Colonial enslavement of the ‘modern’ Indian mind – J. Sai Deepak

Supreme Court Judges

J. Sai DeepakThe typical “modern” Indian mind still seeks validation on benchmarks set by the erstwhile colonial master, which it has internalized so deep within its consciousness that it has come to accept them as not just the normal but also the ideal. – J. Sai Deepak

As the Republic of Bharat, the successor civilization State of Bharatavarsha, celebrates its 73rd Independence Day, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India is hearing arguments in the Shri Ramjanmabhoomi case almost on a day-to-day basis. Judgements in the Shri Padmanabhaswamy Temple case and in the review petitions in the Shri Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple case are yet to be pronounced.

This is apart from the fact that the Shri Jagannath Temple of Puri also finds itself before the Supreme Court, whereas for some reason arguments are yet to commence in the writ petition filed by the late Shri Swami Dayananda Saraswathi challenging the temple control legislations of Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana which give “secular” state governments overarching and unbridled control over temples and temples alone. Add to this the fact that there exists this mind-bogglingly discriminatory and patently absurd legislation ironically titled The Places of Worship (Special provisions) Act, 1991, which prevents the victims of medieval barbaric invasions from reclaiming their places of worship and heritage, one has to wonder, how did things come to such a pass after the Indic civilization survived repeated attempts over a millennium to wipe out its existence and memory? 

The colonial mind of ‘modern’ Indians

Perhaps, there is no one answer to this question. But it would be fair to assume that despite having overthrown the overt foreign yoke in 1947, the yet-to-be-decolonized Indian mind is significantly responsible for the state of affairs, which is the assessment of several scholars of Indic origin as well as Indic-minded scholars of foreign origin. The typical “modern” Indian mind still seeks validation on benchmarks set by the erstwhile colonial master, which it has internalized so deep within its consciousness that it has come to accept them as not just the normal but also the ideal. So much so, that to this incorrigibly colonized mind, every strain of Indic thought is boorish, superstitious, casteist, misogynist, elitist and unscientific, each of which is an irrebuttable presumption.

In other words, neither facts nor logic can overcome these presumptions of the enslaved mind, which is why the “modern, secular and scientific” Indian mind has cut out for itself the noble task of civilizing the native. Of course, the qualifier is that this intervention is reserved exclusively for adherents of Indic faith systems. Everyone else is immune and exempt from this noble venture since (a) either they don’t need it or (b) such intervention cannot be fit in the curious definition of secularism that this enslaved mind has fashioned for itself. 

It is this enslaved mind’s need to identify itself as a “constitutional patriot” because it sees nothing of value before the coming into existence of the Constitution, and therefore, the only way forward, according to it, is to ruthlessly sever all ties with the Indic past, and if possible, re-interpret or even invent the past through its colonized civilizing lens. Nothing would warm the cockles of this mind more than performing the act of severance with the Indic past in halal-compliant fashion, for it crinkles its nose at the very mention of jhatka. How is this long-winded farrago (courtesy Shashi Tharoor pronounced with an accent) relevant to the introduction of the piece? Let us discuss.

The legal system’s approach to ‘civilise the natives’

Well, of all Indian institutions, the Indian legal system’s approach and attitude to Indic thoughts, traditions and institutions, in fact to the Indic way of life itself, is that of a colonized mind with a penchant for “reform”, which is the politically correct term for a patronizing intervention to civilize the native, and which is clearly a never-ending exercise. Almost every aspect of the Indic way of life, right from marriage to succession to religious traditions and even festivals, has come under the scanner of this uber-reformist exercise, more often than not without understanding the Indic perspective, but on occasion rightly so without a doubt. After all, even a broken clock is right twice a day. 

One school of thought traces the problem of the colonized Indian legal system right to the Constitution. To be honest, I am not sure if this diagnosis is correct. That does not mean that I am sure the diagnosis is incorrect. I am genuinely undecided. That said, if I was forced to take a position, I would have to say that I am of the tentative and inconclusive view that the problem is largely attributable to the training imparted to those who interpret and enforce the Constitution and in general the laws of the country.

The early foundations of ignorance

In your formative years, when you still have oodles of idealism and a streak of rebellion, if you are taught as part of legal education or otherwise that logic, reason, democratic values, free speech, fundamental rights, equality, the concept of rule of law, gender equality, the value of individual freedom, secularism, truth and justice are all foreign imports, and there is no attempt on the part of the curriculum to even explore or encourage exploration of the contribution of Indic thought to these areas, you naturally assume that this civilization has had nothing of value to contribute on these fronts. 

