Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s decision to stay away from the auspicious and customary Viththal Mahapooja on Ashadhi Ekadashi day grabbed headlines in all leading newspapers and on TV on Monday. The Pandharpur Wari for Maharashtra is a tradition that has run for centuries it is similar in that sense to the Jagganath Rath Yatra or some of the other such great spiritual events happening in other parts of India. It is customary for the Chief Minister to attend the last day’s Mahapooja.
CM’s decision this year to stay away from the pooja cannot be called unprecedented because it has happened once before in 1996 that the sitting Chief Minister decided to stay away from the Mahapooja because of some controversy that happened that year. But all the politics that is now happening over the reasons because of which Devendra Fadnavis decided not to go for this Mahapooja has taken away almost all the limelight from this highly spiritual event which has had centuries of tradition and the focus is just on the politics involved in it. This is highly unfortunate. An event where close to a million devotees gather every year and without any untoward incident happening, they participate in this spiritual activity with faith has this year been turned into a political debate.
The activists from Maratha organisations who opposed CM’s entry to this event were agitating against the community not being given reservation in jobs and education despite the government promising them to do so earlier. The government says the matter is now in High Court and it cannot do anything unless the courts decide on the issue.
There is a lot of debate happening in media and social media about whether a spiritual event like the Pandharpur wari should be allowed to be used for political agitations. The opinions on this are sharply diverse but the general consensus seen on social media seems to be that people feel that the purity of an event like Pandharpur wari should be maintained and it should not be used for any political purpose.
The bigger question that media and intellectuals should raise is whether overall political presence should be reduced at spiritual an religious events so that the devotees can purely spend quality time in spiritual activity in peace. This is not just limited to the Pandharpur wari but to all spiritual and religious events. Whether it is the Ganapati festival of Maharashtra or whether it is Wari, the general trend seen is that politicians are slowly taking over these activities for their own publicity or propaganda. This must be curtailed.
Maharashtra Chief Minister has taken the right step by deciding not to go for this year’s Mahapooja because he thought that in view of the agitation happening there, his presence would lead to chaos and inconvenience for lakhs of devotees at the wari, however the bigger question is whether all politicians should learn this lesson from Fadnavis and if not totally stop attending at least reduce the number of events they attend and gradually withdraw from such events.