The Shiva Linga

by Jackie Kabir

eid07THE priest was happy to offer puja to Ma Durga, his heart was dancing in joy like a young girl in merrymaking. Hundreds of devotees were praying. He came down from the pandal after touching his head to the floor of the dais. The smiling face of Ma Durga with her five pairs of hands and her four children around her ek chala stared back at him in the light of the bulb that was lit above the head of the deity. He walked back slowly to the temple of Chandrabati to offer his regular puja; the cylindrical temple with a conical dome quite far from the Pandal where all the cacophony deafened his ears. It was a bit dark around the temple as the shadowy light fell around the grass covered yard. Standing in front of the temple, his heart almost stopped. One of the doors was open which had the pad-lock hanging on its round rings. When he pushed the other door and lit the oil lamp with the matchbox from his lungi’s loop at his waist he found that the Shivlinga was gone. The floor looked soared where the linga used to stand. He thought, how could anyone take such a heavy, rocky piece of cylindrical concrete Linga? And for what purpose would they take it?
He couldn’t think anymore but screamed
‘I have been robbed, I have been robbed.’
A huge congregation was at the altar of Devi Durga, people were walking, talking, and hardly anyone would hear his scream. It was lost in the dissonance of the congregation. A little boy who saw the priest going in and crying out, ran to the police who were stationed in front of the dais. Three of them came running.
‘What happened?’ One of them asked.
‘My Shiva Linga from the temple is gone. Oh god! It’s about six hundred years old. My grandfather, before that his great grandfather had been looking after it. And I am the unfortunate one who had to face this turmoil.’
‘Wasn’t the door locked?’ Asked another policeman.
The priest climbed back 3 steps of the staircase to the door of the temple which was folded to the inside of the cylindrical wall and pulled out the door holding its ring.
‘See! The lock was broken with something hard!’ He held the pad-lock on his palm. Its hook like structure looked a bit deformed.
All the men came forward. ‘We have to inform the sub inspector as this was declared as a heritage site by the archeology department’ One of them said. So another policeman was sent off to inform the SI.
‘Why don’t you search around? Please! The thieves couldn’t have gone too far. It’s very heavy and where would they get a vehicle in this middle of nowhere without your notice? I don’t understand what could be their purpose?’
‘What is it made up of?’
‘Cement and sand I suppose! How would I know? It was built some four or five hundred years ago!’
The police officers walked around lethargically. They dispersed the crowd that had gathered as the news of stolen Shiva Linga spread. The priest had a very sad look on his face. He sat on the third stair of the temple. He looked very tired in his lungi and dark bare torso with a tilak on his forehead. His white lungi looked very bright in the light of the lamps that were sliced by the shadows of objects and people moving around. The distorted darkness caused by the distant lights meeting each other gave the place a mysterious look.
The SI asked the priest,
‘Can you think of anyone who could be involved with the theft?
‘No, sir!’
He looked around; he could see vast lands of paddy on all three sides of the place where the temple was situated. There was another similar temple diagonally positioned, beyond which there was a big pond. A dilapidating wall of a ruined building could be seen opposite the temples. There was only one road that reached the area which was not pitched or even plastered. A dusty road on soil. It would be difficult to bring in vehicles and not be noticed.
‘What is that temple?’
That is a temple of Deez Canai, he was the father of Chandrabhati, it was him who built this temple for her.
‘Who lives in that old building?’
‘I live there with my family sir!’
‘Why in that broken house?’
‘It is my ancestral home, I have inherited it from Zamindar Nilkontho who was my ancestor. We have been living in this house for generation after generation. You see they were the custodians of these two temples and have been offering puja to both the temples in regular basis. The government had declared these temples as national heritage sites but they haven’t provided any protection for them. Me, being a poor Brahmin can hardly gather the necessary for my puja, let alone take care of these ancient temples. All I did was put two very simple locks for the doors and it was easy for the thieves to break the lock and take away the Shiva Linga.’
The police force walked across the temples and went near the ruin of the zaminder bari. The walls were broken in many places. The windows and the broken bricks had cobwebs crisscrossing over them. The wooden frames were eaten away by some mites. Rows and rows of coconut trees were surrounding the house. There was a cow tied to a stick on the yard. A strong stench of cow dung was in the air. The building was two storied or it was two storied once upon a time. It was surely from hundreds of years ago. There was a tinned roofed house on one side of the building.
