Ramayana narrates the story of lord Ram, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu. It is believed He had taken birth as a human to restore balance in this world. Ram was a descendent of Ikshvaku, a legendary king of ancient India. The dynasty originates from Shraddhadeva Manu, the seventh of 14 Manus of current aeon. According to Matsya Purana, Shraddhadeva Manu had saved the lives of Saptarishis during the great deluge.
He was the son of Vivasvan hence is also called Vaivasvata Manu. One of the ten sons of Shraddhadeva Manu was Ikshvaku, who was the progenitor of the solar dynasty or Suryavansh. The region of Koshala (modern day Awadh in the Indian state of UP), was their kingdom. Koshala had three major cities, Saket, Shravasti (birthplace of Maharaja Suheldev) and Ayodhya.
According to Hindu religious text “Garuda Purana”, Ayodhya is also considered as one of the seven sacred places to attain “Moksha” – the Indian concept of liberation of the soul from the cycle of birth & death. It is also the very place where billions of Sanatanis believe lord Ram was born. So, Ayodhya is considered to be one of the most sacred places as the lord Himself had taken birth in the sacred city.
The great Sanskrit poet Kalidas in his immortal work “Raghuvamsa” mentions different rituals related to Lord Ram in Ayodha during 600 B.C. Ram is considered to be one of the 63 illustrious people known as Salakapurusha. Ram is considered to be a Bodhisattva in Buddhist literature in Dashrath Jatak, Anamak Jatak etc. Ramayan is mentioned in at least four places in the Mahabharata.
Innumerable places, temples have been associated with Ramayana across the subcontinent, since time immemorial. There are hundreds of versions of Ramayana within India and many more like Turkistan’s khotani Ramayan, Tibetian Ramayan, Indonesian Kakben Ramayan, Thailand’s Ramkiyen, etc all celebrate the story of lord Ram in much grandeur and passion.
Around 11th century A.D. many temples of Lord Ram were build up by the King of Gahadavala dynasty. The famous Historian and Indologist Hans T. Bakker clearly mentioned the existence of many temples including a Vishnu temple in the birthplace of Lord Ram in his book “Ayodhya: A Hindu Jerusalem. Besides Parabhram Shiva temple in Java and ancient Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia has Ramayan engraved on it. Every ancient or medieval temple have references to Ramayan curved on it’s walls.
Destruction of Temples: Mughal period
Many researchers and Hindu leaders claimed at least sixty thousand temples were destroyed during the Mughal period (1526-1857) in India. However the numbers are sure to rise if the earliest Islamic invaders are considered starting from Arab invasion of Sindh in the 7th century followed by Mohammed Bin Qasem, Mahmud Ghazni, Salar Masood, Muhammad Ghori or Afghan, Turkik invasions.
Though it is claimed the disputed structure was constructed after demolishing the existing Ram temple by Mir Baki following orders of Babar, the Mughal invader. In 1574 the Vaishnav saint Tulsidas in his writing “Ramcharitmanas” and in 1598 Abu al-Fazal also in his third volume of ‘Akbarnama ” mentioned the Lord Ram birthday festival in Ayodhya. They did not mention any existence of a mosque.
The first existence of a mosque was mentioned in a book written by the granddaughter of Aurangzeb and she also mentioned demolition of temples and desecration of other sacred Hindu cities like Varanasi and Mathura. Similar observations were also mentioned by many foreign travellers like William Finch and Joseph Tiefenthaller.
In 1717, Jaisingh II purchased lands and established Jaisnighpura in all Hindu religious centres across North India including Ayodhya. This provided “safe space” for the Sanatanis where they could perform their daily rituals without fear or intimidation. There is recorded history that Guru Govind Singh ji came to defend the temple and fought alongside Sant Vaishnav Das ji against the iconoclastic forces of Islam.
Since the temple complex was occupied and desecrated by Mir Baki, Babur’s general, Hindus have waged constant battle to reclaim the land. The history of Mewar by James Todd mentions multiple attempts by descendants of Rana Sangha to reclaim the sacred land. ‘Sanatani’ people from across the country have waged multiple battles with a fair share of success and failure.
The only example of an inspired human effort of such a large scale to reclaim something held so sacred can only be found in the history of Crusades. An FIR was filed by the police official of Awadh on 28th November 1858 mentioned that about 25 Nihang Sikhs entered the Babri structure, conducted ‘HawanPujan’ for weeks. Using charcoal, they had also graffitied the inner walls with the name of Ram.
This shows the name of Ram is held sacred by the different Dharmic traditions born in India. In 1885 Hindus appeal for construction of Ram Temple was rejected by Court to favour status quo condition.
Post Independent Movement
In 1949, Sant Digvijay Nath of Gorakhnath Math organised a 9-day continuous recitation of ‘Ramcharit Manas’ and at the end of which the Hindu activists broke into the mosque and placed idols of Rama and Sita inside. In the 1980s Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) started a campaign to build Ram temple in Ayodhya.
In 1984 the president of VHP Ashok Singhal initiated a nationwide movement. As a result, PM of that time Shri Rajiv Gandhi ordered the opening of the mosque door for Hindus to perform their rituals.
