The movie 3 Idiots may have made the name Ranchhoddas well known and perhaps cool. However, in Mahabharata, Krishna was called Ranchod because he had ‘run away’ from the battle with Kaalyavan who had gone to
to help Jarasandh. The story goes like this – when Krishna was in a duel with Kaalyavan there came a point when Mathura Krishna realized that the only way to kill Kaalyavan would be to burn him. He knew about Baba Muchkund whose ashram was not too far away. Baba Muchkund was known for his long sleep. It was said that anyone who woke Baba Muchkund would be turned to ashes by his gaze. Knowing the powers which Baba Muchkund possessed, Krishna ran away from the battlefield and reached his ashram. Kaalyavan followed and when he did not find Krishna nearby, he kicked Baba Muchkund who was asleep. At that instant, Kaalyavan was burnt to ashes and Krishna won with the help of his wits.
The ashram of Baba Muchkund is located near Dhaulpur, Rajasthan. On the way to the ashram from the town, one passes another point of interest called Pahad wale Baba ki Dargah which sits on top of a peak. In fact, the Dargah can also be seen from the Shergadh fort and I had seen it lit up from the fort the previous evening.
The Ashram was located in a large complex with many architecturally magnificent looking structures and temples surrounding a huge water tank. The tank was lined with many big and small stone Chhatris (umbrellas) and a few were in the middle of the tank. The tank itself was not clean and I could see green moss floating on one side. I reached there at 9.30 in the morning and found the place was empty except a few men bathing and washing on one side of the tank. So this was not a touristy place (although it looked straight from a post-card) but an ordinary place where the local people went about doing their daily activities, I thought. I went around and checked out the carvings, the exquisite doorways, windows and the verandahs, so characteristic of Rajasthani architecture. There were no signs telling how old the structure was but I imagine it must have been constructed a few hundred years ago. I was told that the place comes alive during social and religious festivals.
The Ashram had a huge courtyard and I again saw ordinary sights of old men lying on the ‘charpai’, some sipping their morning tea and others getting their faces shaved. I wondered if they were people who lived there (I mean in such grand settings), were they priests or were they people who were managing the property. Beyond the courtyard was the temple with beautiful idols of
Krishna, Radha and Balaram. The quadrangle inside the temple was very plain and it appeared to also be the residence of the priest. The stone platforms on the either sides of the temple were cluttered with household stuff, perhaps belonging to the temple priest. I came out of the temple and saw that the activities around the vast courtyard were going on uninterrupted. Outside, the men were taking luxurious baths in the tank. It looked as if there were two or three frames superimposed on each other presenting a mixed picture- one frame with the mythological story of Ranchchod and the fiery gaze of Baba Muchkund, the second one where the beautiful chhatris, jharokhas and chabutaras were being erected to serve as social and religious meeting points and the third frame of today’s age where people went about their daily chores oblivious to the beauty and splendour around. In the pictures below, you can see that I avoided taking the third frame for obvious reasons.
|The tank or Sarovar outside the temple complex|
|One of the temple structures in the premises|
|One more temple|
|The jaalis and the jharokhas|
|Another view of the tank|
|The moss is cleaned up before the festivals|
|Another view of the tank- have carefully avoided the bathing men|
|View of the tank from the temple courtyard|
|One side of the vast courtyard|