Hanumant Devasthan, Bhatkal

pics from the Hanumant Devasthan temple in Bhatkal Karnataka by Arun Shanbhag

In a spotless white dhoti, a white jhabba and a topi covering his pate, my abbu (grandfather) would stride purposefully to his pharmacy store in the Bhatkal (in rural Karnataka) paent every morning. Clutched under his left arm was an old-fashioned, wood handled umbrella, the black fabric faded by the south indian sun. When he walked, he did NOT saunter, amble, or loiter; he strode, like every cell from his heel to his head were marching to a higher purpose. Fingers on his right hand would count as he mouthed this mantras. As a little boy following him in awe, I was fascinated by the surroundings. Those dragon flies flitting about were hypnotizing; perhaps that quietly munching cow would charge; a cat meows, jumps on a low wall and scurries; a tribe of monkeys screeched in the trees; those naga (snake) stone in the fields tilted as they stood guard over centuries. I’d follow quietly.

The first stop was the nearby Hanumant Devasthan. Abbu would loudly greet the priest and anyone else inside the tiny foyer. He spent most of his adult life in this town and knew everyone, their kids, nephews and their affairs; he did own a pharmacy store. He’d chant a few mantras for Hanumant, place a five paisa coin as kānik (contribution) in the priest’s plate, take the tirth, prasad and bow to the floor. I aped silently.
On my last trip to Bharat I returned to Bhatkal, took a rickshaw from the bus-stand and arrived at the temple. … and was transported back in time. I did not recognize the priest, nor he, me.
I paid my respects, and sat silently in a corner and was emotionally overcome as I retraced my steps with my grandfather. I expected abbu to come striding in with his umbrella in tow, accompanied by a boisterous greeting to all. The bell clanged as a devotee walked in.

The priest peered as he tried to place me. I quietly admired the renovations. After a short prayer for Meera, I placed kānik on the priest’s plate, accepted the tirth and bowed my head to the ancient granite floor. There under divine grace, my abbu’s head too had pressed for nearly half a century. Time passed, so will we all. This Hanumant Devasthan will endure. Meera may visit one day and press her head on the same stones.

In the pic above, the Kannada script on the lintel reads: || Shri Ram Jaya Ram Jaya Jaya Ram ||

Other Hanuman Temples:

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