Historicizing Myth and Mythologizing History:
The Ram Temple Drama
S. P. Udayakumar, University of Minnesota
Ayodhya had better be seen as a theater where the mythical lore
are translated into modern metaphors, and the metaphorical translations
are transformed into various but related action-projects. Having invoked a
communal understanding of national history, established its validity by
back-projecting it onto a popular story, and mobilized their adherents
through insidious political manoeuvres, the Hindu communalists have set
the stage for the actual enactment of their drama. At this crucial
juncture, the ideology, the ideologues, and their cherished dream come
together. This potent mix occupies the center stage and the whole drama
begins to revolve around it. The name of the drama is Ram Temple.
For most of the pre-independence era, the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya
did not simply exist for the majority of Indians. The mosque emerged as
the most bitterly contested terrain ever since the partition of the
country primarily because the issue was built up carefully by the Hindutva
forces with an eye on appropriating it for contemporary politics. The
controversy is more mythological than historical, and hence it is a matter
more of faith than fact. Since the issue stands on popular culture and
not on recorded history, it becomes even more prone to manipulation and
politicization. The Hindutva groups have turned the disadvantages of
unspecificities and ambiguities of the legendary problem into clear
advantages. The conflict can not be considered more concrete even from
1528 when the Babri Masjid was actually constructed because the Hindutva
groups claim that the mosque replaced an existing Ram temple for which
there has never been any tangible evidence.
Ayodhya: A Chronology
Although much has been written about this controversy rather
recently, some of it is drenched in Hindu piety and bias, and some other
works are the Hindu communalists own propaganda. Being a secular voice,
Gyanendra Pandey's chronological scheme(1) could be followed to explain
and describe the Ayodhya controversy. A brief discussion of Ayodhya and
the legends surrounding it would be an appropriate start. It is not just
the symbolic significance of the Babri Masjid but also the larger mythical
context of Ayodhya that provides a perfect setting for this communal
drama. Ayodhya is considered to be a holy place by both Hindus and
Muslims. It is the birthplace of Ram for the Hindus, and Muslims believe
that it is in the cemetery by the Saryu river in Ayodhya where Shea, the
grandson of Adam, is buried.(2)
The Ayodhya of Ram is believed to have existed in the Treta
yuga(3) of the Hindu calendar, i.e. some 900,000 years ago. According to
traditional history, Ayodhya was the capital of the Kingdom of Kosala, and
with the rise of Buddhism in sixth and fifth centuries BCE, Ayodhya was
displaced as the capital city. Scholars agree that Ayodhya was identical
with Saketa, where Buddha is said to have resided for some time.(4)
Ayodhya is said to be 'rediscovered' by 'Vikramaditya,' who is identified
by many scholars as Skandagupta of mid-5th century CE, when Buddhism began
to decline as a result of a Brahmanical resurgence.(5) While Romila Thapar
maintains "Chandra Gupta II took the title of Vikramaditya or Sun of
Prowess,"(6) Sher Singh ascertains that the claim that Skandagupta shifted
his capital to Saketa (Ayodhya) is baseless.(7) No matter how contentious
the historicity of Ayodhya is, it is nonetheless one of the seven holy
places of 'Hindus' because of its association with Ram. Of the 6,000
Hindu shrines in Ayodhya, more than 4,000 are connected with Ram.(8) This
religious importance coupled with contemporary political significance
leads the Hindu communalists to conclude: Ayodhya is the centre of our
Hindu nationhood, and Lord Rama our national leader. Without Ayodhya,
this nation cannot be a nation in the fullest sense of the word, just as
there can be no Christendom, which is what Europe is, without the
The exact location of Ayodhya is yet another controversy.
Archaeological excavations at Ayodhya which is on the right bank of the
Saryu river in Faizabad district of Uttar Pradesh reveal that "the
earliest settlement at Ayodhya did not go back prior to the early stage of
the Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW) Culture" which could be assigned
to circa 700 BCE. Thus if Ramayana episode was historical, it could not
have taken place earlier.(10) Based on Valmiki's Ramayana and a few other
sources, Sher Singh contends that if Valmiki's description of Ayodhya is
correct, it must be some 13 to 14 miles south of the river Saryu in
Nepal.(11) The traditional lack of interest in cartography in India is
not helpful to solve this riddle in any way.
