An Englishman meets a Yogi

      Sir George Macmunn was a British military commander in India around 1899 AD. He had the keen interest in visiting old places connected with the Mughal history of India. He was ever on the look out of an opportunity of having a first hand experience of the eerie feelings, which such old and dilapidated places evoke in the mind of the visitors.

Once he had a chance to journey from the city of Jammu to Kashmir. While on his way, he had an encounter with a Hindu yogi and what he saw there in his company was beyond his wildest imagination, though he later on tried to reason to explain away the strange experience.

He was to have with him a newly raised mountain battery, which was formed for the army of the Kashmir State under his supervision, and was to march to Gilgit, a place which is far away towards the rugged mountains that lead to the Pamirs and Tibet. His column was marching leaisurely with an assortment of guns on mules. It was a place that is far away from human haunts and was on the route that was not previously known to any body in the company. Thus marching, they arrived at an old castle of Rampur Rajouri located at the Rajouri Tawi River. The battery was made to camp outside an old sarai and George Macmunn went inside the sarai to have a look there.

  There they rested for a while and the Englishman received the visit of the headman of a nearby village. It was a pleasant place with soft and cool breeze blowing and caressing one’s body and soul. At dawn the next day, the battery set out on its way and, after marching fifteen miles, reached the next stage, which was a dark and cool place under a pine-clad hill-side. The place was towered by the snowy peaks of Pir Panjal and, against the green background of the place, an arch of a sarai was visible to the army. The army was again made to camp at the site to have the much needed rest and recoup. As usual, George Macmunn, later in the day, strolled down to the sarai to look for a garden, which he knew was always laid near sarais as a rule by the great Mughals in their heyday.

  Macmunn was very anxious to have a look at that marvelous achievement of the Mughals, which he expected to be there now in a tangled state. Outside the sarai, he found a Hindu shrine of severe and very ancient style standing by a turf.

  There, George Macmunn saw a sanniyasi, walking up and down the green. The sanniyasi – the world renouncer – was apparently deep in thought, austre of countenance, a recluse in charge of his self and grave of mien. He seemed to have renounced the pleasures and the pains of this world. The Englishman courteously and humbly approached the sanniyasi. The sanniyasi halted in his pacing, looked at him for a second and then bowed to him. The visitor smiled at him and then in response the flicker of a sweet smile also played across the smooth and lineless face of the sanniyasi. The sanniyasi, in an answer to the curiosity of the visitor, softly queried, ‘My son, what seek you?’

  ‘Nahin, Baba!’ I seek nothing, I but eat the air after a long march, wandering hither and thither without purpose, but I would enter the old Mogul garden that must belong to this seari.’

  ‘What brings you to the old garden?’

  ‘Curiosity, father, and a love for old places (brings me here). Especially would I call to memory the times of the Chagatai, and see their courtiers and their ladies a-marching to Kashmir.’

  “The sanniyasi nodded and smiled to himself. ‘My son, you have spoken well. I too love to muse on things that have passed as well as on things that are to come. Perhaps I can help you in your quest. You will not find the garden by the serai. It is up on the hill, and the Chagatai put it there because of the karez, the water channel which runs out of the rock.’

  “’Indeed, Baba’, he replied, ‘if you could help me or tell me some legend of the place that would be a great pleasure.’

  ‘Come first with me.’

  And then, the sanniyasi led him towards the little shrine, a shrine of grey limestone carved outside with a curious pattern, something resembling the rose and portcullis of the Tudor period.

  The entrance was through a high pointed arch, and the darkness within for a moment was unfathomable. And then his eyes slowly recovered from the numb of the outside glare, and he could see that a tiny flat lamp, or chirag, flickered in front of an image. The Englishman thought it was not the popular image of Hindu diety Mahadeo, but the solemn deep-browed Indra. The figure was cut of black basalt, dark and polished, and then the chirag flared as the sanniyasi dropped something over it.

