Kerala health minister KK Shailaja on Tuesday pulled up officials for including an introductory Sanskrit prayer in the Yoga Day celebrations in the state capital, inviting sharp criticism from several quarters.
The minister, who was the chief guest at the function, said prayers were not needed and yoga did not belong to a particular religion. She expressed displeasure at the inaugural address and later questioned officials of the Ayush department in this regard.
She said officials should have selected a prayer acceptable to all communities.
However, officials clarified the Sanskrit sloka (prayer) was included in accordance with the manual issued by the central government. They said the prayer was taken from Patnajali’s Yoga Sutra and was not religious text, as mentioned by the minister.
Reacting to the minister’s response, former chief minister Oommen Chandy said it was unfortunate to rake up such an issue. “We never expected such a response from the minister. In fact, yoga crosses all barriers,” he said.
The Muslim League, a constituent of the opposition United Democratic Front, also decried the minister’s action. “I don’t know why the minister is so intolerant towards a prayer,” said Muslim League general secretary ET Muhammed Basheer.
When the issue snowballed into a controversy, the minister denied seeking an explanation from any official. “I only made a suggestion. Many people are there who don’t believe in any religion. I did not seek explanation from anyone,” she said, adding that some people had blown the matter out of proportion.
The ruling CPI(M) has developed a yoga session called ‘Secular Yoga’ without any mantra or slogan. Instead of mantras, in the tailor-made session, mellifluous music accompanies yoga asanas (postures). It even organised yoga sessions in many parts of the state to allegedly steal the thunder of the saffron party.