The Consecration of the New Ram Temple in Ayodhya: A Glimmer of Peace in a Sea of Darkness

TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 29 Jan 2024

Prof Hoosen Vawda – TRANSCEND Media Service

“The Consecration of the Ram Mandir by a Politician and not a Hindu Priest, confirms the emergence of India as a Religious State of Hindutva” [1]

A model of the new Ram Mandir at Ayodhya at the original site of the birthplace of Lord Rama built and consecrated on 22 January 2024, at the site of the vandalised Babri Mosque in 1992, by a riotous Hindu mob, of 150,000. “ Hindu nationalists volunteers. Note that in antiquity, the Babri Mosque itself, was built at the site of an earlier temple, by the locals to mark the birthplace of Lord Ramachandra as narrated in the Ramayana.

On 22 January 2024 at precisely 12 noon, India Standard Time, the New Ram Mandir was consecrated by Prime Minister Narendra Darmodardas Modi, presently assured his position for the fourth term, as the Prime Minister of India, since 2014.  This, publication examines the “Pran Pratishta “(giving life to an inanimate object or structure, life) , enabling devotees to offer their prayers and dedicated devotion to the Hindu deities, through the temple, for the remembrance and supplication of Lord Rama, the 4th reincarnation of Lord Vishnu, in Hinduism. The consecration, personally by the Prime Minister of India, a politician  of another religion, highlights the saga of the Ram Janmabhoomi Mandir in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, India.

A Large Murthi of Lord Rama, in Ayodhya, “The City of Temples”, alongside the banks of Sarayu River, in which Lord Rama used to take daily baths and his principles embodied universal Peace in Hinduism.

What is Janmabhoomi?

“Janmabhoomi” in Hinduism, is a term that can be understood in two different contexts:

  1. Literal Meaning: Birthplace or Homeland
    • In a general sense, “Janmabhoomi” can be translated as “birthplace” or “homeland.” It refers to the geographical location or land where a person is born. In this context, it is not specifically a religious term but a more general term used to denote the place of one’s birth.
  2. Religious and Cultural Context: Sacred Land or Pilgrimage Site
    • Example: The term “Janmabhoomi” gained prominence in a specific religious and cultural context with reference to Ayodhya, a city in Northern India. Ayodhya is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Rama, a significant deity in Hinduism. The term “Ram Janmabhoomi” is often used to refer to the specific area in Ayodhya where, according to Hindu tradition, Lord Rama was born. The site has been a center of religious and cultural significance, and it gained prominence due to the Ayodhya dispute, which revolved around the ownership and use of the land.

In recent history, the term “Janmabhoomi” has been associated with discussions related to the Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya, reflecting the religious and cultural sentiments tied to the place as the birth site of Lord Rama. It became a focal point of debate and legal proceedings, eventually leading to a significant court verdict in 2019 that paved the way for the construction of a Hindu temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya.

In the Hindu religious epic, Ramayana, it is narrated that this site in Ayodhya is established as been the birthplace of the Hindu deity, Lord Ramachandra .  Ramjanma Bhoomi, the Hindi name of this temple or Mandir, is translated as Lord Ram’s Birthplace.[3]  Furthermore, as narrated in the Ramayana[4], Lord Ramachandra is stated as Lord Vishnu’s seventh reincarnation, as a fundamental tenet of Hinduism, is said to have grown up along Ayodhya’s, Sarayu River[5]. In fact Lord Rama used to take bath in this river, daily.[6] The Ram Janmabhoomi is a highly revered site for Hindu devotees, both in India and globally.

 

Is it appropriate to briefly highlight The Rāmāyana, which is a Sanskrit epic composed in India over a period of nearly a millennium, with scholars’ estimates for the earliest stage of the text ranging from the 7th  to 4th  centuries BCE,[7],[8] and later stages extending up to the 3rd century CE.[9] Ramayana is one of the two important epics of Hinduism, the other being the Mahābhārata.[10]

 

The epic, traditionally ascribed to the Maharishi Valmiki, narrates the life of Rama, a legendary prince of Ayodhya city in the kingdom of Kosala. The epic follows his fourteen-year exile to the forest urged by his father King Dasharatha, on the request of Rama’s stepmother Kaikeyi; his travels across forests in the Indian subcontinent with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana, the kidnapping of Sita by Ravana, the king of Lanka, that resulted in war; and Rama’s eventual return to Ayodhya to be crowned king amidst jubilation and celebration, symbolically represented globally as the “Festival of Lights” called Deepavali in south India[11] and Diwali[12], in the north of the peninsula. The primary distinction between Deepavali and Diwali would be that Diwali is a five-day celebration celebrated primarily in northern India, whilst Deepavali is a four-day festival, celebrated primarily in southern India.

