What Yogi Adityanath Over­looks

Hin­dus pre­fer a sta­ble world of ma­te­rial ben­e­fits over the desta­bil­is­ing one of peren­nial re­li­gious ac­tivism

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - TIMES NATION - Pa­van K Varma

Dur­ing the tur­bu­lence in 1992 to build the Ram tem­ple in Ay­o­d­hya Ved Prakash Gupta, a prom­i­nent lo­cal BJP politi­cian, went on record to ex­press his an­noy­ance at the re­peated ag­i­ta­tions in favour of the tem­ple. His ar­gu­ment was that the city’s shop­keep­ers, tra­di­tion­ally strong sup­port­ers of BJP, were more con­cerned, as a con­se­quence of the peren­nial un­rest, about the de­clin­ing vol­ume of busi­ness than about the con­struc­tion of the tem­ple.

This re­ac­tion has a strong res­o­nance to­day, for it prompts im­por­tant ques­tions about how Hin­dus will re­act, at a time of ver­i­fi­able and painful eco­nomic dis­lo­ca­tion, to the ap­peal of politi­cians on the con­struc­tion of the Ram tem­ple at Ay­o­d­hya, or now lately, the new pro­posal of Yogi Adiyanath to con­struct a gi­ant statue of Rama on the banks of the Saryu river. Will they set aside their eco­nomic dis­ap­point­ments and fall prey to re­li­gious mo­bil­i­sa­tion, or will they re­ject this oft played re­li­gious card be­cause of anger at some­thing per­haps even closer to their heart – the ero­sion of their eco­nomic hopes?

In the Hindu world­view, artha, or the pur­suit of ma­te­rial well­be­ing, is among the four high­est pu­rusharthas or goals of life, along with dharma, kama and mok­sha. Hin­duism, thus, gives ma­te­ri­al­ism philo­soph­i­cal va­lid­ity, not by in­fer­ence but by spe­cific in­clu­sion.

Among the most im­por­tant deities in a Hindu’s life are Lak­shmi and Gane­sha. Lak­shmi, the con­sort of Vishnu, is the god­dess of wealth and pros­per­ity. She is a ubiq­ui­tous pres­ence in al­most every home; her por­trait adorns shops, of­fices and busi­ness es­tab­lish­ments, and her bless­ings are sought to keep ac­count books in the black.

On Deep­avali, Hin­dus pray to her to bring wealth and pros­per­ity. Many devo­tees keep their doors and win­dows open the whole night so that she can en­ter the home un­ob­structed. Gane­sha too is much revered as a guar­an­tor of ma­te­rial wealth, and es­pe­cially com­mer­cial suc­cess.

Rama, who is the epit­ome of rec­ti­tude, maryada pu­rushot­tam, is equally a highly ven­er­ated and loved de­ity. A tem­ple in his name at his birth place, Ay­o­d­hya, will cer­tainly be wel­comed by most Hin­dus. But can pol­i­tics in the name of Rama fi­nesse the per­ceived ne­glect of Lak­shmi and Gane­sha?

For the le­gions of busi­ness­men and en­trepreneurs both in the organised and un­or­gan­ised sec­tor, whose dhanda has slumped due to the cu­mu­la­tive im­pact of de­mon­eti­sa­tion and the con­se­quences of a less than ad­e­quately planned and im­ple­mented GST reg­i­men, and for the mil­lions of youth look­ing for jobs they can­not find, and for farm­ers reel­ing un­der un­re­lent­ing agrar­ian dis­tress, will the dis­con­tents due to the de­val­u­a­tion of Lak­shmi be more im­por­tant than so­cial con­flict over con­struct­ing a tem­ple for Rama, and the ex­pense of build­ing a gi­ant statue in his name?

Cer­tainly Kau­tilya, au­thor of the Arthashas­tra – per­haps the world’s first com­pre­hen­sive trea­tise on state­craft – is an­other sig­nif­i­cant elab­o­ra­tion on state­craft, says that it is the duty of the king to ex­tend all as­sis­tance to the trader and busi­ness­man. The clas­sic Tamil work, Thirukku­ral, au­thored by Thiru­val­lu­var as far back pos­si­bly as 300 BCE, is con­sid­ered, es­pe­cially in the south, as the very repos­i­tory of wis­dom. In it Thiru­val­lu­var has this prag­matic gem: ‘Pini imai Sel­vam Vi­laivim­ban Emam Aniyemba Nat­tirkiv vainthu’ (Im­por­tant ele­ments con­sti­tut­ing a na­tion are: be­ing disease free; wealth; high pro­duc­tiv­ity; har­mo­nious liv­ing and strong de­fence).

The Ra­mayana it­self has this in­valu­able nugget of ad­vice: ‘ dhanam ar­jaya kakuth­stha dhana­mu­lam idam ja­gat, an­taran nab­hi­jamn nird­hanasya mr­ta­sya ca’ (Ac­quire wealth. The world has for its roots wealth. There is no dif­fer­ence be­tween a poor man and a dead one).

The truth is that, notwith­stand­ing the re­mark­able lofti­ness of Hindu meta­physics, for most Hin­dus – and this has the sanc­tion of an­cient wis­dom – the in­stinc­tive choice is a sta­ble world of en­dur­ing ma­te­rial ben­e­fits, not the desta­bil­is­ing one of peren­nial re­li­gious ac­tivism. Even Rama, as maryada pu­rushot­tam, would em­pha­sise for those in power the im­por­tance of kar­tavyam karma, the self­less per­for­mance of good gover­nance lead­ing to in­creas­ing pros­per­ity, over the cyn­i­cal use of his name for short-term elec­toral gain.

Hin­dus do have loy­al­ties of faith; on oc­ca­sion they can be ma­nip­u­lated be­cause of these. But, by and large, they are a prag­matic peo­ple who want to get on with the busi­ness of life, earn­ing more and en­sur­ing a bet­ter fu­ture for their chil­dren, rather than be mired in un­end­ing re­li­gious strife.

Hin­dus are right in be­liev­ing that the cor­rect pol­icy should be re­spect for all faiths rather than the cyn­i­cal pol­i­tics of mi­nor­ity ap­pease­ment. But, es­pe­cially in pe­ri­ods of eco­nomic dis­tress, they also know that Rama can­not be used to deflect at­ten­tion from Lak­shmi. BJP will have to bear this in mind if it tries to whip up the pol­i­tics of Hin­dutva in the count­down to 2019.

B e D y a d U

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