Short story: The age-old pujari near the secluded beach

Being all of just 22, the idea of going on a pilgrimage to Dwarka didn’t sound exciting to Vikram. It is believed that holy places are only for the old. A young person venturing to such trips is considered weird, especially in India. But after a lot of emotional force applied by his parents, Vikram finally agreed.

Vikram wasn’t an atheist though, which didn’t make it that difficult for his parents. The end of monsoon was zeroed in as the right time to take a tour. Vikram’s Diwali vacations had also commenced, so he wasn’t required to miss college. He was studying his Masters in Journalism and Mass Communication in a reputed college in his hometown, Mumbai.

The journey from Jamnagar airport to Dwarka was smooth. After doing the rounds of the Dwarkadhish Temple, Vikram and his parents took a tour of the neighboring places like the Rukmini temple, Sudama Setu, Nageshkar temple, etc. Vikram was pleasantly surprised to realize that he was enjoying the trip. Despite him not being too religious, he had stopped regretting coming here.

Dwarka-beach

On the second last day of the trip, the trio decided to visit an unnamed beach near the Momai Mata Temple. Vikram was interested in seeing the beach but not excited. Having experienced a lot of beautiful beaches in Goa and other Konkan areas, he thought this would be just another beach.

But a single glance at the beach was enough to convince Vikram how wrong he was. They were standing atop a hill-like structure while the beach was further down. This vantage point provided the perfect view. The Momai Mata temple stood just from where they were.

Vikram was feasting his eyes on the view instead of the temple. His parents decided to take darshan inside the temple whereas he impatiently went down to the sea.

Dwarka beach

The beach was in a pristine condition to say the least. It looked virgin. It appeared that the sand was untouched as there was not a single person or even an animal visible till the far end. While wondering how the beach was so secluded, Vikram forgot to admire its beauty. What he saw appeared surreal to him.

The eerie silence of the place was broken by the chatter of his parents who had slowly descended the steps. As the sun was just about to set, they urged Vikram to visit the temple before it gets darker. He did so hesitatingly. Although he was praying in front of the idol, his mind was at the beach.

Momai-Mata-Dwarka
Momai Mata temple

As soon as he turned around after the darshan, he heard someone jump towards him out of nowhere. Shaken, he looked to the right from where an old man clad in orange lay bended. Vikram was shocked to see a snake in his hand as he slowly stood up. He just saved his life. It was easy for him to make out that he was the pujari (priest).

 

But he didn’t look like a normal pujari. Going by his facial appearance, it seemed to him that the man might be centuries old. However, his physique and agility made him look extremely fit and strong. Without saying a word, he went towards the left of the temple where stood a hut-like structure made out of cement. The pujari went inside and started sweeping it.

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Pujari inside the hut with a statue

Vikram peered inside. He could see a statue of a pujari in similar clothes. The darkness didn’t allow him to have a look at its face and he wasn’t even interested in the same. Going by what was written on a board outside, it was the statue of the founder of the place and the first pujari. As the old man turned, Vikram thanked him from saving his life.

Without showing any sort of feeling, the pujari said, “This temple is under my control. I won’t let anyone get into trouble over here.” He merely walked off.

Vikram kept on looking at the direction where he went for some time and then joined his family downstairs at the beach.

He couldn’t get the secluded beach and the age-old pujari out of his mind while being on his bed in the hotel room. Brooding over the place, he slowly drifted into sleep. Even before opening his eyes the next morning, he could hear his mom asking him to hurry up as they had to leave for Mumbai that day.

But a couple of hours before they checked out, she felt a mild shock when she realized that she forgot one of her bags near the steps of the Momai Mata temple. As the place was on their way to Jamnagar, they decided to visit and see if it is still there. They were quite sure the bag would be there considering how secluded the place was.

When their car reached the vicinity of the temple, Vikram was ordered to hurry and get the bag. He did so and luckily found it at the same spot. He took the bag and out of curiosity peered inside the hut where the statue of the founder resided. In the bright daylight he could clearly see the face of the statue and what he saw froze him.

He didn’t know how to react when the face told him that it was the statue of the same pujari who saved him from the snake last evening. Just then, he recalled the only thing the pujari had said.

This temple is under my control. I won’t let anyone get into trouble over here.”

By: Keyur Seta

Note: The place and the temple are real. The pictures were clicked during the author’s visit to the place. But the story is fictional.

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