Wednesday, May 14, 2008


In a village called Shrirampur, there lived a wise old man - a 'pujari' of an old Hanuman temple situated on the recess of a small hill. As is common with Hanuman temples, there was a huge Pipal tree adjoining it. Most of the village was located on the foot of the hill below the temple.

Lord Hanuman was considered the patron deity of the village. He rewarded the pious and punished the evil. During the day, scores of devotees visited the temple to pray to their beloved deity. The pujari, however, was the only inhabitant of the place at night.

Legend had it that the great Maratha warrior Bajirao Sarnaik had built the temple centuries ago. Bajirao was a brave warrior. Once, his legion had defeated the powerful Mughals with twice the number of soldiers. As a gesture of gratitude to Lord Hanuman, he had built the temple.

The Mughals had amassed tremendous wealth by looting the villagers. And now they wished to loot Bajirao and the village of Shrirampur. They made elaborate plans to defeat him the next time. Wealth can buy anything, they say, even loyalty. What the Mughals could not do in many a battle, Bajirao's own men did. He was on the verge of being captured, tired and injured, he somehow managed to escape to the temple on the hill. There, he buried a treasure and planted a Pipal sapling on top of the treasure. Unfortunately, his wounds were too deep, superficial physical wounds and deeper mental wounds, inflicted by treachery. And there he died with only the pujari accompanying him at the time of his death. The pujari was a God fearing man who had renounced the material world and never cared for the treasure. And so, the Pipal tree grew, from a tiny sapling to a massive tree. The story of Bajirao became a legend over time and it was believed till quite recently that a treasure - "the treasure of Shrirampur" existed below the Pipal tree in the Hanuman temple.

Right below the temple, on the foot of the hill, lived the once wealthy Patil family. Vikramrao Patil the scion of the family was largely responsible for the family's destitute state of affairs. Ganpatrao Patil, his grand father had earned a large fortune, which was squandered away by Vikramrao in gambling. His situation was desperate, he was under a large debt, and the financiers were vying for his blood. The idea of looting the treasure was looming large in his evil mind.

It was the month of July, the rain Gods were pleased with Shrirampur and showered their blessings aplenty on the hill side village. The soil was moist and it was therefore the right time to dig. On the new moon night, Vikramrao along with his coterie, armed with axes, spades and shovel, reached the temple with the intention of uprooting the tree in order to recover the treasure. The noise created by the merciless axes falling on the helpless tree waked the pujari. "Stop", said he, "There is no real treasure beneath the tree". However, his fervent requests fell on deaf ears. The Patil got him tied to a pillar in the temple. The tree was cut, and uprooted to a large extent and the digging continued till dawn. However, no treasure was to be found. The frustrated coterie left early in the morning without freeing the pujari.

Next morning, the devotees visiting the temple came to know about the sorry state of affairs, freed the pujari and cursed the Patil for his misdeeds. It rained quite heavily the whole day and by night, it was pouring. It was as if the Gods had unleashed their fury on the hill. The Pipal tree had held together soil and rocks of the hill in its strong roots. The massive downpour caused a landslide and a big boulder came tumbling down the hill and fell on the roof of the Patil mansion. Down came the roof, killing the entire family.

"Lord Hanuman punished the family for Vikramrao's misdeeds", said one devotee to the pujari. "Why did he not find the treasure?" asked another. "My son", said the wise old man, "Vikramrao did not realize what the real treasure was. The treasure of Shrirampur was not beneath the tree, it was the tree itself".

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