This week, security guards at the Taj Mahal, the enormous 17th century white marble mausoleum built in Agra by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan , forbade entry to Ayodhya-based Hindu seer, Jagadguru Paramhans Das, and his group of disciples. The event sparked protests that almost ended with a fire at India’s central archaeological offices.
The Hindu seer was denied entry because he was carrying an iron brahmdand. In ancient Sanskrit writings, the Brahmastra was one of several spiritual weapons crafted by the creator god, Brahma. The brahmdand was but one of Brahma’s holy arsenal, which also included the legendary Brahmanda Astra, a weapon believed to be able to destroy the universe. The world-renowned sacred site determined that the brahmdand is a weapon and the seer was denied entry into what is regarded as a high-security zone.
Ayodhya-based seer, Jagadguru Paramhans Das, was denied entry into the Taj Mahal for carrying an iron brahmdand, an ancient weapon weapon used by Hindu seers. (Hindustan Times / YouTube)
Blocking Access to Ayodhya Seer Creates Archaeological ‘Ruckus’ In India
The seer was carrying the iron brahmdand because it is the traditional identifier of Hindu seers. However, security personnel at the Taj Mahal asked Jagadguru Paramhans Das to leave his semi-divine weapon outside. Rather than abandoning his prized religious artifact he returned home, where according to Times of India “his supporters created a ruckus.”
Nagendra Maharaj, another seer from Mathura, told the press that the incident was “an insult” to the entire Hindu saint community. He pointed out that the Taj Mahal was formerly an ancient Shiva temple known as Tejo Mahal and asked why seers were being discriminated against in this manner? This problem comes only a few years after Maharaj was himself denied entry for wearing kesariya saffron colored clothes.
Paramhans Acharya ‘denied’ entry into Taj Mahal; Says Saffron irked authorities https://t.co/Or3FqRyTYy
— Hindustan Times (@HindustanTimes) April 27, 2022
Protesters Tried to Burn an Archaeological Effigy
The whole situation heated up on Wednesday when Hindu Mahasabha activists protested at the Archaeological Survey of India ( ASI) central offices. Times Now News reported that the protesters were so outraged that police had to stop them from “burning the organization’s effigy.” Furthermore, another so-called “right-wing group,” known as Rashtriya Hindu Parishad Bharat (VHP), protested over the treatment of the Ayodhya seer by reaching the monument wearing traditional saffron clothes.
ASI’s superintending archaeologist, Raj Kumar Patel, told Times of India that the seer and his disciples were not stopped because of the meaning of their saffron clothes, but because he was “carrying an item in his hand that is not allowed inside.” Trying to calm the situation, Patel publicly apologized to the seer and explained that nobody deliberately tried to offend him. And while this event is being publicized as a drama, ASI checked Taj Mahal CCTV footage at the west gate and the incident lasted for only three minutes, and “no arguments took place,” Patel stated.
Where Religion and Politics Collide
Within this article there is a key phrase that we must return to, for it is perhaps the most revealing. The second group of protesters, VPH (World Council of Hindus), were described by Times of India not as a religious group, but as a “right-wing group.” Founded in 1964 to “construct and renovate Hindu temples and to deal with matters of cow slaughter and religious conversion,” the World Council of Hindus is based on Hindu nationalism.
While VPH’s primary objective is to “organize, consolidate the Hindu society and to serve and protect the Hindu Dharma,” they are criticized for contributing to violence against Muslims across India, and especially for their demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 over the Ayodhya dispute, as reported in The Morning Chronicle . So while the seer was denied entry for carrying a weapon, and others for wearing saffron clothes, what we have here is a deeply political situation in which Hindu nationalists feel unwelcome at the Taj Mahal and other temples across India .
Top image: Ayodhya seer was denied access to the Taj Mahal. Source: Wit.Siri / Adobe Stock
By Ashley Cowie