A copy of Bhagwad Gita written in “gold” ink on 168 pages of handmade red paper should be a special gift for RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, who often underscores the universal relevance and importance of this sacred text. And, what makes this copy of Gita even more special is the fact that it has been written by a 75-year-old Muslim artist from Surendranagar and his family members.
Bhagwat would be presented this copy of Bhagwad Gita by Jain priest Vijay Abhaydev Sureshvarji on August 16 during an event here. The RSS chief is in the city to unfurl the national flag on the Independence Day.
It took two months for Mohammed Yunus Shaikh and his family members — sons Mehmood (32) and Yasin (30) and their wives Kashmira and Hasina, respectively — to write 745 shlokas of Gita in Sanskrit using ink, prepared by melting gold bars.
A resident of Anupam Society in Surendranagar’s Meghnagar area, a predominantly Jain neighbourhood, Shaikh turned a vegetarian 20 years ago and took to writing Hindu scriptures. His family is living in the area for the past 35 years among Jains, Patels and Malis and even his sons and daughters-in-law are vegetarian.
Trained in calligraphy by his father, Shaikh studied up to Class X and worked as clerk in a private school, besides as an accountant in a firm. He hails from Vadhvan village, around 5 km from Surendranagar town.
The family was given the contract to write the copy of Bhagwad Gita when Shaikh came in contact with Gachhadhipati Abhaydev Sureshvarji of Palitana, a Jain monk. Each page of the holy text written by Shaikh’s family has 18 lines in gold, nine on each side, and every page is wrapped in blotting paper.
“We have not converted. We celebrate Ramzan Eid and Bakri Eid. The Jains and the Patels also visit us, and we have shirkurma together. My grandsons play with their children, and we have never had any conflict. The women in our family do not wear burqa, and we wear the skull cap only when going for namaaz on Fridays,” Shaikh told The Indian Express.
“We got the contract of writing Bhagwat Gita from Maharaj Sureshvarji two months ago, and our entire family started working on it. We made the ink by melting gold bars and used sticks to write,” he said.
Handmade paper was used for a longer life. The paper was first filed with agate stones to smoothen it and after writing, each page was dried in the sun, he said. Shaikh received Rs 2 lakh for the Gita project.
“We all worked for five hours each day to complete the holy book. I have also taught this art to both my sons and daughters-in-law and they too helped me in carrying out this work,” said Shaikh
Shaikh, so far, had written 4 sets of Jain religious text Agam sutras using gold ink and each set consists of 3,000 pages.
Vijay Abhaydev Sureshvarji, a disciple of Gachhadhipati Abhaydev Sureshvarji, told The Indian Express: “Shaikh has been associated with us (Jain religious priests) for a long and we all know him personally. We have spent Rs 8 lakh to compile this Bhagwad Gita. During my last visit to Delhi for a religious event, I met RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and we invited him to attend a religious programme in Surat on August 16, when will gift him this Bhagwad Gita. The Bhagwad Gita would be kept in the RSS head office at Nagpur.”