By Satish Purohit
Encountering the enigmatic and beautiful Sri Radhe Guru Ma whose followers testify to her transformative power in their lives
Women are, all of them, the veritable images of Sakti – Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa
All roads in Mumbai appear to lead to a billboard with a Sri Radhe Guru Ma cutout on it. It is not a face you forget easily. She is fair, strikingly so. Her hair falls free and is parted in the middle. The reverse ‘V’ made by the open hair frames her face. She is dressed like a bride and adorned in some seriously heavy jewellery.
The billboards are owned by Sanjeev Gupta of Global advertisers. The Gupta family also owns MM Sweets, a popular confectionary shop opposite the Malad Railway station in suburban Mumbai. “She is on the billboards as a tribute. It makes no difference to Ma. She does not care for any publicity. I do it because she has changed my life,” he said.
Meeting the guru
Sanjeev met Radhe Guru Ma during the Navaratri of 2002 at a jagran. “My heart told me that I had come to the end of my search for a spiritual anchor,” explains Sanjeev. “We had money but we were unable to enjoy our prosperity. There were health issues and there was too much petty bickering happening. There was so much negativity that relatives shunned us. On the business front, we were unable to take the leap to the next level. Ma changed all that,” said Sanjeev.
“She insists that she is an ordinary person and that one must seek what one wants from Lord Shiva who is the giver of givers. But look at me. Her power has turned my house into a temple. Every day is a celebration for us now. How can I not feel grateful for her grace? Being the postman for the message of love she has for her devotees is the least I can do.”Sanjeev says he can’t promise me an interview. “She speaks when she pleases. It is her mauj. She alone decides when to speak and when to remain silent,” he says.
Sanjeev is reluctant to discuss the guru’s family. “Please leave the family out of this. All I can say is that Ma was born in a Sikh family in Punjab. Even as a schoolgirl all she said would come true. She would feed her lunch to the needy. She says her home is in the heart of her devotees. All that we devotees offer as seva at her feet is not even a fraction of what she has done for us,” Sanjeev said.
At the guru’s dera
It was 9 pm, a Saturday. There was a crowd of devotees over 400-strong at the multi-storey Gupta residence in Borivli. Men and women sat in separate rows in an air-conditioned hall and some waited outside. Many of the devotees looked prosperous. There was also a fair sprinkling of sadhus, and simple folk dressed in dhotis. The devotees, who wore red bandanas with Radhe Guru Ma’s name on them, faced a stage where a photo of the guru had been placed. The wall that made the back of the stage had pictures of prominent deities of the Hindu pantheon on it.
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The atmosphere was made carnival-like by a jeans-and-T-shirt-clad singer in his 20s who urged devotees to join in bhajans dedicated to the guru. A few minutes into the singing, devotees, who had been issued tokens, were called for darshan by volunteers.
The guru was seated on the fifth floor. The passage and hall that ledto her had the appearance of a richly done pandal. Up, on the fifthfloor, the deep maroon floor sparkled under the soft glow of focuslights. The corners of the waiting hall had faux pillars that werepainted golden. To my left was a display case that had objets de art like conch shells and figurines of deities encased in precious metal.The devotees, who held offerings of flowers and clothes intheir hands, spoke in soft voices. The air was charged with anticipation.
I stood there with the others and moved with the straggly queue, notknowing what to expect. Then, suddenly, snakelike, the queue turnedinto a small 300-odd-feet chamber and there she was.
Radhe Guru Ma, Sanjeev tells me, has children who are married. I am surprised because she appears to be in her mid-20s. She is beautiful and the make-up that looks over the top on the billboards makes her look even prettier in person. Sanjeev tells me that his sister Rita Purohit and his mother apply the make-up.
“We believe that it is the privilege of offering shringar to Ma that ensures the shringar of the women in our house. We don’t want her to look like Sati mata. It is her power that keeps her young. There is nothing more to it,” said Sanjeev.
I took it all in while I stood on one side as devotees at the head ofthe queue paid their respects. Radhe Guru Ma sat on what appeared tobe a cushion which, in turn, rested on a divan-like pedestal. The guru sat on the divan with her knees drawn to her shoulders, as a bridewould when henna is applied to her feet. However, here, the folds of herheavily embroidered ghagra covered her feet. Devotees would approach her, press her feet and knees in supplication and place theirofferings. She would take something from the pile of offerings and hand itto the devotees as prasad.
Soon, it was my turn. Ignorant of protocol, I attempted to climb thepedestal to reach the guru only to be held gently on both sides byvolunteers. I attempted to control my acute embarrassment by smilingat Radhe Guru Ma. She returned the smile and her eyes crinkled inamusement. I walked up to her from the permitted direction and paidmy respects. She untied a thread from her wrist and handed it to me.
I accepted the gift and stood aside to allow others in the queue to offer their pranams.
Devotees continued to walk into the room with their offerings of flowers and clothes. A little girl offered what looked like a poem written on a page torn out clumsily from a foolscap notebook.
A few minutes later I was directed to a lower floor in the building where I was treated to a rather sumptuous langar dinner.Devotees could choose between plain bottled water and soft drinks incans. I got chatting with a devotee in his early 30s during thelangar. “She is an avatar,” he said. “Your life will certainly change for the better after this visit. Her grace has worked miracles in thelives of many. There is no one like her.” Darshan over, it took me some time before I could free myself from the spell that the ceremony concluding with Radhe Guru Ma’s darshan had cast over me. It was grand, it was beautiful and just a little embarrassing. But then, the path is never easy, is it?
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