  As it flared he could see the countenance that betrayed calm and peace on a road untold, far different from the more common Hindu figures. The stone eyes seemed to watch and to follow one, with a look that would penetrate one’s deepest thoughts.

  The man looked at the sanniyasi, who smiled at him, and said, ‘That is the great Indra who knowth and maketh all. Yesterday, to-day and for ever are but one, and could you but see as those eyes, you would know all that you want of the garden of the Turks. Now look at me.’

  As the man looked at the sanniyasi, he passed his hands in front of his face and the chirag flared again.

  Then both went out. ‘Now I will take you to the garden,” said the sanniyasi. Above the temple a paved staircase led up the facade of the hill-side. And they climbed up, the sanniyasi leading, on to a highland which lie at the foot of a wooded hill-side, and below them lay the dressed lines of the battery camp. Thus they came by a cluster of pine to the Kaiseri Darwaza (the door of the Emperor). To the surprise of the Englishman it stood in good order, complete in arch and the polished plaster of marble surface intact instead of peeling. Over the inner gateway was a Persian inscription, and it was the inscription on the jasper-inlaid entrance over the Hall of Private Audience in the Mogul Palace at Delhi. It read in Persian thus:

‘Agar Fardous ba rue zaminast

Haminast! Haminast! Haaminast!’

And, it may be translated thus:

‘If there is a heaven on earth

It is this! It is this! It is this!’

  Above them there the visitor found the promised heaven on earth and outside the gate a behisti with his leather water-bag who was sprinkling water to lay the dust. Together the both entered the garden and stepped on the soft green lawn that looked to the Englishman greener than even the lawns of Cruzan, the India-Holder, in Delhi. And up the centre was a row of Italian cypresses, and beyond, the marble channel with the cascade at play.

  As they stepped on the grass, the Englishman could hear the somnolent splash and the ripple of the cascade.

The visitor wondered and reflected: who had so endowed this garden that it had never fallen to decay? Had Cruzan been this way recently and made a decree to keep it this way? But the sanniyasi put his finger on his lips and bade him to remain quiet.

  Thus, they walked on. It was obvious that the speech was out-of-place.

The flower shone in the morning sun and its rays reflected a hundred lights and colors from the ripples.  The tall sparkly poplars on the periphery of the garden waved and whispered, and the Englishman caught a peep among the apricots of the rainbow wings of the peacock.

Not a sound except the murmur of the winds and the whisper of the water was there. They both came to a terrace and ascended steps by the side of steeper and splashier ripples, over stone that was cut in the shape of lotus and their leaves.

  Then, as they looked, came the sound of silver voices, the voices of women prattling, and six maidens came down a marble path by an upper row of fountains, lithe figures and pretty faces, with embroidered bodices of plum-colored silk, little pieces of mirror sewn thereon, which sparkled in the sun like the ripples on the cascade. Their arms and their bodies below the bosom were bare to the waist, and below were voluminous skirts of white muslin. And they were carrying crimson rugs and two of them a crimson and gold umbrella. The rugs they spread at one end of the terrace where stood a small marble summer-house, athwart the channel above a cascade, and the umbrella they stuck in the lawn, for it was attached to a long gilt pole shod with iron. As they spread the rugs and arranged the cushions, one of them struck the string of a zither. The notes twanged across the rippling water, soft and sweet and restful.

  Presently they sprang to their feet, and heard more voices. Down the same path now walked a beautiful woman, clad much as the maidens, save that she wore above her bodice a shawl of embroidered muslin, and on her head a high cap of crimson, bound with a gold frame set with turquoise, the head-dress of a Tartar lady of rank. By her side walked a tall, olive-faced man, with a black beard, and a small gold and white turban on his head. His dress was a long yellow gown on which were embroidered roses, and round his waist a crimson sash, in which was stuck a green velvet gold-shod scabbard containing a sword with golden hilt. Behind them two Nubian boys waved fly-whisks gracefully, as the royal pair walked.

  ‘Is the Rajah of Poonch here?’ whispered the Englishman.

