Friday, July 12, 2024
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Ram Lalla Mandir: Critics ‘Sink’ in Ocean of Faith
Straight Talk

K B Jandial

Close to the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP, using Pran Pratishtha of Bhagwan Ram’s temple at Ayodhya, has successfully created a strong narrative, dubbing Congress and its I.N.D.I. Alliance as anti-Hindu. Leaders and spokespersons of these parties, in fact, contributed to the emerging scenario by their unrestrained comments and observations, perceived to be anti-Sanatan & Pran Pratishtha. The public ecstasy generated on Bhagwan Ram temple transcends religious and territorial boundaries, making it life-time and unparalleled event in the living memory of the present generation.

The beautifully carved 150 kg Bhagwan Ram’s Idol, has been placed in the garbha griha (sanctum sanctorum) on 18th January with full religious rituals. The renowned sculptor Arun Yogiraj of Karnataka has carved it.

Brushing aside ‘cynical’ comments of leaders of the opposition parties, India appears to be celebrating its civilisational resurgence with the Pran Pratishtha of Bhagawan Ram 22nd January at hands of PM Modi, who represents 140 crores of Indians. The public emotions on this national festival are so widespread and pervasive, that objections of the otherwise revered Shankaracharyas have not garnered public attention except anti-Modi political leaders. Their objections on Pran Pratishtha of “incomplete” temple and by PM Modi failed to dampen the public titanic jubilation over the event. So high are the emotions in the country that even some acharyas at Ayodhya involved in the religious ceremonies, have hit back at the Shankaracharyas by saying that “they are standing with the opposition parties.”

Many Ram bhakt questioned Shankaracharyas’ Pran Pratishtha “boycott” and asked why they are deliberately overlooking the ‘Somnath precedent’ of 1951 without further riposte. In this prevailing confusion, two of the four Shankaracharyas are to have now welcomed the consecration ceremony but said that they would not be attending the event. However, they will visit the temple later at their convenience.
Shankaracharyas are, indeed, considered as the supreme authority of the Hindu scriptures. There are four Shankaracharyas -- in Jyotishpeeth- Uttarakhand, Puri-Odisha, Sringeri-Karnataka, and Dwarka-Gujarat. Like INDI Alliance, all of them are skipping the consecration ceremony of Lord Rama Temple.

On the other hand, the founder of ‘Art of Living’ Swami Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has obliquely contested the Shankaracharya’s objection of Pran Pratishtha of ‘incomplete’ Ram Lala temple by quoting several precedents (other than the Somnath Temple). He said that Lord Rama Himself performed Pran Pratishtha of the holy Shivling even though no temple existed there which came up much later. According to him, historic Madurai and Tirupati temples were small in the beginning and converted into huge temples much later.

The popular Spiritual Guru said that by performing Pran Pratishtha on 22nd January, the “religious mistake of five hundred years has been corrected”. A dream of five centuries is becoming a reality and public emotion of this festival cannot be stopped by any objections and criticism, be it from the Shankaracharyas or the opposition leaders.
The emotional resonance of Bhagwan Ram's return to Ayodhya has fostered unity and communal harmony across the country. Maryada Purushottam Ram is himself an unifying factor. The enthusiasm is not limited to professional artists; even amateurs and individuals from diverse communities have contributed to these cultural celebrations. Ahead of the Pran Pratishtha of Ram Mandir at Ayodhya, many singers from different parts of the country have come up with their Ram bhajans, some featuring in dance sequences, which are soothing to both eyes and ears.

These bhajans sung in praise of Bhagwan Ram, have become household songs in India and abroad. The biggest hit among these is “Ram Aayenge, Meri Jhopdi ke bhag aaj jaag jaynege” with mesmerising dance sequence. Rendition of this bhajan by the German singer Cassandra Mae Spittmaan, has also gained huge public attention. Some of other soothing Ram bhajans include “Shree Ram Ghar Aaye” sung by the Gujarati folk singer Geeta Rabari and similar song by Jubin Nautiyal and Hansraj Raghuwanshi; “Mere Ghar Ram Aaye Hain ‘Ayodhya Nagari Nache Ramanku Pai’ by Odia singer Namita Agrawal.

A 19-year-old Kashmiri college girl from Uri, Syed Batool Zehra, who composed a Pahari Ram bhajan which resonated well with the Muslim community. It became viral over social media and TV channels. She recalled that she had heard Ram bhajan sung by Jubin Nautiyal and decided to sing a similar song in Pahari language.

India is witnessing an unprecedented euphoria on the return of Bhagwan Ram to His place of birth after 500 years. Some young artists have made impressive depictions of Bhagwan Ram with Sita ma & Lakshman with 3D impact on the banks of river Saryu in Ayodhya. A group of Kashmiris came with pure saffron and several others brought water from rivers of different places including Afghanistan. Thousands of people thronging Ayodhya are sporting Jai Shri Ram on their forehead with tilak. People across the country are finding different ways to express their jubilation on Pran Pratishtha of Bhagwan Ram. Lakhs of ‘deepak’ are being lit on Monday evening at Ayodhya and elsewhere in the country. Which technical objections, even of Shankaracharyas, could stand against this unprecedented tsunami of faith and civilisation?

