It was early evening and bright with the wave-less lake drowned in moss and greenery when we got off the tourist car and walked into the remote temple of Kolayatji in western Rajasthan.
 
It was dark with the night and the atmosphere all around when we left, after a hurried cell phone call to the car driver fortunately went through and he “escorted” us out of the complex.
 
Kolayatji is a beautiful place and what it needs is a good dose of visitors to justify it. A web-search for this author of temple books led to Kolayatji and whatever reading was possible only gave the legend and history of the Kapila Muni temple there. This in itself angers the local people no end, for reasons we shall see.
 
From the road, the first temple to come into view does happen to be the Kapila Muni temple. Kapila Muni, a sage who founded Sankhya philosophy, is deemed by the people of Rajasthan to be the 18th incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The belief there is different – in most places in India we know of the 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu, called “Dasavatar.”
 
In that western Indian state, which has a huge border with Pakistan, the belief is that Lord Vishnu incarnated 22 times.
 
Another temple in this lineage is that belonging to Baba Ramdev, absolutely different from the Baba Ramdev, who burst into the news sometime ago. The Rajasthani God, Baba Ramdev, has a temple to him where his “samadhi” or memorial is located. He is picturised riding on a horse, much like the 10th incarnation of Lord Vishnu in traditional belief. This is “Kalki Avatar”.
 
Sankhya philosophy is a type of metaphysical dualism. It believes in two entities – Nature or Prakriti and Persons or Purusas.
 
The most interesting legend attached to Kolayat relates to a dog. The dog and its master, a sage, were circumambulating the lake Kapilasarovar during the annual festival – Kartik Poornima. This is new moon in the month of Kartik. People were amazed to see what the dog was doing. Some of them decided to drive it away and beat it. It refused to go away. An argument arose between two groups of people who had congregated there. One was in favour of the letting the dog be and the other wanted to shoo it away. While they were arguing the strange duo finished their circumambulation. The dog sat by the lake and closed its eyes. It was transformed into a man and left for the celestial abode in a flying vehicle. Those who had spoken against the dog felt terrible. All chanted the holy name of Kapila.
 
Legend two relates to a blind man. When he was given some lentils from Kolayat he suddenly recalled his previous birth. He had been a deer, which had died when its head got stuck in the branches of a tree. Animals ate the carcass and the skeleton sans the head landed in the lake. As it is a holy lake, the deer was reborn in a family of Vaishyas or traders. The man was blind because the deer-head had got stuck in the tree. He asked some friends to go to Kolayat and throw the head into the lake. As soon as this was done, he gained eyesight.
 
And then, there was this man who died in Kolayat. Yama’s aide Chitragupta took him to the God of Death. Yama asked Chitragupta what good deeds the man had done. None was the reply. Yama said that since he had been born in the land of Kapila, his impurities had been washed away and he could take rebirth in a sacred house. This happened and the man gained salvation.
 
Pleaides is a constellation in the sky consisting of seven stars. In India they are called the seven sisters or Kritikkas. They used to bathe in Kapilasarovar and they too could recall their previous lives. Kapila revealed himself to them and said they could ask for a boon. They wanted to be together always. This wish was granted.
 
The Kapila Muni temple was built in marble and is a modern temple. It has beautiful carvings and a huge hall. They requested us to wait till the “harathi” is over to tell us more about the temple, and we agreed, needing a toilet break. An old man with a matted grey beard was standing outside and to a query, he waves us to a young boy who was nearby. This excitable young man did everything except taking us to a toilet. He insisted that we should enter another temple nearby. This brick structure is in ruined condition. An old man inside was praying to Lord Ganesha. The young boy’s words spilt over as he told us that this was the real ancient temple in the area, but nobody gave any funds for it. All the money was diverted to the Kapila Muni temple, he asserted in indignant tones. One more plea and he took us this time to a house where his mother, a genial lady in traditional Rajasthani “bandini”, said the toilet was inside.
 
We were taken aback by the breathtaking beauty of the paintings on the walls inside the house. It was a typical Rajasthani haveli. No toilet in sight, and when we called our young friend, he pointed to a drain in the open courtyard.
 
Shouldn’t have been a shock but it was. We retreated hurriedly, tearing ourselves away from our young friend’s grip and on the way back to the Kapila Muni temple, heard the strains of devotional music from another structure. We climbed up the stairs hurriedly and found a beautiful temple to Ganga Matha there. A woman was sitting guardian there and we found no less than four proper toilets there!
 
Looked like all the three temples in the small area were in conflict with one another, as surely, the young boy must have known of this temple’s existence.
 
It was dark when we made our exit, and a group of men were standing in our path. I shouted to my sister, “Call the driver” and ran back up the stairs. Our saviour driver reached us in five long minutes and we walked out boldly into the night. The sadhus of the Kapila Muni temple were standing at the entrance of their temple, and scolded us roundly for going into the village. We got into the car with much relief.
 
Later, we regretted that we did not enter into conversation with the local men, who must have been informed of our sudden arrival by the boy and his family. Kolayatji has its share of small shops that can be found in temple towns – selling materials needed for worship, apart from groceries that are local specialties.
 
There is an annual fair in November when lakhs of people congregate in Kolayatji. It coincides more or less with the Pushkar Fair.
 
 
Ambujam Anantharaman
 
Accommodation: Hotel Raj Vilas Palace gives the visitor a taste of the grandeur of Rajasthan. It has a multi-cuisine restaurant. The address is – Opposite Old RTO office, Near Public Park, Rath Khana, Bikaner 334001 Phone 01512525902 It has a fascinating history. Buit in 1866, it was the house of the Resident and Agent to the Governor General of India. Later, it became the State House to accommodate VIPs. All rooms are AC. A double deluxe is Rs 3800 per night EP. Off season discount April to September. Email rajvilas2004@yahoo.co.in
 
Hotel Sagar is located at Ganganagar Road, Lal Garh Palace Campus, Bikaner 334001. Phone 099 83 338977. It was formerly the Lallgarh Palace. It offers multi-cuisine food. Rates are available on enquiry. Email - hotelsagar.bikaner@gmail.com
 
Access: Kolayat is about 50 km from Bikaner. Take the Jaisalmer Road, NH 15 Bikaner can be easily accessed by road and rail. The nearest airport is Jodhpur, 250 km away.
 
Weather: Autumn and spring.