He’s not your average saffron-clad sanyasi chanting Om Namah Shivay for his own liberation. Swami Shivoham Bharati is tech-savvy and a man on a mission: feeding the hungry. He even has a nickname, Ek Roti Baba.
“The hungry man is my God and every morsel of food going into his mouth is my chant of Om Namah Shivay,” says the 60-something sanyasi at the Namah Shivay Mission in Shivakothi on the outskirts of this pilgrim town.
An average 500 people are fed satvik food under his satyaandaan mahayagya (good food yagya) daily, for the last 12 years. On special occasions and on most days in Shravan, the numbers swell to more than 1,500 a day.
Appealing for donations under his Ek Roti Daan Abhiyaan (donate a roti mission), he reminds people: “You spend lakhs on vices like cigarettes and liquor. Are you aware a little donation from you can feed thousands?”
“On the banks of the Narmada (where Omkareshwar lies), there is a tradition to feed all those who undertake Narmada parikrama (circumambulation). But nobody feeds the poorest of the poor. We take care of this segment,” he adds.
Bharati maintains a computerised database of all donors. Accounts are audited and returns filed regularly. Donations start from Rs 500 for roti for a whole year. The Mission feeds any and everybody who comes to its door, day or night.
The tech whiz is also a spiritual guru to many, having done research on the science of sound and the therapeutic aspect of the Om Namah Shivay mantra, which he uses to help people in agony.
Under an old peepal tree in the Mission compound, devotees chant Om Namah Shivay 24x7 for world peace. The Mission has a mantra bank where people send in written copies of the chant, “which helps engage them in prabhu ka naam”.
That’s not all. The Mission also runs a free OPD for paediatric and eye ailment cases.
Next, Bharati plans to build more halls to feed as many as 10,000 people simultaneously. Future plans also include a 1,000-bed free-of-cost super-specialty hospital for the rural poor. “God willing, donations will continue to come in and by 2011, our Mission will be able to serve every single hungry person,” he says.