For the last two decades, Bhola Baba, a Hindu seer, has become much sought after at the revered Kamakhya temple in Assam during the Ambubachi Mela, a four-day festival that began on Sunday, for his "miraculous powers".
Bhola Baba belongs to the secret Aghor cult, whose adherents meditate in graveyards at night. And ever since the Baba stepped into the temple of Mother Goddess Kamakhya three days ago, streams of people were queuing up for his blessings.
In the queue waiting for blessings from the Baba was Arun Das and his wife Maitree, both in their late 30s. "We were childless for 10 years until we heard of the Baba in 2006 when he came to Kamakhya during the Ambubachi Mela. The Baba blessed us and made my wife drink a concoction of some alcohol poured into a monkey skull after chanting religious hymns," Das told IANS. <b1>
Soon after Baba blessed the couple, Maitree conceived and a baby boy was born last October. "We owe everything to the Baba and today we are here with the baby to pay our respects to him," a beaming Maitree said even as the infant cried with the temple chock-a-block with devotees and the sun blazing overheard.
Like Bhola Baba, there are thousands of Hindu mystics that have gathered at Kamakhya, long been considered the highest seat of tantricism, a sort of black magic that has been an integral part of India's folklore for centuries.
For many of the seers, the Ambubachi Mela is a meeting ground and an occasion to exhibit their psychic powers - from standing on one leg for hours to another burying his head in a pit and standing upright. Mystics who gather at the temple claim they can perform wonders - make a childless couple conceive, find a distressed loner a spouse, or even cast an evil spell on others.
"The Kamakhya temple is a different world altogether - a paranormal world where most of the sadhus are capable of doing miracles... though most people would like to dismiss such claims as rubbish," said Jeevan Baba, a frail looking man, his body smeared with ash and sporting a long beard.
Blessings apart, many people approach the mystics to cast evil spells on their adversaries.
"More than 90 per cent of the people approach us to harm their foes. I am capable of doing anything although I use my conscience whenever such offers come from people," Bhola Baba told IANS even as he was showering blessings on to a stream of childless couples.
More than 500,000 devotees, including thousands of monks, have converged here for the ritual. The festival is being held to mark the menstruation period of the goddess during which the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine remains closed to worshippers. The temple gate would be opened on Wednesday.