The fact is that the tradition of the land and temperament of the Hindus adhere to the concept of equal respect for religions & philosophies. However, politics prevented the assimilation of Muslims, which should have been a natural course of history. This historical tradition of evolution is defined as Indianization. Guruji says it does not mean converting other religionists into Hindus. He unambiguously and succinctly defined the concept as follow :
“Let us realise and believe that we are all children of this soil coming from the same stock, that our great forefathers were one, and that our aspirations are also one. This is all. I believe, the meaning of Indianisation.”
The opposition to the very connotation and concept is astonishing. He says, “It seems that this sacred country, immortal nation is a victim of some curse otherwise instead of showing repugnance to this very word it would have been welcomed and appreciated.” (Guruji VII: 356)
The problem arises because Indian Muslims show affinity with aggressors and identify with them. Guruji makes a distinction between aggressors and Indian Muslims, “the aggressors were foreigners and have nothing in common with the Muslims here. Let our Muslims here say that they are of this land and the past aggressors and their aggressions are not part of their heritage.”(G2000: 493) He is not demeaning Muslims but it is a demand for cultural regeneration of Muslims. Indianisation means owning India’s past beyond religious history and profile. Guruji presents Indonesian model before the Indian Muslims. Indonesia where majority professes Islam and controls society and politics have Hindu names (like Sukarna, Kartikeya.) They worship Ganesh and Saraswati, read with reverence Ramayana. However the Indian Muslims adopt Arabian instead of Indianised names. He says. “After all Indonesia is a big Muslim country. Yet Muslims have not been cut off from the tradition, culture and language. They have adopted names, like Sukarma, Ratnadevi. Does it mean they cease to be Muslims? But in India the first thing for a convert is to adopt the Arabic name. This is substantiated by the following example. In Perayur in Mudarai district (Tamilnadu) some villagers embraced Islam in 1984 and 1994. Mathu Karuppiah became Saddam Hussain in 1984.
Indianization is not at all dilution of one’s faith. It is a creation of motivating force for cultural unity and loyalty to the Motherland. To consider it as superimposition of Hinduism on Muslims shows lamentable lack of understanding the cultural assimilation and its consequences in Indian history. Guruji says, “I have no quarrel with any class, community or sect wanting to maintain its identity so long as that identity does not detract from its patriotic feeling.
Excerpt from the book ” Shri Guruji and Indian Muslims ”
The 30th President of America Calvin Coolidge once said, “A nation that forgets its heroes will itself soon be forgotten.” and our nation is guilty of this crime. Indian History is perhaps more about the missing pages about Nationalist Heroes, whose lives should have been a must read for all Indian. Yes, bulk of the blame lies with Marxist propagandist, sorry historians, but can we completely absolve ourselves for remaining inert?
Sri Aurobindo Ghosh, Subhash Chandra Bose and Veer Savarkar were the few prominent ones whom the British dreaded for their revolutionary thoughts and armed struggle. Unfortunately, the same narrative continued even after Independence under the dispensation of Nehru and ecosystem of Left-Liberals.
Albeit propaganda has its own limitations. Savarkar’s thoughts and ideas have again started capturing imagination of thinking class but in popular memory and discourse, Savarkar still remains either maligned or ignored. A new generation of scholars, writers are now attempting a course-correction in their own humble ways.
The story of Savarkar and his nationalism goes back to his childhood days, when the hanging of Chapekar brothers by British govt in 1890’s traumatized the young Savarkar, who would vow before Goddess Durga that he would strive to ensure Bharat is independent from the clutches of foreign occupation.
The seeds of patriotism sown in childhood days were blossoming into a plant that would grow up into a giant banyan tree. Savarkar traveled to England to study Law on a scholarship and his revolutionary activities started to take shape. He was arrested in London in 1910 on charges of inciting revolt and violence against the British and was deported back to India. What followed was 50 years of imprisonment and transportation for Life to the dreaded Cellular jail in Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
Apart from being a true Nationalist, Savarkar was a historian par excellence. In 1908, at the young age of 26, Savarkar wrote the magnum opus ‘The First War of Independence – 1857’. The book remains the most detailed account of the uprising of Indians against the ruthless British rulers. He successfully established the fact that the uprising was a ‘War of Independence’ and not a mere ‘Sepoy Mutiny’ as recorded by the British historains.