The 'Muslim conquest' sets the next and most important stage in
the controversy. Emperor Babar's general, Mir Baqi, is believed to have
destroyed a Ram temple and built the Babri Masjid on the same spot around
1528 CE. If there really existed a temple before the mosque was built is
the core of the controversy now. B. B. Lal who initiated and headed an
archaeological survey of Ayodhya since 1975 and never once mentioned any
evidence of a temple at the dispute site made a surprising claim in the
RSS magazine Manthan in October 1990 to having found the pillar-bases of
what may have been a temple at the site.(12) As historical and
archaeological 'evidences' fail to tell us anything concrete or something
even remotely convincing, so do the voices of faith. As Rajeev Saxena
asks, if there was an actual demolition of a Ram temple, how come the
famous poet Tulsidas, who sang the glory of his beloved Ram during the
early part of the 17th century, kept silent on this issue. After all, the
poet wrote about secular subjects such as massive deaths in Banaras due to
epidemic and unemployment, his arthritis problem, brahmins' attack on him
for his 'low caste' status and so forth.(13)
In the 18th century, Ayodhya once again became a major center of
Hindu pilgrimage under the patronage of the Nawabs of Avadh,
Shuja-ud-daulah and Asaf-ud-daulah. Hindu revivalism which took root in
Avadh consolidated its position after the British takeover of Ayodhya. At
this time the Nirmohis, a Hindu sect who had their establishment at Ram
Ghat and Guptar Ghat, lay their claim over the Babri Masjid. They
contended that the mosque stood on the spot of the Ramjanmabhoomi temple
which was destroyed by Babar. These claims led to the violent conflict of
1853-55.(14) In May 1883 the Deputy Commissioner of Faizabad refused
permission to Hindus to construct a temple on the chabutara (platform)
just outside on the left of the gate following the objections raised by
Muslims. In 1885 Mahant Raghubar Das filed a suit with the Sub-judge at
Faizabad for permission to build the temple and in March 1886, the
Sub-judge turned down permission to construct a temple and appeals were
dismissed.(15) Tensions mounted and Muslim shaheeds (martyrs) gathered in
the fortified Babri Masjid and the Hindu counterparts thronged at the
nearby Hanuman Garhi. Following a battle, Hindus took the Babri Masjid
leaving some seventy-five Muslims dead.(16)
It is only in the nineteenth century the
temple-demolition/mosque-construction story gets recorded. In 1822
Hafizullah, an official of the Faizabad law-court claimed that "[t]he
mosque founded by emperor Babur is situated at the birth-place of Ram" and
then the story gets into the records such as P. Carnegy's historical
sketch of Faizabad (1870), H. R. Nevill's Faizabad District Gazetteer, and
as a footnote of Mrs. A. S. Beveridge's English translation of Babur's
Memoirs (1922).(17) The British often referred to the mosque in their
files as the 'Janmasthan Mosque of Ajoodhia' and put up a notice board in
front of the iron railings calling the monument, wiwad grast (disputed).
When the mosque was under the control of the Muslims through the 1920s and
1930s, it was mismanaged and neglected, and the Waqf (Muslim endowment
board) Commissioner of Faizabad condemned the muttwalii as an opium addict
in a report signed September 16, 1938.(18)
The installation of idols inside the mosque on the night of
December 22, 1949 led to the attachment and closure of the building for
both Muslims and Hindus by an administrative order. Contrary to the
'Ram's miraculous appearance' theory, the First Investigation Report of
the Station Officer of the Ayodhya police station dated December 23, 1949
stated that three individuals (Abdy Ram Das, Ram Shukla Das, Sudarshan
Das) and some 50 to 60 people had "desecrated (napak kiya hai) the mosque
by tresspassing (sic) the mosque through rioting and placing idol in it.