 

The Ramayana is one of the largest, ancient epics and religious scripture, in world literature and Hinduism. It consists of nearly 24,000 verses, mostly set in the Shloka/Anustubh meter, divided into seven Khanda or parts, the first and the seventh being later additions.[13] It belongs to the genre of Itihasa, narratives of past events or purāvṛtta, interspersed with teachings on the goals of human life.  There are numerous versions of Ramayana in Indian languages, besides Buddhist, Sikh and Jain adaptations. There are also Cambodian (Reamker), Indonesian, Filipino, Thai (Ramakien), Lao, Burmese and Malay versions of the holy scripture in Hinduism.

Photo Top:  A general view of the audience during the opening of a temple dedicated to Hindu deity Lord Ram, in Ayodhya, India, Monday, Jan.22, 2024.
Photo Credit AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh
Photo Middle: The Ram Lalla idol that was ultimately selected and placed at the sanctum sanctorum of the Ayodhya Ram Mandir after the ‘Pran Pratishtha’ ceremony, was the work of Mysuru-based sculptor Arun Yogiraj. The 51-inch statue, that resonates with the innocence of the five-year-old Ram Lalla, has been carved from a dark stone known as Krishna Shila. It is from a three billion-year-old rock, known for its azure-coloured Krishna Shila or black schist.  It was sourced from the fertile lands of Hegadadevana Kote in Karnataka’s Mysuru. It was excavated from Gujjegowdanapura village in Mysuru. Yogiraj’s Ram Lalla idol was chosen from among three commissioned murtis for the sanctum sanctorum, and its eyes have captivated the hearts of worshippers and onlookers. According to the India Today report, the Ram Mandir will enshrine four distinct idols of Ram Lalla: the original Ram Lalla idol, the newly installed idol in the sanctum sanctorum, and the two additional creations by Bhatt and Satyanarayan Pandey.  Photo Credit: PTI
Photo Bottom: The Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a state of prostration in front of the Ram Musti, indicative of supreme devotion, also performed a “dandavat pranam” to the Ram Lalla Murti, after the consecration ceremony of the Temple at Ayodhya on 22nd January 2024 as a Hindu Priest and the Prime Minister, confirming his humility. Photo Credit NDTV

The word “Ayodhya” is a regularly formed derivation of the Sanskrit verb yudh, “to fight, to wage war”. Yodhya is the future passive participle, meaning “to be fought”; the initial “A” is the negative prefix, therefore, word means “not to be fought” or, more idiomatically in English, “invincible”[14]  Ayodhya was stated to be the capital of the ancient Kosala kingdom in the Ramayana. Hence it was also referred to as “Kosala”. The Adi Purana states that Ayodhya is famous as su-kośala “because of its prosperity and good skill”.[15] The cities of Ayutthaya (Thailand), and Yogyakarta (Indonesia), are named after Ayodhya.  Since 1949  and up to 2019, there has been a legal battle for Ayodhya as reported[16] in 2019.

Historical Review of the Original Site of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya

The Bābarī Masjid; meaning Mosque of Babur was a mosque in Ayodhya, India, at a site believed by many Hindus to be the birthplace of Hindu deity Rama. According to the mosque’s inscriptions, it was built in 1528–29 (935 AH) by Mir Baqi, a general of the Mughal emperor Babur. The mosque was attacked and demolished by a Hindu nationalist mob in 1992, which ignited communal violence across the Indian subcontinent.  The mosque was located on a hill known as Ramkot (“Rama’s fort”). According to Hindus, Baqi destroyed a pre-existing temple of Rama at the site. The existence of this temple is a matter of controversy.[17] There is also the Fable of Musa Ashiqan.  According to an early 20th century text by Maulvi Abdul Ghaffar and the surrounding historical sources examined by historian Harsh Narain,[ the young King Babur came from Kabul to Awadh (Ayodhya) in disguise, dressed as a Qalandar (Sufi ascetic), probably as part of a fact-finding mission. Here he met the Sufi saints Shah Jalal and Sayyid Musa Ashiqan and took a pledge in return for their blessings for conquering Hindustan. The pledge is not spelled out in the 1981 edition of Ghaffar’s book.[18] Lala Sita Ram, who had access to the older edition in 1932 wrote, “The faqirs answered that they would bless him if he promised to build a mosque after demolishing the Janmasthan temple. Babur accepted the faqirs’ offer and returned to his homeland.”[19]

