Mail Today Article: A Controversial Seer Who Took Part in Quit India Movement
TOI and Mail Today Report
Jul 3, 2014
An unusual confrontation is building up ever since Dwarka Shankaracharya, Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati, ran down the followers of Shirdi Sai Baba, saying they ought not to worship the 19th century mystic who was no god, and remove his photographs and idols from temples where he gets the pride of place with Hindu deities.
The 90-year-old pontiff's comments hurt a legion of Sai devotees. In Varanasi, protests broke out soon after the Shankaracharya's observations, while the 'Sanatani' followers of the seer hit the streets of the temple town in the seer's favour.
Sai devotees burnt Shankaracharya's effigy and scores of 'Dandi Sanyasins' (staff-wielding Sadhus) supported the pontiff and sat on fast condemning filing of case against the seer by Sai worshippers.
The Shankaracharya, known to be a Congress backer, also took a dig at BJP leader, Union minister Uma Bharti, saying he thought a devotee of Lord Ram had become a Union minister and a Ram temple in Ayodhya would soon be a reality, but she turned out to be the "worshiper of a Muslim" — meaning Sai Baba.
Bharti said looking upon someone as god was a personal opinion. But the seer wasn't impressed, who said she seemed not to have seen pictures of Sai Baba depicted like Hindu Gods including Shiva and Vishnu. "Statues of Sai Baba are being installed in homes. What if they were installed in our temples?" the Shankaracharya asked.
The conflict is now threatening to grow with Swami Narendra Giri, Mahant, Baghambari Mutt and member of Akhara Parishad, telling TOI that Sai Baba devotees have two days to withdraw their protests, failing which the Parishad would press the fearsome Naga Sadhus to settle the dispute. With their state of undress, matted hair, ash-smeared bodies and swords, the Nagas inspire fear and fascination in equal measure, and the subtext of the Akhara Parishad's warning is the defenders of faith would be let loose on those protesting against the Shankaracharya.
Narendra Giri said. "Sai followers have left only one alternative (for us), and that is damaging and defacing their temples just as they did with the Shankaracharya's images and photographs," Giri added. Mahant Hari Giri, secretary of Juna (ancient) Akhara that controls the Nagas, said, "Naga Sannyasi are protectors of (the institution) of Shankaracharya, and if there's an attempt to malign him, the Sadhus are free to take to the streets and attack them."
But an unperturbed trustee of the Shri Saibaba Sansthan in Shirdi, Shailesh Kute, said the temple wants the controversy to rest. "The four Shankaracharyas hold an exalted position in Hinduism. The institution of Shankaracharya is a university that awards religious degrees like the 1008 Mahamandaleshwar," Kute said.
"On the other hand, Sai Baba is a faqir without degree. Baba's followers are growing not just in India but across the world. The Shirdi temple is the third largest in the country in terms of financial turnover and devotees. It's possible certain segments feel threatened because Sai temples are visible on street corners. Nearly every temple to Lord Ganesh, Shri Ram and Hanuman also has an idol of Sai. People place pictures of Sai in their household shrines. Offerings to him are increasing as well," Kute added.
On the Shankaracharya's claim that Sai Baba is not representative of Hindu-Muslim unity, Kute said, "It's true we don't receive as many Muslim worshippers on a daily basis, but the community participates in the 10am Aarti and offers floral Chadar regularly. Shirdi is the only place where Ram Navmi and Urs are celebrated every year."
What The Seer Said:
"Hinduism is governed by Shastra and Vedas and there is no mention of Sai Baba. He should not be worshipped with Hindu gods... Muslims don't revere Sai Baba as much as Hindus do, who seem unaware of the 'Adharma' they commit by worshipping him."
"They may burn my effigy or even send me to jail, but my campaign to protect the sanctity of the Hindu religion will continue.... Sai Baba was a Muslim Faqir who cannot be compared to Hindu deities or worshipped like them."
(With inputs from Rajiv Mani in Allahabad, Bella Jaisinghani in Mumbai)
A Controversial Seer Who Took Part in Quit India Movement
By Darshan Desai
02 July, 2014
Observers say Naga Sadhus taking to the streets could cause a major law and order problem.
AT 90, Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati, the Shankaracharya of Dwarka Peeth, is mired in controversy for his remark on Sai Baba, a seer revered by people as God across religions. Last week, the Shankaracharya described Sai Baba as a Muslim ascetic who could not be worshipped like a Hindu deity. On Sunday, he also taunted Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti to clarify whether she was a Sai or Ram follower.
Perceived to be close to the Congress party, he created a furore in Varanasi, from where Narendra Modi was fighting an election as BJP’s prime ministerial candidate.
He forced the BJP to drop its ‘Har Har Modi, Ghar Ghar Modi’ slogan in the holy town and expressed serious resentment over the ‘politicisation’ of the sacred mantra, ‘ Har har Mahadev’. Swaroopanand also hit out at Modi during the run- up to the last two phases of the Lok Sabha elections, saying “ he could not represent Varanasi that is known for its composite secular culture as Modi oversaw a communal conflagration in Gujarat in 2002”. Born on September 2, 1924, in Madhya Pradesh’s Jabalpur town, the Shankaracharya’s original name was Pothiram Upadhyay. Leaving home at a tender age of nine, he went about on a pilgrimage where he met and became a disciple of Swami Karpatri alias Hariharananda Saraswati, who, in turn studied under ‘ Guru Dev’ Swami Brahmananda Saraswati.
At 19, he joined the Quit India Movement in 1942 and came to be recognised as a revolutionary Sadhu.
Going back, after Guru Dev’s death in 1953, Swami Shantanand was made the Shankaracharya of the Jyotir Math. However, instead of him, Swaroopanand adopted a different guru called Swami Krishnabodhashram Maharaj, who was also in parallel made the Shankaracharya by Swami Karpatri.
Politics set in with Swaroopanand becoming the chief of the Ramrajya Parishad Party, which was set up by his original guru Swami Karpatri. By early 1980s, he managed to get the title of the Dwarka Shankaracharya, though sources said he spent most of his time in Varanasi and Madhya Pradesh, where he was born.