Officers-on-duty and many other people have seen it." Later some 5 to 6
thousand people tried to enter the mosque raising religious slogans and
kirtans but were stopped.(19)
A civil suit was filed on January 16, 1950 by an individual, Gopal
Singh Visharad, for a declaration of the right to worship. The judge
restrained the removal of the idols and ordered no interference with the
puja (worship). The state of Uttar Pradesh filed an appeal against the
injunction on April 24, 1950. According to historian Sushil Srivastava,
"from 1951 to 1986, things remained relatively quiet in Faizabad."(20)
Just like the lull between 1886 and 1950 without any street or court
battles, the period between 1951 and 1986 passed without any major
In October 1984 the VHP tried to make the mosque-temple question a
national issue through its Sri Rama Janma Bhoomi Mukti Yajna Samiti. It
was formed on July 27, 1984 with the sole aim of liberating the disputed
site. A 130-kilometer-long march was started on October 8, 1984 from
Ayodhya to Lucknow, the state capital. The yatra (march) participants
reached Lucknow on October 14, organized a public meeting, and called on
the Chief Minister "to fulfil the long outstanding demand of the Hindus."
The next day 'Sri Rama Janaki Ratha' (Ram-Sita chariot) began to tour the
major Uttar Pradesh towns so as to mobilize public opinion and to
administer 'Janmasthan Mukti Pledge' to the public. Although the 'Ratha'
reached Delhi on October 31 in order to join the 'Hindu Convention' on
November 2, Mrs. Indira Gandhi's assassination forced the cancellation of
As the Shah Bano controversy(22) was raging across India late
1985, the District and Sessions Judge of Faizabad, K. M. Pandey, ordered
to open the locks of the mosque and indirectly allowed the priests to
enter. The padlocks were removed by the order of a district judge on
February 1, 1986. After giving in to Muslim fundamentalism on the Shah
Bano case, the Rajiv Gandhi government was keen on playing the 'Hindu
card' for presumed electoral gains. N. Ram contends that the assurances
given to the Hindu communalists before the court decision and the failure
to appeal against the order revealed the collusive hand of Rajiv's
government.(23) An explosive situation emerged almost all over the
country with Muslims protesting, and VHP elements celebrating and
criticizing "Muslim objection to the judicial order on the Babri Masjid."
Rajiv's Minister for Wakf, Rajindra Kumari Bajpai, advised Muslims "to
take recourse to law and not to create disturbance."(24)
The most critical stage of the conflict was the build-up to the
1989 elections which witnessed the preparation and mobilization to
demolish the mosque and build a Ram temple with consecrated bricks brought
from all over India and other countries. As N. Ram points out, just a few
days before the 1989 general elections, the desperate Rajiv Gandhi regime
allowed the VHP to perform shilanyas (laying foundation stone) for the Ram
temple on November 9, 1989 on disputed land which was temporarily declared
to be undisputed. This action boosted the VHP-BJP-RSS combine to advance
its Ramjanmabhumi campaign through changes of regime.(25)
The November 22-24, 1989 general elections witnessed the worst
ever communal violence in the independent India's electoral history and
took a massive toll of 800 lives in the Hindi belt. V. P. Singh became
the Prime Minister with the support of the BJP who had 88 seats in the new
Parliament. The V. P. Singh regime ushered in the judicial process by
establishing a Special Bench on January 8, 1990 and pleading for a ban on
construction till the title to the disputed site could be decided and the
site-plan approved. The Special Court called upon the UP government to
clarify the status of the site. A Hindu priest filed a writ petition
seeking relief to permit construction of the temple on the spot of
shilanyas performed on November 9, 1989. Having been directed to file a
counter-affidavit by the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court, the
central government maintained that no construction could be allowed unless
all the civil suits pending before the special bench of the High Court
In the meantime, on January 12, 1990, the Supreme Court allowed
the 'Hindu' representatives to raise as a preliminary issue before the
full bench of the Lucknow High Court that the suit by the Sunni Waqf on
behalf of Muslims was not maintainable. The bench, however, decided it
would not interfere with the October 23, 1989 order of the Lucknow bench
before taking evidence for the trial of all the five suits which were from
