He is a magnet for selfie-seekers, attracting them by hundreds. For them he is the ultimate king of bling — the Bappi Lahiri of the annual Kanwar Yatra. For the seers and saints, however, he remains an enigma, and sometimes a pariah.
Golden Baba, having earned the name and the accompanying fame courtesy kilos of gold jewellery that he dons, is a mystic unlike others.
Undertaking his 25th, and probably the last, Kanwar Yatra this year, Baba aka Sudhir Makkar is a goldmine. He is wearing gold jewellery weighing around 20 kgs, worth approximately Rs 6 crore, apart from a Rolex watch worth Rs 27 lakh. He has added 4 kg gold to his last year’s collection of 14.5 kg — the acquisitions going up with each Kanwar Yatra he undertakes. In 2016 he was sporting 12kgs of gold. The jewellery includes gold chains, 21 lockets of deities, armlets and even a gold jacket.
Apart from the selfie-takers who are drawn by his eye-popping adornments, Baba who had a successful cloth and property business in Delhi before he took to spiritualism, failed to impress the fellow Kanwariyas and seer community as he stayed put in Haridwar for two days before leaving for Delhi on Wednesday.
A Mahant (priest) of Shri Panch Dasnam Juna Akhada, Golden Baba doesn’t enjoy the mass following that several other babas with quirky names enjoy. For instance, Pilot Baba, who used to a be fighter pilot with the Indian air Force before turning into an ascetic, enjoys a massive following having set up several ashrams in India and abroad.
Educated at a gurukul in Haridwar, Baba reportedly is no more welcome at his alma mater, known for its Vedic-yoga based education.
Most seers object to Golden Baba’s lifestyle saying it was not in sync with a seer’s ‘satvik’ persona that calls for shunning anything materialistic.
The saint community too doesn’t want to do much with him, with most seers objecting to his lifestyle saying it was not in sync with a seer’s ‘satvik’ persona that calls for shunning anything materialistic.
They have a point. Even the pitcher (Kanwar) in which Golden Baba fetched water from Ganga in Haridwar is made of gold, contrary to the age old tradition of keeping the holy water in bamboo or metallic pitchers, or lately plastic containers. A Roorkee-based artisan has created the Kanwar in which an idol of Lord Shiva is installed covered with gold ornaments. Seers point out that Lord Shiva is known to be a ‘Bhasmadhari’ — one who wears ashes.
Baba Hatyogi, a former Akhil Bharatiya Akhada Parishad and Akhil Bharatiya Sant Samiti national spokesperson, said, “Saints themselves need to clear out the impurities that are a blot on the community’s image”. Without naming Golden Baba, he also called for police verification of all the saints saying it “will bring out the real face of so-called popular babas”.
Mahmandaleshwar Swami Harichetnanad Maharaj pointed that Kanwar Yatra is dedicated to Lord Shiva, where “pleasure takes a backseat as the more hardship one suffers during the pilgrimage, the more spiritual benefit he reaps”.
“Saints should lead by example. The outer appearance doesn’t matter during Kanwar pilgrimage,” he said.
Akhada observer Mahesh Parikh said that not even the fellow kanwariyas took notice of Golden Baba’s cavalcade during his visit to Haridwar.
“Devotees need wisdom, vedic knowledge, spiritual guidance, and blessings from revered saints not from those who only live the showbiz life. This is the reason, why Golden Baba has not been able to get affection from the local devotees despite being on his 25th pilgrimage to Haridwar,” said Parikh.
The man in question, however, is unfazed.
“It is a spiritual journey that I have been taking for past 25 years. It is due to Lord Shiva’s blessings that I could complete Kanwar Yatra for so many years. As far as gold ornaments are concerned, they are the only passion that I still have after renouncing materialistic life. People relate to my past but I have nothing to hide as now I am a Mahant whose sole objective is to live a spiritual life,” Golden Baba said.
He said that Prayag Kumbh changed his life he is “looking forward to attending Prayag Kumbh next year and will also attend the Haridwar Kumbh”.
He had told HT in 2017 that the Kanwar Yatra in 2018 “will be last ending with a silver jubilee.”
Golden Baba had earlier said that his love for gold and cars will not die. “In 1972-73, when gold was Rs 200 per tola (10 grams), I used to wear nearly four tolas. Gradually, the gold increased. I will keep the gold with me till I die. It will be handed over to my favourite disciple when I leave the world,” he had said.
A Kanwar Mela official in Haridwar, requesting not to be named as he is not authorised to speak to media, said a dozen odd private security personnel guard Golden Baba apart from two Uttar Pradesh Police gunners.
“He must be spending more than Rs 1 crore on his security and cavalcade. That amount is just double the budget that administration here has allocated for Kanwar Fair,” he said.
First Published: Aug 04, 2018 22:48 IST