Some hospitals have formal temples, others small shrines tucked away in corners, but the focus of attention for families desperately seeking succour at the BRD Medical College in Gorakhpur is a peepal tree that sprouted just a year ago.
The tree, which germinated on a banyan tree in the complex of the hospital — catapulted to national headlines with reports of nearly 70 children dying since August 7 — has been dubbed Brahma Baba, say locals.
It is an oasis of hope for those who bring their loved ones for treatment to the state-run hospital, dealing with cases of death and disease every day.
Faith and the need to believe in some form of divine intervention have spawned many stories about the tree, considered auspicious in Hinduism.
According to canteen workers at the hospital, the tree sprouted on its own about a year ago, instilling seeds of hope. Located a few meters from the canteen, families have left janeyus (sacred thread) and khadaus (wooden slippers) there. Earthen diyas, incense sticks and camphor are the other telltale signs of prayers at the site.
"Peepal is a tree associated with gods and divinity. From a little sapling, today we can see it growing into a tree," said Suresh Tiwari, who works in the canteen.
There has been a surge in offerings over the year, the 55-year-old added. Offerings can range between two or three per day to 10-15," he said.
In the past year, more than 5,000 janeus and khadaus have been donated as offerings by kin of patients who have recovered from their ailments, Tiwari said.
It's all about faith, said Basudeo Chaudhary, a priest at a temple a short distance away from the BRD Medical College. "Families and patients from economically weaker sections of society have a special regard for the tree. They consider it a saviour of life," said the 61-year-old.
There is something special about the tree, added Vijender Yadav, another worker at the canteen.
Once evening sets in, earthen lamps are lit, reminding people that they are barely hours away from another dawn, Yadav said.
Amongst those who believe that benediction from the tree has saved lives is Prabhu Kumar, a resident of Kushinagar district.
"My four-year-old niece Ragini was admitted here in July, and was hospitalised for almost 18 days after she complained of encephalitis-like symptoms. However, luck smiled on us and, thanks to divine intervention, it was not encephalitis," said the 22-year-old.
"In keeping in with tradition, today I offered incense sticks and camphor to the peepal tree thanking it for my niece being discharged from hospital," he said.
The high number of deaths of children in the hospital found mention in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Independence Day speech yesterday.
"A few days back, at a hospital, our innocent children died. In this entire time of distress and sadness, sympathies of 125 crore people of the country are with them," he said.
He also tweeted, "People of India stand shoulder to shoulder with those affected due to natural disasters & the tragedy in Gorakhpur."Suggest a correction