BJP: the political face of the movement
In 1990, Iron Man of BJP Shri LK Advani started Rath Yatra from Somnath with full support from Vajpayeeji. Present PM Narendra Modi was the organizer in charge of that Rath Yatra. Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi, Sadhvi Ritambhara, Uma Bharati were some of the other heavyweight leaders who actively shaped up the last struggle for reclaiming the sacred land.
Demolition of Babri structure
6th Dec 1992: Thousands of ‘Kar Sevaks’ of VHP and allied organisations were accused of demolishing the mosque. Advani Ji famously roared “30 Oct ko waha pahuch kar kar seva karenge aur Mandir Wahi Banayenge. Usko kaun rokega, kaunsi sarkar rokne wali hai ” (We will reach there on oct 30th for KarSeva and we will build Mandir on the sacred space. Who can stop that? Which government can prohibit that?)
BJP stalwart Vajpayee Ji gave an iconic speech when he said “zameen ko samtal karna padega” (the land has to be flattened) for doing Bhajan, kirtan. Kalyan Singh Ji, the then UP Chief Minister refused to fire bullets on ‘Kar Sevaks’ and later resigned. He will always be remembered for his decision which saved thousands of lives.
The iconic leader of this movement was Ashok Singhal Ji who had a very simple opinion. He said we are not against Islam or Masjids, you are welcome to make your player hall at a place of your choice; but, it cannot happen in the birthplaces of Ram (Ayodhya), Krishna (Mathura) or one of the 12 original Jyotirlingas (Varanasi), the Tridev (3 great lords) of Hindu Pantheon.
Some observers may be of the opinion that it was a gender specific movement where only “men” participated. It may be a news for them that Sadhvi Ritambhara, Uma Bharti ji inspired the whole generation of Kar Sevaks. Sadhvi Ritambhara insisted “Mandir Wahi Banayenge” (We will construct the temple on the very spot) while Uma Bharti ji bellowed “unki goliya kam padh jaengi lekin sina kam nehi padenge” (they will run out of bullets but we will not run out of people to face them).
PM Narasimha Rao ordered an investigation and formed the Liberhan Commission under the Justice Liberhan. Hindu and Muslim groups filed petition in Court for the land. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) studied in depth in order of the High Court and concluded the existence of a large temple under the Babri mosque. To maintain status quo Allahabad High court ordered to distribute the disputed land between Hindu and Muslim group.
Petition to Supreme Court
Challenging Allahabad High Court’s verdict, all parties appealed to the Supreme Court. K Parasaran and Dr. Subhramanian Swamy are the most prominent faces who fought for Hindus’ demand of Ram temple. While Parasaran Ji was fighting on the technicalities of the case, Swami Ji, inspired by Periyava (the jagatguru of Kanchi Peeth) opened a new front that played a huge role in this case.
Swamiji appealed on the basis of fundamental right to worship at the stop where tradition tells us Shri Ram was born. And as it is well known that a mosque is a prayer hall which can be shifted according to convenience, it is very different from a temple. Sanatanis believe that post the elaborate process of “Pran-Pratishtha” a deity is invoked at a sacred spot and the God lives there.
And the devotees may only see the moorti (idol), but the God residing in it observes us. Hence it is a personal question of faith and according to the Supreme Court of India, faith is unquestionable. As ASI (Archeological Survey of India) under KK Muhammad ji provided proof of a pre-existing Hindu temple structure, it became obvious that the medieval structure was constructed by demolishing an older Hindu temple, a residence
of the residing deity and also, according to an interpretation of Islamic laws, no mosque can be erected by demolishing any other place of worship.
Final Verdict from the Supreme Court
6th August 2019: 5 judge constitution bench headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi started final hearing. In the end, the disputed land was given to the Hindu party only for construction of temple and ordered the Government of India to provide alternative land to the Muslim for construction of mosque.
Back in the day when the ironman of BJP, Shri LK Advani ji had thundered that we will go to the very spot and construct a grand temple to Ram, no government, no individual can stop it, he was mocked and jeered by the self declared progressives, liberals and leftists. Now after all these days, Advani Ji has the last laugh.
As Swami Vivekananda said “I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance”. The World’s largest democracy again proves the realization of Swamiji. Almost 80% of the population patiently waited for seven decades after independence for their fundamental right to pray.
Such is the integrity of India and patience of Sanatanis. But the world usually interprets patience as cowardice. The construction of this Ram Temple is an assertion of the indigenous Hindu identity. The declaration to the world that we can be defeated only for a time being, but we will always be back to reclaim what is rightfully ours.
We are the most stubborn of all as time and again we have proved our mettle. Be it reconstructing Somnath Mandir, Puri Jagannath Mandir over and over again at the same spot or the Grand Ram temple now. We Indians have proved ourselves to be the rightful descendants of our ancestors who refused to succumb under constant barbaric Islamic onslaught during the middle ages.
Jai Shree Ram, Bharat Mata Ki Jai.
Rudra Prasanna Banerjee is a Genetics Researcher in University of Alberta in Canada and Rajarshi Mukherjee is a Community Medicine Expert in Alberta in Canada.