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

9 Responses

  1. //court ruled that crucifix are acceptable in the continents state school//

    Cross or dead body stretcher Representation of the Corpse ( peenam )
    The Hindu belief is that one who born with perfect physical features itself is due to the (Punya-good deeds) done in earlier birth. Also allows you to do more good deeds (punya) in the current birth and aim for moksha (to avoid rebirth again) As soon as a Hindu changes his religion to Christianity they call you great sinner and sinner by birth (pava piravi – Magha pavi – pava pindam). Also teach you that the first human being Adam was influenced by Satan and committed the first sin, from the day onwards all human being are committing continuous sins. Hence Jesus the son of God born in the world to erase the sins committed by humans before his birth, the sins committed by the current generation and the sins are to be committed by the future generation. Hence he offered his soul and blood and allowed himself to be hanged (Mundam) in the cross alive. (Cross is a stretcher holding the dead body – in Tamil it is called padai). The moment you change the religion the Christian priest )offer you wine and bread in the church as a symbolic gesture of accepting Jesus blood and flesh and the brain washing starts here. Also informs you that Jesus had repented and continuously repent all sorts of sins and not to bother about committing any further sins and to get repentance a pure Christian should wear the cross (a dead body stretcher or padai) in the neck and pray in front of Jesus dead body photo, art or statue (Mundam) so that on the judgment day you will be sent to heaven without fail. Whether it is marriage or death both are done at the same dais. Like this the whole of Christianity is built up of false dogmatic belief


  2. Prayers at Kendriya Vidyalayas: Identifying Sanskrit with Hinduism puts many State-run institutions under scanner – Sandeep Mahapatra – FirstPost – Jan 30, 2019

    Asato Ma Sadgamaya
    Tamaso Ma Jyotirga Maya
    Mrityur Ma Amritdagamaya

    The verses, in just three lines, mentioned above, and recited during the morning assembly of Kendriya Vidyalaya, which translated to English would mean, “Take me from untruth towards truth / From darkness to light / From death towards immortality” has become the subject of a Supreme Court petition leading to reference to a Constitution Bench of five judges to consider if the recitation is in sync with provisions of the Constitution of India. Shorn of legalese the issue to be decided is whether these sentences have a communal character and lead to imparting religious instructions in schools maintained out of State funds. The related issue, that also needs to be adjudicated by the Supreme Court would be whether and because these recitations are in Sanskrit, do they have ingrained a communal character as the language is being identified with the Hindu religion.

    The petition before the Supreme Court essentially says that the petitioner, whose children were studying in Kendriya Vidyalaya believes that the recitation of these sentences in the morning assembly followed by a prayer affects the scientific temperament of students as they tend to start believing in a higher form without seeking to develop a practical approach towards life. The second point raised is based on Article 28 (3) of the Constitution and a decision of the Supreme Court of 2002 in the case of Aruna Roy Vs. UOI which says that acquainting students with basics of all religion and a comparative study of all religion is not in violation of Article 28 but imparting religious instructions will be.

    So the moot point is does reciting three sentences in Sanskrit followed by a prayer which only invokes the divinity without any specific reference to any Hindu deity amounts to imparting religious instructions? Also given the fact that Hindu religion has never believed in proselytisation, rather the Hindus have been and still are victims of proselytisation, how are these three sentences in Sanskrit be construed to have the effect of imparting religious instruction.

    If anyone thinks this recitation talks about universal truth and nothing else thus, unsurprisingly, the order of the Supreme Court to refer the issue to a Constitution Bench has rightly given rise to a debate.

    It is likely and expected that court’s interference/pronouncements on how to celebrate Holi, Diwali, what should be the height of the Dahi Handi, during Janmashtami, how not to pollute water bodies during immersion of Hindu idols, banning of Jallikattu etc. to cite a few examples will form part of such debate. Above all, the proponent of such restrictions in celebrating Hindu festivals will bring in the concept of “constitutional morality” to justify their position notwithstanding the fact that no less than the present attorney general of the country and a well-accomplished lawyer at that has cautioned the Supreme Court in invoking this concept to justify its decision in subrogation to social morality.

    What however is not surprising, is that the very same proponent of “constitutional morality” maintain a deafening silence when it comes to minority rights and as an extension, the practices of prayers etc. in minority-run schools where it is mandatory for everyone, irrespective of faith, beliefs, agnostic, atheist etc,. to recite the prayers invoking Jesus Christ for example. Faced with this, such proponents take umbrage under Article 29 & 30 of the Constitution which empowers the minority to run educational institutions in the manner they like.

