Bahavaji, popularly known as Hathiram Baba, was an ardent devotee of Lord Sri Ram. The very first picture when thinking of Sri Hathiramji is of Baba playing dice with Lord Srinivasa himself. Here’s the story of Hathiram ji, on the day of Puratasi (புரட்டாசி) Saturday.
He once undertook an piligrimage to Tirumala. His name was Bhavaji. He was so fascinated by the majestic appearance of the Lord that he decided to stay in Tirumala for ever having darshan of the Lord all the time. He constructed a Mutt (a place where the saints live near the temples) and settled there. Bhavaji used to have the darshan of the Lord at least thrice a day. Still, he wasn’t satisfied of his darshan. He used to look at the lord unmoved for long. This continued for a few weeks. Temple employees have observed Bhavaji visiting the temple and gazing at the lord continuously for longer times. Finding suspicious about his acts, they reported the matter to the Temple Authorities. Next day when Bhavaji entered the temple premises to have the darshan of the lord, he was pushed out of the temple without allowing him to have his Ram’s darshan. He pleaded not to separate him from his Lord Ram. No one listened to his cry. Instead, he was warned not to enter the temple for Lord’s darshan again. A sad and dejected Bhavaji returned to his Mutt.
After getting back to the Mutt, he cried with the Lord. Hey Lord! My Ram! What is my fault? Is it a sin to have your darshan? You know it very well that I can’t live without having your darshan. Why you punished me this way? What am I supposed to do now?
Next morning, Bhavaji went to the temple as usual to have the darshan of the lord. But, he was pushed out of the gate. A dejected Bhavaji retuned back to his Mutt. He was not sure how to pass his time without having the Lord’s darshan. He then took up a dice board and started playing the dice himself assuming that he was playing with the Lord on the other side. He himself used to throw his dice and the Lord’s dice on His behalf. In this way, he played the game all along the day and fell a sleep. When he was in a deep sleep at night, he heard a pleasant voice calling, Bhavaji! Wake up! It’s me, Your Ram! Bhavaji opened his eyes and saw the Lord standing in front of him. He couldn’t believe his eyes. Is it real or a dream? Amazed Bhavaji asked the Lord. The Lord replied that it wasn’t his dream. He really visited him to play dice with him. There was no boundary to the happiness of Bhavaji. A jubilant Bhavaji laid a mat on the floor and sat with the Lord Balaji to play the dice. Bhavaji defeated the lord in his game. The Lord then asked Bhavaji to seek any boon against his victory over Him. Bhavaji politely said, Hey Lord, what can I ask you more than this? I am satisfied with your Vishwaroopa darshan. I do not need any material pleasure or wealth. Give me a little place at your feet to serve you. I need no favour than this. A pleased Lord blessed Bhavaji and vanished with a promise to get back for the game again.
Next day, Bhavaji excitedly waited for the sun to set so that he again plays dice with the Lord. Finally the wait was over. When the temple doors were shut at night, the Lord moved out of his Ananda Nilayam and visited Bhavaji to play the game of dice. After finishing the game, the Lord returned back to Ananda Nilayam promising to come back again. It became a regular practice for the Lord to visit the Mutt and spend time playing dice with Bhavaji at night when the temple doors were closed. One day when the Lord was playing dice with Bhavaji, He heard a voice of someone calling Bhavaji. The Lord asked Bhavaji to go and check it out. When Bhavaji went out to see if anyone was there, he found none. He then returned back to inform the Lord, but he found that the Lord has already left the place without informing him. When he picked up the dice board to keep it safe, he saw a diamond studded necklace of the Lord lying at the board. He picked up the necklace and kept it safe thinking that the Lord might have forgotten it and he would return when He comes back to play next time.
Next morning when Pradhana Archaka was getting ready to give bath to the Lord, noticed a missing necklace. He then took it to the notice of Temple Authorities. The Temple Authority was worried about the theft of Lord’s necklace. All the employees were called up on and enquired about the missing necklace. The Pradhana Archaka informed the management about the incident of Bhavaji in the recent past and straightaway raised suspicion over him. The Temple Authorities ordered to get Bhavaji for enquiry.
