‘Ayodhya Ram temple has divided, not united India’: Shankaracharya of Jyotish Peeth
In a detailed 40-minute interview, where he explains at length how he views the Prana Pratishtha (consecration) of the Ram Lalla murti at the Ram temple in Ayodhya on Monday, January 22, the Shankaracharya of Jyotish Peeth has said that he has not been invited to the ceremony. He added that if he were to be invited he would certainly go to Ayodhya, but made it clear that he would not participate in the Prana Pratishtha. Swami Avimukteshwaranand Saraswati also said he did not know if the other Shankaracharyas (of Puri, Dwarka, Sringeri) have been invited, but equally clearly stated that none of the four Shankaracharyas will be attending the ceremony.
In a special interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire, recorded face-to-face in Delhi on Monday, January 15, a week before the consecration ceremony, the Shankaracharya of Jyotish Peeth explained in detail why he will not participate in the consecration ceremony.
Karan Thapar writes:
I will leave you to get the details from the interview, where Swami Avimukteshwaranand ji spoke in Hindi and the questions are a mixture of English and Hindi. However, let me in broad terms point out that Swamiji’s argument is that it’s against the dharma shastras to perform the Prana Pratishtha of a murti before the temple is complete. He also pointed out that the mahurat has not been correctly chosen revealing that, in fact, the Jyotish in Kashi was told to identify a mahurat in January rather than the most appropriate mahurat for the Prana Pratishtha.
Swami Avimukteshwaranand made clear that he is not anti-Modi but accepted that the building of the Ram temple as well as the propaganda surrounding the Prana Pratishtha have politicised the temple. He said he completely agreed with comments made by the Shankaracharya of Puri and reported by The Hindu on January 14 where the Shankaracharya said: “Politicians have their limits and they have responsibility under the Constitution. There are rules and restrictions in the religious and spiritual domain and these rules should be followed. Interfering in every area by politicians is insanity…overstepping these rules for propagating one’s name is an act of rebellion against God.”
When asked whether the Shankaracharya of Puri was hinting at Modi, the Shankaracharya of Jyotish Peeth said nothing has been hidden and it’s quite clear that the reference is to the Prime Minister.
In the interview, the Shankaracharya was asked how Lord Ram, who Hindus view as Maryada Purushottam, would view what is happening in his name at the Prana Pratishtha. The Swami agreed that he is worried that the politicization of the Ram temple is dividing India rather than uniting India and also creating divisions among its Hindu population.
In the interview, Swami Avimukteshwaranand Saraswati was asked whether he was in favour of temples replacing existing mosques in Kashi and Mathura and said that that the issue should be resolved by consensus with wise Hindus and wise Muslims sitting together and people returning to each other what has been wrongly taken from them.
In the interview, the Shankaracharya was asked questions about himself. He responded to claims that he is the one who is politicizing the temple as well as online fake claims that he has visited the Ajmer Sharif Dargah to spread a chadhar. He also responded to the accusation that he is behaving and speaking like a Congressman.
I am being very careful in paraphrasing the broad points made by the Shankaracharya because I do not want to misinterpret him or convey a wrong impression of his views. Inevitably that will mislead but also add to the confusion and politicisation of the Prana Pratishtha. Therefore, it is best that you should see this interview for yourself.
This is a lengthy 40-minute interview and I believe the first by any of the four Shankaracharyas where he explains at such length his views on the Ram temple, the consecration ceremony, the politicisation that is happening as well as other associated matters such as whether temples should replace mosques in Kashi and Mathura and how he responds to criticism of himself, both online and made by BJP supporters and politicians.
Instead what I will do is to give you the list of questions so you can both see the range of issues covered and the manner in which the interview progresses.
Here are the questions:
1) Why have you refused the invitation to the Prana Pratishtha of the Ram temple in Ayodhya next Monday, January 22?
2) In a video that has gone viral you have said I am not anti-Modi but we don’t want to be anti-dharma shastra either. Can you explain why it will be against the shastras if you attend the Prana Pratishtha?
3) The temple is not complete and will not be for perhaps two more years. Even its shikar (spire) has not been built. Do the shastras permit the Prana Pratishtha to take place in an unfinished and incomplete temple?
– What about garbhagriha/mahurat?
4) What about the other three Shankaracharyas from Puri, Dwarka and Sringeri? Will they be attending the Prana Pratishtha? Or have all four Shankaracharyas refused the invitation?
5) There is no doubt that the central person at the Prana Pratishtha will be Prime Minister Modi. Speaking about this the Shankaracharya of Puri has said: “Our scriptures have clearly mentioned who can touch the idol. What will I do there during the consecration? Modi ji will inaugurate and touch the idol. I can’t stand there and clap to applaud him. I know the dignity of my position. This isn’t ego.” Do you share that view?
6) There is no doubt that the Prana Pratishtha has become a rajnitik event rather than a dharmik event. How do you view that?
7) On Saturday in Bengal the Shankaracharya of Puri said: “Politicians have their limits and they have responsibility under the Constitution. There are rules and restrictions in the religious and spiritual domain and these rules should be followed. Interfering in every area by politicians is insanity…overstepping these rules for propagating one’s name is an act of rebellion against God.” Do you agree? (Hindu 14/1)
8) Are you worried that the Ram temple has been politicised and this Prana Pratishtha and all the politics and propaganda around it could divide India rather than unite India?
9) Hindus view Lord Ram as Maryada Purushottam. How would he view what is happening in his name at the Prana Pratishtha?
10) The Ayodhya temple is being built. Do you want to see similar temples in place of mosques in Kashi and Mathura?
11) The BJP says that in refusing the invitation to the Prana Pratishtha you are the one who is introducing politics. There are also fake claims about you online. One such is that you have visited the Ajmer Sharif Dargah to spread a chadhar. How do you respond to this treatment of yourself?
– You’re accused of being a Congressman?
12) Your pain and unhappiness have been clear and visible in this interview. Am I right in saying at a moment which should be one of happiness you are in fact sad and pained?
This article was originally published in The Wire and can be read here.