In a small Durga temple, tucked in a narrow lane in the heart of Patna, an oil lamp burns unwaveringly and devotees throng to pray near it.
After all it is no ordinary flame. It it claimed that it has been burning continuously for the past 101 years and has been attracting people from all walks of life who come seeking fulfilment of their wishes.
“We call this ‘Akhand Jyoti’ (Uninterrupted flame). It has become a flame of faith as it has been burning incessantly in front of the idol of Goddess Durga here. We aptly called it Akhandvasini Temple,” said Basukinath Tiwary, the main priest of the temple.
It was Basukinath’s father late Vishwanath Tiwary, who brought the flame from Kamakhya in Assam to Patna in June 1914, after completing elaborate prayers and rituals. He converted a room in the house near the famous ‘Golghar’ a dome-shaped granary built by the British, into sanctum sanctorum and placed the flame there.
Since then the place has served as a private temple, though devotees are allowed to pray without any charge. Sons and grandsons of Vishwanath Tiwary control the religious affairs and rituals within the premises.
“My father was a devotee, an Ayurvedic doctor and a freedom fighter. He decided to keep the temple open to all so that they could also pray and seek blessings from the Mother Goddess and Akhand Jyoti established here,” said Basukinath.
The priest also reveals that another ‘ghee lamp’ was established close to the oil lamp, and has also been burning constantly for over seven decades now.
“We pour mustard oil and ghee twice daily in the lamps. The rest is taken care of by the devotees,” he added.
Though worshipers visit the temple round the year, especially on Tuesdays, the Navaratra is a special occasion here. Thousands of men and women visit daily and the numbers go up to 10,000 during the last two-three days of Durga Puja.
Basukinath said the devotees come with knots of turmeric, flowers, vermilion, sweets and coconut as offerings to appease the Goddess. He or other members of the family lend a helping hand in assisting the visitors in the prayers.
“We follow the traditional method of worship here. There has been no change in it since the time when my father came here. ‘Chandi path’ is conducted by Brahmins especially invited to the temple. We also get temporary tents and sheds erected for the devotees who queue during the festival,” added the priest.
A grand feast on the ‘ashtami’ or the eighth day of the Navratri is organised at which devotees get sumptuous ‘prasad’ or offerings made to the Goddess.