New Delhi: A day after Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal took oath as the Chief Minister, the party seems to have jumped into action with an announcement that is bound to make Hindus and ‘bhakts’ of Lord Hanuman happy. Party leader and MLA Saurabh Bhardwaj announced on Tuesday that AAP will now be conducting monthly "Sundar Kand" events to commemorate the Hindu deity.
The reading of "Sundar Kand", a text devoted to Lord Hanuman, will be conducted by AAP workers and enthusiasts in every neighborhood in Delhi on the first Tuesday of every month.
हर महीने के पहले मंगलवार को सुन्दर कांड का पाठ अलग अलग इलाकों में किया जाएगा।— Saurabh Bharadwaj (@Saurabh_MLAgk) February 18, 2020
निमंत्रण- सुन्दर काण्ड
शाम 4:30 बजे
18 फरवरी, मंगलवार
प्राचीन शिव मंदिर, चिराग दिल्ली
(निकट चिराग दिल्ली मेट्रो स्टेशन गेट नo1) pic.twitter.com/CwGAXzAW5r
The inaugural "Sundar Kand" reading was scheduled on February 18 at the Pracheen Shiv Mandir in Chirag Delhi in South Delhi.
On Tuesdays, followers of Hanuman and Hindus in general observe fasts or curtail non-vegetarian food and alcohol as a mark of their respect for the deity. The day also coincided with the day election results 2020 were announced, making Tuesday even more special for AAP.
Speaking to News18, Bhardwaj, 40, who is a Member of the Legislative Assembly from Greater Kailash constituency said that the initiative was meant to reclaim the toxic idea of 'Hindutva' propagated by the Bharatiya Janata Party and instead celebrate the warmth of Hinduism. "The BJP thinks that only they have the moral authority over Hinduism and that all other Hindus who believe in secularism are anti-national", Bhardwaj said in a telephonic interview. "We want to change this view of Hindusim in Delhi," he added.
The reading of the text will be carried out by Bhardwaj himself. Since the announcement this morning, the MLA said that several individuals and RWA organisations had already contacted him to "book" Sundar Kand sessions for their own neighborhoods with the next two consecutive sessions scheduled to be held in GK-1 and GK-2 respectively.
What is 'Sundar Kand'?
'Sundara' was the pet-name fondly given to Hanuman by his mother Anjani. 'Sundara Kand' is the fifth book of Ramayana which recounts the tale of Lord Ram's triumph over evil. However, 'Sundar Kand' is distinct from the rest of Ramayana as it is the only chapter dedicated to Hanuman, the valiant, anthropomorphised monkey warrior and humble servant and devotee of Lord Ram. It is the only section of the epic text that depicts Hanuman as the hero and not Lord Ram and recounts the adventures of Hanuman instead.
While the earliest version of Sundar Kand is believed to have been written by Valmiki (who is credited with the earliest retelling of Ramayana) in Sanskrit, the story also appears in Awadhi as part of the original Ram Charit Manas written by saint Tulsidas, presumably in the 16th century, much later than Ramayana.
The significance of choosing Hanuman over Ram? A laughing Bhardwaj said that there was none. "The gentle Hanuman is after all a servant of Ram himself," he assured.
Secular AAP's Hindu overtures
While the announcement surprised some, observers of AAP would note that this is not the first time that the populist party has tried to woo Hanuman. Just after winning Delhi Legislative Assembly elections for the the third consecutive time, party chief Kejriwal led a victory march to a Hanuman temple in the city to pay his obeisance.
Days before the elections, Kejriwal was also seen reciting 'Hanuman Chalisa' on a television programme. The antics were widely criticised by his opponents in the BJP, who slammed Kejriwal for his alleged soft-Hindutva overtures. According to Bhardwaj, however, these were "innocent" expressions of faith by Kejriwal who is known to be a devout believer in Hanuman.
Before the elections his visit to a Hanuman temple in Connaught Place was projected by the opposition as voter appeasement, Bhardwaj said. When the media questioned temple authorities, they found Kejriwal had been visiting the temple for years, he added.
The opposition, however, is not the only one crying foul over AAP's soft overtures to Hinduism. Many on Twitter slammed Bhardwaj's announcement as anti-secular. Taking to the micro-blogging site, former media advisor to CM Kejriwal, Nagender Sharma wrote, "Disappointed to see a competent legislator with progressive outlook fall into the fallacious trap of trying to outdo BJP in it's game".
Disappointed to see a competent legislator with progressive outlook fall into the fallacious trap of trying to outdo BJP in it's game https://t.co/3oyQBs99fg— Nagendar Sharma (@sharmanagendar) February 18, 2020
Following the polls, senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut took a dig at the Bharatiya Janata Party by calling Kejriwal a "follower of hanuman".
"....follower of Lord Hanuman, Kejriwal brought 'Ram Rajya' in Delhi though the BJP almost fielded Lord Ram in this election," Raut said in a sarcastic editorial in the Sena's mouthpiece 'Saamna'. "The picture of Delhi was of Kejriwal as devotee of Hanuman and people of Delhi became Ram...Ram strongly stood behind Hanuman," he said, adding that there are lessons to be learnt from this election.
AAP retained power in Delhi after it achieved at hat-trick and retained 62 of the 70 seats in the Assembly following a particularly vitriolic and communally polarised election campaign. The BJP, its primary rival, finished at a distant second while the Indian National Congress failed to win a single seat.