Coinciding with Navratri beginning on March 31, a verse from Durga Saptasati has been modified as ‘Yo Modi sarvabhuteshu, rashtrarupen sansthitah, namastasmay, namastasmay, namastasmay, namo namah.’
Released in posters with photographs of Modi in a saffron background posing with a victory sign, the slogan roughly translate into, ‘Modi, who resides in every human being in the form of ‘rashtra’ (nation), I salute him again and again.’
It’s a corruption of the original, ‘Ya devi sarvbhutesu matri rupen sansthitah, namastasye namastasye namastasye, namo namah (the Goddess who is omnipresent as the personification of the universal mother, I bow to her again and again).
These posters have created an uproar with Hindu seers calling it blasphemous and some people describing it as Modi’s attempt to portray himself as God. Last week, after TOI had reported the alteration of ‘Har har Mahadev’ slogan, Modi had appealed to party worker not to use it. The party also disassociated itself with it.
The new posters were launched from Renuka Temple in Gurudham colony in Varanasi. The temple is in the name of Lord Parshuram’s mother, considered a symbol of Shakti – or feminine energy. In defence, a member of BJP’s cooperative cell SP Tiwari said, “It’s not a distortion of a religious sloka. Instead, it’s an adaption to reflect real sentiments of the people about Modi. Today, Modi resides in the hearts of all Indians.”
Informed about the party’s reaction to the ‘Har har Modi’ controversy, Tiwari said the new mantra was different from the earlier slogan. “Please read the sentiment behind it,” he said. Tiwari and his team plan to circulate thousands of posters and pamphlets containing the new slogan in Varanasi during Navratra.
Swami Avimukteshwaranand Saraswati, chief disciple of Shankaracharya of Jyotish and Dwarka Peeths Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati, said, “Modi in his tweet had said he respects the sentiments of the workers, which, I think, was an indirect endorsement of the act, and which has encouraged BJP workers to alter another sloka and compare Modi with God. A mistake doesn’t happen twice,” he said. “The BJP appears to be doing this deliberately and now voters will punish them,” he added.
Rameshwar Puri, the mahant of prominent Annapoorna Mandir in Varanasi, asked, “What’s BJP trying to prove? Is Modi God? This is highly objectionable.”
The Mahant of Sankat Mochan temple Vishwambhar Nath Mishra said BJP was making fun of Hindu gods and goddesses. “Such blasphemy will cost them dear,” he said. It may be mentioned that Modi met the Mahant during his visit to the city in December last year.
“It’s unfortunate and blasphemous. Instead of distorting the Durga Saptsati sloka to praise a human being, it would have been better if BJP leaders had sought Goddess Durga’s blessing,” said Santosh Das, Mahamandaleshwar of Satua Baba Ashram, Manikarnika Ghat.
Even seers considered Modi sympathisers condemned the new slogan. “Such distortion of religious slokas and mantras is unacceptable. It seems the work of some local-level leaders who want to publicise their names. Modi himself had earlier said such slogans should not be raised,” said Swami Narendranand Sarawasti, Shankracharya of Kashi Sumeru Peeth.
The Opposition grabbed the opportunity to attack the BJP saying, “This hurts Hindu sentiments and shows mindset of BJP leaders. The slogan also amounts to use of religion for electoral gains and violates election code of conduct,” said AAP leader Vaibhav Maheshwari. Congress MLA Ajai Rai said, “BJP is projecting Modi as God. I request the Shankaracharyas to outcast such persons, who equate an individual with God.”
Gopal Verma, an activist, demanded an apology: “Modi wants to be treated as God. Without his approval, no BJP worker can coin such slogans,” he said. Rajendra Dixit, a shopkeeper, said: “The slogan will invite a backlash from Hindu community, particularly Brahmins.”