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HomeNews ReportsBhagwa flag in Berlin: Dhol-Tasha celebration on Modi's arrival in Germany faces Hinduphobic vitriol

Bhagwa flag in Berlin: Dhol-Tasha celebration on Modi’s arrival in Germany faces Hinduphobic vitriol

The Marathi community in Germany geared up in traditional attire, organized a Dhol-Tasha celebration at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate square

On Monday, 2nd of May, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Berlin to kick off his 3-day Europe visit, he was warmly welcomed by the Indian diaspora excited to greet him. The Indian community wore their culture on their sleeves to celebrate the occasion of the Indian Prime Minister’s arrival. The Marathi community in Germany geared up in traditional attire, organized a Dhol-Tasha celebration at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate square, proudly waving the Bhagwa flag – representative of the Maratha Empire.

When the video of this celebration was shared on Twitter by the official handle of The Prime Minsiter’s Office (PMO), it faced a barrage of trolling and criticism for waving the traditional Bhagwa flag instead of the tricolour during the cultural presentation. In what later transpired into a systematic online hate campaign, many verified accounts including those of Congress spokespersons called the auspicious Saffron flag symbolic of Maratha empire an alleged ‘RSS supremacist flag’ and started denouncing the gesture.

It all started when members of the ‘Marathi Mitra’ group in Berlin organised a Dhol-Tasha presentation to welcome the Indian Prime Minister to the city. Dhol-Tasha is a traditional art of playing percussion instruments to rhythmic taals, invoking the spirit of courage and valour. The drum-beating style was a practice among the Maratha troops and owes its evolution to the Peshwa times. The central figure of Dhol-Tasha is unfurling the Bhagwa Dhwaj or the Jaripatka (two-tail saffron flag with a golden border) which was the official flag of the Maratha Empire founded by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The waiving of the flag is choreographed to the tunes played by the drummers who gather around it in a circle.

Male and female drummers equally participate in Dhol-Tasha, which has become a shorthand for Marathi and Hindu cultural Pride. These celebrations are common during Ganesh Utsav, Shiv Jayanti and Gudhi Padwa Shobha Yatras carried out by Marathi communities across the globe. When PMO India’s Twitter handle shared a glimpse of the presentation, a host of Congress workers, leftist historians, journalists and Dravidian handles complained about the unfurling of the ‘Saffron flag’ in Berlin.

Congress Spokesperson Ragini Nayak went on to ask why the Bhagwa Dhwaj was unfurled at Brandenburg Gate in Berlin instead of the Indian tricolour. “This is not the ‘Indian’ ‘National flag’, Modi Ji?” she asked. Leftist Historian Irfan Habib, who has been caught spreading lies previously, complained, “Is this an Indian tricolour?” As if cultural celebrations by regional communities are in any way bad.

Dhol-Tasha Pathaks waiving Saffron flags is not a new sight in the country. Yet some commentators on the left were spinning a narrative of pitting the Hindu Saffron flag against the Indian Tricolour. The question that needs to be asked is whether Dharmic symbols and characteristics have become antithetical to the so-called pluralist and secular vision of India? While the tricolour holds its significance in the minds of Indians and will be waved proudly at all official Indian functions, why did a community waving the traditional flag of the Maratha empire attract so much hate?

Screengrab of tweet from @NayakRagini
Screengrab of tweet from @irfhabib
Screengrab of tweet from @pankhuripathak

Perhaps, inside the minds of these ’eminent personalities’, waiving a cultural flag is fine, but it being Saffron is problematic. In the Article 370 era, the liberal ilk championed the cause of a separate Jammu and Kashmir flag that represented the Kashmiri Islamists. Furthermore, when Khalistani separatists went on a rampage at the Red Fort during the January 26 riots, the same people justified the incident by saying that “the tricolour was not removed, but only the sacred Khalsa flag was hoisted at its place.”

The trolling attack went further with the mischaracterization of the Jaripatka with the alleged ‘orange flag’ of the RSS. For India’s liberals to whom the BJP and the RSS are an anathema, even waving a cultural flag by an Indian community becomes a crime if the colour is not to their liking. While this was no political event, the online targeting that transpired is a classic case of how Hinduism is targetted in the guise of targeting saffron and the RSS. Furthermore, there have been instances when apolitical Hindus living normal lives outside India, have been cancelled after being branded as RSS/BJP stooges in the West. With the online lynch mob on a Maharashtrian Dhol-Tasha presentation, the Indian ‘secularists’ have contributed to the growing Hinduphobia in the west in their own no-so-subtle manner.

Screengrab of tweet from @MrinalPande1

The online attack crossed levels of xenophobia against Hindus when the incident was compared to waiving of Hakencruz flags showcasing ‘Aryan supremacy’ at the Brandenburg Gate in Nazi Germany. A Twitter user wrote that the Bhagwa ‘will also be relegated to the trashcan of history soon’.

Screengrab of the tweet from @quorosensei

The tweet shared by PMO India has caught the attention of Dravidian handles as well who have started coordinated attacks against the event asking ‘Where is the national flag’. With behaviour like this that spreads hatred beyond national boundaries, the Marathi community living in Germany will be vilified now, for just waving their traditional flag. In a bizarre way, Indian leftists tried to convince the Dhol-Tasha presentation was anti-national. It is convenient for Dravidians who get fanned by ‘Tamil pride’ readily whenever a contested linguistic issue is discussed; but when the Maharashtrians through their culture assert their Hindu pride, suddenly the soft-separatists start caring about Indian symbols.

Screengrab of tweet from @paramporul
Screengrab of tweet from @geechugalu

The waiving of the sacred Saffron at the Brandenburg Gate, and the online gaslighting that followed indicate that the mere presence of the Hindu identity and its symbols offend many. Those who see the Saffron as an antidote to the tricolour, need to realise that when in the annals of history rose the Bhagwa, it led to us holding the tricolour with pride today. In medieval times, the Maratha Jaripatka became a symbol of resistance against the tyranny of the invading dynasties. Today, it has risen as a symbol of assertion and cultural pride talking about a civilization that refuses to cease.

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Suyash Sherekar
Suyash Sherekar
Writer, Architect. Negotiating the Present as a Journalist and the Past as a Historical Researcher. News Geek. Writes on Politics and Policy, Design, Culture and Media.

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