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Gujarat Samachar and distortion of Hindu culture: From insulting Holi fire to calling God a ‘spy’ and ‘bahurupi’, a new low

This is a new low for Gujarat Samachar, which does not have very high editorial standard to begin with.

If you were to speak to a child about Holika Dahen, Prahlad or Harinyakashyapu, you would most likely tell how Prahlad was a big devotee of Lord Vishnu (and hence called Bhakt Prahlad) and how his father, demon king Hiranyakashyapu did not like it. How his wicked father then asked his sister, Holika, who was blessed that she could not be burnt with fire, to sit with Prahlad on a burning pyre. However, due to his own devotion, Prahlad was saved and Holika herself was burnt in the fire she wanted to kill Prahlad with. This, or variations of this story is what we have grown up hearing and which we will pass on to next generation.

Except, like every Hindu festival, Holi, too is being appropriated and changed into a ‘culture’ thing instead of religious festival and values distorted.

On March 4, 2023, Gujarat Samachar’s supplement ‘Jhagmag’ published a few stories on Holi. The supplement is meant for children and stories are narrated keeping children in mind. There were two different stories on Holi. However, while the essence of the stories was kept intact, the way of narrating the story was completely changed.

Jhagmag on Holi

The story depicts Holi as the festival of cleanliness. As per the story, Holika asked Prahlad and his friends to light up Holi to burn useless things. Later she asked them to burn “truth” as the most useless thing. When Prahlad protested, Holika threw him into the fire as per the plan she had hatched with Hiranyakashyapu. However, Prahlad was saved by Bhagwan’s boon, and Holika herself got burnt.

Gujarat Samachar claims that in the Holi fire that is lit, all ‘useless’ things are set on fire. However, that is not true. Holi fire is holy and people pray to it. Different cultures across India pray differently to the holy fire and make offerings. Water, Shrifal, raw mango – many things are thus offered to the Holi fire. Thus, to say ‘useless’ things are set on fire on Holy is insulting.

It further says that all the ‘garbage’ collected during the festivals in the preceding winter season, should be collected and set on fire. Gujarat Samachar claims the festival of Holi was started by Holika who asked her nephew to set all garbage on fire. In twisted perversion, after burning things like leaves, the writer, on Harish Nayak claimed that Holika asked Prahlad to set the most useless thing ‘truth’ on fire. When Prahlad refused to set throw ‘truth’ to fire, Holika decided to teach him a lesson and jumped into fire with him.

However, while Prahlad was younger than Holika, he was strong and when she pushed him into fire, he did not let go of her hand and since Lord Agni is also truth, he burnt the evil that Holika is. Gujarat Samachar then claims that because of this, every year Holi is celebrated.

While the Holi fire is lit every year and prayed to for this, the story of Prahlad and Holika was not the way Gujarat Samachar wants us to believe.

The second story was of ‘Vigyaanveer’ Prahlad. While the essence of the story remained that demon Harinyakashyapu wanted to kill his son Prahlad, however, Bhagwan saved him. Here, Bhagwan is presented as a spy and a magician. Only Prahlad can see or talk to Bhagwan.

In this story, when Harinyakashyapu throws Prahlad from the mountain, Bhagwan gives him a ‘flying umbrella’, and when Prahlad is thrown under the elephant’s feet, Bhagwan gives him a laser gun so that he can protect himself. While talking about the Holika story, the publication claimed Prahlad was given fire-resistant clothes that saved him from the fire.

Madhpudo by Jhagmag, Gujarat Samachar

In this fictionalised and ‘sci-fi’ version of Prahlad, where God gives Prahlad objects to fight adversities which include modern science technology is too much of a stretch. What is worse is that it is not even well written. It is full of improper Gujarati and such terrible storytelling that it appeared like a bad Google translation from another badly written article.

It is abrupt, jarring and way too disturbing for children, who are the target audience. The story talks about how Hiranyakashyapu asked Prahlad’s teacher (because he goes to a school) to throw him off the cliff to prove that God exists. Teacher also carries out the order to ‘prove Prahlad wrong’. This, from a child’s perspective, is so wrong. This is how childhood trauma is inculcated. At impressionable age you are teaching young children how teachers could be manipulative, creating an element of distrust.

Instead of referring to God as he is – God, the almighty, Gujarat Samachar refers to him as a ‘spy’ and a ‘magician’ as if God were a conman. And also keeps on referring to God as ‘tu’ which many find disrespectful way of addressing someone revered. Turns out this ‘Bhagwan’ in times of dangers, like when Prahlad is pushed off cliff, also informs him how the ‘invisible umbrella’ is he giving to Prahlad will be known as ‘parachute’ in future and will be made of nylon-terylene material. That specific.

Later the God offers a ‘laser gun’ to Prahlad to save himself from an elephant. Angered, Hiranyakashyapu calls in his sister, Holika, who was also a ‘student of science’. No, she was was a demon, Gujarat Samachar, have some shame. Gujarat Samachar claims Holika had invented a fire-resistant cream and hence she got ready to sit in fire with Prahlad in her lap. Hence, this time, God gave Prahlad ‘fire-proof’ clothes. Here Gujarat Samachar also claims how God ‘sabotaged’ Holika’s fire-resistant cream and added materials which made it highly inflammable.

But because God had sabotaged Holika’s cream, she catches fire while Prahlad with fire-resistant invisible clothes, comes out alive. There is also conversation around secret chamber through which Prahlad escapes and ‘expert in changing forms (bahurupi)’ Bhagwan comes out of chamber dressed in Narsinh swaroop – which was a fire-proof outfit, to fight king Hiranyakashyapu. Gujarat Samachar then mentions how in the fight that ensued, the king (Hiranyakashyapu) is killed.

They fail to mention that the demon king Hiranyakashyapu had the blessing that neither man nor woman or animal can kill him and he could not be killed during the day or during the night. He also had the boon that no weapon could kill him and he would neither be killed inside the house nor outside, making him almost immortal. This boon was what had made him arrogant. Hence, Lord Vishnu took the Narasinh avatar, of half-man and half animal and at dusk, when it is neither day nor night, the God killed him with his bare hands. This important aspect of the story is skipped.

Throughout the article, God is referred to as ‘jasus bhagwan’. It concludes by claiming that God was actually a great scientist and a spy and all things he did were all science experiments. Why this distortion of our scriptures? No one will dare distorting scriptures of other faiths because everyone knows how that ends. But Hindu scriptures and their distortion is a freepass.

Gujarat Samachar has been a problematic publication for mainstream news too. But this bid to influence the impressionable young children by distorting our culture is a new low even for Gujarat Samachar that already has a very low bar.

(With inputs from Meghalsinh Parmar from OpIndia Gujarati)

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Nirwa Mehta
Nirwa Mehta
Politically incorrect. Author, Flawed But Fabulous.

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