INDIA, February 5, 2013 (BBC by Narayan Bareth): There is a remote and unique temple - a virtually undiscovered spiritual centre in the striking border wilderness between the states of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan - where you can get a written certificate for holiness. Gautameshwar is a pilgrim centre where you can submerge yourself in holy waters, wash away your sins and get a certificate to prove you are cleansed.
All Hindus believe that a dip in holy waters washes away sin and many from across the country travel to pilgrim towns like Haridwar and Pushkar to take the holy dip. But this is not simply about piety. Here it is also about holding together the fabric of local tribal communities.
People ostracized in their own villages come here to take a dip and then they can take back the certificate to prove themselves free of sin. It is possible to get a certificate in other places to prove you have partaken in certain prayers or taken a holy dip - but this appears to be quite an unusual kind of document.
It is a "centuries old tradition" and thousands of devotees come to offer prayers and get rid of their sins, says officiating priest Jagdish Sharma. Since 1947 six priests who serve at the temple have kept records of all the certificates issued.
This centre - dedicated to Lord Shiva - has been described as "the Haridwar for tribals". The site has a water tank called the Mandakini Kund, where people take a bath to purify their body and soul. The legend here goes that a sage named Gautam was blamed for the death of an animal and cursed as a result of that.
"Gautam came here and prayed to the gods. So the River Ganges appeared here in Mandakini's form - a tributary of Ganga. He took a holy bath and found he was free from the curse. Ever since then people have been coming here to wash away their sins," Jagdish Sharma said when relating the rest of the story.