The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Only doorways, not a single door
- Up village redefines security

House after brick-built house opens directly on the narrow lane. The unplastered walls approach each other and end abruptly leaving a passage where doors should have been. There are no exceptions in this village that has no doors.

Faith can move mountains. Here in Seemahi-Kari-Raat, it has done away with the door that defines security; that separates the private domain from the public world. The village of about 80 swears by Seo Baba, who, they say, had ordained that there should be no doors in houses.

And Seemahi-Kari-Raat doesn't need doors, at least for protection. There has been no theft ' in fact, no major crime ' in the village in living memory. 'Look at the crime record books dating back to 1906 and find out if you can any case of robbery in the village,' said Gorakhnath Singh, officer-in-charge of the local Akbarpur police station.

For privacy, the villagers, a mix of government clerks, carpenters, farmers and small traders, pull curtains across the entrances at night. When they travel, they pack their belongings in tin trunks and leave them with their neighbours.

The village, located about 90 km from Ayodhya, has spawned its own legend of order, peace and harmony in a state whose capital sometimes records as many as six murders in one day.

Sociologists have been visiting the village, the name of which its residents said means the end of night and dawn of light, to delve into the phenomenon. Most will receive the same answer: faith.

'Doors have been dispensed with because Seo Baba had sent a message to villagers in their dream that there should not be any door in any of the houses. Initially people did not believe in this. Calamity caught up with the unfaithfuls who tried to build houses with doors. Seo Baba's holy spirit protects the village from robbery,' said Tridiv Goswami, a 70-year-old villager. In his lifetime, Tridiv has never heard of any theft in the village.

The village venerates a leafy banyan tree near a pond in its heart as the embodiment of Seo Baba. Next to the tree, believed to be nearly 100 years old, stands a temple, which draws a steady stream of villages every morning and evening.

According to village elders, Seo Baba was a saint who came from Ayodhya and settled down in this sleepy hamlet over a 100 years ago. He built a hut near the pond and meditated there. One day, he died in trance and the banyan tree sprang up at the spot.

'We have no doubt that the tree is a reincarnation of the saint whose holy spirit still prevails in the village,' said Trilokinath Goswami, chief priest of the temple.

There is another widespread belief surrounding the legend of Seo Baba. While constructing a house, villagers are expected to offer at least five bricks at the temple.

Villagers' faith in the saint ' and the rituals attached to his legend ' have been strengthened in the recent past after two similar incidents.

In June last year, Manmohan Singh, an employee in the local public works department, began work on his house at the northwestern corner of the village. He had forgotten to offer the five bricks at the temple. A week into construction, two six-foot walls collapsed.

Satish Chandra Sharma, a 45-year-old government clerk, has a similar story. 'I cannot afford to make this mistake again and antagonise Seo Baba,' he said. Perhaps no one in the village can.

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