After dividing Hindus along the lines of caste, class, creed, region and language, it appears attempts are underway to divide Hindus along the lines of the Gods we worship. ‘Eminent journalist’ Pritish Nandy took to Twitter today to vent his frustration towards ‘Jai Shri Ram walas’.
I sometimes wonder if these Jai Shri Ram walas have ever heard of goddess Saraswati. That is who we Bengalis worship. The goddess of learning, knowledge, wisdom. And we respect women. That is why we also worship Durga and Kali. Jai Shri Ram huh!
— Pritish Nandy (@PritishNandy) May 8, 2019
Amit Shah complains Mamata not allowing Bengalis to chant Jai Shri Ram. But I have never heard a Bengali chant Jai Shri Ram. We chant political slogans, Tagore poems, slogans of protest against wrongdoing anywhere in the world. Tomar naam, amar naam, Vietnam.
— Pritish Nandy (@PritishNandy) May 8, 2019
First things first, it’s really annoying when you have people of a particular political dispensation claiming to speak for an entire community, especially when the individual concerned is a bald idiot.
It’s not too difficult to see what Nandy is trying to do here. It’s quite a sneaky attempt to pit Bengalis against Hindus from other regions of the country on the basis of the Gods we worship. Of course, the probability of him succeeding in his endeavour is a thousand times less than that of Rahul Gandhi becoming the Prime Minister in 2019, but that’s beside the point.
The reason why Nandy makes no sense is that for Hindus, the Multiplicity of the Divine is not a mere platitude but words we live by every single day. We are polytheists, we believe in the plurality of Gods and we worship Them all. Nandy gives the impression that Hindus worship Maa Saraswati and Durga but not Shri Rama. That’s quite evidently false. Rama has as many devotees among Bengal as any other Hindu community.
The disdain with which Nandy refers to devotees of Shri Rama is infuriating. Because I am a Bengali and I am very much one of those ‘Jai Shri Ram walas’ that he speaks so lowly of. To give people a hint of how popular Shri Rama is among Bengalis, there is a popular four-line rhyme that is taught to children who are afraid of ghosts. It was taught to me as well when I was a kid. It goes, “Bhoot amar poot, Petni amar jhee, Ram Laxman shaatey aachhey, korbey aamay ki?” It roughly means, “Rama and Laxman are with me, what could ghosts ever do to harm me?”
To give further context to the intimate relationship that Bengalis share with Shri Rama, the Krittivasi Ramayana, a rendition of the Ramayana in Bengali, was composed by the famed Bengali poet Krittibas Ojha in the 15th century. Then there is a neighbourhood in Howrah, Ramrajatala, where the residents conduct a three months long worship dedicated to Shri Rama and Sita Mata every year at the local Ram Mandir. The tradition dates back centuries. There are numerous Ram Mandirs in Bengal as well. More significantly, Hanuman has always been immensely popular in Bengal. Where there is Hanuman, could his Lord ever be absent?
Nandy also gives the impression here that it’s only the Feminine forms of the sacred that we worship. It’s quite evidently false. Narayan is still worshipped, Hanuman is immensely popular among Bengalis. Ganesha is worshipped as well and so is Shri Krishna. Mahadeva creates quite the fervour among Bengalis too. Therefore, the impression that Bengalis only worship Goddesses is demonstrably false. We are Hindus, We worship Gods in their many forms.
There’s also an arrogant insinuation in the tweets that people who raise slogans of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ do not worship Goddesses and don’t respect women. Again, it’s a false assertion. Narendra Modi, a ‘Jai Shri Ram wala’ himself, is an ardent devotee of Maa Bagalamukhi. Navratri is celebrated with great fervour by ‘Jai Shri Ram walas’.
To give a hint of the invisible threads of Dharma that bind our country together, Maa Bagalamukhi is one of the Dasa-Mahavidya, the ten aspects of Adi-Parashakti and a form of Maa Parvati. In Tripura, Bengalis and the resident tribal communities, worship with great devotion Maa Tripura Sundari, another manifestation of Shakti, at the Temple known locally as Matabari.
Then, we have Maa Kali and Maa Tara, extremely popular among Bengalis, who are aspects of Shakti as well. There is Maa Chinnamasta, Bhairavi, Bhuvaneshwari, Dhumavati and others who are worshipped all across India by every single community. There are Temples dedicated to all the Goddesses across the lengths and breadths of India. Therefore, to make the assertion that Bengalis are somehow different from ‘Jai Shri Ram walas’ because we worship Goddesses is mental retardation of the highest order.
To give further context, Yogi Adityanath, the Peethadhish of the Gorakhnath Mandir in Uttar Pradesh, is a revered Monk of the Nath Sampradaya. There is a huge number of followers of his sect among Bengalis in Tripura where he is widely revered due to the association. Thus, only a fool or a clown would attempt to insinuate that the Bengali community has fallen from the skies without having many commonalities with our fellow Indians.
As for ‘Jai Shri Ram walas’, too, the traditional slogan is, of course, ‘Jai Siya Ram’ where the name of Sita Mata is taken before Prabhu Rama. Another popular slogan is ‘Siyavar Ramachandra ki Jai!’ Again, Shri Rama is referred to as the Husband of Sita Mata. Therefore, to claim that people who raise chants to Jai Shri Ram do not worship Goddesses is plainly false.
More importantly, where there is Shri Rama, there will be Sita Mata. They cannot ever be viewed in isolation. Their destinies, their fate, their lives were forever entwined with each other. The Gods themselves cannot separate them, we are mere mortals. Therefore, unless Shri Rama is depicted in his warrior aspect, Sita Mata is always by His side along with Laxman. And when we eventually build the Bhavya Ram Mandir at Rama Janmabhoomi, Sita Mata will reside there as well and will be worshipped because we hold her in regard just as high as we do Rama.
The elitist disdain that people like Nandy hold for North Indians and Gujaratis and Marathis is quite obnoxious. Will Nandy ever accuse the Abrahamic of not respecting women because they worship a male god? Of course, he won’t. Because he is a hypocrite.
As a ‘Jai Shri Ram wala’ myself, however, I have much more in common with fellow Hindus regardless of their community than I could ever have with liberals like Nandy. I am much more comfortable in the company of South Indians, North Indians, Odiyas, Delhiites and others who worship the same Gods that I do than I would ever be in the company of liberals. The crux of the matter is, Bengalis, like people from every other community, may be different on the outside but the core of the matter, our beliefs are just the same.
I can agree with Nandy on the point that the slogan ‘Jai Shri Ram’ has become politicized. But that is because Hinduism is currently facing an existential threat from political forces. Under such circumstances, it’s natural for Hindus to rely on our Gods to see us through. What actually frustrates Nandy is the fact that ‘Jai Shri Ram’ has become Bengal’s ‘Bidrohor Chitkar’ (Cry of Protest) amidst a saffron surge in the state.
It could very well have been ‘Joy Maa Tara’ or ‘Joy Maa Kali’ instead, however, Shri Rama has become a symbol of political solidarity cutting across every fissure within Hindu society. Therefore, we chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’. But Nandy need not worry, Bengalis have nothing to worry about. Because we do not worship jealous Gods.