Anasuya Devi spent the entire night in the temple singing in praise of the goddess Rajyalakshmir. From the image of the goddess, she came to the main door at 8-30 A. M., on the next day. At the same moment Ranga Charulu, the archaka of the temple, opened the doors and found Anasuya Devi standing before him. Her calm and smiling face caught his attention while her lustrous eyes dazzled his own. His heart was filled with light. For a moment he felt that the goddess Rajyalakshmi, whom he worshipped every day, was kind to him and graciously presented Herself before him. As he stared at that divine figure, he was lost in thought and fell prostrate at the feet of Anasuya Devi, as if he were under a spell. Devi stroked his head with her tender hand once. Lo, he entered a world of indescribable bliss. He was not conscious of the world around while enjoying the sight of the goddess before him.
Anasuya Devi slowly went out of the temple as he was still prostrating before her. Ranga Charulu opened his eyes but could not perceive the divine figure before him. He wondered whether the divine sight which he had was real, or only an illusion. He rushed to the image of Rajya Lakshmi and caught Her feet exclaiming :
“You have granted me graciously the real signt of your divine figure.” He was overwhelmed with joy and drenched her feet with tears of gratitude and bliss. In the meanwhile Desiraju Ranga Rao, the trustee of the temple came there and looked at the image of Rajyalashmi, devoid of all clothes and ornaments.
“What is it Ranga Charulu! Is there any celebr ation for the deity in Her nakedness to day?” he said to him with irony. Ranga Charulu lifted his head from Her feet and found the image devoid of all clothes and ornaments. He could not imagine a person that was responsible for it. Devotion gave way to fear at his heart and he began to sweat out of fear. Recovering from it after a while, he replied with folded hands:
“No, sir. Tiruvengala Charulu is coming to-day and I am looking out for him. He has n’t come so far.”
Ranga Charulu got up instantly and covered the deity with another saree. He searched for Her ornaments, but found none. Then he said:
“Mother, have you come out of this image of rock with all your ornaments and entered me? Now is this a piece of rock only? I may lose my job on this account, but stay on, Mother, at my heart. But let me have the ornaments, mother, in order to wipe out the blot on my character. Moreover I can’t look at you in this manner, Mother.”
As he prayed to Her in this manner, he recollec ted the place where he had kept the ornaments. He went to that place and found them there. With unbounded joy he brought them and began to decorate the image of Rajya Lakshmi.
“Protect me at all times like this, Mother,” he renewed his prayer.
The trustee came back to see the ornaments and threatened him.
“You are bringing back the stolen jewels…. you can calculate and collect the amount due to you and quit this service.”
“We can think of what is due to me later on. Please check up the jewels in the temple,” entreated Ranga Charulu in an attempt to keep himself free of all charges.
“Even the goddess can’t trace the stealth of an archaka. Hence it is said that a thief among the inmates of a house can’t be traced even by Lord Eswara,” remarked the trustee.
Ranga Charulu was deft to all this and at the deity imploringly: looked
“Even if I lose this job, please keep your divine figure constantly before my eyes, Mother.” With this wish, he went out of the temple and the trustee asked him not to return to service any more.
Ranga Charulu filled his mind with the thoughts of the Goddess and walked out of the temple with a heavy heart. He found Anasuya Devi standing before him and observed her resemblance to the divine figure whom he had seen shortly before. But he failed to realise that the same girl gave him the rare sight of a divine being. Illusion blurs the vision and limits the knowledge of man.
“Whose daughter are you, child?” he questioned her in a simple way.
“Wherever I am, I belong to them,” was the short reply.
“Are you our child now?” he said to her innocently.
“Am I not, if you think so?,” reply. was her quick
“I’ve seen my Mother to-day. Did my Mother appear to you? My Mother is not an ordinary one,” said Ranga Charulu. He closed his eyelids visualis ing the divine being whom he had seen shortly before.
“Who is your Mother and my Mother?” said Devi and moved away as he was still in his world of thought.
Ranga Charulu opened his eyes and recollected the resemblances of the goddess he had seen, on the face of this girl. The sublimity of thought in her wo rds also reminded him of the goddess. He mused for a while whether it was the same girl that gave him the glimpses of Mother a few hours ago. Finally he believed it to be so. Then he ran in search of the girl and went beyond Sivalayam. He saw Anasuya Devi at a little distance from the house of Nori Subrahmanya Sastry. But Anasuya Devi moved on and reached the Railway Station. She sat under the shade of a tree before the station. Ranga Charulu ran to her and implored for an answer. He said:
“Mother, are you the same deity that appeared to me yesterday? Kindly tell me truth.”
“Yesterday or day before? you tell me truth,” she asked him in reply.
In fact, he saw her a few hours ago while opening the doors of the temple.
“I’ve mistaken. At dawn, Mother….,” he added hastily. “Did I appear at dawn? Tell me truth. If so, did you come to steal my jewels? It is as much as stealing the deity,” Anasuya Devi said. Ranga Charulu was stunned and excited. He stared at her and said:
“Mother, Mother, I’ve mistaken. You appeared at 8 A. M. and no body knows about it. This happ ened in the temple. How did you know that? Are you the same that appeared to me? Are you the same Yantram that is in that stony image? I couldn’t understand you and nobody else also has understood you.”
