If it was the Pushkar Ghats in Rajahmundry which were seized by the Christian Evangelists a few months ago, it is now the turn of Islamic fanatics to attempt to take over a lake and brand it as Islamic
Imagine a natural resource being branded as Islamic or Christian in the land of Sanatan Dharma. If you thought this was a distant possibility, you are wrong. Andhra in the throes of anti-Hindu forces is witnessing a trend where natural resources are being usurped by the adherents of the so-called minority religions. If it was the Pushkar Ghats in Rajahmundry which were seized by the Christian Evangelists a few months ago, it is now the turn of Islamic fanatics to attempt to take over a lake and brand it as Islamic. Yes, it’s all happening in our beloved state of Andhra which was once ruled by the famous Hindu Kings of the Kakatiyas and Musunuri Nayakas.
The Swarnala Cheruvu or the Golden Lake on the outskirts of Nellore town and adjacent to the Penna river, is a large lake with rich historical antecedents. The banks of the lake too are of immense historical significance due to the presence of age-old temples like Durga Devi temple, Varsiddhi Vinayaka temple, Irukalala Parameshwari temple and many other Hindu temples. The surroundings of the lake had already seen a spurt in new Churches being built in the last decade or two. Several Muslim Dargahs too have made the banks of the lake their home with the Barashahid Dargah being the prominent one.
In November last year, it was during the construction of a wide road near the lake bund, a huge Shivling was found in the lake. Given the historical significance of the Nellore Swarnala Cheruvu and the finding of the Shivling, local people and devotees expressed their wish to have the Shivling installed in the lake which would be dedicated to the Shivling.
The PWD Minister Narayan responded positively and allocated a sum of Rs. 20 crore for the project to develop the lake and also dedicate a spot in the lake for the Shivling which would be similar to the Buddha statue in the Hussein Sagar lake in Hyderabad.
Lake for Muslims!
The plan to construct a spot dedicated to the excavated Shivling ruffled the feathers of religious fanatics. Muslims of the nearby Barashahid Dargah started to oppose the project ever since it was conceptualized.“Not one Hindu opposed the construction of numerous Dargahs or Churches around the lake for all these years. But the plan to develop a place for Shivling unsettled the Muslims. The Mayor of the Nellore Municipal corporation had a hand in instigating the Muslims to protest against the Shivling project”, says Midatala Ramesh a local resident while speaking to Organiser. The Mayor of Nellore who opposed the project was Abdul Aziz!
On December 7, 2018 fanatics from the Dargah and nearby areas hoisted Islamic flags right in the lake and claimed it as their own lake. The manufactured history of the Dargah and its purported importance was bandied about while opposing the Shivling project. The contention of the Muslims is that if Shivling takes prominence once developed, their reportedly famous Barashahid Dargah would lose its prominence and that they will not be able to perform their annual ‘Urs’. Either the project plan or the Hindus were never opposed to the Muslim ‘Urs’ or any of their activities. The fear-mongering triggered by the Muslim Mayor and his cohorts has led to a situation of animosity tells Ramesh.
“Few anti-social elements in the area spread the news that if the Shivling project takes-off, they will not be able to conduct their annual food distribution ‘Urs’. It was then that large section of Muslims came together and claimed the lake as belonging to their Dargah. Islamic flags were hoisted in the lake to forcefully occupy the lake. The Muslims claim that the lake belonged to them for hundreds of years”, says Ramesh with a chuckle.
Exposing the Historical fraud
Ramesh informs that the Hindus of Nellore did not take such claims lying down and decided to fight back. Ramesh, who was also part of the agitation, informs that the VHP, Dana Dharma Charitable Trust, Dayananda Sarasawati Swamiji of Dattatreya Petham and Shri Maheshwara Swamiji of Lalithamaheshwara Peetham came together to pursue the issue. Historically the Nellore lake and the area surrounding it had numerous Hindu temples and it was evident that change in demography led to the new occupants forcing their religious structures in the region. As it happens elsewhere, false historicity and fake narratives were attributed to these religious structures, as it has happened in the case of the Dargah in question.
The team of Hindus took this opportunity to study and explore the history of the lake. They referred to the British gazette records of the lake and the area. These records revealed that a Shiva temple stood in place of the present Barashahid Dargah. Government records also revealed that both Shaiva and Vaishnava traditions were prevalent among the residents near the lake. The nearby Irutalalu Pareshwari Alayam is the proof of historicity of the region. The temple dedicated to Goddess representing both Sun and the Moon, has existed for more than two thousand years. Historical evidence from the 14th century suggests that there was huge market at this place where people from other parts of the world, like Egypt and Syria, used to come and sell their products.
Ramesh further tells Organiser that a voluminous book on the history of the Nellore region published by the Madras Presidency in 1905 explains the presence of Hindu temples on the banks of the lake. The two temples which were present as per the records were the Vaishavati and Akkeshwara Swamy temples. The temples were constructed by Cholas and upgraded later by the Pallavas. Both these temples were destroyed by Muslim invaders in the 17th century. Subsequently, a Mosque was built on their ruins which serves as the Dargah in question today. The stones from the temple ruins are still lying in the lake and one can easily find them, says Ramesh.
“Not just the records, even present structures and local folklore support this. The Nandi statue present even today is facing the Dargah. The Nandi statue also served as a water level indicator. When the water of the lake reached Nandi, the flow of water from the adjacent Penna river was stopped, saving the lives of the people living near the lake. This practice has been in vogue for more than 500 years”, informs Ramesh. In Hindu temple traditions as we all know, Nandi always faces the Shivling inside the Garba Gruha. In this case, the Nandi was facing the Shivling inside the Akkeshwara Swamy (Shiva) temple, where a Dargah stands today.
Copies of the British records were taken and the same were sent to Endowment department. A formal complaint was also registered by the team of Hindus with the department, quoting that the historical lake should be treated as such no one should be allowed to establish their religious identity over it. The complaint further says that the Hindu temples which are in ruins have to be restored.
Though the police and administration have removed the Islamic flags, they are not allowing the work on the Shivling to resume either. They want to maintain the status quo until the 2019 elections are over for the Andhra Pradesh assembly. Those who spoke to Organiser, say they see the hand of the present government in maintaining a status quo and not allowing the Shivling project to continue. They say this could be done to appease the Muslims before the elections and keep the issue under wraps. The police has not registered any FIR officially.
As things stand, Hindus have registered a complaint with the endowment department and the minister over the historical temple. Instead of taking action on the complaint, the government of AP has stopped the release of the Rs. 20 crore that was sanctioned for the Shivling project in the lake. Though the Muslims claim the lake for themselves even today and have occupied the banks for their activities, the administration has not batted an eyelid. The same administration has apathetically asked the Hindus from resuming any activity in the lake or its vicinity. Concerned Hindus of Nellore are now asking if a lake indeed can have a religious identity in today’s Andhra.
(With inputs from VSK Andhra)