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For whom the bells toll

For whom the bells toll
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In a temple near Almora, believers present their prayers on stamped paper to Golu devta.

By Ramesh Menon

Which is the highest court of the land? The Supreme Court, you would say without batting an eyelid. But for thousands of petitioners, the only court they trust is Chitai Golu Devta Temple, about eight kilometers from Almora. It was built in 1638 and the folklore since is that the deity loves to deliver justice.

So, like a typical court, scores of petitions on judicial stamped paper of Rs. 50, Rs. 100 and Rs. 500 denominations are strung all over the temple, trying to attract the attention of Golu Devta, one of the most popular deities in the Kumaon Hills. The petitions spell out the grievances in meticulous detail, complete with figures, addresses, names and even phone numbers. They eloquently display the deep faith petitioners have in getting their grievances addressed.

The temple precincts in Almora

When their wishes are fulfilled, they come back to the temple for thanksgiving and demonstrate their gratitude by removing the petition and stringing up a brass bell. Thousands of bells thus tinkle away in the breeze, lending a lyrical quality to the place.

Desperate pleas

Many of the petitions hanging around are actual petitions rejected by courts. Some are pleas urging the deity to give them quick relief and deliver justice. The pleas are varied. A lover wants to be united with his sweetheart despite opposition from parents; a girl wants to do well in an examination; a young man wants a job; someone pleads for peace at home; another wants freedom from an alcoholic husband or even a cure for a serious illness.

Pore through the petitions and you will find every imaginable request. Hold your breath, one petition had a judge praying for elevation to the Supreme Court. When it recently fructified, he went back, removed his petition and hung up a brass bell. There were numerous petitions from lawyers pleading that they get appointed as judges.
Ponty Chadha, the real estate magnate, had filed a petition asking for full mining rights in Uttarakhand. His wish, as we all know, was granted.

Bells tied by devotees whose wishes were fulfilled

Then, there are film personalities like Raj Kumar Santoshi who have visited the temple with petitions. Bhojpuri film actor and singer Manoj Tiwari hung a bell there after he became a member of parliament. A newspaper reporter too has a bell in his name after he found a job.

Fast work

But not all are lucky. One believer filed five petitions, one after the other, as nothing would come of the land dispute he was involved in. He filed the fifth petition with the help of an advocate and was amazed when, within four hours, he got a positive response from the police about the dispute.

The petitioners come from near and far. Many are from Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and of course, Uttarakhand. There was one even from distant Kerala. Clearly, faith reigns supreme.

There are plenty of legends about the deity and the temple. According to Kumaon Ke Devalay, a book by Jagdishwari Prasad, Golu was the son of a king from Champawat, the ancient capital of Kumaon. Unknown to his father, his wicked stepmothers stealthily spirited him away as they didn’t want him to become the next king. From a young age, the child suffered injustice. He put up a successful fight against his tormentors and killed them by tossing them into boiling oil. After he was crowned, he was catapulted as a god who dispensed justice to all.

A petition on stamp paper.

Another legend is that Golu was a general in the army of Baz Bahadur, the king of Chand between 1638-78, and died displaying exemplary valor during a war. So, a temple was built in his honor and those who visited it got justice.

Many also consider Golu Devta as an incarnation of Shiva, who was born to dispense justice in an unfair world. The presence of Golu Devta also extends beyond the little temple. All around it are pictures of the deity as well as small images for sale. To keep the legend alive, numerous juicy folk stories revolve around Golu Devta.

Those who have benefitted swear by the power of the God of Justice. Others are just amused by the tales.

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  1. They used to sacrifice goats and buffaloes there. With political correctness, they started the bells business.

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