Kasturi Ray

By Kasturi Ray

If Lord Jagannath and his ardent devotee Salabega are the reasons why singer Sona Mohapatra is being tagged as ‘a blot on Odias’; ‘a spoilt self proclaimed ambassador of Odias’ ; ‘a witch’; ‘a vamp’ ; ‘a half clad high heeled woman and what not’ - it’s a pity. Irrespective of whether there was anything sacrilegious, in mispronouncing a few words, Lord Jagannath who is the inner ruler of not only Odias but people across the globe, the epicentre of Hindu belief and existence, has since long been the nucleus around which, people have done many wrongs causing much more insult and damage. How much have we blurted on those issues?

Talking about language and pronunciation, we bear the loudspeakers bellowing songs on the Badadanda (Grand trunk Road where Jagannath temple is situated) tagged as Jagannath bhajans, every sentence of which is laced with vulgar words. It has become an endemic throughout the state. We are not insulted when the same so called bhajan lyrics are tuned to Hindi film music. We are not insulted with the flood of Odia slangs that the charioteer of the Trinity use, pointing fingers at women and men who gather to witness the annual sojourn of the lords. We are cool about all of it.

The Jagannath temple in Puri, one of the char dhams that assures us peace and place in heaven (sic), stinks of filthy language of the sevayats (servitors) who leave no stone unturned to misbehave with devotees, pass explicit vulgar remarks on women and tourists and touch women inappropriately and openly without fear of retribution because they take the holy abode as their personal fiefdom. Aided and abetted by a weak, timid administration, such absolutist is their reign, such unfettered is their high-handedness - even to the extent of atrocity- that many women dread visiting the temple particularly during rush hours. We accept it as way of life and are also cool about it?

People have the freedom to pray the Lord in their own ways. If Sona chose hers to sing Ahe Nila Saila, and faulted, let she. Going by her initial reaction to a media house whatsapp group (record of which is still with this writer), she had stated, we artistes learn and grow with such things, let this just be a conversation and not a controversy. We may not praise her effort, but we must not show her a lesser mortal.

She is a famed singer and not someone who needs raving and ranting to be in limelight. Devotion is an individual’s way of connecting to God and in her devotion she wore what she deemed fit while performing on the bhajan. Ila Arun has her way of dressing and Rekha Bhardwaj too takes to her way rendering Sufi songs.

Sona’s tweet “I will go full naked with higher ‘hills’ and show you Chandi’s true colours...” became the butt of discussion without paying any attention to what triggered it. In fact she was replying to a dirty comment on a public platform which stated ‘u had were a hafe naked gaun with high hill sandles, shame on you... (sic)’’  One cannot expect Sona to say, “thank you” to such statements. Highlighting something like “Sona wants to go naked” smells like a vilified campaign against her.

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