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Ganesh murti � a long journey from a marshy land to an exquisite temple

By Bhaskar Phukan

GUWAHATI, March 10 - Like many other temples and monuments of the city the beautiful Ganesh Mandir that exists towards the north of the Latasil playground by the Mahatma Gandhi Road, has its own story to tell. A beautiful temple well laid with a confluence of modern and archaic architecture, it had its beginning under a banyan tree with an idol of Lord Ganesh recovered from a marshy land nearby in the late fifties.

In the early sixties while walking down to school through Mahatma Gandhi Road beside the Latasil ground, a particular object used to draw our attention. On closer scrutiny, the object was found to be a stone murti (statue) of Lord Ganesh leaning against a banyan tree. For long the murti remained almost unattended and unnoticed. Slowly with the passage of time people were seen putting oil and vermillion on the murti and in the evenings a stray earthen lamp or two could also be seen being lighted.

In the early and late sixties the area which today houses the planetarium and a massive structure of the Gauhati High Court, was almost vacant. The only RCC structure was that of the old building of the High Court. The story of this Ganesh murti dates back to the days of construction of the High Court building itself. The broadcasting centre of the All India Radio was located in the area that now houses the Swahid Nyas building on the Brahmaputra riverfront. It was in 1948 that the radio centre became operative from an Assam type structure behind which there was the open marshy land. Sometime in the late fifties a man named Ramchandra who worked as an employee in the residence of a government officer situated next to the radio centre, discovered and retrieved the murti from the marshy land behind. It was kept in the compound of the government residence for quite some time and later shifted to the banyan tree in 1961.

When construction of the High Court building was on, the workers engaged in the construction work used to perform arati in the evenings and sit together and engage in kirtan around this murti till late at night. The late night kirtan enraged a High Court judge whose residence was close to the site. One morning to put an end to this disturbance he barricaded the site of the murti with barbed wires to make it impossible for the workers to go near it. The late Kumudeswar Hazarika who made studies on the past of Guwahati city, mentions in his book Itihasor cha poharat purani Guwahati that the name of the judge was Ram Nadaiya and according to Hazarika, it so happened that the judge started having weird dreams at night from the day he had the area around the murti barricaded. He regularly dreamt that an elephant came and sat on his chest, suffocating him to death. Soon the judge started getting sleepless nights. He was convinced that his act of stopping the kirtan by the poor labourers around the Ganesh murti had backfired on him as Lord Ganesh was offended. He had the barricade removed at once.

As a gesture of atonement for his wrong deed, the judge entrusted one Baliram Das, popularly known as �Kandura Kai�, to look after the place around the murti and paid him a salary along with an amount of money regularly for lighting earthen lamps and for other expenses till he was in office as a judge of the Gauhati High Court. With the initiative and care taken by �Kandura Kai� and with growing information about the place of worship that spread far and wide, the number of devotees slowly increased and in the year 1972 a temporary structure with a tin roof was erected for Lord Ganesh�s idol at the site.

In course of time the area near which the small structure of the Ganesh Mandir was erected, had transformed into a great extent with construction of the planetarium and the impressive building of Hotel Brahmaputra Ashok. The area changed its ambience and the temple management seriously contemplated construction of a temple with an attractive design to match the nearby structures and also felt the need to provide for the devotees a large area within the temple keeping in mind the steady increase in the number of devotees.

With the blessings of Sri Siddhivinayak and with the enterprise and determination of the temple management and charity of the devotees, a beautiful temple was made possible and in the year 2003 the dream of a new temple building became a reality. �Kandura Kai� however did not live till his dream of the temple could be fulfilled and left for his heavenly abode in 2002. The people around the locality in order to give due recognition to Baliram Das (�Kandura Kai�) whose sincere and arduous service helped the message of the stray stone murti of Ganesh spread far and wide and who helped in the confidence-building measures of the organisers with his ceaseless, lifelong services to the cause of the temple, decided to honour him by setting up his bust on the temple premises.

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