 

However, Archaeological Survey of India conducted an excavation of the disputed site on the orders of the Allahabad High Court. Various materials have been found during excavation which suggest the presence of a Hindu structure beneath. Also, The High Court noted that the Babri Masjid was not built on vacant land and the excavated underneath structure was not Islamic in nature

 

Timeline of events reported from antiquity, regarding the Site of the Birthplace of Lord Ram.

In 1528: According to the inscription on its walls, the Babri Masjid constructed on the orders of Emperor Babur after demolishing the ruins of a Hindu temple at the birthplace of Lord Rama.

1853: Hindus resisted for the right of worship in their holy shrine as temple was demolished to build the mosque.

1859: The possession of site led to the community clashes. Hence, to appease the then Muslim ruler and a section of society Britishers built a fence that separates the places of worships which means the inner court to be used by Muslims and the outer court by Hindus.

1885 (Suit No. 61/280) in court of Faizabad Sub-Judge against Secretary of State, India: It was the first legal representation made by any the Hindu side. Mahant Raghubar Das filed a suit to gain legal title to the land and for permission to construct a temple on the ‘chabutra’ (raised platform) in the eastern courtyard. The mahant Das was the mahant of the ‘janamsthan’, birthplace of Lord Ram and said the ‘chabutra’ was the Lord’s birthplace.

1886: Mahant Raghubar Das appeals against the order in court of Faizabad, District Judge. Although District Judge Col FEA Chamier dismisses suit filed by Raghubar Das on March 18, 1886 said: “It is most unfortunate that a Masjid should have been built on land held sacred by Hindus.”

1870-1923: As the controversy spread further, several official publications of the time started taking note of it. It was even mentioned in some of the gazettes published at the time. Legal battle started to put its impact socially also. A stone marker reading “No 1 Ram Janam Bhoomi” was placed at the main entrance of the mosque.

December 22-23, 1949: On the night between the 22nd 23rd December, 1949 the deity of Bhagwan Sri Rama was installed with due ceremony under the central dome of the building. Jawaharlal Nehru the then Prime Minister took a stand on the installation of the idols and insisted that the Idol should be removed but the local official K.K.K. Nair, refused to carry out orders.

1950: First Suit No.1 was filed by Sh. Gopal Singh Visharad as a devotee of Lord Rama seeking permission to do worship and asked the court to remove all barriers, problems in his worship being a citizen. In this continuation several suits were filed. Suit No.2 bearing No. 25 of 1950 was filed by Paramhans Ram Chandra Das in 1950; Suit No. 3 was filed on 17.12.1959 by Nirmohi Akhara; Suit No. 4 was filed on 18.12.1961 by Sunni Wakf Board, and the last Suit being Suit No. 5 was filed on 1.7.1989 by Bhagwan Sri Ram Virajman at Sri Rama Janam Bhumi, Ayodhya Through his Next Friend.

1959: Nirmohi Akhara emerges as a new contender and suit for the possession of the site who also claimed themselves as the custodian of the spot at where Lord Rama was born.

1986: Based on Hari Shankar Dubey’s plea, a district court directed to unlock the gate for ‘Darshan’ to the Hindu community. Some Maulvies did not understand the decision to open the gate for worship. The intention behind the decision to open the gate was because Lord Rama can’t be locked up and it should be worshiped as per rituals. But Muslims set up Babri Masjid Action Committee. As a result, the gate was opened for less than an hour and again remains locked.

1989: The former VHP vice-president Deoki Nandan Agarwala suit file for the title and possession at the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court.

August 14, 1989: Allahabad High Court ordered maintenance of status quo in respect of the Ram Mandir.

December 6, 1992: Disputed structure demolished. Demolition caused nationwide riots and protests.

1992: Librahan Commission (Librahan Ayodhya Commission for Inquiry) was set up to investigate the destruction of the disputed structure of under retired High Court Judge M. S. Liberhan by an order of the Indian Home Union Ministry.

April 3, 1993: ‘Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act’ passed for acquisition of land by Centre in the disputed area. Various writ petitions, including one by Ismail Faruqui, filed in Allahabad HC challenging various aspects of the Act.  Supreme Court exercising its jurisdiction under Article 139A transferred the writ petitions, which were pending in the High Court.