‘Whose house is that?’
‘A Muslim family started living here around two generations ago as our ancestors got poor and sold that piece of our land to them.’
‘Do you suspect them?’
‘Oh! No, they wouldn’t do anything like that? Why would they?’
The SI looked very thoughtful. There were two temples side by side yet just one of the Shiva Lingas from the temple which was known as Chandrabati’s temple had been stolen. Who was she? A poet from 16th century? Women wrote in such early times? He was intrigued and asked what else he knew about this poet. So the priest narrated sitting by the bank of the pond.
Chandrabati lived in this village in the medieval times. Her father Diz Banshidas was one of the poets of Manasha Mangal. When she was very young, she always went to the riverbank to gather flowers for her father who offered puja everyday to Lord Shiva. One day she met this young gentle man who also came to collect some flowers, his name was Joyanonda. They talked as they picked flowers and made it a habit to meet every day. Joyanando wrote a letter to Chandrabati of two and half alphabets. Chandrabati got the letter but didn’t know what to write back to him or how she would keep the letter from her father. So she refrained from writing the letter and even from going to the river bank. But after a few days she wrote to him describing her situation. Joyanonda kept going to the temple of Shiva asking for Chandrabati’s hand in marriage. He sent a proposal to Banshidas. He enquired about the boy and consented to the union. All the formalities were completed by Chandrabati’s family.
In the mean time Joyanando met this beautiful Muslim girl at the bank of Shunda river. She had come to collect some water in her water pot. She received a love letter from Joyanonda which he left at the trunk of the big Hijol tree where the Muslim girl was bound to see. In the mean time the news of Joyanonda pursuing a Muslim girl floated in the air and reached Chandrabati’s household. The preparation for the wedding was in full swing. Everybody was shocked to hear about Joyanonda’s change of heart. People felt sorry that he should bring shame to the honour of his family by breaking the engagement with Chandrabati.
The poor girl’s heart broke after what Joyanonda did, her teardrops knew no bound. A sea would have been formed had all her tears been collected. So her father tried to arrange for her marriage to a different man. Chandrabati vowed never to tie her knot. She vowed to remain a spinster throughout her life; and promised her father that she would only offer puja to Lord Shiva. Her father built a Shiva temple from stones and persuaded her to write Ramayan. She began writing Ramayana from Sita’s point of view.
In Baishask, when there were ripe mangoes on the trees, the sun was so hot that it tried to rip the fields off, that is when Chandrabati received a letter from Joyanonda’
Forgive me Chandra for not valuing your love
Left my good fortune in order to gain the bad;
What could be worse than losing one’s love of the life
For someone who meant nothing?
I wish to lay my eyes just once before I die,
I wish to hear your sweet voice once more.
I would wash your gentle feet with my tears
Oh! Please give me a chance to repent,
If it means anything then just for our
Old times sake! Oh Please Chandra!
Chandrabati read the letter again and again. She washed away the ink of the letter with her tears. She went to see her father and told him, ‘See father! Joyanonda has written to me. Her father urged her to concentrate on her writing and her puja. He forbade her to heed attention to someone who had transformed her to a dead person. It was very difficult for Chandra not to answer him. So she meditated to keep his thoughts away from her mind.
Joyanonda came to her temple, he banged on her door. But alas! She was in deep meditation. How could she hear her beloved’s voice in her meditative trance? No matter how many times Joyanonda banged on her door, she failed to respond. Joyanonda looked around, all he could see was the maloti flowers that bloomed in the garden nearby. He picked the flowers and wrote with them
My dear childhood friend
The love of my adulthood,
O! Forgive me if you can!
I have come to bid farewell!
Chandrabati finished her meditation and looked around, she found the lines written with maloti flowers. She went to the river bank for a bath, with tears in her eyes she saw Joyanonda’s body floating on water. All she could do was stand and watch the body pulled by high tide.’
As the priest was telling the story of Chandrabati, two of the constables came running. They informed the SI that a sac had been spotted at the river bank. All of them walked to the spot. They saw a brown jute sac lying on the bank of the river. As they opened the mouth of the sack the tip of the black stone peeped out. It seemed that the thieves had left the heavy sac as they heard all the commotion that was created by the missing Shiva Linga.
Both the priest and the Sub Inspector heaved a sigh of relief. •

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