Religious preacher Acharya Dhirendra Shastri, known as Bageshwar Baba, issued an unconditional apology on Wednesday for his controversial remarks regarding Sant Tukaram, which had stirred significant uproar among Maharashtra's Warkari community.
Bageshwar Baba's apology followed a clash between his volunteers and Sant Tukaram's followers during his ongoing three-day religious discourse in Sangamwadi.
"I have the deepest respect for Sant Tukaram. I regret my past comments on him if they have unintentionally caused hurt to anyone," stated Bageshwar Baba. In an effort to make amends, he also paid respects at Sant Tukaram's samadhi in Dehu.
The preacher's comments were greeted with black flags, slogan shouting and protests by the Bhim Army and other organisations at his 'Divya Darbar' and 'Hanuman Katha', while the rationalist organisation, Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS), challenged his superstitious claims. The MANS also shot off a letter to the Pune Police Commissioner demanding action against Bageshwar Baba if he indulged in propagating statements without scientific basis.
Additionally, the event which was organised by BJP leaders Jagdish and Yogesh Mulik, also encountered opposition from NCP (Ajit Pawar faction) leader Sudarshan Jagdale. Expressing his dissent on X (formerly Twitter), Jagdale conveyed strong disapproval, stating, "Such 'bhondu (fraud)' babas have no place in the land of Sant Tukaram (sic)," and adding, #GoBackBageshwarBaba."
What did Bageshwar Baba say about Sant Tukaram?
A viral video earlier this year captured Bageshwar Baba stating that Sant Tukaram was subjected to beatings by his wife. "Sant Tukaram was a Mahatma from Maharashtra. His wife beat him daily. She used to beat him with a stick every day," Bageshwar Baba was heard saying in the video. "Someone asked him, your wife beats you every day. Aren't you ashamed?' On that, Tukaram said, 'It is God's grace that I got a wife who beats me," he added.
He further said, "That person asked Tukaram, what is God's grace in this? Then Tukaram said, 'If I had got a loving wife, then I would not have fallen in love with God and would not have drowned in devotion. I would have fallen in love with my wife. Having an abusive wife gives me the opportunity to serve God.'"