The consecration ceremony of Sri Ram Temple at Ayodhya, which is being held on January 22, 2024, is an epoch-making day in free Indian history. It is the day of the reincarnation of faith. Ayodhya means that it cannot be subdued by war. It contained forts with moats around them as well as many defensive installations. The literary meaning of Ayodhya is that it is insurmountable, it cannot be defeated by enemies, and it is invincible. Ayodhya was the capital of Kosala. True to its name, Ayodhya, with the consecration of Sri Ram Temple, defied all its enemies. It has re-established the truth that faith in Sri Ram can never be trampled down forever. It is a memorable day, a day of great joy. It is the result of so many years of labour and a struggle with tears. At last, a long-awaited, heartfelt wish of millions of Indians has come true.
Naturally, Indians living in different parts of the world are very eager to see the celebrations at the Ram temple. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America has taken the lead in organizing the celebrations of Ram Temple in the United States. Hindu Americans have planned a series of events to celebrate the inauguration of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, which includes lighting diyas, organizing car rallies, live screenings, and community gatherings. The enthusiasm among Hindu Americans is unprecedented.
Lord Rama, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu, is also known as Purushottam Ram, the best of men. He carries a bow and arrow and is believed to have taken birth to destroy evil forces. He is regarded as the ideal man. People have the delectable doctrine of faith in the Ramayana, the deeds of Sri Ram. The Vedas, Puranas, and all the scriptures declare that without faith in Rama, there is no happiness. In Ram’s discourse, man attains his end. ‘As long as the mountains stand, Lord Brahma said, and the rivers flow so long, shall the Ramayana be cherished among men and save them from sin’.
Tulsidas was a devotee of Sri Ram of the highest order. He wrote, ‘When I shall behold Rama’s lotus feet, then I shall account my life to have been worth living. Every sage whom I questioned told me, The Lord is present in all his creatures.’ The identity of Ram and what he stands for are part of India’s proud heritage. Ram came to reign in the hearts and minds of the people on the vast landmass of India. From North to South, and from West to East, the footprints of the Ramayana are spread everywhere.
Incidentally, the general elections also fall this year. So, for all political parties, the Sri Ram temple inauguration ceremony is an occasion to make or break their political fortunes in the upcoming general elections. It has become a political issue in the general Lok Sabha elections. During the 2014 general elections, Sri Ram Temple was one of the main poll promises of Narendra Modi. The promise to build Sri Ram temple on the site has been the party’s rallying cry since the 1980s. With the groundbreaking ceremony at Ayodhya, Modi has delivered a campaign promise to India.
Modi was a part of Lal Krishna Advani’s rath yatra, where he learned to pick up the pulse of the people. Advani brought the Ayodhya issue to the fore of India’s political discourse with his rath yatra, which was launched on September 30, 1990. The original charioteer may have faded away from the political scene, but the impact of his initiative has had a lasting impact on the country’s politics and national consciousness. It was Modi who fortified that dream. At that time, Modi was the main coordinator of the rath yatra that was taken out from Somnath under the leadership of LK Advani. The Modi-led-led always stood for due legal process. After the verdict of the apex court, the government formed the Shri Ram Janma Bhoomi Tirtha Kshetra’ Trust, which was tasked with taking all decisions regarding the construction of the temple.
The Ram temple will go beyond the symbolism of a Hindu deity to signal a larger message of cohesion and cultural synthesis. The Modi-led BJP government has invoked cultural linkages with the new temple as the building materials are sourced from many of the poll-bound states. So Narendra Modi has acted throughout the period of the Ram temple movement as a Sri Ram Bhakta Hanuman, the worshipper of Lord Rama.
By contrast, most notably, the Indian National Congress and all left-leaning parties since the beginning were against the construction of the Sri Ram temple. Even they did not play a constructive role in bringing out a compromise outside the Apex Court. Because of their one-sided obstinacy and arrogance, the two major communities of India had, for many decades, remained in conflict. There is nothing wrong if recognition of mistakes leads to course correction. All commit mistakes of one kind or another, at some time or another. Knowing we committed mistakes and having the courage to rectify them absolves us of the judgement of history. Injustices of different kinds have often marred our society. But it has never been bereft of the impulses of self-reform and self-renewal.
