When BJP MP from Bhopal Pragya Singh Thakur took oath on Monday, the first day of the 17th Lok Sabha, she took everyone by surprise by suffixing her name with Swami Purna Chetnanand Avdheshanand Giri, insisting that this was her full name.
Many Opposition members raised objections, not because they found the long name a bit mouthful but because they thought she was using the occasion to score some political or religious point. Thinking that she was deviating from the tradition, the pro tem speaker reminded her that she could take oath only in the name of the God or the Constitution.
The 49-year-old tried to dig her heels in saying she would take oath in the name of God but would use her full name. The pro tem speaker eventually ruled that only the part mentioned in the official certificate (issued by the Election Commission to winners) would go in the records.
Though the BJP leader insisted Purna Chetananannd Avdheshanand Giri was her official name, her nomination forms and affidavits mentioned Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur only.
She had taken deeksha from Swami Avdheshanand Giri, the head acharya (Mahamandleshwar) of Juna Akhara in 2007, a year before her arrest in the Malegaon blast case in 2008. She was given the name Swami Purna Chetnanand Giri by her Guru. Giri title is associated with Juna Akhara. Puri, Bharati and Saraswati are the other common titles.
Deeksha entails breaking all ties with family members so the disciples don’t write their father’s name and use the guru’s name in place. Swami is gender-neutral in spiritual terms so it’s used by both male and female disciples.
It would have taken an affidavit for the BJP leader’s new name to become official. Before she could initiate the process she was behind bars. Sadhvi is not a title bestowed by any institution or spiritual leader, and like sadhu for males, it’s commonly used for anyone who is believed to have devoted his or her life in the service of God. Because she started sporting saffron, she was called Sadhvi and the title stuck. She used the prefix not just in her affidavit or nomination forms but also her official Twitter handle.
So, Pragya Singh Thakur may have been rechristened in the Juna Akhara records, she will continue to be Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur in official records, bank accounts, passport, until she changes it and informs the authorities concerned.