A caring relative of the dead--that’s how Mahant Baba is lovingly called for carrying out the last rites of Hindu and Muslim beggars as per their religious rituals.
Believe it or not, Mahant Anand Giri of Mhow, about 23 kilometres from the commercial capital of Madhya Pradesh (Indore), is well versed in the Koran and the Bhagwad Gita. He buries a Muslim beggar by reciting Fatiha and consigns a Hindu one to flames with all funeral rituals.
He is doing this “service”(as he calls it) for the past 10 years. “I have performed the last rites of 150 Hindu beggars and about 20 Muslim ones so far,” he says, adding, “They are just like my family.”
That’s the reason why he organises Gita recitation for Hindu and Shab-e-baraat for Muslim beggars after the last rites
But what’s his drive and how does he meet the expenses?
The Mahant says he owns an ancestral sweet shop at Mhow and spends a major part of its earnings to this noble cause. There is a short story behind his mission.
“On January 17, 2006, some beggars went to muktidham ( a religious place) in Mhow for performing the last rites of their fellow beggar. But, they had no money. Someone told me about this and something forced me to perform the last rites of the beggar. I can’t forget that pleasing feeling, that joy unspeakable …and then it became the mission of my life. Every time I perform my duty, I get the same intense joy.”
But, he admits that things are getting costlier now. A last rite would cost him R1300 in 2006.
“Now I have to spend somewhere between R2,700 and R3000,” he says. “But, the rising cost can’t stop me from doing the divine work,” he says with a spark in his eyes. Badshah Khan , a local businessman, says his commitment makes all to bow to him in reverence. “We love him and are proud of him,” Khan says.