This coupled with the unadulterated venom that is spewed against the Indic way of life through history and political science curricula in schools, colleges and law schools, which are invariably taught by individuals of Marxist persuasion, with no room for ideological diversity even for appearances sake, one should not be surprised when every Indic institution finds itself in the dock forced to prove its worth on alien anvils to an audience which starts with the presumption that you are unworthy of protection and existence, until proven otherwise, which is almost always never. Clearly, no repealment of any existing legislation alone is going to undo the incalculable but hopefully not irreparable harm that a brazenly colonial approach to legal education and law has caused to the Indic society, its worldview and its way of life.

The solution

What, then, is the solution? A complete and simultaneous overhaul of history, political science and legal curricula, regardless of the tsunami of backlash it is bound to elicit from well-entrenched individuals and institutions of Marxist persuasion, who have come to view these domains as their fiefdoms, and which are out of bounds for anyone with a different ideological proclivity, so much for their professed love of dissent, diversity and free thought. Disappointingly, the draft National Education Policy 2019 is woefully inadequate in its analysis/diagnosis of and a prescription for legal education, which is limited to a single paragraph, despite the fact that law is all-pervasive and impacts every sphere of life, and so does the Supreme Court.

Will the Centre show the boldness and preparation it has on Article 370, in revamping legal education and allied subjects to do justice to the Indic civilization’s profound and universalist contribution to truth and justice, which is the essence of Dharma? – OpIndia, 15 August 2019

› J. Sai Deepak is an engineer turned lawyer. He is an arguing counsel in the Supreme Court of India and Delhi High Court. 

Supreme Court of India


Why the Left isn’t right about the Ayodhya dispute – Arun Anand

Sri Ram

Arun AnandThe issue of whether Lord Rama was born there or not, and whether a temple existed, has already been decided upon by the Allahabad High Court. Now the dispute is over a piece of land and it is a title suit in the Supreme Court. – Arun Anand 

The Allahabad High Court judgment on the Ram Janmabhoomi, delivered on September 30, 2010, caused great discomfort to Left historians and commentators. This discomfort has now increased with the Supreme Court setting up a panel for mediation on this issue with a time limit of eight weeks. And, there also seems to be a systemic campaign to build a communal narrative around this issue: To project it as a dispute between two communities while questioning the credibility of the panel itself (‘The mediation trap’, IE, March 11).

To begin with, Pratap Bhanu Mehta subtly questions the historicity of Lord Rama by taking the medieval period as the reference point for his existence: In 1989, Left historians began this campaign by misusing the Centre for Historical Studies, JNU, to publish The Political Abuse of History: Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhumi Dispute—An Analysis by Twenty-Five Historians. The launch of this book led to systemic efforts to project that Rama was not a historical figure, Ayodhya was a mythical city and, more importantly, worshipping Rama was a phenomenon which started not more than 300 years ago.

On the contrary, Sanskrit scholars like Maurice Winternitz (History of Indian Literature, Vol, I-III), A. A. Macdonell (A History of Sanskrit Literature), A. B. Keith (A History of Sanskrit Literature) and John Brockington (Righteous Rama: The Evolution of an Epic) have clearly established that the story of Rama, that is, “Ram Katha”, dates back to almost fifth century BC, when it was told orally, and, later on, the sage Valmiki composed it around the third or fourth century BC.

As one goes through the accounts of foreign travellers, too, like William Finch and the Austrian Jesuit Joseph Tieffenthaler, who toured Awadh between 1766 and 1771, one finds out how committed and attached Hindus were to the birth place of Lord Rama. The fact is a large number of Muslims also support the construction of the Ram Temple. The issue of whether Lord Rama was born there or not, and whether a temple existed, has already been decided upon by the Allahabad HC. Now the dispute is over a piece of land and it is a title suit in the SC.

But still, attempts are being made to turn this issue into a Hindu-Muslim dispute by Left commentators and historians. They have been, it seems, stung by the fact that contrary to the common expectation that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) would react strongly against the recent direction of the apex court, the RSS has refused to play into the hands of its detractors. Thus, attempts have begun to discredit the panel itself. Ever since the mediation panel has been set up, there have been concerted attempts to raise doubts about the credentials of Sri Sri Ravishankar. In his article, Mehta writes, without any evidence: “(Sri Sri) has more or less intimidated institutions arguing that violence will ensue if a temple is not built….”

