Surya Namaskar Mumbai inter-religious discrimination
and fundamental civil rights in order to cut
Mumbai order on Surya Namaskar: Interfaith discrimination and
curtailment of fundamental rights
Dr Syed Zafar Mahmood, President, Zakat Foundation of India
The municipal corporation of Greater Mumbai (BMC) has ordered that
performance of Surya Namaskar by the students in its 1200 schools is
compulsory. A petition challenging the order is now pending before the
Bombay High Court whose division bench has, however, refused to stay its
operation saying 'don't go on the name, it is just an exercise which is
good for the body'. Even at the introduction stage the High Court had
asked 'what's the harm if the BMC has made Surya Namaskar compulsory?'
Let us analyze the merits of this judicial stand.
2. According to the website of International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta
Centers sivananda.org spread over Uttar Kashi, Madurai,
Thiruvananthapuram, USA, Europe, China, Japan, Argentina, Vietnam,
Cambodia "In Hindu mythology, the sun god is worshipped as a symbol of
health and immortal life. The Rig Veda declares that Surya is the Soul,
both of the moving and unmoving beings. The Sun Salutation originated as
a series of prostrations to the sun. Traditionally, it is performed at
dawn, facing the rising sun. In time, each of the twelve positions came
to have its own mantra, celebrating aspects of the sun's divinity".
3. Master Murugan Chillayah in his treatise 'Surya Namaskar: Puranic
origins of Valmiki Ramayana' (http://www.silambam.asia/yoga_asana.html)
says "Aditya Hridayam is another ancient practice which involves a
variation of Sūrya Namaskāra. It is a procedure of saluting The Sun,
taught to Rama by Sage Agastya, before his fight with Ravana. It is
described in the "Yuddha Kaanda" Canto 107 of Ramayana. There are in
total 124 names praising the Sun in the whole procedure.
4. In verses 15 – 20, salutations to Sun are described. An example from
the 15th verse is: "He is the lord of stars, planets and all
constellations. He is the origin of everything in the universe and is
the cause of the lustre of even the brilliant ones. Salutations to Thee
who is the One being manifest in the twelve forms of the Sun".
12 Asanas = 12 forms of sun
5. The twelve aasanas of Surya Namaskar depict the twelve forms of the
First Asana: Pranamasana
6. Times Music has made out a Surya Namaskar app in whose introduction
it is written that 'Surya Namaskar is best performed facing east, the
direction of the rising sun in the early hours of the morning'. At
healthandyoga.com it is written that the first aasan of Surya Namaskar
is known as Pranamasana, that is, salutation to the sun for which the
performer has to stand in a prayerful attitude while, in the website of
Sri Krishna Pranami Sampradaya of USA and Canada pranami.org it is
written that pranam means, 'I bow to the Lord Supreme in you'.
6th Asana: Ashtanga Namaskara
7. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living website says that Surya Namaskar
"provides an opportunity to express gratitude to the sun for sustaining
life on this planet". In its video and photo of the sixth aasan known as
Ashtanga Namaskara the devotee lies upside down where two hands, two
feet, two knees, chest and the chin touch the ground; this has been
described as 'Salute with eight body parts or points'. So the spiritual
purpose of Surya Namaskar is that the performer has faith that the sun
itself sustains life on earth.
8. As per pranayoga.co.in "Surya Namaskar is an ancient yogic tradition
of worshiping the rising or setting of the sun (surya)". In whole of
India one can see Hindu men and women standing in early morning facing
and worshipping the sun.
Quran loudly recapitulates Abraham's denial to accept sun's divinity
9. On the other hand, the Quran recapitulates (6.75-80) that Prophet
Abraham did not accept that there is any divinity in the sun, moon or
stars and rather acknowledged the formless and invisible God as the
creator and sustainer of the entire cosmos including the sun. In 16.12
God has further clarified that "He has subjected for the human beings
the night and day and the sun and moon, and the stars."