October 24, 1994: Supreme Court says in the historic Ismail Faruqui case that mosque was not integral to Islam.

July 1996: During this year, Allahabad High Court clubs all civil suits under the single table.

April 2002: Allahabad High Court begins hearing on determining who owns the disputed site.

2002: The High Court passes an order to the Archaeological Survey of India to find out if there would be evidence of the temple beneath the disputed structure.

January 2003: The Archaeological Survey of India started excavation to find out the evidence of temple beneath of the disputed structure. ASI excavation revealed pre-existence of ‘massive structure’ underneath Disputed Structure. The Muslim Parties did not amend their Pleadings to take any alternative plea to meet the discovery of the massive structure beneath Disputed Structure. Further, The ASI Report clearly mentions that the Western Wall (W5) of Disputed Structure stands directly over Western Wall (W16) of the Temple without any layer of earth or other strata between the two walls which should have existed at the top if there was no structure on spot when construction of Babri Masjid commenced. Wall W5 standing directly over Wall W156, proves that Babri Masjid was erected over and with full knowledge of pre-existence of a structure.

March 13, 2003: Supreme Court says, in the Aslam alias Bhure case, no religious activity of any nature is allowed at the acquired land.

June 2009: The Liberhan commission investigating events leading up to the mosque’s demolition submits its report, 17 years after it began its inquiry.

September 30, 2010: Allahabad High Court, in a 2:1 majority, rules three-way division of disputed area between Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.

May 9, 2011: Supreme Court stays Allahabad High Court verdict on Ayodhya land dispute.

2010-2011 Appeals were preferred before Hon’ble Supreme Court challenging the judgment of the High Court.

Feb 26, 2016: Subramanian Swamy files plea in SC seeking construction of Ram Temple at the disputed site.

March 21, 2017: Chief Justice of India (CHI) JS Khehar suggests out-of-court settlement among rival parties.

August 7, 2017: Supreme Court constitutes three-judge bench to hear pleas challenging the 1994 verdict of the Allahabad High Court.

August 8, 2017: UP Shia Central Waqf Board tells SC mosque could be built in a Muslim-dominated area at a reasonable distance from the disputed site.

November 20, 2017: UP Shia Central Waqf Board tells SC temple can be built in Ayodhya and mosque in Lucknow.

December 1, 2017: Thirty-two civil rights activists file plea challenging the 2010 verdict of the Allahabad HC.

September 27, 2018: Supreme Court declines to refer the case to a five-judge Constitution bench. Case to be heard by a newly constituted three- judge bench on October 29.

January 8, 2019: Supreme Court sets up a five-judge Constitution Bench to hear the case headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justices S A Bobde, N V Ramana, U. U Lalit and D.Y. Chanrachud

January 29, 2019: Centre moves Supreme Court seeking permission to return the 67-acre acquired land around the disputed site to original owners.

February 26, 2019: Supreme Court favours mediation, fixes March 5 for order on whether to refer matter to court-appointed mediator.

October 16, 2019: Supreme Court concluded its proceedings in all the appeals after an elaborate hearing which continued on daily basis from 6th August 2019

At the direction and supervision of court-appointed observers of Allahabad Bench of the Uttar Pradesh High Court, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) excavated the disputed “Ayodhya Temple – Babri Mosque” site. The archaeologists reported evidence of a large structure similar to a Hindu temple having pre-existed the Babri Masjid. A team of 131 workers including 29 Muslims was engaged in the excavations.

 

ASI, which oversees and maintains the ancient monuments and archaeological sites under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act – 1958, and Antiquities and Art Treasure Act, 1972 examined the site, and in June 2003 issued a report of the findings. Later in August 2003 the ASI handed a 574-page report to the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court.

 

The ASI report stated: “Among the structures listed in the report are several brick walls ‘in east-west orientation’, several ‘in north-south orientation’, ‘decorated coloured floor’, several ‘pillar bases’, and a ‘1.64-metre high decorated black stone pillar (broken) with vaksha figurines on four corners’ as well as “Sanskrit inscription of holy verses on stone”. It also mention among other things a staircase and two black basalt columns ‘bearing fine decorative carvings with two cross legged figures in bas-relief on a bloomed lotus with a peacock whose feathers are raised upwards’.

