Devoted Indian son touches Nepal’s heart

February 8th, 2009 - 4:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Feb 8 (IANS) A devoted Indian son, who hit the headlines in his own country for embarking on a 13-year pilgrimage carrying his blind mother, has now touched the heart of neighbour Nepal, where people are likening him to an epic character hailed as the perfect son.

“Indian Shravan Kumar on pilgrimage in Nepal,” Nepal’s Maoist-controlled official media said Sunday, carrying a front-page photograph of the native of Wargi village in India’s Madhya Pradesh state who has been on a foot pilgrimage to Hindu shrines for 13 years, carrying his 83-year-old blind mother Kirti Devi on his shoulders.

The frail 36-year-old, wearing the saffron dhoti favoured by Hindu pilgrims, his torso bare and his long hair tied on the top of his head, has become an object of admiration and awe in Nepal’s Janakpur town in southern Dhanusha district where he has arrived to offer worship at the famed Ram and Janaki temple.

Towns people, especially women, are flocking to see the Indian, who carries a bamboo pole on his shoulder from which are slung two wicker baskets.

In one of them, sits his mother Kirti Devi, clad in white and garlanded by people. In the other, to balance her weight, are the meagre possessions of the pair, topped by a photograph of his father Ram Shripal, who died when he was only 10.

His real name is Kailash Giri. But moved by his filial devotion, people call him the Shravan Kumar of modern times.

According to the Indian epic Ramayan, Shravan Kumar was a devoted son who carried his blind parents on his shoulders and tended to them selflessly. He was killed by the mighty King Dasharath on a dark stormy night when he had gone to fetch water for his thirsty parents and the king shot him with his arrow, mistaking him to be a deer.

“It is now 13 years, two months and eight days that I have been travelling with my mother,” the Indian wayfarer told the state-run Gorkhapatra daily.

The seeds of the journey were sown when Giri, an eight-year-old, fell from a tree and broke his hand.

He says it was healed due to his mother incessantly praying for his recovery. As she pledged to the gods that she would offer her thanks at a holy shrine, Giri, when he became an adult, began carrying her to shrines all over India to make her wish come true.

Though the mother and son are penniless, wherever they go, villagers offer them food and shelter. Women come to touch the blind mother, in the hope that their sons would be as filial as hers.

After visiting the Ram and Janaki temple in Nepal, Giri will head for Sitamarhi in Bihar across the border to visit the Janaki temple there.

The journey of love and piety, the devoted son told the daily, would end after reaching the Dwarka temple in Gujarat.

Besides making his mother’s wish come true, the son, who remained a bachelor to look after her, has another mission.

He wants to send out the message that parents are a son’s gods and should be served to the best of one’s ability.

At a time Nepal is angered by allegations of encroachment by India on its territory and the recent assault of Nepali students in a train in Bahraich in Uttar Pradesh, the Indian Shravan Kumar’s humble visit goes a long way in creating camaraderie between the two neighbours.

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