The Birth Place
Nardara is a tiny, undeveloped, sleeping and wild village on the bank of India’s Holiest River the Ganga (the Ganges), in Baliya district of Uttar Pradesh state, in north India. It is a remote village and is surrounded by wild bushes and forests. Stags and other wild animals roam around the village so freely. The Ganga is the lifeline for the villagers. The villagers are mostly uneducated peasants. They cultivate grains and other crops using the water of the river. They rear cattle and graze them in the nearby forests. They worship Ganga Ma (Mother Ganges) and keep the river pure. In the monsoon, the Ganga aggressively shows its fury, by flooding this small village, threatening to swallow the crops, houses and other properties of the villagers.
During our visit to this small village, we were not able to see any concrete structures. Almost all the residential buildings were unfinished brick structures with roofs and walls. There was a power line but no electricity. There is a road to connect this village with the mainland, but one should struggle to drive on this road. There was no modern infrastructure in the village. This was the state of the village when we visited it in 2003. No telephones, no televisions, no post office and no proper transports. The lack of these modern facilities, in a way, had helped the village to maintain its natural and divine beauty. There was a blissful peace in this village Nardara. What the village would have been a century ago when Yogi’s parents were living there! It should have been a place still wilder, still more beautiful, still more of blissful silence and sanctity.
Nardara is nearby Bariya, a small town. From Bariya one can reach Nardara, which is five kms away. Bariya can be reached by road from Baliya, the district head quarters. Baliya is connected both by rail and road to Patna, the capital of Bihar. Nardara can also be reached directly from Patna in just a few hours by motor boat on the Ganges.
The people of Nardara said that their community ‘Boomikar Brahmin’ came from the west and settled there some 250 years ago. Even though they are Brahmins, they do not know anything about the sastras, Vedic scriptures or rituals. Most of them are illiterate and born agriculturists. They rear cows and buffalos. Every family in the village has a small cattle farm. Some rich Boomikar Brahmins use horses for the mobility even in this generation of motors. Nowadays the people of this small village have known the value of education and are sending their children to the schools and colleges so that the children might acquire knowledge to improve their standard of life.
Even though the people of Nardara seem to be ignorant and illiterate, one can see the purity, simplicity and hospitality among the villagers. Their devotion to the Ganga Ma is amazing. Ganga is their mother. Ganga is their Goddess. Ganga is their lifeline. In that part of eastern Uttar Pradesh, the Ganga flows wider, about more than two kilometers. The current of the river during the monsoon season will terrify the onlookers. Still it’s a beauty to watch the flow of Ganges. One shall go into trance naturally on just watching it. There is a divine mystery floating eternally on Ganga.
Sri Ramdat Kunwar and his wife Smt Kusum Devi lived in this village Nardara. Sri Ramdat Kunwar’s parents Sri Shivdayal Kunwar and Smt Radhika Devi inherited 30 acres of fertile land on the bank of the Ganga and passed on the property to their son Sri Ramdat Kunwar. Sri Ramdat Kunwar had three sons. The eldest was Manarakhan Kunwar, the second son was Ram Surat Kunwar, born on 1/12/1918 and the youngest was Ramdahin Kunwar.
Sri Ramdat Kunwar was the head of the village. He was courageous and fearless. He was considered a hero in Nardara. He had a well-built body and he was a good wrestler. He worked hard with the help of his eldest son Sri Manarakhan Kunwar in their 30 acre farm. The family was living happily and prosperously in the village. Mother Kusum Devi loved all her children. Particularly Ram Surat Kunwar was very dear to her. The child Ram Surat Kunwar was obedient to his parents and the elders of the village. He used to offer his service to all the needy people in the village. He had great love and regards for his parents. He learnt wrestling from his father. Mother Kusum Devi used to narrate the stories of Rama and Krishna to all her children. Ram Surat Kunwar listened to those holy stories of Rama and Krishna with great passion and imagined himself as Rama and Krishna. His mother was extremely happy on seeing her son’s enthusiasm for Rama and Krishna. She never got tired of repeating the stories of Rama and Krishna to her beloved son, whenever she was asked for. She would fondly call Ram Surat Kunwar “Surat”.
