Vatsala tells us about a learned Vedic priest of the Arya Samaj, modelled on her maternal grandfather, Pandit Harikrishna Beeharee, whom she dedicates this short story to. The protagonist illuminates the minds of the people, helping them fight ignorance and superstitions. The setting is Mauritius. Find out how simple and forceful ways in which the priest dispels the fears of the villagers. What happened to the ghost that was haunting people? Here’s an interesting story, exclusively in Different Truths.
[For my late grandfather (nana ji), Pandit Harikrishna Beeharee also known as Pandit Visharad, in Mauritius]
Champak lay on the grass staring at the twinkling stars.
“What a lovely night,” he thought, “If only I were a poet…”
He was lost in his perfect nuage rose* like imaginary world when he felt a pat on his shoulder.
“Who is it?” He asked rather startled.
All that he could see was a spiky tall shadow grinning at him.
“Who are you?” asked Champak again
But still there was no answer and this time the spiky shadow had moved and was standing beside Champak .
“Ha, ha, ha!” his laughter echoed.
Champak was paralysed by fear for a while. Then he got an impulse to flee.
Like a mad bull, he kept running aimlessly across the sugarcane fields.
“Ghost! Ghost! Ghost!” he shouted.
After 30 minutes, Champak felt exhausted. He stopped abruptly and took a deep breath. The darkness of the night enveloped him. But, like a ray of hope, a bright light seemed to burn in a single house on the right side. Champak soon realised that he was in the residential area of Swagatam village but he couldn’t figure out the exact address. He reached for his jeans’ left pocket and found that his torch was missing but fortunately he had a dodo match box and a lighter. He lit his lighter and could read ‘Satchitanand Lane’ on a sign board to his left. He was wondering to whom the house with the bright light belonged, when suddenly he felt a friendly pat again on his shoulder. But this time it was unlike that of the scary spiky creature. Champak looked behind and he at once recognised the tall man in white dhoti and kurta. He was Pandit Satyaveer, the Vedic priest, who had just returned to his native village six months ago after completing his studies of Vedic Dharma at a Gurukul in Gujarat, India. Pandit Satyaveer was often invited by the villagers to give evening pravachans* on Vedas, Upanishads and Satyarthprakash. Due to his patience, humility, knowledge, and unique persuasive oratory skills, most villagers looked up to him. He never hesitated to reach out to people, listen to their woes and give practical advice and wise solutions.
“Pandit Ji, Namaste!” said Champak.
“Namaste, Champak” said Pandit Satyaveer “Is everything ok?”
“No, no Pandit Ji” replied Champak in a quivering voice.
“What happened?” asked Pandit Satyaveer calmly.
“Oh… oh…” stammered Champak with fear.
“Come in! Come, brother” said Pandit Satyaveer directing him to his house where the lights were sparkling.
Due to respect, Champak sat on a straw mat, on the floor, in front of Pandit Satyaveer. The priest looked at Champak’s anxious face for a while, then said, “Oh Champak! Come on! Sit on the sofa!”
“No, Pandit Ji, I’m comfortable here,” said Champak.
“Oh, Champak! When you come at my pravachans, you often sit at the ground level and I sit at a higher level than the audience. But those are the rules of pravachans that we have to follow. However, right now you are in my house and you are much like a brother to me. I consider all the young people of this village as my brothers and sisters and the elderly people as mother and father figures. So, everyone who comes at my place is treated equally with due respect. Come, brother sit beside me!”
Champak obeyed and shifted to the brown sofa next to Pandit Satyaveer.
“Now, Champak, tell me properly what has happened. Why are you so scared?” asked the Vedic priest. Then, Champak narrated his encounter with the spiky ghost. Pandit Satyaveer listened to him serenely and patiently .Then he smiled and said, “Oh brother! This is all bhraanti*, a product of your own imagination. Ghosts do not exist.”
“No, no Pandit Ji, they do” emphasised Champak.
Then he went on saying “Pandit Ji, you are a learned person .You know all the mantras for leading a happy life. So the ghost is frightened of you and he doesn’t bother you. But he keeps on harassing commoners like us. Last Sunday he set fire to Chacha Lalldhar’s sugarcane plantations. We simply saw a shadow laughing and flying towards the moon in the sky after the performance of such a disdainful act. Then last Monday young daughter Sundari got an epileptic seizure after seeing a shadow-like phantom sitting by her bedside.
We had to call Jay, the famous ojha* of the village After he tapped his magical broom three times on the mattress and spread red chilli in Sundari’s room her epileptic seizures stopped and the awful shadow was gone. Pandit Ji, I’m sure it was him…him… we are doomed…The village of Swagatam is cursed forever, now.”