 

Ancient perimeters from East to West and North to South have been found beneath the Babri fabrication. The bricks used in these perimeters predate the time of Babur. Beautiful stone pieces bearing carved Hindu ornamentations like lotus, Kaustubh jewel, alligator facade, etc., have been used in these walls. These decorated architectural pieces have been anchored with precision at varied places in the walls. A tiny portion of a stone slab is sticking out at a place below 20 feet in one of the pits. The rest of the slab lies covered in the wall. A tiny portion of a stone slab is sticking out at a place below 20 feet in one of the pits. The rest of the slab lies covered in the wall. The projecting portion bears a five-letter Dev Nagari inscription that turns out to be a Hindu name. The items found below 20 feet should be at least 1,500 years old. According to archaeologists about a foot of loam layer gathers on topsoil every hundred years. Primary clay was not found even up to a depth of 30 feet. It provides the clue to the existence of some structure or the other at that place during the last 2,500 years.

 

More than 30 pillar bases have been found at equal spans. The pillar-bases are in two rows and the rows are parallel. The pillar-base rows are in North-South direction. A wall is superimposed upon another wall. At least three layers of the floor are visible.  An octagonal holy fireplace (Yagna Kund) has been found.  Many ornate pieces of touchstone (Kasauti stone) pillars have been found in the excavation. Terracotta idols of divine fugurines, serpent, elephant, horse-rider, saints, etc., have been found.  The Gupta and the Kushan period bricks have been found.

Brick walls of the Gahadwal period (12th Century CE) have been found in excavations.

 

Nothing has been found to prove the existence of residential habitation there. The excavation gives out the picture of a vast compound housing a sole distinguished and greatly celebrated structure used for divine purposes and not that of a colony or Mohalla consisting of small houses. That was an uncommon and highly celebrated place and not a place of habitation for the common people. Hindu pilgrims have always been visiting that place for hundreds of years. The items found in the excavations point to the existence of a holy structure of North Indian architectural style at that place

 

The court as part of the hearing, said that the ASI report contains all the details including details of straigraphy, artifacts, periodisation as well as details of structures and walls. The pillar bases mentioned in the report establishes beyond all doubt the existence of a huge structure.

 

Additionally, the judges have mentioned the existence of circular shrine, stone slabs in walls with Hindu motifs and more particularly sign of Makar Pranal in wall No. 5 (the wall of disputed structure), divine couple and other temple materials – conclusively proves the existence of a hindu religious structure.

 

The findings suggest that a Northern Black Polished Ware culture existed at the mosque site between 1000BC and 300BC. A round signet with a legend in Asokan Brahmi, terracotta figurines of female deities with archaic features, beads and terracotta and glass, wheels and fragments of votive tanks have been found.

 

Typical terracotta mother goddess, human and animal figurines, beads, hairpins, pottery (includes black slipped, red and grey wares), and stone and brick structures of the Shunga period have been found.

 

Terracotta human and animal figurines, fragments and votive tanks, beads, bangle fragments, ceramics with red ware and large-sized structures running into twenty-two courses have been found from this level

 

Typical terracotta figures, copper coin with the legend Sri Chandra (Gupta), and illustrative potshreds of the Gupta period have been found. A circular brick shrine with an entrance from the east and a provision for a water-chute on the northern wall have also been found

 

A huge structure of almost fifty meters in north-south orientation have been found on this level. Only four of the fifty pillar bases belong to this level. Above this lay a structure with at least three structural phases which had a huge pillared hall

 

In the January 2003, Canadian geophysicist Claude Robillard performed a search with a ground-penetrating radar. The survey concluded the following: “There is some structure under the mosque. The structures were ranging from 0.5 to 5.5 meters in depth that could be associated with ancient and contemporaneous structures such as pillars, foundation walls, slab flooring, extending over a large portion of the site”.  Claude Robillard, the chief geophysicist stated the following: “There are some anomalies found underneath the site relating to some archaeological features. You might associate the anomalies with pillars, or floors, or concrete floors, wall foundation or something. These anomalies could be associated with archaeological features but until we dig, I can’t say for sure what the construction is, under the mosque.”  The final ASI report of August 25, 2003 stated that there was evidence of a large Hindu temple having pre‐existed the Babri mosque. Midway into the excavations the courts ordered the removal of the head of the ASI excavations, for not following the excavation norms.

