The inauguration of India’s new parliament building by Prime Minister Modi was a grand affair, capturing the attention of millions with its splendid display. Completed in just over two years, the building’s magnificent style and structure have been widely praised. However, it was the installation of the Sengol (Sceptre) that truly stood out during this elegant ceremony. Historically, Sengol has symbolized justice and good governance in India.
Amidst Vedic chants by Hindu priests, Prime Minister Modi performed the Ganapathi Puja (devotional prayer) and humbly prostrated himself before the Sengol. Seeking blessings from the priests, he then carried the Sengol in a procession, accompanied by Vedic mantras, and placed it to the right side of the speaker’s chair in the Parliament.
The discerning observers perceive Mr. Modi’s Sengol installation ceremony as a profoundly significant event, indicative of the direction in which he will lead India in the years to come. Following the installation, Mr. Modi delivered a stirring 35-minute speech, employing his characteristic emotional eloquence to paint a vibrant picture of India’s future. It was evident that the Sengol would serve as a constant reminder to those in governance of the crucial importance of probity, honesty, and fair play for all sections of society.
While some habitual critics of Mr. Modi have criticized the Sengol installation ceremony, the majority of Indians have responded with great enthusiasm, regarding the installed Sengol with respect and hope. Those who habitually criticize Mr. Modi have labeled the inaugural function of the new parliament house, carried out in accordance with Hindu practices, as an act against secularism.
In contemporary India, the term secularism is often abused and misused, with anything associated with Hindu practices being deemed non-secular, while religious activities of other faiths are considered secular. Essentially, those who promote Hindu philosophy and way of life are unjustly accused of lacking secular credentials. In India’s democracy, where vote bank politics has become central during elections, many political parties attempt to secure the votes of minority religions by claiming to be secular and progressive, while simultaneously disparaging those who speak about the Hindu ethos.
In this context, Mr. Modi has demonstrated a remarkable level of conviction and courage by openly acknowledging his identity as a Hindu, while simultaneously respecting other religions. During the parliament inauguration program, after performing elaborate Hindu pujas, representatives from all other religions were given an opportunity to offer prayers according to their religious traditions.
Over the past nine years as Prime Minister, there have been numerous occasions when Mr. Modi publicly worshipped in Hindu temples. One of the most significant events was his performance of puja, according to Hindu religious practices, during the foundation-laying ceremony of the Ram Janma Bhoomi temple. While such pujas have been conducted by Mr. Modi in temples in the past, this is arguably the first time he has performed puja, in accordance with Hindu religious practices, during a major official function for the inauguration of a new parliament building, reaching a wide audience both within India and abroad.
Hinduism originated in India and has been an integral part of Indian culture for thousands of years. More than 75% of Indians identify with Hinduism. While various countries incorporate religious prayers into official programs, such as reciting from the Holy Quran in Islamic countries or the Holy Bible in Christian nations, such practices have not been widely followed in India during major official functions. In Christian and Islamic countries, there are also many citizens who belong to other religions, and they do not object to Muslims and Christians practicing their faith during official functions. If these practices are deemed appropriate in those countries, then Mr. Modi following Hindu religious practices for the inauguration of the parliament in India should also be considered appropriate.
India can continue to be a secular country that allows freedom for all religions, much like other democratic nations such as the USA, Canada, and Europe. Therefore, adopting Hindu worship practices in official functions in India should be considered a suitable choice.
It is high time to acknowledge the grievance felt by many Hindus in India, who believe they are being discriminated against by various government policies that favor minority religions in the name of secular principles. A prime example is the government’s interference and control over Hindu temples, including the diversion of temple income for various purposes. In contrast, mosques, churches, and gurudwaras are not under government control but managed by leaders of those religions. Several other examples can be cited as well.
It is crucial for every Indian, regardless of their religious affiliation, be it Christian, Muslim, Sikh, or Buddhist, to recognize that India is fundamentally a country rooted in Hindu ethos, while allowing individuals of other religions the freedom to follow their respective religious teachings. Therefore, objections to Mr. Modi’s observance of Hindu religious practices during the inauguration of the new parliament are unfounded. Mr. Modi has set an example and dispelled unwarranted fears about secularism.
By installing the Sengol, a symbol of honesty and probity in governance, Mr. Modi has brought the nation’s attention to the high principles that should underpin fair governance. The Sengol will serve as a constant reminder, ensuring that the country remains focused on advancing with truth and honesty in governance.