#1Mar 30th, 2007
British man, from Tooting, London, is a Hindu GODDESS in India
Tooting man is Hindu goddess
By JULIE MOULT
and JOHN ASKILL
and from PAMELA TIMMS in India
March 30, 2007
JOBLESS Steve Cooper has found work at last — as an Indian GODDESS who thousands of Hindus believe can cure their infertility.
Pilgrims head to a remote jungle temple to be blessed by Steve, 32, from Tooting, South West London.
He places his third finger on their foreheads and mutters: “The goddess is here”.
Surrounded by followers, Steve told The Sun: “I love being here. I don’t miss anything about Tooting.”
He is regarded as a reincarnation of Bahucharaji, the patron of Indian eunuchs. He has been at the temple in the northern state of Gujarat for three months.
Every time Steve walks through the local village, people flock to greet him, shouting in Hindi: “Jay Bahuchar Ma” (“The goddess is here”).
Gender bender Steve calls himself Pamela. But his devotees have dubbed him Prema — Hindi for Divine Love.
Devotion ... followers in India flock to see
Prema, also known as Pamela and, er, Steve
He said: “All my life I just didn’t fit.
“Now I’ve found my life. I plan to stay for good. I couldn’t leave now.
“They revere me and believe I am a goddess. I feel what they feel in me.”
Steve was living in a tiny flat in Tooting until deciding on his new career after Indian friends told him he looked and moved just like the ancient goddess.
As soon as he arrived at the temple he was treated as a deity.
He now gets up at dawn and dresses in a holy saffron robe before beginning the daily ritual of blessings.
Steve said: “I feel as if I have come home. I was meant to be here. When I first came to the temple, I sat down and smiled. Everything fell into place.
“After about 20 minutes everyone crowded around and I naturally started blessing people. When I touch people I connect with them.”
Hindu pilgrims have no doubts about his powers. When we asked Bhanu Barot why she was so keen to receive Prema’s blessing, she said, simply: “Because she is a goddess.”
Another woman, Rekha, said she had travelled for days to be blessed by Steve. She added: “My sister-in-law came here and she got pregnant immediately.
“I am hoping the same will happen for me after receiving the blessing of the goddess.”
But last night Steve’s stunned brother Justin Cooper said: “He’s just an ordinary guy.
Healing ... left, Steve uses his Hindu 'powers', middle, Steve's tattoo depicts
the goddess and, right, Hindu elder pays his respects to Steve
“He never told me anything about this.”
Steve now follows a strict vegetarian diet and sleeps in a spartan room. He lives among 80 eunuchs — castrated men — at the temple. But some have their doubts that he is equipped to be a goddess.
Goddess ... the real Bahucharaji
A eunuch called Sudha said: “He is a fake. I checked and he still has a *****.
“He is a male so can’t be a goddess. He shouldn’t give blessings.” Steve, who has a tattoo of the goddess on his arm, just insisted: “I am both male and female.”
He grew up in Shepshed, Leics, with brother Justin.
Unmarried printer Justin, 36, who still lives in the town, said: “I last saw him about four years ago.
“He had developed a fascination with Hinduism and was visiting temples in London.
“Then about eight months ago he sent me a text saying he was off to India — then another arrived saying he was loving it.
“But we had no idea of the role he was playing.”
Followers of the goddess Bahucharaji Mata believe she was once a princess who castrated her husband because he showed no interest in sex.
Sita Ben Rawal, a trustee of the temple, said of Steve: “People think it is the power of the goddess Bahucharaji that has driven her to come here.
“I’m surprised someone from London would want to come here but we are very happy.”
Vanraj Thakor, who manages the temple guest house where Steve lives, added: “Even here, pilgrims come to receive blessings. It’s incredible.”
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