Cricket is undeniably a religion in India.
A religion where people not only see different players as different avatars of God, but also talk, eat and sleep cricket. Thus, cricket has barely left a reason that would make it lose out from being worshipped.
But a point that can lay it back as a proper ‘religion’ is absence of a cricket temple in our country.
And as I was thinking about it, a storming web search helped me know about this place.
‘Cricketeshwara Ashram’, read the bold font in the search engine. Without wasting a second I proceeded to the linked webpage to know if it was really what I had thought of.
Exploring the page, all I could think was, ‘Oh gosh! Where were you all this while?’
I took down the location (Khandala, they said) and contact, already determined to visit the place.
All excited, I packed my bag the next morning, ignited my car and got ready for a wonderful ride; after all, Khandala is
n’t that far from Mumbai.
With butterflies in my stomach throughout the one-hour journey, there was not one moment when I did not fantasise about the Ashram. Finally, I reached my destination.
I parked my car, and move towards the gate of the temple. The view left me astonished!
I never imagined three big stumps with bails on top and an impression of the pitch crafted as a gate.
First the success from storming searches and now this view.
“Go on dude, there is a lot more in store”, I thought.
With all my excitement and goosebumps all over, I slowly moved inside.
And guess what I saw?
A huge statue of ‘Almighty Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar’.
Fixed in the centre of a circular boundary, like fountains in many places, this statue stood distinctive to all others of its kind. Adding to it, I had another spectacular view in front of my eyes.
Obviously cricket can’t be played if it rains. So instead of water showering from the fountain outlets, there was the beautiful laser work falling on him from the circular boundary, showing all his records till date. Now that is something unique.
As I entered further, a priest dressed like an umpire, made an announcement (it sounded more like Tony Greig commentary to me, though), “Welcome to the Cricketeshwara Ashram. It is a lovely weather out here and the outfield is quite inviting. Caps and glares can be seen with every devotee, trying to swing along with the mood of the temple.”
“Towards Almighty SRT’s straight drive you can proceed for the main hall area. And towards the fine-leg area are the shoe racks, and the Prasad counters a few steps from there,” he continued.
“Moving a step towards the cover drive, or towards left from the main hall you can visit the “palace of wisdom”. The youth may ask your parents to sit over there for sometime and roam around the lush green area surrounding the temple,” he said.
“The prayers and aartis are still in net practice. Hope you like your visit to the ‘Cricketeshwara Ashram’,” he finally concluded.
Thrilled with this kind of welcome speech, I moved towards the palace of worship.
As I entered the hall, I saw a chandelier hanging in the centre of the roof! Hang on, don’t think about the one’s you usually see in hotels! Red and white balls, beautifully put together with bulbs in them were something that really couldn’t hold me from capturing the creation in my cam. After all a rare view it is.
The floor was all lush green, nothing less than a ground maintained round the year.
I looked around and saw the statues of Prabhu MS Dhoni, Siddhidata DADA (Sourav Ganguly), Shantipriya VVS Laxman, Trinetra Harbhajan Singh and right in front of me and the centre of row Almighty Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.
“Come under the grace of Prabhu MS Dhoni to cool your mind from pressure and tension, though not the right person to pray for love,” read a metallic rectangular plate placed on the bar-rail a few inches from the statue.
Similar descriptions accompanied other ‘God’s’ statues as well.
“Let the blessings of Siddhidata DADA fall on you which would provide you with the “margadarshan” of your life. Also all the hardworking class, let Dada’s bat be moved over your head.”
“Are you sick of your life? Don’t know what to do? People don’t notice you all the time? Feel cornered several times? Just bow your head in front of Shantipriya VVS Laxman and you will feel someone truly consoling you to wait for your right time.”
“Anger your thing? Great…welcome to the shrine of Trinetra Harbhajan Singh. Keep praying for your good luck with on field anger.”
And finally, the Almighty Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.
Finding nothing to read on the plate except for the name, I felt... “Oh come-on...you don’t need a reason to pray to him. Cut it out. His blessings are enough for your mere existence in the sport.”
As for the Pundits, they were dressed in respective kit of a batsman or a bowler, and were roaming around chanting mantras like, ‘Om Cricektaye Namah’, ‘Om Sachineshwaraye Namah’, ‘Shri Shri Laxmanaye Namah’ and so on.
Then I proceeded to the other area called “the palace of wisdom”. The entrance was in a black and white combination and all I could recall by that was an ancient television set.
Weird information on the entrance, “This place is for the generation that enjoyed the 1983 World Cup the most”, left me wondering. With my ever mounting excitement I moved inside.
Kapil Dev, Ravi Shashtri, Sunil Gavaskar and Mohinder Amarnath were the four ‘Gods’ of cricket I saw in the palace.
Ahhh…Now I got to know why the entrance information was written in such a way.
There were few oldies sitting over there with their “never fading over the time” conversations. I just bowed my head in front of all the gods and moved out.
Taking a walk in the temple area I realized that because of my eagerness to go around the place I had forgotten to take the Prasad. My mind asked, “Is it going to be Venkatesh Prasad who will be doing this honours?” And instantly my mind said, “Shut up, don’t get too much carried away. Here you will only get to see the big Gods not the local devta kind that formed Indra’s sabha!”
Standing in the queue I was wondering if even the Prasad over here would be unique.
When my turn came, I couldn’t think of anything. Why?
The grass of various cricket grounds, the pitch soil, red laddoos, white laddoos, and all the cricketing stuff crafted in the form of sweets was distributed as the Prasad.
Finally after taking the Prasad, I wore my shoes and thought to leave. Walking back to the gate I had a smile on my face. Stepping out from the temple area at last, I just stood at the entrance for a few seconds, only thinking about when I am gonna come next.
The visit has left me spellbound and till date it is one place I would never mind visiting over and over again!
~~OM CRICEKTAYE NAMAH~~
(The views expressed by the author are personal)