This is a real life story of a saint who was from north India. The saint was on a holy trip or Yatra in southern India. This Saint’s original name is not known. People who admire the Saint's Leela's called him as "Bawaji". From then the saints name is popular as 'Bawaji'. Later due to a divine happening his name was popularly called as 'Hatheeram Bawaji'.
This Bawaji had a very deep devotion to Lord Rama. Bawaji believed at least once in his lifetime Lord Rama would show petty on him and give his darshana. On the Yatra, the Saint was very attracted by the Lord of Seven hills. Bawaji felt it was his Lord Rama standing in the Sanctum Santorum or Garbhagruha. Bawaji decided to drop out of the Yatra team and to settle permanently in Tirumala hills seeing his Lord Rama daily. Bawaji then made a small hut for himself on the route to Papanasanam. Daily Bawaji used to come early to the temple and make his way to the best possible area to see the Lord for hours together. Bawaji was not able to speak the local languages like, Telugu, Tamil or Kannada. This was the major barrier for the Bawaji to mingle among the common people and temple staff. This visits to the temple used to irritate some temple staff since Bawaji couldn’t understand their language or able to communicate & his way of worship was different than the one followed in temple.
So in course of time this became a daily disappointment for Bawaji by the temple staff. Many used to force him out of the temple. One day came where the situation was on a tipoff and the temple staff and the local heads barred Bawaji entry into the temple. Bawaji couldn’t bear this separation from his Lord Rama (Venkateshwara) and was crying like a child in front of Lord’s small image he had in his hut. Crying continuously Bawaji fell asleep. In the middle of the night, someone was calling and tapping the door of the hut. Bawaji woke up and was shocked to see Lord Venkateshwara on his Doorsteps calling him. Bawaji fell on Lords feet for the mercy of Lord shown onto him. Bawaji then washed Lords feet and offered the sandalwood paste on the feet to cool off any pain caused by walking till his hut.
Bawaji didn’t blink his eyes and was seeing Lord. Lord said, He had come here to spend time casually with Bawaji and to play the game of Dice. Bawaji said, Lord every word is a command for me and started to play. Lord and Bawaji started to play the game of dice and when the Archakas begin chanting Suprabatham in the Temple, Lord would just say he would come back again and used to leave for Temple. Again in the night after Ekantha Seva (formal closing of the temple for the day) Lord used to come back to Baba’s hut. Baba used to wait for Lord’s arrival and start the game. Lord most of the time used to loose the game to Bawaji and in turn Bawaji used to say, it’s my win of the game but my heart is won by you. To show Bawaji’s greatness to the world, Lord one day said, He was very tired and wants to sleep. Lord then slept and Bawaji was pressing Lords feet gently. In due course Bawaji also fell asleep and Lord dropped a Jewel (some say it’s a Makarakanti haram and some it’s a pearl necklace and some as Wrist ring or Kaddiyam) next to Bawaji’s hand and went back to temple.
Morning when Archakas noticed the missing jewel it was a spark of quarrel and blame game among the Archakas, the security & temple staff. All were enquired and finally the blame was put on Bawaji who was not allowed inside the temple. To take revenge, Bawaji might have stolen the jewel they thought. Immediately some temple guards went to Baba’s hut which and found Bawaji sleeping holding Lords missing jewel. Immediately he was dragged to the temple and later decided to produce him to the King for judgment. All the witness and situation were against Baba. King asked Baba about his explanation about holding the jewel in his hut. Bawaji then said about the happenings where Lord himself would come to his hut daily and play the game, and last night without saying anything lord has returned back, he has forgot the jewel. King felt his innocence and also couldn’t stay away from doing justice.
King ordered: Put Bawaji in a well fortified cell with full night vigilant guards, & fill the cell with sugarcane. If Bawaji can eat the entire bundles of sugarcane without a trace then his version of innocence is true, else he will be punished for the theft.
Bawaji was never ever worried about the test. Baba thought that this was the test on Lord to show himself to the world. Baba was taken to the cell and some of the temple staff too were guarding the cell along with the palace guards. Baba just offered his regular prayers to Lord before going to sleep, and slept as usual without worrying about the situation he is in.
In the middle of the night, a huge male tusker with big Naamam appeared from nowhere and started to feast on the sugarcane bundles. The elephant finished eating and started to rumble very loudly. This woke up Bawaji and all the people in palace. Bawaji thought it was his Lord Ram came in the form of an elephant. Baba was murmuring Hathiram… Hathiram….. The guards then peeped thru the tiny watch hole in the cell door and were out of their skins. They saw that huge elephant. Then the elephant broke open the doors and ran into the forest. Bawaji too ran behind him calling Hathiram…. Hathiram…. wait wait… But the big tusker disappeared and was never found.
All the people who thought Bawaji was a thief, feel on his feet for forgiveness. King who was already alerted about this matter was waiting for Bawaji to come. King then fell on Baba’s feet and requested his mercy for jailing him and passed a permanent order saying, Bawaji’s Services must be included into the temple services. All the people then hailed, Hathiram Bawaji….. Hathiram Bawaji…..
So this name Hathiramji or Hathiram Bawaji became his identity. The command of the King is still followed till now, the representative of the Hathiramji mutt brings raw cow milk and fresh cow milk butter to be offered to Lord first thing in the morning.
It’s also said Lord gave Hathiramji a boon to have his Samadhi above the height of his temple. So the Samadhi (final resting place) of Hathiram Bawaji is above the Height of Lord’s Temple. This is just above the Sahasradeepalankara Mantapam.