Sonal Mansingh is the judge. With her permission the session starts
Introduction — He is the most famous exponent of Ram Katha. In the past forty years Morari Bapu has taken Ram Katha to crores of people. The reason for his popularity is his simple and music-filled manner of telling Ram’s story.
Morari Bapu was born in a small village in Gujarat. He had memorized the Ram Charit Manas (of Tulsidas) by the age of twelve. He first conducted his Ram Katha programmes for small village groups. But slowly he became popular, and by now he has conducted programmes from Nairobi to New York, London and Singapore. Morari Bapu has conducted his Ram Katha recitals in steamers and airplanes.
Rajat Sharma —The first charge made against Morari Bapu in Aap ki Adaalat
The charge against Morari Bapu is that he has indulged in commercialization of Ram’s name.
Rajat Sharma (approaching Morari Bapu in the dock) — Morari Bapu, if I may remind you of your childhood. You used to learn the verses of Ram Charit Maanas from your grandfather and when you went to school you would recite them to the trees and plants on the way. (Morari Bapu nods assent). Even in school your mind dwelt more on the Maanas and less on your studies. You used to tell the rosary..
Morari Bapu – When I was young I used to make rosaries of tusli seeds. Then I sat at the feet of my grandfather and studied the Maanas. Even when I was in school my mind would dwell more on the Maanas. Because of the (family) responsibilities that I had to shoulder, I had to continue my studies and also take up a job.
Rajat Sharma (intervening….) Heard you had failed thrice ….
Morari Bapu – (agreeing) Absolutely…I failed in my Matric exam three times..I passed the fourth time.
Rajat Sharma – So you could not complete your studies because of your craze for bhajans..
Morari Bapu – No..No…(Gesturing with his hands ) Studies Lost. Bhajan won.
(Spontaneous Applause from audience).
Rajat Sharma – And when you were a primary school teacher you would sit under trees and ….
Morari Bapu – No..no..There was a river flowing near my village. I used to sit on its bank. I first told Ram Katha for three villages who used to graze their cattle nearby. There was a drinking water receptacle. I used to give water to people there. They would sit there and I would also give them the Ganga of Ram’s story.
Rajat Sharma – And now you conduct your Ram Katha and sing Ram’s virtues all over the world. But tell me, is it true that it is an expensive affair?
Morari Bapu – From the time I started Ram Katha till this day, I have not desired fame or money, nor have I sought any post anywhere. Yes, I have grown up in great poverty. Then I needed some money for my expenses. It has been the Indian tradition that those who listen to Ram’s story for nine days, they make whatever an offering (patram, pushpam, phalam, toyam – flower, leaf, fruit or water).I used to take whatever was offered voluntarily during the completion (Poornahuti). But when I felt that I did not need any more money for my daily expenses, I stopped accepting anything. Only on Guru Purnima I would accept token offerings. Even from this I used to give away ten per cent. Then I decided to give away ninety per cent of this, and keep only ten per cent. But it is now years since I have stopped taken anything whatsoever. I take my pothi (Ram charit Manas copy) to the recital and return with the pothi. I don’t accept any offering. So, I thoroughly reject the idea that I am a culprit in this regard. I have never indulged in any commericialisation of Ram naam. (Audience breaks into applause). I have been true to the Rishi parampara.
Rajat Sharma – You said that you accept Guru Dakshina. I have heard that when you accept Guru Dakshina there would be long queue of big business houses and that the dakshina would be so whopping that you could maintain yourself for years.
Morari Bapu – Yes, big people would be in a line…I have seen it.. But I have never noticed how much offering they make. And I did not expect anything from them. They were only responding according to their respect for me. As I told you just now, as long as I need some money for my upkeep I took some money. The rest I made over for the welfare of all, for the use of those in need. But now I have stopped taking anything at all.
Rajat Sharma – But it is also said that when people invite you to perform Ram Katha, they need to put up cottages and it is really expensive to maintain you. One is reminded of the comment about Gandhiji, that it was very costly to maintain his goat (audience laughs).
Morari Bapu – I have grown up in a village. I have lived in villages. I had no taste for modern amenities. That’s why I chose to live in common cottages. In my cottage, all there is, is a fan to ward off the heat of summer. I don’t use airconditioners.
Rajat Sharma – I have heard that members of the Sitaram Trust have been given the job of telling those who invite you for Ram Katha on the type of cottages that should be made and the facilities that must be provided….
Morari Bapu – This is totally at variance from the truth. Anybody can come and videograph the places and show the world the actual state of affairs. (Audience breaks into applause)
Rajat Sharma – How much truth is there, Morari Bapu, in the statement that your birthday is celebrated thrice a year, (smiling impishly), once according to the English calendar, once according to the Vikram Samvat…and..
Morari Bapu – See, it is this way…My birthday, my mother would says, actually falls on Mahasivaratri. I consider that to be my birthday. But when I joined school, my birthday was recorded as September 25. But I don’t celebrate my birthday. I have also announced that my birthday is Mahasivaratri day and there’s no need to celebrate it twice. As for myself, I don’t celebrate it even once. So the question of celebrating it twice or thrice does not arise at all. (Applause )
Rajat Sharma – I thought that birthday would be an opportunity to receive a lot of gifts and dakshina..
Morari Bapu – (gestures powerfully) – On my birthday, people don’t give me anything, I give the world (Applause).
Rajat Sharma – When was it that you felt that your should take Ram Naam to more people, make it more popular, that you should travel out of the country….
Morari Bapu – No…Ram Naam doesn’t BECOME popular by something that somebody DOES. It is worshipped and venerated by the people. It is most popular with the people. It is worthy of all the respect. If I am instrumental in voicing it, it is my good fortune and the compassion of Paramatma.
Rajat Sharma – Is it true that somebody wants to arrange your Ram Katha he has to spend from 25 lakhs to 30 lakhs? He has to make a flashy pandaal and arrange other facilites.
Morari Bapu – A pandaal must not be flashy…It must inspire reverence and sanctity. There must be a roof under which people can listen to the programme. Of course mike system is needed. To whomsoever I give my Katha, I tell them that I take nothing of the proceeds. The Katha should not become blameworthy in any way because of me. I seek to inspire faith and reverence through the Katha. Say, a lakh people come for a Katha. They are given free food. So the necessary arrangements have to be made. Money is spent in this way. Nothing is wasted in unnecessary expenses.
Rajat Sharma – But, between the times when people used to sit in the open and listen, and now…is there not a gulf?
Morari Bapu – After all, the difference is evident Sharmaji. Earlier three persons listened to my Katha. Now, three lakh people listen. (Audience applauds).
Rajat Sharma – People have told me what you have had to do in going from three persons to three lakh people…I have many questions on that score…
Morari Bapu – gestures as if to say, Shoot the questions.