As Pran Prathishta in Ayodhya’s Ram Mandir draws closer, controversies are being manufactured. The latest is about Champat Ji’s remark on Ramanandi Sampraday.
What did Shri Champat Rai say?
From the headline, an impression is being created that Ayodhya’s Ram Mandir does not belong to any other Sampraday. However, digging deeper, we realise the statement was made in the context of the puja padhati to be followed in the Mandir.
The media is known to twist statements to suit its propaganda, as was seen in this case. It is worth pointing out that the Acharyas of 125 Sampradays and 13 Akhadas have been invited and will attend the Pran Prathishta event. Also, Dharmacharyas, belonging to all six Darshans, will participate. In other words, Shri Champat Rai’s remarks were limited to the mode of puja in the Mandir, but the headline was made out to give a different impression.
Every Mandir follows a particular Sampraday, and its puja vidhi is in conformation with that Sampraday. The Ayodhya Ram Mandir follows Ramanandi Sampraday. The question may arise as to why the Puja Padhati of this Sampraday is chosen. The simple reason is that the Puja Padhati carried out at the Janmasthan site since the beginning of the movement is the Ramanandi padhati. In 1949, when the vigrahas were placed inside the structure, Ramanandis continued the Puja even as devotees of various Sampradayas continued to visit the Janmasthan temple.
History of Ram Janmabhoomi movement and contribution of Ramanandis
The Sampraday has been involved in the movement from its beginning. HinduPost had earlier detailed the history of the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement. Babur’s commander, Mir Baqi, destroyed Ram Janmasthan and built Babri Masjid at the site. Eminent historian Dr Meenakshi Jain, in her talk, has pointed out that the histories written in the 18th and 19th centuries in Urdu, Persian, and Arabic make it clear that the Babri Masjid was not built on vacant land.
The Babri Masjid was constructed sometime in 1528-29 to symbolize the overrunning of the Hindu site by Islamic rule. Ever since then, there were skirmishes between Hindus and Muslims, which were subdued when the place was under the reign of Awadh Nawab Sadat Ali Khan.
Ramanandi Sampraday has made a significant contribution to making Ram Mandir a reality. Its Mahants have been fighting for Ayodhya’s Ram Mandir since the start. Members of the Sampraday participated in numerous wars, and many even gave up their lives for the Janmasthan Mandir from the Mughal times. Mahant Raghubir Das of the Nirmohi Akhada, which belongs to the Ramanandi Sampradaya, took the first legal action to establish Hindu rights. He approached the Faizabad Court in 1885, seeking permission to pray at the RJB site, and later sought approval for constructing a temple over the plinth. However, both these appeals were rejected by the Court.
Shri Paramhans Ramchandra Das filed the second petition asking for permission to allow uninterrupted prayer offerings to Bhagwan Ram. Das belonged to the Ramnandiya Digambar Akhada. The Nirmohi Akhada approached the court seeking custody of the RJB in 1959. Members of the Sampraday participated in the movement as it gathered steam in the 80s, with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) forming the Bajrang Dal (BD) in 1984 to up the ante. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) movement brought the RJB struggle into the political mainstream.
History of Ramanandi Sampraday
Ramanandi, the largest sect of Vaishnav sadhus and ascetics in the country, originated in the medieval period under the guidance of Swami Ramanand, respectfully addressed by his followers as Swami Jagatguru Shri Ramanandacharya.
This sect adheres to the Vishishtadvaita theory of mukti, defining it as the spirit of the world of Ram. It is one of the four oldest sects of Bairagi sadhus, also known as Bairagi, Ramavat, and Shri Sampradaya. Ramanandi’s belief centres around Paramopasya Dwibhujram as Brahma, and their fundamental mantra is Om Ramay Namah. While they worship various incarnations of Sri Vishnu, they hold the grace of both Sri Ram and Vishnu as essential for salvation, paying homage to Mata Sita and Sri Hanuman.
Prominent disciples of Ramananda included Kabirdas, Raidas (Ravidas), Narharyananda (Narharidas), Anantananda, Bhavananda, Surasari, Padmavati, Nabhadas, Dhanna (Jatt), Sena (Naai), Pipasen (Rajput), and Sadna (Qasai). Narharyanand, who later became Narharidas after initiation, is considered the Guru of Sant Tulsidas. In addition to his devotion, Narharidas possessed knowledge in Sanskrit, Persian, and Brijbhasha.
Acharya Ramananda’s significance in the Bhakti movement lies in his tireless efforts to bring Rama bhakti from the Himalayan heights to the humble dwellings of low-income people. He was pivotal in safeguarding this tradition by equipping Bairagi Sadhus with weapons, organising them as an army (Ani), and establishing many of their Akharas.
Ramananda gained widespread acceptance as the first Acharya to introduce the bhakti tradition from the south to north Bharat. Notably, among his disciples were both nirgunopasakas and sagunopasakas of Prabhu Rama. Disciples like Kabir and Raidas took distinct paths, yet they acknowledged Ramananda as their Guru.