Where Parvati cannot sing for Shiva

One of the saddest stories that I have read in a long time was the furore over singer Parvati Khan being prevented from singing at the sacred Jyotirlingas.
The temple loves her music but not the fact that her husband is a Muslim. The Express reports:

“She created such a beautiful atmosphere here,” gushes priest Upendra Shikhre, unaware of Khan’s real identity. “Her voice drew hundreds of devotees here every day, many more than the temple normally sees on an average day. The last five days were so serene.” But now, priest Ulhas Aaradi is a bitter man. “If only we had known earlier…If people of Trimbakeshwar had known, they would have told her to get out.” Only Hindus, are allowed in the temple.

Panditji, who is a Hindu? or to be more accurate who isn’t a Hindu. or for that matter fact who is a Muslim or who isn’t a Muslim. If you truly believe in God surely then all paths lead to the same end.
And what religion is Shankar Mahadev. For he is the parama yogi and for him there can be no religion, and all are same. By violating the basic principal of Shavism – the priests have desecrated the temple. I hope that all of us who are devout and believe can take a stand and say that you don’t speak for us. For in the home of God all are welcome, for in the eyes of God all are the same.

A few centuries ago they wouldn’t have allowed a Vaishnavite into the temple. Now Parvati Khan is being denied entry. Indra Gandhi – while she was PM – was not allowed entry into some temples because she was a widow. And Dalits till date are not allowed into many temples.

The last few months i have been virtually insomniac. And in that insomnia my constant companion has been Hindustani Classical Music, some Carnatic – but mostly Hindustani.
Listen to the Dagar Brothers of Udaipur – exponents of the Dhrupad style – sing the glory of Hari (incidentally their first names are Khan Sahib Ustad Nasir Moinuddin & Khan Sahib Ustad Nasir Aminuddin); or Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Sahib singing the love of Krishna or Radha in the amazing Jamuna ke Teer; or Pandit Malikarjun Mansur singing Pratham Allah in raag Shivmat Bhairav – and you will know that the Brahmin Priests know jackshit.
Urban legend has it that when partition happened, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan Sahib migrated to Pakistan. In the inaugural concert of Pakistan Radio he began his concert – as always – with Saraswati Vandana. When administrators objected to his singing the glory of Hindu gods – he migrated back. His rationale – where he can’t sing the glory of God – any God – he cannot stay.

Reading the article on Triambakeshwar has made me so very sad. This is not what we are about. And it is time that we spoke out against the hijacking of our eclectic traditions by medivialists. Let us not wait to become Saudi Arabia. Lets speak out now – if not for us, then for generations to come.

Finally, I leave you with Parvati Khan’s statement:

Khan says she was expecting the opposition. “I don’t feel bad because I know that God is with me in every move I make. I am moving as a messenger of peace and my devotion to Shiva is the same as that for Allah and Jesus.”


  1. Author

    How very strange!
    The day for me was so ‘un-divine, after reading this story.
    If that is religion, than it is not for me.
    I need that Paradise, where, without being objected to, or prevented, i cn enter place of worship, and pray to whomsoever i feel i should call or pray to.
    But more than that, if That Person doesn’t happen to be within me, where can I find Him?

  2. Author

    how do we take back the religion from the priests? when we do that maybe it will be easier to find what we are seeking !

  3. Author

    Hello gargi,

    There are temples around India which are unfortunately for hindus only, which is completely at odds with the hindu spirit. The hindu belief is that all paths to god – expressed as truth, are equally viable. There is no concept as ‘the true path’ or ‘the only path’ which prevails among semitic religions in the Indian civilizational heritage, ie, Hinduism.

    While the examples you have given of great artists represents a few fine instances of composite culture, it is not the reality of India nor reflected in the daily life of Indians. Our march to medievalism wont happen with such crude instances of Parvati Khan being disallowed to sing at a temple. I think we are already mediaval when we allow “personal laws” of one community to exist in the name of perverted secularism.

