The recent argument put forward by the Left Front government in Kerala that Sabarimala is a Buddhist temple proves a travesty of truth. An error told umpteen times would not make it a fact. Whether the hill shrine is related to Buddhist faith is to be looked from a researcher’s angle rather than of cheap politics and mercenary propagandists. Reason and logic combined with historical and philosophical knowledge are all Greek to the self-styled academics who eke out a living pleasing their uneducated political mentors. After all these pseudo-intellectuals who use their intelligence to feather own nest are not committed to any politics or ideology. That these double headed chameleons, cats’ paws of some hidden hands, would switch down to any side in with the changing political scenario is well known.
It is argued that the word saranam at Sabarimala is the same Buddhist saranam. The word saranam is Sanskrit and existed before Lord Buddha. Again it is erroneous to put the Buddha outside the general Hindu thought. Buddha tried to revamp the ancient Indian philosophical system which during his days was almost collapsing. The aim of Buddhism as Swami Vivekananda observed was “the reform of Vedic religion by standing against ceremonials requiring offerings of animals, against hereditary caste and exclusive priesthood and against belief in permanent souls … It never attempted to destroy that religion” but “introduced a vigorous method by organizing a class of Sannyasins into a strong monastic brotherhood, and the Brahmavadins into a body of nuns”. (Swami Vivekananda, Complete Works, Calcutta, 2009, Vol.6, p. 161).
Buddha, in fact, gave continuity to the old Indian system of monastic order when he saw spirituality giving way to ritualism. To say Sabarimala was Buddhist shrine just taking the word saranam is equal to say, Mahabali ruled Mahabalipuram or Maveli the place Mavalikkara in Kerala. Saranam, already a Sanskrit, word was used earlier to Buddha by Lord Srikrishna when he discoursed on bodha or consciousness. Srikrishna exhorts to seek the ultimate refuge (saranam) in the undifferentiated consciousness (akhanda bodha). Buddhau saranamanvischa or take refuge in bodha, says Bhagavad Gita. Buddha also made his followers chant Buddham saranam gachhami or may I take refuge in Buddham or bodha. It is not refuge in the person of the Buddha, because he opposed the idea of personal gods. The Gita and the Buddha again share the common middle path to the ultimate realization – Samyak samadhi, or balanced thought and advocate unattached work. Philosophically the teachings of Lord Sri Krishna and Bhagavan Buddha thus don’t differ. They, unlike the Semitic systems, are of a common tradition.
Besides, the sitting poses of the Buddha statue and Sastha at Sabarimala differ widely. Buddha images of Mathura and Gandhara are shown seated cross-legged and not on heels as the Ayyappa idol at Sabarimala does. Only in the images of Yogadakshinamurti of South India one sees Siva seated on feet with the holy steps in the background. True, Padmasana (seated cross-legged like the lotus) is common to yogis as seen in the images of the Indian divinities like Lord Siva, or the Buddha. Difference between the Buddha and Sastha poses is so profound that one cannot be taken for the other.
Mutual religious acceptance has been India’s national character down the millennia. Ekam sat vipra bahudha vadanti – truth is one, scholars tell it differently, the Hindus knew at the very dawn of civilization. India has sheltered the remnants of many religious groups tyrannically persecuted down the centuries, the Jews for instance. But it is a service the Hindus have been doing and doesn’t amount to any legal claim to the beneficiary. The God is of the devotees, but not the temple and its properties which are administered by the Hindus who are their owners. Hindus allow other communities to enter their temples, but hospitality won’t make guests the hosts. In the Hindu temples there are subsidiary deities along with the main deity. Vavarnada at Sabarimala is one such where Vavar is an upadevata (subsidiary deity) and the devotees, both Hindus and Muslims make offerings both at Vavar sanctum as well as the main sanctum of Lord Ayyappa. But the temple as a whole is the Hindu property with the Travancore Devaswam Board as trustee. Ayyappa devotes offer prayers at and start Petta tullal from the Vavar Mosques at Erumeli en route to Sabarimala. But these are parts of the rituals fostering religious tolerance. Just because Ayyappa devotees throng to the Vavar mosque at Erumeli the mosque’s administration would not go to the Hindus. It would remain only with the Muslim sect concerned that administers the mosque. Or will the Government of Kerala opine that the Hindu devotees have legal rights over the Erumeli mosque which should welcome the female devotees too whom it is hell-bent to take to the sanctum of Sabarimala breaking the centuries old temple tradition? The argument that Christians also are to be made party before taking decision on Sabarimala just because Yesudas sang the Harivarasanam is as foolish as to say Christians and Hindus have rights over Mecca because Yesudas sang Vayalar Ramavarma’s enthralling lyric mayate Macca manasil nilppu for the movie Harshabashpam. Pilgrimage to the holy places are done by people irrespective of communities and worshipping centers. But someone going to Vatican can have no legal right over the Holy city. Even an Indian Hindu who visits the shrine of Pasupatinath can only seek the God’s blessings and no legal claim over the Nepali shrine. Gods and devotees have no country and community barriers, but properties and legal rights do have. Hence the untenability of Kerala State’s argument, the Wakf Board, Muslim organisations, Vavar Trust and Christian groups should be made parties to the issue. (NIE, 13. 11. 2018)
But logic would not dawn to those fed on Sulphur hot slogans. It is indeed surprising that a group who believe ‘religion is the opium of man’ is hell bent to feed even the last one with moksha! Has the atheist outfit changed its materialist ideology to protect religious faith? No. It is the same old snake in the grass. The Communists’ aim is to destroy and devastate. Flogging, not the whip is their aim. They would use one whip or the other and now they got it in the form of convenient court verdict. Or when have the Communists been steadfast to the value of judiciary right from the Meerut Conspiracy case wherein they used the court as platform for their political propaganda? To a group who on the eve of India’s independence mooted, India is a multinational federation with the aim to balkanize it has no qualm to say Sabarimala may be divided among different communal sects. They only want to disintegrate, destroy and devastate Sabarimala. But they had better ensure, they won’t crumble in their fanatic effort to disintegrate the holy shrine.
* Kerala State President, Unnata Vidyabhyasa Adhyapaka Sangham (Higher education wing, Akhil Bharatiya Rashtriya Saikshik Mahasangh)