Prof. Arnold Toynbee, one of the greatest historians of all time, identified 19 Ancient Civilizations. Among them, 17 perished. Only two survive, Chinese and Indian. Veda and Scriptures were taught and learned in Gurukuls. Still, there are Vedapathasalas in Temples, Maths, and Ashrams. “India is a Country of Snake Charmers, where Rodents and Reptiles are worshipped and Trees and Rocks are revered,” mocked, the Westerners.
Yes, they are, still! Environmentalists call for conservation, protection, and preservation of nature, which our ancestors taught us thousands of years ago. There may be villages without Temples, but none without a Village Deity. Names differ, but concept and theme, nature worship is national. Even the non-believers visit the holy trees and rocks. Annual festivals and weekly and monthly rituals are held without much publicity. Devotees attend uninvited in hundreds and thousands. There are week, fortnight, and month-long festivals. For generations, devotees gather from across the state borders. During the past few years, the Endowment Department has established its authority over some of them. However, enthusiasm among people is not diminished. On the other hand, it is increasing.
Such a euphoric response was conspicuously absent among the people in South India, particularly in the Telugu states in the Foundation Laying Ceremony of the Srirama Temple in Ayodhya on August 5, 2020.
The BJP is not likely to gain any political mileage out of it. Whatever the union government may say, it was a government-sponsored program. Common man, the farmer, and farm labour, who constitute 70 % of our population were not moved by the Ayodhya. These Other Backward Class (OBC) and Scheduled Caste and Tribe population is the muscle of the Hinduism in the Telugu States. Without their participation, no movement moves forward.
P.V.Narasimha Rao ‘s exclusion from the list of the leaders of the Ayodhya Movement is another reason for the emotional detachment for the Telugu States.
Those concerned with the Ram Temple/Ramajanmabhoomi, the dominant upper castes, constitute hardly 20 % of the population. Only the elite section of the Society is involved in the Movement.
“A temple is not merely an edifice of brick or marble, nor does it become a temple by the installation of the image of a deity. It can be called a temple only when life has been breathed into the image. There may be hypocrisy in calling the priest and making sacrificial offerings at the time of laying the foundation of the temple. The truth is that those who made a pious resolve to build a temple should, from that very moment, spend their life in deeds of penance and should surrender to the temple the fruits of all their good deeds…” Gandhiji said on January 24, 1928, at Vartej, Bhavnagar Gujarat. Gandhiji was addressing the people after laying the foundation for Ram Temple at the village meant for “untouchables”. Despite his non-belief in temples, Gandhiji performed function, the only one of its kind during his lifetime.
To recall the well-known past events, L K Advani and Dr Murali Manohar Joshi led the BJP revival movement from scratches, through the Rath Yatra in Sept Oct. 1990. Kalyan Singh, then the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and Uma Bharathi, then a member of the Lok Sabha were the force behind the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Uma Bharti rose to national prominence when she became one of the major faces of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, alongside L. K. Advani and others. Her fiery speeches are credited for helping the movement achieve its momentum.
In December 1992, she was one of several prominent Sangh Parivar figures present at a rally in Ayodhya that developed into a riot, culminating in the demolition of the Babri Mosque. Bharti was indicted for inciting a mob to violence by the Liberhan Commission that probed the incident. Bharti denied that she incited the mob but says she does not regret it and that she is willing to take “moral responsibility” for the demolition. She acknowledges that the BJP reaped massive political benefits from the incident. In April 2017, the Supreme Court of India reinstated a criminal conspiracy case against Bharti and other BJP leaders. Bharti has called for the BJP to stop avoiding responsibility for the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, saying, ‘The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power twice at the Centre riding on the Ram Mandir movement wave. So it should not disown the movement and wriggle out of its responsibility for the Babri mosque demolition. I was in the BJP then and was present at the site on a fateful day. I am ready to face any consequence, even to go to jail.” (source: Times of India)
Uma Bharathi and Kalyan Singh were ‘also’ invited for the Celebration. But Advani and Joshi were not even invited. Are they ignored? A little flashback: When Advani and Joshi were side-lined after the 2014 Elections following the victory of BJP, the country expected Advani to be elected the President of India and Joshi the Vice President.
It turned out to be a daydream. Modi’s and BJP’s prestige would have gone high if Advani and Joshi had been invited to perform the Pooja. The whole country would have appreciated the Hindu sentiments of respecting the elders by the BJP and Narendra Modi.
Now make-believe facts are concocted, perhaps will enter the textbooks as hard realities that, but for Narendra Modi, Ramajanmabhoomi would not have been accomplished. These are the Party and the persons, which raise an accusing finger against the Congress and Nehru for excluding some important tall leaders of the National Movement. For a moment, I do not approve the faults.
