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Recalling 1995, when Gujarat chief minister justified Ganesha 'drinks milk' superstition

By Rajiv Shah/ An interesting story in The Wire” on how the Sangh Parivar had “organized” the 1995 Ganesha milk miracle and why the plan flopped” a quarter of a century ago took my memory down the lane back to September 21, 1995, the day I began seeing long queues in Ahmedabad with people trying to “feed” Ganesha idols with milk in small and big temples, mysteriously wondering how the Lord was “drinking away” all the milk they were feeding. The queues must have continued for at least a week.
I didn’t stand in any of the queues, but surely I found that many of my relatives, inimical in standing in queues, buying up Ganesha idols from the market telling me how they were “surprised” by the mysterious disappearance of the milk. While I don’t want to endorse or deny whether it was a Sangh Parivar plot, or if it flopped, what I surely remember how the then chief minister of Gujarat, Keshubhai Patel, went on to endorse the “miracle”. He said, “Haa… Bhagwan Ganesh doodh pive chche” (of course, Lord Ganesha does drink milk).
If I remember correctly, while the so-called miracle continued for a few days, yet, surprisingly, no organization – let alone politicians in the opposition from the Congress – came forward to point towards why it was a mere superstition. A seasoned politician, Keshubhai Patel, of course, was (and is – he is 90 plus now) not well-educated. But why others in the BJP who claim to be following some kind of scientific temper refused to expose the superstition.
Bewildered, I, with my family, decided to visit the residence of an Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) scientist, Abhijit Sarkar, whom I was then in close touch with – he lived not very far away from where we lived then. This scientist sat next to his young daughter, with mine – studying in the fifth standard in a very ordinary school – curiously looking at this scientist to see what he had to say.
The scientist brought a doll with which his daughter would play to demonstrate how it “drank away” all the water fed to her! He explained what the author of “The Wire”, P Raman, also states in order to suggest why the Ganesha idols were “drinking away” all the milk offered to them. According to Raman, “The first to demystify it was T Jayaraman of the Institute of Mathematical Studies. He showed that the phenomenon was a play of surface tension and capillary action.”
Raman also quotes Indian Rationalist Association president Sanal Edamaruku to say that “showed close-ups of idols to explain how milk coated the idol, collected at the pedestal and flowed into the gutter”. Then, “Another scientist said idols made of Mahabalipuram stone accepted milk more easily than those made of Orissa stone.” Further, “India Today” quoted psychologist Udayan Patel: “The point at which the milk disappeared is the point when the mind ceased to function.”
My interaction with BJP leaders, during my stint in Gandhinagar as the “Times of India” man, suggested that while many of them, like Keshubhai Patel, were not above board insofar as superstition was concerned, there have been those who do not believe in it any way. Take for instance Anandiben Patel. As education minister under Keshubhai Patel, and a Narendra Modi protégé, she told me once that solar eclipse should become an event for children to see and explore the phenomenon in space, and superstition around it needs to e exposed.
It’s another thing that, while they may not believe in superstition, they have a very poor understanding science. Take our Prime Minister Modi, instance. Addressing Indian Forest Service (IFS) officials once in Gujarat as chief minister he talked of how the snake sips milk, with most IFS officials smiling at his ignorance. Instances on how he confuses science with some mythical events galore, and one can find several examples about it on the web.
However, I am still at a loss to understand why Congress leaders, who call themselves followers of Nehru-Gandhi ideology, don’t care to oppose superstition. “The Wire” reports how Sitaram Kesri, a minister in the then Narasimha Rao government, quoted internal reports to say that a temple in Jhandewalan Park near the RSS headquarters in Delhi was the “epicentre of the miracle”, and it was a “BJP ploy to gain votes in the ensuing Lok Sabha elections by spreading false rumours.”
However, I don’t recall either Rao or Kesri calling it superstition plain and simple. As for the leaders in Gujarat, less said the better. To them, Nehru and Gandhi, who opposed superstition, even today are less important than the Sonia Gandhi family. They don’t even recall the great contribution of Nehru to promote scientific temper in India, including setting up major scientific institutions, including ISRO.

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Unknown said…
India on Way to become RSS Ideology Dominated HINDU RASHTRA. I am Babubhai Vaghela from Ahmedabad. Thanks.

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