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Tuesday, Sep 27, 2022

Kannada pride trumps Hindutva: With statue of Goddess, Karnataka govt tries to blunt criticism

BJP-led administration drew flak after Goddess Bhuvaneshwari was portrayed with a saffron flag in a school textbook. Now, it has decided to build a 30-feet-long bronze statue of the deity at the Bengaluru University campus.

Kannada and Culture Minister V Sunil Kumar with PM Narendra Modi (Twitter/@KarkalaSunil)

The BJP government in Karnataka recently drew criticism for portraying Goddess Bhuvaneshwari with a saffron flag instead of the state flag in school textbooks. It has now decided to build a 30-feet-long bronze statue of the deity at the Bengaluru University campus. Goddess Bhuvaneshwari is considered the mother of Kannada and the state goddess, and there is a temple dedicated to her in the Siddapura region of Uttara Kannada district.

The decision to build the statue of the Goddess was announced by Kannada and Culture Minister V Sunil Kumar on Tuesday after a meeting with officials of the Kannada and Culture department the day before. “For the first time in Karnataka’s history, a bronze statue of the Goddess Bhuvaneshwari will be set up at Kalagrama. The statue will be dedicated to the public by next Sankranti (in the New Year),” said the minister.

The Karnataka government’s move is being seen as a strategic move to emphasise local pride ahead of the state polls next year to make up for criticism that it has attracted in recent months for the depiction and treatment of state icons, especially in school textbooks that were revised by a committee set up by the government.

Sunil Kumar said the statue would cost around Rs 2 crore. It will be constructed on half an acre of land at Kalagrama in the Jnanabharathi campus, and will depict aspects of the state’s cultural heritage. “I have instructed officials to complete the construction work within three months,” said the minister.

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The construction of the statue is expected to begin in November which is celebrated as state formation month. The state formation day is celebrated on November 1.

Deve Gowda’s letter

Goddess Bhuvaneshwari was depicted as a Hindutva icon rather than a state icon in revised Class six Kannada textbooks. The textbook had an image of the deity holding the Kannada state flag but it was replaced with an image of the Goddess holding a saffron flag. A few Kannada writers flagged this matter. The Karnataka government subsequently agreed to revert to the image with the state flag in the books.

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Senior politicians such as former PM HD Deve Gowda and former CM Siddaramaiah have questioned the treatment of Karnataka and Kannada icons by the textbook committee.

“The chairman of the textbook revision committee has insulted the state poet Kuvempu. He has also insulted the state poet by offering a reward for twisting the words in the state song in an obscene manner. By comparing the state flag to inner-wear the state pride has been hurt,” the former PM said in a letter to Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai in June.

Until a few years ago, pro-Kannada organisations from around the state used to make an annual pilgrimage in November to the Bhuvanagiri Hills to the temple of the Goddess. Karnataka and Kannada pride are considered strong emotive factors in mobilising a support base by political leaders cutting across party lines.

First published on: 27-07-2022 at 02:38:08 pm
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