Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati, the Shankaracharya of Dwaraka-Sharda Peeth who stirred up trouble by saying that women who worship Saturn (Shani) will invoke rape, has now blamed honeymooners and picnic-goers for the devastating Kedarnath flash floods in 2013 that killed over 5,000 pilgrims.
The Hindustan Times quoted the 'seer' as saying that polluting the environment of sacred Hindu places will lead to natural disasters.
“People coming from different parts of the country to holy places of Devbhoomi (Uttarakhand) for enjoyment, picnic and honeymoon led to the Kedarnath disaster. Similar incidents could happen if unholy activities are not stopped,” he said.
Flash floods and landslides unleashed by early monsoon rains left tens of thousands missing in Uttarakhand and swept away houses and small apartment blocks on the banks of the Ganges, Reuters had reported at that time.
Military servicemen spent days in rescue operations, with air force helicopters plucking survivors, many of them Hindu pilgrims and tourists, from the foothills of the Himalayas.
Never the one to shy away from a controversy, the 94-year-old Swaroopanand had earlier said women who forced entry into the sanctum sanctorum of Shani Shingnapur temple in Maharashtra, overcoming a 400-year ban, would bring ill luck to themselves and give rise to crimes such as rapes.
"Women should not feel triumphant about visiting the sanctum sanctorum of Shani Shingnapur temple in Maharashtra. They should stop all the drum beating about what they have done. Worshipping Shani will bring ill luck to them and give rise to crimes against them like rape," he told reporters in Haridwar.
Then later he upset devotees of the Shirdi Sai by saying that worship of the "fakir" have led to the prevalence of drought-like conditions in Maharashtra.
"It seems Swaroopanand is disturbed and feeling insecure as devotees are not turning up for his darshan but queueing up to take darshan of Saibaba in Shirdi. If he feels that drought in the State is indeed due to worship of Saibaba, then he should answer why there is flood or earthquake in Uttarakhand," said ex-Trustee Eknath Gondkar.
The Shankaracharya of Dwarka-Sharda peeth had stated in Haridwar, "the unworthy Sai is being worshipped while the real Gods are ignored. This is happening in Maharashtra and particularly in Shirdi. Hence, Maharashtra is facing drought".
Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu yesterday said he "disagreed" with Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati's comments that the entry of women in Shani Shingnapur temple will lead to rise in crimes against them like rape.
"Politely disagree with the views expressed by Swami Swaroopananda ji about women's entry in Shani Shingnapur temple will bring ill luck to them and give rise to crimes against them; and attributing drought situation in Maharashtra to Shirdi Saibaba worship," Naidu posted on Twitter.
A 400-year-old ban on entry of women into the shrine's core area was lifted by the temple trust last week following advocacy group Bhoomata Brigade's agitation against gender bias and the Bombay High Court order upholding women's equal rights to worship.
(With inputs from PTI)
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