Pir Sandhya Puri Maharaj
Sandhya Puri was a nineteenth-century man. He was a siddha, who remembered all his past lives and Datt Akhara from previous ages, so when he first arrived in the present life, he couldn’t believe that he was in the right place.
There was a Muslim graveyard to one side, a swamp on the other, and the jungle, known for its tigers, on the third side. Datt Akhara was infested with snakes, scorpions, and malarial mosquitoes.
Sandhya Puri did manage to restore the math. He cleared the jungle, and drained the swamp, but when he asked the leaders of the Muslim community for the graveyard to be returned, their response was clear, “Our dead will lie there until the end of the world!”
The city fathers, who were among his devotees, tried to convince him to abandon a hopeless cause. Why stir up communal politics when none exist? There was no animosity between Hindus and Muslims in Ujjain in those days. But Sandhya Puri Baba took the case to the courts, to the guffaws of both Hindus and Muslims. This also did not go over well with the district collector, an Englishman, who first politely requested him to forget the whole thing and then cursed him when the baba respectfully refused to change his position.
Sandhya Puri had no deeds or legal claim on Datt Akhara, but only his personal memories from his past lives. However, he pointed out that while everyone assumed the property was a graveyard, there was no direct proof of that. The Muslims protested that countless fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters were buried there, and there had been countless witnesses to these burials. “If that is the case,” Sandhya Puri persisted, “then no one should object to us inspecting the alleged graves. Dig up one or two graves. If the bones are supine, as in a Muslim kabr, burial (in the same way as the dead are buried in the West), I will drop my claim in perpetuity. But if the corpses are sitting in a yoga posture (in the way sannyasis are buried), then the entire property should be turned over to Datt Akhara!” The Muslims, the judge, and the English collector sahib found this so ridiculous, to the point of being humorous, that they readily agreed, if only to put the matter to rest.
They were, therefore, shocked to see the corpses, from the first three graves and then (at the command of the incredulous collector), three more, all sitting upright, rosaries in hand, their dread locks intact. Yogi skeletons. Shava-shakti.
Several of the Muslim elders, without compromising their own religion, became staunch devotees of Sandhya Puri Baba, and were often seen in the akhara. Many other Muslims in Ujjain became his devotees, and addressed him by their Urdu Sufi term for the head of a Sufi order, pir, Father. From that time on, the Mahant of Datt Akhara has been called Pir.
It is said that there stood in the graveyard an old dargah, resembling a small mausoleum. No one knew who had been buried there. It had no inscription and was referred to simply as the dargah of the Old Pir. When Sandhya Puri had taken possession of the graveyard, he found a way to open it and inside there was no corpse, lying or sitting, but a small black rock-throne on which lay two objects, barely recognizable as a pair of very small wooden sandals with a knob raised to fit between the large toe and the second one. Magic slippers, padukas.
Almost overnight, a majestic math arose where snakes had flourished—rooms, halls, a temple, an office, and sheds for a thousand cows. Datt Akhara was soon awash in an ocean of milk.
Not only were comfortable accommodations ready for them when the thousands of sadhus descended on Datt Akhara, but each sadhu was given new dhotis, sandals, blankets, a new brass kamandal made in Bhuj, a hundred and one rupees dakshina, and several large golis of the finest Kashmiri hashish. The wealth seemed to appear out of nowhere. Although he never once looked at the books, Sandhya Puri maintained a balance sheet that zeroed out each and every day. And when he would donate a hundred gallons of milk to the poor, the cows’ output would double.
Sandhya Puri Baba continued to sit naked on his deerskin, smoking the odd chillam, holding court. Sadhus, householders, Hindus, Muslims, beggars, and kings all came to him with their causes and their dreams. Everyone left Datt Akhara with something. A few left with miracles.
There was an ongoing debate about the source of the wealth. Many believed that the Mother of Cattle, also known as the Gift-Giving Cow, was responsible. Only few knew that it was the ancient padukas.
There were those, who thought that perhaps some of the money ought to remain in the treasury for “great works.” So, when Sandhya Puri left his body, fearing that Hari Puri would continue the generous ways of his guru, the council chose as pir Gokarn Puri who was a well-known miser.
However, the padukas disappeared.