On the other hand Bhavaji was waiting for Lord’s arrival to play the game of dice. For long, the Lord hasn’t come to play. In the mean time, he heard someone shouting his name at the doorsteps. By the time he reached there, the soldiers got in and started searching all over the place. Bhavaji was surprised to see them searching all over. He tried to enquire what was going on. He was told that someone has stolen the Lord’s necklace. Bhavaji immediately understood what they were looking for and got the necklace he held it safely to return the Lord when he visits again. Is this the necklace you were looking for? Asked Bhavaji! One of the sainiks said, here you go. You have stolen the Lord’s necklace. You are under arrest! Bhavaji pleaded his innocence but they haven’t listened any of his word. They arrested and took him to the temple Authorities. On enquiry by the Temple Authorities, Bhavaji told them that the Lord used to visit his Mutt and Play dice with him every night when the temple doors were shut. The Lord had forgotten His necklace at my Mutt after playing the game yesterday. When I noticed, I picked up the necklace and kept it safe to return back when He comes again. The Pradhana Archaka of the temple raised his eyebrows and said; we have been doing all sorts of poojas and sevas every day to the Lord for so many years, the Lord hasn’t appeared to us and He appeared to you? Moreover He played dice game with you? Whom are you bluffing? Are you a greater devotee than us? There should be a limit of speaking false. Some of the Authorities suggested presenting him before the King’s courtyard for justice.
The next morning, he was presented in the courtyard of the Emperor Sri Krishnadevaraya, as a culprit who had stolen the necklace of the Lord. After listening to the charges, Sri Krishnadevaraya asked Bhavaji’s explanation. Bhavaji explained all that had happened with him. The Emperor felt him very innocent. He thought it would be unjust to punish him without sufficient proof and proper investigation. He therefore, decided to put Bhavaji on test. Sri Krishnadevaraya told Bhavaji that he will be given an opportunity to prove himself innocent. For this, he will be dumped with heaps of sugarcane in the cell and if he succeeds in consuming the entire heaps of sugarcane by the wake of the dawn tomorrow; he will be released innocent and if he fails to do so, he will be punished for the theft.
Bhavaji never perturbed. He had no choice but to accept the Emperor’s decision. He was then taken to the prison cell and tons of sugarcane heaps were dumped before him and locked the doors of the cell. Bhavaji sat in the corner, closed his eyes and prayed the Lord. Hey Lord! I am innocent and you know the fact very well. I have been charged of theft and put on test of eating this sugarcane heaps. Hey Ram! It’s not my test. They have put you on test. They want to test your existence in this world. If anything I need in this life is a little place before your feet to serve you till my last breath. He left everything on the shoulders of the Lord and immersed in deep penance.
A little later, a giant Elephant appeared in the cell and by the wake of the dawn, the Elephant ate all the heaps of sugarcane dumped there for Bhavaji. The Elephant then awake Bhavaji from his penance with its trunk. Bhavaji was surprised to see an Elephant in the cell. When he saw the entire heaps of sugarcane were finished, he realized that his Ram has arrived for his rescue and immediately fell upon his feet and cried Ram…! Oh Ram..! My Ram…! You have come up for my rescue. How lucky am I? The Elephant then blessed Bhavaji with its trunk and trumpeted at loud. On hearing the Elephant’s trumpet, the guards peeped through the key wholes and wondered to see an Elephant inside a locked cell. They immediately rushed to the authorities and informed the matter. Meanwhile, the Elephant broke open the doors and ran away immediately. Some guards tried to follow the Elephant but it disappeared thereafter.
When the Emperor visited Bhavaji, he was found gazed at the direction where the Elephant has left, repeatedly uttering a word “Hathiram..!” When asked, who was Hathiram and how the elephant entered the prison cell? Bhavaji told that his Ram has come in the form of a Hathi (an Elephant) to save him. Everyone who had assaulted him on the charges of theft exclaimed at the great devotion of Bhavaji. One and all had accepted his devotion to Lord Balaji is eternal. The Pradhan Archaka in particular begged his pardon for the assaults made on him out of pride and ego.
Sri Krishnadevaraya relieved him of all charges and appointed Bhavaji as the Pradhana Archaka of the temple of tirumala. He happily obeyed the orders of the Emperor as he got a life time opportunity to serve his Lord. Since the Baba Bhavaji’s beloved Lord “Sri Ram” has personally come to the rescue of Bhavaji in the form of a Hathi (an Elephant) he as been named as Hathiram Baba. As a Pradhana Archaka of the Temple, Bhavaji served the Lord for many years. He later sacrificed his soul to the Lord and entered into a Jeeva Samadhi. His body was cremated near Venu Gopala Swamy Temple on the way to Papavinasam on the hills of Tirumala. A Samadhi of Hathiram Baba had been constructed there and daily pooja is being performed even today. People visiting Venu Gopala Swamy Temple pay their homage to this great devotee of Lord Venkateswara. The Hathiram Baba Mutt had been built on the southern side of the temple in his remembrance.
Reposted from – tirumalavaibhavam.blogspot.com