The Udupi Iftar Controversy: Need for the right perspective

Sri gurubhyo namaha

In the Bhagavatha, there is an interesting story of the four sanatkumaras – sanaka, sanatana, sanandana and sanatkumara reaching vaikunta to have darshana of Lord Vishnu. At the external gates of vaikunta, they are stopped by the two doorkeepers of the gate, Jaya and Vijaya, and are prevented from entering inside. An argument ensues and the sanatkumaras curse Jaya Vijaya to take birth as evil beings. Hearing the commotion, Paramatma comes there and enquires on the development. The sanatkumaras, at that time, try to appease Vishnu feeling remorse for having cursed Jaya Vjaya. However, Vishnu endorses their act and approves of the ‘punishment’ meted out to his own dwarapalakas.

One may be confronted with a few questions upon hearing this incident. How could the four kumaras, who are embodiment of everything that is satvik, lose their temper? Is it not wrong to get angry? Why didn’t Vishnu punish them for cursing? We will get to the answers later here.

A couple of days ago, a huge controversy has erupted over the gesture of Sri Sri Vishwesha Tirtha Swamiji of Udupi Pejavara Matha inviting some Muslims from Udupi for breaking their Ramzan fast at the Udupi temple. Within hours of the event taking place, photos were circulated in mainstream and social media. Social media warriors instantly starting condemning the incident, claiming it is anti-Hindutva, against dharma and so on. Soon, the negative comments turned into abuse and curses against the Swamiji. Some deployed the usual what-about weapon and asked if Hindus will be allowed to perform pujas in mosques. Many claimed Swamiji has let down the cause of Hindus.

It is not only necessary to obtain factual information about the particular incident, but it is important to understand the background under which the incident took place. And then, it is necessary to also educate ourselves more about Swamiji and his contributions, before passing judgement on the ‘betrayal’ done by him.

Iftar and Namaz:

On the 26th of June, 2017, Sri Sri Swamiji himself, through a facebook video message, has clarified many aspects of the incident that occurred. Right through his paryaya, a group of Muslims have steadfastly involved themselves in contributing positively to the matha. They have not only donated ‘hore kanike’ (offerings prior to commencement of paryaya) to the Swamiji but have also stood by him steadfast during the threats of commie and liberal groups in 2016 who threatened to storm the ancient temple and disrupt the rituals there. Their support, along with that of many others, successfully deterred the commie brigade from attempting anything outrageous.

Keeping their voluntary services to the matha in mind, Sri Sri Swamiji invited them over to have ‘phalahara’ on the occasion of their festival.

Let us get a few things on record now

  • The Udupi Krishna temple, every day, serves thousands of people with free food. The food is first offered as naivedya to Lord Krishna and is then served to all who approach the temple for food.
  • On a daily basis, many tens of Muslims, Christians and other non-Hindus visit the temple and have prasada served to Lord Krishna. These non-Hindus sometimes come in their individual capacity while other times they come in groups.
  • Udupi Krishna is known as ‘Annabrahma’, the Lord who bestows food. No one desiring food is denied the same here. All those who consume food here are completely aware of the fact that the same has been offered to the Lord residing in the idol in the garbha gudi before being served to them. Consuming the food thus served is acceptance of this fact.
  • No one is served food inside the area of the matha that constitutes the ‘sanctum sanctorum’. This includes the garbha gudi, the praakara around it, including temples of mukhyaprana, garuda and Sri Madhwacharya.
  • Adjacent to this area, there are halls, open sabhas, and other areas that are property of the Krishna Matha. The building in which the group of people breaking their Ramzan fast were served food is the Annabrahma Kendra where non Hindu devotees have food daily. This hall is outside the temple compound and is used for serving food to non-Hindus and school children (Krishna matha provides mid-day meals to all the schools in Udupi) who come to the temple to have food.
  • The food served to them consisted of fruits, juice and some delicacies that are typically prepared in the temple. There was no violation of any sort with regard to the food served.
  • Sri Sri Swamiji has clarified that the group conveyed to them, AFTER consuming the prasada, that they had to perform namaz immediately after food. As this is not a part of Hindu dharmic practices which are followed in the temple, he asked them to do it in the attic of the Annabrahma hall, far away from the temple premises.