 

Stone inscriptions dated to CA 1140 were retained after the December 1992 event of Babri Mosque demolition. The Vishnu-Hari inscription inscribed on a 1.10 x .56 metre slab with 20 lines mentioned the temple was dedicated to “Vishnu, slayer of Bali and the ten-headed one” Rama is an incarnation of Vishnu who is said to have defeated Bali and Ravana. The inscription written in Sanskrit script “Nagari Lipi” of the 11th and 12th century was verified by the epigraphists and Sanskrit scholars

 

In the 1980s, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), belonging to the Hindu nationalist family Sangh Parivar, launched a new movement to reclaim the site for Hindus and to erect a temple dedicated to the infant Rama (Ram Lalla) at this spot. In November 1989, the VHP laid the foundations of a temple on land adjacent to the disputed mosque. On 6th December 1992, the VHP and the Bharatiya Janata Party organised a rally at the site involving 150,000 volunteers, known as kar sevaks. The rally turned violent, and the crowd overwhelmed the security forces and tore down the mosque.

 

The demolition resulted in several months of intercommunal rioting between India’s Hindu and Muslim communities, causing the death of at least 2,000 people, and triggering riots all over the Indian subcontinent.[20] A day after the demolition of the mosque, on 7th December 1992, The New York Times reported that over 30 Hindu temples across Pakistan were attacked, some set on fire, and one demolished. The government of Pakistan closed school and offices in a day of protest.[21] Hindu temples in Bangladesh were also attacked.[22] Some of these Hindu temples that were partially destroyed during the retaliation of Babri Masjid have since remained that way.[23]

 

On 5th July 2005, five activists attacked the makeshift Ram temple at the site of destroyed Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, India. All five were shot dead in the ensuing gunfight with the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), while one civilian died in the grenade attack that the attackers launched in order to breach the cordoned wall. The CRPF suffered three casualties, two of whom were seriously injured with multiple gunshot wounds.[24]

 

A 1978 and 2003 archaeological excavation by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) found evidence indicating that Hindu temple remains had existed on the site.[25] Archeologist KK Muhammad accused several historians of undermining the findings. Over the years, various title and legal disputes also took place, such as the passage of the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Ordinance, 1993. It was only after the 2019 Supreme Court verdict on Ayodhya dispute that it was decided the disputed land be handed over to a trust formed by the Indian government for the construction of a Ram temple. The trust was eventually formed under the name Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra. Five acres of land was allocated for the mosque 22 km away in the city in Dhannipur village.[26] On 5 February 2020, it was announced in the Parliament that the Narendra Modi government had accepted a plan to construct the temple.

 

There were reactions to the ground-breaking ceremony. Some Hindu priests and religious leaders complained that the ceremony did not follow proper ritual procedures, claiming, among others, that 5th August was not a ritually auspicious date and that the function did not include a havan.[27] In this respect, writer Arundhati Roy, a noted critic of Modi, pointed out that the chosen date marked one year since the revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, arguing that the decision to schedule the ceremony for 5th August, which she claimed was an inauspicious date with no significance in the Hindu calendar, symbolized the conclusion of a period “in which India under Modi has formally declared itself a Hindu Nation, the dawning of a new era.”[28] Among the international community, Pakistan made an official statement through its Pakistan Foreign Office related to the temple.[29] The Times of India also reported that post Ram Mandir ground-breaking, Pakistani Hindus fear violence in the same way as what happened in 1992.[30]

 

Various Indian political leaders hailed the ground-breaking ceremony. While some openly celebrated it, others worded their statements carefully[31] Many expressed hopes in furthering the country’s progress by following the ideals of Ram.[32] Soon after the ground-breaking ceremony, residents of Ayodhya expressed hope in improvements of job opportunities and development of the city, through tourism generated by the temple.[33] This has undoubtedly happened, already, as the new temple was consecrated.

Photo Top: One day before the consecration of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya,on 22nd January 2024, performing artists entertain crowds with different types traditional dances from the various states of India.
Photo Credit: Mahesh Shantaram for TIME
Photo Bottom: In an extreme display of devotion, Shubam Garg travelled 130 km from Saharanpur to Ayodhya, prostrating every step of the way, on 17th January 2024, just prior to the consecration of the Ram Mandir.
Photo credit: Mahesh Shantaram for TIME

The Bottom Line, is that after being a topic of gigantic religious controversy, peace disruption, a site of great sectarian conflict and systemic violence, for millennia, between the Hindus and Muslims in India, the Ram Janmabhoomi land was handed over to a trust by the Supreme Court of India to build the Ram Temple. Ram Mandir is a Hindu temple that is being built in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, India, at the site of Ram Janmabhoomi, according to the Ramayana. The groundbreaking ceremony for laying of the foundation stone and a 90pound pure silver brick, for the Ram Temple of Ayodhya was performed on 5th August 2020 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The proposed design of the temple was grand and magnificent.  This has been realized in the consecration, already.

