//Two Saints in Kerala

Two Saints in Kerala

Paul Zacharia, Tehelka.com, Dec 09 , 2006

ImageSri Sri Ravishankar is back in view in Kerala after a long interval. He was Kerala media’s blue-eyed-godman while the going was good some years ago. In fact, Ravishankar’s larger growth could be traced to the Kerala base and the help of one or two individuals who have faded away. As soon as he attained the power to pay for full-page supplements, the media made him the spiritual hero of Kerala. Ravishankar himself must have been surprised at the alacrity with which he was made into a demigod.

But the show did not last long. Because Amritanandamayi was on the fast track by then and Kerala was her turf. Ravishankar was, after all, a sort of migratory worker in Kerala’s spiritual bazar. Amritanandamayi stormed into centrestage with a notorious birthday party that lasted a week in Kochi and cost many millions. Malayalam dailies and channels went into a delirium of crawling and weeping tears of bhakti. It was supplements’ galore and Amritanandamayi was unilaterally enthroned Boss No. 1 of Kerala. AK Antony to AK Nobody — every opportunist whom you can name — began to kow-tow.

Ravishankar lost out also because he had neither big real estate, nor hospitals, medical and engineering colleges. Amritanandamayi’s handlers had equipped her with high-power institutions, through which big favours could be distributed to people who mattered. Say, the payment for a medical seat is Rs 40 lakh. You charge only ten from a Marxist leader’s offspring. Or perhaps nothing from an editor’s progeny.

While the hug certainly works magic, Amritanandamayi also knows that money is a greater miracle-worker, especially in Marxist Kerala where the distaste for wealth is a peeling whitewash. Ravishankar must have learnt the lesson that to keep your catchment area of bhakti brimful in Kerala, you need to invest heavily. He moved on to international playgrounds where investment is relatively low and returns are high.

What is interesting about the two is that they are both Sangh Parivar pets. The Amritanandamayi movement is intimately linked to the Parivar, which has a powerful presence in it. But Malayalam dailies are so secular that when the Mata pays tribute at Golwalkar’s samadhi, it is not news. I wonder if Ravishankar still keeps some of his books that parrot the crudest VHP-speak.

So it’s a see-saw between two Parivar stars. Interestingly, Ravishankar is holding his biggest show in Kerala, just a few kilometres away from the Ammaji’s ashram. I admire his guts. Godmen don’t do nothin’ for nothin’! Amen!