IMAGE: Dara Singh as Hanuman in Ramayan.
Amid row over Lord Hanuman's identity, Uttar Pradesh's sports minister and former cricketer Chetan Chauhan has said that the Hindu deity was a sportsperson.
However, he dismissed his party colleagues' attempts at identifying Lord Hanuman's caste and said gods don't have castes.
"Hanumanji was a devta, a god and I consider him as god and I worship him.. I am a sportsman and all sportsmen worship power... Humunanji was a symbol of power and strength... He also used to do wrestling and was a sportsman... all wrestlers worship him," Chauhan said in Amroha on Sunday.
He added, "There is no caste of gods and saints.. Similarly for me Hanumanji is a god... I do not want to divide him on caste lines."
During campaign for state elections in Rajasthan, UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath kicked up a storm by calling Lord Hanuman a Dalit, following which several leaders of his party joined the spree in taking a shot at the lord's identity and Chauhan's comment is the latest addition to it.
At a rally in Alwar, Adityanath had said Hanuman was a forest dweller, deprived and a Dalit. "Bajrang Bali worked to connect all Indian communities together, from north to south and east to west," he had said.
Following this, a minister in Adityanath's cabinet, Chaudhary Laxmi Narain, identified Lord Hanuman as Jat.
BJP lawmaker Bukkal Nawab went one step ahead and said the lord was a Muslim, as he feels, Muslim names like Rehman, Farman and Zishan resemble that of Hanuman, unlike Hindu names.
The party has faced strong criticism over the issue from the opposition with Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav asking Adityanath to reveal castes of other gods too.
Even ally Shiv Sena has hit out at the BJP on the issue with a reference to its demand for Ram temple in Ayodhya.
"Although a Ram temple is yet to be constructed in Ayodhya, a debate has started in the BJP over the caste of Hanuman, the embodiment of devotion and loyalty. What is the point in debating the religion and caste of Lord Hanuman," the Sena had said in an editorial in party mouthpiece Saamana.
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