In this entire episode, it becomes clear that there has been no desecration of the sanctum sanctorum or the matha premises. The dictum laid down by Sri Madhwacharya himself when he said ‘annasya kshuditam paatram’ – ‘All those who are hungry are qualified to be given food’ – meant there is no barrier to food being served to any human being. Not only on this occasion, but on a daily basis, this is the principle being followed in the temple.

Some people have questioned Sri Sri Swamiji on how those who eat beef were allowed to enter the temple complex. Sri Sri Swamiji has clarified that there is no restriction enforced on anyone to have darshan of Krishna from Kanakanna Kindi (the window on the outer wall of the temple) and food. He also further stressed that beef consumption as a whole must be stopped not only by Muslims but also by certain Hindus and it should be achieved by making them understand the importance of cows.

If anything, it should be left to those who had food on that occasion to ponder if their own beliefs allow them to accept food offered as naivedya to the idol of Lord Krishna.

Swamiji and Dharma

The outrage brigade have questioned the motive of Sri Sri Swamiji behind this incident. Many have also commented that he has damaged the ‘cause’ of Hindutva due to this. Others have questioned the need for such leaders and have wondered what really has the Swamiji contributed to ‘our cause’.

When such questions arise, it is necessary to look at them from two angles. The first one, that of the locus-standi of the questioners themselves and secondly, the contribution of the person being hauled up. On the former, it is unnecessary to spend too much time since the contribution of most of those outraging is close to zero, unless constant ranting on social media forums is considered as contribution to the cause of Dharma. On the second issue of the dharmic contributions of Sri Sri Swamiji, it is necessary to approach it in two ways – his individual sadhana – and his contribution to establishing and propagating dharma.

Individual Sadhana of Sri Sri Swamiji

There are a number of detailed articles available elsewhere which have chronicled the life and individual achievements of Sri Sri Swamiji. We will therefore only briefly cover the same here. Still, it should be revealing enough of the stature of the man.

Sri Sri Swamiji was ordained as a sanyasi in one of the lineages of Sri Madhwacharya at the age of 8. Within a year or two, due to the passing away of the senior Swamiji, he became the head of the Pejavara Matha, one of the 8 mathas of Udupi bestowed with the honor of worshipping Lord Krishna at Udupi. Since then, for nearly 80 years, Sri Sri Swamiji has led an exemplary life of a sanyasi without compromising on even one aspect of what the ‘ashrama’ demands.

Sri Sri Swamiji is the very epitome of sacrifice and simplicity. His only garments are a koupina and couple of saffron robes. His only ornaments are the tulasi and kamalakshi malas he wears to increase vaishnavata in his body. Every single day, he is up at 4:30AM. One of the first activities he performs is to undertake Shastra classes to his students. He is always accompanied by a few tens of students studying Veda, Vedanta and shastras under him. He personally conducts classes for them.

Post this, he involves himself in the worship of the dieties handed over to him in the lineage. During paryaya, he has the additional responsibility of performing the 14 pujas that are to be offered to Lord Krishna at Udupi. Yes, not 1 or 2 but 14 pujas are to be offered daily at Udupi! Just like now, when the ‘paryaya’ is in the hands of the Pejavara matha, Sri Sri Swamiji has worshipped Krishna on 4 earlier occasions, each for a period of 2 years.

When Swamiji is not in paryaya, he is on constant travel, as is demanded of a sanyasi (they aren’t supposed to stay in one place for more than a few days). Once his puja is complete, he engages in pravachana to assembled devotees. After that, many devotees seek personal audience with him to seek guidance on their personal issues, for which he is always ready.

In the evenings, again he engages in teaching his students, after performing the necessary pujas. Before retiring close to midnight, he spends some time in studying shastras. Thus, 20 out of 24 hours in a day, Sri Sri Swamiji is engaged in only dharmic activities.