Savarkar wrote “The history of the tremendous Revolution that was enacted in the year 1857 has never been written in this scientific spirit by an author, Indian or foreign.” The book became the inspiration for Indian revolutionaries.
‘My Transportation for Life’ by Savarkar was published in the weekly “Kesari” of the venerated Late Lokmanya Tilak in a series during 1925-26. Savarkar writes about Hindu Muslim relationship in his book Hindu Pad Padshahi, that while the historic enmity between Islamist aggression and Hindu resistance should not be projected into current normal Hindu-Muslim relations but the lessons from history, however, should not be forgotten.
Savarkar was also emphatic and critical about the existing fault lines in Hindu society. He was a fierce rationalist and rejected the birth based varna system. He worked to build places of worship for people from all sections of society. As a Social reformer, he worked to eradicate many issues ailing the Hindu society like accountability, cast based divisions among Hindus, and proselytization of Hindus to Islam. The fact that there were no ways for Hindu brethren to return back to Dharmic fold agitated him immensely.
Savarkar gave the country the political philosophy of Hindutva and coinage of the term ‘Hindutva’ in his book ‘Hindutva: Who Is a Hindu?’ (1923). He said those who regard this land of Bharat, spread between the river Sindhu in the north and the ocean Sindhu Sagar, Indian Ocean in the south, as their Pitrubhumi (fatherland) and Punyabhumi (holy land) are Hindus.
In the age of political correctness, the fact remains that it was Savarkar who gave Hindutva a definitive shape and without a shred if doubt he remains the philosophical and intellectual fountainhead of Hindu political renaissance.
In the later years Savarkar wrote ‘Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History’ to counter the then accepted view that India’s history was a saga of continuous slavery and defeats by external powers and regimes inimical to culture of the land.
The name ‘Savarkar’ is synonymous with courage, bravery, might and patriotism. True to his name, he was an inspiration to many revolutionaries of Indian’s freedom struggle, starting from Bhagat Singh, RSS founder Dr Hedgewar, Subhash Chandra Bose, among others.
In spite of being a self-proclaimed atheist, Savarkar was a true karma yogi who followed the principles of the Gita in his life.
Britishers confined Savarkar’s spirit to the cells of Cellular jail for over a decade but there is no bigger ignominy to patriots like Savarkar when the nation forgets or ignores the sacrifices of people who laid down their lives for the nation’s greater good.
Veer Savarkar led the country through troubled times. He unapologetically united the Hindus under one flag and gave them an ideology for ages to come. Savarkar said, for a nation to survive it has to reclaim its past. “The nation that has no consciousness of its past has no future.”
The only fitting tribute for Savarkar in the 21st century would be realisation of the nation about the reality of Bharat being a Hindu Rashtra and the emphatic declaration of the same.
It is not mere coincidence that Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh that are at the epicentre of the activities which form the subject matter of this write-up, have been hotspots of conversion activities.
The Jharkhand state government recently passed a bill with majority that deems Sarana Dharma followers as non-Hindu and claims “Sarana” to be a separate religion. At around the same time Andhra Pradesh government declared that with the view that the members of Scheduled Tribes are non-Hindu they will be listed as just “Scheduled Tribe” in the 2021 census. These developments are an indicator of a lack of realisation of Bharat and correct understanding of Hindutva (Hinduness), which is combined with an insatiable hunger for political power on the part of these decision-makers. Hindutva is not some religion. Even the honourable Supreme Court of the country honoured and established the fact that it is a view of life. One hallmark of this view of life is that it is based in spirituality. Notwithstanding language and worship-related differences, countless lineages of people born in the Bharatiya sub-continent have identified themselves as Hindu from time immemorial. Deep identification with this view of life has led to a distinct outlook and personal character of these people.
