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Sri Venka Avadhoota

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About a month back, TV 9 beamed an interesting story regarding a holy man by name Venkusa, referred to as Venkavadhoota Swamy. The greatness of this person is that he was the guru or the teacher of the internationally famous saint Shirdi Saibaba, who was an epitome of social and religious amity. As this appeared interesting, we (myself, my wife, Mrs. and Mr. Ramanuja) undertook a trip to the place where Venkavadhoota lived and died more than a century ago. The place is a small village called Husainpura in Pavagada taluk of Tumkur district. Its original name was Chaudesvaripura.

It has been recorded in a biography of Shirdi Saibaba that a thief in Dhulia (Maharashtra) was caught by the Police. He had stolen gold ornaments. In the court, the thief told the Judge that he did not steal the ornaments but Shirdi Baba gave the ornaments to him. As per the procedure, the Court sent summons to Shirdi Baba to appear before the court. Baba ignored it.

The Police officer specially came to Baba and requested him to appear before the court but Baba refused. The devotees who saw this insisted that Baba should not be summoned to the court and requested the Judge to go to Baba and record his evidence. Finding no other way, the Judge Joshi came to the place of Shirdi Baba.

The Judge asked questions and Baba replied. Your name? People call me Saibaba; Father's name? Saibaba; Your guru or teacher? Sri Venkusa; Religion? Kabir sect; Caste? God’s caste; Age? Lakhs of years: Do you know this accused? I know everybody; How did the ornaments come to you? Everything is mine.

Hearing these replies, the Judge was confused and did not know what to do. After enquiries, it was found that the accused had just mentioned the name of Baba to escape from the punishment. Our main interest in this enquiry is the reference to Sri Venkusa, a guru or a teacher of the holyman Shirdi Baba.

Some of the devotees took interest in this court proceedings and tried to identify Venkusa. After a lot of enquiries and exploration, they were able to trace this person. The main person behind this research is Sannanagappa, a great scholar in folklore. He wandered in Andhra - Karnataka border areas, met people and collected information about this Venkusa. This write - up is based up on the book written by him and the personal visit to the place.

Venkusa was born in a Marathi Brahmin family in the village Selu. The boy, who subsequently became Shirdi Baba, selected him as his teacher. But the local people who did not accept Shirdi Baba began tormenting both of them. Out of disgust, Venkusa left Maharashtra and after wandering here and there as a monk of Avadhoota Order, came and settled down in Husainpura, 60 kms from Pavagada. Because of his yogic powers, he attained the status of an Avadhoota and became famous as Venkavadhoota. He is said to have performed a large number of miracles in and around Pavagada. These miracles made him famous and he became a household name.

Venkavadhoota did not believe in caste system. Though he was a Brahmin, he lived with lower caste people and ate food with them and thus was a real sanyasi. He lived in a cowshed till his death. This saint gave importance to serving the people without any distinction. He taught the people how to attain happiness in spite of being poor. He averred that possession is the cause of unhappiness and brings in misery. Thus whatever one has should be considered as a gift from god and should be shared among the people. Fortunately the simple, local people took his teachings in the right spirit and became his disciples. Thus plenty in poverty became their main goal.

There are many folk songs in the area which are sung even now by the devotees and others. One such song refers to a miracle in which he brought rain to a famine - prone area. The village Kannamedu was hit by famine and cattle were perishing for want of fodder and water. The people of the village requested Venkusa to help them. The Avadhoota prayed for rains and there was heavy downpour and the local tank became full. He became famous as rain - bringing saint. At another time a bull was about to die due to some disease. The owner was just helpless. Venkavadhoota, who was passing by, saw this and said “Oh Nandi, why are you lying down, get up. He touched the bull with his stick and the bull got up and began to walk”.

When Venkavadhoota felt that his end was nearing, he wanted to cast off his body. He made arrangements for his samadhi and went into the pit and asked the people gathered there to pour salt over his body. That was done and the grave was closed with a stone cap. Some people complained to the king that some devotees have buried a living man which is a crime. The king ordered an enquiry. The officers opened the grave and found the man sitting in the same posture. They closed the grave and from then he became a god of the village. A temple was built over this samadhi.

Venkavadhoota had a stick which he always carried. It is believed that it has miraculous powers. Somebody had stolen it but it came back to its original place. The devotees who visit this temple even now take this stick with reverence and pray for the fulfillment of their wish. When we reached this place, it was 9 in the night. We found devotees doing bhajans there is praise of the said Venkavadhoota, particularly referring to his miracles. Thus a small village is slowly becoming a great religious centre with plans to build a big temple.

A devotee by name K. H. Rayadu, an engineer in Bangalore and his doctor - wife Sarojamma are planning for the development of this place and the temple and also for propagating the teachings of Venkavadhoota. Thus, we the Kannadigas can be proud of this great personality who was a one-time guru of Shirdi Saibaba, one of the greatest saints of our times.

Prof. A.V. Narasimha Murthy,
Former Head,
Department of Ancient History & Archaeology,
University of Mysore

Courtesy: star of mysore

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