Yogi Balakdas has not eaten or taken a sip of water since the past week.
At the Centurion Colony in Ulhasnagar, he is lying on his back with an earthen pot on his stomach as part of the Navratri festival. The spot has been thronged by several people who want to catch a glimpse of the holy man.
Originally from Pandharpur in Solapur district, Balakdas is performing Ghatasthapana, an important ritual of Navratri, albeit a little differently. Ghatasthapana, or the installation of pot, is usually done at a sanctified place at home or in a temple on the first day of the nine-day of festivity. Balakdas, however, has chosen his stomach as the resting place for the pot that symoblises the goddess.
“I belong to the yogi section of devotees, who do various types of sadhanas to please the Gods,” said Balakdas. “This is also a type of sadhana, which I have been practising for 20 years.”
This isn’t the first time he has pushed his body to the limit.
Five years ago, Balakdas had installed an idol of a Ganpati on his stomach during Ganeshotsav. Two years ago, he had done a wari (pilgrimage) of Pandharpur, but not on foot. “I started my journey from Dehu, and rolled all the way to Pandharpur. It was a 243-km journey which I completed in 12 days,” he said.
Nandu Bhoir, a social worker, said the 51-year-old holy man had come to meet him before the start of the festival. “I did not know him, but maharaj expressed his wish to celebrate the ustav in a different manner,” said Bhoir. “Initially, I didn’t believe him, but then I consulted a few others and decided to give it a try.”
Bhoir said they informed the police that took a written statement from Balakdas. “People from as far as Thane and Karjat-Kasara area are coming see this holy man’s ghatasthapana.”
Kamalbai Doiphode, a resident of Centurion Colony, said: “It isn’t every day that you see a holy man perform a sadhana. He hasn’t eaten or had water for a week. I was surprised when I saw the ghat on his stomach.”