The author Suphal Kumar, a mainstream journalist and postgraduate from Benaras Hindu University, uses his journalistic skill to present Delhi, the capital of India, as the gateway to the mystic realms of yoginis, djinns, devas and devis who form ?the framework of the cultural India that we know today.?
Indeed, Delhi has been the centre of political intrigue, from the rule of the Pandavas during the Mahabharata period to the present day. He says that Delhi has in some form or other existed and played an important role in the very existence of the Indian nation. Hindu princes followed by the Sultans occupied the throne of the city. Mongol warlords and Afghan warriors, the Slave Sultans and even ancient Greeks occupied parts of north India.
The author begins his journey from Varanasi to Delhi to visit the Yogmaya temple, a few 100 yards away from he historic Qutub Minar in Mehrauli. Incidentally Yogmaya was Lord Krishna'ssister, who saved the life of her baby brother from Kansa. It is believed that Lord Krishna built the Yogmaya temple in memory of his sister to express his gratitude. To verify this claim, the author talks to the caretaker Dayanand Valmiki, who tells him that Goddess Yogmaya gave a darshan to the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb and warned him against touching her temple at Mehrauli. ?Thereafter the destroyer of temples became the Mother'sbhakt (devotee) and in her honour, initiated the annual fair?Phoolwalon ki Sair.?
The author says that prior to Muslim rule, Delhi'smost popular name was Yoginipur, the city of yoginis, who are considered lesser goddesses or celestial musicians. Here he points out that Kamrupa Kamakhya in Assam was ill famed for beautiful jadugarnis who transformed men into lambs and controlled them. ?Some men were turned into flies, some into mosquitoes; some simply found a place in the hair of witches as lice,? he says.
The Yogmaya temple is a Shakti peetha. He quotes Prof. Raj Bali Pandey, author of Hindu Encyclopaedia, and who said, ?In the pre-historic period, in the entire northern part of the sub-continent (including the present-day Pakistan and Afghanistan), worship of Mother Goddess in the yogini form was in vogue.?
The author says that the secular character of Yogmaya temple was very evident in the past. Akbar Shah the Second was very particular about visiting the Yogmaya temple and Kaki'smazaar. If for some reasons he could not visit the temple, he made it a point to keep away from the mazaar as well.
The author talks of travelling around Delhi in an auto-rickshaw and describes how once lightning shines in the sky before the rains come pouring down. He says, ?Delhi, Indraprastha of yore, is the very land of Indrani, the lightning. Lord Indra, the rain-god commands Indrani.? The text mentions Indrani as his wife or a weapon he uses against his enemies?He says that ?the Qutub Minar lost two of its seven storeys due to lightning. The Sultans repaired the minar from time to time to undo the damage caused by lightning.?
He goes in search of Rai Pithora near Qutub Minar as Pithora was the capital of Prithviraj Chauhan, the last of the Hindu kings. He says Rai Pithora is now in absolute ruins with only the boundary walls of the great palaces visible here and there. In the neglected landmass, he searches for a grave and a temple?the grave of a Sati and a temple of Shakambhari Devi.
He then describes the huge Shani statue, which devotees reach by climbing many steps and which stands like a minar in Fatephur Beri village. Next he goes to the Suraj Kund, the divine amphitheatre, the Purana Quila, the Neem Baba on the Red Cross Road, the Neeeli Chhatri temple near the Nigambodh Ghat and the Kashi Vishwanath temple among others. He ends by talking of the Edwin Lutyen and criticising him for creating a Delhi where ?colonial contribution and urban development of British Raj were based on a policy of ?divide and rule and thus we find Civil Lines and Cantonment areas in all the major cities of the country.? He believes that the ?capital of democratic and egalitarian India is still plagued by the mentality of a divided society.? He feels that today Delhi is being divided into an industrial zone, commercial zone, administrative zone and residential zone??Delhi has been witnessing the destruction on the scale of the Nadir Shah rampage.? In short, the author is trying to say that Delhi, the seat of our heritage, is unfathomed by those closest to it! Here the reviewer is forced to wonder how much does a person from Varanasi know of Delhi and its problems to make such a sweeping statement!
(Pilgrims Publishing, B-27/98 A-8, Nawabganj Road, Durga Kund, Varanasi-221 010, UP.)