Just one Night
A Legend of Kedarnath.

There was this Brahmin who was going on a pilgrimage to Kedarnath. A kind and friendly soul, he was always busy helping other pilgrims -- especially the weak and the slow -- get along, unmindful of the fact that he was getting late and the Kedarnath shrine would soon be shut down for the winter. When others reminded him of the possibility of his not being able to see the Lord -- he would laugh and say that how can the Lord ignore his piety.
As it so happened, by the time the Brahmin reached the shrine, the doors had indeed closed for the winter and there was no way that the priests would let the Brahmin in to meet the Lord. He met the chief priest and requested him to open the doors just once, but alas ... to no avail. He advised him to come back again next spring when the temple would once again be open for pilgrims.
The Brahmin was heartbroken. "Lord ! I have come all this way to meet you and was delayed only because I was trying to help others. How is it that you refuse to see me." So he sat down and started to cry as he saw the temple door being shut with a loud clang and everybody packing up to go down the mountain.
The temple was deserted, the sun was setting and a chilly wind started to blow ... but the Brahmin kept on sitting and waiting outside the temple door. All of a sudden he saw a solitary figure coming down the steep mountain side. As it drew closer , the Brahmin noticed that it was sadhu , dressed in a loincloth and carrying a bag over his shoulder.
"Jai Kedar !" said the sadhu as he climbed up the temple steps and asked "O Brahmin, what are you doing here ?" The Brahmin recounted his tale of woe -- how he had come all the way to meet the Lord and how the Lord had shut his door on his face. The sadhu was amazed. "Who told you that the temple has closed for the winter ? You are mistaken ... tomorrow is the last day of the pilgrimage season and it is only tomorrow that the temple will be closed for the year... don't lose heart, you still have a whole day left to meet the Lord".
The Brahmin was utterly confused. He did not know who was right, the priests who had told him to come back next year or this unknown sadhu and sat down to think things through.
"Why don't you come and spend the night with me", said the sadhu, " I know of a nice, warm cave behind the temple where we will be comfortable... and tomorrow morning you can go and meet the Lord." The Brahmin agreed.
The sadhu led the Brahmin to a little cave, in the mountain behind the temple. Once the Brahmin has settled in comfortably, the sadhu opened his bag and took out some dry food, a wad of ganja (marijuana) and a chess board. After a frugal meal the two men lit a chillum (pipe) and started smoking ganja.
Then they began a game of chess. The sadhu was a good player but the Brahmin managed to beat him .. once, twice, thrice .... every time. Excited with his victory and flushed with the ganja that he was smoking all along, the Brahmin had hardly noticed that the night was almost over and dawn was breaking over the mountain tops.
At last when it was broad daylight, the Brahmin suddenly realised that it was time to go. Today was the last day when he could see his Lord and he did not want to waste time playing chess and smoking ganja. He hurriedly packed his bags and bade farewell to the sadhu, "Thank you very much for the company last night, but it would have been better if you could have beaten me even once. There is no fun in winning all the time." The sadhu smiled. "Do you not know", he said very softly," that I always lose myself to those who seek the Lord as intensely as you."
The Brahmin scarcely heard what he was saying. He hurriedly scrambled down the mountain side and rushed towards the temple to check whether the temple was indeed still open ... and of course it was. The doors were ajar, the priests were busy with the rituals and the pilgrims were praying. The Brahmin entered the temple and met the head priest who had refused to open the doors. "Why did you mislead me last night ? Why did you say that the temple was closed for the year ? Why did you ask me to come back next year ? when it is possible today for me to enter the temple today and meet my Lord ..."
The head priest was amazed. "Brahmin, are you mad. What nonsense are you talking about. Today is the first day when the temple is opened for this year. For the past couple of months the temple has been closed and I was nowhere here. Howe could I have told you anything last night, when I have come up to Kedarnath only today morning ?"
The Brahmin was thunderstruck ! He did not know what was happening. He distinctly remembered that last night he was here when the temple doors were closed -- according to the head priest, for a year. Then there was the sadhu with whom he spent a night playing chess .... and today morning was NEXT year.
Suddenly realisation dawned and he started running towards the cave, "My Lord, My Lord .... you played with me last night .... show me, show me you face again..."
But there was neither any trace of the Sadhu nor any sign of the cave where He and the Brahmin has spent the "night".


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