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Do The Dead Come To Pay their Near and Dear Ones A Last Parting Visit?

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A Very Strange Thing happened at my parents ‘ house soon after my father expired in 1991. A few days after his demise, my mother told me and my sister that she actually saw him in the middle of the night, at about three -o- clock, by the side of her cot. He was in his habitual home wear of white kurta-pyjama. He did not speak anything but just looked at her assuringly for some time, and then moved towards the cot on which my youngest sister, whom he was remembering and waiting intently to meet on his last morning but missed sorely by just a few hours, was sleeping. He looked at her for some seconds and then disappeared. My sister however did not become aware of him. I told my mother that she may have had a dream of him, as she must be missing him, but she said that she was not asleep and felt as though he had really come to see the two of them for one last time. That time, I did not take her seriously as I still thought that she might have seen him in a ‘true to life’- like dream. For I did not believe in these stories of the dead visiting the people they have left behind.

However, seven years later, come October again, shortly after my husband died, I had a similar experience as what my mother had had after my father’s death. Somewhere around the same time as my father’s said appearance before my mother, that is, between 3.30 and 4.00 am one night, I felt as if he had entered my bedroom in his usual bunion and white mundu(lungi). I can say that I was not asleep but in a midway twilight like state, for I was able to reason and wonder how it could be he, as he had just passed away, whereas one doesn’t question what one sees with reference to reality in a dream but simply accepts it as though really happening. I was not able to see his face which was shadowed, so I was trying to think that it might be my maid-servant who used to stay with us, and also wore white sarees. But, as I was trying to make sense of what I was seeing, in keeping with the reality of the hard fact of his recent demise, I heard a voice which was unmistakably my husband’s, telling me that he had just come to see how I and my son were getting along after him, and that he was satisfied to see that I had handled the situation well! He stood there inside the door of the room for some time, and then vanished like dew on arrival of sunshine. Surprisingly, though I generally dislike such supernatural experiences which seem eerie to me, his appearance did not frighten me, but only intrigued me about how it could happen.

To my astonishment however, in the days that followed, some people who had been close to him came to tell me about having seen him, and in a very realistic way, in the usual contexts. For example, his factory manager came to ask us if any of us had seen ‘Saheb’, and told us that he got a vision one afternoon of my husband arriving at the factory for a round, and that he asked my husband why he took the trouble to come all the way there in that blazing afternoon, saying,”Aap bulatey toh hum chale aate!”

Next, my brother-in-law’s wife told me that he woke up in the middle of one night and started going towards the main door of his house to open it. His wife who also woke up, asked him why he was going to open the door at that time of the night, to which he replied, “Anna(as he used to call my husband) has come and is calling me!” His wife then made him realise that it was only his ‘abhaas’, I.e. fantasy, for his ‘Anna’ was no more.

My maid servant too reported having had a similar experience (in the first month of his death of course) when I had gone out for some work and being an old woman, she started feeling scared as she was alone in the house, that she saw ‘Saheb’ suddenly appear before her and tell her not to fear as “Main Hoon Na!”

My son too told me that he had a dream of hearing the bell of main door ringing, and being wonderstruck to see his Papa on opening the door. “How did Papa come now”, he thought.

A year after my husband, my mother too passed away of a cerebral stroke fairly suddenly, after a heart attack five months before. Some months after she died, my middle sister had a vision of her in a white saree. She said, my mother told her to take care of her family. (Now , this is one thing I noticed in common in all such episodes, that almost the persons who were visualised after their demise were in white clothes, whatever that means . According to some research workers in parapsychology, it is supposed to indicate a ‘pure and noble soul’, who has never done any harm to anybody, but has always been concerned with the welfare of others, and each one of above mentioned folk was truly a ‘good soul’! )

A few months before, that sister’s daughter had gone to US to be with my youngest sister, to relax after her medical exams when one day, she got a fragrant smell like that of a perfume which her paternal grandmother used. She was wondering from where the smell came when she got a call that her grandma had expired!

