The Power-Play of BJP-RSS and Kerala – Denigration of Religious Rituals in Kerala and Accommodation of Separatists in Non Core Areas

This article has been co-authored by Shanmukh, Saswati Sarkar and Dikgaj


In our previous articles in the series, we laid out a roadmap and our motivations in examining ethnic hatred in the Right Wing in [35]. In [36], we examine the ethnic slurs cast at Bengalis by those in the BJP-RSS ecosystem occupying high constitutional or statutory body positions. In [37], we examine how magazines and journalists close to the BJP-RSS ecosystem abuses Hindus of Bengal. In [38], we examine how the kith and kin of those high in the BJP-RSS ecosystem have abused Bengalis. In [1], we examine how the BJP-RSS ecosystem abuses Keralites and mocks the state. And in the current article, we examine how the temple traditions of Kerala are insulted by the BJP-RSS ecosystem, while the same ecosystem, without a blush of shame, admires separatists outside the core.

In this article, we examine how the BJP-RSS has opposed Hindu rituals in Kerala, and undermined the temple traditions of regions outside its core (Hindi belt, namely UP, MP, Bihar, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra). We also show that the RSS stance has nothing to do with egalitarian traditions, or eschewing ostentation, or compassion towards life-forms other than human, but everything to do with power politics. We show that, as part of the same power politics, BJP-RSS condones and indirectly encourages separatism and terrorism outside the core regions. Finally, we show that the root of the above contempt may be traced to the core ideology of the RSS vis-a-vis Hindu society, which shares key attributes with several totalitarian schools of thought.

Contempt on temple traditions of Kerala

The RSS, as was previously mentioned in [1], has been opposing several temple traditions in Kerala. It supported the entry of women into Sabarimalai [2], and, in its own mouthpiece, the Kesari, has opposed the use of elephants and the display of fireworks in temple celebrations in Kerala [3]. The RSS has also supported moderation in celebrations and demanded that temple money be used for social purposes [3].

The translation of the first paragraph of [3] runs thus. “One of the most common word used in connection with faith in god or about worship mode is called `acharam’. Most often this term is erroneously interpreted . `acharam’s’ are formed when people follow acharya’s or religious leaders. Acharya’s are people who discovered new paths and formed new routes. The progress and goodness of an individual and society are the hallmarks of an Acharya. Only such people who becomes an Achaya. However in the name of ‘acharam’, many of the customs that our society has pursued are NONSENSE, ACCIDENTAL OCCURRENCES or MADNESS. We are living in a time when such madness are increasingly seen in all religions. This forward is written as there are many who believe that the fireworks in a Hindu temple is an ‘acharam’. Many consider even the CM of Kerala hold such a view. Many debates are occurring on the ban on fireworks in the wake of the tragedy in temple of Devi in Paravur in Kollam district, where more than 110 were burnt alive. Yet chief minister is the first one to comment that he cannot ban fireworks because its part of ‘acharam’ at temple. It is true that chief minister Oommen Chandy cannot make such statements when he is staring at a poll. But people and organizations who think of the future of the Hindu society cannot think like this. We often started discussions on Hindu RITUAL REFORMS in the editorial editions.’’ [3] (Capitalisation added by the authors).

Quite apart from the extremely offensive name-calling indulged by the article by calling the temple traditions of Kerala `nonsense, accidental occurrences, or madness’, and comparing the use of elephants in temple rituals to untouchability and animal sacrifice, the article makes three major statements, which we shall examine in the article, and the RSS’ locus standi on the matters.

a) The article claims that there is no religious sanction for the use of fireworks in temple rituals and that it was introduced after the arrival of the Portuguese. Further it speaks of the economic losses and noise pollution caused by the fireworks.

b) It also speaks of the rights of elephants, and their well being.

c) Finally, the RSS has asked temples to dispense with ostentation and utilise money for charitable social purposes.

