The growing anger among certain sections of the society against the move to replace mohanthal with chikki as prasad in the famous Ambaji temple in Banaskantha district of North Gujarat has caught the ruling BJP on the wrong foot. On Tuesday, Gujarat unit of Vishwa Hindu Parishad gave a day’s ultimatum to the local authorities to revoke the decision or face “action”.
Ambaji Temple is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas.
While mohanthal is made out of gram flour, sugar and ghee, chikki is made with groundnut/sesame and honey.
On Tuesday, leaders of the VHP’s Gujarat unit, led by Daxshesh Mehta, submitted a memorandum to the Ambaji temple authorities, demanding that mohanthal be brought back. The forum warned that the temple administration will face the wrath of the VHP if their demand is not met by Thursday. “It will be difficult for them to sit in their offices. Everyone knows the VHP,” he said.
There were also posters being put up on the main road leading to the temple and on the road divider outside the temple, urging the pilgrims not to accept chikki as prasad.
On Tuesday, a group of 250 pilgrims refused to accept chikki from the temple and distributed mohanthal on its premises.
Though chikki was introduced as an alternative along with mohanthal a couple of months ago, it appears that the authorities decided to do away with mohanthal as devotees were not accepting chikki.
Banaskantha Collector Anand Patel and one of the main priests of the temple could not be reached for comments despite repeated attempts. Sources said the administration took the decision because chikki has more shelf life than mohanthal, making it possible even for devotees from abroad to carry the prasad with them.
Jitendra Mehta, a devotee and resident of Ambaji, said giving mohanthal as prasad is a tradition that has been in practice for several years. Claiming that devotees were refusing to accept chikki, he said the administration cannot take such an arbitrary decision. He said none of the elected representatives are in the temple trust for nearly two decades, and only government officers, IAS and IPS are in the trust.
A few lawyers’ associations have also threatened to move the Gujarat High Court.
The opposition Congress too has been demanding the reintroduction of mohanthal. Party leaders, led by Amit Chavda, had called on the authorities in Gandhinagar on Monday and said the BJP should not play with the sentiments of the devotees.
A section of Congress leaders had also alleged that chikki has been introduced to benefit Rajni Patel, a former BJP minister. However, Patel, whose company has got an award for the supply of chikki, issued a clarification saying he has nothing to do with the BJP and it is a case of mistaken identity. He said only the names are similar.
The state government has maintained a studied silence on the issue.
Soon after the issue came to light, Gujarat BJP’s media convener Yagnesh Dave said on social media that as a Brahmin he is not in favour of chikki being distributed as prasad. However, the next day, he retracted his statement, and said chikki is better as it has a longer shelf life.