Bearded, sporting white and saffron alternatively and carrying minimal belongings, Samandar Singh Dangi could easily pass off as one of the innumerable people who undertake the Narmada Parikrama — the circumambulation of the river on foot.
But the 52-year-old resident of Semlya Raymal village in Dewas district has had a very different past. In 1995, Dangi dragged Franciscan Clarist Sister Rani Maria out of a bus travelling from Udainagar to Indore, stabbed her more than 50 times and fled. Sister Maria succumbed to her injuries.
Singh was later arrested, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. The case hit the headlines in 2002 when the slain nurse’s family pardoned him. He was eventually released from prison in 2006.
Sister Maria was beatified in November 2017 in Indore, not very far from where she was killed. Singh’s story was the subject of an award winning documentary — ‘The heart of a murderer’.
Speaking about his decision to embark on the spiritual journey, Dangi told The Indian Express, “I want to atone for what I did. I want to undergo purification.’’ “I believe that the Narmada washes sins committed by the body and the Ganga gives one moksha (salvation),” he says.