Under the Peepal Tree

She sat there all day long, under the massive Peepal tree (sacred fig) next to a tributary of Gomti river. The children would go and sit around her, trying to catch her glance. She would smile at them sometimes and often make some signs. She never spoke though. The villagers understood she had taken a vow of silence.

They called her the Yogini (a female Yogi). No one knew who she was or where she had come from. Just one day, they found her meditating under the Peepal tree, outside the village. Soon the villagers started telling their problems to her. They were never sure whether she was listening to them or not, but they always believed that speaking before her would resolve the issue. The sick then started visiting and vouched that their conditions improved in her presence. She would sometimes throw a leaf or a twig at them which they believed cured their ailments.

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Her calm presence affected them so much that the fact that she was a woman, unusual for a Yogi, did not matter to the simple villagers. Before the monsoons they built a little hut for her near the tree, so that she could be protected from the heavy rains. She never got to live there though. The first rain that came was torrential, the cloud-burst almost flooded the outskirts of the village and the river overflowed its banks.

When the waters receded, the villagers went to check on her, but could not locate the Yogini. They only found a few scattered belongings. They started believing that the waters had taken her away and grieved her death.

There were others who believed that she was never gone – she still blessed them at the sacred Peepal tree, which is known to be a home for devas and nature beings. For in the last 50 years since the incident happened, many times young children have seen her under the tree. The villagers continue to go there and pray for the resolution of their problems. The place where they had built her hut, is now a shrine in her memory.

In a society where women mystics and seers have not always got much recognition, this could have been the reason why the Yogini went to a little forgotten village to spend the last few months of her life. She probably knew that the simple faith the village folk had in their hearts would be much stronger than the parochial views of the outside world. And that, she would continue to bless them as long as this faith lasted.

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