The Ram Mandir project can only be deemed successful if it brings about a movement to reclaim, revive and restore all the temples that were destroyed by the invaders.
What if, recognizing the wisdom of his Sabha, Ravana had given up Sita?
What if, on the advice of the Kuru elders, Dhritarashtra had given those 5 villages to the Pandavas, as asked by Yudhishthira?
In either case, would the Avatara Dharma of Rama and Krishna have been achieved? Ravana would have continued to run riot over the Devatas and the Kauravas would have continued to spread their evil. But thankfully in both the cases the intransigence of the Adharmi – Ravana and Duryodhana – made sure that the events progressed to the climax and dharma samsthapanafinally happened.
Hindu history is full of such stories, of strategic short-sightedness. Other famous ones we live to regret are:
- Prithviraj Chauhan letting Muhammad Ghori live to fight another day, instead of pushing through to completely nullify the threat.
- Nehru and Congress, not insisting upon entire population exchange during partition, where everybody who voted for the Muslim League in the 1946 elections, should have been sent to Pakistan and all the Hindus, Pathans/Baloch who did not want the partition brought into India. Instead, the very people who voted for partition are coddled and spoiled, as they poison the nation.
- Not carrying through the gains in Kashmir through to complete victory, and running to UN for a ceasefire at that point.
- Not using the Bangladesh war, the 90000 prisoners captured to take a strong strategic position and settle the issues once and for all.
It used to be popularly said that the Indian cricket team was capable of grasping defeat from the jaws of victory. This can be said of Hindus too in all kinds of contexts. Strategic Shortsightedness has been a recurring theme in the historical accounts of the Indian people.
As we speak, another battle is raging on in Ayodhya and it does seem that we are fast approaching the tipping point. But will it be yet another case of 5 villages, or will it be the ringing sound of Panchajanya at Kurukshetra? Will it be a token victory or a trigger for a massive unpredictable churn?
I live in Tamil Nadu and may never even visit Ayodhya. Rama for me lives in Kambar’s verses, in the songs of the Aazhwars, Arunachala Kavi; my favorite temple of Rama is at Vaduvur; Rameshwaram, Thirupullani all resonate with Ramayana for me; yet why do I care about Ayodhya?
According to the courts, it is simply a land dispute between a few parties. Given that there are thousands of such disputes rotting in the courts of India, is it merely the land dispute that concerns people like me? Further, will a legislation specific to Ayodhya, set all the concerns to rest? Such a legislation will be similar to the case of being happy with just 5 villages, while Vidharmi and Adharmi still occupy multiple other sacred spaces of the spiritual geography of this Rashtra.
Hands tied, legs shackled, body bound, mouth stuffed, ears plugged, eyes blinded it struggles, and now an opportunity presents for freedom, are we just going to be satisfied, if one eye alone is unblinded? Instead, should not Ayodhya be the precedent, the template, to set all our heritage free?
If we keep our struggle restricted to Ayodhya, then what about Mathura and Kashi? And what about those sacred sites that have faded from public memory? From Martand in Kashmir, to Mylapore in Chennai, where the Portuguese proudly recorded that they destroyed the pagodas of ‘Melihapore’ — the original temple of Kapaleeshwara, and built the San Thome Cathedral on top of it? Will there be court cases running for decades for each of these sites? Will political parties be using each one of these cases to fuel their campaigns? Or will there be a legislation addressing our heritage, something which prioritizes heritage based on its antiquity?
“Any older site, structure or substance of heritage, will have a priority over any later construction or occupation. Such sites are the eminent domain of the nation”
See, it is secular, not specific to Hindus.
The legislation should enable any prior claim of antiquity to be investigated, i.e. if there is a dispute about a mosque in Kashi, the onus of proving that there was no pre-existing structure of heritage value should be on the mosque. If the challenge is proven false, the claimants must pay for the compensation of loss of valuable time of the courts. But if evidence favours the claim of an older structure, then the older structure must be revived but not necessarily by demolishing the later structure. If feasible, it can be transplanted to a different location.
Alternatively, the stakeholders of the newer structure, can pay a negotiated compensation and rent at market rates, to the stakeholders of the old structure, and retain the structure, but this would have to be revisited at regular intervals. So, in the case of the Kapaleeshwara and San Thome, the Church of South India will have to pay rent to Kapaleeshwara every year at commercial rates and thank him for hosting their cathedral. If it happens that a temple was built upon a mosque or church, the temple should also do so. But in either case, the claimants must be currently citizens of India and their culture should be alive in the country, not merely a historical relic.
