Sawan lures showers and teases the elements to bring on psychic energy
Asarh (or Asaad) is the month that precedes rainy Sawan. It is associated with squalls, high humidity and thundershowers.
Mohan Rakesh has depicted this tumultuous month in his classic play, “Asarh Ka Ek Din.” Some of the events of that day were repeated on a Thursday in the 1970s, when this scribe got caught in a violent thunderstorm at a temple not far from Central Secretariat.
While returning from night duty; one's pick-up car got stalled just there as the engine got soaked because of the waterlogged street. The driver said it would take more than an hour to get started again and promptly went off to sleep in the vehicle, forcing one to take shelter in the Shiva temple.
An old man, who looked like the pujari, was there and also a tall, bearded chap in crumpled-up clothes who seemed to be a drug addict. While the pujari smoked a bidi, the addict let out a lot of nauseating smoke from his doctored cigarette.
To pass time one asked the old man how long he had been looking after the temple. “Since it was built, not long after the Viceroy's dafter (Secretariat) came up,” he replied. He was born in the year 1900 and was a young man when the new capital, designed by Lutyens and Baker, was taking shape.
“A lot of sahibs passed by the temple, wearing sola topees and London-cut suits and some even entered the temple, out of curiosity. I particularly remember one who came frequently, took off his hat and prayed with joined hands. He was interested in Hindu mythology and always cast a benevolent glance at the idols, instead of the sneering look the others gave the devi-devtas,” he disclosed.
The storm was still raging and the addict thought he saw weird shadows. The pujari said that was not unusual when the elements released psychic energy, triggered by the lightning in the sky. “This influenced the mind of people mystically inclined.”
The bearded man was one, he asserted. The same sort of experience was reported during an unseasonal hailstorm in Delhi in May 1995. The unprecedented thunder and lightening forced a man to take shelter in a discarded roadside monument of the medieval days. He couldn't believe his eyes when he saw shadows moving on the walls and the people reflected were not of this but of a bygone age. Was it the mind playing tricks or the effect of electricity in the sky?
Speaking of monuments, some are inclined to believe the Jantar Mantar, built in Delhi during the reign of Mohammed Shah Rangila by Sawai Jai Singh of Jaipur as an observatory, owed not a little to the Moghul emperor's love of things psychical. He thought the new building would achieve what the Tower of Babel could not: bring man closer to heaven. Mohammad Shah's son, Ahmad Shah (1748-1754), whose mother began life as a concubine in the royal court before attaining the position of Nawab (Qudsia Begum), was fond of frequenting the shrines of Muslim saints. Sometimes Ahmed Shah visited the darghahs at midnight and stayed on there till dawn.
The unlucky emperor
His patronage of divines and soothsayers was among the reasons for his eventual downfall. The unlucky emperor, hemmed in one side by the Irani party and on the other by the Turani or those who drew inspiration from Sunni Turkey, instead of Shia Iran, sought the help of dervishes to redeem his fortunes. He met some of them when the elements raged in fury. One such night he was deposed and blinded by a rival prince.
Of course those days they did not know what electricity was but associated elemental disturbances with psychic power, much like the pujari at the Shiva temple.
That Asarh night one imagined a big shadow looming over the temple. It was a frightening experience. Just then the driver appeared and announced that the car was ready to leave.
One couldn't have hoped for a better tiding. It all happened long ago but last July 21, it came back to mind again because it was another thundery night, a day before the onset of Sawan.