28 to 39 years old in their pendency in the District Court. The VHP
appealed before the Supreme Court that the Sunni Waqf suit filed on
December 18, 1961 be dismissed on the grounds they cited. Meanwhile, the
AIBMAC (All India Babri Masjid Action Committee) revived its earlier
demand in its December 25, 1989 meeting that if a negotiated settlement
failed, the dispute should be decided by high court judges "of some South
Indian State, none of whom should be either Hindu or Muslim." The RSS
mouthpiece Organiser of January 14, 1990 took exception of this revived
claim and V. P. Singh's meeting with Muslim leaders, and claimed that it
"was not a case about the title of a place but of undoing a historical
wrong and for that matter no court could decide it." They would rather
follow the guidance of the Dharmacharya Sammelan (gathering of religious
heads) to be held on January 27-28, 1990 at Allahabad.(27)
The 'auspicious' February 14 was chosen to begin temple
construction which V. P. Singh managed to change with great difficulty by
pointing out the grave situation in Kashmir and Punjab. As the Hindutva
groups' June 8 deadline passed without government's settlement plan, the
VHP meeting in Haridwar decided to begin construction from October 30. At
this backdrop, V. P. Singh introduced the Reservation Bill in the Lok
Sabha on August 7, 1990 and 'upper caste' Hindus rose up in revolt. With
brahmin youths self-immolating in northern India, Advani set out in
September on his 10,000 kilometers 'rathyatra' (chariot procession) to
converge on Ayodhya for construction and to force the government to hand
over the site to the Hindutva forces. When Advani and his cohorts were
arrested in Bihar on October 23, the BJP withdrew its support to
government and V. P. Singh ministry fell on November 9.
Chandra Shekhar, who was in power from November 1990 to early
March 1991, made a breakthrough of bringing both the VHP and the AIBMAC to
the negotiation table. They met first on December 1, 1990, presented the
'evidence' of their sides to the Indian government on December 23,
obtained copies of the 'evidence' of the other side from the government,
and met again on January 10, 1991. In that meeting they decided to set up
four committees of experts nominated by both parties to examine the
historical and archaeological evidence and revenue and legal records
collected as evidence. The VHP released the summary of 'evidence' to the
public, turned down the demand of the other side for more time to study
and evaluate the evidence, and made it known that they were not interested
in an amicable solution.(28)
The ultimate stage of the conflict was Narasimha Rao government's
inaction even after the virtual announcement of the Hindu communalists of
their demolition plan in late October 1992. As N. Ram puts it: If there
is one 'theory' that this devotee of drift has contributed to national
political life, it is the non-secular rule of not opposing 'Hindu
religious sentiment' under any circumstances and of avoiding
'confrontation' with the saffron gentry and their lay allies.(29)
According to Raos statement on Ayodhya, which he was not allowed
to make in Parliament, about 70,000 kar sevaks (volunteers) had assembled
at the Ram Katha Kunj for the public meeting and 500 sadhus and sants
(religious figures) at the foundation terrace for the pooja. Between
11:45 and 11:50 a.m. some 150 kar sevaks managed to break the cordon on
the terrace and pelted stones at the police. About 1,000 kar sevaks broke
into the Babri Masjid structure and some 80 of them managed to climb on
the domes of the mosque and started demolishing them. In the meantime,
they had damaged the outer boundary wall. At around 12:20 p.m. about
25,000 kar sevaks had gathered in the complex and by 2:40 p.m. a crowd of
75,000 was surrounding the structure of whom many were engaged in
demolition.(30) Cases were registered against L. K. Advani, Murli Manohar
Joshi, and Uma Bharati of the BJP (all of whom are central government
ministers now), Ashok Singhal and Vishnu Hari Dalmia of the VHP, and Vinay
Katiyar of the Bajrang Dal. They were all arrested and remanded to
judicial custody. In an elusive statement on December 8, Advani retorted:
[W]hen an old structure which ceased to be a mosque over 50 years back is
pulled down by a group of people exasperated by the tardiness of the
judicial process, and the obtuseness and myopia of the executive, they are
reviled by the President, the Vice President and political parties as
betrayers of the nation, destroyers of the constitution and what not!