Sri Sri has never intimidated institutions nor has he ever argued that violence would ensue if temple is not built. In fact, he had started the mediation effort months before the apex court’s decision. He has been honoured by the governments of several countries for his peace efforts and is a well-known international figure in the field of conflict resolution. Just because he is Hindu and a spiritual guru, he has become the target of the Left.

His organisation, The Art of Living, is known to run a large number of social welfare projects. So it is not clear on what basis Mehta has written that, “(Sri Sri) represents the unsavoury aspects of a modern entrepreneurial figure to whom proximity to power matters more than spiritual values.” To accuse Hindu spiritual gurus who are gaining popularity is the latest weapon in the Left’s argumentative armoury: But that won’t cut much ice now as they have lost touch with ground realities. They fail to understand that Lord Rama’s birthplace is revered by all communities in the country and any attempt to wedge a drive between them on this issue would be futile. – The Indian Express, 13 March 2019

» Arun Anand  is CEO of Indraprastha Vishwa Samvad Kendra.

Mediators: Kalifulla, Sri Ravi Shankar & Sriram Panchu


Ram Mandir case mediation a sterile exercise, says Subramanian Swamy – Team PGurus

Subramanian Swamy

PGURUSThe Supreme Court is expected to pass an order on mediation if any needed soon and continuation with the same bench or other bench on Subramanian Swamy’s petition for fundamental right to pray. – Team PGurus

BJP leader Subramanian Swamy on March 7th said that the demand for mediation in the Ayodhya case is just a sterile exercise and at the most is only limited to the compensation to the parties in the decades-long pending title case and it is up to the Government, who took over the entire land to decide whom to give the land for construction of Ram Mandir. He was talking to media, reiterating his arguments presented before the apex court.

While submitting his detailed written submission, Subramanian Swamy told the Bench that the Central Government has the right to give away land to whosoever it wants after paying compensation to the others. He said the mediation process can’t solve the focal issue and it can only help in deciding compensation packages to the parties in the ongoing title case.  “P.V. Narasimha Rao Government had in 1994 made a commitment to the apex court that if ever any evidence was found that there was a temple, the land will be given for temple construction,” said Swamy.

Subramanian Swamy’s detailed written submission to the apex court is published below this report. After hearing all parties, Supreme Court said it will pass orders on whether to refer the Ayodhya land dispute case for mediation, underlining that it has no control over what Mughal ruler Babar did and is only concerned with resolving the present situation. The top court said it thinks that primarily the issue is not about 1,500 square feet land, but about religious sentiments. The Court order also said that they will also pass an order whether Subramanian Swamy’s writ petition demanding the fundamental right to pray at Ayodhya’s Ram Mandir will be heard by this bench or other smaller bench. Meanwhile, the apex court had already allotted eight weeks to settle the translation of documents in the main title challenging case.

The five-Judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, which reserved verdict on referring the matter for mediation, said that it is conscious of the impact of the issue on “public sentiment” and on “body politic”. “Arguments on the issue of reference to mediation are closed. Arguments concluded. Orders reserved,” said the bench, also comprising Justices S.A. Bobde, D.Y. Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S. Abdul Nazeer.

Hindu bodies like Nirmohi Akhara suggested the names of Justices (retd) Kurian Joseph, A.K. Patnaik and G.S. Singhvi as mediators, while the Hindu Mahasabha faction of Swami Chakrapani proposed the names of former CJIs Justices J.S. Khehar, Dipak Misra and Justice (retd) A.K. Patnaik to the bench.

During the hearing, all Hindu bodies except Nirmohi Akhara opposed the suggestion of the court to refer the issue for mediation, while Muslim bodies supported it.

“You are saying it will be a failure. We are not assuming that somebody will give it up. Primarily, we think this issue is not a property dispute. It is not about the 1500 sq ft but it is about the religious sentiments and faith.

“We are conscious about the gravity of the issue and we are also conscious about its impact on the body politic of the country. We understand how it goes and is looking at minds, hearts, and healing if possible,” the bench said.

Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for the legal heirs of original litigant M. Siddiq, said that outlining of the dispute is not necessary and the court can order mediation by a mediator when parties are unable to settle it. To this, the bench said that there may not be one mediator but a panel of mediators to deal with the issue.

Dhavan said that mediation in the peculiar facts of the case can be ordered in-camera and no parties should be allowed to disclose the proceedings till the final report is filed. The bench agreed with the contention of Dhavan that confidentiality of proceedings should be maintained and said it thinks there has to be a complete ban on media reporting on the developments of the mediation process.

