Milord, Golu Dev : Wronged? Hang your petitions and phone number
Wronged? Hang your petitions and phone numbers. The deity will get back to you.
|petitions to the god on stamp papers amid thousands of bells
Golu Devta is an ancient folk god of the Kumaon hills, but his devotees are finding intriguing new ways to grab his attention. They like to petition him on sarkari stamp paper. Scores of such petitions are strung up at the Chitai temple, 8 km from Almora and most famous of the Golu shrines dotting these hills. And stand out they do, among the thousands of brass bells and crumpled letters on exercise-book paper offered to this local deity.
Parampujya (most venerated) Golu, says an appeal, in neat schoolgirl-devnagari script, on non-judicial Uttarakhand stamp paper, help me get through my exams...or, get me a seat in a hostel...get my son a job in Bangalore...heal my father. Below the signature, occasionally, is an address, even a telephone number—just in case he decides to call. The petitioners aren't just from the hills, where Golu is a superstar—his name on trucks and shopfronts, his little icons sold in bazaars, his stories told in folk songs, his spirit invoked at jagars (seances)—but also from the plains of Uttar Pradesh.
Pre-eminently, Golu is the god of justice—"Supreme court se badhkar," declares businessman Girish Joshi, whom we encounter on the temple's steps. Arbiter of land disputes, saviour of the swindled, rescuer of young women thrown out of their homes by nasty in-laws, court of appeal for senior officials protesting unfair transfers. Or even a disgruntled job applicant. Strung up among the petitions and damp with rain is a 13-page 2001 ruling of the UP State Public Service Tribunal, on a complaint filed by a man rejected for the post of solar astronomer. Grievance not tenable, says the ruling. Penned in a margin is the complainant's angry scrawl: Golu, do something.
And does he? Apparently, yes. Wrongdoers fall ill, die, recant...according to tales told in whispers. Vardai-putra (born of a boon) of Kali, and a form of Bhairav, Golu has dark powers.
|devotees at the temple's sanctum sanctorum|
"For local people, this is no less than a fast-track court," says Dr G.P. Pandey of the Uttarakhand Sewa Nidhi, an Almora-based NGO. "The sentiment is so strong you can't ignore it, even if you're not a believer." Sometimes, just invoking Golu's name works, says Pandey. The principal of a local school couldn't get villagers to stop letting their cows eat the newly planted oak saplings on his campus. Only when he threatened to petition the folk god did the cows disappear.
Believers sacrifice goats at the temple. The temple is more inclusive than many of its mainstream Hindu counterparts in allowing scheduled caste marriages. "Anyone can get married here, there is no restriction," says one of the temple's pandits, Harishchand Dalakoti.
Underpinning the appeal of Golu is a story as riveting as any Gothic fairy tale. Writes Jagdishwari Prasad, in his book Kumaon Ke Devalay, Golu was the son of a king from Champawat, the ancient capital of Kumaon. Spirited away at birth, behind his father's unknowing back by wicked stepmothers, he knows what it is to suffer injustice. He fights, and wins. The stepmothers are tossed into boiling oil. Golu goes on to wear a crown, rule, become a god. And dispenser of justice in a land where a lifetime can pass before the courts deliver it.