“Truth is one, but the wise call it by different names.” This shloka from the Rig Veda means the truth or god is one but there may be many paths to its realization and all paths are equal. This tenet of the Hindu view of life was well-ingrained in the Hindu psyche and the people here have been practising this for long. Jews, Parsis and Syrian Christians fleeing religious persecution and conversion in their countries of origin sought asylum in different kingdoms of Bharat, at various points in time. The itinerants, though ethnically, religiously and linguistically alien here, the treatment given by the kings or the locals who granted them asylum were equally liberal and respectful. They were welcomed, accepted and nurtured within each of those geographies. This behaviour was an outcome of their adherence to the Hindu view of life. To see unity in diversity is the hallmark of this view of life. We’ve held that one Spirit (Chaitanya) manifests in different life forms and therefore the ability to see the underlying oneness among seemingly apparent diversities is the default view of Bharat. This is why diversity is not perceived as differences here. Bharat has the unmatched capacity to take all the apparently diverse expressions together while protecting the uniqueness of each of those units while assimilating them into one cohesive whole. The third uniqueness of Bharat is the recognition of the fact that every soul (man or woman) is potentially divine. The very goal of human life is to manifest the divinity within to ultimately merge with the Supreme Divinity. Different people may walk different paths to manifest their divinity and each of those paths may be called their religion or faith. The body of thought with an amalgamation of these unique qualities has been popularly perceived as “Hindutva” around the world. Whether someone refers to it as Bharatiya, Sanatan, Indic or any other name, the essence is the same.
Now the question is which among these unique features is un-relatable or offensive to the Sarana people or other Scheduled Tribes?
The first President of independent Bharat, Dr S. Radhakrishnan referred to Hindutva as “Commonwealth of All Religions”. Swami Vivekananda in his 1893 Chicago address at the World Parliament of Religions described Hindutva as the “Mother of all religions”.
The view that sees diverse people as one, that accepts and assimilates different paths and faiths is what Hindutva is. This civilisation that predates 10,000 years has seen people worship different deities at varied points in time. To be able to keep pace with evolving faith-based norms and to accept changes is what Hindutva is all about. Swami Vivekananda propounded this very fact by reciting this shloka in his famous 1893 Chicago address.
Meaning: O Almighty! Innumerable paths lead one to you—Sankhya, Vaishnav, Shaiva, Vedic ways of life, etc. As per their orientation people choose any one path, but like many rivers eventually converge into one sea, all these paths lead to the same, Eternal Truth. It is true that regardless of the path we choose we can all realise the Divine.
The beauty of this Bharatiya view of life is that it recognises the fact that in tandem with man’s continuous evolution he is sure to discover and worship newer deities. Nurturing the old while making space for newer deities is Hindutva.
Gurudev Rabindranath Thakur explicitly stated: “To experience unity in diversity and to establish unity amongst variety—this is the inherent Dharma (the spirit) of Bharat. Bharatvarsh never interpreted diversities as hostility and, neither considers the outsider as an enemy. Thus, without sacrificing our own, without destroying others, Bharat aspires to assign a distinct place to everyone in one vast ecosystem. Thus, it is willing to accept all ways of life, and acknowledges the greatness of each in its own way.
“As Bharatvarsh possesses this trait, we would never get frightened by visualising any society as our opponent. With every new dissension, we inevitably will grow. The Hindu, Bauddha, Muslim and Christian would not fight with each other and die in Bharat. Rather they would find a balance, a meeting point here. This balance will not be non-Hindu, but very specifically Hindu. However foreign may be its body parts, its life and spirit will of Bharat.”
This holistic approach and assimilation are intrinsic to the Hindu view of life. Given this definition, what deems Sarana and Scheduled Tribe members as radically distinct from Hindutva is a mystery. Because Hindutva does not emphasise on the Almighty to be one definitive form, rather appreciating the common thread underlying all manifestations of the Divine is Hindutva.
Some years ago, a survey was conducted in North-Eastern states in the Assam region that has a sizable population of the Scheduled Tribes. Representatives of 18 Scheduled Tribes present at the conference expounded their responses over: 1. Their concept of God. 2. Their view of Earth. 3. What do they pray for? 4. Their concepts of virtue and sin. 5. Their opinion over faith-based practices of those from other religions. And lastly, 6. If they wish to compel followers of other faiths and religions to forcefully convert to their religion.
Their responses were consistent with the views of a common Hindu living elsewhere in the country. It was surprising for the surveyors to note that despite apparent language differences their beliefs are more or less similar and reflective of the age-old spiritual tenets of the Hindu belief system. That which unifies the diverse religious and faith-based beliefs and practices of this geo-cultural unit of Bharat is Hindutva and our spirituality-centric holistic, unifying and all-encompassing Hindu view of life.
