His politics is exclusively fire and brimstone variety. But Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath has a softer side too.
The 44-year-old monk is also an animal lover. And his compassion for animals goes beyond cows of which he has around 500 in a cow shelter in the Gorakhnath temple where he is also the head priest.
While his daily schedule has changed following his appointment as chief minister, Adityanath had a gruelling time table as head priest in Gorakhpur.
“He (Adityanath) gets up at 3 am. After yoga and daily prayers, he feeds the cows at his ‘gaushala’. He takes his breakfast only after feeding the cows,” said a close associate.
The ‘gaushala’ is set up across two acres of land on the temple premises. Several volunteers every day tend to the 500-plus cows at the shelter.
“Yogiji likes my dedication towards the service of cows, including Nandini, his favourite one. Yogiji doesn’t take his breakfast till he himself feeds the cows,” Man Mohamed, the only Muslim volunteer at the shelter told HT.
While Adityanath’s love for cows is well known, he is also a pet lover and has a number of animals on the Gorakhnath temple premises, including a dog, a cat, a deer and some monkeys.
His dog named Kallu roams the temple premises all day. When Adityanath is in Gorakhpur, he spends time with Kallu after completing his daily chores and political meetings.
In the morning, he also feeds the monkeys which have made the temple their home.
Recently a photo of Yogi feeding milk to a tiger cub went viral on social media.
His aides in the Gorakhnath temple said the cub was found roaming near an ashram in Tulsipur, in Balrampur district near the India-Nepal border, about 150 km from Gorakhpur. The cub was kept in the ashram for a few months and later handed over to the forest department for rehabilitation. Adityanath used to feed the cub with a milk bottle whenever he visited the ashram, they said.
He used to also feed the deer and antelopes that roamed around the ashram near Tuthibari in Maharajganj district, 100 km from Gorakhpur. The ashram is sandwiched between Sohagibarwa Wildlife Sanctuary in Maharajganj and Chitwan National Park in Nepal.
The Gorakhnath Temple Trust has also set up an ashram in Nawal Parasi district across the border in Nepal which Aditya Nath sometimes visits.
In the late 1990s, a young Adityanath had galvanized Tharu and Vantongiyas tribals, settled in the bordering districts of Balrampur, Lakhimpur, Siddharthnagar and Maharajganj to launch a movement against poachers in the forest areas of Nepal and UP.
His love for trees has turned the Gorakhnath temple into an oasis in a concrete jungle. His supporters call him a ‘green saint’ who has planted a number of saplings of peepal, mango, banyan and Ashoka around the residential complex located on the temple premises.
Adityanath is also said to have planted a number of aromatic and medicinal plants in an area between the temple and the cow shelter.