He fell on her feet, praying:
“Don’t drown me in darkness…. don’t incapsulate me in illusion.”
Again he said:
“I couldn’t recognise Mother that came to me everyday. Once I lifted up my hand even to beat her. Why do you keep me thus, Mother. Let me lose myself completely in you, Mother.”
By the time he finished his prayer, the resem blances of Mother Vanished and Anasuya Devi appeared just as an innocent girl. She said to him thus:
“Why do you fall at my feet and call me ‘mother mother’? I’m a small girl, the daughter of Chidam bara Rao’s brother-in-law. As I lost my mother, I am staying here. I come to the temple now and then to have a sight of Rajya Lakshmi. Please call me a ‘girl. I’m not the Mother you are thinking of.” As he listened to it, he felt it was true. He thought it was his illusion ‘which made him see the resemblances of Mother in a girl. Then he asked her to go.
Both of them went on their on their own way. But Ranga Charulu heard an assurance coming from an unknown source through out the time. He heard the words:
“Don’t worry. You will get back your job.” On her way home, Anasuya Devi collected some flowers from a tree near the hospital. She went home and kept the flowers on the floor near the image of the goddess in their house. They were all busy with Navaratri festival and no body noticed her absence in the house the previous night.
“Why do you keep the flowers on the floor?”.
Annapurnamma chided her and was about to beat her. She instructed the girl to collect the rose flowers from their orchard. Anasuya Devi collected them and then asked her aunt.
“Where can I keep them, aunt?”
“Keep them on your head!” was the impatient and indifferent reply. Devi took an advantage of the literal meaning and kept those flowers in her own hair. Her aunt looked at it and shouted.
“Is it for this that you are asked to collect the flowers? How can we offer them to the godess?”
“As you asked me to collect the flowers, I collected them. As you asked me to keep them in my hair, I kept them. I asked you what I didn’t know. I obeyed you implicitly what you asked me to do,” said Devi with all innocence.
In the meanwhile Prakhya Subbaiah, the Purohit came in and was fascinated by the reply of the girl. He said:
“It does’t matter even if that girl kept the flowers in her hair. She is a small girl and hence the flowers can be offered to the deity.” He looked at the girl for a few moments and said to her aunt:
“Madam, this girl was seen at the temple man tapa yesterday. How is she related to you? She was talking to some elderly gentleman.”
“She can’t ask even for food. I wonder whom you had seen there,” Annapurnamma said.
“No, this was the girl. I saw her clearly. I heard people say there was something unusual about her,” Subbaiah replied.
Annapurnamma grew impatient of listening to that conversation and asked him to begin to worship the goddess soon. But his attention was drawn by the unusual looks of Anasuya Devi. He was not inclined to begin Puja and he openly expressed it to her. Annapurnamma was angry with him and said:
“If you are not ready, somebody else will come.
With an altogether different intention, Subbaiah began Puja. He was worshipping the goddess with flowers, reciting Lalita Sahasra nama Stotram. But his looks and attention were fixed on Anasuya Devi. Subbaiah unknowingly offered the Puja to Anasuya Devi and broke even a coconut while looking at the girl. Even the harathi was given in a similar way.
As the Puja was over, Anasuya Devi went and sat at the door step of Desiraju Ranga Rao’s house. After some time, Ranga Rao came there and asked her:
“Who are you, madam?”
The girl appeared to him as a venerable elderly ady with Kumkum on her forehead.
“I am related to Sri Ranga Charulu,” replied. Devi, claiming a relationship known only to herself.
“How is he related to you?” asked Rao with all curiosity. “He is a son to me. That means, I and his mother are sisters,” replied the girl, appearing to him as an elderly lady.
“Are you coming now from his house?” he said.
“No, I am now going to his house. It seems that somebody had dismissed him from service. He’s extremely good and worthy for service. That temple is not lucky enough to have him as its archaka,” remarked Devi emphatically.
Ranga Rao felt that those words were coming from an unknown and unseen angel. Instantly he changed his decision to dismiss the archaka from service. Later he came to Ranga Charulu’s house and offered him his apologies along with some flowers and fruits and an amount which was about ten rupees more than what was due to him as salary. He said:
“Please take the flowers and fruits and offer them to the goddess.”
Then Ranga Rao left the place, but Ranga Charulu could not recover himself from that un expected pleasure. As he stood at the window, he saw Anasuya Devi passing by his house.
“Mother,” he shouted and rushed out of his house. But there was no reply. He found many people walking through the crowded street. But, Anasuya Devi, in whom he saw Mother, was not there among them. He began to pray:
“Mother, why do you play hide-and-seek with this child. Grant me your divine sight fully and for ever. I can’t have this rocking of cradle. Drop this veil of illusion and draw me into your lap, Mother.”
(to be continued)
“Your Lord is near: to seek him” Yet you are climbing the palm-tree