The Semitic basis of Abrahamic religions like Christianity and Islam prevents those religions from having a similar view of human life. In fact those religions divide the human race into binaries, which cannot coexist in harmony. It is for the same reason that these religions have a bloody, violent, deceptive and greed-ridden history of conversion. Among the tribals of the North-Eastern states of Bharat also the Christian Church propaganda to impose the view that those tribes are non-Hindu has been underway for a long time now, first with the support of the British colonial ruler and later by those in power after our Independence. This is the direct cause of the emergence and strengthening of separatist militant groups in the region. As part of their agenda, they lured the people of the land with the temptation of a new and separate identity and uprooted their cultural roots to start “soul harvesting”. But the tribals of the region have understood that this barter with the Christian missionaries may be too costly. It can lead to a complete disappearance and annihilation of the rich, faith-based realisations of their ancestors. They also realise assimilating with the Hindu society will prevent such a fate and in this way they can preserve and pass on their unique customs and traditions to the future generations. This belief is taking a firm hold over their consciousness with each passing day and has resulted in the emergence of indigenous faith movements like “Donyi Polo” and “Seng Khasi” in those areas. Leaders of groups like the Sarana and other Scheduled Tribes must learn from the experiences of the organisers of these indigenous faith movements reconnecting to their roots so as to preserve their unique cultural and faith-based practices and further enrich their culture and people.
With “ ” meaning, “the entire creation is habitated/dwelled by the Supreme Spirit or Isha” as the basis of faith mankind invoked, venerated and worshipped the formless Divine Truth even at the time when gods and goddesses hadn’t yet been personified. Thereafter that same truth began to be pursued by the means of worship of various gods with a definite form. However, the worship of nature and that of the five basic elements is eternal. Many self-realised men or so-called Avatars added newer paths to the list of faiths, yet the worship of nature in the form of worship of earth, water, fire, air and space continued. Therefore, nature-worship is eternal, only newer practices and dimensions emerged with the march of time. Nature worship also features in several forms in the Hindu culture. It is for this reason that Hindu society sees itself as one with those who strictly worship only nature. But certain elements are bent on projecting the variations in practices as differences and disillusioning people.
In fact it is not only true of the Sarana or the Scheduled Tribes. For the last several years, organised drives to brainwash members of many communities are underway across Bharat into believing that they are not Hindu. Operations to splinter Hindu society are being carried out at an international level by distorting and erasing from people’s memory the propensity of Hindutva to appreciate oneness in diversity, and instead highlighting and misrepresenting the diversities among different faiths as differences among people. If Hindus remain united, society remains united and hence the country remains united. And the country will progress only if it is united. All those elements who have a vested interest in preventing the country from progressing are engrossed in the fragmentation of Bharat.
Several fact-based, well-researched books that illuminate the details about such efforts (breaking India forces) and drives are available in the market. One key player in that scheme is the Christian church. Their aim—to increase the number of believers in Bharat by converting more people—finds an explicit mention on the websites of all their proselytising agencies. Some agencies that have assumed fake identities are working to first create disillusion, then opposition and then fragmentation in the society, which would ultimately result in separatism. They connote conversion as “harvesting”. These organised efforts of “harvesting” have been ongoing since the British era. But Bharat’s cultural roots run deep and are strong. Many ascetics and enlightened people took to reigniting the spiritual and cultural conscience of our society from time-to-time. No tribe or caste is devoid of the inheritance of such knowledge, as such ascetics were born in every tribe and caste that ever lived on this land to share the nectar of their realisations. It is for this reason that the conversion efforts of missionaries have been comparatively less fruitful in Bharat, thus compelling those agencies to adopt newer tactics to fulfil their agenda. The elements that aim to fragment Bharat work closely and cohesively to actualise each of their agendas. Incessant efforts of the ascetics and social reformers to facilitate socio-religious and spiritual and cultural enlightenment, generation-after-generation, has resulted in a firm cultural foundation of the society. Therefore, successful conversion requires uprooting the deep religio-cultural roots of the potential converts. Where the foundation is weak and roots bared loose, harvesting is easier. Therefore, brainwashing drives wherein false and unreasonable claims are being concocted. We will all have to remain alert and aware of these dangers.
Famous Bharatiya poet, Prasoon Joshi, writes in one of his poems:
“Gather the soil around you, oh tree,
Else you will wither.