“Oh brother Champak!” said Pandit Satyaveer “This is all andhvishwaas* .Someone must have set fire to Chacha Lalldhar’s sugarcane plantations. Daughter Sundari is suffering from Epilepsy. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder.There is no such thing like ghosts, who is responsible for all these.”
“O Pandit ji, I don’t understand anything. I’m confused. Please tell me about some Vedic mantras to get rid of all this fear. My family and I can’t sleep at night. Each night we feel that the ghost will be back to harm us in some way or even kill us. So our hearts keep on beating fast all through the night and we stay awake for hours.”
“Calm down, Champak,” said Pandit Satayaveer. “Please remove the thought of the ghost from your mind.”
“Pandit Ji, how can I?” he asked in a shaky voice.
Pandit Satyaveer stood up, went to his study and brought two books. One of them was a yellow cover paperback book entitled ‘Arya Satsang Gutka’. The other one was an orange hardcover book glittering with the title ‘Satyarthprakash’ written in golden ink. Then the Vedic priest grabbed a detached paper from his block notes that lay on the side table, and wrote something quickly on it and inserted it in the first page of Satyarthprakash.
He handed both books to Champak saying, “Please refer to the mantra and extract on the pages that I’ve mentioned on the small piece of paper and reflect upon them. You may also join the free Vedic Dharma classes, for adults, held at Manav Vikaas School, every Monday and Thursday evenings, from 4pm to 7pm.”
“Thank you, Pandit Ji,” said Champak humbly, “I will surely go through these books and come to your classes.” After saying that, Champak took leave of Pandit Satyaveer and headed home.
Champak read everything suggested by Pandit Satyaveer and noted his doubts in a spiral notebook. At last, Monday evening was there. He was eager to attend the Vaidik dharma evening classes. He reached Manav Vikas School, at 3.30 pm. A group of men and women were patiently waiting in the yard. Classes for men were to be conducted by Pandit Satyaveer and those for women by Pandita Dhanwantee. At 4pm sharp, all the acharyas* and students were in their respective classrooms.
Shortly, Pandit Satyaveer uttered the Gayatri Mantra and explained its meaning briefly as follows:
ओं भूर्भुवः स्वः। तत्सवितुर्वरेण्यं भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि। धियो यो नः प्रचोदयात।।
Om Bhoor Bhoowah Swah .Tattsavitoor varenyam bhargo dewasya dhimahi . Dhiyo yo nah prachodayaat. ~ Yajur Veda (36, 3)
O God, you have created us! You sustain us. You have given us life. You dispel the pain of all those who are suffering. You are the most powerful one. You are omnipresent. You are the only one whom we pray and meditate upon. We seek your mercy. Oh God! May you guide our minds/intellects on the enlightened/pure path.
Furthermore, he went on giving a detailed explanation of the depth of the Gayatri mantra and after doing so, he moved to the current social issues prevailing in the village.
“How many of you have seen the spiky ghost?” he asked.
Out of a class of twenty, fifteen students raised their hands.
“How many of you do believe that it exists?” he went on asking.
All the twenty students raised their hands, almost terrified.
Then, he started to read about the duties of parents towards children from Chapter Two of Satyarthprakash (The Light of Truth) by Swami Dayanand Saraswati, “They should also counsel them against all things that lead to superstition, and are opposed to true religion and Science, so that they may never give credence to such imaginary things as ghosts (bhoot) and spirits (preta)…”
He had only read a few sentences of the extract when the evening light disappeared and was substituted by an unusual smoky darkness. Pandit Satyaveer tried to turn on the lights but there was no electricity. He lit a candle, stood up and ordered confidently, “Whoever is disturbing the class, may he step in front and introduce himself”.
As soon as he said this, a spiky shadow was seen sitting on the last bench of the classroom. From time to time, it showed a threatening fist and also stuck out its tongue in an impolite manner.
The candlelight reflected on Pandit Satyaveer’s face revealing his sharp jawline and deep penetrating fearless meditative eyes, giving him a divine look. Gripping the candle holder, he moved towards the strange creature like a brave soldier. On seeing him, the spiky shadow slipped on the floor and rushed out through the classroom door. Everyone was startled by a bang sound followed by a loud “Awrr”.
Suddenly the bright light of the classroom was turned on. And a girl of about ten years old came in, dragging a five-feet tall person wearing a Goldorak mask and black robe. The person was tied by a thick brown rope.
“Namaste, Acharya Ji,” she said
“Namaste Balika*” replied Pandit Satyaveer.
