“Narayan in Satya Yug (era), Rama in Treta, Krishna in Dwapar, Chaitanya in Kalyug, and me in Ghor Kalyug.” This is the spiel that Singharoy uses to declare himself a deity, no less. The man is also the founder of All India Sarva Shaktimaan Sanatan Dharma Prachar, and the self-proclaimed ‘first man’, Dharmatma Singharoy Mahaprabhu, with an ex-Chief Minister, no less, among his disciples.
This mystifying introduction isn’t the end of the matter. Singharoy actually walks the talk. Exactly 42 years ago, he took the industrial region of Asansol by storm when he installed his own idol and began worshipping it, well, himself. His is a truly unique world and the temple next to ‘his’ houses Durga, Shiva, and sundry other deities. What’s more, there’s another idol of himself outside, underneath a shed.
Mahaprabhu, who will not give out his birth name, explains how he grew to become a ‘god’. Born in Pakur in the Santhal Parganas in 1947, he doesn’t remember his date of birth, but recalls that he left home in 1968, to find a job. Leading a nomadic life, somehow making ends meet, he finally found himself in Bengal’s industrial belt of Asansol and its surrounding areas, which were far less densely populated then.
It was here, he claims, that he heard “the call of my soul”, and commissioned an idol maker in Asansol to create his clay likeness in 1976. “I was used to religious rituals as a child. Our traditional deity was Marang Guru, or Shiva. I’ve worshipped him forever.” The day he installed the idol, he says, was the day that heralded the beginning of a new era. In 2013, he got another idol made, though he calls this one an avatar of Vishnu.
Singharoy goes to great lengths to establish a resemblance between himself and the idols, taking off his turban to display his matted locks, one of them nearly seven feet long. “The statues look the way I used to do 42 years ago.” In case you require further proof, he promptly poses next to the idol to show how similar it is to him. All that does, however, is highlight the differences between his 30-year-old likeness, and his 72-year-old self.
“God resides within every human. So I’m God. I’m also Narayan in human form,” he declares, as though sensing our scepticism. Before you dismiss this as a crackpot claim, consider this: every year, there’s an annual festival here on March 13, when thousands of devotees throng the ‘human temple’, and offer fervent prayers. Uttering mantras to himself at the top of his voice, Singharoy leads the prayers. The ex-CM mentioned at the beginning of the story is former Jharkhand CM Shibu Soren, of whom Singharoy nonchalantly says, “He’s one among many disciples. But if he does wrong, he should be punished.”
Mahaprabhu spends most of the day at his temple, but a man has to eat, so he pops off to his mortal house nearby twice a day for meals. Some days, the meals make their way to the temple. His mortal house also contains a fully mortal family, comprising four daughters and a son. All married, Singha Maharaj beams.
Life hasn’t always been this good. “I lost my mother when I was born. And then my father left this world, too. My elder brother brought me up, gave me a little education.” Thoughtfully, he adds, “This world is full of sin and wrongdoing. Throughout the ages, God has taken the form of His messengers to cleanse the world. I’m one such messenger.”