The deeper your roots,
Greener your leaves will be.” It is not mere coincidence that the two states that are at the epicentre of the activities which form the subject matter of this write-up have been hotspots of conversion activities. Uprooting is imperative for harvesting. If we see and analyse the forces working on this agenda and their funding sources, one can understand that creating such misconceptions for uprooting various groups from their cultural moorings is part of a larger conspiracy hatched over a period of time.
Dr Manmohan Vaidya is Sah Sarkaryawah (Joint General Secretary), Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
Swami Kamalananda Bharati is the founder of Hindu Devalaya Parirakshana Samiti, an organisation dedicated to ‘Jeernoddaara’ (restoration and revival) of Hindu temples. Swamiji has for the past few years been one of those at the forefront of the public movement against the Andhra Pradesh Hindu Religious Endowment Department’s total mismanagement and corrupt administration of Hindu temples, including the renowned Tirupati Balaji Devasthanam by the State Government.
To create awareness on the state of our mandirs, he has undertaken three padayatras, covering 8000 villages and totalling a distance of over 10,000 Km, in Andhra Pradesh, visiting each district and each village during these yatras. Swamiji is also at the forefront of anti-conversion work in Andhra Pradesh.
In an interview to Organiser, Swamiji talks about the threats to Hindu temple traditions, the forces and his work to counter forces and the future course of action for Hindus. Excerpts:
Q.What according to you is the biggest threat to Hindu temple traditions today?
With respect to conducting temple rituals and following traditions as per our Agama Shashtras and also the way temples are managed, we have to look at them in various angles. One of the threats to follow the age-old traditions in our temples is the interference by politically motivated temple management. The Government department’s aim has been to alter traditions and replace them with new rituals that fetch more money. Both officials of the Endowments Department and few politicians are involved in such activities. The next threat is from the Christian missionaries. They used to operate out of public glare earlier, but from the last decade, they are attacking our temple traditions openly. For instance, in Narasapuram they attacked the main murti at Shiva Temple, in Bheemavaram they attacked Bhagwan Krishna’s Murthy, in Chittoor, they desecrated the Grama Devata temples in 3 villages. In Guntur too they attacked Hindus and attempted to build a Church over a Hindu temple. In Kurnool, they forced the government to stop money that was being given to manage a temple from the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) funds. Hindu temples in almost all districts in Andhra Pradesh are under attack from Christian missionaries, and they are doing it openly. On the other hand, the Islamists do not attack Hindu temples or traditions openly, but they target those who follow them, either through Love Jihad or covert operation through educational and personality development programmes. But the real critical issue with the Hindu society is that most do not identify themselves proudly as Hindus. It is also true that most among Hindus stay away from temples that are in their towns and villages. It is one thing to undertake a pilgrimage to Sabarimala or Tirupati which most do. But an average Hindu is not connected emotionally to the temple near him/her. This was the primary concern of my ‘Sampoorna Grama Yatra’ where Sampoorna Devayala Sandarshana Grama was our aim. I visited every village and visit all the temples in the village and get every Hindu family to visit all the temples in their village and connect them with it. Subsequently, we also undertook a Rath Yatra called the Sampoorna Devayala Sandarshana Rath Yatra with the same aim.
Q.You have travelled thousands of kilometres covering more than 8,000 villages. What are the threats villagers face in maintaining their traditions?
The biggest issue with the temples today is that there is an enormous shortage of archakas for our temples in towns and villages. Today 95 per cent of the villages have no archakas in their temples. The archaka system that was prevalent has died down due to migration of people to cities and other places in search of different jobs, and no one is ready to take up the job of the archakas. Due to this, temples in villages are lying vacant without any pooja being performed, and villagers too do not visit them. There are villages where ten temples are closed due to non-availability of archakas. It is such villages that are the target of Christian missionaries. They have built 6-7 Churches in such villages, and each church has well-paid pastors. But there are Bhajana Mandalis in many villages where along with Bhajans, people involve in Kolaatam (Dandiya) kind of traditional activities. Those who conduct Bhajans in villages come from one particular caste. Similarly, among the Scheduled Caste communities also, Bhajan Mandalis is very much prevalent, and it is lead by the people from the same community. I can say Hindutva is alive in villages due to such Bhajan Mandalis. People irrespective of gender, caste, take part in Bhajans and it is a platform that unites all Hindus.
