Hindu priest handstand video passed off as 'Indian PM Modi in his youth'

As India geared up for key elections in April 2024, social media posts viewed hundreds of times falsely claimed a video of a Hindu priest doing a handstand walk around a revered north Indian temple showed Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his mid-twenties. The priest seen in the clip told AFP that he performed the stunt in June 2021.

The video was shared here on Facebook on March 23, 2024.

"Circling the Kedarnath temple at the age of 26, no one would have thought that this person would one day become the prime minister of India. He is the honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi," reads the Hindi-language post's caption.

Kedarnath temple is a Hindu pilgrimage centre in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand (archived link).

Text superimposed on the video reads: "Honorable Prime Minister Narendra Modi, age 26."

Screengrab of the false post taken on March 27, 2024

The video circulated online just a few weeks before the world’s biggest democracy went to the polls. Nearly a billion Indians were set to vote to elect a new government in six-week-long parliamentary elections starting on April 19. 

Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was widely expected to win a third term.

The video was shared alongside a similar false claim on Facebook here and here; and on social media platform X here and here

Hindu priest

A combination of reverse image and keyword searches on Google found a similar video uploaded by local news outlet ETV Bharat on June 21, 2021 (archived link). 

The report stated that the priests of Kedarnath temple in north India’s Uttarakhand state celebrated the International Day of Yoga on June 21 by performing various poses. 

As part of the celebrations, a priest named Santosh Trivedi performed a handstand walk around the temple, it said.

Below is a screenshot comparison between the video shared in false posts (left) and the footage uploaded on ETV Bharat’s website (right):

Screenshot comparison between the video shared in false posts (left) and the footage uploaded on the ETV Bharat’s website (right)

The video was also uploaded on Facebook and YouTube in June 2021 identifying the man in the clip as temple priest Santosh Trivedi (archived link here and here).

In response to an enquiry from AFP, Trivedi said the video shows him at Kedarnath temple in 2021.

"I performed this circumambulation on June 21, 2021 on International Yoga Day. The temple complex was empty at that time due to the Covid-19 pandemic," he said on March 15, 2024.


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