For Jayalalithaa, no public display of faith, but no shying away either
J Jayalalithaa, born a Brahmin, might not have publicly performed yagnas or homams while leading a Dravidian party in a state where anti-caste Dravidian ideology held sway, but she made no effort to hide her ardent following of Hindu religious rituals.Jaya unwell Updated: Dec 06, 2016 20:25 IST
J Jayalalithaa, born a Brahmin, might not have publicly performed yagnas or homams while leading a Dravidian party in a state where anti-caste Dravidian ideology held sway, but she made no effort to hide her ardent following of Hindu religious rituals.
Yet, a few displays of her religious beliefs remained largely out of the public domain. Not many know Jayalalithaa used to perform Rahu-Ketu puja at the Srikalahasti temple near Tirupati in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh whenever she faced tough situations in life, such as the corruption case or elections.
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The temple is famous for the Rahu-Ketu puja, which is performed by persons facing troubles in personal and professional lives. A large number of VIPs across the country visit the temple each year to perform this puja.
“She used to come in a chartered helicopter, sometimes alone and sometimes with her friend Sasikala, besides her security personnel. She used to perform the puja with utmost devotion and take the blessings of Lord Vayulingeshwara, the presiding deity of the temple,” said Prabhakar Sarma, a priest at the temple. “Sometimes, she also used to perform Sarpa Dosha Nivaarana yagnam and Rudraabhishekam.”
Jayalalithaa was also a regular visitor to the famed Tirumala temple to pray to Lord Venkateshwara Swamy, besides Goddess Padmavati temple at Tiruchanur down the hills.
Incidentally, workers of her party, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), were known to campaign extensively across temples ahead of elections.
According to party sources, Jayalalithaa would not begin her poll campaigns before paying obeisance to the presiding deity at Srirangam.
She sanctioned money for free annadanams (offering of food) at nearly 500 temples in the state. For temple elephants, considered devout, Jayalalithaa decreed annual holidays at special camps organised by the government.
Before going out on any important mission, she would direct her convoy to slow down before a temple at Kotturpuram in south Chennai, bow to the presiding deity and carry on. When she was returning triumphant last year after the Karnataka High Court set her free from prison in a disproportionate assets case, she bowed to Lord Vinayaka at this temple before driving home.
Her beliefs aside, Jayalalithaa did not hesitate when it came to the arrest of Kanchi seer Jayendra Saraswati in 2004 on charges of abetting the murder of Sankararaman, the manager of a Kanchi temple, for exposing alleged financial irregularities in the mutt. The seer was acquitted in the case.
Because of her faith, Jayalalithaa had to face allegations of toeing the hardline Hindutva line. In 2002, she incurred the wrath of religious minorities by enacting the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion Act, more than two decades after the mass conversion of Dalits to Islam at Meenakshipuram triggered a debate over religious freedom across the state and country. She did not yield.
Jayalalithaa rarely offered explanations or reasons, but one such rare occasion came during a Christian congregation at the AIADMK office on December 23, 2013. “Faith is essential to achieve success in life. Miracles can happen if one has faith. Without faith, one cannot succeed in life,” she had told the congregation.