Rajkumari Sharma Tankha
While the rest of India and Indians abroad will celebrate the death of demon king Ravana today, there is one place in India where such a celebration has never happened, and perhaps never will, ever. Yeah, you read it right.
I’m talking about Bisrakh, a quaint village in Greater Noida, located just about 30 km from National Capital Delhi. This village has neither celebrated Dussehra nor staged Ramlila, ever. An effigy of Ravana isn’t burnt here. In fact, Bisrakh has a tradition of observing mourning for the Maha Brahman Ravana on Dussehra. All through the nine days of Navratra, villagers observe a period of mourning, offer prayers and perform yagna for peace to the soul of Ravana. People here worship Ravana and there is a belief that a great misfortune befalls upon anyone who tries to stage Ramlila or celebrate the death of Ravana.
Why? Because Bisrakh is believed to be the birthplace of Ravana. Ravana is said to have spent his childhood here. For the people of this village, Ravana was not an evil or selfish soul but a highly-qualified scholar and an adept exponent of Veena who composed Tandava Stotra. People here believe that Ravana was far more qualified than even Lord Rama, in all respects. His ten heads signify the enormous reservoir of knowledge he had.
It was Ravana’s father, Rishi Vishwashrava (from Pulastya clan), a huge devotee of Lord Shiva, who constructed a Shiva temple here. The Rishi had found a Linga in the forest area and had established the Bisrakh Dhaam (abode of God) with the linga deified therein where he offered worship daily.
There, indeed, exists an old Shiva Temple till date. The temple is set near a large Banyan tree and has a courtyard laid with marble. The temple area is spread over four acres, and it is believed that this is the same temple that was built by Rishi Vishwashrava centuries back.
The old Shiva temple in Bisrakh
The temple’s boundary wall was constructed some decades back by none other than the infamous Bandit Queen Phoolan Devi. The story goes like this: Years ago when the temple was being renovated, the Bandit Queen happened to arrive here to pay her respects to Lord Shiva. Seeing the financial crunch faced by the villagers, she took the charge of constructing the boundary wall of the complex.
It is believed that Shivalingam which was worshipped by Ravana and his father Vishwashrava was unearthed more than 100 years ago. It is octagonal in shape. The linga is visible above the surface for 2.5 feet (0.76 m) height and a further 8 feet (2.4 m) length is said to extend below the ground. It is deified in a temple here and worshipped daily. The eight-arms of the Shivalingam can be seen on its surface even today but despite having dug up more than 30 feet deep, the roots of these arms are nowhere to be found.
During the excavation exercise, however, the villagers unearthed a rare item, a 24-mouth conch shell, which unfortunately was stolen by a tantric. Other items that were found during excavation include a number of ancient pieces of stone artifacts and bricks, the broken face of an elephant, some door pieces and a number of Khajuraho-like art forms.
The temple also has a tunnel that connects it to the nearby ancient well but the connection between the two is lost now. The tunnel is almost closed.
The Shiva temple, despite being not well-maintained, has several devoted followers. There is a strong belief among the people of not only this village but among those of surrounding villages as well that if one pays obeisance before the Lord Shiva here for 40 continuous days all his/her wishes are fulfilled. The temple complex also has a dharamshala, constructed by Meerut Mandal.
If you want to visit Bisrakh Dhaam, take to NH 24. Keep driving till you reach Lal Kuan in Ghaziabad from where you turn towards left and reach Samtel factory. Take a right from here and drive for another six km and you reach the Bisrakh. A tip though: drive slowly and watch out for children, cyclists, cattle and dogs on the village roads. They can spring up from anywhere!