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On Gandhi Jayanti, read how Hindu bhajan ‘Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram’ was corrupted to include ‘Allah’

Gandhi’s community praying rituals went so far as to include the chanting of the Muslim Kalma. But there are no reports or historical evidence that suggest Gandhi had tweaked Quranic verses to allay concerns of Hindus or fiddled with the Muslim Kalma to make it compatible with his avowed stand of mutual coexistence and communal harmony.

2 October 2021 marks the 152nd birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, also known in India as the ‘Father of the Nation. Born into a Gujarati Hindu Modh Bania family in the coastal town of Porbandar, Gandhi completed his education from England and from there went to South Africa to practice law.

He later returned to India and joined the country’s independence struggle against the oppressive British rule. Among other things, he experimented with the organisation of daily prayer meetings aimed at achieving reconciliation between different communities, most notably Hindus and Muslims. During these meetings, Gandhi encouraged community singing of popular bhajans and religious hymns and discussed at length their lyrics and content.

Gandhi tampered with the lyrics of a Hindu religious bhajan to appease Muslims

One of the hymns that became a common feature in Gandhi’s prayer meetings was “Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram”. The bhajan was first used by Gandhi during his 241 miles march to Dandi during the Dandi March in 1930 to oppose a new law that the British enacted to restrict Indians from producing or selling salt. It was during this movement that Gandhi popularised the use of “Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram” as the marchers sang to keep their spirits up.

However, contrary to the popular imagination, Gandhi was not the creator of the hymn. The lyrics were taken from Shri Nama Ramayanan, an old religious text penned by Sri Lakshmanacharya, and modified by Gandhi. Another myth that became popular with the growing popularity of the hymn was that it is a patriotic song aimed to project a secular composite image of the Indian society; however, original composition as it was sometimes referred to as Ram Dhun, could be best described as an ode glorifying and praising Lord Ram. The original lines went:

Raghupati raghava rajaram,
patita paavana sitaram.
Sundara vigraha meghashyam,
Ganga tulasi salagram.
Bhadra girishwara sitaram,
Bhagat janapriya sitaram.
Janaki ramana sitaram,
Jaya jaya raghava sitaram

Here’s a video composition of the original Hindu bhajan:-

Gandhi’s version, which was mainstreamed by him and his supporters during the Dandi march and later during his prayer meetings, runs:

Raghupati Raghava Rajaram,
Patita paavana sitaram,
bhaj pyaare tu sitaram
Ishwar Allah Tero Naam,
sabko sanmati de bhagwan.

This bastardised version of the religious hymn instantly became popular, partly because it was promoted by Gandhi himself and also because of its overtly secular connotation. The bhajan was composed into a tune by renowned musicologist Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar, thereby making it ripe for mass consumption and in the process further popularising it.

Even Bollywood played its part in contemporising the adulterated version of the religious hymn, with Hindi films like Lage Raho Munnabhai and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai featuring the Gandhian edition of the devotional song. Besides, it was also the opening track on the Afrobeat band’s album Osibisa – Unleashed – Live in 1982.

With its lyrics manipulated, Muslims would have had no problems extending their support to Gandhi and joining him in his prayer meetings that were aimed at reconciling differences between the two communities and forging communal harmony. However, it was always the responsibility of the Hindu majority to accommodate the demands of the Muslim minority while expecting nothing in return.

Gandhi showed unmatched alacrity in distorting the lyrics of a Hindu religious song to address the reservations held by Muslims but never did he once denounce the verses in the Holy Quran that call idol-worshipping a sin and ordain capital punishment for idolatry.

The lyrics were distorted and the song bastardised by Gandhi to appease the Muslim community, who would have otherwise opposed the recitation of hymn during prayer meetings citing it to be a song extolling Lord Ram and therefore incompatible with the Islamic doctrine of the singularity of God.

Gandhi’s community praying rituals went so far as to include the chanting of the Muslim Kalma. But there are no reports or historical evidence that suggest Gandhi had tweaked Quranic verses to allay concerns of Hindus or fiddled with the Muslim Kalma to make it compatible with his avowed stand of mutual coexistence and communal harmony. It is perhaps because of this unabashed duplicity that Gandhi’s prayer meetings, in the run-up to the partition, became polarised as questions were being raised on his wisdom to include Muslim Kalma during the prayer meetings.