    In fact in India, we have made the existence of such crude and mediaval islamic injunctions the cornerstone of our dubious liberalism.

  4. Author

    I may be wrong but I think Indira Gandhi was prevented entry *not* because she was a widow but because she too was non-Hindu by marriage.

  5. Author

    Great Bong, there may have been a situation where she was prevented access because she was married to a Parsi. But, there were also occassions where the stigma of widowhood reared its ugly head.

    incidentally, pray what is a non hindu?

  6. Author

    there are temples, mosques, dargas, churches, gurudwaras, sacred trees – etal that are open to people of all faiths. There is a tremendous amount of cultural give and take. Temples like Tirupati, The Ashtavinayak, Rameshwaram – every one of all faiths visit it. Foreigners go in there. And, tell me how does anyone tell the difference between a Hindu and a Muslim. yOu should see my grandmother’s neighbours in chennai. They look just like her. In a sari. with both sides of their nose pierced. with their diamond earings. my grandmother – a widow – refuses to wear the tikka. she is 80 and set in her views. tell me the difference. These are people who have stayed next to each other for centuries.

    This vision we see in movies of a temple and a mosque sharing a common wall – well it is true. thorughout rural Maharashtra – you will see them.

    There is a gradual semetization of hinduism. we have never been this way. And we are becoming intolerant mono ‘pathists’. There are many paths.

    our own march to medivialism probably began when L.K.Advani and his bunch of goons broke the law – thereby showing acute contempt towards the constitution – in the Babri Masjid Demolition. So is intolerance towards ‘Valentine’s Day’. or the desecration of James Laines’ book. Parvati Khan is just an extension of the same medevialism. we are trying to compete with savages and winning .

    I have contempt for politicians who appease religious vote banks. i thought that the dumbest thing that Rajiv Gandhi ever did was his inaction in the Shah Bano Case. I think that Bharadwaj has acted like a complete idiot when it comes to all those fatwas that are flying around. There has to be one law.

    All religious groups are entitled to practise their faith with freedom.
    But, the law governing all citizens should be the same.

  7. Author

    Actually the word non-Hindu is a contradiction in terms—because Hinduism is perhaps the only religion that accepts that God can be reached in multiple ways and that there is no specific “right” path. So yes there is nothing called non-Hindu and I shall leave the wise sages who run temples to define it.

  8. Author

    Actually the word non-Hindu is a contradiction in terms—because Hinduism is perhaps the only religion that accepts that God can be reached in multiple ways and that there is no specific “right” path. So yes there is nothing called non-Hindu and I shall leave the wise sages who run temples to define it.

  9. Author

    Good post – even the examples of Bismillah Khan in Benares and APJ Kalam in Madurai is worth noting

  10. Author

    To your list of greats I would like to add the bhajans sung by Mohd. Rafi and composed by Naushad. Both of them being “non-hindu”

  11. Author

    tnx amit. @Begum Parveen Sultana, Ajoy Chakravarty, a whole lot of Hindustani classical singers who fall in that category.
    the best rendition of Bhagvad Gita I have heard is sung by Yesudas in the Carnatic Style. he is Christian. And he suffered from having both the Church and temple (I think Guruvayurappan) preventing him entry.

    Yes Sanjit. who can forget Man TAdapat Hari Darshan ko AAj, amongst others.

  12. Author

    Hi Great Bong
    I have a problem with the term ‘Hindu’ 🙂 but that is subject for a different post.
    i don’t see why we should refer to ourselves by a word that has a geographical connotation rather than religious ons – given to us by invaders!

    and sages (sant) don’t run anything. they give up all ties to everything in search of the ultimate.
    temples are, unfortunately, run by priests (purohits)

  13. Author

    If you are pained with this, I think you should first blame the law that forbade people of other religions from entering temples. But for such laws, I think not many priests would make such remarks. And it was those so-called secular governments which first enacted the law.

    Your statement “and you will know that the Brahmin Priests know jackshit.” betrays unwarranted generalisation and hatred. Why even mention “Brahmin” here?

