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Sadhus cold to Ash charm

Bhopal, June 18: The face that cast a spell on Cannes has lost its magic before sadhus.

Reservations among the sadhus have forced chief minister Digvijay Singh to abandon a proposal to pick Aishwarya Rai as the brand ambassador for Simhastha 2004, which is being touted as the largest spiritual festival the world has known. Thousands of sadhus and seers are slated to gather at next April’s festival in Ujjain.

Digvijay, said to be a fan of Aishwarya and Madhuri Dixit, having seen Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas several times, was keen that Aishwarya promote the event. But fears of a religious backlash and political considerations against the backdrop of the coming Assembly elections outweighed his personal preference.

A source said the Digvijay regime deliberated long on whether to appoint the beauty queen the festival’s brand ambassador. At one point, officials drawn from various ministries and departments almost agreed on Aishwarya.

Festival organisers reportedly developed cold feet when they sounded local sadhus about Aishwarya’s involvement. The sadhus rubbished the government’s plea to use Aishwarya to showcase Simhastha, saying the historical event needed no publicity as more than 10 million people would be attending anyway.

Told that the star would boost tourism and the local economy, the sadhus asked the chief minister to find other ways of achieving this.

Sadhus and sants are already divided on political lines in election-bound Madhya Pradesh.

Simhastha is held in Ujjain once every 12 years when Jupiter enters Leo, otherwise known as Simha Rashi. Ceremonial bathing in the holy waters of Shipra begins on the full moon day of Chaitra and continues at various intervals through the next month until the next full moon day.

According to the Puranas, the churning of the oceans yielded a jar (Kumbh) full of nectar (Amrit). The gods did not want to share the jar with demons. At Indra’s instance, his son Jayanta tried to run away with the jar but was followed by demons.

During the 12-day struggle over the jar, a few drops of nectar fell at Hardwar, Prayag (Allahabad), Ujjain and Nashik. Simhastha is celebrated to commemorate the sprinkling of ambrosia into the sacred waters of Shipra.

All four towns hold festivals at 12-year intervals, corresponding with the duration of the struggle.

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