Gandhi’s repeated betrayal of Hindus to maintain the charade of composite unity

The adulteration of Ram Dhun was but one incident where Gandhi displayed little sensitivity towards the feelings of Hindus. For him, the sanctity of the Hindu scriptures and religious songs was a fair game, which could be violated if that helped in placating Muslim concerns. Of course, the opposite was not true as Gandhi studiously avoided asking Muslims to embrace modernism and shed their puritanical interpretation of Islam.

Similarly, there were other incidents too when Gandhi had displayed an abject lack of desire in upholding the interests of Hindus. In 1920, there was an uprising among Indian Muslims in support of the Islamic caliphate, in the wake of World War 1. Dubbed as the Khilafat movement, the aim was to establish Islamic dominion in India,l by destroying the British empire, with the support of the Ottoman Empire (which was eventually exterminated in late 1922). Despite its supremacist undertones, the Indian National Congress under the leadership of Gandhi backed the Khilafat movement in 1920, foreseeing it as a great opportunity to cement Hindu-Muslim ties.

Instead, it turned out to be the harbinger of destruction that followed in its wake. Due to Gandhi’s patronage, the Khilafat movement gained force in Malabar as well, which ultimately touched off the horrifying Hindu genocide in the region, also known as the Moplah riots 1921, one of the worst pogroms against Hindus recorded in the annals of Indian history.

At the time of partition, when Hindus and Sikhs were mercilessly butchered in Pakistan, Gandhi tried defending the massacre as fatalism and argued that Hindus who died in the attack had gained something since the killers were none other than their Muslim brethren.

He made similar comments to the Hindu refugees from West Punjab, asking them to return home, even if they die in doing so. Gandhi wanted Hindus who had successfully managed to escape their death by crossing over to India from Pakistan to return and embrace their fate. Thus, Gandhi’s application of ideals was not only patently unjust, radical, and misplaced, but also highly skewed, where Hindus were perpetually at the receiving end of communal bigotry, with atrocities committed against them either whitewashed or justified using moralistic explanations.

Gandhian secularism continues to afflict India even today

Unfortunately, this perverted version of secularism that Gandhi championed survived series of spectacular failures, most notably the country’s partition in 1947, and it continues to ail India even today. If anything, the perversion of secularism has only grown worse, with left-leaning intelligentsia going into overdrive to guilt-trip Hindus into believing that country’s pluralism is in danger because of their assertiveness of Hindu identity.

It is this farce of secularism that Gandhi’s bastardised version of a Hindu religious song is celebrated and glorified while a request for a frank discussion on Prophet Muhammad is met with calls of “sar tan se juda” or decapitation. Far from condemning people who issued such threats, the left-liberal secularists rationalised their intimidation saying they were provoked into doing so.

Similarly, earlier this year UP Shia Waqf Board chairman Waseem Rizvi had filed a petition seeking the removal of 26 verses from the Quran that he claimed supported terrorism. This triggered massive outrage, with hundreds and thousands of protesters gathering in the Jama Masjid to protest against the plea.

In a memorandum sent to the Centre and the State governments, Muslim participants demanded the ‘immediate arrest’ for his satanic act. They warned that inaction against Rizvi would imply that the current political dispensation was in support of the petition. “Waseem Rizvi has now indulged in insulting the Holy Quran, hence he is no more a Muslim in faith,” they emphasised. Furthermore, Muslim bodies demanded that he should not be appointed in any Muslim institution.

In this case, too, the self-appointed custodians of India’s secularism did not raise their voice in support of Waseem Rizvi or his demand for amending the Holy Quran. Instead, they passively watched over a large number of Muslims who took to the streets opposing the UP Shia Waqf Board chairman and calling for his arrest. For such pseudo-seculars, degradation of a Hindu religious hymn for accommodating minority concerns is a completely justifiable act but when it comes to supporting much-needed reforms brought about in Islam, they all lose their voice.

As the template set by Gandhi himself, secularism in India is a one-way street where the burden of preserving the pluralistic fabric of the nation rests solely on the shoulders of Hindus while the members of other communities are free to act as per their whims and fancies, having no obligation to uphold the ideals of communal harmony and societal unity.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Jinit Jain
Jinit Jain
Writer. Learner. Cricket Enthusiast.

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