Apart from these three statements, the RSS has also criticised the prohibition of women from Sabarimalai and demanded their entry into the temple.

The question now arises about how valid the objections of the RSS are, and how serious the RSS is about the genuine issues underpinning the causes. The issues involved here are gender equality in temple entry for women, economic moderation, dangers in the use of fireworks, the judicious use of temple resources for both social and religious purposes, and animal rights and welfare in the employment of elephants in temple rituals. We shall examine the rectitude of the RSS in the issues.

On the issue of temple entry for women, the RSS, after initially opposing the entry of women to temples such as the Shani Shingnapur temple [4] in Maharashtra, turned around and supported the entry of women to the temple [5]. However, it is a telling point that the RSS does not allow women to join RSS itself. In a case of rank hypocrisy, RSS believes that women are not good enough to enter the RSS, but castigates temples that do not allow women into its precincts. Further, while the RSS accuses temples that do not allow women to enter, it has made no comment about temples that don’t allow men to enter (there are many temples that do not allow men to enter [6]). Therefore, the reasons of the RSS for opposing ban on entry of women into temples do not seem to be rooted in gender equality, since it is merrily practising crass gender discrimination in its own organisation since its inception.

With regard to the elephants in temples in Kerala, we observe that elephants utilised in temple rituals in Kerala are part of the ceremonies since a very long time. The number of elephants used in temples have been galore, and include some of the greatest ever known elephants, including the famous elephant, Guruvayoor Keshavan.  There are agamas sanctioning the use of elephants in temple ceremonies, which the RSS has overlooked.  Further, given its hoary past, Kerala’s elephants are generally well cared for, as Prem Panicker wrote when he busted another animal torture story in the Daily Mail [7]. There are indeed many problems in the maintenance and care of elephants in temples (both within Kerala and without), but most of the elephants are not captured for the temples. Most are donated by patrons who are unable to care for the elephants or have been born and raised in captivity and sent to the temples. Finally, Kerala (and Karnataka, the other state that often uses elephants in temple rituals) have an excellent record of preserving its elephants and indeed, had the highest number of wild elephants in 2012 [8]. On the contrary, it is the BJP ruled states that have an ugly record of protecting their wildlife. Madhya Pradesh has lost all its elephants and has only 300 or so tigers left [8]. Rajasthan has not only lost all its elephants, but, in the Vasundhara Raje Scindia government in 2003-2008, it also lost all its tigers from Sariska National Park (a Project Tiger park) to poaching [9]. Only around 40 or so tigers are left in Rajasthan [8], even after Sariska was repopulated with tigers taken from elsewhere. Even cows have not been spared in BJP states like Chhattisgarh. Two hundred cows died of starvation at a cow shelter run by a BJP leader in Chhattisgarh [39]. Given that none of these have attracted strictures from the RSS, it is to be assumed that they have other reasons for attacking Kerala’s use of temple elephants.

Finally, fireworks have a hoary past in Kerala (and indeed all of south India), so the RSS claim that fireworks made an advent into Kerala after the arrival of the Portuguese is plain wrong. In the reign of Devaraya II (died in 1444), the dazzling display of fireworks in the city of Vijayanagar has been described at length by the Persian ambassador, Razzaq [10]. It is clear that gunpowder which came to India from China, most likely came via the principal ports of Goa and Kozhikode, which were used by the Chinese and Arab traders to trade with the Vijayanagar empire. The Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, it may be remarked, came in 1498 and was the first Portuguese to come to India. Further, Portuguese adventurers have described the use of gunpowder and cannons (both home made and Venetian) by the Samudri Raja of Kozhikode from their earliest days. Finally, the claim that cannons and firecrackers were used only to scare off animals in the forests surrounding Sabarimalai has no evidence adduced to it. Until the RSS produces some evidence for its claims, we must regard it as a myth of no consequence.

