“The fire of Hindu Rashtra will be ignited from Bihar…”
These words of controversial self-styled godman Dhirendra Krishna Shastri alias Bageshwar Dam Sarkar/Maharaj have drawn criticisms from Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and leaders of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) party. Bageshwar Baba, who is in Patna for a five-day congregation, also stoked controversy when he called his followers ‘pagal’, as a huge crowd thronged the venue overcrowding the place. The organising authority though deterred the devotees to attend it physically; it is getting livestreamed online for them.
He was delivering Hanuman Katha, a bachan related to the greatness and actions of Lord Hanuman. He often recites religious texts and it is through his acts of recitation that he shot to fame. The 26-year-old godman went viral after videos of his ‘Divya Darbar’ and ‘katha-vaachan’ started making rounds on social media.
Shastri is the head of the Bageshwar Dham Sarkar, a religious pilgrimage site in the Chhatarpur district of Madhya Pradesh. Born on July 4, 1996 as Dhirendra Krishna Garg, he later adopted the name Dhirendra Krishna Shastri. His paternal grandfather, Bhagwandas Garg, was a Siddhi saint.
It is said that during his years growing up, Bageshwar would see a court being held at the Niromahi Akhara, near the Hanuman Temple, which was connected to his grandfather. Later, he began to hold the divine court which gained him much popularity.
A disciple of Rambhadracharya, Bageshwar preaches Ramcharitmanas and Shuva Purna. He holds at his Dham, where he is believed to heal all physical, mental, economic and social suffering of people with his divine powers which “he got from Lord Hanuman”. This ‘spiritual’ power of Bhageshwar Baba has often landed him in controversies.
In early January this year, Bageshwar burst into a national limelight, after a well-known rationalist questioned his claims that he had healing powers and could read people's minds. Shyam Manav, who runs an anti-superstition movement through his organisation Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti, offered to pay Rs 30 lakh if Shastri correctly read the minds of 10 people chosen by him, reported BBC.
Bageshwar reportedly ‘fled’ Nagpur and later in TV interviews, he said that he was ready to take the challenge but not in Maharashtra. Rather, he chose to accept the challenge in a more neutral state like Chhattisgarh.
In March, the Maharashtra police issued a notice to the organisers of a Satsan of Bageshwar in Thane district to ensure that the preacher does not make any controversial statement, which could lead to possible law and order situation.
Meanwhile, as many as 36 women complained that their gold chains were stolen by pickpockets during a four-hour-long sermon by Shastri that was attended by thousands of people, police said in Maharashtra.
The two-day programme of Dhirendra Krishna Shastri was opposed by a few anti-superstition organisations. These groups had submitted a memorandum to the local police on Friday, requesting them not to give permission to the event. In view of this resistance, the local police issued a notice to the organisers on Saturday afternoon to ensure that Shastri desists from making any provocative remarks during the event.
Around the same time, at an event, he remarked, "The entire Bharat will be made the Bharat of Lord Ram. I know that they will not spare me, but we will not spare them either.”
On the birth anniversary of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose on January 23, Shastri gave the slogan "Give us your Support, We will give Hindu Rashtra" to declare India as a Hindu nation. He also urged to declare Ramcharitmanas as the National Book of India. He also said that he will continue to raise the demand for Hindu Rashtra and Akhand Bharat.
Last year, in an event, Shastri reportedly converted nearly 300 people from Christianity to Sanatan Dharma. Shastri’s embrace of Sanatan Dharma has often found praised by Baba Ramdev. But similar to Baba Ramdev, Shastri’s ideologies and controversies have been slammed by political leaders.