...I wish to caution Government against this approach. Their
pronouncements against kar sevaks are only strengthening the movement.(31)
Quite evidently, the Babri Masjid demolition was part of the Ayodhya
History, Myth and Narrativity
For the young and male kar sevaks, Ram is not only a favorite
deity but also a communal rendering of Indian national history. Having
been brainwashed by the rhetoric of 'heroic heritage' of the past and the
'pathetic situation' of the present, the 'Hindu' youth are made to feel
intensely the need for shunning 'impotence' and 'weakness.' They are
presented with a clear enemy and a visible symbol to destroy and establish
their 'strength and glory,' and regain their 'pride and hegemony'. The
preamble of the constitution of the RSS establishes that the organization
was created to, among other things, "to make them [Hindus] realise the
greatness of their past," and "to bring about an all-round regeneration of
the Hindu Samaj."(33) Savarkar himself has clarified: Hindutva is not a
word but a history. Not only the spiritual or religious history of our
people as it is sometimes taken to be by being confused with the other
conjugate term Hinduism, but a history in full.(34)
History, myths, and narrativity are integral parts of the holistic
scheme of a people's past memories and present identity. As myths create
a particular discursive space for changes in the knowledge of the past,
this discursiveness gains a divine ordination when religious symbols and
sensibilities are added to it. A semiotic analysis with emphasis on the
narrative structure will lead us to concur with Iqbal Ansari that the
(religion-tainted) communal perceptions of history have got entrenched in
the collective psyche of many Indians as myths and symbols, and that this
'mythic-psychic-folklorish' operant of the average Indian mind transforms
the ordinary events and incidents in the social and cultural life
affecting Hindu-Muslim relations in hue and shape. This operant makes it
possible for some politicians and bigoted religious leaders to manipulate
and mislead people.(35)
India, as a matter of fact, is a 'context-sensitive society' and
people perceive "much of their behavior against a background of social,
religious, and historicolegendary contexts." The texts here are
deliberately 'framed' by authors--"that is, placed within contexts that
provide the listener/reader with clues for interpreting its message."
This kind of metacommunicative strategies employed in 'cultural
performances,' which include folk dances and dramas, recitation of
folktales by professional bards, telling of parables and jokes in everyday
situations, religious sermons, construction of 'street speech' and so
forth, "have an ability to transform and enhance life, often by reference
to impersonal values and experiences."(36)
After all, as scholars agree, historical interpretation is a
product of contemporary ideology, which encourages the adoption of certain
attitudes and theories about the past. Contemporary ideologies,
historian's predilections, his choice of events, nature of his choice, his
subjectivity, and his narrativity are all mutually inter-connected
variables that give rise to the contemporary myth, often called the
'national history.' When a mythological story itself becomes the focal
point of this contemporary myth, we witness an inverted project of history
writing. The Ramayana, a popular Indian epic which employs metanarrative
strategies, is an important text to delineate this connection between the
popular mythological and contemporary Hindu communal version of Indian
With a "pervasive presence of Ram's name in North India" that is
reflected in invocation in moments of distress, rural greetings (Ram-Ram),
and in the pallbearers' chant (Ram nam satya hai--Ram's name is
truth),(37) it is no wonder why Hindu communalists try to appropriate the
Ramayana and come up with claims of historicity. According to V. D.
Savarkar, "Some of us worship Ram as an incarnation, some admire him as a
hero and a warrior, all love him as the most illustrious representative
monarch of our race."(38) Another Savarkar-like contends that the Ramayana
is "a scripture of the ancient Hindu Race" that reveals "picture after
picture of fascinating beauty in the life of India in that period in our
history." He claims that dharma was the essence of India then and
interjects that "[f]or the sake of dharma, my countrymen of Sind have left
their property, their lands, their native soil, and have migrated to
India." This authors "picture" gets even clearer when he asserts that
"pure-hearted brahmins" who were poor in material wealth but rich in the
wealth of the spirit were "the pillars of the state" during Ramayanic
This allegedly homogenous 'Hindu' race, according to yet another
Hindu communal writer, speaks many languages with a single vital breath
and have vast and variegated culture with a central spring of spiritual
strength: the mystic spirit of India. When Judaic monotheism in its
Islamic garb invaded the land of the Vedas and challenged the outer logic
of superior revelations such as Valmiki's Ramayana, the inner coherence
was fast forgotten by its inheritors.(40) This kind of myth is then
projected onto the 'national history' by the Hindu communalists giving
rise to subsequent sociopolitical myths. The Hindu communal forces'
invocation of Ram and Ramayana along the lines of Eurocentered taxonomies
facilitates not just the evocation of monolithic Hinduism and homogenous
'Hindu' samaj but also the eradication of the Other, Islam and Muslims.