Further, a Keralite acquaintance of ours points out that the three tantric definitions used in the article [3] by the author are wrong. Our acquaintance says that the three methods of worship suggested in Kerala should be defined as `simple’, `detalied’ and `best’. Temples follow all of them or some combination thereof, as convenient for the temple in question. We quote the Keralite acquaintance verbatim “The author called the simple format as adhama which is not the traditional understanding. The simple format itself is called padahaadi . i.e. with chenda/other drums, etc. In detailed format, you add more things to padahaadi festival. (it is not some thing different from padahaadi). The main addition is dwajaarohanam. it is done with some taantrika kriyas. Now in third more ritual/pooja etc are added to this. The main kriya is called ”muLayidal” where dhaanya (often 9) is used. The process involved germination of seeds hence called `ankuraadi’. So even in the best format, it includes all the previous things. In major temples one festival (say for 21 days ) will be a combination all the 3. i.e. for x days they run the festival a, then for y days they run festival b and final z days they run c. In medium temples it will be a+b for select days.’’ From the above, it appears that the author’s understanding of the rituals in Kerala are in error. Whether the error was inadvertent or deliberate in order to confuse others outside Kerala is something we cannot determine.

Now we come to the RSS insistence on temples in Kerala shedding ostentation and working for socio-economic upliftment of the poor and the needy. Not only does the article [3] make a case for it, but it is interesting that RSS men in Kerala have even complained about RSS workers who participate in shakhas held on temple premises then move away to temple work rather than in secular work [12]. Consequently, it is clear that RSS puts very little importance on the religious work of the temples, even while it derives benefit from being able to hold shakhas on temple premises. Secondly, it is amusing to see RSS insist on moderation, while its own acolytes indulge in the most extravagant weddings. Lifelong RSS man and then BJP-President Nitin Gadkari celebrated his son’s wedding in great style, with the reception, held in a region suffering from an acute power crisis, being extravagant to say the least. The description in [13] is quoted verbatim here, “The lawns of the Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA) were awash with floodlights of every hue. Light-posts were erected at every step of the way along the 600-foot pathway leading from the parking lot to the stage. The trees in the lawns and those leading up to the venue sparkled with garlands of blue, green, yellow and lavender lights. Canopies of white drapes were decked with fresh white flowers and brought to life with multicoloured flashlights’’ [13] Similarly, while he has been a Union minister in absolute majority BJP government run by lifelong RSS man, PM Modi, Mr. Gadkari celebrated the wedding of his daughter in grand style. During the wedding in Nagpur, many chartered flights were arranged to bring in guests [14]. It is clear that a huge amount of money was spent on the wedding in Nagpur. It is for further import to observe that the Sarsanghchalak Mr. Mohan Bhagwat attended both the weddings [16], [17] and further, many high and mighty in the BJP attended at least the latter wedding [15]. There were no remonstrance on the expenditure in the wedding. Similarly, the weddings of the children of minister of another lifelong RSS man and BJP CM, Shivraj Singh Chaihan, Yashodhara Raje Scindia were celebrated in style, with many of the high and the mighty of the Sangh like Rajnath Singh in attendance. The wedding was described as The mehendi had a carnival theme while the cocktail function had a Great Gatsby theme. Tuberoses and tulips were sourced from Holland for the wedding. The royal members of both the families were seated in a hierarchical manner during the wedding and the reception that followed had an English vintage feel with white and pastel pink shades in the decor.’’ [18] This lavish wedding did not incur any displeasure on the ostentation involved from the higher ups of the Sangh [18]. Similarly, the wedding of the niece of Vijayaraje Scindia, a long time BJP stalwart, was celebrated with great pomp in the aftermath of the attack on Hindus and when the Hindus of the Kashmir Valley were in deep distress, with rising security. Farooq Abdullah, who was overseeing the state, indifferent to the rising insecurity of the Hindus, attended the lavish wedding without any strictures from the Sangh [19].   Indeed, Yuvraj Dr. Karan Singh and Mr. Abdullah shared a carriage during the wedding, when Hindus were being terrified out of their wits in the Kashmir valley.  Indeed, RSS men themselves have been celebrating Ganesha Chaturthi in Kerala [47], [48] with pomp and splendour, with many vehicles and music, spending large amounts.  Ganesha Chaturthi is observed by much smaller segments than the temple traditions of Kerala, on which it wants less money spent.  Such strictures against ostentation, it seems, are reserved for the lesser Hindus of Kerala.  Further, RSS clearly has no problems spending huge sums and causing vehicular pollution for the observance of traditions important to it in Kerala.  It merely has an objection to Keralite Hindus observing their traditions and spending money on them.

