The Dom Raja of Varanasi, Jagdish Chaudhary, passed away last week. On his demise, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath expressed deep sorrow and condoled his death.
In Dom Raja's demise, Kashi has lost an enthusiastic stalwart of Sanatan harmony and tradition.
Modi's message said that Dom Raja of Varanasi, Jagdish Chaudhary, was intrinsic to the culture of Kashi.
Modi mentioned "Sanatan Parampara" — the tradition of Sanatan dharma — and added that Dom Raja was a bearer of the tradition.
For Yogi Adityanath, the demise of Dom Raja stirred memories of his own guru, Mahant Avaidhyanath ji Maharaj, and other dharm gurus being hosted in Kashi, at Dom Raja's home, for a soul-binding meal.
This meal became a symbol of Sanatani cultural unity, that would eventually go on to strengthen social harmony in Kashi and the state.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) said in an official post on Twitter that his demise was a deep loss to Hindutva.
In 1994, with Mahant Avaidhyanath Maharaj of the Gorakshpeeth, was also present Vishwa Hindu Parishad chief Ashok Singhal at the bhoj at Dom Raja's home.
Dom Raja later joined the 1994 Kashi Dharm Sansad, where he was honoured by the sant samaj, a formal statement said.
Dom Raja's contribution to the tradition of Sanatan dharma, to the building of inclusion of the marginalised, of the socially and politically excluded from within the Sanatan diversities, is being remembered by the people of Varanasi.
Chaudhary as Dom Raja — the king of inheritors of the legacy of the Doms, who pass the sacred flame for cremation at Manikarnika Ghat — came from a tradition of flame keepers.
The Dom Raja is considered the giver of the flame for funeral pyres that arrive at the Ghat — in the last journey, and a beginning towards moksha.
The Doms live around the ghats in the lanes of Kashi.
Dharmendra Singh, a resident of Kashi, told Swarajya that Chaudhary was particularly happy regarding the bhoomi pujan of Sri Ram Mandir temple in Ayodhya.
"He was a true Sanatani and worked for the inclusion of the Dalits and the backward classes. When the bhoomi pujan happened in Ayodhya, he, like many of us, saw 5 August as a defining moment that had come to Sanatan Dharma after a long, long period of 500 years," Singh said.
Dharmendra Singh adds that the bhoj at Chaudhary's home, where Hindus of the different caste diversities would join Dom Raja for a meal, mainly of khichdi, was of deep emotional value for the people of Varanasi.
Dom Raja was one of the proposers of Narendra Modi's candidature of Varanasi in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
The proposing of Modi's candidature at the Varanasi Collectorate has been an event symbolic of Varanasi's cultural and social representation in 2014 as well as in 2019.
Dom Raja Jagdish Chaudhary was not associated with the political party per se, but his association and work towards the Sanatani cause saw him receiving respect from the BJP.
Chaudhary's inclusion as one of the proposers of Narendra Modi's candidature was a strong message from the Bharatiya Janata Party, which would register a second big win for the party in Uttar Pradesh between 2014 and 2019 with its message of unity in caste diversity and support from the Dalits and backward classes.
Both Modi and Yogi had roles to play in his participation.
"He was happy to have been respected by the Bharatiya Janata Party when his name came up as one of the proposers. His presence was a huge message, especially to those who keep talking about lack of caste unity and divisiveness in Hindus," Singh adds.
In Dom Raja's demise, Varanasi has lost more than a 'Raja' and Jagdish Chaudhary.
Kashi has lost the chief keeper of the flame of Kashi, who was an important mark and milestone in the ordinary man's journey over the body, flame, soul and sanskaras.
He was a preserver of tradition. He was a valued witness to the continuous process of life and death at a ghat of Kashi.
More than all this, he was the keeper of stories from his community, the binder of the subaltern. Such a confluence of several elements of the Indic civilisation in a man is rare.
Dom Raja's living heritage should be treated and preserved as Kashi's solemn identity in the state-centre's combined cultural efforts.
This will help in keeping the common Indic connected to this community, its well-being, and to its sense of duty in dharma — in a bigger way.
His community's story should reach the common Indic as a hallmark of continuity that emanates from Manikarnika Ghat.
Its telling and retelling should become as intrinsic to the celebration of Kashi, as Dom Raja himself was — intrinsic to the Ghat and Kashi.
The bhoomi pujan at Ram Mandir in Ayodhya would be seen as its new beginning towards it by the Dom Raja's community in Kashi, the nagri that celebrates Goswami Tulsidas.
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