The Simhastha Kumbh Mela under way in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, will see not just the ritually sanctioned days of baths in River Shipra, but is being touted as an “ideological mega event” for the BJP, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi scheduled to attend the unveiling of the “Simhastha Declaration” on May 14.
BJP president Amit Shah, along with members of all 47 Scheduled Castes in Madhya Pradesh, will take a dip in the Shipra on May 11, the day of the ‘ shahi snan’ . The event has been termed “ samarasta snan [social harmony bath].”
The Simhastha declaration will be, in the words of a senior official in the Madhya Pradesh government, a prescription on how “a duty-centred system, which had been the origin of Indian philosophy of life, has become the most relevant today.”
It will be the essence of a year-long exercise of seminars and conferences on religion, spirituality and its relationship with science, climate change and deep ecology to finally expound on how this can be leveraged for social and environmental challenges.”
Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat is also supposed to attend the declaration event, as is the President of Nepal, Bidhya Devi Bhandari.
“Kumbh Melas in ancient India were not just about baths and holy days, but also the tradition of shastrarth or debate and discussions by socially influential people and dharma gurus on what is going on in society and how to deal with it,” said a senior official in the Culture department of the Madhya Pradesh government.
“We are trying to revive that and have held seminars on values, a small mini-parliament of religions, science and spirituality and deep ecology through the year and this will culminate in a conference between May 12-14 with Prime Minister Modi giving the valedictory address and unveiling the declaration,” he said.
Asked whether such a heavy influence of Hindu philosophy and the staging of an essentially Hindu religious gathering would attract charges of majoritarianism against the declaration and dilute its message, the official said: “Religious and social leaders of all faiths and areas, including Judaism, practitioners of the Barelvi sect in Islam, Methodists, and members of the Russian Orthodox Church, had been part of this year-long exercise. Some of it was happening in Indore [near Ujjain] at the height of the debate on intolerance that was sweeping the rest of the country.”
Prime Minister Modi has not shied away from open religious observances and has promoted what are now termed “Indic” religious and philosophic traditions, like Buddhism and Sufism in the past.
The Simhastha Declaration is part of that effort.