Several years back too, a maternal aunt of mine had related the same type of ‘paranormal’ experience reported to her by her husband’s sister, after my aunt’s mother-in law collapsed and died suddenly and unexpectedly of heart attack while their family doctor was measuring her blood pressure. The incident took place in Mumbai at noon. Shortly after that, my aunt got a phone call from her sister-in law in Pune saying that her twin daughters had just then come running to tell her that their ‘Aji’ , (Grandmother) that is, her mother had come and was at the gate. Surprised by the girls’ talk, as her mother had not given any advance intimation of her visit, she went out to see if her mother had really come, but she did not see the girls’ ‘Aji’. So she told her daughters that they might have seen somebody else. However, both the girls insisted that they had actually seen their grandmother at the gate, but could not understand where and why she had gone away without coming into their house. So she wanted to know whether her mother, namely, my aunt’s mother in law was alright, and was coming to Poona. Upon that, my aunt had to give her the shocking news that ‘Vaini'(meaning Bhabhi or Sister-in Law in Marathi) as the departed lady was called, had passed away at that very moment!

The MYSTERY is – What Meaning is one supposed to make of all these common experiences. Did everyone of the persons mentioned above, including myself, get visual, auditory or olfactory hallucinations? Or is there more to it- that the dead retain their consciousness for a varying period of time after death, and try to reach out to persons with whom they had been close during their life, to assure themselves that everything is going well with them, as also to let their dear ones know that they have not deserted them but are there to look after them, even if it is in a spiritual and invisible body?

There is a scene portraying this phenomenon in an old Marathi film ‘Manini’ starring Jayashree Gadkar, Chandrakant Gokhale, Indirabai Chitnis, Nanasaheb Jahagirdar and Ramesh Dev, (reproduced in Hindi under the title ‘Maan Apmaan’ starring Kanan Kaushal, Sanjeev Kumar, Ratnamala and others) which was about a girl named ‘Malini’, the daughter of a rich zamindar family who had chosen to marry a poor school master against her father’s wish as a result of which she and her husband were practically boycotted by her father and siblings. Still, she persuaded her husband to accompany her to her parents’ house on the occasion of her only brother’s marriage. However both she and particularly her husband were treated in such a scornful way that she could not bear it any longer and left the house abruptly with her husband, tearfully swearing never to return there again. Even then, her proud father, brother and sister remained unmoved; but her mother was so grieved that she fell ill, and lost her will to live altogether. When she sensed her end approaching, she called her husband and son and made them promise to fetch back their daughter Malu and her husband who they had treated very disdainfully with respect after which she breathed her last.

The same evening when the estranged daughter Malu was lighting lamps, there was a knock on the door. She opened the door thinking her husband might have come, but was astonished to see her mother standing at the door. She took her mother in and asked why and how she had come all alone at that time without intimation and inquired why her body was feeling so cold. The mother told her that she had become well, and that she had come to urge Malu and her husband “to shed all their grievances and forgive them all, and come again to her parents ‘ home for mother’s sake, and that they need not fear of being insulted again, as she had taken a promise from her father and brother to receive the couple with full honour”. Malu was consoled by her mother’s talk and promised to forgive her father and siblings and return to meet them. Thereafter the daughter told her mother to wait while she lit the lamps and brought Kunku (Kumkum) for her. As she lit one lamp before God, the lamp suddenly flickered and went off. She was wondering at it when her husband came home and asked why there was darkness in the house. Malu told him that her mother had just come and she was lighting the lamp to offer her mother ‘Kunku’. Upon that, her husband said there was nobody there except the two of them. On hearing that, Malu felt apprehensive and prayed for her mother’s life. Soon after, she got a telegram from her brother that he and their father were very repentant for their bad behaviour, and that he was coming with their father to take both Malu and Jamaiji home for the funeral rites of the mother who had expired, ‘coincidentally at the same time when she had apparently come to meet Malu’!

I cannot venture into offering any explanation for this Supernatural phenomenon, which is all the more strange in the case of Hindus, as they cremate their dead almost immediately after death so that nothing is left of the mortal body subsequently. This is a subject for Parapsychological research; but this is a question that has been pondered over by many people since eternity without finding a satisfactory answer. HENCE IT IS A VERY CHALLENGING AND INTERESTING TOPIC FOR PARAPSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH !

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Has the Chitpavan aka Konkanastha Brahmin community come down to Konkan(Parshuram Kshetra) from Kashmir to settle in the Southern part of Maharashtra and Goa, via Rajasthan, as per a theory proposed recently by some authors, than directly to the Western Coast from the Middle East by Sea as per the popular legend about their Origin? Some Common Surnames like ‘Kher’ among the Kashmiri Pandits, Brahmins of Rajasthan and the Chitpavans, as also the similar and typical rosy Complexion, fine Features and light or greenish-grey eyes of a large number of Chitpavans, in contrast to the other Brahmins of Konkan and Maharashtra,give reason to investigate this interesting possible genetic connection!