Not only Advani and Joshi, but there is any number of prominent figures who extended their moral, legal, intellectual, and physical support to the Movement. Here is the list:
1. K.Parasaran, Nonagenarian Lawyer, who advanced marathon arguments in the Supreme Court,
2. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who created a Special Cell in the Prime Minister’s Office,
3. Kar Sevak Leaders Sadhvi Rithambar and Sakshi Maharaj,
4. Kar Sevaks, Kothari Brothers, who laid down their lives,
5. District and Sessions Judge of Faizabad, SK Pandey, who Feb1, 1986 ordered the locks of Babri Masjid, which remained padlocked for decades to be opened for the Hindu worshippers,
6. ‘Arun Nehru, the Chief Advisors of the Prime Minister,
7. Rajiv Gandhi was thinking in terms of a quid pro quo to appease the Hindu militants in exchange for the concession for the Muslim Clerics on The Muslim Women Act. The idea of the govt was ‘manipulated through a Judicial Order’ with the aid of the Uttar Pradesh Government,
8. Vir Bahaddur Singh was the Chief Minister of UP at the time,
9. Ashok Singhal of the Vishva Hindu Parishad laid the foundation for the Movement.
10. In 1984, Mahanth Avaidyanath organized Ramajanma Bhoomi Mukthi Samithi,
11. Dr Meenakshi Jain’s books RAMA AND AYODHYA and THE BATTLE FOR RAMA demolished the arguments of the opponents,
12. Archeologist Dr K K Mohammad, a member of the Archeological Survey of India Team that excavated the Ayodhya site in 1976-’77 said that the Masjid was a superstructure on the Temple,
13. Archeologist Prof. B.B.Lal discovered 12 Pillars of the Temple at the disputed site,
14. Gopal Simla Visharad and Paramahansa Ramachandra Das Suits pleading permission to perform Pooja,
15. In 1949 The District Magistrate K.K.Nair, I.C.S. refused to remove the Idols from the Ramajanmabhoomi,
16. Mahanth Digvijaynath of the Gokarnanath Math began an agitation for possession,
17. In 1949 Maharaj of Balampur performed a Yagna the Temple and secured financial aid
18. Abhiramdas surveyed the Temple in 1949 and sprinkled Sarayu water to sanctify it,
19. P. V.Narasiha Rao, who apparently locked himself in his chamber till the demolition was complete and did not come out! He, in his own way, showed devotion to Rama. Price? The Prime Ministership. 1n the 1996 General Elections to the Lok Sabha, Congress, under P.V’s leadership lost with marginal votes in the Muslim dominated Constituencies.
To say that, ‘Even the devils quote the scriptures’ may be impolite. Yet it is true that Narendra Modi quoted Gandhiji. Gandhiji visualized a spiritual Rama, apart from the one created by Valmiki, by some noteworthy examples of the renderings of the Ramayana tale in Vernacular.
The Sri Ranganatha Ramayanam was adapted by Gona Budda Reddy and is the Telugu version of the Ramayana between 1300 and 1310 A.D. The Molla Ramayanamu was adapted by poet Molla,
The Assamese version is Saptakanda Ramayana. The Assamese Katha Ramayana or Kotha Ramayan was written in the 14th century by Madhava Kandali.
In Bengali Krittivasi Ramayan written by Krittibas Ojha in the 15th century is famous.
In the Maithili language popular in the Mithila region of present Bihar, Chanda Jha(1831-1907)’s Mithila Bhasha Ramayana, is popular.
Ramayana written by Krishnadasa Shama in the 15th century in Goa in Konkani, manuscripts is read widely.
The Tulsi-Krta Ramayana is a Gujarati adaptation of Tulsidas’ Ramcharitamanas in the 17th century, by the poet Premanand Swami.
The Kashmiri Ramavatara Charita was written in the 19th century.
The Classical Kannada versions of the Ramayana – the Kumudendu Ramayana (a Jain version), was written in the 13th century and the Kumara-Valmiki Torave Ramayana, written in the 16th century.
The earliest known extant poetic work in Malayalam is Ramacharitam, based on Yuddha Kanda written by Cheeraman 12th century. The Kannassa Ramayanam written by Niranam Rama Panicker in the 16th century, Adhyatma Ramayanam Kilipattu written by Thunchaththu Ezhuthachan in the 16th century (The most popular one) and “Mappila Ramayanam.” among the Muslims
The Marathi Bhavartha Ramayana written by Sant Eknath in the 16th century. There is also a reference of a Ramayana being translated into old Marathi during the 12th or 13th century,
From The Odia Dandi Ramayana or Jagamohan Ramayana adapted by Balaram Das in the 14th Century to Upendra Banja’s BaidehishbVilasa in 17th Century, Ramayana in Odissa has a long history,
The Ramcharitmanas written by Goswami Tulsidas in the 16th century is the epitome of Ramakatha,
The Tamil Kambaramayanam, a popular version, written by poet Kamban in the 12th century, in its variations is well known all over the country,
Persian version was commissioned by the Mughal emperor Akbar in 1558-1590.
Ramayana continues to influence creativity. As a linguist and lover of books, Gandhiji must have had, at least Elementary knowledge of these Magnum Opus and if he were to be alive, he would have studied all of them.
I want to conclude with hindsight, BJP, inter alia Congress, was an active accomplice in the bifurcation of A.P. in 2014. The UPA( United Progressive Alliance) led by Congress was a divided house. As many as 25 Members from AP were opposed to it. But for BJP’s support, the division would have been impossible at that stage. Further during the electioneering in 2014 Modi in clear terms announced Special Category Status (SCS) to Andhra Pradesh. The promise is honored in the breach. The memory of the people of AP is not so poor. BJP, on its own to make its presence felt in A.P. may take few decades.
If Bapu were alive today, would he have attended the power-packed ceremony at Ayodhya? Almost certainly not. He would have been far away, walking in south Kashmir or in flood-ravaged Assam or sitting with desperate jobless migrants in COVID times, reaching out to the weakest and the most vulnerable, not just with financial help, but offering emotional and spiritual comfort. However, he is gone, and we will soon get a grand Ram Mandir. But who will build Ramrajya in India?
(KC Kalkura is an advocate and columnist from Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh. Ph 9440292979)