My roots lie in my ancestral village located in South Haryana. No matter where I go, a flash of memories of the green fields, canopies of trees, chirping of sparrows, synchronized screams of peacocks, my grandmother feeding cows and buffalos have always evoked a magically comforting effect on me. Whenever I call my family members in my village, if I hear the scream of the peacock in the background, I feel as if I have been transported back to my roots.
Late evening on the 5th of August when I made a video call to my 17-year-old cousin residing in my village, I could see several glowing Diyas (earthen lamp) in his house. I asked him the reason for lighting the diyas and he innocently replied “Today Ram Mandir Bhoomi Pujan is there” and thus, every house in the village is lighting at least one diya.” He asked me how many diyas I had lit – one or five?
I knew very well about Bhoomi Poojan on 5th August. Here, in my flat at Bangalore, I was watching the News channels debating the issue endlessly. They discussed whether it was appropriate to conduct Bhoomi Pujan amid COVID-19, Muharat during the Rahu Kal, who is there and who should be on the invitee list, the grandness of the Pujan, the colour of clothes of Ram Lalla, secular fabric of our country and whether chants of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ was intimidating to Muslims.
Once I was done with the call, I wondered whether were are getting a little too absorbed in this era of 24 hours news updates, live debates, questioning and cross-questioning. Are we in the bargain, distancing ourselves from simplistic and obvious reception of auspicious event like the celebration being done in my village? My mind took me to a nostalgic trip down memory lane where I could again smell the soil of my village.
In my childhood, the trend of going on vacation to new cities was totally unheard of. For us, summer vacations meant visiting my father’s village or my mother’s village, which we eagerly looked forward to. Spending time with my grandmother was the best part of vacations – even better than a break from studies. Every time I met her, I touched her feet and greeted her with “Ram Ram”, to which she always replied back “Ram Ram Beta”. This is the way everybody still greets each other there.
I remember walking with her in the streets of the village and enthusiastically greeting each elderly woman we met on the way with “Ram Ram Maa ji”, and the elderly men with “Ram Ram Baba”. I remember how she related everything to Ram. She used to tell me bedtime stories and when there was some incidence of a miracle in the plot of the story, she attributed it to Ram.
She thanked Ram for good rains and crop with her folded hands pointing towards the sky and saying “Ram Kripa” (Ram’s blessings). If rains were less, she used to pray “Ram Kripa Karo” (Ram please bless). If someone got a government job in the neighbourhood, she used to say “Ram ki Kripa hui uss par” (Ram blessed him). She used to take me to the village temple for Pooja where the Poojari of temple chanted “Siya-Ram, Siya-Ram, Jai Jai Ram” and each tile of temple wall had Sita-Ram written on it.
Once on the way back home from the temple, she explained to me how in the village, most parents chose the name for their children with Ram in it – Ram Swarup, Ram Chandra, Daya Ram, Ram Kishan, Ramfal etc. so that they can recite Ram name while calling the kid! This was especially so, as the excruciating work involving their agricultural fields and cattle would not leave them much time for Bhajan and Kirtan. Every Diwali, she would not leave any corner of the house without a lit Diya.
Close relatives of my parents reside in various villages of Haryana, Rajasthan, Delhi and Western UP. I have visited them on various occasions and have never found a single village where “Ram Ram” is not the way of greeting and Ram is not ingrained in daily life events- whether good or bad. Ram resides in the heart and soul of our country and Ram Mandir Bhoomi Pujan was indeed a great and auspicious event which calls for celebrations.
Every year, India celebrates Diwali on Amavasya day of Karthik masa, when Ram returned to Ayodhya after completing Vanvasa of 14 years. But on the 5th of August Ram Lalla returned to his rightful abode after Vanvasa of more than 500 years and that is a special Diwali which is bigger than what all of us celebrate annually.
Ram Mandir has been a hot political issue since decades but should that reduce the glory of this auspicious day? If we speak in political terms, nobody can deny the fact that no government, whatever may be the reason, could pull the Ram Mandir out of the legal labyrinth in the last 70 years. It is correct that Honorable Supreme court gave the judgment in the favor of Ram Mandir but due credit should also go to the Modi Led BJP government. The current government pursued the case in the apex court till its conclusion with a genuine intent of finding the solution, unlike previous governments which were hell-bent to protract it.
At this august moment, grateful citizens of India are rightly thanking Modi for paving the path for Bhoomi Poojan. The opposition parties, blinded by hatred for Modi, should not demean the importance of Ram in our life by questioning the requirement of Ram Mandir.
For those, who are unable to accept and admit the contribution of the Modi led BJP govt in the reclamation of Ram Janmabhoomi, I have few questions – Had it been UPA or any govt other than BJP at the centre, would Bhoomi Pujan have been possible even after Honorable Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in favour of the Mandir? Had it been Samajwadi govt in UP, would the Bhoomi Pujan be possible even after Honorable Supreme Court ruling? If not for the remaining tenure of the Modi govt, would we hope that we would see the completion of the temple? Probably not.
As I was getting lost in the memories of my village with my phone lying near my pillow, a message alert ring on Whatsapp brought me back to my senses. I checked it – my cousin had sent me a picture of a glowing diya placed near the matka (earthen pot) on a rectangular platform in the centre of the courtyard of his house.
Almost immediately, I started searching for my diyas. I took five of them, filled them with oil, lit them up at the entrance of my flat. I could not stop myself clicking a picture of diyas and sending it with a smiley and a caption “Ram Ram” under it to my cousin in my village.
I wanted to tell him to show that photograph to my grandmother and say “Ram Ram” loudly near to her ear on my behalf as her hearing capacity was reduced. I knew that seeing glowing diyas at the entrance of my flat would have made her extremely happy. But it was wishful thinking; I could not tell him so because suddenly the reality dawned on me and tears started rolling down the cheeks. She had passed away in February after taking ill. I still regret I could not make it to my village for attending her last rites which involved chanting of “Ram Nam Satya Hai”.