At some distance from Allahabad there was the town of Chitrakoot, which was famous as much for its hermitages as it was for a great saint of the area – Mahatma Sita Ram Sharan. The man was a great devotee of Lord Rama and had spent his entire life in the worship of this deity. His sermons and expositions on the Ramayana enthralled his listeners. He was accredited with the power of miracles, and many said that he had performed Kaayaa Kalp on his body – a spiritual rejuvenation that could keep him young and alive for years. Thousands of persons had become his devotees and he was renowned all over the country as a great devotee of Lord Rama.
However, deep within the heart of Mahatma Sita Ram Sharan there was a yearning–a yearning to see Lord Rama in human form. He felt that if he could not secure the divine darshan of Lord Rama in human form, his entire life and devotion would cease to have any meaning. He had prayed desperately to Lord Rama to reveal himself to him, and he had even gone so far as to say:
O Lord, if thou willst not appear before me in human form I shall die with this yearning in my soul – and you will have to take another birth upon earth to fulfil my quest for thee, which shall continue from age to age!
However the Divine Will could take on various phases. The first of which was that man had to learn to be content in His Will. And if it was His Will to conceal Himself, the devotee had to be content in it. In the words of Shri Nathji:
Shaadbaashe dil ke fardaa bar sare baazaare ishq
Muzdaye katl ast gar che vaadaye deedaar nest
Be joyful, O Heart! That, tomorrow in the baazaar of Love,
There comes a message of death, but not the promise of Union!
Mahatma Sita Ram Sharan waited for years for the Lord to manifest himself, but when this seemed an impossibility he decided to end his life.
He undertook a last pilgrimage to the holy city of Allahabad on the occasion of the sacred festival of Kumbh, where thousands had gathered for the purification of their sins at the confluence of the three holy rivers, Ganga, Jamna and Saraswati, at Triveni.
While the multitudes bathed, Mahatma Sita Ram Sharan asked his devotees to bury him in sand up to his neck at the shores of the Triveni. He had made up his mind to fast unto death unless the Lord revealed Himself to him in human form. His devotees and well-wishers were distraught but he was determined. If Lord Ram did not appear before him in human form he would die without food or water with the name of the Lord upon his lips. Such indeed was the intensity of his true devotion.
Those were the days of early 1942 when Shri Nathji was at Allahabad at the house of Shri Khera along with his family and entourage, giving freely of himself day and night to the people who came to him. The pain in his right arm had intensified, and Mateshwari was barely recovered from her illness after the birth of Priya Nath.
As the festival of Kumbh came to an end, Shri Nathji called his hosts and expressed a desire to go to the Triveni.
His hosts said: Maharaj, the festival of Kumbh is over!
Shri Nathji said: Base hue mele ko to dekh liyaa thhaa, ab ujrre hue mele ko bhee dekh lete hain! We saw the Kumbh festival when it was in its full bloom, we can see it now that the site is barren.
A car was brought and Shri Nathji, Mateshwari and the two children, along with two devotees, drove along the road that led to the sands of the Kumbh Mela. Evening was approaching. Already the sun had begun to take on the shape of an orange orb in the western skies. Shri Nathji, as always, was dressed in his immaculate best. He had on his bright orange silken turban tied to take on the shape of a crown. He wore a dark black sherwaani, white woollen chooridar pyjamas, and sparkling black shoes. There was a white handkerchief in his top left pocket, giving him the appearance of a Maharaja attending an evening party. Mateshwari was in her pink saree looking as radiant as possible by the side of Shri Nathji. And the children were in the arms of the devotees that accompanied Shri Nathji.
As the car went along the sandy path, the wheels became stuck in the wet sand. The driver could not get the car to move forward despite repeated tries. He looked around for help. It was obvious that some persons would be required to pull the car out of the sand. There was a large tent nearby, and some people were seen moving inside it. The driver went to the tent. The noise of the car engine had brought some of the persons out of the tent.
What is that noise? a voice called out to the men. It was Mahatma Sita Ram Sharan, who lay buried in the sand inside the tent. The men outside were his devotees.
