Hindus unhappy with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat – Shikha Salaria

Mohan Bhagwat

Shikha Salaria“He [Bhagwat] is no Shankaracharya. Let him speak what he thinks. We don’t want politicians,” – Mahant Kulpati Tiwari

RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat’s statement last week, that there is “no need to search for a Shivling (one of the forms in which the Hindu deity Shiva is worshipped) in every mosque”, has made him a controversial figure among many Hindu priests and Hindutva groups and individuals, who choose to disagree with him.

Bhagwat was speaking on the ongoing legal tussle involving the Gyanvapi Mosque, which stands adjacent to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi, and where a Shivling has allegedly been found.

“He [Bhagwat] is no Shankaracharya. Let him speak what he thinks. We don’t want politicians,” Mahant Kulpati Tiwari, a former priest at the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, told ThePrint.

Shankaracharyas, or the heads of maths of the four peethams or important seats of Hinduism under the Advaita Vedanta tradition, are revered by many Hindus, priests and saints across the country.

“This is a matter of faith. When the BJP and the RSS are not fighting the case, why are they saying that a temple is not required? We are only seeking our right to worship the deities present on the premises,” he said.

Tiwari has filed a petition in a Varanasi court demanding that the premises of the Mughal-era Gyanvapi Mosque be handed over to Hindus and they be allowed to worship the Shivling reportedly found inside it, a reference to a structure inside the mosque’s wuzukhana (place for ablution) that the latter claims is a fountain.

Swami Avimukteshwaranand, a prominent priest of the Dwarka Peetham—one of the four seats of Shankaracharyas—has been on an indefinite fast in Varanasi for the past four days, after he failed to offer prayers in front of the alleged Shivling.

Meanwhile, Swami Nischalananda Saraswati, the Shankaracharya of the Govardhana Peetham in Puri (Odisha), has said that no power in the world can deny the Hindus the right to re-consecrate the “value points defiled or demolished by encroaching the limits of human rights [a reference to temple demolitions in historical times]”.

Meanwhile, petitioners in the ongoing Gyanvapi legal dispute, who have moved court for the right to worship Shringar Gauri and other Hindu deities whose idols have been carved onto the western wall of the Gyanvapi Mosque, told ThePrint that if they got Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura, they are willing to “leave the others”.

While a temple is already coming up at Ayodhya, believed to be the birthplace of the Hindu deity Ram, where the Babri Mosque was demolished, Kashi is the site of the Gyanvapi Mosque, which many historians say was built during the Aurangzeb era after demolishing the Vishweshwar Temple.

In Mathura, the Shahi Idgah Mosque was built in Aurangzeb’s time, again after the alleged demolition of a temple built at the site where Hindu deity Krishna is believed to have been born.

Apart from this, petitions have been filed in court demanding the right to worship at Delhi’s iconic Qutub Minar—citing the presence of images and statues of Hindu and Buddhist deities at the site—and for the opening of sealed rooms inside the Taj Mahal to investigate the monument’s “real history”. Both these petitions have been dismissed by the respective courts.

‘Why are they not talking to Shankaracharyas?’

Vishwambhar Nath Mishra, mahant of Kashi’s ancient Sankat Mochan Temple, said the “atmosphere of Kashi is being spoiled”.

“Everyday, a new petition is being filed. … A lot of confusion is being created. When the matter is related to faith, why are they not talking to the Shankaracharyas?” he asked.

In addition to Puri’s Govardhanmaṭha Peeṭhaṃ and Gujarat’s Dwarka Kalika Peeṭhaṃ, the other two important seats are the Sringeri Sharada Peetham in Karnataka and Uttarakhand’s Jyotirmath or Joshimath.

“They [BJP, RSS] are also diluting the peetham culture through this (by not considering their views),” Mishra added.

Speaking to the media in Varanasi last week, Swami Nischalananda Saraswati said “we [Hindus] have full right to re-consecrate our demolished value points and no power in the world can deny us”.

“It is my request to [our] Muslim brothers that they should not follow as principle, steps taken by their ancestors, by encroaching upon human rights. They should work with us and exhibit courtesy and love and try to adopt the style of Rahim [poet] and Raskhan [Sufi poet].”

Even so, one of the women petitioners in the Gyanvapi case, Sita Sahu, told ThePrint Bhagwat’s comment was being “misinterpreted”.

“I think that he is right, as too many petitions are now being filed, which I too think is wrong. But history has it that Mathura temple was demolished, Kashi temple was demolished. So, I think this [demand for temples here] is correct,” she said.

Sohanlal Arya, VHP Varanasi praant vice-president and husband of Lakshmi Devi, another petitioner in the case, was the first to claim that the black stone structure found inside the wuzukhana of the Gyanvapi Mosque was a Shivling.

Speaking to ThePrint, he said, “If we have these three temples—Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura—if we get these places and temples here, we will leave Qutub Minar and Taj Mahal. Muslims should understand our sentiments.”

Mishra added, “You want to make a historical correction, but how far will you go? 1,000, 5,000 or 10,000 years?” – ThePrint, 7 June 2022

Shikha Salaria is the principle correspondent for The Times of India in New Delhi.

Temple wall part of Gyanvapi Mosque

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