If you took a look at the sports section of Google News India today, you would see that the change of guard at the Sri Krishna Temple at Udupi figured prominently. You are probably wondering what the Krishna temple has to do with sports. Nothing. Google classified the news wrongly. But, they have unintentionally demonstrated that the ongoing drama has nothing to do with either religion or dharma. Ok. Let me explain. The Sri Krishna Temple at Udupi, near Mangalore in Karnataka is run by 8 maths or religious institutions, each headed by a seer. Every two years, the control of the Temple shifts from one math to another. This year, controversy erupted over the transfer of control to the Puttige Math, whose seer, Sugunendra Teertha has allegedly violated the Dharmashastra by travelling abroad.
The seer of the Pejavar Math threatened to undertake a three-day fast against the ascension of Sugunendra Teertha because diluting the laws laid down by the sacred texts will result in an apocalypse. One news item in The Mangalorean states that “scholars” are against the ascension of Sugunendran Teertha as the Dharmashastras were “against” foreign travel. This hullabaloo reminds me of the times when a person was excommunicated because of foreign travel.
We pride ourselves on our ability to adjust and adapt to new cultures. We wax eloquent about how a major portion of NASA’s top scientists are of Indian origin. We spare no effort to get our children into the best colleges in the US of A. But, when it comes to religion, we proclaim that foreign travel is against the gospel and oppose the ascension of a seer to a religious position. This attitude reeks of hypocrisy and political gimmickry. Nobody objects when the Pejavar Math Seer undertakes travel all over India. Nobody questions his eligibility to be called a seer when he revels in creature comfort at the houses of political leaders all over the country. Has anyone ever asked why a religious leader finds it necessary to speak out against the Sethusamudram Project by saying that anyone who questions the existence of Rama is an ignorant idiot? Nor has anyone found it unfitting that a seer associate with the worst of religious fanatics (read the Vishwa Hindu Parishad) whose primary occupation is to incite communal hatred and distrust. All because the man is a religious leader? I am sorry to be so harsh. But that man has neither the religious nor the moral right to criticise someone for going abroad. I doubt his criticism has anything to do with religion. Either he is infinitely jealous of the seer due to his own inability to travel abroad, or he is simply after the power and prosperity traditionally associated with running the Sri Krishna Temple at Udupi. Either way, I am personally losing the little respect had for these fake seers and priests.