Guruji, said his devotees, it appears as if the car of some Raja Sahib is stuck in the sand!
Raja? said the startled Sita Ram Sharan,
And saying this, he called out to his devotees to pull him out of the sand, and within minutes, had come out of the tent. He saw Shri Nathji standing by the side of the car. He looked upon the face of Shri Nathji. And all at once he knew that Lord Rama had come to him. He rushed towards Shri Nathji and fell in a state of bliss at his feet, crying out loudly:
Rama! Bhagwan Rama! Aap aa gaye! He Rama! Aap aa gaye! Aapne meri praarthnaa sun lee! Main dhanya ho gayaa, meraa jeevan safal ho gayaa!
“Rama! Bhagwan Rama! You have come! O Rama! You have come! You listened to my prayers! I am truly blessed! My life has found fulfilment!
Why do you-a mahatma-prostrate before me? Shri Nathji asked him, feigning ignorance.
Prostrations are only offered at their proper place! said Mahatma Sita Ram Saran, I am blessed! Main dhanya ho gayaa! My desire has been fulfilled! My thirst satiated! I have seen Thy Divine Form and it has filled my entire being!
Mahatma Sita Ram Saran saw the human form of God he had been waiting for. Lord Rama had come to him as Shri Nathji.
As he sat, lost in bliss, at the feet of Shri Nathji, Mateshwari began to give tea to all present from a thermos flask she had with her. Being aware of the restricted way of life of ascetics, Mateshwari asked Mahatma Sita Ram Sharan: Mahatmaji aap plastic ke pyaale men chaaye peeyenge? Mahatmaji, will you be averse to taking tea in a plastic cup?
Mataji! Aap Shri Nathji ke joote men bhee mujhe chaaye denge to main le loongaa.
“Divine Mother! Even if you give me tea in Shri Nathji’s shoe I shall take it!
It was a heavenly sight. A devotee seeing his Lord upon earth. It was to give fulfiment to the soul of Mahatma Sita Ram Sharan that Shri Nathji had come to Allahabad in the first place. Every action, every movement of Shri Nathji had a divine meaning behind it, which was understood only when it was fully revealed. While living as a worldly man in the midst of apparent worldly conflicts and travails, here was Shri Nathji revealing himself as God to thirsty souls that had sought for him since ages.
The next day, Mahatma Sita Ram Sharan appeared in Shri Nathji’s darbaar without his hair and beard. He had removed his ochre robes and donned a shirt and trousers like any man of the world. When Shri Nathji saw him he smiled and said: Mahatmaji, whatever became of your clothes of an ascetic?”
Mahatma Sita Ram Sharan replied:
Bhagwan, vo to viraih kaa roop thhaa! Ab to milan ho chukaa hai!
“Bhagwan, that was the dress of separation. Now I have attained union!
He became a devotee of Shri Nathji, and so lost himself in the contemplation of his Master, that, over the years, his face and voice began to resemble that of Shri Nathji. Whenever he would come to Shri Nathji, he would say:
Shri Nathji men chhupi daivi shakti pragat ho jaao! Let the hidden divine power within Shri Nathji reveal itself!
Mahatma Sita Ram Saran would often say in the years that followed 1947:
Give me permission, O Nath! to declare to the world that you are the Avatar of this Age! Let me go to Prime Minister Nehru and tell him who has come upon earth! Let the whole world see thy divine form as I have seen it! Let the whole world know who you really are! Let me carry the flag of your name in a victory parade to herald the beginning of the age of Truth-Satyuga!
But Shri Nathji asked him to keep this revelation to himself. When the time was ripe, the world would come to know of itself.
Mahatma Sita Ram Saran came to see Shri Nathji frequently at Mussoorie right up to 1946 at Shri Nathji’s residence at Shadi Bhavan, in the years that followed. He would bring large groups of his disciples with him and sit for hours at Shri Nathji’s feet. He often asked Shri Nathji for a portrait of Himself, but every time he asked for the portrait, none was available. It was a strange phenomenon. Shri Nathji had given so many of his portraits to all who asked for them that it was mystifying why no portrait was found for Mahatma Sita Ram Sharan.