Here I need to stress the difference between Hindus in urban and rural areas in maintaining our traditions. During the last 30 years, there is a change in our villages. The income of villagers has increased due to which their quality of life has also become better. Consequently, they have started taking an interest in our Dharma, temples, traditions and are involving themselves more in them. The point to be noted here is that those who are building temples and managing them in our villages in recent times are the people who are from the Backward Classes and SC/ST communities. I have witnessed this in Andhra and Telangana. I had also observed that when they remained within their caste-based professions, their income levels were low and they did not progress. But once they went out of their castes and joined new professions, they earned well which also leads to huge improvement in their quality of life. They then started going to temples, involved in building temples, managing them, undertook yatras and wearing malas, etc. Those families that did not even have proper clothes to wear and stood outside temples only to receive their share of prasad have today progressed to a level where they are funding temple renovation, wearing good clothes and take part in temple festivities with pride and honour. Historically too, whenever there has been economic progress in our backward communities, the strength and spirit of the Hindu society too has always increased. Villagers primarily have faith in their grama devata followed by their kula devata. Each caste also has a jati devata. Villagers duly perform pooja to their devatas with a lot of faith and devotion.
For example, Vishwabrahmins worship Vishwakarma, Vaishyas worship Kannikaparameshwari, Goudas worship Renuka Yellamma, Chamars perform pooja to Arundhati and Mathamma Devi, Mahars worships Channakeshava. Likewise, each caste worships its devatas. The faith they have in their grama devata or kula or jati devata has played a significant role in in clebrating diverse traditions of the Hindu fold. Villagers worship their devatas with lot of devotion and also a source of social cohesion. Villagers spend huge money in pooja festivities of their devathas. Mavulamma Talli (Devi) is the grama devatha of a village in the Bheemavaram municipality. Just the Sabzi Mandi near the temple here donates lakhs of rupees for the upkeep of the temple dedicated to Mavulamma Devi. It is in this way the local communities support and build temples of their devatas. The Grama Devata and the Kula Devata are like Brahmastra and Pashupatastra against religious conversions in villages. In cities and towns too, not all temples are well managed as thought. In several colonies in cities, temples suffer from similar issues of lack of archakas or funds. Many temples get enough funds only for basic pooja and for the archakas. Only few temples which get good number of devotees can get good funds for their regular activities and management.
Q.If temples are freed from Government control, do you think Hindus can take control of the temples and manage it well?
Firstly, we have to get all those trustees of temple management trusts which are well-managed by Hindus themselves and are not under the purview of the Endowments Department of the Governments. We have to take them into confidence. We have to note their experiences, their dedication, their values and the way they manage their temples. All these have to be laid before the Hindu society. There may not be many such temples but we have to do this to educate our society. For instance, there are about 80 temples in Andhra alone which are managed by the Ganapati Sachchidananda Peetha of Mysore. All rituals and traditions are followed as per their own norms. The purohits of all the 80 temples are trained in Agama shashtras in the Veda Pathashalas of the Ganapati Sachchidananda Ashram in Mysore. The committee members of these temple trusts go to Mysore every year and present their reports which is evaluated by the Ashram. This is a model that is already in front of us which can be emulated. Today people give sufficient money or donations for temple jewellery and other causes. But it has become difficult to find dedicated and trustworthy people to manage temple trusts. We need a process to find such people and train them in managing temple affairs. We should institute something like a ‘Temple Management course’ to find and train people who will become adept at managing temple affairs and administer the temples as per our Agama shastras. They have to be trained well about our shashtras, mahakavyas, traditional lifestyle, itihasa of Bharat and the temple itself. This has to be done professionally as a mainstream college course.
Q.How have your efforts enabled people to follow their traditions in their temples?
