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A Yogi For New India

The secret of Yogi Adityanath’s success could well be his appeal across castes

A Yogi For New India
Photograph by Getty Images
A Yogi For New India
outlookindia.com
2017-03-25T11:55:01+05:30

Yogi Adityanath’s anointment as CM of Uttar Pradesh has stirred a hornet’s nest, compelling the political class, commentators and the media into a feeding frenzy of speculation: what does it presage about PM Narendra Modi’s future political agenda, the ‘New India’ he envisioned after the BJP’s spectacular electoral victory in the largest and most populous Indian state? Historically, sadhus and yogis, mullahs and fakirs have often dabbled with political power, covertly or overtly, playing both a constructive and a destructive role; their participation in the anti-colonial struggle has been well-documented and appreciated. No doubt, in post-colonial India, some sadhus and yogis from the Hindutva stock—Swami Karpatri ji Maharaj, Mahant Avaidyanath, Sadhvi Uma Bharati, to name a few—have remained controversial political players; at the same time, someone like Uma Bharati, once seen as a divisive rabble-rouser, has metamorphosed into a mature and responsible politician of sorts. Hence, before branding Yogi’s ascension as a death blow to democracy, a dispassionate and holistic discussion may help.

Legacy: The Making of a Hindu Nationalist Math

Adityanath, a Hindu ascetic, a Nath yogi or Kanphata (split-eared) Yogi, heads Gorakhpeeth, the monastery dedicated to the legendary Gorakhnath, the yogi who is said to have lived sometime between the 10th and 14th centuries. Nath literally means “lord, master; protector, shelter”. In Nath texts, Shiva is often called Adinath. Naths are also called Siddhas (perfect) and are the masters of hatha yoga. Besides having distinctive outward features and ornaments, they represent a complex and interesting mix of “competing ideals, practices and soteriologies (doctrines of salvation)”, throwing up some contradictions. While many...

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