Nine hundred kilometres would have been no more than a big leap for Lord Hanuman. A 64-tonne, 28-ft-tall idol of His is taking a lot more effort.
On February 9, the idol set off on a journey from Bhilwara (Rajasthan) to Prayagraj (Uttar Pradesh) for a “jal abhishek (bath in the waters of the Sangam)”. Tolls across the state highways have been waived off, police have been managing the traffic, and crowds have been swarming to catch a glimpse.
Once the jal abhishek is done, the Hanuman idol would do the reverse journey to the Sankat Mochan Temple in Bhilwara.
The temple priest, Mahant Babugiri, is accompanying the idol, which is being carried on a 26-wheeled trailer, escorted by 10 men in two cars. “We had to take the help of cranes to load the idol when we started,” says Babugiri, 38, who belongs to the Niranjani Akhara and took over as the temple priest in 2006.
According to Babugiri, it is one of the biggest Hanuman idols in Bhilwara. The temple’s largest so far is about 5 feet.
Babugiri says the new idol was his idea, and he placed the order five years ago. “We wanted to make it entirely from one stone and it took us almost a year to find the right piece. We sourced it from Bansi Paharpur in Bharatpur, whose stone is widely used for making idols. The uncut stone weighed around 150 tonnes,” he says.
The idol was made in Sikrai, Dausa district, around 100 km from Bharatpur. When ready, it was brought to Bhilwara on a similar trailer.
Babugiri says they spent around Rs 40 lakh, put together with donations from devotees. For the next four years, the idol kept lying at Bhilwara, before Babugiri decided that it needed a holy bath for consecration. The priest admits even his friends were surprised at the plan to take the idol nearly 900 km to Prayagraj.
The procession plans to go via Rajsamand, Udaipur, Chittorgarh, Kota, Jhansi and Kanpur, before it hits the holy town. Babugiri won’t put a date on their arrival — for now, he hopes to be back in Bhilwara in a month — because their schedule has been going awry. “Whenever we enter city areas, policemen automatically turn up to ensure security and control the curious crowds. Still, it took us four hours to cross Udaipur city alone as devotees formed a huge procession around us,” says Devendra Prakash, one of the men accompanying the idol.
A priest at Bhilwara, Prakash says he decided to accompany Babugiri when he heard of the yatra. The others in the convoy are regular devotees of the Sankat Mochan Temple.
“Hanumanji ke liye toll-free hai (The toll is free for Lord Hanuman),” adds Babugiri, showing letters from local BJP MP Subhash Baheria and Bhilwara District Collector Rajendra Bhatt.
Says MP Baheria, “I felt that since this was a local and religious initiative, we should support them. I wrote a letter requesting the toll booths to cooperate. The decision to waive the toll is up to them.”
Every morning, the procession sets off after offering prayers to the idol. Even as other vehicles zip past on the highway, they maintain a pace of not more than 40 km an hour. Whenever villagers along the way urge them to halt so that they can see the idol or offer prayers, they oblige. At sunset, the convoy halts, for evening prayers.
As they are about to reach Chittorgarh, Babugiri uses his smartphone to call ahead to an acquaintance, asking if lodging could be arranged for the group.
After a moment’s pause, he chuckles, “Hanumanji ko raste mein kahin basne ki ichcha ho to ho sakta hai wahin bas jayen (Somewhere along the way, if Lord Hanuman decides to settle down at some place, it’s possible the idol might be established there).”
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