Dharmic contributions of Swamiji

It will be great injustice to Swamiji if we attempt to capture his contributions to society in a short article. However, it has become necessary to do so, to educate the people who are outraging currently and questioning the role of Swamiji in propagation of Dharma.

When Swamiji was in his 20s, he established the Poorna Prajna Vidyapeeta in Bangalore. Till this day, this exemplary institute has created thousands of panditas in the fields of Veda, Vedanta, Jyotisha and other streams of Shastra. Thousands of purohitas who have graduated from the veda pathashalas established by Swamiji in Bangalore and other parts are now carrying forward the torch of Vedic knowledge throughout Bharat and abroad. It goes without saying that the contribution of this vidyapeeta, and indeed Swamiji, in propagation of Sanskrit language is immense.

The Poorna Prajna Samshodhana Mandira, established at the same campus, is a premier research institute established by Swamiji for higher education and research into Bharatiya philosophy in general and Dvaita philosophy in particular. Hundreds of scholars have come out of this institute. The same foundation has also published hundreds of books over the past several decades on Vedic subjects.

Sri Sri Swamiji was also one of the founder members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. He is constantly involved in the activities of the Parishad, playing an advisory role.

Sri Sri Swamiji, for several decades now, has been demanding the construction of the Sri Rama Temple at Ayodhya. He has been at the forefront of the RJB agitation since the beginning.

The efforts of Sri Sri Swamiji in the protection of the desi cow cannot be highlighted enough. He has established multiple go-shalas in Karnataka, most notably at Neelavara near Udupi (through the junior Swamiji of Pejavara Matha) where thousands of cattle are taken care of. Many sick, non-milk-yielding and aged cattle are brought to these go-shalas and left at the gates by people who cannot afford to take care of them. Not one of them is turned away by Swamiji. He is thus directly responsible for saving many cows from ending up in slaughter houses. Over the decades, Sri Sri Swamiji has led innumerable protests, dharmas and upavasas demanding complete ban on cow slaughter and protection of go-mata.

In addition to such dharmic causes, Sri Sri Swamiji has also established numerous institutions for the benefit of all sections of society.

  • Schools in over 20 cities and towns of Bharat
  • A school for specially abled children near Udupi
  • Hospitals in Bangalore, Udupi and Madikeri
  • Chattras or monasteries in nearly 20 places all over Bharat, including holy places such as Badarinath, Tirupathi, Haridwara and Bhuvaneshwar. Arrangements for food and other dharmic activities such as tarpana, pinda pradana for pitrus, etc have been made in each and every one of these pilgrimage centers.
  • Construction of marriage halls in Bangalore, Udupi, Davangere and other places
  • In addition to the Vidyapeeta at Bangalore, gurukulas have been established at Pajaka, Dakshina Kannada and Udupi.

Of late, an epidemic that has affected Hindu society is that of deserting aged parents. While on one side, Sri Sri Swamiji is making continuous efforts to educate people not to do this, he has also taken up the task of offering shelter to the aged and sick, who have been turned down by their own children. In Udupi, Chennai and in South Bangalore, he has started orphanages in which aged and orphaned Hindus can lead the remainder of their lives, while living in a dharmic environment. In addition to their residential and medical needs, these orphanages have temples and other facilities for engaging in dharmic work, which enables the old people to involve themselves in satsanga, pravachana and other activities.

Sri Sri Swamiji has been an activist in eradication of social evils such as untouchability and upliftment of downtrodden sections of Hindu society. Please see this article for more details on the numerous works undertaken by Swamiji to elevate the societal status of Dalits.

Conclusion

Earlier in the article, a question about why Lord Vishnu ignored the anger of the sanatkumaras was left unanswered. The reason is – as per Shastra laid down by paramatma Himself, Lord Hari considers as no-violation that which appears as transgressions to the eyes of the rest, PROVIDED the person is a true devotee! The kumaras were great bhaktas of Vishnu. In order to achieve the greater dharma of reaching HIM, they argued with the dwara palakas. However, Vishnu punished the dwara palakas themselves while blessing the kumaras. This is the intricacy of Dharma that one must strive to understand.

