All of us have seen the famous bollywood movies where families get separated at the Kumbh Mela only to get reunited years later in a very cheesy manner. However, it is a fact that many people have been separated at Kumbh Mela. After all, millions of people visit the Mela. In fact, the estimated attendance for the 2013 Allahabad Kumbh Mela was 120 Million! So, have any of these separations resulted in a filmy ending? No, all thanks to this baba who has a mission to reunite lost pilgrims with their families. Yes, you heard that right – Meet the ‘Bhule Bhatke Baba’.
For 71 years, Raja Ram Tiwari, fondly known as ‘Bhule Bhatke Baba’ reunited lost families at the Kumbh Mela festival. During the 55-day festival, hundreds of thousands of people get separated but most find their way to the ‘Khoya Paya Shivir’ or the Lost and Found Camps. These camps have apparently helped reunite over 1.1 million adults and 21,000 children to their families with the help of volunteers and loud speakers. Anyone that was lost was directed to the ‘Baba’ and they would be reunited within hours or days at the most.
According to reports, the maximum time it took them to relocate one family was ten days. A woman who was lost, was neither able to speak nor write and repeatedly pointed at the leaves of the tree when asked about her husband. So, they looked for a man named ‘Hari’ (Green in english) and were able to find her family after ten days.
So, what inspired Raja Ram Tiwari to do this?
Raja Ram Tiwari attended his first Kumbh mela when he was 18 years old in 1946. There he saw an old woman crying uncontrollably. After learning that she was separated from her family, he immediately made a makeshift loudspeaker or ‘Bhopu’ with scrap Tin and screamed into it till he could reunite her. The old lady was so moved by his act that she actually touched his feet. This gave Tiwari a satisfaction and thus inspired him to help people at the Mela.
Soon, he was seen as a “Pied-Piper” figure where he would move through the Mela with his loudspeaker and a trail of lost people walking behind him. Later, with the help of authorities he was able to set up camps for this purpose.
Although he started with low-tech methods to find people, over the years he tried to improve things by engaging a group of volunteers to speed up the process. More than 150 volunteers now work at the Khoya Paya Shivir.
Raja Ram Tiwari, sadly passed away on 20th August 2016. Apart from his selfless service at Kumbh Mela, one of his last missions was to clean the Ganga river. The ganga fascinated him so much that he shifted from his village to live at the banks of the river. His son, Umesh Tiwari has now taken over the Shivirs at the Kumbh Mela.
Raja Ram Tiwari was widely recognized for his selfless work. Being the recipient of many awards and citation, he was also featured in the TV show Aaj ki Raat hai Zindagi, anchored by Amitabh Bachchan, on October 25, 2015. He was also felicitated by former Chief Justice of India A S Anand.
There are many unsung heroes without capes like Raja Ram Tiwari in different parts of India who silently work to improve our country. It’s heroes like these that inspire the most out of us, and can make us proud Indians. TEN salutes such heroes who make our country a better place to live in, bit by bit.