One day he sounded unusually excited and and asked, "Do you remember the Devi temple at Hiriyangadi ?". I said, "Oh, of course yes. How can I forget it ?". Father said in a sad tone, "Well, the Idol from the temple has been stolen. And this time, even your Grandpa isn't alive to retrieve it". He heaved deep sigh and so did I !
Going back in time. 1997 May, Karkala. I was in town on a holiday to participate in the annual 'Rathotsava' in our main Venkataramana Temple in Karkala. My cousins, Upendra and Rajesh were already there with Upendra's brother in law Prakash.
After recovering from the overnight train journey, I met the threesome that evening. They were eagerly waiting for me. One to test us and the other two, to prove a point. So before any exchange could take place; Prakash asked me, "Hey Govind, tell me honestly what did you guys do at the Hiriyangadi temple when you were kids ?". I calmly replied, "Well, we brought the idol to our Grandfather's home". I could see both Rajesh and Upendra jump for joy and Prakash silenced with an exclamation, "Oh my God !".
It seems he did not believe one word of the story when Upendra and Rajesh narrated him as it happened when all 3 of us were 9 years old. That was during the summer vacation of 1980. Let me introduce Rajesh and Upendra. Rajesh is the eldest of the troika, my mother's eldest sister's son. Upendra is the second in order and my Mom's immediate elder sister's eldest son. We all know I am my Mom's son, no prizes for guessing here ! I happen to be youngest by 8 months.
Rajesh used to come to Karkala during summer vacations and we used to have a gala time. There were no summer camps, no summer courses, no summer classes and Abacus was not born. Life definitely was so much more fun. I sometimes feel sad for our kids. As much as they enjoy their life and the modern day comforts and Internet, they probably will never have a story like this to narrate.
This is the story of 3 boys all of 9 years. What they did that night was an innocent act of the boyhood. Yet it was a hugely scandalous act by any stretch imagination.
Three Tiny Robbers and the Goddess of Hiriyangadi Temple !
Rajesh, Upendra and Govind were at once famous and notorious for the mischief they were capable of. Upendra was the local guide because of his familiarity with the place. Rajesh was an annual visitor from Kochi during vacations and Govind came during holidays too. There wasn't a corner they didn't visit in and around the place and there wasn't a person they didn't keep a vigil on.
That evening they were coming back after a long and aimless wander. Upendra whispered, "Hey look at Bemmu, he is now going to pick his toddy liquor from the Devi temple compound". The boys were naturally keen to see the 'bottle'. The little fellows were quite impressed by the drunken act of Amitabh Bachchan in Amar Akbar Anthony and were fond of recognizing themselves with that movie.
They slithered through the main gate and watched the old man dig his stuff from a corner of the temple. They were hiding behind a huge mound covered by shrubs at another corner of the compound. Thanks to the constant movements of the restless youngest tyro, the old man was alarmed and looked around to see what was going on.
Realizing the danger of being caught by a drunkard, the boys ran for life towards the inner gate of the temple. In no time, they entered the temple thanks to the careless priest who had neither fastened the latch nor locked the door.
There they were, in side the temple with the beautiful 'Panchaloha' idol of the Goddess smiling at them. Rajesh and Govind were always fond of Gods, Poojas, rituals and Utsavs [Processions]. They had their own Deities, Chariots, Palanquins and every toy necessary for conducting Utsavs and celebrations.
Oh God, but this was different. This was a 'Real Goddess' not a toy. In all her splendor in spite of not being cleaned and shined, she looked gorgeous. Rajesh and Govind instantaneously decided to carry her home. Rajesh gave the justification, "See these priests are useless. They are not feeding the Goddess properly. Let us take her home and give her milk, honey and everything. We will keep her for ourselves".
Govind seconded the motion instantly, "Yes, Grandpa's house is the best place for the Goddess. We will wash her, shine her and keep her at the center of the Pooja room. And we will also conduct Utsav for her !".
But Upendra was alarmed now. He pleaded with the other two not to carry the idol. But his plea was dismissed by a 2 : 1 voice vote and carry her home they did. Hiding her inside the shirt, Rajesh and Govind stealthily marched home as the Moon god was on his way up through the emerging darkness.
Now, Upendra ran for his life to reach home ahead of the other two and blurted out to Grandpa, "Rajesh and Govind are bringing the Goddess home". Since he was panting and what he told was so much out of the ordinary; Grandpa didn't realize what was happening. As was his wont, he gave a royal hiding to the little fellow. Just as Upendra was recovering his breath, the twosome entered the house with the deity.
Seeing the temple deity in the hands of two 9 year old mischief-mongers, Grandpa was flabbergasted. He immediately snatched it from Rajesh and ordered to Upendra, "Go and keep it back where it was, and NOW !". Even as Upendra ran towards the temple, the other two started to wail. They had the temerity and courage to argue with the ferocious Grandpa; a liberty which was never given to Upendra.
Around that time, the wonderful uncle came to the rescue. He came in and soothed the boys and protected them from the Grandpa's wrath. He also assured them of taking care of the poor Goddess. That was a night etched indelibly in the minds of the three and remains fresh thirty years since.
None of them slept that night. Two because they felt betrayed and the third because of all the bashing he received from Grandpa for no fault of his.
It was the same idol that was stolen by some unknown robbers recently. That is why my father remembered his late father-in-law who recovered the idol from the tiny robbers and got her reinstated at her rightful place.
|The Enfant Terribles Trio: Rajesh, Upendra and Govind|
Rajesh is a hugely successful businessman in Kochi today with a burgeoning enterprise that manufactures and exports essential oils and perfumes. Upendra is well entrenched in Moscow and deals in decorative lighting business. The third part of the triumvirate went onto become a Doctor and doesn't believe in Gods today !
He also blogs at Live, Love and Laugh !