What brought Priyanka to Kashmir?

SRINAGAR:  Priyanka Gandhi’s furtive visit to Kashmir’s most celebrated Hindu shrine at Ganderbal has set the rumor mills rolling. The word went viral that Priyanka’s grandmother Indira Gandhi, whose demeanor she sharply resembles, had actually instructed her during a dream that she should pay a visit to the Khirbhawani Shrine, in order to regain the lost political glory of the family. 

Neither Priyanka nor any Congressman will confirm the same. But a heap of historical record suggests Gandhis, despite their secularist vocabulary, had all along been acutely superstitious.

Many biographers insist that Priyanka has had a strictly superstitious upbringing under the watchful eyes of her credulous grandma, Indira.

Katherine Frank’s “Indira- The Life of Indira Nehru Gandhi ( HarperCollins, 2001) has lucidly explained how the Gandhi family had linked their superstitions with the fortunes of power and pelf they enjoyed.

on page 442 of the same book Katherine writes:  “On 16 February 1980 there was a solar eclipse – the first in India in eighty four years. She (Indira) took a day off…invited her friend Pupul Jayakar to view the event with her. Rajiv and his children were out in the garden during the afternoon where he had set up a telescope and equipped everyone (including Priyanka) with dark glasses.”

Recalling the same event, the book further says, “Sanjay was too busy to bother…Maneka, his wife, was eight months pregnant….to 

Jayakar’s surprise, Indira told Maneka to stay in her room and not view the eclipse because traditional belief held that a solar eclipse ‘was a direct threat to the unborn child’, and that no pregnant woman should expose herself to baneful influen

Before Sanjay’s death, it’s said, Brahmachari Dhirendra, Indira’s yoga teacher,  had warned Indira that her enemies were engaging in ‘tantric’ rites to bring down a calamity on her family. To avert harm, Brahmachari told Indira, she must visit a specific number of shrines and perform certain rituals. But she could not visit all the shrines her teacher had advised. Later, Indira is said to have told Pupul Jayakar that Sanjay’s death could have been averted had she visited all the shrines she was asked to.

Family loyalists had even attributed Indira’s assassination in 1984 to her inappropriate posture while climbing the stairs of a Kashmir shrine. “She slipped off a step while climbing the stairs of a shrine in Srinagar. Next week she was no more,” says an old Congress cadre  from Srinagar.

Priyanka’s superstition is not just her granny’s legacy, her father Rajiv Gandhi would go one step ahead of Indira by visiting Bangaru Adigal, a Tamil guru who had been imprisoned earlier for forging Indian currency notes, for his blessings and to Devaraha Baba whose way of blessing devotees was to sit on a tree and kick them lightly in the head.

Interestingly, a 2009 MSN listing puts Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi on top of world’s thirteen VVIPs who were ranked “most superstitious”.  Legendary actor Amitabh Bachchan, who avoids watching live telecasts of cricket matches involving India because he believes that will jinx his home team, is at number 10.

And guess what! Science they say is the enemy of superstition. But scientists at the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) do not just rely on scientific calculations before a rocket launch – they also seek divine help.

Prior to every launch, the scientists make a visit to Tirupathi to have a ‘darshan’ of Lord Balaji seeking his blessings by placing a replica of the rocket to be launched.

It seems the superstition extends to numbers as well. The Congress lost power on 16 May and the year is 2014 . Nobody knows yet whether Priyanka, in her dream, was instructed to visit just 16 shrines across the nation or 2014 temples across the world ! 

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