A ‘temple’ for Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has stood about 25 kilometers from Ayodhya on the Ayodhya-Prayagraj highway in the village of Bhadarsa.
The Chief Minister’s idol shows him carrying a bow and arrow and an ‘aarti’ is performed every night. Prabhakar Maurya who built the structure said, “Yogi Adityanath built Ram’s temple for us and I built this temple for him.”
While one can respect the feelings of those who built this structure, it is a sign of how modern Hindu society has strayed from the basics of Dharma and become mired in superficial behavior that leads by inadvertently mocking our own Dharma. It also shows the degradation of our dharmic/religious organizations, due to the hostility of the secular state and other factors, that no one seems to have the authority to curb such ignorant/attention seeking acts.
This is also what the thought “Hinduism has no set rules” has reduced us to. In desperation to counter their detractors and the rigid dogma of monotheistic religions, some Hindus dig the roots of their own Dharma. Such unbridled freedom is the gateway to degeneracy and Adharma.
Yes, the Dharma welcomes diverse traditions and celebrates pluralism, but all of these diverse paths have founders with deep immersion and knowledge of the Dharma. Previously, any new tradition had to gain the acceptance of respected scholars and sadhus in Dharma sabhas (assemblies) before gaining widespread recognition in society.
No sant parampara/monastic order says 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 sanctuaries/samadhis after attaining moksha so that humans continue to draw inspiration from their lives, such as the one dedicated to Ramana Maharishi in Tiruvannamalai; although I believe that even statues of these saints should not be worshiped by the aarti/abhisheka as is the murti of a deity.
“Temples” dedicated to politicians and celebrities is a modern abomination of Dharma. The deification of politicians, cricketers and movie stars – superimposing their faces on those of deities, or disguising them as deities in billboards and magazine covers – is just another Dharma sacrilege whose masses don’t realize in our crazy celebrity, politicized hyper-culture.
Hero worship for leaders, movie stars, sportsmen is something that plagues all societies. Mediocre footballers and pop stars are treated like demigods in so-called “rational and scientific” Western countries like the UK. But Hindus and Bharats are exceptionally derided for the “deification” of these celebrities and this celebrity culture is related to our “penchant for idol worship” (a subtle sting at the murti puja practiced by most Hindus). So the next time someone condescendingly says, “Cricket is a religion in India, and Sachin is its god,” understand that this is a backhanded compliment at best, a way of presenting the Indians (Hindus) as fundamentally irrational and “false God”. worshipers’.
Unfortunately, we give Hinduphobes an easy stick to fight with when we unknowingly belittle our own Dharma by building “temples” for politicians and movie stars, however marginal. Granting the sacred honorific “mahatma” to morally conflicted humans like Gandhi and Phule is another thing we must learn to avoid.
Hindu dharmic institutions must come out of their comfort zones and shells to boldly lead society again. Any act of sacrilege should be strongly and vigorously criticized and prompt socio-legal action. Don’t be fooled by the left-liberal “don’t mix religion and politics” rhetoric. Dharma is the root of our civilization and to have to 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 them. This is the only way to eradicate the degeneration that is rapidly rampant in society.
(With IANS entries)