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Oops! If it is a sage, it must be saffron

Thiruvalluvar’s religion or his real name is not known

By Pheroze L. Vincent in New Delhi
  • Published 17.01.20, 3:48 AM
  • Updated 17.01.20, 3:48 AM
  • a min read
Venkaiah Naidu (File photo)

Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu’s office on Thursday tweeted a controversial image of Tamil poet-sage Thiruvalluvar as a Hindu monk, but deleted it after facing a backlash.

Thiruvalluvar’s religion or his real name is not known, but his couplets have an overwhelming influence on social and political life in Tamil Nadu.

January 15 in regular years, and January 16 in leap years, is observed as a day to remember the sage, who is estimated to have lived two millennia ago.

Naidu’s office tweeted an image of Thiruvalluvar wearing saffron robes, holy ash and rudraksha rosaries in the morning.

“Remembering great Tamil Poet, philosopher and Saint, Thiruvalluvar on his Jayanti today. #Thirukkural, authored by him provides guidance to mankind on how to lead a noble life,” the text said.

Thiruvalluvar’s standard images tend to show him wearing white robes without any indicators of his religious beliefs or caste.

Last November, the BJP had drawn flak from all Opposition groups and several public intellectuals after its Tamil Nadu unit tweeted an image of a “saffronised” Thiruvalluvar. This image was tweeted by Naidu’s office on Thursday, and kicked up an online storm.

DMK parliamentarian S. Senthilkumar replied to Naidu by tweeting a standard image of Thiruvalluvar and saying: “@VPSecretariat, please use the official picture of #Thiruvalluvar from TN Govt. This is not right. Please remove the saffronised picture you have posted…. He is celebrated by all.”

Naidu’s office soon replaced the original image with the standard image. Later in the day, it tweeted: “The earlier tweet was posted by mistake by a staff of Vice-President secretariat and was deleted soon after it was noticed.”

After the public outrage over the BJP’s Thiruvalluvar tweet last year, film star Rajinikanth too had distanced himself from the party despite his previous public approval of its policies and support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.