Updated: July 22, 2017 8:57:10 am
Dhyanyogi Omdasji Maharaj, the convener of the new religious cell formed by the Congress in Mumbai and a Kundalini yoga guru, who is also the trustee of the Hanuman Siddhapith Mutt, has a mission in mind as Congress’ religious cell head. “Under the leadership of the Congress, everyone must come together to build a golden temple of Maa Sita in Sitamarhi (Bihar). It is the birthplace of Maa Sita. This is where Lord Janak had found Maa Sita in a golden pitcher. The land isn’t under any dispute today. Before it is encroached by members from other communities, a temple must be constructed there,” he said.
On July 2, Mumbai Congress chief and former party MP Sanjay Nirupam, who is considered close to party Vice President Rahul Gandhi, formed the Mumbai Sant Mahant Congress to “resolve the problems the Hindu temples and mutts and their priests were facing in the city”.
He claimed while the Congress party believed in a secular ideology, the perception that it was “anti-Hindu” was incorrect. But the move invited criticism within the party. Maharashtra’s former minorities development minister Arif Naseem Khan, a Congress MLA, protested that forming such a cell went against the party’s constitution. He alleged the party’s high command had not approved the move. Some other party leaders, opposing the move, questioned party general secretary (Maharashtra) Mohan Prakash over it.
But Omdasji, the man at the centre of it all, seemed unaffected by the controversy. When The Indian Express contacted him, he said, “Those opposing the move are unaware of the kind of work the cell will undertake.” While supporting the move to ban trade of cattle for slaughter, he said, “Eating cow’s meat can cause depression, loss of thinking power and expose the body to a host of illnesses. This is why our saints have been discouraging its consumption.”
He added, “A cow’s life is similar to that of our mother. That’s why the benefits of cow’s milk are always equated with breast milk. We have some of the best vegetarian foods. These must be consumed.”
But the Congress’ ‘guruji’ strongly denounced the lynchings and the violence in the name of cow protection. “Koi bhi sadhu, sant kabhi marne, pitne aur gundagardi ka samarthan nahin karege. (No right thinking religious leader or priest would ever support violence and hooliganism). The lynchings are shameful and must be strongly condemned,” he said, adding, “If a brother of yours has started eating meat, consuming alcohol, would you assault him? No. The right thing to do would be to counsel him in giving up the habit.”
He said that he has plans to use his “divine sound (sacred song)” to spread the message of “peace and harmony”. “Members of the Sant Mahant Congress would join me in spreading the word,” he said. On cow protection, he claimed, “I keep telling my premis (followers) that if you find a poor man who wants to sell his cattle, purchase it. Do not let it reach the slaughterhouse.”
He was also vocal about the Ayodhya Ram temple issue. “Aaram se mandir bhi ban sakta hai wahan aur masjid bhi. (You can easily build a Ram temple and a masjid there). But for this all sides must keep their egos aside and resolve the issue in an amicable manner. The issue has been unnecessarily flared up,” he said.
The mutt, he represents, has an ashram in Ayodhya as well. “When I was still a kid, kirtans would be performed there (at the disputed site),” he said, while saying that since the court proceedings were under way, he wished not to discuss the matter further. He spoke of his agenda for the building of the Sita temple in Sitamarhi immediately thereafter. Incidentally, the Centre’s stance on the issue has been that there was no historical evidence to prove that Maa Sita was born in Sitamarhi.
Since joining hands with the Congress, the yoga guru claims to have received several inquiries and greetings from other mutts and religious leaders from Amethi, Banaras (both Uttar Pradesh), Karnataka, and the Himalayas, among other places. He, however, alleged that there have also been those who have questioned the move and were trying to “disturb” him.
“Presently, the sants and mahants are fighting a battle of existence. All of us often feel like a helpless lot. Lands that have traditionally been in possession of the mutts are being siphoned off under one pretext or the other. The (Congress) cell will be a platform to raise issues dogging the religious leaders and their mutts,” said Omdasji.
Taking a barb at the BJP, he said, “The Prime Minister says he is a premi (follower) of the sants and the mahants. But his government is not paying attention to our problems. Our concerns are not reaching the Prime Minister at all. Aap jo keh rahen hain, woh kar nahin rahen, kaise hairan kar rahen hain. (What the government says is not being followed up with action. There is harassment of the mutts).”
Incidentally, an ashram Omdasji presides over in Mumbai’s Vakola is affected by an ongoing road widening project. On his association with the Congress, Omdasji said, “Sanjayji (Nirupam) has been a premi (follower) for a long time. I happened to discuss the issues faced by mutts with him, which is when he suggested the formation of the cell. His suggestion made sense to me.” Without naming anyone, Omdasji alleged, “Some dubious people are posting as sadhus these days. While they have good oratorical skills, they aren’t the real thing. They are the ones spreading canards.”
Who is Dhyanyogi Omdasji?
Born to a wealthy Brahmin family in Bihar in 1961, Omdasji, originally Bhavendranath, has been practising Kundalini yoga since the age of 13. He is a disciple of Dhyanyogi Madhusudandasji, who was credited with popularising the spiritual form. He heads the Shri Madhusudan Dhyanyog Niketan, Hansol, Ahmedabad, which also runs schools and hospitals.
He runs another ashram in Gujarat’s Banaskantha, and is also the Gadipati (seat of power) of the Purana Hanuman Pith Ashram in Mumbai. He even travels to the United States to preach meditation, and claims to have received honours from authorities there.
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