Now, Bhopal priest claims that ‘Hanuman’ was Jain

New Delhi: The raging debate over Lord Hanuman’s caste on Friday took a new turn with a seer in Bhopal claiming that the mythological hero belonged to Jain religion. Jain seer Acharya Nirbhaya Sagar Maharaj claimed that Bajrangbali was one of the 24 forms of Kamdev mentioned in Jain religion. “Lord Hanuman is a Jain since he is considered one of the 24 forms of Kamdev in Jain religion,” he said.

Aacharya Nirbhay Sagar Maharaj, who heads a Jain temple in Samasgad, nearly 25 km from Bhopal, said according to Jain scriptures, Lord Hanuman was a Jain. He was part of the 169 great persons identified in Jainism.

“Hanuman was a Kamdev. In Jainism, there are 24 Kamdevs. Hanuman was a kshatriya (warrior).” Making his claim, he said Jain scriptures have many references to Hanuman. “Like other Jains. Hanuman too did not have any caste,” he said.

Ascribing identities to Lord Hanuman started with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who while addressing an election rally in Rajasthan’s Alwar claimed that Lord Hanuman was a Dalit.

Senior BJP leader and chairman of National Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes Commission Nand Kumar Sai, in response, claimed that the mythological hero was a tribal since the Adivasis have Hanuman “Gotra”.

“Besides, Lord Ram, the protagonist of epic Ramayan, had picked up his ‘banar sena” or monkey army from Dandakar-anya to fight demon king Ravan.”

“It is clear that Hanuman was a tribal”, he had earlier told in Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh while countering the purported claim by Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath that Hanuman was a Dalit.

Of course, the Uttar Pradesh chief minister’s office had denied he had ever made any such claim.

After Yogi’s claim, Dalit organisations in Lucknow came out and demanded control over Hanuman temples. They said since Lord Hanuman is their God, only Dalits should be allowed to perform prayers and rituals at all Hanuman temples across the country.

Days after Yogi’s claim, chairperson of the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) Nand Kumar Sai floated another claim. He said Hanuman was not a Dalit but a tribal.

“Lord Hanuman was a tribal and not Dalit. He lived in the forest for years. He played a crucial role in Lord Ram winning the battle against Ravan. We still have a sub-caste which is called Hanuman. It has been proved in history that he was a tribal and the UP CM may have tried to convey the same. Those raising questions on my statement must read history first,” Sai was quoted as saying in media reports.