For the past 35 years, the man who has supervised all construction work inside the Gorakhnath temple is a Muslim, Yasin Ansari, who also keeps an account of the temple’s expenditure.
Ansari said, “I have very cordial relation with Chhote Maharaj (as Yogi is referred to in the monastery). Whenever he’s here, he calls me and takes all information about work. I move freely in his living quarters, from the kitchen to his bedroom, and also take my meals with him.” A number of shops in the temple precincts are run by Muslims. “I have seen him help the poor irrespective of their religion or caste. Maharaj always participates in my family marriage functions.” “For the last 35 years, I’ve been running a shop at the temple. I’ve never felt any disrespect or discrimination on the part of Yogiji. He’s a real saint,” said Azizunnisa.
“There are many more Muslim families inside the temple who earn and live fearlessly,” said Mohammad Mutaqim, who has been running a bangle shop in the temple for the last 20 years. Yasin said that his father’s elder brother had come to the temple during the priesthood of Mahant Digvijaynath, and the temple kitchen was his responsibility. “My mother-inlaw, Hamida Begum, was supervisor of the kitchen and my father-in-law was a gardener. I was the temple cashier from 1977-83. Since 1984, I’ve been the temple’s construction supervisor,” said Ansari.
The first engineer of Gorakhnath temple was Nisar Ahmad. He later became the principal of Maharana Pratap Polytechnic. “I was the engineer at the temple. Sadhna Bhawan, Yatri Niwas, Hindu Sevashram, shops of the temple, new building of Gorakhnath hospital, Sanskriti Vidyalaya, Radha Krishna Mandir, Shankar Mandir, Vishnu Mandir, Hanuman Mandir and many other temples associated with Gorakhnath temple were constructed on my designs. Now, I have retired.”
Yogi loves cows and there are 400 bovines in the temple — and their chief caretaker is Maan Mohammad. “Earlier, my father took care of the cows. Now I’m doing the work. I wake up at 3am, milk the cows and give them fodder. Chhote Maharaj takes care of all of us,” said Mohammed. The Yogi lives a frugal, austere life in his quarters on the first floor of the shrine. His room has an attached washroom but no TV or radio set. The almirahs contain religious scriptures and biographies of great men — from Nehru and Gandhi, to Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King. In the absence of a computer or TV, the man who has taken over as UP chief minister has largely depended on newspapers, which are neatly stacked on a table facing his personal chair, clearly identified with a saffron robe over it. Everyday, his attendant Kailash Prajapati serves him the same green leafy vegetables, porridge and sweet lemon juice from the community kitchen.