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The legend of Shivpuri Baba

R. Madhavan Nair
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Govindananda Bharathi, who became Shivpuri Baba.
Govindananda Bharathi, who became Shivpuri Baba.

Shivpuri Baba, a Malayali hermit who travelled worldwide on foot, is the focus of a book which is being released on Sunday.

“I was in Kathmandu, employed as a teacher, when I heard about Shivpuri Baba. I was deeply struck and fascinated by his personality and the popularity he enjoyed. So much so, I found myself gathering as much information as was possible and many anecdotes on this great Malayali hermit,” S. Rajendu, author of the book, says.

“My book Swadharmam Adhava Samyak Jeevitham is replete with anecdotes and information about Shivpuri Bava. It was the hermit Govindananda Bharathi who became popular as Shivpuri Baba. Bharathi is believed to be the first Keralite to encircle the world, a feat which earned him the sobriquet ‘Malayali Magellan . ’ His philosophy comprises the illustrious primordial system of living, Swadharma.”

Govindananda Bharathi, born at Akkikkavu, a village near Guruvayur, reportedly in 1826, is revered by many as one of the great saints of the 20th century. He went to Amarkhand in Madhya Pradesh at the age of 24 with his grandfather Oruvannoor Pazhoor Achyuthan, who was also his Guru from childhood. It is said that after long years of meditation, he became enlightened and attained “Iswara Sakshathkaram.” Later, he went to the Sringeri Math and became a Sanyasi and came to be revered as Govindananda Bharathi.

Around the world

Govindananda started his world tour in 1877. He went to Afghanistan, passed the Khyber Pass, and visited Iran, Makkah and Turkey, where he joined a university to study the Turkish language. He visited many European countries and is believed to have met the Kaiser in Germany, Queen Victoria, Albert Einstein and many other great personalities.

After that, he crossed the Atlantic. Govindananda reached the U.S. soon after the death of Abraham Lincoln.

Rajendu says Govindananda travelled through Mexico, Bolivia and Chile in South America. From Santiago, he voyaged to New Zealand and subsequently to Australia and Japan. He walked through China and arrived in Tibet and lastly in Kathmandu. He stayed for 30 years on a knoll of the Himalayas, called Shivpuri; therefore the people of Nepal called him Shivpuri Baba.

Many great persons, including the former President S. Radhakrishnan, visited him during that time. In 1963, reportedly at the age of 136, he died at Dhruvasthali, a citadel close to the Pasupathinath temple.

Rajendu’s book will be released at a function at the Oruvannoor Mana at Akkikkavu at 10 a.m. on Sunday. A talk on the life and message of the Baba will be held the same day at 4 p.m. in Mannarkkad. A public function will be held in Kozhikode at Masdoor Bharathi Hall, Kallai Road, at 4 p.m. on Monday.

Bishnu Prasad Timilsina and Giridhar Lal Manandhar, two devotees of the Baba from Nepal, will speak at all the gatherings. Mr. Manandhar is the son of Thakurlal Manandhar, who was the co-author of Long Pilgrimage — The Life and Teachings of Sri Govindananda Bharathi , authored by John G. Bennet and published from London in 1965.

A book on the ‘Malayali Magellan,’ who travelled the world and became a saint, is being released tomorrow.

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