Sri Manarakhan Kunwar, the eldest son of Sri Ramdat Kunwar was very fond of his younger brothers, particularly Ram Surat Kunwar. Ram Surat Kunwar was different since his birth. He used to sit alone on the banks of the Ganga and stared at the river for hours together. Even though he played with his friends and was enough active for the age, he was always in a search. He did not know what he was searching. He used to feel that he had lost something and he should search for it. This feeling gave him pain, but at the same time he felt that this longing and searching were the prime things in his life.
Ram Surat Kunwar did not show any interest in the farm work as well as rearing the cattle. He wanted to go to school and study along with the rich boys of the neighboring villages. In 1923, Sri Ramdat Kunwar sent his second son Ram Surat Kunwar to an elementary school at Bhusoula, just 1 km away from Nardara. Sri Manarakhan Kunwar, the elder brother always wanted Ram Surat Kunwar to be highly educated. He recommended to his father to send him to the elementary school and also helped him in all ways to continue his education even during the most financially difficult period.
Ram Surat Kunwar used to get up early in the morning and run towards the bank of the Ganga carrying water in a small brass vessel. He would finish his morning ablutions and would swim in the bathing ghat of Ganga for a long time. Then he would worship the village deity, which was some Salagram. (Natural stones picked from the Ganga) He used to offer flowers to the deity. After worshipping the deity, he would rush to his house and take some roti as breakfast and would get some rotis packed for lunch. He would always make it a point to attend the school in time. He was punctual in all his works and he maintained punctuality throughout his life.
Ram Surat Kunwar was a brilliant student and learnt everything the teacher taught him at the school. In the evening he would return home, put his school bag in the home and would run towards the bank of the Ganga. He would play with his friends there. Mostly he would like to wrestle with other boys. If his friends got tired and went away to their houses, he would sit on the banks for a long time watching the fishes in the river. Ganga was the source of inspiration for him.
In those days, there were several sadhus doing Ganga Pradakshina. Pradakshina means going round. Those sadhus would walk on the banks of the Ganga from Gangotri in the Himalayas (the source of the Ganga) to the Ganga Sagar where the Ganga merges with ocean. There they would cross the Ganga to the other bank by a boat and again would walk up to Gangotri, the source. The total distance is around 5000 miles and it will take 6 years to complete this expedition. During the monsoon, one cannot walk in the muddy, slippery path on the banks of the Ganga. It’s dangerous to walk on the banks of the river during floods. Hence the sadhus would pause to their journey during the monsoon and would stay in some village on the way. The villagers on the banks looked after them during the sojourn. The villagers considered it a great privilege to look after them. The sadhus performed this Ganga Pradakshina as a penance and believed that by doing so they would attain liberation. (Even now sadhus of certain cults do this penance.)
Nardara is situated on the way to the Ganga Sagar from Gangotri. The sadhus used to take rest at Nardara for a few hours during their expedition. Similarly, during monsoons some sadhus would stay there. The people of the village would offer them food and other essentials during their stay. They would gather around the sadhus, who would share their experiences with them. Sometimes the sadhus would impart divine wisdom to the eligible seekers.
Ram Surat Kunwar used to watch those sadhus with great passion. Whenever such sadhus stayed in his village for the night, he would sit near them and would listen to their tales of journey. He would like to feed those sadhus. He would run to his house and demand food from his mother. If his mother refused to give him food, he would stealthily pack some food in his long shirt and dhoti without the knowledge of others in the house. He would run back to the bank of Ganga and offer it to the sadhus. Through these sadhus he gained knowledge of several holy places situated on the bank of the Ganga. Also, he learnt about several holy men living in India at that time. He valued and enjoyed the association of these sadhus. He was attracted by the freedom of sadhus and their total renunciation. The wandering sadhus’ vast knowledge of life, God and the saints of India had thrilled him. Their simple life, their total dedication towards God, the way they radiated peace and bliss had enthralled him. But he never thought at that time that one day he would also become like them with the thrilling ecstasy of madness on God. The association of sadhus had influenced him later to wander throughout India in search of saints and God.