“It is not something like gag order but there should be no reporting. It is easy to attribute something to somebody when the mediation process is on,” the bench said. Two factions of Hindu Mahasabha took opposite stand on the issue of mediation with one body supporting it, and the other opposing it.

Senior advocate C.S. Vaidyanathan, appearing for Hindu deity Ram Lalla Virajman said the faith that Lord Rama was born in Ayodhya is not negotiable but the question is of Rama Janamsthan (birthplace). “We are even willing to crowd-fund a mosque somewhere else but no negotiations can take place with respect of Lord Rama’s birthplace. Mediation won’t serve any purpose,” he said.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government, said the court should refer the matter for mediation only when there exists an element of settlement. He said considering the nature of the dispute it will not be prudent and advisable to take this path of mediation.

Fourteen appeals have been filed in the apex court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya is partitioned equally among the three parties—the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla. The case got momentum after, in mid-2015, Subramanian Swamy entered the case with a petition for seeking basic facilities to the devotees who came to pray at the temporary structure in Ayodhya.  Congress lawyers and Muslim parties’ lawyers were trying to delay the beginning of hearing of the case at each stage.

The Supreme Court is expected to pass an order on mediation if any needed soon and continuation with the same Bench or other Bench on Subramanian Swamy’s petition for fundamental right to pray.

The detailed seven-page written submission to the Supreme Court by Subramanian Swamy on March 6, 2019, is published below. – PGurus, 7 March 2019

Stop de-legitimising the Vedic Age in India – M.D. Nalapat

Brahmins blessing British military flags in Calcutta

Prof M.D. NalapatIndia’s history as dictated by the British has largely continued its sway over school and college curricula, and thereby into modern Indian mindsets. – Prof M.D. Nalapat

The most successful colonial empire in human history, the British Empire, ensured that the history of India as taught in schools and colleges would reduce the imprint of both the Vedic as well as the Mughal periods, passing off most of the first as fictional and the latter as a seamless and accelerating period of national decline. In contrast, the 230-odd years of British domination of the subcontinent was presented to our young minds as a period of enlightenment and empowerment, while in reality it was marked by a steady reduction in overall historical awareness and in economic growth. By the close of the British era, the subcontinent was much poorer than during earlier epochs. Given that the post-1947 leadership of the country adopted, often without adaptation, an overwhelming proportion of colonial constructs and practices, it was no surprise that India’s history as dictated by the British has largely continued its sway over school and college curricula, and thereby into mindsets. As a consequence, the sense of history that the British, the Chinese, the Japanese or other nationalities including the French have in abundance is much less visible in India. Caste, language, region and religion rank above nation in the loyalty calculus of many citizens. In substantial part, this is because of a lack of knowledge of the civilisational treasures found in any comprehensive and accurate recital of Indian history through the ages. Just as the period in the continental United States when Native Americans owned the land was almost entirely airbrushed out of existence in histories of the US, which usually began with the arrival of settlers from Europe in the 1770s, the Vedic period has practically disappeared from view in India, and what little gets presented is labelled as myth. Even the government of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was on the cusp of dynamiting into dust the Ram Setu linking India with Sri Lanka, until stopped by a court decision acting on an application made by Subramanian Swamy. Any individual who considered the bridge of stones that was created thousands of years ago as anything other than a natural formation was considered a crank, a looking away from the past that has continued even after NASA (hardly a Hindutva bastion) authenticated the Ram Setu as having been created by human effort. Sporadic moves have been made to ensure a more balanced recital of the totality of Indian history, but efforts by some politicians to link this to religion has led to a greater adverse reaction than would have been the case had such changes been implemented in a secular manner. After all, every epoch in the history of India is the cultural property of every citizen of this country.

