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Published in the 16-28 Feb 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Social tsunami ignored by media

Marathas renounce Hinduism

By Zafarul-Islam Khan

The Milli Gazette Online

On 12 January 2005, about a quarter of a million Marathas and Kunbis renounced the Vaidic Hindu religion and embraced a new faith called “Shiv Dharma.” The ceremony was held at Sindhkhed Raja in Buldana district where people converged from Maharashtra and neighbouring states in around 15000 vehicles. This truly historic occasion was totally ignored by the national print and electronic media despite the fact that the organisers of the event were publicising it and holding smaller events of the same kind since 25 August 2002. The only exception was the Lokmat Marathi newspaper. It was a great event in the on-going revolt against the Brahmanic caste system imposed on the Hindu society, especially since the unleashing of the Hindutva counter attack after Mandal.

The multitude at Sindhkhed Raja with the podium on the left

The multitude at Sindhkhed Raja with the podium on the left

The event took place on a hillside spread over 150 acres which looked like a sea of humanity. Around 200 bookstalls sprang up at the place and most were selling books against Brahmanism written by Mahatma Jyoti Phule, Ambedkar, MM Deshmukh, Salunkhe, Prushottam Khedekar, Kokate, Kadu, Paode and others. These authors had a role in the outcome on that day at Sindhkhed Raja birthplace of Jijao, mother of Shivaji. 

“Shiv Dharma” is named after Shivaji. A Rs 110000 million project called called “Jijao Srishti” is coming up at Sindhkhed Raja to be the headquarter of the new faith whose main tenets are as follows:

  • Anyone who is not a Brahmin can join Shiv Dharma;

  • There will be no place for caste or festivals like Gudi Padwa (Maharashtrian New Year) or for rituals like Satyanarayan puja;

  • Shiv Jayanti will be the main festival;

  • The reigning deity will be Shivaji's mother, Jijabai;

  • Dashratra Utsav will be celebrated in memory of Jijabai and Savitribai Phule (Mahatma Phule's wife) instead of Navratri;

  • Savitribai, who started the first school for girls in Maharashtra, will be the deity of learning;

  • Instead of Diwali, a festival in the name of Bali, a just and pious king, will be celebrated;

  • Community weddings, anti-addiction campaigns, libraries and gymnasiums at village level will be encouraged.

Preparations for this event were on since 2002. A grand stage was built on the hillside. No important political personality was invited to the ceremony which was chaired by Dr AH Salunkhe, the mentor of the movement. Purushottam Khedekar, who is the founder of the Shiv Dharm and head of Maratha Sewa Sangh, was also present on the stage. 

Khedekar was the first to speak. “Today we will be free from the Brahmin Hindu dharma,” he said adding that “this day will have great importance in the movement of freeing Bahujans from mental, religious and civilisational slavery. Those who are not with us today have slavery stamped on their brains.” He said, “if need be, we will resort to a bloody revolution” and went on to proclaim that the Shiv Dharm will be free from caste, blind following and rituals. This religion will meet the challenges faced by Bahujans in the twentieth century. Now no grih (star) will harm us. Instead, our sons will reach out to stars. No Waman now will kill Bali Raja by deceit (a reference to Waman the Brahmin who killed Bali Raja of the Bahujans). No longer will we repeat the old story where Bahujans always died and Brahmins always benefitted. We will write our history ourselves, he said.

Dr Salunkhe said that “the very fact that you are here means that you have regained consciousness.” He went on to say “that religion is a very serious matter which should be approached with total seriousness. Whatever step we take today, it must not be a momentary and sentimental step. It should be a well-thought-out measure and all further steps should also be taken with caution. Today’s decision is to free the coming generations from slavery. This decision is for the welfare of innumerous people of our coming generations.” Salunkhe announced that both who believe in God and those who do not, can coexist in this new religion. Even people believing in God take part in a system which exploits the masses. Such godliness is not acceptable to Shiv Dharm. Without believing in “god” we can form a healthy and clean society. Shiv Dharm rejects the idea that not believing in god means a value-less life. Dr Salunkhe said that the caste issue is a challenge for us and the new religion does not own any magic wand to destroy it in one go. We will have to continue our struggle to eradicate this evil. This will be our main duty. Speaking to the youth he said, the religious system of this country has stung us for long. This feeling produces great rage in us but the power generated by this rage will not be used for evil, rather it will be employed to create a better future and brotherhood among people. Believers in Shiv Dharm will not harm believers in other religions, he said. 

Dr Salunkhe has been entrusted with the responsibility to produce the literature for the new faith and to formulate its concept of a new way of life. He is a retired professor of Marathi and politics, while the brain behind the movement is Prushottam Khedekar who is an executive engineer in the PWD department of the Maharashtra government. Another important member of this movement is Netaji Gore who is an executive engineer in Sholapur’s irrigation department and works as the world coordinator of the movement.

The speeches came to an end at 5.40 pm when Sonandanai of the Jijao Brigade (the ladies section of the Maratha Sewa Sangh) and Nejati Gore together read a statement and the whole congregation repeated it after them and thereby they renounced their age-old Vaidic religion and became Shiv Dharmis. Khedekar announced that 1.9 million people from Maharashtra and other states have filled forms of the new faith and thus they too have now embraced Shiv Dharma which brings the total of the believers in the new faith to 2.1 million. Khedekar added that around 15 to 20 million people are in the process of following suit. He also announced that a similar grand function will again be held at the same place on 12 January 2008. Fireworks followed and a cultural programme was held in the evening before the the new believers started returning to their towns and villages with a new resolve to evolve a caste-free society. 

The above information on the Sindhkhed Raja function is summarised from a detailed report in Urdu by Syed Shah Ghaziuddin, Solapur-based advocate, who personally witnessed the event. 

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