Quran says sun will be folded up & darkened
10. In 31.29 the Quran reiterates, "Do you not see that God causes the
night to enter the day and causes the day to enter the night and has
subjected the sun and the moon, each running its course for a specified
term?" Sun 'runs its course for a period determined by God' (36.38) 'in
accordance with divinely ordained laws' (7.54). In 81.1 God exhorts the
humanity to prepare for the day of judgement "when the sun will be
folded up and darkened ...".
Quran says sun is amenable to human control
11. At many more places God has mentioned in Quran this basic strand of
Islamic faith that sun, moon, stars and the entire cosmos have been
subjected by God to human control and that these are God's creatures
with limited life.
Prophet's visit to heavens
12. Quran also describes in detail how God caused Prophet Mohammad
lifted to the heavens where God spoke to him and this dialogue is
repeated by Muslims as part of their daily five times prayers. This is
another divine act through which the message was given that humanity is
superior to the whole cosmos including the sun. After such rendezvous
the prophet came back to earth and resumed his normal human life. Dr Sir
Iqbal, the composer of 'Saare jahaan se achha Hindostaan hamara' has
described this prophetic journey (known in Arabic as meraaj: high
Sabaq mila hai ye meraaj-e Mustafa se mujhe
Ki aalam-e bashariyyat ki zad mein hai gardoon.
From the prophet's visit to the heavens I got to learn that the skies
and the entire cosmos are available for human control.
Namaz too is a beneficial bodily exercise
13. Another interesting phenomenon is that Namaz is also an excellent
exercise for the human body even having some postures common with yoga.
It begins with the worshipper standing straight lifting both hands upto
the ear lobes and then holding the hands between chest and stomach, the
right cupping the left, with eyes down, realizing as standing in the
presence of the invisible Creator and Sustainer of the worlds whose
praises are recited followed by another small portion from Quran. Then,
bending in front by ninety degrees keeping the hands on the knees saying
thrice 'I praise the Creator & Sustainer of the worlds who is the
greatest', standing again with hands down, then slowly going into
prostration twice again praising God similarly and at the end of the
second such process bending the knees 180 degrees and sitting on toes,
heels and knees reciting the above mentioned dialogue which God had with
prophet - praying for general human welfare - and so on.
14. Thus, as a daily five times bodily exercise, Namaz can also be
adopted by anybody across the religious spectrum and, as per the
observation of the hon'ble Bombay High Court, one need not go on the
name and must mind that it is a good exercise for maintaining the human
Quran declares sun as God's creature
15. In Islam the early morning Namaz must finish before the sunrise and
the evening prayer cannot be performed before the sunset thus ensuring
that the object of worship is not the sun but God who has created the
16. The learned judges would kindly appreciate that the vital difference
between Surya Namaskar and Yoga is that in the former the performer
worships the sun while in the latter it is the sun's Creator and
Sustainer who is worshipped.
State violation of fundamental rights
17. This is where articles 14, 15 and 25 of the Indian Constitution
magnanimously and strongly intervene according to which (a) the State
shall not deny to any person equality before law and equal protection of
law; (b) the State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds
of religion; and (c) all persons are equally entitled to freedom of
conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate
18. Thus, the Bombay Municipal Corporation's order making Surya Namaskar
compulsory in all the schools run by it as well as the High Court's
refusal to stay this order explicitly violate these unambiguous
constitutional injunctions. Issue of this order and not staying its
operation tantamount to State discrimination against a section of the
citizens on ground of religion and curtailment of the right of some
persons to freely profess and practice their faith.
19. Besides, Article 28(i) prohibits provision of any religious
instruction in any educational institution wholly maintained out of
State funds and says that (ii) no person attending any educational
institution recognised by the State or receiving aid out of State funds
shall be required to take part in any religious instruction that may be
imparted in such institution or (iii) to attend any religious worship
that may be conducted in such institution or in any premises attached
thereto unless such person or, if such person is a minor, his guardian
has given his consent thereto. The orders of the BMC as well as the
Court violate these provisions of Article 28.
Supreme Court may kindly intervene under article 32
20. Surely the Supreme Court would kindly consider this vital matter,
intervene under article 32 and enforce the rights conferred by articles
14, 15 and 25 and 28.