The paradox in Tamil Nadu

HIS flamboyance would have easily earned him stardom in Bollywood; his articulation and attitude would have made him the first choice for corporate head honcho. The 60-year-old Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev—the tall, dapper mystic with flowing white beard, often dressed in a loose kurta over a dhoti, a custom-made shawl thrown carelessly across the shoulder and a turban tied firmly around his head—skilfully blends spiritualism with business and social activism.

Whether at the multicrore Isha Yoga Centre’s event where he teaches yoga and “inner engineering” or at the various fora where he speaks on economic and social issues, Jaggi Vasudev keeps his audience, who hang on to his every word, in thrall. A hefty fee, euphemistically termed as donation, is charged for the Isha Foundation’s events, whose opulence inspires awe and wonder. Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended one such function held at the Isha Yoga Centre at Velliangiri near Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu.

Currently, Jaggi Vasudev is on a mission, a month-long programme on inter-linking rivers, “Rally for Rivers”. He launched it on September 3, driving the fuel-guzzling Mercedes Benz G63 AMG himself, from Kanyakumari to Haridwar. “Rivers are veins to earth,” he said.

There are several spiritual gurus and godmen in Tamil Nadu, a State known for the self-respect movement which strongly advocated rationalism and atheism. What perplexes rationalists is how the people of the Dravidian heartland, where social reformists such as “Periyar” E.V. Ramasamy lived and preached rational thinking, could be home to men who sell spirituality for money with their illogical claims.

Sociologists point out that people’s unflinching religiosity and power-centric politics mix seamlessly in the State. Whenever these godmen appear in public, even powerful people pay their obeisance to them. Ordinary people believe that they can find remedies for illnesses and misfortunes through the “godmen”. “When people experience so much dissonance around them, they deify these godmen, who have no inhibitions in wearing the mantle of divinity. Poverty, ignorance, fear and superstitions help these so-called spiritual leaders to continue their acts of fraud,” says Ramu Manivannan, Head of the Department of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Madras in Chennai. “Instant salvation and eternal bliss are promised here,” he says.


Source web page:Frontline

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