It is Monday morning and the moss accumulated on the shikar of the ‘ancient’ Shiva temple in Bhagwanpur shimmers under the bright sun.
As the clock approaches 11, priest Brijendra Narayan Mishra, who is seated cross-legged, positions himself next to a small Shivling in the temple’s garba griha . Mishra starts chanting mantras, but not in praise of Lord Shiva. His veneration is reserved for another ‘deity’— a four-foot seated replica of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The idol is garlanded with fresh marigold and its forehead is adorned with a red tika . Mishra’s Modi wears spectacles too.
While it is common for politicians to be deified in India, Mishra has taken that fervour to a new extreme and re-christened the temple, NaMo NaMo Mandir. As he completes the first set of mantras , he brings a framed picture of Modi and places it next to the idol. “I got this from the Lucknow rally,” says Mishra, who has composed 40 poems on Modi. One of his personal favourites is titled ‘Modi Raja’.
Bhagwanpur is a remote village of 5,000, nestled in the Chail tehsil of Kaushambi with no claim to fame; so one might accuse Mishra of trying to hog the limelight with his NaMo dedication. “Rubbish! People call it propaganda; for me it’s a calling from my soul to contribute to the nation. If because of my dedication my village becomes famous, what’s the harm?”
Mishra’s adulation for Modi does not stop with the idol. Like Modi, he dons a kurta and half-jacket, sporting the same hairstyle and beard. Bhagwanpur’s very own Madame Tussad moment, Mishraji? “Dare anyone call me a copy? I have sported this look for years now,” he retorts.
After a while, seven Brahman priests arrive to perform the mahamrityunjay jap for Modi’s long life, followed by bhajans and aartis . “Do you remember when Lord Ram was performing the Ashvamedha yagna , he kept a golden idol of Sita next to him? That’s exactly my idea of having Modiji’s idol next to Lord Shiva.” So while he reveres Modi, Modi can revere Lord Shiva.
Amid blowing conches and reverberations of the Modi chalisas, Mishra says: “My intention is not to turn Modi into God. He is a mahapurush; a panacea for India’s maladies. The prayers will instil Modi with the strength and power to run the county.”
On an average, since its inception the NaMo temple has had more than 100 visitors daily. On special days, the figure climbs 10-fold, Mishra claims. But locals term it a “brahman’s folly.”
Yet Mishra’s faith in Modi is unremitting and the routine of prayers will continue for 125 days, till the general election results are declared and dharm raj established in India.
But what if the BJP falls short? “No way. Mark my prediction,” he says, “NDA will win 260 to 293 seats and Modi will be PM.”
So confident? “Lord Shiva himself informed me,” Mishra says.