Maharajin Buaa- Her life story
Older People in and around Allahabad(Now Prayagraj) know about Maharajin Buaa very well and hold her her in high regard. Her real name was Gulab Maharajin. ‘Maharajin’ is a respectful address for any women who is regarded in high esteem. And yes she was respected widely in the area and equally by famous , rich powerful, destitute and poor homeless, lonely people as well.
She used to perform cremations at Rasoolabad’s Chandrashekhar Azad Shmashan ghat at all hours of the day and night. It didn’t matter if the deceased’s relatives were wealthy or not, or if he had any relatives at all; she was standing with them on their final journey. It didn’t matter to her whether or not she was paid for her services. She accepted anything people offered her. She carried out her responsibilities impartially, with equal affection and equanimity. She didn’t mind if she was paid or not. Some give thousands, others give hundreds, and still, others give nothing, but she performed their cremation rites as if they were her own. Her motherly attitude won her many admirers. Although she was a Brahman by birth and didn’t care for any social restrictions to carry out her service and did it selflessly.
Gulab Maharajin was an elderly lady who was perhaps the only woman in the country who performed ‘kriya karmas’ (cremation rites) for the deceased. Women are normally not permitted on the Shmashan Ghats. Maharajin Bua fought her way beyond society’s conventional thinking and continued her family’s occupation. Her father’s name was Lakshmi Naraya Mishra. She later married Shankarji Tripathi in Arail, Allahabad (now Prayagraj).
It was her determination and grit which dented the courage of her rivals who didn’t want a woman to continue with her father’s profession. At the age of ten, ‘Maharajin Buaa,’ as she was affectionately known, performed her first cremation rites. Her Grandfather and father did the same work, therefore it came very naturally for her to pick this profession when her father passed away.
Maharajin Buaa passed away in 2002 at the ripe age of 91. She performed around 13 Lakh(1.3Million) last rites. We talk about women empowerment today but here she was, much ahead of her time, took the totally taboo profession for women in society and earned the respect of everyone. Even after she has passed away now, the management of Azad Ghat is done by women only. Maaharajin Buaa started a new tradition all by herself.
I wanted to share a conversation she had with a distant relative,an uncle of mine. Maharajin Buaa affectionately referred to him as ‘Pande’. My uncle once went to Rasoolabad Ghat to attend the funeral of one of his close friends. Maharajin Buaa exclaimed,”What Pande, you are not dead yet?”.
No ordinary person in their sane mind would ask that kind of question but It was Maharajin Buaa, no ordinary person.
In response, my uncle grinned and replied, “No, not yet, but will you be alive and perform my cremation and give me ‘mukhagni’?” (Mukhagni is a Hindu ritual during cremation)
At the time, Maharajin Buaa was about 85 years old and appeared more likely to pass away before my uncle. But She offered a positive response.
And as it turned out, my uncle passed away within 15 days of their conversation. Maharajin Buaa performed his cremation, and my uncle’s family gave her permission to perform ‘Mukhagni’ ritual. It is crucial to note that Mukhagni is typically carried out by the eldest son and is seen as a very exclusive right held solely for family members. But, given their deep affinity and Maharajin Buaa’s motherly affection for my uncle, they saw it as a privilege.
Maharajin Buaa also, incidentally, passed away two months later.
You can hear many great stories about Maharajin but from other people in Allahabad(Now Prayagraj) still today. Please share if someone else knows more about her.
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