For those who find solace in chanting “Sai Ram” are having to adjust to the possibility that the two may not be compatible together. On Thursday, also revered as the Guru’s day by Sai followers, a Sai temple in Lucknow filed a petition in the Allahabad high court seeking an FIR against the Dwarka Shankaracharya Swaroopanand Saraswati for his remarks, questioning Shirdi Sai Baba’s “godly status”. Cases against the seer, a known Congress backer, have also been filed in Indore and Jaipur even though the 90-year-old pontiff remains unmoved.
The Dwarka peeth’s comment that “there is no mention of Sai Baba in the ‘Shastras’ and the ‘Vedas’,” and so, he “should not be worshipped with Hindu gods,” had kicked up a religious storm. He said that Sai was not a symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity.
Angry supporters of Sai Baba spilled into the streets of many cities, burning effigies of Shankaracharya, with politicians also joining the fray. Meanwhile, another reason being floated for the Dwarka peeth’s comments is that he was jealous of the sheer size of the donations received by the Sai temple at Shirdi.
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According to a report displayed on the temple’s website, the temple received donations worth Rs. 410 crore in 2012-13. “People come and donate in large numbers at the Sai temple, others get jealous of it,” said Sanjay Kale, a local activist in Shirdi.
The Shankaracharya camp, meanwhile, backed the seer. “In Hindu scriptures, it is clearly mentioned that no other deity apart from those mentioned in these texts would be worshipped,” said Swami Avimukteshwaranand Saraswati, who looks after the Sri Vidya Math, one of the most respected maths of Kashi.
Acharya Kushmuni Swarup, national spokesman, Akhil Bhartiya Dandi Sanyasi Prabudh Samiti, advised that the followers of Sai should worship him as “guru and not God”, a view many Sai followers are comfortable with.
Read: Swaroopanand booked, protests over Sai Baba comments