GORAKHNATH TEMPLE (GORAKHPUR): Shortly before sunrise, Kailash Prajapati, a cook, is wide awake to prepare a strict vegetarian meal, with not a single stodgy item on the frugal menu that comprises only porridge and some cut fruits.
Maharaj is busy reciting the ritual hyms of Durga aarti and ved shlokas before he sets out for a walk to feed cattle with gur (jaggery).
That’s how disciplined and economically wise-lifestyle, Maharaj, known by his public name of Yogi Adityanath and now more as a chief minister, has had since 1994 when he came to this temple to become the disciple of Nath Sampradaya.
Kailash Prajapati is soon joined by a pujari Kamalnath, even as Yogi, the firebrand Hindutva icon of UP, returns from the last day of election campaigning from Balrampur. Their eyes turn moist as the head of the sect puts all his armoury of meditation and oratory back into the quiver.
“Bhojan bhi saada aur vastra bhi sadharan hai. Aise humare Maharaj hai. Koi chamkila vastra ka ya bahar se khaane ka shauk nahi, Unke paas Gorakhnanth baba ka aashirwaad hai,” say Prajapati and Kamalnath in unison as the Ganesha Aarti plays in the backdrop.
With a gentle smile, they embrace his rise as CM as a matter of faith than fact. After all, it’s in front of them, that a young 24-year-old boy grew up to be a wise adult.
“Breakfast is at 9 am. For lunch, he only eats nirua, lauki, parwal in lunch or dinner. For drinks, he has never had tea or colas in his life. He has never tried fast food or had local snacks like gol gappe, bhel puri, or pakodas. Only when he is tired, he seeks coffee. He never orders food inside his room,” says Prajapati.
“He always comes to the dining table, or eats on the verandah seat with other people. You can see there are chairs outside, where he usually eats all his meals,” he adds.
Apart from the main temple premises, he has his own mini temple where idols of Durga and Shiva are kept next to his room.
His room set looks like a bachelor’s hostel with a platform single bed, a worn-out blanket, bedsheet and pillow — all in saffron, neatly arranged books, mementos gifted by his supporters, apart from three big framed photographs of his spiritual gurus Mahant Avaidyanath, Mahant Digvijay and 11th century saint Gorakhnath, who formed the Nath Sampradya sect of Hinduism.
His personal table collection comprises pinned sheets on district-wise COVID vaccination figures, distribution of ration and water connections across UP, a book, Muslamano ki ghar wapsi, kyon aur kaise by Shankar Sharan, a kaliedoscope of 2019 Kumbh images that says Sarvasidhipradha Kumbh and Vishnu Puran.
It’s after the morning prayers on first floor of Gorakhnath Temple, that Yogi sets for a circumambulation of the temple and meets people downstairs.
“I came to this temple in 1976 but I feel privileged to work for Maharaj ji, who is younger to me. I used to conduct all puja here but I, Tiwarji ji and U P Singh ji look after the temple expansion, new upcoming gaushala and bhandar for accommodating more pilgrims and devotees here. We all started our spiritual life by wearing mitti in ears for 21 days, wooden earrings, and then metal. We live a complete ascetic life but we love kids and animals, both,” says Kamalnath.
Inside one of Yogi’s Karyalaya rooms on the ground floor are inscribed from the Mahabharat.
“Ajanm Mrradyasty Brahmchari Bhavedehi, N Tasya, Kichind, Prapd Minividhi, Naradhiv,“ reads one quote on a wall. Its translated version in Hindi and English reads: “Nareshwar, Jo janm se lekar Mrityu Paryant yahan brahmchari reh jaata hai. Uske liye kuch bhi alabhya nahi hai/For one who remains celibate from birth up to death, nothing is unobtainable in this world”.
Next to this quote, is a framed portrait of Lord Krishna sitting on a chariot with Arjuna.
Most of his rooms have plenty of his memorable photographs with Avadiyanath.
For the last few days, Hanuman Garhi saint Raju Das, who has been accompanying him for campaign, tells The New Indian, “BJP believed a saint, a priest and made him the CM of the state. In turn, Yogiji fulfilled all of his promises and because he’s a saint. He works for the people of his community. He followed the promise of “Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwaas”. He didn’t care for people’s stature or their race or their caste, or without any discrimination. He has followed the footsteps of Hindu religion and sanatan religion and worked tirelessly for the people. As a result of this, during this election he’ll be voted back into power with 275-350 seats.
While his courtyard is replete with saffron socks and khaki robes, colourful swans, dogs and birds keep the visiting devotees and kids busy inside the temple.
“There is no stopping anyone. Everybody is welcome to come and pray. We even have several Muslim employees who come from neighbouring Rasoolpur,” says senior Vinay Kumar Mandar, who looks after public affairs of the temple.
Inside another of his karyalaya, temple’s cashier and accountants double up as his grievance cell staff where they take applications from women facing domestic violence or men seeking jobs. “Dekhiye maharaj ki parishram, lagan aur imandari, unke kad ko bada rahi hai…,”says Virendra Singh, treasurer, Gorakhnath Temple. Clearly, Yogiji is revered by all he is associated with.