In his zeal to stamp out any Vedic impulses from the educational structure, a Veenayak Shah has asked the Supreme Court to ban shlokas in Sanskrit from Kendriya Vidyalayas. The implication is that Sanskrit is not just a language, but is a mark of Hinduism, and hence any resort to that language would be to attempt to proselytize and spread the Hindu faith. The hymn’s words themselves are unexceptionable, calling for a transition from falsehood to truth, from death to immortality. This is a phrase that is daily used more than a few times throughout India, including by many Christians in Kerala, who have in the practice of their faith retained much of the millennial traditions of the land. Not to mention that several Muslims in India are fluent in Sanskrit at a time when few Hindus know the language. Hence it came as a surprise that the PIL in question was not ignored by the SC, but was instead accepted. Indeed, a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court will hear and decide on Mr Shah’s petition, clearly indicating that the recital of a Sanskrit verse in every Kendriya Vidyalaya is a matter of seminal importance in the life of the country. In the system of governance that has evolved in India since the 1990s, in practice the government of the day proposes while the courts dispose. In effect, a government at any level lacks certainty over the implementation of a decision, unless the same gets affirmed through the court process. Courts in India have accepted for judicial review a plethora of matters, even as the final decision in several issues takes a while to be concluded through the judicial process, unless of course (as in this case) the Supreme Court itself accepts a prayer and begins to hold hearings on the same, as is the case with the matter of a Sanskrit hymn in Kendriya Vidyalayas. It must be said that Attorney-General Tushar Mehta seems to have misnamed the Vedic period as the “Hindu” period, when as mentioned earlier, the culture of those times encompassed much more than any particular faith. Justice Nariman with Tushar Mehta correctly observed that the very motto of the Supreme Court was in Sanskrit, a fact that has had no effect on the secular impartiality of the judges. Given that, why a matter which to the uninitiated seems less than earth-shaking needs to be cogitated upon by as many as five SC judges is somewhat of a surprise.

The PIL demonstrates how many obstacles will need to be faced before a history of the land becomes commonplace that is separated from the one-sided recital promoted by the British Empire and continued by post-1947 governments. In Europe, Japan and China, governments make a determined effort to showcase the past and in the process, generate self-confidence within the present. Any other country but India would by now have rebuilt the path taken by Lord Ram from Ayodhya to Sri Lanka and back, beginning with a Lord Ram complex in Ayodhya that would of course be separate from the future Ram Temple. Such a complex would be civilisational, but unlike the temple, not religious. Should efforts be made to make such a complex a reality, it is certain that some will use every available path to block such moves at reclaiming the full history of India. Viewing culture and civilisation exclusively through the lens of religion created a situation in the 1930s that led in 1947 to the partition of India. There should not be a repetition of that error in these times. What India needs is Indutva: a confluence of the Vedic, the Mughal and of course the Western. A merger of civilisational streams that is present in the cultural DNA of every citizen of India. – Sunday Guardian Live,  3 February 2019

» Prof M.D. Nalapat  is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.

Kendriya Vidyalaya Prayer Case: The Supreme Court should uphold Dharma – R. Jagannathan

Supreme Court of India

Supreme Court of india EmblemThe state, secular or otherwise, is not an entity synthetically created out of thin air, with no history or culture preceding it. … If every Hindu symbol or text is to be erased from the memory of the Indian state, this is cultural genocide. – R. Jagannathan

The assault on Hindu heritage and ethos continues. The Supreme Court yesterday (28 January) remitted a petition seeking a ban on the recitation of some Upanishadic verses in Kendriya Vidyalayas to a five-judge constitution bench for a decision. Among the shlokas cited as offending the sense of secularism in state-run schools are Asato Ma Sadgamaya (Lead us from untruth to truth), and Om Sahana Vavatu (May god protect and feed us).

How verses that merely promote the idea of truth and general well-being, with no references to any specific god, can even be thought of as being non-secular in content is a big question. India, clearly, does not lack trouble-makers who use the Supreme Court’s welcome mat for public interest litigation (PIL) as a free-for-all to create social divisiveness where there was none earlier. Some random young lawyers raised the Sabarimala ban on the entry of women in the 10-50 age group and the resultant court verdict damaged a hoary tribal and Hindu tradition. Another random litigant can now make the Kendriya Vidyalas a battle-ground.

If this battle is won by the Hinduphobics, the next target will logically be the Indian state emblem, which includes the Upanishadic phrase Satyameva Jayate. And it could singe the Supreme Court itself, whose motto is Yato Dharmastato Jayah (Where there is dharma, there is victory), words that occur in Ved Vyaya’s Mahabharata, and are uttered by Gandhari after the Pandavas kill all her sons at Kurukshetra.

The Kendriya Vidyalaya PIL was filed by a Madhya Pradesh resident named Veenayak Shah, who claimed that singing these verses from Hindu scriptures violated the rights of minorities, atheists, agnostics, sceptics, rationalists, et al.

Further, the PIL alleged that the mere recitation of these verses could “impede development and growth of scientific temper in the young minds of students.”

