Kolkata: On Saturday, Bharatiya Janata Party chief J.P. Nadda called the temple he had visited “the place where Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was initiated into faith”. The problem, reported local media, was that the saint died in 1534 and the temple Nadda visited was built in 1839.
However, on Sunday, when local reporters asked Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh as to why Nadda had made such an obvious gaffe, Ghosh doubled down and said that media persons were not present in the 16th century either, so their claim of Nadda’s historical inaccuracy is false.
In his widely publicised tour on Saturday, Nadda visited a temple at Jagadanandapur village in East Bardhaman district’s Katwa.
Emerging from the temple, Nadda said, “I went to an old temple of Radha Govind, where Chaitanya Mahaprabhu received initiation.”
Mahaprabhu (1486-1534) is revered in parts of Bengal and Odisha as the founder of a sect of Vaishnavism, a proponent of the Bhakti movement and an avatar of the Hindu god, Krishna.
The Telegraph reported that Mahaprabhu’s initiation took place in 1510, 329 years before the temple Nadda visited was built.
The newspaper quoted the temple’s in-charge Nimai Das as having said that the temple was indeed a Vaishnav one but had been set up by a local zamindar, Radhamohan Ghosh Chowdhury.
Krishna Ghosh, BJP’s unit chief at Katwa, gave a plausible reason behind Nadda’s error when he said that Nadda was initially supposed to visit the Shri Shri Gouranga Temple, where Mahaprabhu is believed to have been initiated into faith in the 16th century. This temple is a mere 10 kilometres away from the Radha Govinda Temple. However, security concerns and inaccessibility by helicopter led to a last minute change in Nadda’s destination – a fact that may not have been communicated to him, according to Ghosh.
By the time Nadda tweeted about his visit through his official account, the mention of Mahaprabhu’s initiation was gone.
पश्चिम बंगाल के कटवा स्थित प्रसिद्ध राधा गोबिंद मंदिर में पूजा-अर्चना कर आशीर्वाद लिया तथा बंगाल की प्रगति, उन्नति व सभी के कल्याण के लिए प्रार्थना की। pic.twitter.com/Gh8sukOo0h
— Jagat Prakash Nadda (@JPNadda) January 9, 2021
In contrast is Dilip Ghosh’s steadfast claim that “locals believed” that Mahaprabhu was initiated in the temple Nadda visited – built centuries after the spiritual thinker died.
According to a transcript of an interaction with journalists, released by The Telegraph, Ghosh first said that people believed many things about Mahaprabhu, indicating that many available facts may not be historically accurate. “Chaitanya was born in four different places, such things are said,” Ghosh told the reporter who had asked him about Nadda’s gaffe.
When pressed by the reporter, who said he was a Katwa local, Ghosh lost his cool and said, “Were you around to see it?” referring to Mahaprabhu’s initiation.
As the reporter again questioned Ghosh about the accuracy of his claim, he said, “Your claim does not make it [Nadda’s words wrong]. What I am saying is right.”
This is not the first time that BJP has run into controversy with accuracy on Bengal’s historical figures. Recently, BJP’s former chief Amit Shah garlanded the statue of a tribal hunter that was meant to symbolise Adivasis’ struggles under the impression that it was anti-colonial icon Birsa Munda.
BJP leaders, however, have usually been quick to apologise for these errors – a fact that sets apart Ghosh’s reaction to the media.