at this location on 23rd December 1929. Nothing of his origins and previous life is known. Swamiji Maharaj soon became very popular due to his helpful nature, personality and spiritual acumen.
The spread of his fame came to be known only later. During 1962, when China attacked India, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru requested for a special yagna at the temple. Consequently, Pujyapad Swamiji Maharaj planned a big tantrik yagna. For this hundred tantrik preists were required. After scouting across India, only eighty suitable priests could be found. Under the leadership (acharya) of Sri Kedarnath Jaitley from Varanasi, chanting (jap) of mantras of Goddess Shashra Chandi was done in the day time while Godess Dhumawati was worshipped in the night, from 10 PM to 4 AM.
On the very first day, the sound of Shiva could be heard and Swamiji Maharaj was duly informed. He arranged for the required sacrifice to be performed. In the night, when the sacrifice was performed in a dry pond nearby, the priests present could see the sacrifice consumed by the deity. Many priests performing the yagna had different spiritual experiences, which were duly reported to Swamiji Maharaj. He would then make necessary changes in the arrangements of the yagna. The yagna was performed only by the selected priests and general people were completely prohibited from visiting the place. The yagna continued for a month and on the day of completion (known as purna ahuti) China announced withdrawal of it’s forces. “When the yagna was being performed, reports started coming in that Chinese forces were retreating,” says priest Anil Chaturvedi. “A special yagna kund still stands at the place. Prime minister Nehru himself visited the place later.”
Goddess Dhumawati, one of the Das Mahavidyas of Hinduism is considered to be the most fearsome. The goddess is said to have swallowed Lord Shiva himself and hence is worshipped as a widow. After the yagna was completed, a temple of the goddess was built here in the year 1978.The temple is usually covered by a curtain and the goddess can be seen only during the morning and evening puja. This is due to the fearsome nature of the goddess, and she is believed to be destroyer of enemy of the worshipper. Ladies are completely prohibited from visiting Goddess Dhumavati shrine.
Both the navratris (nine day worship of goddess Durga performed in the Hindu months of Chaitra and Sharad) are observed by many visiting saints and general people in the temple premises. Basant Panchami is also celebrated in the shaktipeeth, in which goddess Saraswati is worshipped in the day while classical singing performances are organized in the evening. Pujyapad Swamiji Maharaj was highly knowledgeable in Hindustani classical recitals. Many well known classical singers, like Pandit Gudai Maharaj, Siyaram Tiwari, Rajan Sajan Mishra, Dagar bandhu, Nikhil Banerjee, Salil Shankar, Bahadur Khan, Pawar bandhu, Khan bandhu, Kumar Gandhrva etc visited the shaktipeeth and performed here. Famous singer Adeel Khan of Jhansi was a disciple of Guruji and is said to have got back his voice by blessings of Guruji.
Guruji created the Peetambra Peeth trust as a property of goddess Pitambara in 3rd June 1978 and worked as the trustee for this public property through out his lifetime. People are reported to have experienced complete cure from illness like brain tumor, cancer etc, just by use of mantras (ancient holy chants – usually in Sanskrit) in the ashram complex. He is said to be against all material possessions and considered the material possessions to be the root of all problems. Swamiji maharaj established Baglamukhi temple in the year 1992 and also published a book “Baglamukhi rahasyam”.
The temple and the associated library works today as an archive of many little known powerful techniques of ancient Hinduism and mostly the benefits are experienced practically by the beneficiary. Treatments of different diseases, specially eye problems, is conductedin the premises. Politicians across the party lines have growing faith on the practices in the age of increasing political uncertainty.