New Delhi, Dec 7 (IANS) External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj Sunday applauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s gesture of presenting the Bhagavad Gita to world leaders, saying it elevated the holy book to the status of a national scripture. Opposition parties termed it “frivolous” and an “attempt to implement Hindutva ideology”.
Swaraj proposed the need for a formal announcement that would officially establish the Gita’s status as a national scripture.
“Prime Minister Modi gifted the Bhagavad Gita to US President Barack Obama, which means it has already received the honour of a national scripture. What we require is only a formal announcement now to officially declare the Gita as a national scripture,” Swaraj said at a public meeting at the Red Fort held to commemorate 5,151 years of the Gita.
Underscoring the importance of the Gita in daily life, Swaraj said its message to perform one’s duty without feeling attached to its outcome is what guides her sense of duty at the external affairs ministry.
“I face a whole range of world problems at the department (external affairs ministry). Guided by the Gita’s principle, I thank Lord Krishna for giving me the outcome of my efforts as per my will. And in case of the opposite, I accept the outcome as His divine will,” she said.
The Gita, believed to be the divine advice of Lord Krishna, is a 700-verse Hindu scripture that is part of the epic Mahabharata.
Its call for selfless action inspired many leaders of the independence movement, including Mahatma Gandhi who referred to the Gita as his “spiritual dictionary”.
The pitch for declaring the Gita as a national holy book provoked the Trinamool Congress to say the Constitution was the “holy book” in a democracy.
“Our Constitution says India is a secular country. The Constitution is the Holy Book in a democracy,” the Trinamool wrote on Twitter.
“We respect all Holy Books. The Quran, Puran, Ved, Vedanta, Bible, Tripitak, Zend Avesta, Guru Granth Sahib, Gita – All are our pride,” the party tweeted.
Congress leader Manish Tewari said the essence of the Gita lies in its substance and not in its symbolism.
“So, if anybody has seriously read and internalised the teachings of the Gita, they would not make such a frivolous statement,” he said.
In Kolkata, the Left Front chairman and CPI-M politburo member Biman Bose termed it “nothing but yet another attempt to implement the ideologies of RSS and Hindutva in the country”.
Organised by the Global Inspiration Enlightenment Organisation Gita (GEIO Gita), the Red Fort event marked the end of a week-long celebration – Gita Prerna Mahotsav – that sought to create awareness about the scripture as a source of practical inspiration for people in politics, education, business and other fields.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, who was also present, called for issuing a postal stamp to mark the Bhagavad Gita’s anniversary.
Gita lovers from across India participated in the event to promote its message beyond communal and racial divisions.
“I have faith in the Gita,” said Yusuf A. Ranapurwala, president of the Minority Morcha, who came to the event along with 15 other Muslims from Gujarat.
“The prime minister has asked all of us to stay united as a nation. We all have to walk together while looking beyond our disparate religious backgrounds,” he told IANS.
In view of the Indian diaspora’s appreciation for Modi’s work in making the Gita significant worldwide, Britain-based Steve White told IANS that the Gita was “universally relevant for its preaching that also helps in personality development”.
Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Ashok Singhal, yoga guru Ramdev, GEIO Gita founder Swami Gyananand Maharaj and noted heart specialist Naresh Trehan also attended the event along with many spiritual leaders and foreign dignitaries from over 20 countries.