A ‘temple’ for Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has come up about 25 kilometres from Ayodhya on the Ayodhya-Prayagraj highway in Bhadarsa village.
The idol of the chief minister shows him carrying a bow and arrow and an ‘aarti’ is performed every evening. Prabhakar Maurya, who built the structure, said, “Yogi Adityanath has built the Ram temple for us and I have built this temple for him.”
While one may respect the sentiments of those who constructed this structure, this is a sign of how the modern-day Hindu society has drifted from the basics of Dharma and got mired in shallow behavior that inadvertently leads to making a mockery of our own Dharma. It also shows the degradation of our Dharmic/religious organizations, due to the secular state’s hostility and other factors, that no one seems to have the authority to curb such ignorant/attention-seeking acts.
This is also what “Hinduism has no set rules” thinking has reduced us to. In the desperation to counter their critics and the rigid dogma of monotheistic religions, some Hindus are hollowing the roots of their own Dharma. Such unrestrained freedom is the gateway to degeneracy and Adharma.
Yes, Dharma welcomes diverse traditions and celebrates pluralism, but all those diverse paths have founders with a deep immersion and knowledge of Dharma. Earlier, any new tradition had to win acceptance from respected scholars and sadhus in Dharma sabhas (assemblies) before getting widespread recognition in society.
No sant parampara/monastic order says that you should build temples for a sadhu/yogi. Temples are sacred places to worship Bhagwan and devi-devatas (deities), not ordinary humans. Self-realized beings/saints can have shrines/samadhis after they attain moksha so that humans continue drawing inspiration from their lives, like the one dedicated to Ramana Maharishi in Tiruvannamalai; though I believe that even statues of such saints should not be worshipped through aarti/abhisheka like a deity’s murti is.
‘Temples’ dedicated to politicians and celebrities is a modern-day abomination of Dharma. The deification of politicians, cricketers and movie stars – superimposing their faces on those of deities, or dressing them up as deities in hoardings & magazine covers – is just another sacrilege of Dharma which masses don’t realize in our celebrity-mad, hyper-politicized culture.
Hero worship of leaders, movie stars, sportspersons is something which afflicts all societies. Mediocre footballers and pop stars are treated like demigods in so-called ‘rational-scientific’ Western countries like UK. But Hindus and Bharat are exceptionally derided for ‘deification’ of these celebrities and this celebrity culture is linked to our ‘penchant for idol worship’ (a subtle dig at murti puja practiced by most Hindus). So the next time someone patronizingly says, “Cricket is a religion in India, and Sachin is its God” – understand that this is a back-handed compliment at best, a way of showcasing Indians (Hindus) as fundamentally irrational and ‘false God worshippers’.
Sadly, we give Hinduphobes an easy stick to beat us with when we unknowingly demean our own Dharma by building ‘temples’ for politicians and movie stars, howsoever fringe such acts are. Bestowing the sacred honorific ‘mahatma’ on morally-conflicted humans like Gandhi and Phule is another thing we need to learn to avoid.
Hindu Dharmic institutions need to come out of their comfort zones and shells to boldly lead society once again. Any act of sacrilege should be loudly and robustly criticized and invite swift socio-legal action. Do not be fooled by the left-liberal rhetoric “Don’t mix religion and politics”. Dharma is the root of our civilization and must influence politics too. Nature abhors a vacuum. It is up to each Dharmic sampradaya to ensure that its followers rediscover their sacred teachings and traditions, and live by those. That is the only way to stamp out the degeneracy that is fast becoming rife in society.
(With IANS inputs)