A claim is going viral which states that when the Saudi King visited India in 1955, where he visited several cities including Varanasi, the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru issued an order to cover all the temples in Varanasi.
Social media users are sharing the claim while comparing the tenure of former PM Nehru and the current PM Narendra Modi.
What have users said?: While sharing the post, people have mentioned that the order was issued to ensure that the Saudi King's religious sentiments were not hurt.
(Swipe right to view all claims.)
An archive of the post can be seen here.
An archive of the post can be seen here.
What is the truth?: It is true that the Saudi King paid a 17-day visit to India, which included his visit to Varanasi, during the tenure of former PM Nehru.
But there are no historical documents or evidences to support the claim that temples were covered at that time.
We did not find any news reports which supported the viral claim.
How did we find that out?: We performed a keyword search to confirm whether the Saudi King visited India in 1955. This led us to a post uploaded on the official X account of Saudi King.
The caption mentioned that the then King paid his first visit to India on 27 November 1955.
During his visit, he visited various cities such as New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Mysore, Shimla, Agra, Aligarh, and Varanasi.
According to the information available on the official website of the Ministry of External Affairs and Embassy of India, Riyadh, we could confirm that the then King Saud bin Abdulaziz Al Saud did pay a 17-day visit to India in 1955.
We found a video of the King's India tour on the verified YouTube channel of British Pathe, a company which archived the news of all the events that happened from 1896 to 1978.
Were temples covered during the Saudi King's visit?: The Quint did not find any such evidence in the news reports published in 1955.
It should be noted that the first Lok Sabha elections were held in India in 1951-52. When the Saudi King visited India in 1955, the ruling party Congress had 364 Member of Parliaments (MPs) out of total 489 Lok Sabha seats.
There were 37 independent MPs and Jan Sangh (now BJP) had 3 MPs. It seems highly unlikely that the temples were covered during the visit of any foreign leader and the opposition MPs did not raise a single question on it.
The Saudi King did not avoid Hindu/Indian culture during his visit: He saw many things related to Indian culture during his visit to India, which automatically refutes the claim that the temples were covered because of him. Here are several examples.
A website named kingsaud.org, which was created to preserve documents and photographs related to the life of the Saudi Kings, had several images of his visit to India in 1955.
The picture was taken on 3 December 1955, when the King visited Ramnagar Fort in Varanasi.
But why is his visit to the museum special? It is because there are many things related to Hindu culture in Ramnagar Fort such as Durga Temple, Chinnamastika Temple, and Hanuman Temple. The information was available on the official website of Uttar Pradesh Tourism Department.
The Saudi King saw a classical dance performance in Banaras University during his visit to the city.
What do historians say?: We reached out to S Irfan Habib to verify the veracity of the viral claim. He denied the claims and said,
"As far as I know, I cannot remember any such incident where temples in India were covered during the visit of the Saudi King."S Irfan Habib, a historian
We also spoke to contemporary Indian historian V Krishna Ananth who rejected the viral claims. He said, "This thing about Nehru ordering that all temples in Varanasi is covered up sounds bizzare. In 1955, he was in the thick of organising the Bandung declaration and something of this kind must have raised a lot of dust (sic)."
Bandung Conference in 1955: It was the first important step taken towards non-alignment. Several prominent leaders like the then PM Nehru, Abdel Nasser, Sukarno, and Marshal Tito. A manifesto related to world peace and mutual cooperation was issued during the conference.
Six years after the conference, the first summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was held in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, in September 1961.
Representatives from around 25 countries participated in the summit.
We have reached out to PM's office under the Right to Information Act 2005 to find out if there is any record that the then PM issued any order to cover the temples in 1955. The story will be updated as and when a response a received.
Conclusion: It is clear that are no evidences to support that claim that former PM Nehru had ordered to cover all the temples in Varanasi during the Saudi King's visit to India in 1955.
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