In both physical appearance and tapobala, Sri Sri Vishwesha Tirtha Swamiji is “Vamana”. Let us not become like “Shukracharya” and blindly oppose him. “Dharbha” caused Shukracharya to lose one of his eyes. The “darpa” of warriorhood will cause us to “lose sight” of the achievements of the great Swamiji, which history will record as being “Trivikrama” like.

Sri Gurvantargata Krishnarpanamastu.

About the Author

Hariprasad N

श्रीमध्वाचार्यस्य तत्ववादः | ऋक् शाखः | राजराजायते रिक्तो राघवेन्द्रं तमाश्रये | सत्यमेव जयते नानृतं |

Twitter: @pranasutra

  • malavika

    The ‘Seer’ is being criticized for hoisting Iftar party in the Matham and rightly so. He might have aided the cause of Dharma earlier. But, this act of hosting Iftar acts against the interests of Dharma and Hindus.

    It is fairly obvious that the seer did not read Koran and its injunctions against Hindus. Or the conduct of Islams prophet towards Banu Quraiza and other Jewish tribes of Madina. However not knowing is not an excuse because he is a seer and is looked upon by the devotees and his actions lend legitimacy to Islamic faith. These actions from Hindu leaders lull, Hindu community into believing that Islam is just like other Indic faiths. Islam is NOT like Indic faiths, which believe in co-existence.

    Islam is a totalitarian faith and seeks to conquer and convert the entire world into Islam. It mandates that the Kaffirs, pagans, heathen be converted and heaven is promised to those who convert Kaffirs or die in the process of converting Hindus.

    So inviting Muslims, who swear by Koran which commands believers to kill, enslave Hindus and destroy their temples is suicidal.

    • prasant

      But look truth of the matter is that increasingly hindoo girls are eloping with circumcised rough guys. The important thing to remember here is the hindoo girls have fondness for circumcised rough boys.

  • ccc

    we can be friends with muslims and still not discount the dangers of an ideology that wants complete dominance over us overtime and that is expansionist and is an enemy in the long run, that should be the way. This outrage over offering food to human beings, which this literally comes down to, is very bad publicity.

    We should fight the doctrine and its ardent followers and also be aware of the sheild that are peaceful muslims.

    I feel like due to lack of an expansionary & missionary zeal among us, we are confused about what kind of relationship & engagement we should have with the muslims.

    • malavika

      True.
      Trusting Muslims did not work well for Hindus. H were shocked when their long time neighbors turned against them during partition. Same story by the Yazdis now.
      The Vijaya Nagara King learnt it the hard way, costing him Hindu community immensely. In the crucial battle of Tallikota Gilani brothers turned against the King, call of Ummah was too much to resist. Loyalty to the king, and filial relation ship( their sister was married to king) did not matter.
      Hindus must stop shooting themselves in the foot.

      • ccc

        Trust is a big word, I’ve not used it we can’t trust them bcoz when the day of reckoning comes we know what will happen, repeat of 1947, but its a hypocrisy that has to be upheld that is why, hindus must develop missionary zeal just like the muslims and christians.

        If we have to secure our future, eternal vigilance is the only way, i do not ever for a second believe in hindu-muslim unity, that myth got busted in 1947 for good.

        There is personal level relationship and a recognition that as a community muslims are very aggressive and they will expand and protect their turf violently if needed, but this cognizance should not come in the way of mingling with them on a personal level, like in school, colleges, workplaces etc.

        • malavika

          Agree.

          Ghar Wapsi is the only way. RSS, VHP and our Acharyas must spearhead Ghar Wapsi
          rather than hosting Iftar parties.

          • Ramak

            Very much agree with you. If Kashmiri Hindus want to return to valley, they should bring back at least 20% Muslims to Hinduism fold and then with Hindus at 30% population, with Indian Army’s help, they may be able to live relatively in peace like in Poonch, Rajouri area where HIndus form only 40%. Elsewhere in Bharat too, Ghar Wapsi should be gradually done to ensure that we do not face another bloody partition based on Muslim majority areas. Fortunately, around the globe, Islam has become a menace and thus hiring managers and team members find some excuse to avoid hiring Muslims. Jai Hind.