This composition of the inner cosmos makes sure that the 'pure old glory'
of Hinduism prevails and the 'polluting and invading' Islam becomes simply
non-existent. This kind of tales "continue to mould existence for their
assenting possessors" and initiate a process of acculturation in which the
legatees absorb the possessors' legacy, viz. their 'historical knowledge
Constructing Ram Temple
Inevitably, monumentalizing this historical consciousness becomes
the logical next step of the so-called Ayodhya movement. Now that the
major impediment, the Babri Masjid, has been demolished, and that a major
political headway, the BJPs capturing power both in the state of UP and at
the center, has been accomplished, it is only a matter of time to install
the temple and inscribe the glorious Hindu history.
The Sangh Parivar laid the foundation for the temple by digging
around the Babri Masjid and filling the area with 10-feet-thick layer of
reinforced cement and concrete in July 1992. Even as Kalyan Singhs BJP
government called it a platform for performing bhajans, the VHP declared
that it was the foundation for the future Ram temple. The blueprint of
the temple that would stand 128 feet tall, occupy an area of 37,520
sq.ft., and last for 1,000 years had been prepared almost a decade ago and
was widely advertised during the Ayodhya campaign. The VHP expedited the
temple work, which was on a sluggish pace, as soon as the United Front
government fell in November 1997 and the political equation seemed to
favor the BJP.
The Ram temple has been a permanent feature of Hindu communalists
political program ever since the Hindu Mahasabha days. Launching the BJPs
election campaign in Faizabad (near Ayodhya) on February 6, 1998, L. K.
Advani reiterated the partys resolve to build the temple. He reasoned:
The BJP has put the Ayodhya issue in its election manifesto. We cannot
overlook the popular sentiments for construction of a Rama temple in the
birthplace of Lord Rama.(42) Even as the BJP-led government has avoided
putting the temple issue on the National Agenda for Governance, the VHP
has been pressing ahead with the pre-fabrication of the temple. As the
pace of the stone-cutting for the 212 pillars of the temple was not
satisfactory, the VHP selected sites in Kojra, Ajari and Pindwara villages
of Sirohi district in Rajasthan, another BJP-ruled state.(43) Ashok
Singhal, the leader of the VHP, told The Week magazine that 1,75,000 cubic
feet of pre-fabricated material was needed to build the temple and 40,000
cubic feet has already been prepared.(44)
When opposition parties protest the secret construction of the Ram
temple, Advani, the Home Minister, simply assures the Parliament that this
Government will see to it that no court order is flouted,(45) and Prime
Minister Vajpayee announces that my Government will not allow any
organization to violate the sanctity of the judicial process.(46) Neither
of them agrees to the opposition parties demand for government
intervention in the matter. It is also important to remember that both
these leaders along with their party colleagues had given similar
assurances in December 1992 just before the mosque was demolished in their
very presence. Despite all these assurances, the RSS leader, Rajendra
Singh, has proclaimed that the temple should be built at the very place
where the disputed structure was demolished. According to him, those who
opposed the temple construction had perverted minds and were appeasing
Muslims to get their votes.(47)
Living true to their family legacy of various brotherly
organizations pursuing parallel agenda and fractured agenda, the Sangh
Parivar persists with the Ram temple project in order to concretize the
Hindu historical knowledge and consciousness and to usher in the Hindu
millennium with all its old glory and pomp. The mix of Ram and history has
come to be a potent weapon for the Hindu communal forces to reap the much
desired political dividends. In fact, Ram has been utilized in this
capacity once before. Albrecht Weber quotes Talboy Wheeler in his book On
Ramayana (1873) claiming that the "Rama legend represents the victory of
