Shankaracharya Swaroopanand Saraswati, who in Bhopal released a controversial poster on Friday showing Lord Hanuman chasing away Sai Baba, alleged that Sai Baba was projected by a British agency in India to suppress the movement for construction of Ram mandir at Ayodhya. Shankaracharya, in an interview to HT, spoke at length about varied issues ranging from why he opposes Sai Baba, his take on cow slaughter and the demand for constructing Ram mandir at a time when BJP is in power: Excerpts
Why you are against Sai Baba?
Our Hindu sanatan dharma is being polluted by Sai Baba. People are being misled that Sai Baba is God, that he is a Guru. Some people are making Sai Puran, Sai Chaleesa, Sai Amrit and so on. Apart from constructing Sai Baba temples, his idols are being kept in our temples alongside our gods. Sai Baba is not a god, he was just a mortal. He died and what now is being worshipped is perhaps a ghost. And you know, in Hinduism when we want to chase away any ghost, we invoke Lord Hanuman, we chant bhoot pischach nikat nahe aawaey, mahaveer jab naam sunawe ( ghosts don’t venture near you when you chant the name of Hanuman). So we have come with this poster that shows Lord Hanuman chasing away Sai Baba. We want people to stop worshipping praet (ghost).
Is there any other reason?
Yes there is political reason as well. After Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana was telecast in India, there was a wave of Ram Bhakti, devotion to Rama and children started imitating Lord Rama, making small bows and arrows. The strong demand for creation of Ram Mandir at Ayodhya started coming from people. That time a British agency, projected Sai Baba to suppress the Ram Mandir movement in India.
But Sai Baba worshippers say they have faith in Him?
They (Sai Baba Worshippers) say they have faith. And we say there is difference between faith and blind faith. Faith has a substratum of reality, of a tradition. I will give you an example. You remember at one point Lord Ganesh was made to drink milk. So much publicity was done that people blindly believed in it. It was all hogwash. It was blind faith and there was no reality in the miracle. It was a lie that was given mass publicity. So by repeating a lie, it doesn’t become truth. So all this is a ploy to mislead people, to pollute the flow of sanatan dharma.
BJP in its election manifesto promised to try to build a Ram Mandir at Ayodhya. What you have to say about it now?
They will never build Ram Mandir. They have to take political advantage from it. This is frustrating for religious Hindus. I believe because the issue of construction of Ram Mandir was taken up by a political party, the movement suffered. Its politicization has limited it. I think Ram bhakts (devotees of Rama ), whether they are from any party, should come forward for construction of Ram mandir, especially the sadhu community. I have visited the Ram Mandir site and seen the remains of the ancient temple there. It was not a mosque. But when karyakartas (Right wing activists) demolished the structure, many people were misled to believe that there was a mosque over there, which was demolished.
What you have to say about demand for banning cow slaughter across India?
It is very important to save cow from getting killed for religious, social and economic reasons. Because of incidents related to cow issue, the gulf between Hindus and Muslims increases. If the cow slaughter is banned, there will be no ground in future for animosity between the two communities. And Hindus have been fighting for protecting cow from the time Muslims came to India. Babur had said that if you have to rule India, be inspired by cow slaughter. Akbar had banned cow slaughter. But later kings didn’t pay attention. And then Britishers went to the extreme by opening slaughter houses. Now when BJP is in power, cow meat is being exported by India in a big way. The government should ban export of beef. Sadly, in India today, everything is about money and this why atheism is one rise.
Any message for Narendra Modi or Shivraj Singh Chouhan?
Shivraj Singh Chouhan tou apna naramada ka bacha hai (Chouhan is the child of Narmada). He even says ‘dharm ke jay ho, adharm ka naash ho’ (may dharma win and evil be defeated). But he committed a mistake. He went to Shiridi and that is why Vyapam scam is haunting him now. Modi did nothing like that.