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It was when Gangabai Bhutt was in Hoshangabad, a district of Harda, that she had a vision that was to change her life. She had met some yogi who had asked her to meditate with her eyes open early in the morning, while looking up at the skies. Gangabai Bhutt had an intense desire in her heart to see God high up in the heavens.
It was the desire to see God that had been the cause of her restlessness in life. She had not been satisfied with the concept of the invisible God – the Niraakaar. She wanted God in a form that she could behold – a Saakaar Roop, a visible human form.
That special day she looked at the skies with her eyes open, in the early hours of the morning at 3 a.m.
Suddenly the skies appeared to part and she saw a face peering down at her from the heavens! Instinctively, something told her, it was the Lord Vishnu himself.
She screamed out loud: My God! My God! How can I reach thee? How can I touch thy feet?
The next instant she felt herself go up in her astral body. She found herself in a beautifully decorated hall. On a throne sat the Lord Himself in all His Glory. She fell at his feet and wept with emotion like she had never wept before.
You have had a glimpse of me. Now return to your earthly home, said Lord Vishnu.
Never,” said Mrs. Bhutt, how can I leave God and return to the perishable world?
You will find me down there on the earth, said Lord Vishnu, I have taken on a human form there. I have gone down to earth as an avatar. This is my form on earth.
Saying this, Lord Vishnu cast a drop of perspiration from his forehead to the floor. And a beautiful image came into existence. It was a handsome being, dressed royally in chooridars, achkan and a turban. There was divine radiance on the face. And the Face was that of Lord Vishnu Himself.
I exist on earth in this form. To look upon this figure is to look upon me, to bow before it is to bow before me, to serve it is to serve me, to worship it is to worship me. When it has completed its task on earth, this form shall return to me!
And saying this, Lord Vishnu vanished. Gangabai Bhutt found herself back on earth.
In the morning, she went and narrated the incident to the yogi, who complimented her on her success, but who could not explain what it all meant.
A thrill was running in the very core of Gangabai. God was on earth – in human form! And she had been shown the face and the dress he would have on earth. Lord Vishnu had spoken to her. And now it was to become her mission in life to find the living image shown to her in the heavens.
Was it all a dream? A vision? Was she mad? People laughed at her. Some were puzzled, because she was a great intellectual not given over to flights of fancy. But of one thing everyone was convinced – she was not lying. Her sincerity left no one in doubt about that. Hers was the determination of a thirsty soul.
She spoke to her husband, Ganesh Prasad Bhutt, about her vision and expressed her resolve to search for the human form of the Lord upon earth.
Bhutt was furious. He thought her madness had taken a turn for the worse. He refused to allow her to go anywhere in a quest he considered fruitless. But Gangabai Bhutt was not to be enfettered by worldly relationships.
If any worldly relationship stood on the path of her devotion she was ready to cast it away, so strong was her resolve.
In the words of Tulsidas, the poet-saint
Jaake hridaiya naheen Raam-Videhi
Taake tajya koti vairi sam
Yadyapi param snehi
He who has not love for thy Lord in his heart,
Must be cast aside like a foe,
Though he be thy dearest one!
Here was Ganesh Prasad Bhutt, the husband of Gangabai Bhutt, standing in the path of her faith, trying to stifle her devotion, ridiculing the highest and holiest in her heart, barring her from leaving the house in search of the Lord.
Gangabai Bhutt could not allow her beliefs to be brushed aside so lightly. She had become like the legendary Meerabai who had defied her husband, Rana, the king, and had said openly before him:
“Rana roothhe nagari raakhe
Mai Har roothhe kahaan jaanaa
If the King be angry, let him keep his kingdom,
But if my Lord is angry where shall I go?”
Bhutt discovered that he could not shake his wife’s resolve. She had told him openly that if he stood in the way of her devotion she would forsake him and leave him. He had no alternative but to agree to her request, and he gave her permission to go wherever she wanted. He asked his younger brother and a servant to accompany Gangabai Bhutt on her travels, and to keep him informed by post.
And it was thus that Gangabai set out in search of God upon earth. Here was no small occurrence – a woman leaving the comforts of her home to go out in a search of a God she had seen only in a vision.
Mazaa aashiq ke dil se poochh husne shola rooyaan kaa
Tamaashaa dekh parvaanon ki aankhon se chiraagaan kaa
Ask of the lover’s heart the joy of the dazzling beauty of the Beloved,
Behold the glitter of the lamps  through the eyes of the moths!
Dil ke jaane kee khabar aakil ki kyaa jaane balaa
Kis tarah jaataa hai dil be-dil se poochhaa chaahiye
What knowest the formalist how the heart is lost in Love,
Ask of him who has lost his heart, and he shall let thee know!