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(At least among some Mewada Brahmins of Rajasthan, they also have the surname ‘Koshur’, that is prevalent among Kashmiri Pandits, as I learnt from a Rajasthani Brahmin cook with ‘Kher’ surname, who was with us for many years, who told me that his wife’s maiden surname was ‘Khosur’, as he pronounced it. However, some authors suggest a Punjabi origin of the community, but the Konkanasthas have a physique more like Kashmiri Pandits than like the Punjabi Brahmins, who are robust, and have entirely different surnames. They are also Shaivites like Kashmiri Pandits, and recite the Ganpati mantra ‘Shri Ganesh Atharvasheersha’, as a rule at the time of Ganesh Chaturthi.)

The Kashmiri Pandits are a bradycephalic people, I.e. with broad, alpine type of heads and faces, and are said to be descended from an alpine race from Central Asia; whereas, it is observed that there two typical physiognomic forms among the Chitpavans. Some are broad -headed and large-eyed like most of the Kashmiri Pandits. But some others have Nordic Greek like long heads and faces! Therefore, there is an alternative theory that they have descended from the Ashkenazi Jews. GC Ghurye, author of the book ‘Races and Castes in India’ speculates the likelihood that the Chitpavans may be a mixture of an Alpine Scytho-Dravidian and Nordic Aryan race who arrived at the Western Coast of India from the Middle East in the 2nd millennium BC. On the other hand, in support of the Kashmiri descent theory, there was a report some years back, that the skeletal remains of a large group of people during excavation, the DNA of which matched with that of the Chitpavan community.

Hence, Only Genetic Research can prove the true descent of this remarkable community, which is noted for its multiple accomplishments in various spheres.

[There have been renowned scholars of HISTORY and LITERATURE like S.V.Ketkar, who has written books on the ‘History of Races in India’, and particularly an Encyclopaedia, in recognition of which a road in Pune has been named the ‘Dnyankoshkar Ketkar Marg’. Other prominent writers were. Sane Guruji (Pandurang Sadashiv Sane), and Hari Narayan Apte, who are reputed for their touching novels (like “Pan Lakshyat Kon Gheto?” by latter ), on the atrocities inflicted on women in India in the name of customs. Sane Guruji is most famous for his biographical novel on his mother, ‘Shyamchi Aai’, besides having been a freedom fighter who had gone to jail for the cause .

The Konkanasthas have made contributions in other fields too, such as SOCIAL REFORM like Widow Remarriage, especially by the Bharat Ratna Maharshi Dhondo Keshav Karve who set an example by marrying a widow himself, and establishing an Institution for destitute women at Hingne, Maharashtra. (His son Raghunath Karve, a College Professor is supposed to have initiated the campaign of family planning with condoms, for which he was made to leave his job in the college, and his daughter in law Irawati Karve is an eminent writer). Also credible is the Social work done by Murlidhar(Baba) Devidas Amte who worked for the poor and diseased people, mostly lepers shunned by society, even from lower classes. His son, Dr. Prakash Baba Amte with his also doctor wife have kept up his humanitarian service among tribals. Acharya Vinoba(Vinayak) Narhari Bhave, a close associate of Gandhiji, who set up an ashram for service to humanity, notably for his ‘Bhoodan Yagnya(Movement)’ for getting donations of land from rich landowners to gift it to landless farmers who are the tillers of it, is another example of a dedicated and meritorious social worker of the caste. He was also given the honorary title of Acharya, the ‘National Teacher of India’, and was the champion, like Gandhiji, for Nonviolence and Human Rights.

The PARTICIPATION of several of them – like Lokmanya Bal(Keshav) Gangadhar Tilak, Nyayamurti Mahadev Govinda Ranade and Gopalkrishna Gokhale (and earlier the Peshwas, of whom the Queen of Jhansi, Laxmibai, made a special mark for herself , for her fight unto death, to prevent her State from coming under the British rule, to name a few) – is too well known IN the different aspects of the FREEDOM STRUGGLE of India to need elaboration!]

It is therefore worth the time and effort of doing genetic research to trace the racial roots of this outstanding and industrious community of the Chitpavans (literally meaning ‘Resurrected&Risen Purified- through Parshurama – from the Cremation Pyre’ as per legend, but figuratively,’Pure of Mind’), also known as Konkanastha Brahmins, who originally belonged to the Chiplun(Chitpolan) and Ratnagiri part of the Konkan Coast, but have now spread to Pune which has become their subsequent bastion, in addition to other parts of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, as well as to Uttar Pradesh during their reign as Peshwas. Jhansi, the Royal state in UP of the ‘Rani of Jhansi’ Lakshmibai (also a Chitpavan), has attained historic importance due to her proud fight till her last breath for guarding the freedom of her State of Jhansi from coming under the British rule!