    Personally I think hindu temples ( as also other religious institutions ) should be run by private trusts and not governments. Then such decisions will be based on the discretion of the trust – if such a trust wants to forbid Parvati Khan, so be it. And personally I don’t see any reason to believe in all those statements of Parvati Khan like “Shiva is with me” – those could as well be publicity stunts.

  14. Author

    Valid objection to being referred to as “Hindu” however for the lack of something better it will have to make do. I am quite apprehensive about whether the Ultimate exists……and who Sants are….but then thats the subject for another post.

  15. Author

    Just because you are confused about who is or who is not a Hindu, doesnt mean no such definition (or an amorphous idea) exists. Why not take your rhetorical question, “Who is not a Hindu ?” – to its logical conclusion, and address it to say: The Shahi Imam at Jama Masjid Delhi, or our president A P J Kalam, or Najma Heptullah or Sania Mirza ? I doubt that any of these folks would have any trouble in answering it with a monosyllable – me !!

    Having established that every Indian is not a Hindu, do some people have a right to stop people of other faiths from visiting a place of Worship ? It depends. How public/private is the place ? What is the historical background ? How is the relationship between communities currently ?

    As for the very appealing fiction about Mosques and Temples sharing walls and everyone being very filmy about it – you really dont have a clue, do you ?

  16. Author

    HI Frog in the Well
    A) i am not aware of any law against non hindus entring temples. there are enough non hindus who go to tirupati, tirutani, meenakshi, kamakshi, parbhadevi, etal. and this includes firangs. And the reason i make a point on firangs is that it easier to tell them apart than it is an indian christian or a indian muslim from an indian hindu
    b) there are temples that disbar women from entring their hallowed portals. There are temples that have strictures against widows entering. There are temples that have an issue with Dalits entering.
    c) i have no hatred against purohits – excpet that they should stick to their job of offering prayers. And not get in thte way of allowing devout to say their prayers. As far as Brahmin priests are concerned – do you know of any other caste that performs the priestly function.
    There needs to be a fundamental reform of the Hindu system from within. Caste by birth needs to give way to profession by aptitude. women – even today cannot offer last rites for their parents. even if they are the only child. and who prevents them – the Brahmin priest. Dalits – even if they are proficient in Sanksrit cannot be initiated in the Gayatri – who makes these rules.
    We can all sit here and pontificate about Islam being reforemed – and there is no argument on that.
    how about all of us who are Hindus calling for a reform of this kind of idiocy in Hinduism. Afterall, our religion is supposed to accept all paths.

  17. Author

    a. The laws depend on the region – non-hindus cannot enter most of the temples of Kerala, for instance. It is sad that people find priests alone as soft targets.

    b. So what? I did not say all temples are universal so why bring in such a point?

    c. There are many temples with non-brahmin priests. I have only heard of exclusions by them ( towards still (so-called)lower caste/casteless ). Even if it be obvious that all priests are brahmin – then why would you specifically mention the word brahmin there?

    Yes, hinduism needs reform : but this kind of hatred-mongering is not going to effect that, but more constructive forums this might help.

    The priests of some major temples may be rich but most of them are poor, not-so-well-educated etc. And when they find people scoffing at them and their profession which they consider so sacred and dear, their sense of insecurity would only force them to become more conservative.

    And on an unrelated note : while women should be given equal rights and status there should be a separation/distance between them – there shouldn’t be “co-ed” ventures. On yet another unrelated note I find it difficult to imagine a pop-star singing genuinely devotional bhajans ( based on Indian ragas etc. ).

  18. Author

    After Islam arrived in India many fake historians have tried to Semitize India but failed miserably. Now Fida Hassnain is making such an effort. Fida Hassnan fabricates that Abraham and Soloman flew into India and later on Jesus walked his way to India.

    Neither does the old testament nor the new testament or any ancient Hindu book mention this. Names such as Abraham etc., arrived into Aryan India only after Islam made inroads into India. Hindu India had and has only Aryan prophets, names,culture, etc.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *