Mr.S.K. Dande was employed as an Assistant Engineer on Central Railway, when I met him in January 1965. I was Additional Commissioner of Railway Safety in charge of Southern Circle in India and his section was under my charge. I had gone for an Inspection and he accompanied me on the inspection.
During our inspection, we passed Pandharpur, a small wayside railway station, and Dande told me of a beautiful temple of Vithoba (Lord Krishna) at that place. The people of Maharashtra hold this temple in high esteem just as the people of the South consider the Tirupati temple of Lord Venkateshwara. This led our conversation to spirituality, a subject I was much interested. He narrated a number of incidents connected with the place. There was a young man who would spend most of his time in prayers and a lot of people saw many miracles performed by him. He lived in Mangala village of Mahatar Tehsil of Buldhana District. In due course, he became known as Udhav Maharaj.
Of the several episodes narrated to me, one of them described a custom amongst the local people that whenever they prayed and their prayer was fulfilled, they offered a cow at the temple.. Such cows were, then, considered as sacred and no one milked them. These cows wandered all over in the forests. Gradually, they, became wild and were a nuisance to the people of nearby villages, damaging their standing crops. The residents of Andhera village in Chikali tehsil, located in the Ajanta Hills, were being much harassed and they did not know what to do. The Magistrate of the area, a British Officer thought of getting them shot to get rid of them but the Hindu population strongly opposed the measure, and the magistrate had to give up his idea.
Ultimately, the village population approached Udhav Maharaj and prayed to mitigate their misery. Udhav Maharaj heard their prayer and camped at the nearby temple. He would go out every night to the forest, play his flute and the cows
would come running to him. The cows were so charmed by the tune that they would follow him wherever he went. All the cows in a matter of about ten days became tame. After collected them, they were milked. The cows were, then distributed amongst the villagers. The price of these cows was paid as a donation to Udhav Maharaj, who utilized the money to build a temple in his village.
Another episode of Udhav Maharaj narrated by Dande, was. of a village named Baghjai in the Ajanta Hills. Once a tiger was noticed near the village. He started devouring the cattle, sometimes attacking and killing passers-by too. The village folk became mortally afraid and approached Udhav Maharaj requesting him to get rid of this menace. There was a goddess temple in the area and Udhav Maharaj camped there. Three days later, when he saw the tiger, he ordered him to follow. It really was a fascinating scene to watch the wild animal follow Udhav Maharaj like a tame dog, whom he lead into deep forest to leave him there. No one saw the tiger, thereafter and the villagers heaved a sigh of relief.
Dande told me that Udhav Maharaj had died a couple of years earlier, sometimes in 1962 or 63. Dande had not witnessed any of these events but his statements were based on hearsay.
There were, however, some events he told me were in his personal knowledge. They were also very strange and unexplainable. He told me that he and one of his friends went to have a bath in a river near Secunderabad. There they saw a sadhu who was sitting there in the lotus pose, meditating. Dande's friend was very much against sadhus and felt that all of them were frauds and cheats. They didn't do any useful work and flourished on account of the common man's credulity and servility. He thought that they became Sadhus for getting easy money and enticed innocent women. So he started troubling the sadhu. He told the sadhu, "You are all cheats and vagabonds enjoying on people's hard earned money. You only womanize and are good for nothing". The sadhu kept quiet for some time but when they continued to badger him, he said, "why do you say that when you even, do not know me? You should not put everyone in the same category. Why should you not mind your own business?" But they still kept on bothering him. Finally, he told the friend, "Look! You are still not minding your business and are unnecessarily after me. I think you should worry about your mother who is seriously ill and is lying on death bed. But she is a good soul and will not die before seeing you. Go and you will find a telegram waiting for you at the station". On reaching the station they actually found a telegram waiting which informed them of the serious illness of the friend's mother. This was all the more strange as when the friend had left home his mother was hale and hearty. They left for Bombay by the first available train. The mother was alive till they reached and died only thereafter.
The incident connected with him relating to the Pandharpur temple was the strangest of all. This seems to show that God's ways are strange indeed. All the miracles of which we hear are not at all impossible. According to Dande, his wife had been requesting him to get her an Alsatian dog as he often remained on tour and she was very much afraid to remain alone. Sometime earlier, he and his wife had gone to Poona and visited one of their friends who was a Superintending Engineer stationed in Poona. They saw two Alsatian dogs with them. One of these dogs got very much attached to them during their two days stay there. Mrs. Dande asked the friend's wife whether she could let her have one of the dogs. She was so keen to have an Alsatian. The friend's wife gladly agreed to part with the dog as she was finding it difficult to look after two dogs. This dog belonged to her husband's elder brother who had left it there and was not looking after it. Mr. & Mrs. Dande thus brought the dog with them. A few days later Dande went on tour and in his absence the dog some how got loose and ran away. On return he found the dog missing. The dog was thoroughly searched but could not be traced. They only learnt that a dog was seen running towards Poona for about twenty-two miles. The Dog was a big one and was running at high speed. But one could not know what happened thereafter. It appeared that while these people were coming from Poona, the dog kept track of the road and as soon as he got an opportunity he ran back to Poona to find its old master. Or else the villagers got hold of him and tied him up. What happened was a mystery.
In the meanwhile, there was another problem. The elder brother of the Superintending Engineer, the owner of the dog, returned back from wherever he had gone. Not finding his dog, he was very upset and told his brother that he had no business to give the dog away like without consulting him. So he must get it back. He, himself, wrote a letter to Dande and said, ?I have been told that my brother has gifted my dog to you which he had no business to do. So I would like you to return my dog without the least delay or else it will not be in your interest. Further, I would not like to hear from you that the dog has been lost or is dead. I have heard enough of such excuses. I must see that the dog is back with me.?
Getting such a letter, Dande was quite worried and did not know what to do? The next day, someone informed them that a few miles from Kurdwadi, an Alsatian dog was found crushed under a jeep. This news all the more upsetting and to find out whether it was the same dog or any other, they went to the place of accident. There they learnt from the Police that the dog had already been buried. However, they were told that it could not be their dog as the owner of the dog had been traced.
Mrs. Dande also received a letter from their friend's wife that although it was most embarrassing to ask for the dog back but she had to do so to maintain peace in the family. Their brother was very angry and they had not been able to pacify him. They had tried their best but with no results. They were, thus hoping that realizing their position, the dog will be returned to them to save them from further trouble.
A few days later, they got another letter under registered mail from his friend?s brother which read as follows, "I am surprised that you have not replied to my earlier letter, nor have you returned the dog. Alsatian is a one man's dog and it is against law to keep another persons pet against his wishes. So if the dog is not returned without further delay, I will have to institute a law suit against you. The letter should, therefore, be treated as formal notice".
By adopting the dog Mr. & Mrs. Dande got themselves into a terrible mess. How could they write that the dog had been lost when that gentleman had already written that he had come across many such excuses and would not accept any. Then what was to be done? It was at this point of time that they thought of Vithoba, the diety of the famous temple in the area. Mrs Dande prayed before retiring, "Oh Vithoba our savior! it is you who has to get us out of this trouble. Please help us". Dande was also to go, next morning, on inspection of the section where the temple was located. He, therefore decided to go and pray at the temple to help him.
Now something most strange happened. In her dream Mrs Dande heard the bark of a dog, and at the same time, she also heard some one calling, "Is this your dog? Please take him back". Mrs. Dande narrated her dream to her husband before he left.
After his leaving, Mrs. Dande was about to go to the toilet, from where she heard a dog barkung and someone yelling from outside, "Is it your dog?" She at once rushed out and found the dog sitting at the door. She caught hold of it and immediately secured by chains. Then she tried to search for the person who had brought it. But despite all efforts she could not find anyone. The dream and who left the dog there all along remained a mystery.
Anyway, they thanked vithoba with all their heart for this help and saving them from such a difficult situation. Then they arranged to send the dog to its master by the first available means. The story, however, does not end here. In reply to the letter which Dande sent along with the dog. the brother of their friend wrote back, "Many thanks for returning the dog. I have seen few people who would take a dog and then return the way you have done without protesting. As you have been such a gentleman, I would like to make a gift of the dog to you".
Strange are the ways of God and stranger is the behavior of some elderly people. But once bitten twice shy. Dandes politely refused the offer and replied, "Many thanks for your kind offer. But as Alsatian is a one man's dog, we are not sure whether we will be able to keep him properly. So it would be a good thing if you keep the dog with yourself"