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India’s first bullet train is to have a 21km long underwater stretch north of Mumbai, said a news report last week. But only if the surveyors looked west near the Palghar coastline, they could well find a tunnel running 1600km south, to the tip of the Indian peninsula.
Thirty-six years ago I was visiting a college mate of mine in Kelve-Mahim near Palghar. It happened to be Hanuman Jayanti. So we cycled to a temple outside the village. Praful had told me that ‘Ahi-Mahi che devool’ had a fascinating story, quite unremarkable though it looked.
The stone deity in the dark sanctum had sunk into the floor at about 45 degrees, like a precariously listing ship. A frail old man who had made the temple his abode led us down a flight of broken steps
descending into a pond thick with a sickly green algal bloom.
“The other end opens in Rameshwaram,” he said. He then told us a fascinating story from the Ramayan. Ahiravan and Mahiravan, Ravan’s sorcerer brothers kidnapped the unconscious Ram and Lakshman from their war camp in Rameshwaram from right under the nose of their custodian Hanuman. Ahiravan carried the duo on his shoulders through Pataal.
“This is where he emerged and hid them here,” said the old man. When Hanuman got wind of it he followed him down that tunnel and at the end of a great fight lasting days killed the sorcerers. Finding the unconscious Ram and Lakshman crouched behind the stone deity he kicked it hard to get to them. “That’s how it sank.”
When he was a little boy, a ‘gora sahib’ came to find out if this was true. A rock was tied to lengths of rope from 40 charpoys and sunk into the pond. “They ran out of rope. It goes all the way to Rameshwaram, you see.”
Manojavam Marutatulya Vegam… Hanuman Jayanti greetings!