One wonders how a mere invocation to dispel untruth or seeking the prosperity of all, without any mention of exclusions, will damage the scientific temper of young minds.

One is appalled that the two judges who heard the initial petition, Rohinton Nariman and Vineet Saran, saw the case as being of “seminal importance”. The next target could well be simple rituals like lighting the lamp and songs invoking the blessings of gods at state functions.

The state, secular or otherwise, is not an entity synthetically created out of thin air, with no history or culture preceding it. Even a relatively young nation like the US proudly proclaims in its currency note, “In god we trust”. If this kind of line does not offend atheists or impact scientific temper, pretending that shlokas from Hindu texts are somehow non-secular is Hinduphobia masquerading as secularism. If every Hindu symbol or text is to be erased from the memory of the Indian state, this is cultural vandalism.

The European Court of Human Rights, when confronted with some such case in 2011, ruled in favour of tradition. Some non-Catholics apparently objected to the placing of crucifixes in state-run schools, saying it offended their religious sensibilities.

But the court ruled that crucifixes are acceptable in the continent’s state schools as they were “essentially passive symbols” with no religious significance. There was nothing to suggest that any religious influence was being forced down the throats of people.

It is the same with the shlokas being sung in Kendriya Vidyalayas. Or the motto of the Supreme Court. The word dharma in the Supreme Court’s tagline, Yato Dharmastato Jayah, is not a reference to Hindu religion, as dharma does not necessarily mean religion in the Hindu context.

The Supreme Court bench should understand the true meaning of the motto and not destroy dharma by unnecessarily intervening in the Kendriya Vidyalaya prayer case. It should remember another shlokaDharmo Rakshati Rakshitaha, which has been adopted by the National Law School in Bengaluru as its motto. It means dharma protects those who protect dharma.

The Supreme Court’s reputation will be burnished or tarnished depending on how it interprets its own dharmic duties in this case. In Sabarimala, the court blew it. It should not repeat the folly. To repeat: Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitaha. – Swarajya, 29 January 2019

» Jagannathan is a senior journalist and the editorial director of Swarajya Magazine. 

 Kendriya Vidyalaya

Supreme Court threatens hereditary priesthood at Jagannath Temple – Priyadarshini Sen

Balabhadra, Subhadra & Jagannath

Priyadarshini SenThe government needs to do more for the priestly class if it is to stop the servitors from extorting payment from devotees and abusing their rights. – Priyadarshini Sen

For centuries, the priests at the Jagannath Temple in this city on India’s east coast have enjoyed unfettered control over the temple’s rituals. But in July, India’s Supreme Court proposed ending the hereditary rights of the community of more than 2,000 priests, threatening a livelihood that depends almost entirely on donations.

The 12th-century shrine to Jagannath, a deity revered in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, draws thousands of pilgrims each year. Its priests are charged with sometimes dangerous duties such as tying flags to the mast of the temple and applying paint to statues of deities high on its walls, as well as playing instruments in religious parades and other tasks. Knowledge of the temple’s rituals has been nurtured within families and remained largely undiluted for generations.

The Supreme Court’s proposal, prompted by a local judge, aims to rein in the priests, who have allegedly been harassing pilgrims for money in return for bestowing blessings.

“If the court and government take away our only source of income, there will be nothing left. It will be the end of the road for us,” said Gadhadhar Pujapanda, a 32-year-old priest at the shrine.

The local judge who suggested removing the priests’ rights has suggested a new system by which priests are appointed, as was instituted at the Tirupati temple in Andhra Pradesh after legislation in the late 1980s overturned the hereditary rights of its priests.

Pujapanda and other priests worry that their jobs will disappear if the same system comes to Jagannath.

“We consider ourselves living relatives of the deity,” he said. “My ancestors served King Anangabhima Deva during the 13th century. Where do we go if our livelihood is taken away?”

It is believed King Anangabhima Deva III declared himself the sole deputy of Jagannath in the 13th century and to secure his spiritual bona fides introduced 36 categories of temple attendants to venerate the deity. Over time, ceremonies became more elaborate and by the turn of the 20th century, there were 119 categories of servitors, as the priests and other temple workers are known.

Devoted to the regimentation and austerity of their spiritual practice, the hereditary priests lost touch with the secular world, neglecting their education and the pursuit of practical skills.

“Traditional priests have dedicated their lives to a different lifestyle,” said Rabindranath Pratihari, a former priest and Sanskrit scholar. “If they are shorn of these rights, they might even be pushed below the poverty line.”