Today all are discussing temples, their traditions and threats. But when we started our movement in 2001-02, not many were bothered or even heard us. By 2006-07, due to the efforts of our temple movement, people and political parties were educated about it and in 2007 they took a unanimous decision to amend the Endowments Act. I have visited thousands of villages where I teach people about the importance of the temple and its traditions. I talk to people about the need to safeguard their temples due to which many have come forward to help us in our movement. Today, most mathadhipathis, sants, small and big Hindu organisations speak about saving temples both in India and abroad. But the efforts are still individualistic, and everyone is forwarding their memorandums to the Government which are different from each other. The Government cites the differences in memorandums and brushes aside their demands, which is exactlty what they want. However, if we all come together, arrive at a common minimum programme and submit one single memorandum after due deliberation, the Endowments Department and Government will be forced to listen and act on our demands. It is only due to such concerted efforts that we will get lasting solutions. Between 2007-09, I undertook a padayatra of 10,000 kms in 30 districts of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh in 3 years. More important than the kilometres I walked is the way the padayatra was conducted. During the yatra, I visited every temple in a village by involving all the resident Hindus of the village. We together performed a parikrama of all the village temples like the Shri Rama temples, Shiva Temples, Grama Devatha temples, Kula devatha temples, Vana Devatha, etc. Through this parikrama, I was able to connect all Hindus of the village to all the temples, including those they didn’t visit earlier. I have also observed that Hindu organisations and sant samaj takes up one issue today and forgets about it later. Then again after sometime they take up some other issue. If it’s temples today, it will be something else tomorrow. I suggest that all organisations and concerned people take up only one issue at a time, like the issue of temples now, and work on it for five years or so until we have found a permanent solution. For example, if we take up the save temples movement, we should all work on it for five years continuously, taking into consideration various aspects like, saving temple traditions, temple lands, utilisation of temple funds, taking temples out of government control, education for temple management, etc. Only by working together by being focused, without other distractions, will we be able to tackle all angles related to the single issue and arrive at a solution. I have been fighting many policies of the Endowments Department of Andhra and Telangana for the past 15 years. Due to our movement, the government brought in an amendment in 2007 to the Endowments Act, which mandated that the archakas be paid a proper salary. Earlier to our movement, the archakas were getting a pittance and even that was not guaranteed. Archakas in rural areas get Rs.5000 and those in urban areas get Rs.10,000 per month under the ‘Doop Deep Naivedyam Scheme’ of the Government after our continuous struggle. I have also been fighting legally to safeguard temple lands and have found success in all cases we have fought. Even in case of TTD, I have been successful in forcing the Government to make many changes in the way they run the affairs of the temple. For instance, the Left Unions and politically affiliated officials tried to stop the age old practice of people from the ‘Yadava’ community to be the first to have the darshan of Venkateshwara after the doors are opened every day. We have been able to force the TTD to continue with the tradition. But there are many machinations afoot to create Sabarimala kind of anarchy in Tirumala temple too. When I worked for saving temples, I focused only on temples where I visited temples both in rural and urban areas and talked to all stakeholders, approached government, filed cases in courts and worked continuously until we found a solution. We involved people in the process by making them understand that the issues related to temples are issues of the entire society too and their important role in the same. I have been successful in this endeavour. Today, due to our movement may youths from towns and villages have come forward and are volunteering to work towards reviving temples, safeguard temple lands or even to monitor utilisation of temple funds and resources.
Q.Hindu traditions and anything sacred is the target of the anti-Hindu brigade?
There have been concerted attempts to undermine or scuttle the ancient Hindu traditions. Rajahmundry Ghats and Nellore lake issue are the most recent attacks by Evangelists and Jihadists. Hindu organisations have been fighting back each time. More than 10-15 Hindu organisations like ‘Swahikti’, Dharma Jagran, Hindu Chetana Vedika, etc., are working to counter these forces. We are working to safeguard and revive temples. Many Dharmacharyas too are working seriously on several issues. Hindu samaj is ready to face them but we also need the political will to counter them. It is in the best interests of the Hindu society if all Hindu organisations come together, discuss and deliberate on these issues and chalk out a strategy and work concertedly.
It is not a time for chest-thumping or triumphalism. But isn’t it time to rejoice?
What the Ayodhya movement overcame was not just the opposition of certain Muslim groups, but countless hurdles put up by the courts as well as overzealous secular shenanigans. Not a small thing, given the fact that Hagia Sofia cathedral in Istanbul, in contrast, has been turned once again into a mosque, and Jerusalem is still struggling to decide which history to accept.
Somnath to Ayodhya is journey of an awakened civilisation. It was a struggle of five centuries. Hindus never accepted Babur’s commander Mir Baqi’s vandalism of the temple at the sacred site in Ayodhya, considered the birthplace of Bhagwan Ram. As happened in parts of Europe during the crusades, the site kept changing from temple to mosque to temple. The last time was in 1949 when idols of Ram durbar appeared under the domes of the dysfunctional mosque. Since then it once again became a functioning temple. Another seven decades of wait has finally resulted in the dream of millions of Hindus coming true. The abode of Shri Ram is again springing to life with majesty and magnificence.
