Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu on Saturday wondered why should anybody have a problem with singing "Vande Mataram", meaning salutations to the mother, a song that inspired millions during the country's freedom movement.
"Mother is not the photo but our motherland. 'Vande Mataram' is saluting the mother. Why should anyone have a problem with this," Naidu said at an event in this temple town in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra.
"Irrespective of our caste, creed and religion, we are one nation, one people and one country," Naidu said, after inaugurating the Global Sai Temple Trust Summit organised by the Shri Saibaba Sansthan, Shirdi, for trustees and representatives of Saibaba temples in India and abroad.
Naidu also rejected as "irrelevant" the issue whether Saibaba, the 20th century saint, was a Hindu or Muslim, saying: "he (Saibaba) was a universal teacher who blended the core principles of Hinduism and Sufism".
Saibaba's teachings of service to mankind and living in peace and harmony with others need to be imbibed by all and that would be the real tribute to him, Naidu said.
"Serving the mankind is serving God. Saibaba is an embodiment of this culture," he said.
An official statement quoted Naidu as saying that being an Indian national amounts to being spiritual, as it is all about seeking a larger identity rising above narrow and divisive considerations.
"India is a larger collective and to be known as Indian is going beyond the identity based on birth, caste, region or religion and coming together for a larger cause," he said.
He said nationality and nationalism are instruments of larger unity and integration, uniting the people, thereby going beyond primary identities. This unifying principle of nationalism should not be misunderstood. To feel, think and act as an Indian or 'Bharatiya' involves overcoming one's primary and divisive identities, he added.
"So, in my view, to be an Indian is being spiritual, as it elevates us to a higher level of identity and shared experience, purpose and actions," Naidu said.
Shirdi, located 238 km off Mumbai, has the famous shrineof Saibaba. In October, President Ram Nath Kovind inaugurated the newly-built airport at Shirdi.