    What however needs to be remembered is that Article 28 (3) provides that the embargo regarding religious instructions also extends to institutions receiving aids from the State. This leads to another interesting question what about minority-run educational institutions which have received for example the land to establish it at a concessional rate? Would this not tantamount to aid? If so whether the embargo to impart religious instruction would not be applicable to them as well?

    If it is a case of State funding alone, most of the minority institutions get concessions from governments == be it land or any other. The madrasas, in particular, survive through state largesse including salary funding among many others.

    It is also to be kept in perspective that the Supreme Court in another judgment TMA Pai Foundation held that in the matters of admissions Article 28 & 29 will be applicable to all institutions receiving aid from the State irrespective of caste, religion language etc. Being so, it would be fair to contend that in the matters of religious instructions as well the minority run educational institutions may fall foul in case, and which is the case most of the time, the students are asked to join in prayers invoking the God of the faith that runs such institution.

    So as is apparent the issue of what forms religious instructions cannot be examined on a standalone basis without taking into consideration the entire spectrum or “State-run” and “State-aided” institutions lest tomorrow someone would file a petition saying that the Supreme Court is not secular cause the emblem reads “Yado Dharma Stahto Jaya”. Someone would file a petition saying LIC is promoting Hinduism as it says “Yogakshemam Vahamyaham….”

    Three innocuous sentences in Sanskrit expressing universal truth can open a Pandora’s Box, nay a box of worms, and hence the court needs to be circumspect lest it would be flooded with petitions equating English with Christianity, Urdu with Muslims and so on and so forth.


  3. This is a direct attack on Indian civilization.

    The court should not entertain such viciously mischievous petitions and impose a fine on the petitioner instead.


  4. no sir , you are not wrong : It is the wish from the depths of the hearts of the Vedic seers who craved for Truth and were ready to sacrifice everything in exchange for Truth ;
    It should be recited , as you said , in a proper setting , when man is ready and ripe for Truth ;

    but the situation here is entirely different :

    what a lofty notion this Mantra carries ! ! such notions must be inculcated into the future citizens : into young , plastic , receptive , & pure minds of children – thus It is made to be sung by the pupils of kendriya vidyalaya

    and the pil ( personal , not public , interest litigation ) urges the court to ban the recitation of this great thought

    pity on the person who wants to remain permanently in untruth , darkness , and mortality ¿ ¿ like in permanent hell ! !


  5. This is very disheartening. I am not Hindu, but I love most everything about Hinduism. It has brought me closer to that inner holy consciousness than any other religion or spiritual belief I have studied. I am even, now, a student of Ayurveda. What can be done to stop this senselessness?


  6. As I see the prayer “Asato ma Sat Gamaya, Tamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya, Mrityor Maamritam Gamaya” as a holy and sacred phrase.
    What I don’t understand in your article is what is been tried to ban by that petition. Could you tell details, it has not gone through international press.
    Another thought about that European question about crucifixes. In the state Bavaria, a small part of Germany, the local government did file a state law, so that in each state house (schools, courts, municipalities etc.) there must be one on the wall, as far as i remember: in the lobby. This was even opposed by the catholic bishop of Munich, as the state in his eyes captured a religous symbol, and thus made it less meaningful. Many intellectuals in Germany agreed on that, but the Bavarian government insisted.
    I find the thought, that the cross as a symbol is weekened by misuse, does have a point. Doesn’t this also apply to prayers from the Upanishades? Recited in suiting setting, in a religious ceremony, or even in a yogish satsang, I find it is in the right place. Am I wrong?
    Hari Om.


  7. Timely intervention from Swarajya.


  8. tears rolled down my cheeks reading this article

    let me elaborate the last line

    धर्म एव हतो हन्ति धर्मो रक्षति रक्षितः । तस्माद्धर्मो न हन्तव्यो मा नो धर्मो हतोऽवधीत्

    Dharma eva hato hanti Dharmo rakshati rakshitah
    tasmat Dharmo na hantavyo maa no Dharmo hato~vadheet

    a great line given to the humankind by Maharshi Manu ;

    if one person kills another person , the killed one cannot come back to life to harm the killer

    but if one kills ( destroys ) Dharma , the killed Dharma is sure to strike back at the killer & kill him – therefore , never try to harm Dharma , lest it should destroy you ;

    and a protected ( well-maintained ) Dharma will ever protect its practitioner ;

    Maharshi Manu tells us that Dharma is not a passive , life-less entity , but is even more living than any sentient being we know – It is Divine

    may the destroyers of Dharma be aware !


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