No birthday cakes, no registered marriage, no jeans.
The recovery of explosives from the house of an alleged Sanatan Sanstha worker in Maharashtra earlier this month has brought fresh attention to the controversial Hindu nationalist group.
The Maharashtra police has since then arrested four more men allegedly linked to the Sanstha for their involvement in an alleged terror plot.
The state’s anti-terrorism squad has claimed these five men had planned a bomb blast at the Sunburn electronic music festival in Pune, perceiving it to be anti-Hindu.
The ATS has also claimed they threw petrol bombs at cinema halls screening the film Padmaavat, and planned to assassinate various intellectuals they perceive to be anti-Hindu.
The group has been accused of various terrorist activities since 2008. Most notably, it has been accused of assassinating rationalists and intellectuals such as Gauri Lankesh, Govind Pansare, Narendra Dabholkar and M.M. Kalburgi. The group denies all these allegations, and denies links to men arrested for such acts of violence.
Most Hindu nationalist groups focus on the agenda of making India a Hindu nation-state, reducing religious minorities to second-class citizens. The Sanatan Sanstha is not concerned with politics alone. It also wants to persuade Hindus to live a more ‘spiritual’ life.
Through books, pamphlets and its website, the Sanatan Sanstha propagates what it is to be a good Hindu, defining in great detail how Hindus must live their lives. Many of these prescriptions would be funny if it were not for the thought that the Sanatan Sanstha reportedly uses violence to enforce its ideas.
The Sanstha was founded 19 years ago, in 1999, by Jayant Athavale, a “hypnotherapist”. The group has been accused of using Ericksonian hypnosis to make people join its cult and commit acts of violence.
The Sanstha claims its aim is to “impart spiritual knowledge to the curious in the society, inculcate religious behaviour in the masses and providing personal guidance to seekers for their spiritual uplift”. They particularly believe in using what they say is “easy to understand scientific language” to guide people towards “spiritual uplift”. Their problem with rationalists and atheists tends to stem from their passionate belief that religious and spiritual ideas are very much in the realm of scientific temper.
Here are a few things the Sanatan Sanstha wants Hindus to follow:
- How India will become a Hindu Rashtra: Politicians should stay away from the task of creating a Hindu Rashtra. “Only Saints can fight this subtle battle against negative energies, politicians and peoples’ representatives cannot. That is why Saints alone are capable of forming a Hindu nation, not politicians and peoples’ representatives.” The word ‘subtle’, by the way, is a spiritual word with a special meaning in the Sanstha’s ‘Spiritual Terminology’.
- How not to marry: Registered marriage is a Western idea people emulate to save money. It is only a marriage performed as per the Hindu dharma, with proper rituals, that brings spiritual benefits: “Every ritual contributes towards enhancing the sattvikta in the gross (physical) and subtle bodies (mind, intellect and ego) of the bride and the groom.”
- Wedding invitation cards should be saatvik – no English please!
- Science behind Rangoli: Draw “sattvik rangoli” on Ram Navami because “Shriram tattva is attracted and emitted into the environment”.
- Spiritual way of washing away Holi colours: After playing Holi only with natural colours, the Sanstha prescribes how you must bathe. “One can rub cow dung and Gomutra on the body while bathing. This will help the body keep away from harm due to season change, it will increase immunity, righteous way of thinking, intellect etc.”
- How to take a leak: Men should not stand while urinating as “the standing posture causes a flow of accumulated Raja-Tama predominant energy towards the feet.” Staying silent while urinating or defecating helps keep a “protective sheath around the physical body”, which protects one from “negative energy attacks”. It also says that a French scientist has found that the Hindu way of urinating is the best.
- Don’t pee near a Brahmin or a cow: Where you can’t urinate or defecate: “It is considered a great sin to urinate or defecate in front of auspicious and Tej (Radiance) providing Shakti Principles represented by fire, sun, moon, water, a Brahman and a cow”. “The Brahman represents Brahmatej, and the cow represents the Divine flow of Tejtattva (Absolute Fire Principle).” Also, hang the janeu on your right ear before you go to the toilet.
- Hindu clothes: Wear only traditional “saatvik clothes as advised by Hindu dharma”. Wearing “multicoloured clothes, short, tight-fitting clothes such as jeans, stretchable clothes etc.” can bring you under the influence of lust, anger and negative energies. Wearing black and bright colours will turn you into a “ruffian”.
- Hindu way of launching a book: No ribbons on books during book launches please! “Thesanskar generated by a ribbon is one that ties the words in bondage, and hence it is an insult to Shabda-Brahman.” The spiritual way of doing a book release function is to chant shlokas in praise of Goddess Saraswati.
- No firecrackers on Diwali: Hindutva trolls on the internet may be disappointed to know that the Sanatan Sanstha opposes the use of firecrackers in Diwali. Burning firecrackers “attracts demoniacal energies and makes the atmosphere tamasik (tama predominant)”.
- Eco-friendly Ganesh? No! Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently asked people to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi in an eco-friendly way but the Sanstha opposes biodegradable Ganesh idols. This is “against the scriptures”, they say. Immersing a Ganesh idol in flowing water will itself result in environmental protection by spreading “divine consciousness”.
- How not to celebrate your birthday: Don’t blow those candles on the cake! You could die! Blowing lit candles on your birthday cake, the Sanstha says, “denotes termination of the activity of the Panchapran, causing depletion of the vital energy of the individual, and leading to its death”. Also, don’t cut cakes. Here are other things to avoid on your birthday: “Cutting nails and hair, travelling, getting into conflicts and violence, eating and drinking prohibited items, and sexual intercourse…” There’s a separate guide on the Hindu way to celebrate birthdays. It says celebrating birthday according to the Hindu calendar “is more auspicious and spiritually beneficial”.