In what could be called a strange sight, two wild bears in a forest in Madhya Pradesh's Shahdol listen to bhajans in rapt attention. They get swayed by the bhajans of a saffron-clad hermit, Sitaram, so much so that they walk down to his residence to lend an ear.
When the 65-year-old hermit sings bhajans and plays harp after offering puja, the wild beasts walk down to his residence near the Son river from nearby Jaitpur jungles. These wild animals, far from attacking the sadhu, sit by side and slip into spiritual bliss hearing his bhajans. Sitaram, who has built a hut in the Rajmada forest area of the district, said the bear couple and their cubs frequent his home to listen to his hymning in rapt attention.
The mammals retreat and melt into the jungles after consuming the prasad offered by him, Sitaram said. According to the ascetic, he constructed his hut, located some 100km from the district headquarters, in 2003 and staying in the thicket since then.
According to the ascetic, he constructed his hut, located some 100km from the district headquarters, in 2003 and staying in the thicket since then. Sitaram said one fine morning some eight years ago, when he was singing bhajans and glorifying the God with his eyes closed, he felt someones presence around. As I opened my eyes, I saw a bear couple in pin drop silence listening to my bhajans, he added.
Sitaram said initially he got a bit frightened but observed that his uninvited guests looked composed.
"I gathered courage and started singing bhajans after which I offered them prasad which they gladly took and ate with delight before returning to the close by jungle. Now they frequently sit outside my hut which they do not enter. Of late, they have started bringing their two off- springs along. I have named the bear Lala and his partner Lalli and their cubs Chunnu and Munnu, he added. Sitaram said he has developed a deep bond with the wild animals.
I have developed such friendship with them that now a days, I call them by their names and they know whom I am addressing, the hermit said with a sense of pride and joy about this human-animal camaraderie in the wild.
"They often hang around my hut", he said. Jaitpur Forest Range Officer Saleem Khan said he, too, has witnessed the bonhomie between the hermit and the peace- loving and spiritually-inclined bears many a time. It is absolutely a wonderful sight to watch them in spiritual realm in the wild, he added.