A sense of belonging, a reawakening of identity, and a resolve to fight external onslaughts…these were the evident outcome of the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Gor Banjara and Labana Nayakada Samaj Kumbh 2023 that took place in Godri (Jamner, District, Jalgaon) in Maharashtra from January 25 to 30, 2023.
The Banjara community, known for its nomadic living, colourful attires and vibrant culture, has a glorious history and traditions. The community has been one of those dwellings in Bharat since time immemorial. It is known as the most peace-loving but valiant community whose members have sacrificed their lives for the protection of the Dharma. However, many destructive forces are at play to take advantage of this gullible community resulting in mass-scale conversion (Christianisation).
There are 11,500 Tandas (Banjara colony) of the Banjara community in the country, of which 3,000 have been Christianised. In order to ensure that this problem does not assume a grave proportion, many saints from the community went from village to village and visited the tandas and held meetings
Swami Vivekananda said that when a Hindu convert to another faith, not only is a person reduced from Hindu society but one is also added to the enemies of the country. This was the viewpoint through which the Banjara Kumbh was held. Stopping rampant conversion, spreading information about its culture and traditions and raising awareness of the community’s history among the community members were the aims of the program, and they were fulfilled to quite an extent.
There are 11,500 Tandas (Banjara colony) of the Banjara community in the country, of which 3,000 have been Christianised. In order to ensure that this problem does not assume a grave proportion, many saints from the community went from village to village and visited the tandas and held meetings. Planning was made for the Kumbh four months in advance. Besides the holy figures from the Banjara community, saints from different communities from different states also participated in the Kumbh. Devotees from Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Chhattisgarh and the USA thronged to the venue.
Throughout the six days of the Kumbh, a number of Dharma Sabhas were held. Deliberations were made in these meetings to consolidate the forces of the Banjara community. It was pointed out over and over that an attack on religion is an attack on the nation. There are seven crore Christians in the country, and many of them have become Christians from among us. It was emphasised that there had been a demand for a separate state and separate country wherever Christianity had increased. A main demand from the community members was to enact anti-conversion law. Moreover, attention was also drawn to the attempts by many to divide the Hindu faith.
Two Important Resolutions
The mélange of saints ensured that two resolutions were passed in the Dharma Sabhas in the interest of banjara society. The first proposal passed unanimously said that the temples of Balaji, Jagdamba Mata and Lord Shri Krishna would be built at every tanda. Every family will go to the temple in the morning and evening for aarti and follow their traditions. Pictures of great men Saint Sewalal, Pujya Ramrao Bapu and Pujya Guru Nanak Devji Sahib would be placed in every house. Pujya Several Path would be recited regularly. Gomati language would be protected and propagated.
The second resolution said that in the 75 years since independence, the Christian population had increased ten times. Conversion is the reason for this increase, and the Banjara community has been the protector of Sanatan, a Hindu society, since ancient times. This society is becoming a victim of the vicious cycle of Christians. The governments of Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh have enacted anti-conversion laws, and such laws should be implemented immediately in the states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Saints kept religion alive in the country. Don’t fall into the clutches of missionaries. Beware of those who try to distance us from Hindus. Shriram embraced the forest dwellers. We will remain Hindus and will keep others Hindus as well. Next year, the Ram temple will be completed on Vasant Panchami. I have come to extend an invitation to you to Ayodhya. -Sant Govind Dev Giri Maharaj
The venerated saint of the Banjara community Babusinghji Maharaj and Chief Priest at Poharagad, asserted that the conversion racket was active in 3000 Tandas in 5 states, and a large number of the community members has been converted to Christianity. However, he and other saints resolved to bring all of them back to the Hindu community. He also said Some people are spreading propaganda in society by saying that Gor Banjara is not Hindu but a separate Gor religion. However, Gor Banjaras are an eternal and intrinsic part of Hindu society. Some people are misleading society. There are different castes in Hindu society, and they have different customs and traditions. This does not mean that they all have separate religions. He also said that All those brethren who have converted after being misled in different states would soon return home. All those returning home are welcome in Sanatan Hinduism. Every effort will be made to stop the conversion, and extensive efforts will be made to thwart the conspiracy of conversion.
Living up to his firebrand image, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who was the chief guest in the conclusion ceremony on January 30, 2023, hit out at the conversion racketeers and spoke of the challenges arising due to religious conversions. He said that there was absolutely no tolerance for such activities in his state. He appealed for the elimination of caste and regional discrimination.
“We have to get rid of caste and regional discrimination. We should not adopt a divisive tactic that leaves society fragmented. If we overcome bias based on caste and region, no power in the world can stop our progress. In UP, we have made a stringent law. There is absolutely no tolerance for such activities. Nobody can indulge in unlawful acts of religious coercion. If anybody is found violating the law he or she is subjected to 10 years of imprisonment. However, if some convert wants to come back, the law is not applicable (will not penalise) on such persons. He or she can again become Hindu,” Adityanath said.
Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde and Deputy CM Fadnavis were set to attend the event but could not attend the event after their helicopter developed a technical problem. Addressing the gathering online, Fadnavis said, “The religious conversion drive undertaken by some segments is a new challenge confronting the Banjara community. The Mahakumbh is to create awareness against such conversion which threatens their rich culture and language. The Banjara’s contribution to fighting the Mughals and Britishers is well documented. When Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur was killed in Delhi, it was Bhai Lakshishah Banjara who fought the enemies to retrieve the body and carry out funeral rites.”
On the second day of Kumbh, the tricolour flag was hoisted by the President of Goseva Commission of Madhya Pradesh, Mahamandaleshwar Akhileshwaranand. The function began with the worship of the Bharat Mata image, followed by the flag hoisting by Mahamandaleshwar Akheeleshwaranand. Many other programmes besides the flag hoisting took place at the venue. They included cultural programmes, sant pravachan and Sant Sevalal Amritleela, Devi Bhagvat, and Krishna Leela, among others.
Galaxy of Dignitaries
Akhil Bharatiya Dharma Jagaran Pramukh Sharadrao Dhole, venerable Mahamandaleshwar Guru Sharananand Maharaj, venerable Saint Gopal Chaitanya Maharaj, Saint Suresh Maharaj, Saint Denabhagat ji Maharaj, Saint Yashwant Maharaj, Saint Jitendranath Maharaj, Acharya Sahebrao Shastri, Mahant Sangramsingh Maharaj and Saint Raysingh Maharaj, venerable Swami Govind Dev Giri Maharaj,Murari Bapu, Ramdev Baba, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Maharashtra’s Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis were among the dignitaries who attended the programme.