Some servitors have strayed into other occupations such as tourism, hospitality, politics and real estate. Others have gone on to pursue higher education. But most remain immersed in their religious traditions.

They believe replacement of a hereditary system with merit-based appointment of salaried priests might corrupt the priesthood itself.

A senior priest, Janardhan Mahapatra, says the Jagannath cult’s amalgamation of ancient tribal and Brahmin rituals makes it  unique. The servitors, he added, are not drawn from highborn Hindu families, making them a rare exception to India’s strict caste hierarchy.

“Hereditary priesthood has allowed for social harmony across caste lines,” Mahapatra said.

“In a merit-based system, servitors may be drawn from a specific caste. It will erode our identity and egalitarian spirit.”

The case against the priests originated in the 1970s, when some visitors to the temple complained that the priests were extorting their fees from devotees. In 1977, the state government of Odisha commissioned a probe into hereditary priesthood, but stiff opposition from the servitors prevented any change.

Earlier this year, a devotee from Maharashtra, India, was beaten up by two servitors for refusing to pay donations, prompting a local lawyer and social activist named Mrinalini Padhi to petition the Supreme Court to curb the priests’ aggressiveness. “There shouldn’t be any coercion in places of worship,” Padhi told Religion News Service.

In response, the Supreme Court directed a district judge to make recommendations for temple reforms. The judge’s report, released in July, charged that the temple’s “management committee and the government have failed to exercise effective control over servitors.”

The court’s interference in religious matters has rankled temple visitors and priests alike.

“The judiciary shouldn’t interfere in hereditary and customary rights,” said S.K. Makbul Islam, an associate professor of Bengali at St Paul’s Cathedral Mission College in Kolkata. “It’s the onus of the temple administration to check abuse of privileges.”

The proposed crackdown has spurred temple workers to demand guarantees of employment, education, housing and widow’s pension benefits from the government.

“I only get $11 from the government for my bimonthly ritual service and about $1,400 as health insurance per year,” said one servitor. “One-third of us live below the poverty line.”

Padhi agrees the government needs to do more for the priestly class if it is to stop the servitors from demanding payment. “The government should figure out ways to uplift this class, so they stop abusing their rights,” she said.

Any reforms to the traditions of the temple seem to have as much to do with a way of life as with economic hardship. In October, Pujapanda’s father wrote to the chief justice of India, seeking permission to end his life if hereditary rights are revoked.

“If the Supreme Court takes away our time-honored tradition, there’s no point in living,” said Pujapanda. – Religion News Service, 21 December 2018

» Priyadarshini Sen is an independent journalist and researcher.

Jagannatha Temple at Puri


Sabarimala is India! – Aravindan Neelakandan

Ayyappa Jyoti Demo Dec 26, 2018

Aravindan NeelakandanWhat is at stake in Sabarimala is something more vital than a mere temple issue. … The women on the streets of Kerala are rallying to save the Indian judiciary from the suicidal plunge it has taken because of its inability to resonate with the heartbeat of the Hindu nation. – Aravindan Neelakandan

What is happening in Sabarimala is a deja vu moment—1990 for Hindus. On 30 October and 2 November 1990, devotees of Lord Rama were massacred by the police of Mulayam Singh Yadav in one of the holiest of Hindu towns—Ayodhya. Later, their bodies were recovered with sandbags hooked to them from the river Sarayu associated with the memories of Rama. The Rama devotees were unarmed. It was then called the Jallianwala Bagh of a Nehruvian pseudo-secular state.

Today, after 28 years, it is beginning to get repeated at Sabarimala—the holiest shrine of Lord Ayyappa—who has emerged as a pan-Hindu deity uniting humanity cutting across all barriers of caste, creed, language and Vindhyas. But there is a condition. The tradition associated with the deity does not allow women of reproductive age to visit the temple as the deity is an avowed celibate—a naishtika brahmachari.

Until recently, this exclusion was not considered a discrimination against women. After all, Hindu Dharma, as the last standing Pagan culture in the world, has a very special feature. Dharma has through millennia evolved gender-specific structural and functional sacred spaces. There is an Attukal Bhagavathy pongala celebration in Kerala, where men are not allowed. At the time of the full moon of Chitra, the first Tamil month Koovagam, a small dusty village in Vizhuppuram district of Tamil Nadu becomes the culmination point for all the gender variants, who alone have special ritual rights. Gender specific or body-specific sacred spaces thus exist throughout India and through all times. These are neither social discrimination nor denial of gender justice.

