Sunday, 30 June 2013

The tale of Bappu Mama






Every year alternatively in May and June on the day of ‘Jyaishta Shukla Prathipada’ (the next day of Vaishak Shukla Amvasya) as per the Hindu calendar, the Bapu Mama Utsav is celebrated in the Kamat household in Shiroda. And the whole village and people from adjoining areas come to attend the Utsav, seek blessings and have prasad served to one and all who come to the Utsav. And every year devotees come here without fail.


The Story
As the story goes, he was hailed as Sidhpurush, Bapumama, etc. He was also called Yogiraj Bapumama Keni. Around 1730, Bapumama a spiritually inclined saintly person arrived in Shiroda and stayed at Harbanna Kamat’s house for 40 years. He worshipped Vetoba as Vitthal, the avatar of Lord Krishna. It is believed that while standing in front of Vetoba with folded hands, a small flame emerged from the deity’s heart, floated through the air and stopped in front of Bapumama’s heart. It was as if saying that he and Bapumama were one. This incident has been widely reported. Hence any description of Aravali’s Vetoba is incomplete without reference to Bapumama.

It is said that through his pravachanaas (lectures), Bapumama sang the glories of Vetoba and preached about His power and compassion to the devotees, turning hundreds of people into Vetoba’s  staunch devotees. Due to his presence in the region, Aravali soon blossomed into a holy pilgrimage place, where devotees thronged, and still do for Vetoba’s darshan and blessings.

Since Bapumama was very close to Vetoba that his anniversary programme is called ‘Bapumamacha Padwa,’ and is celebrated every year. It takes place on Jeshtha shuddha pratipada at the residence of Gajanan Pandurang Kamat at Shiroda. In honour of the occasion, it is the tradition to send from Aravali’s Shri Dev Vetoba Devasthan members of Joshi, Haridas, Puranik families, together with vajantri (troupe with instruments) and the temple gurav to Kamat’s residence at Shiroda.

Very few people outside Shiroda, Aravali and surrounding areas must have heard about this saintly person, Bapumama revered by a section of people in and around Shiroda, in Maharastra. Many outside Shiroda and outskirts may not have heard of Bapumama, considered to be a Sidhpurush, an enlightened holy man.




Not very far from Sawantwadi is Shiroda, a small town or a developed village with bustling life and a busy State Transport depot, with ST buses arriving and departing to coastal and interior towns of Maharastra and Goa. Close by is the temple devoted to Mouli. A little away is the temple of Vetoba and Sateridevi. And in the centre, a little away from the market area of Shiroda, stands an old and worn out, but majestic ancestral house of the Shiroda’s Kamat family said to be around 350-400 years old. The layout and architecture typical of wealthy persons those days bears testimony to the conservative lifestyle of the original Kamat’s, a GSB (Gowd Saraswat Brahman) to the core.

Door to the underground room
A well-laid out house with many rooms, the one-storey traditional house built of earth and wood still stands as a mute spectator to the hundreds of years gone by. It has seen the highs and lows of the well-to-do family. Due to the wear and tear and the vagaries of the nature, certain damaged walls have been replaced with ‘Chira’ (big cut stone bricks typical of Konkan region and also found in Coastal Karnataka and Kerala). It has an open space with a well, which provides water to 
Staircase leading to the top floor
the house as well as the needy staying around this big house. And attached to this house is a verhanda with two small rooms. One of the rooms is devoted to Bappu Mama, said to be a saintly person revered by the locals. Daily puja is performed by the family-appointed priest, as the Kamat family has now shifted to Sawantwadi for their livelihood, visiting the place not very often, mainly during the Hindu festivals.

Every year alternatively in May and June on the day of ‘Jyaishta Shukla Prathipada’ (the next day of Vaishak Shukla Amvasya) as per the Hindu calendar, the Bapumama Utsav is celebrated in the Kamat household in Shiroda. Relatives of the Kamat family from far and wide gather here for this auspicious day, to commemorate Bapumama. Special puja is performed by the traditional local priests. Since there is no image or statue of Bappumama, a big coconut (freshly removed from
the tree for the occasion) represents him and is worshipped in traditional pomp as per age-old custom. It is followed by a feast, a traditional vegetarian meal with rice, vegetables, sweets and other delicacies, served to the villagers and guests who attend the utsav. Some years ago, the villagers and guests partaking the Prasad would be around 300-400 people. I have had the privilege of being present at the utsav for the last few years as my wife is directly related to the Kamat family. It also provides an opportunity for the members of the large extended family to meet and interact. The extended family through marriage – Kamats, Pai, Banavalkars, Herwadkars, Kerkars, Deshpande, Kelkar, Naik, etc make it a point to be present at the utsav or otherwise, to seek blessings of the revered Bappumama.

The original vastu
As per tales passed on to generations, the great, great grandfather of the present Kamat family was a well-to-do man, owning a large tract of land used as Mithagar (salt pans) in and around the area. And being a well-to-do person; was well respected and known to many people in and around the village. But once the salt pans were taken over by the authorities, there was a

Vastu site
transformation in him; he was a changed man, who went into depression. He was so upset and disoriented that one fine day, he left all, home, property and family and just walked out. Months passed, years passed by, but no sign of his return. However his faithful wife, in traditional attire of the conservative GSB women in those days, waited for him believing that he would be back amongst his loved ones.

One day, a stranger, a man with spiritual inclination came to the door, asking for fire to burn the chillum (smoking pipe). The lady of the house, who was expecting her husband to return, offered him burning charcoal to fire his chillum. Nobody was aware of the man – who was he, from where he came, etc. He wandered around the place, going from one area to another, meditating and praying. The Kamat house was the place he would return from time to time, to rest. And after some time, he just left and vanished but left an imprint in the house, suggesting his presence and his spiritual power. As per the legend, the then Raja of Sawantwadi, Shri Som Sawant Bhosle who had heard about Bappu mama and his spiritual powers, ordered his guards to bring him to the court to question him so that his popularity as a Sidhpurush may not hamper the Raja’s rule over his territory. As the guards were taking him to present him before the Raja, he just vanished at Malgaon, bordering Sawantwadi. Nobody knew where he disappeared. The ‘Punya thiti’ of Bappumama is held on that day every year.

Like Sai Baba, nobody is aware, who he was and from where he came and where he vanished. But his spiritual presence is felt by the Kamat family and locals who revere him as a saint or Sidhpurush. His samadhi is believed to be to be in the verandha of the old house as told by him in a dream to one of the family members of the Kamat family. And it is considered sacred and has become a place of worship where relatives of the Kamat family come to pay their respects, along with the devotees and believers – men and women folk from around Shiroda and adjoining areas.

The young generation may agree or disagree, but the belief remains and his considered sacred to all. On the day of the utsav, during the evening bajan and puja in the Kamat household, the spirit of Bappumama is believed to enter the body of a close Kamat family member. I have been witness to this. And they believe it to be embodiment of Bappumama who makes his presence felt every year during the Bappumama utsav and blesses the family and the devotees. The family and the locals feel blessed by his eternal presence in the Kamat household.


Relatives of Kamat family
Womenfolk of Kamat family

Men enjoying the meal

Men enjoying the meal


Kids enjoying the meal


Meals ready to be served


Women enjoying the meal


Girls enjoying the meal


Men enjoying the meal


Women enjoying the meal


Warkaris' singing bhajans


Devotional discourse


Mr Pai & Shripad Kamat 


Kirtan


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Picture Post
Mahuli Temple, Shiroda, Maharastra
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