It is not a time for chest-thumping or triumphalism. But isn’t it time to rejoice? What the Ayodhya movement overcame was not just the opposition of certain Muslim groups, but countless hurdles put up by the courts as well as overzealous secular shenanigans. Not a small thing, given the fact that Hagia Sofia cathedral in Istanbul, in contrast, has been turned once again into a mosque, and Jerusalem is still struggling to decide which history to accept.
Certainly, the construction of the Ram Janmaboomi temple is a glorious epitome of a civilisational reassertion. “So, new people come up and they begin to look at their world and from being great acceptors, they have become questioners. And I think we should simply try to understand this passion. It is not an ignoble passion at all. It is men trying to understand themselves. Do not dismiss them. Treat them seriously”, warned Sir Vidia Naipaul, the Nobel laureate talking about this reassertion in the mid-1990s.
Renowned British historian Arnold Toynbee had taunted the Hindus four decades before Naipaul commended them. “Aurangzeb’s purpose in building those three mosques (Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura) was the same intentionally offensive political purpose that moved the Russians to build their Orthodox cathedral in the city centre at Warsaw. Those mosques were intended to signify that an Islamic government was reigning supreme, even over Hinduism’s holiest of holy places. Perhaps the Poles were really kinder in destroying the Russians’ self-discrediting monument in Warsaw than you have been in sparing Aurangzeb’s mosques”, said Toynbee in a speech at Delhi.
The Orthodox cathedral that Toynbee referred to was Alexander Nevsky Cathedral built by the Russians in the Polish capital Warsaw. When Poland unshackled itself from Czarist Russia after the First World War, the cathedral was demolished by the Polish authorities in the mid-1920s. It took 18 years to complete the cathedral for the Russians – built between 1894 and 1912, but it didn’t survive even 15 years. Intense debate preceded the demolition. Poles saw it not as a religious monument but as a symbol of Russian domination. Like the pseudo-secularists in India, there were a few voices opposing the demolition, mostly from the Orthodox community. They were contemptuously dismissed as ‘Cathedralists’. Not that the Poles were against Orthodox Christianity. There were several other Orthodox churches in Poland. Many remnants of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral were later shifted to the Mary Magdalene Orthodox Cathedral in the Warsaw suburb.
Poles took less than 10 years after their freedom to remove the Orthodox cathedral. Indians had to wait much longer in the case of Ayodhya. There was a precedent though. The Somnath temple in Gujarat, that was looted and destroyed by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1024, had been restored in 1951 immediately after India’s independence. Its restoration had Gandhi’s blessings and the initiative came from Sardar Patel and K M Munshi. Gandhi’s only suggestion to Patel was that the reconstruction of the temple should happen with the funds collected from the people, not from the public exchequer.
Unfortunately, by the time the consecration happened, both Gandhi and Patel were no more. Prime Minister Nehru was opposed to the idea of the reconstruction of the Somnath temple. He first tried to dissuade Munshi. Munshi refused to heed. Nehru then tried to discourage President Rajendra Prasad from attending the consecration ceremony. “I believe in my religion and cannot cut myself away from it”, Rajendra Prasad bluntly told Nehru. Nehru then wrote to all the Chief Ministers stating that his government had nothing to do with the Somnath reconstruction and they too shouldn’t have anything to do with it.
The Somnath temple returned to its past glory on May 11, 1951, when it was inaugurated in a grand function. Dr Rajendra Prasad was present in person to witness the making of history. “The Somnath temple signifies that the power of reconstruction is always greater than the power of destruction”, he told in his address, adding “By rising from its ashes again, this temple of Somnath will proclaim to the world that no man and no power in the world can destroy that for which people have boundless faith and love in their hearts…”
Seventy years after Somnath, the same spirit is bringing Ayodhya to life. Sardar Patel was the prime mover of Somnath reconstruction. But he was not there when it finally happened. Ayodhya owes a lot to Ashok Singhal, but it will miss him on this historic occasion.
When Prime Minister Modi stands at Ayodhya, laying the first brick for the temple, it would be a symbolic reiteration of what Dr Rajendra Prasad had said at Somnath some 69 years ago: “Today, our attempt is not to rectify history. Our only aim is to proclaim anew our attachment to the faith, convictions and to the values on which our religion has rested since immemorial ages.”