Such a legislation, which prioritizes antiquity over imposition, will open the way for the reclamation of all the heritage in one stroke. That would be a strategic win. Will it cause an overnight change? No, it won’t, but it establishes a clear precedent, which can be used in the future. In this way, the legal obstructions will be considerably reduced.
But wouldn’t this be insulting to Muslims and Christians? No, why should it be construed in this way? Islam and Christianity came to India as invasive religions causing massive depredations. Those faiths are now included in our society but there is no reason why the damages of those invasions should not be repaired. Those who adhere to those faiths today, if they truly are peaceable and wish for amity, would acknowledge that fact and assist in reparations. Are they responsible for the acts of foreigners — Turks, Persians, Central Asians, English, Portuguese and Europeans? If they are not, then they have no ownership over the structures, built by these foreigners either. This is no different from demanding the return of our heritage artwork from Britain.
And why is the reclamation of such heritage so important? Because like Ramayana, Mahabharatha — we need something which will span the entire nation, and is a common cause for every Hindu, beyond merely voting for a political party or a person, something that is both local to our immediate culture, yet connects us to a greater substrate of the civilization and nothing better serves this purpose as do our temples.
- They are local, but networked — as Dhams, Shakthi Peetas, Jyothir Lingas, Divya Desas, every Sheetala devi associates with Maariamman and so on;
- They are expressions of our faith, hated by adversaries as abodes of idols. (Recently, a proselytizer by the name Mohan Lazarus called them ‘Strongholds of Satan’)
- They are the repositories of history — either of a glorious past or a reminder of a wounded one;
- They were and can be the hubs of the community, to organize around — to educate, to provide social services.
Temples can unite us across languages, political affiliations, caste, class and so on because even though our categories are varied, there is a temple for each one of us. The preservation of these sacred spaces is our common cause while retaining the diverse traditions practiced within the precincts of these marvellous structures.
Ram Mandir should never be reduced to a mere ploy for political consolidation for a party. It is not a symbol of cultural nationalism or something like a museum or a tourist attraction. It should be a glowing ember of Adhyatmikta — where there is prana pratishta of the deity. It should be Rama who should be the owner of the Mandir and all others would merely be trustees, including the government and even the people. That is precisely why all the planned tall statues and infrastructure upgrades are immaterial, without the ‘pratishta’ of the temple itself.
Ram Mandir —will be a victory only if it brings about a movement to reclaim, revive, restore all the temples, to their glory as the hub of Hindu communities. The court verdict about a piece of land is actually a minor part of it. If we fail to realize the real significance of Ayodhya Ram Janma Bhoomi, then we are more ignorant about our own traditions than the invaders of Islam and colonizers of Christianity. They knew precisely the impact of temples to the practice of Hindu philosophies. They could have built their mosques and cathedrals on any other piece of land and not taken the trouble of razing the temples to the ground. But they chose not to, for they knew exactly what they were doing.
The adversaries of Hindus were, and are, aware that it is not a mere land dispute but a clash of civilizations. Mahmud of Ghazni was entreated by Anandpal of Thaneshwar not to destroy the temples and that any tribute he demands will be given instead. But Ghazni was very clear that it was an injunction of Islam that the worship of ‘false gods’ should be rooted out from the face of the earth (including India), so he ought to destroy them. (Reference: History of the Rise of the Mahomedan Power in India by John Briggs — Translated from the Original Persian of Mahomed Kasim Ferishta)
The Nawabs of Arcot constituted probably the very last Muslim dynasty established in India, at the far south and a minor dynasty which did not rule freely for more than 50–60 years as the British took over the reins. But within the short period, their standing achievement was the defacement of the wall relief sculptures of Vaikuntha Perumal temple.
The colonizing Christians were more varied in their approach,
The British preferred to take the heritage treasures away and display them in England as trophies of conquest.
The Dutch preferred to behave like kidnappers and demanded a ransom to return the looted Murthis.
The Portuguese were the forerunners of Taliban and ISIS, they were not fame-minded or money-minded at all, they just destroyed away.
But whichever be the case, the trauma they caused is undeniable.
In such a civilizational war, we can’t delude ourselves or be satisfied with recovering one site. #MandirWahinBanayenge should trigger #HarMandirChhudayenge. Any legislation should thus be overarching, initiating a renaissance of reclamation of the heritage of India. Such a legislation cannot be limited to Ayodhya alone. If that does not happen, then we would have again won the battle and lost the war, just like Prithiviraj Chauhan who won only to lose another day.