By Masood Hussain
KL NEWS NETWORK
By all means it was unprecedented. Congress and BJP lawmakers in Kashmir’s House of Elders diagonally differed over a crucial issue: whether or not the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi can be provided rest during noon and shayan in the night hours.
Congress member said it was mandated by the Shastras and rightwing BJP men and a woman said it was not.
Former minister and Congress from Reasi, Jugal Kishore Sharma had tabled a resolution asking the government to prevail upon the Vaishno Devi board to ‘evolve a system’ that the goddess can rest for some time.
He said this is the practice is in vogue at all the Hindu pilgrimage centres like Bawe Wali Mata, Raghunath Temple, Nauv Devi in Himachal, Tirupati Balaji and Shri Kedarnath.
“This house has constituted the Board that manages the shrine and the house has a right to make a suggestion to the Board,” Sharma said. “You can make a house committee, without me as a member, so that it can visit the temple and see how crowded the place is and why the goddess should require some respite for some time.”
Initiating the debate on his resolution, Sharma said that the Board is not following Shastras. Normally, he said, the Baghwan has to take rest and has to sleep for some time.
He said most of the crowded temples in the country are closed at 12 pm to 3 pm to permit the gods and goddesses to have quick rest. He mentioned dozens of temples that follow this protocol for the gods.
Sharma said that the Board is actually adding to the problems.
Initially, he said, there was just a cave and then they said the pilgrims have increased so there is need for another cave for prayers. “They dug second cave, then third and now fourth, may be they dug more caves to accommodate the pilgrims,” Sharma said, “The entire mountain has been followed by the Board and the state is not doing anything.”
He said that the government should prevail upon the Board and get some Shastras involved to change the prevailing protocol.
Sharma faced fierce reaction from the co-religious lawmakers from Jammu. “Jugal Ji is a Brahmin and should know things better than me because I am a Jat,” Surinder Choudhary of PDP said.
“When does Baghwan go to sleep and when should he be asked to get up is a decision that Surinder Choudhary should not take. Why does not he go to some Muth or a Shankacharya and get it solved.” Choudharu said that Katra is so crowded that if the darshan is halted for an hour, it will create mess.
Subash Arora of BJP said that the issue is a matter of faith and should not be dragged to the house. “Sometimes, faith is so illegal that it cannot be explained,” Arora said. “Let us not get faith debated here because we are political and social beings, we lack any authority on faith.”
Surinder Mohan Ambardar, the Kashmiri Pandit on BJP seat, was also supportive of Arora. He suggested that some competent person should be consulted to help guide on this issue.
Finally, it was Priya Sethi, a junior minister in Ms Mehbooba Mufti led government explaining why Sharma’s resolution cannot be accepted.
She said there are various temples across India that remain open round the clock. She said there is no document available suggesting that the goddess needs rest. She extensively read from an explanation that the government had sought from Prof Vishwa Murti Shastri, one of the experts on the issue.
“This is purely a matter of religion and faith and as such would not be appropriate to debate or discuss in this legislature,” Sethi said, “Any attempt to interfere with established tradition shall be beyond the scope of this house.”
In fact, leader of the House Education Minister Naeem Akhtar also intervened at the last moment suggesting that the government legislates on issues to create systems like the Vaishno Devi Board or the Wafk Board. “We cannot go beyond because that will be intervention in the religious affairs,” Akhtar asserted. “Faith belongs to the learned men of the respective communities.”
Offering rest or not is actually a larger battle that Jammu business is fighting with Katra business, especially the hospitality sector.
If goddess goes to sleep as Jugal Sharma wants, thousands of pilgrims will be denied instant darshan and will have to stay in Katra for the night. That requires hiring hotels and spending something.
Currently, the non-spot, round the clock darshan is permitting people to come and go. Those who intend to spend a night are mostly spending it in Jammu. That is why they do not want the goddess in Tributa Hills to sleep. Not a wink, they want.