She wandered from place to place, from city to city, asking sadhus, mahatmas, rishis, and mahants of every sect and order whether they knew of the advent of God upon earth. To her great surprise, these holy men were the least informed. Many told her this was not the age for the advent of the avatar, and that according to calculations based on the Hindu scale there were still four lakh and thirty six thousand 436,000 years, left for the event.
But nothing would console Mrs. Bhutt. She was searching for the God she had seen above.
Gangabai Bhutt met many people who claimed to be the avatar but none of them had the face of Vishnu Bhagwan she had seen.
She visited Fazilka district in the Punjab and was greatly impressed by the devotees of Punjab who spoke very encouragingly of the coming of the Kalki Avatar. She saw people worshipping pictures of the Kalki Avatar – a radiant Being on a white horse, with a sword in hand. But all this only served to whet her appetite the more.
These were pictures based on imagination. These people had not met the real Kalki Avatar – the Nishkalank Avatar. Where was he? Gangabai Bhutt became desperate. The time of life was passing her by. She had spent four years in the search, but had not succeeded in finding the living form of Lord Vishnu on earth.
She became distraught. Four years of constant search was a long time. And her husband was sick and tired of her wanderings. She went out on one last pilgrimage to Allahabad. There, at the confluence of the three holy rivers, the Triveni, she decided to end her life.
She went out in a boat on the river Ganges and jumped into the turbulent waters.
She found herself being sucked in by the waters. The world around her began to disappear.
Just then, in the depths of the waters she saw a face that was very familiar. The face of the God she sought. The figure appeared before her in the midst of the waters and said:
I have come down to earth as an avatar, just as I had done in the past as Rama and Krishna. The whole world has become a stage for my drama now!
Gangabai Bhutt found herself in another boat. Someone had brought her up. Thereafter, she was like a person possessed. She could neither eat nor sleep. An intense restlessness came over her like the thirst of a drowning man for air. She could neither live nor die. An agony of separation filled her being. Nothing could bring fulfilment to her except God.
At Allahabad, she met a lady, Satto Bahen, by name, who told her that a beautiful radiant personality had visited Lucknow, and that she had seen him – and he was called God by the people there, the Avatar! Mrs. Bhutt could not contain her joy. This was the happiest day of her life! At last, her life-long quest was to be fulfilled!
But where was he? Where did he live?
Lahore, said the lady at Allahabad, he must be there this time of the year.
In the words of Mrs. Bhutt:
I purchased the ticket for Lahore and reached the city. It was a large place. How could I find God within it? I didn’t even know his address. People thought me mad, whenever I asked them such a question. I thought of the vision of God I had seen in the heavens! I thought of the face I had seen in the Ganga waters! I recalled the voice of assurance that God had come down to earth as an avatar! Surely he wouldn’t desert me now?
“I saw a horse drawn carriage – a tonga, come towards me. How I wished the tongawalla would stop and lead me to God! To my great surprise, he stopped and asked me:
‘Bibiji, where do you want to go?’
I said: ‘Take me to the house of God.’
The man laughed and asked me to climb in. He brought the tonga to No. 3 Kutchery Road, and said:
‘Bibiji, I bring hundreds of people to this house. They come for the darshan of God –Bhagwan!’
And saying this, he left without taking his fare!
People were coming in and going out of the house. My heart began to beat wildly. I had reached my destination. A man came downstairs and said to me:
‘Are you the lady from Berar? You have been asked to come up.’
I was surprised again. How did he know of my arrival, and that I was from Berar, hundreds of miles away! I went to the second floor.
There was a large room. A figure, incredibly beautiful, sat on a high chair. His beauty radiated divine love. Around him sat a large group of people, all lost in self-forgetfulness and all of them had tears in their eyes as they looked at him. I stared at the face – it was the Face I had seen in my vision! It was the Face Vishnu Bhagwan had shown me! 
However a very strange thing happened. The intensity of devotion that had possessed me suddenly disappeared. I saw the beautiful personality before me–but there was no feeling within me. It was as if I were looking at a stranger with whom I had no relationship. God was playing a game with me! Having searched for Him for three years intensely, and being willing to die for Him, here I was before the very Figure that Vishnu Bhagwan had shown me! I could recognise every feature, every little detail. But within my heart there was no exhilaration, no bliss, nothing. It appeared as if God had snatched away my realisation at the last moment.
