Dussehra 2017: While the country celebrates, a village mourns

A visit to a small village near India’s capital city unfolds thousands of years old lore, and leaves Mridul Negi wondering about human beliefs

The festival of Dussehra is earmarked on everyone’s calendars due to the sheer scale of festivities, cultural programmes, and celebrations it brings along with it. As the whole nation was engulfed in celebrating the triumph of righteousness over darkness yesterday, several mothers mourned the death of their fallen son. The ashes of the burned Ravana in the nearby areas, constantly remind the mothers of Bisrakh the agony of their son.

Bisrakh is a village situated on the outskirts of Noida. Most of the days it looks nothing different from the nearby villages, but on the day of Dussehra the stark difference in the streets of Bisrakh and others can be easily noticed. Unlike many, the whole village does not partake in the Dussehra festivities as they believe it is the day when one of their own met his sad demise.

Fallen but not forgotten

For long Bisrakh has mourned every year and has kept a story in its heart that only a few are aware of, the story of the humble beginnings of the main antagonist in Ramayana, the symbol of darkness in Hindu mythology and their greatest son Ravana. Villagers of Bisrakh believe that Ravana was born here.  Ravana is cherished and loved in the village; hence on the day of his demise, instead of celebrating like others they perform yagyas to bring peace to his soul. The relationship that the village shares with Ravana runs so deep that to this day the elders of the village remember tales passed down from one generation to another.

Shiva temple in Bisrakh

Villagers fondly remember both Ravana and his father Maharishi Vishvara. The village has a Shiva temple that was apparently founded by Maharishi Vishvara himself in the Treta yug along with the village, claim the villagers. According to one of the priests at the Shiva temple in Bisrakh, Pandit SonuTiwari, ‘Dasgreha’ was the original name of Ravana and he got his popular name after devoting himself to lord Shiva. “Lord Shiva blessed him with enormous strength which he used to take away Lanka from Kuber. Kuber was the keeper of God’s money and also his brother,” he explains about Ravana’s successful quest of Lanka.

The local lore

The folk tale says that the sage Vishvara himself was a devotee of Lord Shiva and built the temple in Bisrakh to please the lord. It was this temple in which Ravana used to offer his prayers and got the blessing of tremendous strength from Lord Shiva. At this temple exists a unique octagonal Shivalingam built by sage Vishvara that is supposedly the only one of its kind in the world, according to the local priest.

They claim that an expedition led by the Archaeological Survey of India failed to find the bottom of the Shivalingam as it has no end. “This shivling has been here since the Sat yuga, it’s so deep that it has no end,” claims Swami Anil Acharya, a pujari at the temple.

Just a few metres away from the shivalingam is an underground tunnel which leads to the Dudheshwar temple at Ghaziabad, according to Mahant Ramdas Maharaj, who is the eldest priest at the temple. “This tunnel is a link between the village and the Dudheshwar temple as well as the villagers and their proud history. Both sage Vishvara and Ravana used to travel in this tunnel, it has a lot of significance,” he claims.

Octagonal Shivlingam

Lost in insignificance

‘Ravana Samhita’ an ancient book of wisdom of tantra, yagya, and tapasya that is still popular among priests and religious enthusiasts to this day, was written on leaves by Ravana himself at the temple, if the priests are to be believed.

Until a few years ago the priests of the temple had the original copy written on leaves with them at the temple, but a Muni came and took it away to preserve it. “We still have a printed copy of the book which is an accurate transcription, but sadly it does not feel the same,” says Mahant Ramdas.

Elders of the village are witness to the fact that the 8th Prime Minister of India, Chandra Shekhar also used to visit the shrine to worship, however, little else is known about his devotion towards the temple at Bisrakh.

Conflicting times

Modernisation and an educated younger generation with an urban lifestyle have brought the age-old traditions of the village to a crossroad with the beliefs of the young. While nobody at the village celebrates Dussehra, the younger generation has found the temptation hard to resist and go out of the village to celebrate it.

“My grandmother doesn’t like that my brothers and I go out and celebrate Dussehra. She finds it upsetting that the youth of the village is celebrating the death of one of the sons of soil. I, however, do not believe in such stories but still feel conflicted as I do not want to hurt her feelings,” says Vishwender Bhati, a 22-year-old law student from the village.

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