In the case of the Sabarimala judgement, with all due respect to the Supreme Court, there is a dangerous streak of judicial overreach which confuses imposed uniformity with gender justice and goes against the spirit of this land. The confusion, perhaps, arises from the previous experience of judicial intervention in blatant discriminatory practices such as untouchability. However, one wishes, again with all due respect to the learned judges, that they would be culturally and historically sensitive enough to discriminate between a real social evil and a pluralist exclusion in certain sacred spaces.

Of course, such culturally sensitive abilities for rational discrimination demand on the ground inputs. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leadership which was also initially confused over the Sabarimala issue, after receiving inputs from its tree-like structure of organisation, realised and changed its stand. One wishes that the Indian judiciary learns from the RSS. After all, judiciary is also a human-run institution and is not above increasing entropy when it becomes closed.

There are elements even in the ruling party, which are obstinate about their stand—refusing to see the Sabarimala issue for what it really is. A former law minister, who made it to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during the build up of 2014 Narendra Modi wave, had stated that the army and paramilitary forces should be used to implement the Supreme Court order. This man, who had passed himself as an “intellectual Kshatriya”, in his earlier iteration in 1992 voiced similar sentiments over the Ramjanmabhoomi issue, that the secular state should employ the army, take over the entire place and hand it over to Muslims.

Even the central cabinet is not immune to such myopia and insensitivity. Maneka Gandhi, who had often displayed rank ignorance about the sound human-animal eco traditions of the land and who was a crypto-supporter of the United Progressive Alliance-sponsored ban on jallikattu, has also shown the same arrogant insensitivity in the case of Sabarimala. Thankfully, Arun Jaitley has voiced his apprehension about the judicial overreach. But one wishes the voices from the Centre become more united and stronger for the Sabarimala cause.

The north of Vindhyas Nehruvian media, right or left, with high decibel or suave narcissist anchors, has shown remarkable cultural illiteracy with respect to the spiritual traditions south of the Vindhyas. This is despite the fact that the south of Vindhyas has preserved the Vedic traditions in more pristine form than the north. Of course, one understands that the south was able to do that only because of the resistance movement that fought the invaders in such a sustained manner for 800 years. But then the north Indian fighters of dharma understood and respected the umbilical cultural connections with south India. Nehruvian education over the decades progressively eroded the cultural literacy which in turn has led to the bizarre situation we are in now. South and north, despite their organic unity, perceive each other as the other.

And into this vacuum of cultural literacy play the Marxists. Marxism has always been deep down a colonial Euro-centric, anti-Pagan, and hence in this case, anti-Hindu ideology. It will obsessively side with any attack on Hindu culture and traditions—while at the same time meekly surrendering itself, and gleefully siding with “Islamo-Christian” expansionist monocultures.

What is at stake in Sabarimala is something more vital than a mere temple issue.

Otherwise, the very fact that thousands of ordinary Hindu women from the entire society spontaneously spilling into the streets of Kerala, should have made any judiciary sit back and listen voluntarily. Otherwise, the fact that the first scheduled community priest of Kerala—Yadhu Krishnan—voicing his support for the women marching to save the Sabarimala tradition, should have made the media and judiciary realise that this has nothing to do with social justice.

The judges may not realise it but the women on the streets of Kerala are actually rallying to save the Indian judiciary from the greatest suicidal plunge it has taken because of its inability to resonate with the heartbeat of the Hindu nation. But the sad truth is that institutions of the Indian state have been increasingly becoming Hinduphobic. Sabarimala movement is the spontaneous response of the Indian nation against this Hindu hatred that is getting institutionalised.

The Indian state needs to exist. We can never let it fail or implode. To not become a failed state and to not implode, the Indian state in its present form needs the ancient, still living, and more than 5,000-year-old Hindu nation that has withstood thousands of years of ravage. Judiciary, with all due respects to it, has started chopping down the very branch on which it sits. So let us persuade the judiciary to let go of its institutional and elitist ego and see reason.

Let it be clear that the Indian state has to exist for the welfare of more than one billion Indians and without the Hindu nation, the Indian state will cease to exist, and implode. Balkanised India, a long time goal of Marxists and other “breaking-India” forces, will transform every linguistic state into killing fields without Hindu spirituality uniting us—and Sabarimala symbolises it. – Swarajya, 18 October 2018

» Aravindan Neelakandan is an author and contributing editor at Swarajya Magazine.

Kerala women's protest harassed by police