I was vexed beyond measure, and when I went before the figure on the chair, and he gave me two cardamoms, I said with some degree of anger and despair:
‘Agar to ye do netr hain to de deejiye, varna elaayechiyaan to pansaari ki dukaan men bhee mil jaati hain!’
‘If these are two eyes then give them to me, otherwise cardamoms can be had in any pansaari’s shop!’”
These were bold words indeed. But then it was not for nothing that Gangabai Bhutt had been called Dandewali. She could quarrel even with God.
She returned to the chambers where she was staying for the night, still wondering over the leela of the Lord, and still not feeling any divine inspiration within her heart.
She went to sleep in that state of mind, and was awakened with a suddenness that filled her entire being with wild expectations. It was then that God revealed himself to her in the fulness of His Glory. She saw the Divine Form of Shri Nathji in each and every wall, in each and every brick, in each and every particle around her! The Vishwaroop–The Universal Form–of Shri Nathji was too powerful a revelation to last for long. Gangabai’s soul thrilled with a vibration which she could not contain. She let out a shrill cry of joy and fainted.
Her quest in life had been fulfilled. She had found God on earth in the human form of Shri Nathji, who was the Vishnu Bhagwan of her vision. When she regained consciousness her condition was like that of the legendary devotee Meera who had sung:
Pag ghunghroo baandh meeraa naachi re Let Meeraa dance now with joy!
And had danced with the sheer bliss of the nearness of the Lord.
It was a feeling of faith and devotion that was to remain with Gangabai Bhutt for over 50 years, till the last days of her life.
The rest is narrated in her own words:
There was no end to my happiness! A long search in life had been fulfilled; I had found God on earth! I went running to Shri Nathji’s darbaar and fell at the feet of Shri Nathji!
“I prayed to Shri Nathji to allow me to tell the whole world that God Himself had come down upon earth, but Shri Nathji forbade me to do so. He said the time would come when the world would know of itself, after he had completed his play -leela- upon earth.
I stayed in Lahore for six days in that divine atmosphere. At the end of this period, Shri Nathji asked me to return home to my husband. I obeyed him and returned home.
“My husband was furious. He thought my ‘madness,’ had taken a turn for the worse. He wouldn’t listen when I told him that God had come down to earth as an avatar. I took my son, Jagdish, and my mother and sister with me as also some other relatives, and returned to Lahore. My son was instantly converted. He wrote to his father: ‘I have found the only real father in the world, and he is the Greatest Father of them all.’”
Shri Nathji was going to Chittagong from Lahore. One of his devotees, a certain Gannilal Kasera, was getting married, and had fervently prayed that Shri Nathji grace his wedding. Shri Nathji, who seldom went out on such occasions and who was always surrounded by a sea of humanity, had accepted the genuine prayer of his devotee.
The journey was to be long and tedious. Shri Nathji would willingly suffer the inconvenience for the sake of his devotee, who was a poor man. Where the invitations of the rich and wealthy could not move Shri Nathji, the fervent prayer of a poor man could.
The train carrying Shri Nathji left Lahore for Chittagong. Mrs. Bhutt had prayed that she be allowed to accompany Shri Nathji to Chittagong. In the train were a large number of devotees including Mrs. Bhutt, her son Jagdish, and her sister and mother and relatives.
When the train reached Benares, Shri Nathji asked Mrs. Bhutt to take the connecting train to Jabalpur from there, and return home.
Mrs. Bhutt was greatly vexed and distraught. Having found God on earth – was she to lose Him so soon? She had wished that she and her family be allowed to accompany Shri Nathji to Chittagong. However, it appeared that Shri Nathji was still observing the maryaadaa, etiquette, that he observed with regard to women, and was sending her back to her husband.
When will you call us again? said Mrs. Bhutt’s sister to Shri Nathji.
No, interrupted Mrs. Bhutt, never call us to your darbaar again! Of what use our coming to your darbaar if you will not let us stay and serve you?
In obedience to Shri Nathji’s wishes, Gangabai Bhutt and her son, sister mother and son and other relatives got off the train at Benares Railway Station.
Within a few minutes the train carrying Shri Nathji had moved away from Benares, leaving Gangabai Bhutt and her relatives behind.
Shri Nathji was however deeply moved. Even as the train sped away, he could fathom the infinite sorrow in the soul of Gangabai Bhutt.
The train stopped at the first station after Benares, and Shri Nathji said to Sardar Sohan Singh, his personal attendant:
Sohan Singhji – my mind is being filled with Mrs. Bhutt’s sorrow! I have a heavy heart.
The faithful Sardar understood. Taking his Master’s permission, he lept on to the station and was gone, with the words:
I will bring them to the darbaar–with your blessings!