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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

The significance of a Rama Mandir in Ayodhya

The history of the Rama Mandir and Babri Masjid dispute has predated the violent 1992 riots and ensuing civil case which had not been resolved till recently. Bitter sentiments still rage high despite the Supreme Court of Bharat (India) ruling in favor of building a Mandir on the land held sacred to Hindus. It is important to understand the historical and spiritual significance of this issue as it has often been convoluted to the disadvantage of all involved. 

The Ramayana is an ancient scripture that details the life of Rama, a royal descendant of the Surya Vansha (sun dynasty). Rama’s life held struggle and deep strife, yet he continued to prevail by always abiding by his duty and never straying from the sacred laws of ethics and truth. Today, he is hailed as the consummate man – perfection striven and attained in every effort he set out to accomplish. His story carries deep resonance for Hindus globally. He shines as an emblem of what a single human is capable of doing and the capacity an individual carries to achieve greatness no matter the circumstance.

Historically, the first written text of the Ramayana is dated between the seventh and fifth century BCE. The story begins in the sacred city of Ayodhya – the birthplace and residence of Rama. This land is holy to Hindus as Jerusalem is Jews, Bethlehem to Christians, or Mecca to Muslims. Since then, Rama is not only hailed as a hero of great spiritual significance in Bharat, but signified in Buddhist and Jain traditions. Versions of the Ramayana are also celebrated in parts of Southeast Asia, including Cambodia and Thailand. Ignoring the far reach of the Ramayana and the deep significance of Ayodhya, many individuals choose to protest the long delayed construction of the Rama Mandir. 

The protest stems from the demolition of the disputed Babri structure in 1992. Babur, a descendant of Genghis Khan, and his hordes were the first of the Mughal Empire to arrive in the Indian subcontinent. Upon arrival to Bharat, Babur set up the foundation of what became his dynasty. Records suggest that the Babri Masjid was constructed by Babur’s general Mir Baqri in his honor in 1528.

In 1992 this structure was demolished by Hindu protestors who carried deep sentiment about the construction of a Masjid on what is deeply spiritual land. Moreover, these protestors claimed that there stood a Hindu temple in honor of Rama predating the construction of the Babri Masjid. This claim was later verified in 2003 by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). 

However, many still argue that this proof is not robust enough to support the construction of a Rama Mandir. While many are quick to condemn the 1992 protestors and tragic violent riots  that ensued, few acknowledge the religious persecution and hardships that Hindus faced during the time of Babur. It is in the vein of deep hypocrisy to cite one while forgetting the other. 

Historical records have given proof of Babur’s distaste for the Hindu majority in their native land. According to autobiographical historical records of Babur, his campaign in northwest Bharat targeted Hindus, and immense number of these ‘infidels’ were massacred, with Muslim camps building towers of skulls of the ‘infidels’ on hills. Similarly, these records have ample evidence of the slaughtering and pillaging of Bharatiya villages during Babur’s conquest. This does not begin to touch the surface on the recorded history of Hindu temple destruction, like Somnath, from foreign Muslim invaders in the centuries that preceded brutal British Imperialism. 

The fact of the matter is that Hindus persevered through extensive religious persecution, massacre, and pillaging of their native land through the period of the Delhi Sultanate and Mughals. Holy temples were desecrated and individuals forcibly converted or killed. Fading to oblivion is also the destructive Jizya – a religious tax on anyone who was not Muslim. It should not be ignored that many attempts were made to eviscerate Hindus and Sikhs through Bharat’s long history.

When discussing the matter of the Rama Mandir– it is crucial to attest to the injustices that were faced by Hindus during the time of Babur. Despite grave interruptions that have staved Bharat from the world stage, the country has grown to be the largest democracy in the world. While being a ‘developing nation’, religious minorities prosper in Bharat unlike many other countries. At the dawn of every morning, Namaz can be heard in almost any part of the country on loudspeakers. Does this not exemplify the immense religious liberty that is practiced by Muslim Indians every day? 

In spite of facing cruel subjugation by Muslim conquerors and later British Imperialists, Bharat still strives to become a welcoming land to all individuals of any creed. Acknowledging the plunder of Babur and mistreatment of Hindus, ASI’s findings, religious significance of Ayodhya, and the ancient text that has preceded all of this, the Supreme Court of Bharat ruled in favor of the construction of a Rama Mandir in Ayodhya. The Court has also allotted land in Ayodhya for the construction of a Mosque. A query to be contemplated is – how can protests still continue when land that is only held holy to Hindus is to be set aside for both faiths? There is no deep religious significance for Muslims in Ayodhya, yet many still call for the Rama Mandir to cease construction. 

Despite a court ruling and land allotted for a mosque in the same city that was once pillaged by the armies and descendants of Babur, many fail to recognize that a square deal has been created to the benefit of both parties. Are these protests stemming from deep Hinduphobic sentiment or a need to incite distrust and riot in a time already plagued by the challenges of COVID-19? 

Rama is an icon of peace and compassion who has been cherished for thousands of years while Babur misused religious dogma to establish power and terror – the idea to commemorate him in name or thought is fouled by the stench of his legacy. It is high time the deep wounds of Ayodhya be examined and understood. There is no complex history to the issue; it is quite straightforward, should you examine with objectivity rather than clouded views that fail to encapsulate the land and its past. 

-By Mansi Kumar

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