PM Modi has used concepts about India’s cultural civilisational framework beyond religion. He is trying to rejuvenate ancient civilisation and its cultural ethos by connecting it to good governance and tracing back to the ancient civilisation.
This is one part of a coordinated strategy that combines Hindu identity, cultural identity, and religiosity with a brand-new, unapologetic cultural nationalism that is deeply rooted in cultural symbols associated with Hinduism. Every Bharatiya can associate themselves with this cultural play with a deeply embedded meaning.
The latest example can be picked up from the inauguration of the new Parliament and the installation of ‘Sengol’ in the new Parliament, a unique national symbol. Sengol symbolises Dharma and Dharmic rule. The intricate carving of Nataraja and Sengol can be seen at the Virupaksha Temple, Hampi, in Karnataka, built in the 7th Century CE. It symbolises power and sovereignty, tracing the tradition from the times of the Cholas. This attempt should also be seen as to decolonise Bharat. Sengol was installed through Hindu dharmic traditions by the priest of the Adheenam.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has revived various ancient temples to restore Bharat’s cultural heritage. These ancient temples were also a great seat of learning. This vision of PM Modi is being encapsulated through various museums coming up at multiple pilgrimages sites. The PM has announced the special projects and the work is in progress under the Cultural Ministry’s supervision.
These museums are coming up at Kashi, Kedarnath and the Panch Kedar circuit. This shows the commitment of PM Modi to the revival and restoration of ancient temples, which representations of our ancient civilisational history and boosts religious tourism in India.
The Narendra Modi government acquired around 400 buildings and houses to reconstruct the magnificent Kashi Vishwanath Corridor in 2019. This temple and the ghats of Kashi were renovated by Ahliya Bai Holkar, the 18th-century Maratha Queen of Malwa, after Aurangzeb destroyed it. The importance of this ancient city can be mapped from time immemorial. This mega project was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2021.
In October 2022, Prime Minister Modi also inaugurated the Mahakal Lok Corridor at Mahakaleswar Temple in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh. Mahakal is one of the twelve jyotirlingas in India and holds a significant place among the Hindus. Mahakal temple is an ancient temple in Ujjain which was destroyed by Shams-ud-din Iltutmish in 1234-5 CE when he looted and plundered Ujjain.
The Jyotirlinga was broken and thrown into the nearby pond’ Kotiteerth Kunda.’ The temple was damaged and defaced by Iltutmish and his army. According to Minhaj-i-Siraj Juzjani’s, Tabakat-I-Nasiri, a Persian document, Iltutmish brought the idols from the temple to Delhi, broke them, and placed them at the mosque’s entrance for them to be trampled upon. Revamping of this temple premises by Prime Minister Modi strikes a chord with the followers of Sanatan Dharma.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the redeveloped temple of Shree Kalika Mata at Pavagadh Hill, in Panchmahal district, Gujarat, on June 18, 2022. After performing the Pooja at the temple, he unfurled the ‘dhwaja’ on the top of the 10th-11th century temple. PM Modi restored The temple to its full glory and pride after being in dilapidated condition for many years. Shree Kalika Mata temple attracts a lot of pilgrimages every year and did not have a ‘dhwaja’ for so many centuries.
In 2017, PM Modi unveiled the 112-feet-tall lord Adiyogi Shiva statue at Vellangiri Mountains in Coimbatore and called to “create a new yuga of togetherness and harmony through Yoga.” The Statue of Shiva symbolises “The Adi yogi.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tried to connect the ancient Yoga with the modern times. The essence of ancient Yoga should be restored and preserved for the times to come because of its innumerable benefits- spiritually, mentally, and physically.
PM Modi unveiled the idol of Adi Shankaracharya at the Kedarnath Temple in the Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand on November 5, 2022. This step was to connect the entire Bharat culturally and spiritually, starting from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, as Adi Shankaracharya had traversed the whole Bharat on foot and established temples and centres of learning in ancient India. Adi Shankaracharya, through debate, discourse and over the course of his life, revived Hinduism and introduced a new era for its expression. The unveiling of his statue at Kedarnath is significant because Adi Shankaracharya had resumed worship of Shiva at Kedarnath.
The Modi administration redeveloped Kedarnath Dham, which was extensively damaged in the floods of 2013. New precincts have also been added to the temple complex to bring it back to its original splendour after the entire complex has been restored and completely transformed. In addition to Kedarnath, the Modi administration initiated the Char Dham Pariyojana project to connect the four pilgrimage sites of Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath.
For many Sanatanis who had supported the Ram Mandir movement for several decades, the images of PM Modi performing the puja of “Bhagwan Shri Ramlalla Virajman” was a historic moment. In August 2020, PM Narender Modi laid the foundation stone of the Ram Mandir after the significant judgement by the Supreme Court. It was a moment of triumph as the ancient temple of Ram janmabhoomi was demolished by Mughal invader Babar in 1528, and a mosque was erected in its place. Prime Minister Narender Modi’s gesture was to restore Bharat’s cultural ethos.
On August 20, 2022, Prime Narendra Modi virtually inaugurated and laid the foundation stone of the Somnath temple project in Gujarat. Somnath temple is one of the twelve Jyotirlinga in India. Somnath temple has historical importance, as it was destroyed several times. In 1026, Mahmud Ghazni looted and plundered the precious jewels and property of Somnath Temple and destroyed the temple.
Again, it was rebuilt in 1026-1042. Somnath temple continuously had to endure the Islamic attacks by the Delhi sultanate and Aurangzeb in 1706. Revamping of Somnath temple is a pure celebration for the followers of Sanatan Dharma. Even Dr. Rajendra Prasad had called Somnath Temple the symbol of victory as the temple was always restored to its original glory after destruction each time.
(The writer is an Independent Researcher)