No golden rules

Sai Baba's followers are of a different mind and the temple trust is getting into that oxymoronic race to be the richest temple in India.

india Updated: Aug 22, 2006 03:38 IST
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Rituals, as the manifest pillar of religion, must, and do, evolve with time. But not often does change mark a significant departure from the very philosophy of the religion. Not so in Pune where the Sai Baba Temple Trust plans a 250 kg gold throne for Shirdi’s Sai Baba at a cost of Rs 22 crore. The idea seems rather over the top, especially since Shirdi’s Sai Baba is better known for his very simple ways and charitable disposition.

The last few years, has seen a meteoric rise in the popularity of the Baba, especially among the young. Temples devoted to him have mushroomed in every city, his image is everywhere — in lockets, dashboard of cars, bill boards and calendars and the Shirdi pilgrimage has become as popular as those to traditional sites of Vaishno Devi or Badrinath.Shirdi itself has become a mini tourist town of sorts. Sai Baba merchandise, from statuettes to jewellery to lamps that play bhajans, have found a firm foothold among a fervently-praying Indian middle-class. The Baba’s emphasis on charity arose from his own distrust of the material: the dakshina he received from his better-off devotees, he gave away almost immediately to the needy.

But his followers are of a different mind and the temple trust has begun dreaming of gold and getting into that oxymoronic race to be the richest temple in India. It is not our call to decide whether what the temple trust is doing is right or wrong. But what can be gleaned from Sai Baba’s life tells us that a throne of gold might just end up turning his legacy on its head.

First Published: Aug 22, 2006 03:38 IST