 

The Ram Janmabhoomi site is where the famous Babri Masjid once stood. It is believed that the Mughals demolished a Hindu shrine to build this mosque at the birthplace of Lord Rama. In 1992, a group of Hindu nationalists tore down the Babri Masjid which led to a series of violent riots across India. In October 2019, a bench of five judges of the Supreme Court ordered the land to be handed over to a trust to build the Ram Temple. An alternate 5 acres of land was also given to the Sunni Waqf Board to build a mosque.[34]

 

The disturbing aspect of the entire saga, is that while Emperor Babur erred in demolishing a temple and building a mosque in its location, as the Islamic ruler, we find that peace disruption continues in the 21st century and sows’ further discord between the two major religious groups in India. In the days leading up to the opening, millions of jubilant devotees flocked to the city to celebrate. They danced and sang religious songs, while government party workers handed out pamphlets commemorating the event. The streets were decked with saffron flags, marigold garlands, and signs depicting Lord Ram and Modi. Most were oblivious to workers still applying last-minute touches to a temple that is not yet complete, construction is expected to wrap by the end of 2024.[35] Devotees present in Ayodhya felt that Lord Ram had returned to his rightful home. Photographer Mahesh Shantaram, who captured these moments on camera, said that many told him: “I never thought I’d live to see this day!”  The most extreme devotees made their way there in the form of penance—by walking, cycling, and chanting for thousands of miles. One devotee, 32-year-old Shubham Garg, prostrated continuously for over 370 miles from his hometown in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh. Witnessing the consecration felt like “I entered heaven after all my sins were washed away,” Garg tells TIME. His father once went to jail for protesting against the Babri Masjid in the 90s, but on this day, “a dream that generations of my family had nurtured finally came true,” he adds. Some states across the country declared the day a public holiday, and schools and the stock market closed. About 20,000 security personnel and more than 10,000 security cameras monitored the event, and with good reason—nearly 8,000 official guests, including politicians, diplomats, business leaders, sports figures, and Bollywood celebrities were in attendance. They watched the ritual on a giant screen outside the temple, as military helicopters showered the temple with flower petals.  Inside the temple’s sanctum, Modi presided over the Pran Pratishtha, or consecration ceremony, dressed in a traditional white tunic as he unveiled and prostrated before a 1.3-meter-long black stone statue of “Ram Lalla” or Lord Ram as a child, adorned with gold and diamond jewelry. As priests chanted hymns, Modi performed religious rituals before giving a speech that was televised live on nearly every news channel across the country. In it, he hailed the temple opening as “the dawn of a new era.”  Visitors will climb 32 steps from the eastern side to reach the main temple. The temple complex, built in the traditional Nagara style, will be 380 feet long from the east to the west, 250 feet wide and 161 feet high. Each floor of the temple will be 20 feet high and have a total 392 pillars and 44 gates. Furthermore, Prime Minister performed the “Dandavat Pranam”  at the end of the consecration of the Ayodhya Temple. “Dandavat pranam” is a traditional gesture of respect and reverence in Hindu culture. The term is derived from two Sanskrit words: “danda,” which means stick or rod, and “pranam,” which means bowing or salutation. When combined, “dandavat pranam” refers to a full prostration or obeisance where an individual bows down with their entire body, touching the ground with their hands, knees, and forehead. In the context of Hindu religious practices, “dandavat pranam” is often performed as a gesture of deep respect and submission, particularly in front of deities, gurus, or revered personalities. It is a way of expressing humility, surrender, and devotion. The act symbolizes the idea of surrendering one’s ego and acknowledging the divine presence or authority.  During the performance of “dandavat pranam,” the person assumes a posture of complete surrender by lying flat on the ground, face-down, with arms outstretched in front and forehead touching the floor. This physical act is accompanied by a mental attitude of humility and devotion.  “Dandavat pranam” is commonly practiced in temples, during religious ceremonies, and in the presence of spiritual teachers. It is a profound expression of reverence and is considered a sincere way of offering oneself to the divine or to a revered figure in Hindu tradition.  This a rare quality demonstrated by anybody in public, let alone a Prime Minister of the second largest nation in the world, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is indeed indicative of the bona fides of the man and his humble personal character.