    • Vikram

      well said

  • SURESH GOVINDARAJAN

    Spirit of tolerence is basic to Hinduism. Swamiji’s act is out of compassion and love for mankind and fully follows teachings of great acharyas.Pranams to swamiji

  • Satchitananda

    Hosting Iftar party is fine, as long as we can evince MUTUAL RESPECT. On one end, we get called Kafirs, not per interpretations of some, but by their own book, yet we trip over each other to placate these forces.

    The tragedy is if one goes to any Madhwa mutt, there is differential treatment due to varnas. This is despite stalwarts of the matha like Swami Ragavendra openly advocating stance not to do so. Such is the hypocrisy that we cannot even treat all within the Sanatana Dharma banner the same. In this atmosphere, we stampede to bring Sarva Dharma Samabhava??

    Are we trying to make fools of Krishna’s Bhagavad Gita? Why can’t we live the life he has outlined in all areas, so this will not be seen in different hues?

    • trasadasyu

      Where is MUTUAL RESPECT not evinced in this episode? They have eaten temple prasad which they cannot do as per their own text. So, are these your normal Islamists? They saved the temple.Where were those who are outraging now? And these M were not served food within the mutt but in a new premises outside temple premises. What is your problem here?

      • Satchitananda

        MUTUAL RESPECT comes into play when we hide behind our Tamas not defending our Sanatana Dharma. I have no qualms about anyone eating Prasada. Has any mosque hosted any event supporting or even accepting the fact that Hinduism as an alternate way? None of the Abrahamics will ever. Unlike Hinduism we say “ekam sat vipraha bahuda vadanti”. At the same time, we refuse to evince respect from others.

        While we stampede to showcase the sarvadharma samabhava, as a person from the same background I know even today go to Mantralayam or any major Madhwa center. You will find two queues for food. One reserved for people based on birth.

        Same Krishna we all worship says our Varna is derived from our Guna and Karma.. but we follow an artifical construct based on birth. No acharya dares to raise question as its tradition, but we rush to say that we want to feed our islamic brothers, even if they talk ill of our deities. That is where MUTUAL RESPECT comes into play. For more on it.. please read or watch Rajiv Malhotra.

        I have no qualms even if they were invited to the main temple premises to be fed, as long as there is Mutual respect, but just like it is hard to get that from Abrahamics, the lack of proper understanding in Hindus is making it difficult for may to understand even the basic dynamics of the world.

        • Trasadasyu

          You are merely being verbose and going on a tangent. We are not discussing about inviting M in general to all temples nor abt varna system. We are discussing abt this particular event. Udupi M provide horekanikka to the temple.Take part in janmashtami and paryaya festivals. Even stood as defenders of the Matha against Leftists trying to trash the temple (when other so-called RW did not help the temple). So, your entire argument abt lack of MUTUAL RESPECT falls flat on face. Rest are unrelated to current controversy. Don’t do “behti gangA mein haath dhonaa”

          • Satchitananda

            So if you cannot follow a simple argument, it doesnt mean it falls flat. Reaching out to others is important, but when we have not resolved with reaching within, its hypocrisy. Reaching out one sided without proper purvapaksha is a recipe for disaster. Hence the idea of Mutual respect. If that is too much for you to follow, I can understand.

            Again as I said I do not appreciate the RW extreme argument, nor do I agree with the blind all god same sickularism by folks who have no depth in spirituality either.

            The effort will be deemed as good by the fruits it bears. Let us see if there is any reciprocity from Muslim community and then the Swamiji’s stand will be vindicated.

          • Trasadasyu

            Rather you are not able to even read the article in full nor attempt to comprehend my reply. You assume that the acharya has not done purvapaksha (which is nonsensical if you know his history).No Madhva acharya will say all God same (hari sarvottama ringa any bell?). In this case, Muslims have reached out to him SEVERAL TIMES in past. Donating to matha, taking part in festivals and supporting financially, providing security at time of leftist threat. Reciprocity is from Swamiji here.By your logic,it is already vindicated. And by reaching within – if you refer to reaching to various communities incl Harijans, Swamiji has been doing it for decades.He has given Vaishnava deeksha to innumerable Harijans, Kurubas etc.

