A controversy has erupted in Gujarat over the murals installed under the statue of Lord Hanuman in Salangpur where the Hindu deity is portrayed as a servant of Sahajanand Swami. There is a lot of opposition to this on social media, so now saints of Sanatan dharma have also come ahead to protest this display of God as a servant of a Saint. Many Hindu saints and mahants, including Morari Bapu, famous saint Harshad Bharti Bapu, and Mahant Manidhar Bapu of Kabrau Mughal Dham in Kutch, have publicly expressed their anger.
The Swaminarayan sect, which is divided into various factions, venerates Sahajanand Swami (1781-1830) as Lord Swaminarayan, around whom the sect coalesced. The Hanuman temple in Salangpur, under the management of the Vadtal Gadi faction, erected an impressive 54-foot-tall statue of Hanumanji Maharaj. On the base of the statue, numerous murals were created. However, in the murals, Hanumanji has been depicted as a devoted disciple of Sahajananda Swami.
In these murals, Hanumanji is portrayed standing before Sahajananda Swami, displaying deep reverence with folded hands in a salutation pose. Another mural depicts Hanumanji seated in an asana, once again with hands folded in a gesture of profound respect. Controversy ensued when images of these murals began to circulate widely.
Sanatan Dharma Seva Samiti activists have filed a complaint with the Shihor police station in Bhavnagar in this regard. In this complaint, the activists mentioned that when they visited the saints of Salangpur temple in this regard, the saints told them, “Mahadev and Mahabali Hanumanji used to be present for 24 hours in the service of Lord Sahajanand Swami.”
The organisation has said in the complaint that the way Lord Hanumanji has been insulted and has been shown as the servant of Swami Sahajanand, is not right. There is no such evidence in the scriptures, Puranas or Upanishads. Such a portrayal of Hanumanji has hurt the sentiments of those who believe in Sanatan culture. At the same time, the organisation has filed a complaint against the responsible persons, saints in the temple and their associate who made that statement and demanded legal action against them. Meanwhile, media entry is now banned in the Salangpur temple where these murals are seen.
Shernath Bapu of Junagadh Gorakhnath Ashram has also made a statement on this matter. He said, “The way Hanumanji is shown as a servant of Swaminarayan Bhagwan in the murals, he is shown standing with folded hands in front of Sahajanand Swami Maharaj. That’s a very sad thing. As we all know, in the Sanatan tradition, Hanuman, Ram and Shiva have been our deities for many years, since time immemorial. An attempt is being made to make him look low.”
Mahant Dilipdasji Maharaj of Jagannath Temple in Ahmedabad appealed not to harm the Dharma. He said, “If Hanuman ji is from time immemorial, then we should hold on to our tradition. By doing so, we and our gods and goddesses will also be respected.”
1008 Mahamandaleshwar Mahendranandgiri Maharaj of Muchkund Cave said, “The great men of the Swaminarayan sect believed in Mahadev and Hanumanji very much. Similarly, to date, no Sanatan Dharma saint has ever made any comment about your sect. It would be better if we all stay within our limits.”
Mahant Indrabharti Bapu of Junagadh Rudreshwar Ashram has also been angry in the Salangpur dispute case. He termed the act of the Salangpur temple as condemnable. He said, “Such pretentious sages who are there in the religion. This leads to internal disputes which also makes the heretics happy. So the person who commits this act will never be forgiven.”
Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad are also expressing their reactions to this matter. Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) general secretary Ashok Rawal said, “It is easy to keep illiterate people together, but it is very difficult to keep wise people together.” Apart from this, he said that he is trying to bring a good end to this dispute by meeting many saints. Apart from this, he clarified that Lord Ram and Hanumanji were in Treta Yuga. Sahajanand Swami’s period is 250-300 years from now. There is a lot of difference between the two times, he said.
On the same issue, religious leader Jyotirnath Maharaj has also opened a front. Talking to the media, he said, “The agitation will start from Vadodara, tomorrow the movement will be started by giving an application to the collector. After this, all the collectors, Governor, Acharya Devvrat and Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel will be given an application letter.”
He further said, “Saints and devotees will march to Salangpur if proper action is not taken by the administration. A total of 175 controversial pieces of evidence of the Swaminarayan sect have been collected. A petition will also be filed in the High Court in this matter.”
The Mahant of Rokadia Hanuman Mandir in Botad said, “These individuals are opposed to Sanatan Dharma. Hanumanji is a devotee of Sita and Ram, not a devotee of Swaminarayan. If they persist in such actions, we are prepared to take up arms. If these images are not removed within 24 hours, we will resort to more drastic measures, even if it means resorting to violence.”
Shankaracharya Shri Sadanand Saraswati of Dwarka said, “We want to make it very clear that we are all followers of Sanatan Dharma. We have been worshipping our Devi-Devta for thousands of years, just as our ancestors did. Sahajnand Ji Maharaj and his father also used to worship someone. He himself was a worshipper of Lakshmi Narayan Bhagwan and even installed Nar Narayan Bhagwan in Vadtal. However, now his followers have formed multiple sects and are engaging in arbitrary actions that are not right. This is neither right for Sanatan Dharma nor for them, or anyone else, for that matter. No sect can prosper by condemning another sect.”
He added, “We are all followers of Sanatan Dharma, and while we may follow different methods of worship and pooja, we should not condemn or insult the Devtas of others. This is the same issue faced in cinema: who should we fight with, and for how long? Even they (the Swaminarayan sect) are doing it now. For 200-300 years, no follower of Sanatan Dharma has ever spoken against the Swaminarayan sect. So, why are they doing it?”
Distortion of Hanuman Ji by Vadtal branch of Swaminarayan sect in Salangpur: An agitated Hindu man applies black paint over controversial murals, and attacks them with a stick. Police have nabbed him. https://t.co/MbJYpVR8sM pic.twitter.com/iIVcTlskEY
— DeshGujarat (@DeshGujarat) September 2, 2023
In the meanwhile, an agitated person arrived at the statue and smeared black paint on the offensive murals. He was also hitting the murals with a stick. However, he was caught by police before he could do much damage.