However, critiques, have questioned Modi’s comments on the historical event which centred around Modi as a Priest in the entire odyseey of the Temple. In elections in 2014, Modi campaigned with a promise to build a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Lord Ram, on the very site of the demolished mosque. With the temple’s consecration coming only months ahead of a national election, opposition leaders accuse him of exploiting religion to win political favour.  And as Modi seeks a third consecutive term, concerns are growing that he is building a legacy as a leader able to transform India into a Hindu nationalist state. The question that is raised is what does this mean for the future of secularism in India, at the beginning of the “Naya Daur, The Dawn of a New Era, where the lines between state and religion have become increasingly blurred under the Bharatiya Janata Party, which embodies Hindu nationalism, led by the Prime Minister – Priest Narendra Modi who will most likely win the general elections in April 2024.  For Modi and his Hindu hardliner backers, it is a symbol of national pride and perseverance. It represents, as Home Minister Amit Shah said at the consecration ceremony, “stitching of a deep wound” that they believe was inflicted on them by Muslim “invaders” some 500 years ago. For them, it is a symbol of victory. For Muslims, however, it is a symbol of India’s transformation into a Hindu nation – a symbol that has anti-Muslim hatred and discrimination at its very foundation. They remember, for example, how from the very beginning “Muslamanon ka ek sthan Pakistan ya kabristan” (Only two places for Muslims: Pakistan or the graveyard) and “Babar ki auladon ko joote maro” (hit the progeny of Babur with shoes) have been the primary slogans raised by the movement to replace the historic mosque in Ayodhya with a Ram temple.[36]

 

Will this result in further peace disruption between the Hindu majority and Muslim minority, in a culturally and religiously diverse India?  Only history will inform us in the future.? The Temple is for prayers to a Lord, who has seen peace disruption and death of His creation, whether Hindus or Muslims. While the Ram temple in Ayodhya is undoubtedly a symbol of the power of Hindutva, the Hindu majoritarian ideology of the BJP and its partners, it is also a symbol of Modi’s own political prowess. By consecrating the temple, the prime minister successfully established himself, with the support of a willing media, as the chief deliverer of the dream of Hindu supremacy in the country. It is clearly evident, that more than the figure of Lord Ram, Prime Minister Modi was at the centre of the entire religious ceremony.

The Stages of Pran Pratishtha undertaken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the consecration of the New Ram Mandir in Ayodhya on 22nd January 2024 commencing at 1200non. Witnessed by a global audience, including in the Times Square in New York on the iconic giant television screens, 
Photo Top:  The Prime Ministers walks down the long Ram Path to the temple steps, climbs the 32 steps, without effort, at his age of 73,
Middle Photo: Enters the main hall, with his offering in his hand, proceeds to the Sanctum sanctorum,
Bottom Photo: he Prime Minister present the offerings to the murti of Ram Lalla and completes the Pran Pratishtha with a complete prostration at the foot of Ram Lalla, televised globally.  Indeed, a remarkable, physical, spiritual and mental feat, having endured a coconut fast for 11 days prior to 22nd January 2024. Photo Credits;  NDTV

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[32] https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/india-news-ayodhya-ram-mandir-ceremony-leaders-hope-development-would-pave-way-for-harmony/358021

[33] Pandey, Neelam (5 August 2020). “Ram Mandir is more than an emotive issue for Ayodhya’s youth — it means new opportunities”. The Print.

[34] https://www.holidify.com/places/ayodhya/ramjanma-bhoomi-sightseeing-1253.html#:~:text=After%20being%20a,built%20a%20mosque.

[35] https://time.com/6565245/ram-temple-modi-photos/

[36] https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2024/1/25/why-the-new-ram-temple-in-ayodhya-is-a-turning-point-for-india

______________________________________________

Professor G. Hoosen M. Vawda (Bsc; MBChB; PhD.Wits) is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment.
Director: Glastonbury Medical Research Centre; Community Health and Indigent Programme Services; Body Donor Foundation SA.
Principal Investigator: Multinational Clinical Trials
Consultant: Medical and General Research Ethics; Internal Medicine and Clinical Psychiatry:UKZN, Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine
Executive Member: Inter Religious Council KZN SA
Public Liaison: Medical Misadventures
Activism: Justice for All
Email: vawda@ukzn.ac.za


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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 29 Jan 2024.

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