        • Ramak

          My views are in alignment with you SatchitanandaJi. Muslims try to behave well to get favors when they are in minority. Once they reach 10-20% of the population, they start violence to evict Hindus or other minorities and do ethnic cleansing through threats and violence. This is a phenomenon in many nations like Russia, Philipines, Nigeria etc. In this case, as they are in minority and less than 10% population, they behaved well and Swamiji was impressed and so reciprocated. Swamiji erred here but I have great respect for SwamiJi as he has worked a lot for lower castes of Hinduism and he works very closely with Sangh orgs like VHP where members are very egalitarian and never illtreat the lower castes. Chanting names of Lord Hari in my mind, I conclude by asking whether SwamiJI can help in resettling Kashmiri HIndus to valley. Likelyhood is that the same Muslims he entertained in Udipi will have no interest to support SwamiJi’s efforts. Jai Hind.

  • Murali Venugopal

    I consider myself unqualified to comment on whether this is right or wrong.
    But, I do have the curiosity to know what is the lesson to be learnt for the common man. Is it that Hindus should treat humans as humans irrespective of what religion one belongs to although the other religion does not consider it in the same manner without having the compromise? Or is that itself wrong i.e. that they do not consider Hindus as equals is wrong? What is being projected here? What if these Muslims are not accepted as true Muslims by their own folk as per their own book? What is the trade-off here for Hindus at large because large scale Muslims do not really care about Hindus world-over?

  • Dr M

    Very critical that you & all advisors of our esteemed Sri Sri Swamijis / Gurus / Acharyas understand this very critical thing:
    a) Always remember that any act/sound-bite will have to be STRATEGICALLY Dharma-First & Dharma-Centric.
    This means that the trustworthy advising Hindus should NEVER underestimate the power of Al-Taqqiya and should never play into the hands of SICKULARS (who as the biggest enemies of Dharma will sell out Hindus and buy abrahamic votebanks to keep their power, pelf & patronage). For all the contemporary political niceties, never ever blunder into such situations!
    b) Always by all means HONOR all humans (abrahamics included) INDIVIDUALLY and not with their abrahamic identity! Honor them saying they ARE PART OF THE LARGER HINDU SAMAJ. They might publicly not claim but say so.
    c) Never indulge in events / acts to reinforce any format of Abrahamic / Sickular identity more so within Dharmic precincts or temples or mutts or devotee homes! The intrinsic contradiction of their religious hate (my god is the ONLY god, yours is false and satanic) that they have means you are fooling yourself!
    d) Most Indians citizens born into abrahamic faiths are not that very strict practitioners – do not interact with them as muslims or christians or whatever – Interact with them ONLY as Indians!

    Please spread this message across to ALL well meaning Hindus!

    In light of the above, please do not justify what has happened
    And please do not showcase SriSri Swamiji’s other works to justify his credentials! You all as advisors to His Holiness HAVE FAILED Hindus! And landed him in this mess!

  • Ramak

    Muslims try to behave well to get favors when they are in minority. Once they reach 10-20% of the population, they start violence to evict Hindus or other minorities and do ethnic cleansing through threats and violence. This is a phenomenon in many nations like Russia, Philipines, Nigeria etc. In this case, as they are in minority and less than 10% of total population, they behaved well and Swamiji was impressed and so he reciprocated. Swamiji erred here but I have great respect for SwamiJi as he has worked a lot for lower castes of Hinduism and he works very closely with Sangh orgs like VHP where members are very egalitarian and never illtreat the lower castes. Chanting names of Lord Hari in my mind, I conclude by asking whether SwamiJI can help in resettling Kashmiri HIndus to valley. Likelyhood is that the same Muslims he entertained in Udipi will have no interest to support SwamiJi’s efforts. Jai Hind.