  ‘That is no rajah, my son’, replied the sanniyasi, ‘that is Jehangir the great Mogul, who passes to Kashmir, and with him is Nur Jehan his wife, the Light of the World. See, they sit.’ And then the couple sat themselves on the cushion in the summer-house, where a little terrace edged out over the water which ran out on to the cascade. Behind them two more women followed with baskets of fruit, green mangoes and melons sparkler cold, and laid them before them, while she had the zither sang.

  And she sang from the songs of Sadi that are written in the book with Sadi in the Garden, the two sat and listened, hiding behind a cypress hedge so that they should not trespass, and as they listened the Englishman fell asleep. When he woke up, the Emperor and the women were gone, and the sanniyasi brought him to the present by saying, ‘Come home, sahib, for the sun is getting high in the heavens,’ and they walked once more on the cool grass to the door.

  But the plaster had fallen from the gateway and the arch was broken. As the armyman turned to the garden, he found that the cascades and the fountains were there, but dry and choked with dust. The fruit trees were old and twisted, though ablaze with blossom still; the cascades were chipped and lichen grew in the crevices as it did at Rajaori; the poplars were broken and only barely alive, and coarse grass grew where the lawns had been.

   The sanniyasi said, ‘Thus it is, my son that the pomp and power of the Mogul are long dead, and there is little of what you seek. Many of the marble squares are stolen, and all is broken and desecrated.’

  “’But, sanniyasi-jee, where is the garden that I saw just now, and the maidens, and Jehangir and his consort that you showed me?’ asked the armyman.

  ‘I, my son? Not I! Perhaps Indra may have brought before you things as they were, for to him time is naught. Yesterday, to-day and for ever. Here it is as you see it now, though perhaps you may rebuild it for yourself ‘, said the sanniyasi.

  When the Englishman got back to the camp, he found the Dogra

commandant of the battery waiting to see him.

  ‘Sahib,’ said the commandant, ‘the men would like to march on this afternoon, and say they are quite rested and the mules are fresh.’

  ‘Why, Khajur Singh? What is the matter? Don’t they find this a restful place?’, said the Englishman.

  ‘No, sahib, they don’t. Saving your presence, they say this place is haunted. There are bhoots (ghosts) about.’

  Bhoots or no bhoots, the curiosity-seeker was inclined to agree with them. And so, an hour later they all left the camp. While all set to leave, the Englishman rode over to the sanniyasi to say good-bye, as he had  been attracted by his grave, kind face, and told him they were off. Sanniyasi expressed no surprise and merely said, ‘Peace be with you, my son. Don’t dwell too much in the past, for it is all one with the present and the future, and the world is Maya, a delusion.’

       The column was on its way once again. But that Englishman felt an urge to see the garden once more before leaving the place. So he halted his horse and climbed up the place. There it stood, with its broken arch and its tangled trees and shrubs, and its dead water-courses. A peacock ran across his front, and for the moment thought he saw the green and crimson bodices of the girls.

  He forced his way through a couple of peach trees, knocking off the blossom, but all was silence. Then as he turned to go on his way, he thought: was it fancy? A zither seemed to twang softly behind the rose bushes. Below him the battery was closing up and he slipped down the path and mounted. He now certainly agreed with the men that they had better go.

  Sir George Macmunn has tried to reason and explain away the experience in a simplistic manner when he says, “It is a story of one of those hallucinations which Yoga, that mysterious power of the Hindu, can cast on one, especially when readings and musings have prepared the mind. A Hindu ascetic, simple, devout and wise beyond worlds, talked to me and I listened, as he led me up the hill-side in answer to my query as to where the Mogul garden lay, the lost garden that I wanted to roam in.”

It was not hallucination of a prepared mind. Did the Englishman ever think the reason even in his widest flight of imagination for that sanyasi to chose such an isolated place – away from the presence of humans? Why? To seduce an Englishman who might come that way some day? It is fancy. Sanyasi was a Yogi. He had mastered the past and the future, which is beyond the pale of reason of that Englishman.

This document is systematically sequential. Read NEXT here.

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