Using Corona pandemic as an excuse to don fresh Hindutva masks?

Ramayan, Mahabharat back on air, VHP suggests people chant "Jai Shri Ram" to combat Covid-19!

DoordarshanImage Courtesy:

“I am watching ‘Ramayana’, are you?”, asked Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javdekar in a tweet where looks happy and relaxed as he watches the television serial he relaunched on Saturday, March 28. The minister posted this blissed out photo of him in his posh living room, to show his followers, and his bosses, that he had delivered on his promise re-telecasting the television serial over 30 years after it debuted on national broadcaster Doordarshan, that was the only television channel available them. However, the tweets appears to have been subsequently deleted, possibly after receiving flak from tweeple.


Here is the picture that Javadekar had originally tweeted. 


The Doordarshan social media team followed up by reposting the minister’s announcement on their own social media platforms.

The many exclamation marks and excitement from official handles soon encouraged many social media users to post photos of themselves watching the 1980s serial, made by Ramanand Sagar.  The serial had a cult following when it was first telecast, and the lead actors, Arun Govil, and Deepika Chilka, playing Ram and Sita, were even worshipped by fans and devotees when they made public appearances. Now as the nation observes the 21-day lockdown in an attempt to flatten the Covid-19 contamination curve, television viewership, and internet usage has seen a surge. Of course those who have televisions and also have smart phone and quickly ensured #Ramayana was the  top social media trend in India, where the Covid-19 transmission cycle has been progressing. DD National will now telecast the serial for two hours twice a day: 9-10am, and 9-10pm. The Minister tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and other official handles when he made the crucial announcement of this telecast schedule.

But, Doordarshan didn’t just stop at Ramayana. Determined to deliver a religious double whammy, it has also decided to telecast the Mahabharat!

Mahabharat will be telecast at 12 noon and 7 PM. 

Meanwhile the Deccan Herald reports that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, has also asked people to chant “Jai Shri Ram” to invoke divine powers to win the war against coronavirus. “We appeal to the entire country to invoke the intervention of divine powers in this difficult hour. For only half an hour, each and every family should collectively remember their Ishta Daiva and chant on a Japa Mala (a string of 108+1 prayer beads)” the DH quotes the VHPs nationwide call to follow the rituals.

The VHP, other right-wing supremacist organisations, as well as Hindutva outfits have told people how this was a time to invoke the divine, chant mantras, ring bells, blow conch shells to generate ‘cosmic’ vibrations’ that will kill disease causing elements and ‘negative energies’. Some like Chakrapani Maharaj led by example and hosted ‘gaumutra’ drinking ‘parties’ to tell followers that cow urine and cow dung had magical powers that provide divine vaccination against the new Coronavirus. 

Such Hindutva calls were also endorsed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members including a legislator from Assam, Suman Haripriya who was convinced that cow urine and dung could treat COVID-19. She was mocked online, but it is not known if the political party took any action against her. 

Television news channels did their bit by inviting religious leaders and gurus to come and share their ‘spiritual’ views on the pandemic. “Corona Doesn’t Want to Kill You,” said Jaggi Vasudev, hailed as Sadhguru by his followers, many of whom are celebrities. Yoga teacher and businessman Ramdev was also a guest called by television news.

It is noteworthy that Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had himself defied the national lockdown on March 25 when he was the main participant in an elaborate ceremony conducted to move, and consecrate the idol of Ram to a new structure in Ayodhya. The idol will be housed here till the Ram Temple is constructed.

“The first phase of construction of the grand Ram temple was completed today… Moved the idol of ‘Ramalala’ in a temporary structure near Manas Bhawan,” Yogi Adityanath had posted. Adding that he had also given an offering of Rs 11 Lakh as a contribution to the temple construction. 

Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan was first telecast in January 1987, and those who grew up in the 80s remember how it was almost like a religious event. As only some middle class houses had televisions, entire neighbourhoods would congregate and watch it almost like prayer services, and religious programmes are watched today. They would sit appropriately dressed, with the more traditional covering their heads respectfully, and watch the story of Ram as told in the Ramayana unfold on the screen. It is said the streets were empty on Sunday as everyone was home watching the latest episodes.

Over 30 years later, the streets are empty today as well, if you do not count the migrant workers still walking  hundreds of kilometers from cities across the country to return to their villages. You will also have to discount the thousands crowding around places where humanitarian volunteers and governments are distributing food and essentials to those facing starvation and penury. Most of all doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers, pharmacists, and delivery boys are probably too busy to watch any television at all.


TV serials and the rise of Hindutva



Related Articles