By: Kiran, Editor, Rationalist Patrika. REPORT FROM GUJARAT:

Kanakapura of Kheda district in Gujarat witnesses a 'miracle' every year. A godman makes a heavy vessel of stone float in a pond using his divine powers. Thousands of devotees assemble to watch this miracle. It actually happens. A newspaper carried the story.

Bupesh and Ghanshyam of Parivartan, Vadodara, kept a clipping of the event and we discussed by what means the stone vessel floated when its weight should carry it to the bottom. So, the three of us, along with my good friend Ajay, decided to go to the godman himself and ask him. This was on September 20th, 1987.

We went to Kanakapura by bus and easily found the temple where the godman lived. He was about to go out station when we arrived, but cancelled his trip when we told him we had come specially to meet him. Making us comfortable in the temple premises, he personally prepared and served us an excellent lunch.

We introduced ourselves as press reporters. This ploy is necessary wherever a rationalist visits fraudulent miraclemen. As a reporter he is not asked awkward questions. We explained that we were particularly interested in his vessel-floating feat. This was enough for him to tell us all.

His name is Nirmaldas, and he was a sadhu of only five years standing. Before that he was married and had a family. He had changed many jobs during his career - supervisor, watchman, mukadam etc. Trying to be self-employed, he started a cycle shop and when it failed, became a shop keeper. He ended up being a cook - which explained the fine lunch he had served us. He happened to be in the temple when the last sadhu expired and he then easily assumed the man's exalted office.

We asked to see the vessel that floated so miraculously. He was reluctant, so we assured him we would organise his vessel floating feat in the Kankaria Tank at Ahmedabad, and suggested that Doordarshan might telecast it if we were able to invite the chief minister for the inauguration. Quite dazzled by all this, he brought out the vessel.

The vessel is of stone - the kind used for grinding rice for idli, or making chutney - eighteen inches high and eighteen inches in diameter, and sixteen inches deep inside. Compared to the regular kitchen grinding stone, its walls appeared somewhat thinner. Having collected all this useful data, we left Kanakapura in the evening.

On the bus we discussed the miracle. Ajay was of the opinion that the vessel is heavy, but so is a ship - and it also floats. This is simply Archimedes' Principle which states that any object having ratio of weight to volume less than I (density of water) will remain afloat.

To prove his point right, Ajay demonstrated the feat at a district science fair. A similar stone vessel bought in the market had its walls thinned from inside. Though the volume remained the same the weight was reduced, resulting in it easily floating in the water.

What a simple principle of science about which the sadhu knew nothing! But he runs a flourishing business looting people using a law of nature.

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Last update: 15 July 1998