Again, on the occasion of Onam, the BJP president, Mr. Amit Shah (who is another lifelong RSS man), wished the Hindu Keralites a happy Vaman Jayanthi, when they actually worship Bali Raja in Kerala [20]. Of course, it is obvious that the same Mr. Shah would not wish a happy Ravan resistance on the occasion of Dasara in Uttar Pradesh.

Contempt for Temple Traditions in Other Non-Core States

Amit Shah created a controversy by going into the Tripurasundari temple in Udaipur in Tripura with his footwear on [23]. It is clear that the same Mr. Amit Shah does not attend a temple in Somanath with his footwear on.


The photograph reveals that the guards are not wearing footwear, but Mr. Shah is. We have testimony from a person who knows the custom of the place, who points out that the strictures against footwear are easy to understand. Why Mr. Shah chose to wear shoes in a place where even guards knew not to is unclear. This is confirmed by an acquaintance of ours in Tripura who says that one can keep one’s shoes in any of the shops that sell pooja materials.

Note that a day after Mr. Shah’s picture went viral on social media, Tripura BJP state President has asserted that the photograph was part of a false campaign by CPIM, and Mr. Shah has not violated any temple custom. It is however remarkable that even during election-time Mr. Shah did not deem fit to clarify himself how he was not in contravention of the temple custom [43].

In contrast, through its national-level spokesman, BJP had recently demanded that Congress President Rahul Gandhi himself declare his religion, in the wake of election-time allegations that he had signed himself as a non-Hindu in the register of Somnath temple [42] [44].

It must be mentioned that even for the people of Karnataka, considerable contempt has been reserved by the base, especially when they follow different customs. But given that BJP periodically forms governments there, such contempt comes only from those lower down the RW peck order. Here is an example:


Of course, it is a very interesting to observe the implicit assumptions here. We aren’t exactly sure which scriptures mandate that the Hindu Gods must be mono-lingual, that too, that only the rustic ones can speak local languages. But then this is perhaps another example of reformist history, nay scriptures, that we have not been enlightened with. But then if RSS has pronounced that far-South Kerala is a Godless country [1], then only lesser Gods can inhabit the villages of a slightly northern land, Karnataka, and speak in the less-civilized Kannada. It is clear that RSS does not set much store by the deities of regions low in its peck order.

We observe that, in the same sentiment, the water affairs minister in BJP CM Manohar Parrikar’s cabinet, Mr. Vinod Palyekar, belonging to the Goa Forward Party, an ally of the BJP, has called Kannadigas `haramis’ (bastards) for disagreeing with his interpretation of the Mahadayi water sharing agreements [46].  He has since denied using such language in his tweet, but has yet to adduce video evidence for his claims.

