TWO DAYS before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Dehu on June 14, the existing Sant Tukaram Maharaj Temple shines brightly and is decorated to offer a grand welcome to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister will inaugurate a ‘shila’ (rock) temple dedicated to the poet-saint Sant Tukaram around 1.30pm on Tuesday and will also address a crowd near the temple. The ‘shila’ temple is located in the premises of the main temple.
“The work of polishing the silver of the chariot, which will carry the palanquin to the temple city of Pandharpur, has been completed. And inside the temple premises, the sanctum sanctorum, the walls and pillars covered with money have also been carefully polished,” Nitin More, who heads Shri Sant Tukaram Maharaj Sansthan, told the Indian Express on Sunday.
And in the 10-member team that carried out the silver polishing work of the temple premises and the chariot included eight Muslim craftsmen in their early twenties. All were born and raised in Pune. And all seemed to have done silver polishing as “something close to our hearts” and “a matter of seva…”. Kushal Varma, owner of the Ghanshyam gold shop in Pimpri, was awarded the contract for the silver polishing work of the temple premises in addition to the chariot and the “palkhi”.
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“We have been doing the work for 6-7 years. We do not charge a single paisa for silver polishing work. Our team includes eight Muslim craftsmen who are all skilled and hard working. They do the work assigned to them with great enthusiasm and a keen sense of interest,” he said.
Silver polishing, Varma said, is done when the silver coating oxidizes due to exposure to air, pollution and water. “We use chemicals, tamarind, lemon and brushes among others to polish the silver, remove dark spots and make it look shiny and beautiful,” he said. The work took place over two days. “The craftsmen worked tirelessly for 12 hours every day and never complained of being tired and exhausted,” Varma added.
Kamar Attar (31), one of the craftsmen, said, “This is not the first time that we have done the silver polishing work of the whole temple premises as well as the chariot and the palanquins. There was a lull for two years during Covid but now we are back. For hard work, we charge nothing. But the temple provides us with the materials needed to do the polishing.
Attar said no one objected to them doing the polishing work. “No, there was no objection to us being Muslims. Everyone knows who we are. And we do it by ourselves as ‘seva’ to Sant Tukaram Maharaj. This gives us immense happiness. We believe that God is one no matter what religion you belong to,” he said.
Umar Attar, another craftsman, said: “Our grandparents are from Pandharpur, so you can understand how much Dehu temple means to us… We did the silver polishing work not only in Dehu but also at Pandharpur and Dutt Mandir in Pune. , the famous Ranjangaon Mandir and several other temples in Maharashtra.
Umar said, “We don’t believe in caste or religion. We do the silver polishing work in the temple as it comes from our hearts. After a hiatus of two years, we enjoyed doing the work at Dehu and in the end, it gave us a sense of satisfaction and joy. We will continue to do ‘seva’ whenever we are called upon,” a view shared by others.
Meanwhile, the temple administration announced that it would present a special “headgear” to the prime minister. “The prime minister will be honored with a designer Tukaram pagdi and a shawl on the occasion,” Nitin More said.