| Abhishek and Aishwarya leave the temple in Varanasi after the puja on Monday. (PTI)
Nov. 27: As a conjunction of stars, it could hardly be more auspicious. All that remained was for Mars to be appeased.
Aishwarya Rai accompanied Bollywood’s first family to the fabled Kashi Vishwanath temple this morning to try and wash an unhappy blemish off her horoscope that might pose a threat to her future husband.
It was the hushed hour of 1.30 am when Amitabh Bachchan, wife Jaya, daughter Shweta Nanda, brother Ajitabh and friend Amar Singh left Varanasi’s hotel Taj Ganges wrapped in a security blanket.
With them were Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya, who the family insists are not engaged to be married.
Received at the temple gates at 2 am, the illustrious guests were led to the seat of the still-asleep Vishwanath Baba where 16 hand-picked scholars from the various Kashipeeth Vedic schools were waiting for them.
A special yagna was held before conch shells signalled at 4 am that it was time for the deity to be woken up and the daily ritual of mangal aarti to begin.
The yagna — coincidentally named Abhishek Pujan — appears to have been conducted to ward off the “evil eye” of Mangal (Mars).
Aishwarya is said to be a manglik, meaning her horoscope is ruled by Mars, which can endanger the life of any non-manglik man – Abhishek is one – who marries her.
“After the Abhishek pujan (made up of the Rudrabhishek and Jalabhishek pujans), the family went into the Parvati kaksh where Aishwarya put on her forehead the sindoor the priests had given her from the idol of Parvati,” Varanasi district magistrate Rajiv Agarwal told The Telegraph.
“The Rudrabhishek pujan performed by the duo is usually done only by married couples,” said a temple priest who did not wish to be named.
Getting up early for a special yagna before the mangal aarti -- a normal day’s first ritual -- is nothing new for temple staff. Priests explained that it didn’t matter that the Abhishek pujan was done before Shiva woke up for the day, for the ritual wasn’t meant for the presiding deity.
Such special yagnas are expensive. The various forms of Rudrabhishek can cost anything between a few thousands and a lakh depending on the ingredients used. The fees of the scholars, too, varies.
The secret yagna, held in the forecourts next to the sanctum sanctorum, was conducted by longtime family astrologer Chandramauli Upadhyaya.
Upadhyaya told agencies: “They were here to perform certain prayers on the birth anniversary of Amitabh’s father Harivansh Rai.”
Asked about Aishwarya’s role in the family affair, he said: “I don’t know.”
But on Sunday, he had told a TV channel that Aishwarya was coming to get certain problems in her horoscope rectified.
Asked if Monday’s rituals would be enough, he had said “some more things need to be done” but declined to be specific.
Sources said further rituals in Varanasi are unlikely in the near future, but the family has been told to repeat some of them in Mumbai.
Upadhyaya is learnt to have also suggested ways to cast off the evil eye of Mars looming on Amitabh himself, who is now under mangal dasha. Amitabh must plant a khaid sapling at the southern corner of Jalsa, the Bachchans’ Juhu bungalow, and water it daily.
After the yagna, the family sat down at the sanctum sanctorum’s three doors for the two-hour mangal aarti while a security ring around the temple held the media at bay.
Aishwarya, Jaya and Amar sat at one door, Amitabh and Abhishek at another and Ajitabh and Shweta at a third.
Aarti over, they headed for the Sankatmochan temple for another round of prayers, and this time the paparazzi could have their fill.
Back at the hotel, the family is learnt to have tasted the town’s famed jalebis and khasta kachouris, made specially for the VVIP guests, before leaving for Mumbai around noon.