Nepal trip: Will PM Modi’s Pashupatinath visit save BJP in Karnataka?
PM Modi would be visiting Pashupatinath Temple on the second day of his trip on May 12. The day on which Modi will pay his obeisance at the temple, also happens to be voting day in Karnataka
The two-day visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Nepal, his third since assuming office in 2014, will see him making a stop at Kathmandu’s Pashupatinath Temple on the second day of his trip on May 12.
This will be the second time that PM Modi would be visiting the sacred Shiva shrine since he assumed the prime ministership in 2014, when he also made his first trip to the Hindu shrine in Kathmandu. However, India’s domestic and external environment is very different today than what it was back in 2014.
For starters, PM Modi will be visiting a Nepal buoyed by nationalism, much of it anti-India in nature. The seeds of resentment, as many analysts have pointed out, lay in the economic blockade imposed by India in the wake of the 2015 earthquake by New Delhi. Back home, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is faced with the prospect of a resurgent Congress party, which opinion polls are predicting will comfortably win the state of Karnataka, under its newly elevated President Rahul Gandhi.
May 12, the day Modi will pay his obeisance at the Pashupatinath Temple, also happens to be voting day in Karnataka. Legend has it that a visit to Pashupatinath is able to fulfil all desires. The revered Shiva shrine in Kathmandu is among six of the holiest temples dedicated to the Hindu deity, the others being Kedarnath, Tungnath, Madhyamaheshwar, Rudranath and Kalpeshwar—collectively called the Panch Kedar—which are all in Uttarakhand state in India.
In Hindu mythology, the story of the establishment of the six five temples traces back to the times of Mahabharata, when the Pandavas set off for the Himalayas in search of Shiva to ask for forgiveness in the wake of the killings they had committed during the familial war with the Kauravas.
One of the Pandava brothers, Bhim, came across a bull during his search, which he reckoned, and rightly so, was Shiva in disguise. In his bid to avoid the Pandavas, Shiva disappeared into the ground and reappeared at five different locations—the hump in Kedarnath, the arms in Tungnath, the navel and stomach in Madhyamaheshwar, the face in Rudranath, the hair in Kalpeshwar and the head in Pashupatinath.
Seeing this, the Pandavas built temples on these six locations so that their sins were forgiven. Shiva granted them their wish and forgave them for their sins.
The fact that Modi’s visit to Pashupatinath on May 12 coincides with voting day in Karnataka, coupled with the fact that all the priests at Pashupatinath Temple are of Kannada origin, just doesn’t seem to be a mere coincidence
PM Modi has been accused of pulling out the Lord Shiva card often, starting with his offers for assistance during the Kedar Valley floods of 2013. Modi, who was the chief minister of Gujarat at the time, sent a rescue mission, comprising SUVs, to bail out the affected Gujarati pilgrims. Modi later claimed that the Gujarat government had even offered to rebuild the shrine, a claim which isn’t verified.
After assuming the PM’s post, Modi has made at least three visits to the Kedarnath shrine, the most recent one being on April 29.
During his last call at Pashupatinath, PM Modi donated 2,500 kilograms of sandalwood and pledged ₹25 crore for a 'dharamshala' at the tourist hotspot. That was when he was fresh from an election victory at home and the relations with Nepal weren’t as strained as they came to be after the economic blockade.
This time around, PM Modi will be hoping that his temple run is able to woo the Shiva devotees in Karnataka and in Nepal, both seemingly sliding out of his orbit of influence.
The fact that Modi’s visit to Pashupatinath on May 12 coincides with voting day in Karnataka, coupled with the fact that all the priests at Pashupatinath Temple are of Kannada origin, just doesn’t seem to be a mere coincidence.