Trailanga [also called Tailanga] Swami is spoken of with reverence, awe and almost with fear in the city of Benaras. As we ask for directions to his temple, the people we speak to display all three emotions. Who was Trailanga Swami? Was he really superhuman or an incarnation of Lord Vishwanath (Shiva) as they claim? The sceptic in us perks up for the first time.

The story goes that when Ramkrishna Paramhansa came to Benaras, he met Swamiji, to whom he mentioned his desire to visit the Kashi Vishwanath temple. But as time was running out, he concluded that it would perhaps not be possible. As he said this and turned around to leave, there stood, instead of Swamiji, Lord Vishwanath himself! After this divine sighting, Ramkrishna became a lifelong disciple of Trailanga Swami.

As we sit down to chat with the Trailanga Swami Temple priest, he tells us that Swamiji was originally from Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh. Born in 1607, Trailanga Swami travelled extensively after his mother’s death. At times living out of cremation grounds, he appeared in Kashi somewhere in mid 1730’s immediately capturing the public’s imagination with superhuman feats like remaining submerged in the Ganga for more than 48 hours, lifting statues of deities weighing nearly a thousand kgs and travelling for miles etc.

The story goes that one day the King of Kashi had come to the ghats for bathing along with his wives, who were taking a bath in a private enclosure. And suddenly Trailanga Swami appeared from under the water in the cordoned off area causing much commotion. The miffed King ordered Trailanga Swami to be whipped mercilessly, but later the marks were found on the body of the King’s son. This was the time when reverence for him had turned to awe in Kashi where he lived for more than 150 years.

During this time he shunned public contact. As the temple priest says, “Trailanga Swami had five disciples during his stay in Kashi who were instructed to not take on any disciples of their own.” This was Trailanga Swami at his reclusive best. In fact he had announced beforehand the exact date he would attain nirvana. A month earlier, he personally supervised the setting up of his idol. On the due date, he took Samadhi (meditation unto death) directly under it.

Even today as we walk down the twisted, narrow lanes of Benaras toward an obscure corner which houses his Temple, the people with a tinge of the same fear tell us, that it is impossible to look at Swamiji’s idol for too long. Upon reaching we find that they’re right. With huge intimidating eyes Swamiji looks at you with a piercing gaze that makes it almost impossible to even glance back at this saint who, many say, still walks the earth.