“My name is Abha,” said the girl “while I was playing Catch with Rope game with my two brothers, I saw this creature turning off the main power supply. One of my brothers tried to catch him in vain. So this scary creature entered your class but when he went out of the classroom, I saw him again and I threw the rope around his neck. Then I tied his hands and feet and called the watchman. He switched on the main power supply again.”
“Thanks, brave Balika” said Pandit Satyaveer with a smile.
Then, Abha untied the masked person. He got up, removed the Goldorak mask and lowered his eyes for a while. Then he addressed Pandit Satyaveer.
“Sorry Pandit ji” he said “many villagers here, know me but maybe you don’t. I’m Jay, the ojha of the village. I’ve been fooling and frightening many families for nearly three months and everyone calls me the Spiky Ghost. I thought that by destroying their peace and spreading terror everywhere, I would gain more power and this would lead to my longevity.
You were the only one who was not afraid of me. Your powerful voice, infact destabilised me. So, I decided to disturb your class and prove that ghosts exist. But this little girl called Abha opened my blindfolded eyes to the truth. I realised that by fooling innocent people, I was scorning the bright light, true energy of the Divine, committing sins and harming myself. I was lost in illusion due to my selfish intentions. Pandit Ji, I really feel ashamed of my actions.
Please, please ….forgive me!”
“Jay” said Pandit Satyaveer calmly, “What you have been doing was really wrong. God punishes us for every wrong action that we perform. No mantra or ritual can help us to escape from the punishment of bad karmas. I can forgive you but the rest is according to God’s will. It is wise of you to recognise your bad actions and repent. Your bad deeds were due to your ignorance, arrogance and depriving your mind for years from the bright and pure light of Divine knowledge. May you learn your lesson now and perform good and selfless karmas henceforth. May God enlighten your mind, dear brother!”
On hearing this, Jay was moved to tears. He wished he had led a better life.
“Show me the light of knowledge, Pandit Ji!” He begged desperately.
“Come brother,” said Pandit Satyaveer “Please join our Vedic Dharma class.”
Pandit Satyaveer, then addressed the class as follows: “Dear Students, this is a proof that bhoot-pret* are no creatures that harm others. They only exist in our minds, our imagination or are created by wicked people to terrify ignorant and innocent ones. Now, you may have understood how the teachings of Swami Dayanand Saraswati are based on logic, practicality, and truth. In chapter two of his famous book and masterpiece, Satyarthprakash, he has explained that part in Sanskrit means a dead body and bhoot means the one who is deceased.
He has stated that people are mostly frightened by thinking that the dead ones will become ghosts or spirits. This is mainly due to ignorance and association with people who have superstitious beliefs and spread lies.
So, dear students, as stated in the Gayatri mantra, we must always let our minds /intellect tread on the right or pure path. We must always let the light of true knowledge shine in our minds.
This refers to knowledge based on logic and proofs. We must discard all forms of distorted knowledge that involve tricks, harm, and superstition as this will hinder human progress in the society. This will, in turn destroy all the happiness and peace.”
All the students listened to Pandit Satyaveer attentively. They were much impressed by what he said and realised that all these were true.
Within the following weeks, the number of students joining Vedic Dharma evening classes almost tripled. No ghost or spirit was ever seen in future. The bright light of true knowledge kept on shining among the villagers. All free and carefree, Swagatam village kept on smiling warmly amidst the greenery of the tropical sugarcane fields.
*nuage rose (from French): pink cloud
* pravachans (from Hindi): to preach sermons
*bhraanti (from Sanskrit/ Hindi): illusion
*ojha (from Mauritian Bhojpuri): witch doctor
*andhvishwaas (from Hindi): blind faith
*acharyas (from Sanskrit/Hindi): teachers
*balika: (from Sanskrit): a little girl lesser than 12 years old
*bhoot-pret (from Sanskrit/ Hindi): ghosts and spirits
Satyarthprakash (Hindi) by Swami Dayanand Saraswati
The Light of Truth (English Translation of Satyarthprakash) by Dr. Chiranjiva Bharadwaja
Arya Satsang Gutka by Govindram Hassanand
Pix from the author and the Net.
Born in Mauritus, in1977, Vatsala Radhakeesoon has had a keen interest in poetry writing since a very young age. Her poems have been featured in local and international newspapers, magazines, journals and anthologies. Her first poetry book ‘When Solitude Speaks’ was published in 2013 on the approval of the Ministry of Arts and Culture (Mauritius). She is currently self-employed and continues to write poems in English, French, Kreol and Hindi.