One day Shri Nathji found a portrait and sent it to him by post. Mahatma Sita Ram Sharan kept that portrait with himself right up to the last moments of his life.
Mahatma Sita Ram Sharan’s letters to Shri Nathji, which were ever so numerous and ever so prolific, written in his own hand, would contain the theme:
O Nathji! Thou art the Soul of the Universe! Thou art all the prophets, messiahs and avatars that ever came upon earth. Thou art worshipped by the gods, Vishnu, Brahma, and Mahesh! Thou wert Rama who destroyed the wicked Ravana! Thou wert Krishna who destroyed the evil Kansa. Thou art the Kalki Avatar. Thou come into this world from age to age to establish righteousness. Thou art the Nath of every heart, of every soul, the life of every atom in the Universe!
“There are no words that can define thy greatness and magnificence. Thy beauty is enchanting, more beautiful than beauty itself, more divine than divinity itself! My prostrations at Thy Feet–Thou who art ever Merciful. Thou who art the soul of every soul, the witness of every witness, the Guru of every Guru, Thou who exist within the hearts of all. I offer my countless prostrations at the feet of that PARAMAATMAA–NATH.
“Thou who art the foundation of all that exists and who can exist in Thyself alone. Thou who art formless and with Form. Thou who art the Creator of the Universe and who can exist in a separate human form. Thou who art ever compassionate ever merciful, ever forgiving, who never look upon the faults of even the smallest of thy creations and give everyone a place in thy heart. Thou who exalt even the particles of dust to great heights. My prostrations and prostrations to Thee – O Anant Koti Brahmaandnaayak – Thou the Infinite Creator of the Universe–Shri Nathji!
One of his fervent wishes was that Shri Nathji visit his hermitage at Chitrakoot. And he waited for several years. Shri Nathji made the attempt once in 1949 when he came to Allahabad again, but he had to return midway because the driver of his car lost his bearings.
For years Mahatma Sita Ram Sharan waited for his Lord and Master, Shri Nathji, to come to his hermitage at Chitrakoot. However this was a promise that Shri Nathji could not keep in human form.
Shri Nathji was fond of quoting the verse of Ghalib on this theme:
Tere vaade par jeeye hum to ye jaan jhoot jaanaa
Ke khushi se mar na jaate agar aitbaar hota!
I lived on thy promises, knowing them to be false!
For would I not have died with joy had I believed them to be true?
Mahatma Sita Ram Sharan passed away in this waiting, his soul mingling forever into the Divine Soul of Shri Nathji. His life had found fulfilment.
Before Mahatma Sita Ram Sharan left his physical frame, he asked his devotees to take him to the spot where he had first met Shri Nathji at the banks of the Ganges at the Triveni at Allahabad. And it was there that he delivered up his spirit to Shri Nathji.
Nikal jaaye dam tere kadmon ke neeche
Yehi dil ki hasrat yehi aarzoo hai
Let my last breath be spent at thy feet, O Lord,
This is my heart’s desire, my only wish
Indeed this was true of all of Shri Nathji’s devotees. They remained loyal to him for long periods that encompassed their entire life times, and when they left the world they did so in peace, keeping the image of Shri Nathji before their eyes. For the devotees of Shri Nathji, death was not death, it was a meeting with Shri Nathji in his heavenly abode.
Another verse that the devotees would epitomize would be:
Main jo chhorroon iss jahaan ko tum ho mere saamne
Aarzoo hai dil se nikle dam tumhaare saamne
When I leave this world may Thou be there before me,
It is my heart’s desire that I breathe my last before Thee.
Shri Nathji used to say:
This world is like a journey. How fortunate are those who have found a companion who will remain with them not only during the journey but who will also be their destination!
Shri Nathji further added:
Jisne inn charanon ko pakarraa hai vo maifooz ho jaayegaa!
Usse bahisht men ghar mil jaayegaa!
“He who has caught these feet shall become secure!
He shall acquire a house in the Kingdom of Heaven!”