Is it Desirable for the Whole of Mankind to turn ‘Veg’?NO, is My Answer, in the interest of Conservation of Vegetation which is needed by herbivorous animals and for Prevention of Global Warming, and should therefore not be exhausted by Humans for a dietary fad, based on mere religious sentiment!o

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There is a lot of campaigning going on these days in India from certain communities, like the Pro-Hindutva section, for all people to become vegetarian, in the name of protection of animal lives, especially of cows and other cattle too. A strict Ban has been put not only on illegal cow slaughter but also on sale and export of Beef. It is also argued by some staunch vegetarians that the Vegetarian diet suits the human gastrointestinal system, that is digestion, better than animal flesh as food. The Jain religion also commands that its followers should be strictly vegetarian and abjure even garlic and onion in their diet, forget egg, In recent years, the wave of vegetarianism has spread to Western countries as well, with many of the people there having turned ‘Vegan’, that is, Vegetarians who avoid even Milk and other dairy products also as Animal Protein. But is it really desirable or beneficial from the overall point of view for the entire nation or Humanity in general to become strictly vegetarian? This dogma needs some deeper thinking.

Nature has not made the whole of the animal world with a uniform Constitution. It has created Herbivorous animals as well as Carnivores, namely those which live on flesh. Why? For if all animals were herbivores, they would soon exhaust all the vegetable or plant life, leading to barren lands and insufficient vegetation for their own needs as well. So if all humans too went ‘veg’ out of religious piety or in the name of Ahimsa i.e. nonviolence to animals, it would compound and aggravate the already worrying problem of the fast depleting greenery and vegetation on this planet.

On the other hand, if all humans too subsisted only on animal flesh like carnivores, that too would disturb the ecological balance between the different forms of life on the earth. May be there would be overgrowth of greenery including wild shrubs, which in turn may lead to an excessive and dangerous population of pests, like insects, spreading various life threatening diseases to plants, animals and humans.

Hence it is in the interest of preserving and balancing the various types of food resources to meet the requirements of all species , that the dietary needs of different animal species vary, and those of humans also should. Human beings have been made capable of digesting both vegetable food and the meat of animals, so being an intelligent species, Nature has left it to our discretion to balance the intake of both types of food.

Though I personally like vegetarian food, I would not impose my preference on everyone, in keeping with the Policy of the enlightened Dalai Lama, which I learnt from an interview of his, that though he has made it a rule to cook only vegetarian food in the kitchens of the Buddhist monasteries throughout most of the year, it is difficult to enforce that ideal during winters,, as there are some regions like Tibet, where it is extremely difficult to get vegetables in winters, and hence there is no option but to RELAX THE RULES OF VEGETARIANISM and make allowance to his followers for consumption of meat in that season FOR SURVIVAL.

Residents of countries close to the poles that are covered with snow practically throughout the year too are forced to depend on meat or non-vegetarian food.

It is for a similar reason that people living in coastal regions of India, including Rishis and Brahmins in Kashmir, Bengal, Assam, Odisha and almost all over the Western Coast, had to make Fish and other Sea-food a part of their diet, because that used to be their only source of food and hence their ‘life-support’ in times of drought or famine in the inland areas.

There is a saying. “What is One Man’s Meat, is Another Man’s Poison.” Jainism, Hinduism , (rather, Brahmanism and the strict ‘Marjadi’ Vaishya faith of some states like Gujarat and Rajasthan), and Buddhism have declared Meat eating a ‘Sin’ or ‘Poison for the Puritan Soul’. Has anyone considered the saying from the other angle, namely, “What is Many Inlanders’ Poison, is ‘Life saving Meat’ for Coastal, Mountainous and Arctic regions, at least in some weathers or circumstances”?

ALL SAID AND DONE, in support of total vegetarianism and taboo of eating of meat of land and sea-animals from the point of the religious principles of Ahimsa of Birds or Animals and Personal Purity, IT REMAINS AN UNDENIABLE FACT THAT HUMAN LIFE IS VERY PRECIOUS and CANNOT BE SACRIFICED TO THE ALTAR OF RELIGIOUS DOGMA, AS OURS IS THE RACE WHICH CAN DO THE MOST FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE HUMAN RACE AND ALL LIFE ON THIS EARTH !