Indian history shows that the integration of diverse elements and creating unity out of this diversity has been its greatest strength. Someday, the entire world will have to follow this universal ideal of India. It is an undeniable fact that the two-nation theory was a terrible mess. The force of uniting all through the virtues of mutual learning, mutual assimilation, and the creation of a broader synthesis has been ceaselessly at work in India even today. Without this force, India would have disintegrated long ago into many warring social groups and nations.
Naturally, the parties who opposed the Ram temple found it difficult to attend the Ram temple ceremony. The Congress declared that it would skip the massive inauguration ceremony being planned for the Ayodhya Ram Temple, saying it was a ‘political project’ of the BJP and its ideological mentor, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Religion is a personal matter. But the RSS/BJP has long made a political project of the temple in Ayodhya. Several opposition parties, including the Left and the Trinamool Congress, have made it clear that they would skip the event as well. CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury has turned down the invitation to attend the consecration ceremony of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya. In 2020, Yechury criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for laying the foundation stone of the Ram Temple at Ayodhya, saying that it was a violation of the Constitution in letter and spirit. They have been speaking in many voices.
Since its birth in India, the Left has treated Indian culture with contempt. India has a bourgeoisie culture, and Indian intellectuals are petty bourgeons. But for the Congress, it is a historical mistake to dissociate it from the main cultural ethos of India. Many lessons in life are learned with the benefit of retrospection. After history has already moved on, we realize we ought to have been on the right side of history.
However, whatever Indian political parties decide, the singing of Sri Ram’s deeds as described by Valmiki in his immortal book Ramayana will not stop. Sri Ram’s deeds are sung in every town and in every village, not merely in the Gangetic Plains but also all over India. Nothing would uplift or inspire us as much as the beauty and aspiration of the Ramayana, which can teach. The Ramayana harmonizes true culture and will reconcile the disorders of modern life. The real need of the hour is a re-communication between us and the sages of our land, so that the future may be built on rock and not on sand. Through our deep familiarity with our ancient heritage, we desire to preserve our individuality as a nation and serve the world through dharma, which alone can save mankind from error and extinction. Let us always keep in mind the fact that it is the Ramayana that binds our vast numbers together as one people, despite caste, space, and language.
Of all, the most remarkable is that both India and Greece have significant similarities in the matter of culture and religion. We know that both India and Greece are idolatrous nations. Idolatry is common in both Hindu and Greek religions. Greece had lost political power in the second and third centuries. Greece lost its religion and had to adopt Christianity. But Greece, like India, possessed splendid literature and an inalienable heritage. So Greece could comply with the greater calmness of political subjection because, in the domain of cultural heritage, she was still supreme with an indisputable supremacy. India, despite foreign domination for many centuries, which resulted in the loss of political power and the displacement of millions of her people, has retained her hold on its culture and religion in spite of tremendous pressure. India has shown that she has been the greatest shock absorber.
Interestingly, both India and Greece are nations of talkers. A large proportion of people in both nations have a love of speech, which is second nature. Their main subject matter in the talk is literature, poets, and religion. People read them not only for their literature but also for their moral values. The Greek epics Homer and Elliot were read and are even now read by the Greek people as the Hindus read the Ramayana and Mahabharata. They are committed to memory. The minds of people from both nations are saturated with their literature. A quotation from Homer or from a tragic poet is appropriate on all occasions and in every kind of society. The Indians, both common citizens and politicians, often cite remarkable phrases from the Ramayana in their social conversations as well as in public speeches.
Almost all the inhabitants of Greece knew the Iliad by heart, as the Indians love the Ramayana by the soul and do not care to hear about anything else. Tulsi Das’s song on Ram and Sita could be heard in the heartland of Northern India even today. Sri Ram’s deeds are chanted all over India as Christians chant the Bible in the church. Every Hindu reads the deeds of Sri Ram, just as every Zoroastrian reads the Avesta. Every Hindu is fond of the Ramayana, just as every Jew is fond of the Old Testament. Often, phrases of Ram are quoted on every occasion all over India. Indian soil is flooded with the devotion of Lord Rama. ‘Jai Shri Ram’ is such a wonderful chant that has always been deeply sacred to all Hindus. So, whatever may happen to India and her political parties and their politics, Sri Rama will live in all the tongues of Indian people forever.