Glorification of separatists and presiders of genocidal famines

The BJP justifiably accuses the Left and the Congress of sympathising with the `Bharat ke tukde tukde’ gang that has been on the rampage in many places. It is, however, interesting that the BJP has no problems making deals with Christianist terrorist groups, separatists and Christianist parties in the North East supported by the NLFT and the Islamist groups like the PDP. In Nagaland, it signed a deal with the NSCN (IM) group and refused to release the details of the deal [28], despite it causing immense heartburn in Manipur. Similarly, it has no problems trying to ally currently with the IPFT [29] which has been accused of links with the terrorist group, NLFT, in Tripura [30]. Its own MLA, state level minister and powerful leader of the North East, Himanta Biswa Sarma, was accused of ULFA links, was once booked under TADA and was supposedly involved in the murder of the Congress leader Manabendra Sarma [34], [40]. Similarly, the BJP has no problems aligning with the Christianist parties of Nagaland like NPF [1]. Similarly, in Jammu and Kashmir, the BJP has allied with the PDP, whose founder orchestrated a massive, organised assault on the Hindus of Kashmir Valley in 1986 pp. 496-497, [33], [31]. It is significant that while in coalition with the BJP, the PDP MLAs even today refer to the slain Islamist terrorists of the Kashmir Valley as `martyrs’ [32]. Finally, the BJP has no problems allying with Mr. Lone as he is `a former separatist’ and for the BJP ecosystem to award him prizes in the name of Shyama Prasad Mookerjee [37]

In this connection, we review the admiration for Sir CP Ramaswamy Aiyar of Travancore that we have noticed in the Right Wing in social media. He has been lauded for his contributions to the PN Panicker’s literacy campaigns without even a minimal qualifier in Swarajya Magazine [37]. The Swarajya Magazine has taken stands very close to that of the BJP, as was previously mentioned in [37] and consequently, can be considered as a part of the BJP-RSS ecosystem. We remind the readers of some of Sir CP Rmaswamy Aiyar’s “achievements’’. As Diwan of the Travancore state, Sir CP Ramaswamy Aiyar tried to declare Travancore an independent state in 1947, when the British exited the country. When that move was opposed by nearly all the educated and even semi-educated sections of Travancore and violently by the Socialists and Communists, he attempted to suppress the Socialists and Communists with brutal force, racking up a massive body count in the Vayalar-Punnapra agitation [41]. An attempt on Sir CP Ramaswamy Aiyar’s life was made by Mani, a socialist activist from the party of Mr. Sreekantan Nair. Sir CP Ramaswamy Aiyar was grievously wounded in the attempt by Mani, who was agitated by Sir CP Ramaswamy Aiyar’s attempt to declare an independent Travancore. The assassination attempt brought home to Sir CP Ramaswamy Aiyar the determination with which the people of Travancore would resist independence attempts and he withdrew from the position of the Dewan in the aftermath.

During the Second World War, Sir CP Ramaswamy Aiyar oversaw a famine that killed, on a very conservative estimate, approximately 30,000 people in Travancore (or 0.5% of the total population) [24]. The actual number is likely to be higher, with 21,000 peasants dying in Cherthala tehsil itself. A large number of peasants fled their homes and hearths in Travancore and had to be sheltered in British Malabar, permanently altering the demographic landscape of Malabar. Yet, we find that [26] praised Sir CP Ramaswamy Aiyar for his contributions to the PN Panicker’s literacy campaigns, without alluding to any of the above even in passing. Unqualified praise for such an ignoble individual, without acknowledging that he nearly wrecked everything that had been built in Travancore is distortion of history. We wonder if the adulation of Sir Aiyar in the BJP-RSS base owes to the fact that he slaughtered many Communists. Massacres, whether for political, religious, or ethnic reasons, are not to be condoned and to indulge in praise of a man who massacred people without a qualifier about what he did certainly amounts to condoning his massacres. Such unqualified praise may be considered analogous to praising Hitler for his efforts to curtail smoking in Germany [ without alluding to his orchestration of the Holocaust of Jews. Incidentally, we have observed a certain fondness for many of those who perpetrate famine based massacres of lesser Indics outside the core areas in the BJP-RSS ecosystem. Lifelong RSS man and BJP-appointed Governor Tathagata Roy defended Churchill, by ameliorating his guilt in the Bengal famine [36].

