In the presence of about 5,000 saints and ascetics, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan unveiled a 108-feet statue of Adiguru Shankaracharya, named ‘Ekatmata ki Pratima’ (Statue of Oneness), at religious spot Omkareshwar in Khandwa district on Thursday.
Chouhan also performed the foundation stone laying ceremony of an ‘Advait Lok’ to be constructed at the spot on the Mandhata Hills at a cost of Rs 2,200 crores. The Advait Lok along with the huge statue of Adi Shankaracharya – an eighth century spiritual leader, preacher and scholar and exponent of Advait Vedanta school of Hindu philosophy – is among the most ambitious of the many religious projects announced by the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh.
Most of the projects have been announced during the past year in a run up to the assembly polls scheduled later this year. However, the Adi Shankaracharya statue and Advait Lok projects had been envisaged and announced in February, 2017 by Chouhan during the Narmada Seva Yatra.
The unveiling and foundation stone laying ceremony was originally planned on September 18, but was deferred to Thursday due to heavy rainfall in the region.
Speaking on the occasion, Chouhan said that the ‘Statue of Oneness’ will propagate the message of peace and unity across the globe.
Prominent saints including Swami Avadheshanand Giri, Swami Parmatmanand, Swami Swaroopanand and Swami Teerthanand were among the 5,000-odd saints and ascetics who participated in the religious programme involving a lot of rituals. Culture and Tourism Minister Usha Thakur was also present.
As Adi Shankarcharya was born in Kerala, the guests on the occasion were welcome in traditional Kerala style. Traditional dance performances were also held on the ocassion. The chief minister attended some of the rituals along with his wife Sadhna Singh. The couple also served food to the guest saints, ascetics and scholars.
Advait Lok Project
The overall project of Advait Lok of which the ‘Statue of Oneness’ is a part will be spread on a 11.5 hectare land and is expected to be completed by 2026. This will include a Shankar Sangrahalaya (Museum) and Acharya Shankar International Advait Vendant Institute.
The museum will include a 45-feet high pillar that will highlight 32 incidents of Adi Shankaracharya’s life in low relief. The project also includes a guided meditation centre, light and sound show, high-screen theatre, interpretation centre, seven dioramas for true to life presentation of life and works of the Shankaracharya, auto-boat rides on river Narmada, art gallery, traditional dining facilities and a Panchayatan temple.
The Advait Vedant Institute will offer education and research facilities related to the Advait philosophy. The aim is to propagate the Advait Vendant philosophy across the country and the globe. The institute will conduct three-month, six-month short term certificate courses and will be open for all interested persons including professionals apart from students.
Meanwhile, speaking at a press conference in Patan of Jabalpur, Congress general secretary in-charge for Madhya Pradesh, Randeep Surjewala said that Congress welcomed the setting up of the statue as Adi Shankaracharya was a centre of faith for everyone.
“But only if Shivraj Singh Chouhan could have imbibed the life and teachings of the Shankaracharya. Adi Shankarcharya is the farmer of the state who does not get fair price for the produce; Shankaracharya is also in the form of the one crore unemployed who want means of livelihood; the youth (demonstrating nursing students) who were beaten up and hit by water canon yesterday in Jabalpur also are a form of the Adi Shankaracharya. Adi Shankaracharya is also the name of the tribal brothers and sisters in the state who are constantly facing atrocities in the state,” he said.