To cap it, the central Govt announced a half-day holiday on 22nd January to facilitate people to witness India’s civilisational event. The Congress and other opposition parties have frowned on it, saying that is against the very concept of secularism. Well, the matter is debatable but it is by and large welcomed by the people. But still, this order should have been avoided. Well advised, this order for AIIMS has been taken back.

The live telecast of the Pran Pratishtha ceremony on all television channels within and outside India is expected to captivate audiences, akin to the way Ramanand Sagar's "Ramayana" did in 1987-88.
As the controversy on Parn Pratishtha of Lord Rama Temple is reigning, a parallel is being drawn with the Somnath Temple which was resurrected and a consecration in 1951 with the first President of India Shri Rajinder Prasad attending it against wishes of Pt Jawahar Lal Nehru, then the powerful PM. One of the biggest similarities is the positioning of the two as reflective of a collective Hindu sentiment. At that time, among those who led the call for Somnath’s reconstruction included Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and K N Munshi. After Independence, there was a call to rebuild it as a step towards reclaiming “past glories.” Patel had said that the public sentiments were so strong and widespread that these would not be satisfied by mere restoration of the temple or by prolonging its life. “The restoration of the idol would be a point of honour and sentiment with the Hindu public.”

In fact, the story of Somnath temple unfolds the inherent contradiction of the Congress party.. After Independence, when the princely state of Junagadh under which Somnath existed, voted in a plebiscite to stay with India, Sardar Patel paid a visit to Somnath on November 12, 1947 and announced, with water in his hands that he collected from the sea nearby, the decision to reconstruct a temple at the Somnath temple site. Richard H Davis, Professor of Religious Studies in Yale University, wrote in his book, “Lives of Indian Images”, that it was “just like Independence Day,” quoting one observer.
Like Ram Lala temple, the reconstruction of Somnath temple had also faced political complexities. While the Union cabinet considered the matter in December 1947 and decided to reconstruct the temple at state expense, Nehru became furious and got minutes of the cabinet altered and told K.M. Munshi, his Minister of Works and the most determined proponent of the project, that a secular country could not undertake such “an act of historical revenge funded by the treasury.” Nehru had no objection to a private initiative.
Munshi, backed by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, raised funds and by 1950, enough funds were collected and reconstruction began. The foundation stone for the new temple was laid on May 8, 1950. On October 19 that year, the ruins of the old temple were pulled down.

By 1951, while the organisers were all set for a grand inauguration, it faced another roadblock. The President, Dr Rajendra Prasad who was to inaugurate the temple, was asked by Pt Nehru against it. He convened a cabinet meeting and passed a resolution requesting the President not to go as this would be violative of the fundamental principle of our constitutional democracy that the state has no religion. But the President insisted on going, and the cabinet again advised him not to go. This stymied the President as the Constitution specified that the President could not return the reconsidered decision of the cabinet.

Then the President went to the Somnath temple inauguration in his personal capacity which meant that neither protocol nor security could be provided to him. Morarji Desai, then Home Minister of Bombay, came up with a solution. He used the Bombay Province Fairs and Melas Act and provided security to the President at State level.

While Congress continued to display its DNA on reconstruction of revered Hindu temples and Sanatan dharm, incidentally, there is no Nehru or Congress Govt at the Centre or UP where Ayodhya Temple has been reconstructed following the unanimous decision of the 5-member Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in 2019. Incidentally, the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kahetra Trust, which is constituted in terms of SC decision to manage reconstruction of Grand Bhagwan Ram Temple, has extended invitation to all of them, including the present CJI who was a part of this Bench, for this national event.
While “Shree Ram Ghar Aagaye” at His place of birth in Ayodhya, its political fallout for the grand old party and its allies is cascading on the ensuing Lok Sabha polls. While the Hindutva-vadi BJP has crafted everything to its advantage (to fulfil all three major poll promises- abrogation of Article 370, Ram Mandir & next is CCC), the opposition parties committed its political harakiri, first by aligning with those who launched crusade against Sanatan dharm, and now opposing Pran Pratistha of Bhagwan Ram.
As the political atmosphere is charged with religious sentiments in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls that suits BJP, Modi critics seem to have been sunk in the ocean of faith. Adding to their problems, there is some rebellion in these parties with its cadre opposing the high command's decision to boycott Pran Pratistha and Ram mandir. They are in a Catch-22 situation. To retrieve politically, these leaders are going for ‘temple visits’ on January 22nd to counter anti-Hindu image. And by doing so, all those criticising Modi & BJP for Hindutva ideology, are following a competitive Hindutva.

However, whether playing the Hindu card during election time will be sufficient to overcome the negative perceptions and win over voters in the coming months? Only voters will decide it in the impending polls.

(The Author is a retired IAS officer,feedback:- [email protected])

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