Political Discourse

Last and the least, the article [26] contains many half truths in ascribing the credit for the high literacy in Kerala – `PN Panicker singlehandedly transformed Kerala’s literacy landscape’, in the author’s words – in that it completely overlooks the many initiatives of both the Congress and Left governments in the 1970s and 1980s, which led to a high literacy in Kerala. For instance, while criticising the delayed formation of the Kerala State Library Council, the author forgets to point out that the Kerala Library Association existed since 1971 and performed similar duties. Further, he omits the initiatives like the Ernakulam District Total Literacy Programme, launched in 1989, which achieved unprecedented success of teaching around 1.75 lakh illiterates to read in about an year [25]. Further, it was in the 1987-1991 period that nearly 15 lakh illiterates were turned into literates, making Kerala the most literate state in India. It also ignores the role played by Kerala Shaastra Sahitya Parishad which was attempting total literacy as early as 1977-79 [25]. The former initiative – Ernakulam District Total Literacy Programme – was under EK Nayanar of the Left, while the latter initiative of the Kerala Shaastra Sahitya Parishad was begun under AK Antony of the Congress and continued under PK Vasudevan Nair of the Left. Indeed, as early as 1963, the massive Farmers Literacy Programme [25] was initiated in Kerala during the chief ministership of R Sankar of the Congress. As we said, the pigeonholing of credit and laying of blame is fine in political discourse, but not exactly conducive to academic discourse.


On a deeper level, the RSS seems to believe that the entire resources of the Hindu society should belong to it, to dispose of it for the greater benefit of the organisation. This is apparent in the interview of Mr. Somasekharan [12], an RSS pracharak of some note, where he bemoans that many go to do temple work after shakhas, but not the secular work of the RSS. This totalitarian idea has been repeated umpteen times in history. Eric Ludendorff, the Chief of the German Army, opined in his writings that it was the German army that represented the country best, and demanded a carte blanche for the army on the current resources and the future prosperity of the country [21]. Similarly, as quoted in Sahih Muslim, Muhammad believed that the earth belonged to Allah and his Apostle, and everything therein could be disposed of in the best interests of the Muslims [22]. Sahih Muslim states that: “ It has been narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira who said: We were (sitting) in the mosque when the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) came to us and said: (Let us) go to the Jews. We went out with him until we came to them. The Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) stood up and called out to them (saying): O ye assembly of Jews, accept Islam (and) you will be safe. They said: Abu’l-Qasim, you have communicated (God’s Message to us). The Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) said: I want this (i. e. you should admit that God’s Message has been communicated to you), accept Islam and you would be safe. They said: Abu’l-Qisim, you have communicated (Allah’s Message). The Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) said: I want this… – He said to them (the same words) the third time (and on getting the same reply) he added: You should know that the earth belongs to Allah and His Apostle, and I wish that I should expel you from this land Those of you who have any property with them should sell it, otherwise they should know that the earth belongs to Allah and His Apostle (and they may have to go away leaving everything behind) “ [22] Allama Iqbal similarly believed that all the countries touched by the Muslims in any way should belong to the Muslims [27]. Closer home, Deb Kant Barua articulated the view, `Indira is India, India is Indira’. Listening to RSS ideologues, it seems they have fallen prey to a similar delusion, that the Hindu society exists for the benefit of the RSS and not the other way round.






















[21] Basil Henry Liddell Hart, “Strategy’’



[24] MKK Nair, “End of an Era Told without Ill Will’’

[25] Mohana Kumara, “Literacy Movement in Kerala: One Step Forward, Two Steps Backward’’,

Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 28(41), 9, October 1993.








[33] Jagmohan, “My Frozen Turbulence in Kashmir’’








[41] Ramachandran Nair, “History of the Trade Union Movement in Kerala’’




[45] Bynum, Hardy, Jacyna, Lawrence, and Tansey, The Western Medical Tradition’’, Cambridge University Press