CM Jagan is known to often meet Swami Swaroopanandendra Saraswathi, the head of Visakha Sarada Peetham.

Swaroopanandendra Saraswathi in orange robes seated in an orange chair holding a stick srisaradapeetham.org
news Controversy Sunday, November 15, 2020 - 15:29

The Telugu Desam Party has opposed the Andhra Pradesh government’s decision to mark the birthday of the Visakha Sri Sarada Peetham pontiff Swami Swaroopanandendra Saraswathi in several temples in the state. TDP leader Yanamala Ramakrishnudu, YSRCP rebel MP Raghurama Krishnam Raju, and a few other critics of the YSRCP government have opposed the decision to officially celebrate the pontiff’s birthday in 23 temples in the state, alleging that it displays favoritism on Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s part. 

In a letter date November 9, the manager of Sarada Peetham wrote to the Commissioner of Endowments Department, requesting that “temple honours” be sent from 23 temples, including the Antarvedi temple in East Godavari, the Kanaka Durga temple in Vijayawada, Srikalahasti, Kanipakam, Srisailam, Ahobilam and other prominent temples, through official temple staff and head priests. On November 12, a memo was sent from Endowments Department Additional Commissioner K Rama Chandra Mohan, forwarded the request to the 23 temples, asking officials to “take necessary action”. However, it is unclear what these “temple honours” would entail. 

Condemning the move, Yanamala Ramakrishnudu said that the decision goes against the state government’s “sanatana traditions” towards temples and swamis. He said that the Sarada Peetham is already mired in controversies, and these orders add to the controversies. 

CM Jagan is known to meet Swami Swaroopanandendra Saraswathi often, and reports suggest that discussions between the two often involve key political discussions, with the CM reportedly seeking the religious leader’s advice on important matters.  

Calling the memo an example of CM Jagan’s “antics”, Yanamala said that while Jagan is free to spend his own money on the birthday celebrations, using government funds to do so is an abuse of power. “Jagan’s devotion towards the swami who helped him perform homams in the past, has exceeded his devotion for the people,” he said. A few years ago, Jagan had performed a homam in Rishikesh under Swami Swaroopanandendra’s guidance, seeking special category status for Andhra Pradesh. Later, during the Assembly elections in the state 2019 and soon after Jagan was voted into power, videos of the homam were widely circulated with a false message claiming that Jagan had “converted to Hinduism”. 

Yanamala questioned why no official celebrations had been approved for other religious leaders like Jayendra Saraswathi Shankaracharya, the former pontiff of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham and Chinna Jeeyar Swamy, another prominent spiritual guru. Alleging favouritism, Yanamala called the order to celebrate Swaroopanandendra’s birthday an insult to other prominent religious leaders. 

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