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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Love’s labour brings down hill

NEW DELHI, May 23: Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal for his beloved wife Mumtaz. The monument is now considered the world's greatest monument...

Written by Avinash Celestine |
May 24, 1997

NEW DELHI, May 23: Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal for his beloved wife Mumtaz. The monument is now considered the world’s greatest monument of love. Dashrath Das’ monument of love may not be as beautiful, but in a way, it is more awe-inspiring than Shah Jahan’s feat.

Thousands of labourers took more than 20 years to build the Taj Mahal. Dashrath Das took 25 years to single-handedly bring down a 360-ft long, 25-ft high hill and create a 16-ft wide pass in place of an almost impassable gap.

Dashrath Manjhi was born in 1934 into a poor labourer’s family in Gahlour village near Gaya in Bihar. Being illiterate, there seemed little option left for him but to spend his life working in the fields.He started working in the fields near a hill which rose on one side of his village. To cross the mountain, one had to traverse a narrow and treacherous pass.

One day, when his wife, Phaguni Devi, was crossing the pass to bring him his lunch, she slipped and hurt herself. This incident disturbed Das deeply and that very night he decided to destroy the hill which had injured his wife.The next morning, armed with t a hammer and chisel, he started off on a task that was to become an obsession. “The villagers called me a madman”, recalls Dashrath Das.

The landlords for whom he worked said there was nothing great about what he was doing — it was the duty of Harijans to do such work. When the hill was brought down, the distance between the sub-divisions of Atri and Vazirganj was reduced from 50 km to 8 km. The pass has become so wide that vehicles can now pass through easily. Tragically, Phaguni Devi died before she could see the miracle her husband had created.

The villagers also realised the remarkable feat that Dashrath Das had achieved and starting calling him Sadhu Baba. But as if moving hills was not enough, Dashrath Das then decided to walk all the way from his village to Delhi along the railway line, gathering signatures of all the station masters whom he met on the way in a diary.

Dashrath Das has not received much recognition for his remarkable deeds.

Politicians have met him, he was featured on Patna Doordarshan and DD1, a director offered him Rs 50,000 for his story. The film was made but Dashrath Das is yet to get a penny for it. The district collector wrote a letter recommending that Das be given the President’s award. In Delhi, Dashrath Das is staying with some distant relatives. He has also tried to meet the President

The story of Sadhu Baba is an epic one — a story that could easily be thought of as a fairy tale but for the fact that in village Gahlour stands his modern-day Taj Mahal. It may not be as beautiful, but it certainly is as great as the original wonder.

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