Hinduism over Buddhism." When Buddhism and Jainism held sway in the
Subcontinent, the Vedic Hinduism realized the need for accommodating the
'common folks.'(48) Srivastava claims that it was during the fifteenth
century that "the rituals and traditions of Rama bhakti [devotion] were
elaborated along orthodox Vedantic lines in the Adhyatma-ramayana." When
the Rama story "wove its way inextricably into the fabric of rural culture
and religion" in the sixteenth century, the "growing popularity of Rama
forced Brahminism to accept him as an avatar [incarnation]."(49) The
brahmanical orthodoxy could spread the message that it would condescend a
dark-complexioned non-brahmin practicing certain ideals to honor and
worship, and condemn a brahmin scholar (Ravana) as demon if found
Ram is wooed once again to help consolidate the brahmanical orthodoxys
political power base. The Hindutva forces prefer militaristic manly Ram
to nonviolent baby Ram. The lone warrior Jayaram standing out in the
field with bow and arrows is liked better than the benevolent King Rajaram
sitting in his court with Sita and others. While the physical materiality
of Ram is highlighted, the pervasive spirit of Ram-ness is deliberately
downplayed. Seen from the Hindutva angle, Ram is more of a historical
hero than a mythical God. Presenting a fantastic linear account of the
past that had no Muslims, no privileges to the weaker sections of the
society, and no politicization, Ram becomes, to borrow Savarkars phrase,
history in full. Homogenizing the Hindu samaj with one God, one temple
and one book, Ram is also religion in full. Bringing the Akhand Bharat
(Greater India) that was overrun by invaders down to a specific location
(Ayodhya) where the invaders descendants and their intrusive mosque could
be pushed aside, Ram becomes geography in full. Combining all these
sentiments, secular India becomes Ramasthan, and hence the Ram temple is
the manifestation of true and sincere patriotism. If you are not part of
this self--construction, you are part of the Other--destruction.
Having translated mythical lore into modern mobilizing metaphors
and ideology, Hindu communalists transform the resultant frenzy into
retaliatory corrective measures, and in the process of which they emerge
powerful with added strength to the accentuated status-quo. The Hindutva
forces' interpretation of Hinduism and history, and their understanding of
'greatness' and 'regeneration' are all deceitful and opportunistic. In
sheer desperation, they misappropriate Indian heritage, misrepresent
Indian legends, and manipulate the people. With these careful selections
and calculated slips, the brahmanical orthodoxy plays up the symbolic
terrains of contest. The communal drama unfolds. Both Hindu and Muslim
communalists play their roles religiously, the rest of the political
entities participate as helpless side-actors, and the civil society
functions mostly as silent spectators. There is one collective villain
and no hero in this drama.
(1) See Gyanendra Pandey, "Ayodhya and the State," Seminar 364 (December
1989). p. 40.
(2) M. J. Akbar, Riot After Riot: Reports on Caste and Communal Violence
in India. New Delhi: Penguin Books, 1988. p. 133.
(3) In the Hindu cyclic theory of time, the cycle was called a kalpa
equivalent to 4,320 million earthly years. The kalpa is divided into 14
periods; each of these periods is divided into 71 Great Intervals; and
every GI is divided into 4 yugas (period of time), sata, dwapara, treta,
and kali. The yugas contain 4,800, 3,600, 2,400, and 1,200 god-years (one
god-year being 360 human years) with corresponding decline in the quality
of civilization. We are at present in the seventh of the 14 periods of
the present kalpa and in the fourth yuga called kaliyuga when the world is
full of evil and wickedness. Though we have several millennia before the
end of the world, it is nonetheless imminent. Romila Thapar, A History of
India (Volume I). Baltimore, Maryland: Penguin, 1968. p. 161.
(4) "The Babri Masjid Dispute," Spotlight on Regional Affairs 10/7-8
(July-August 1991). p. 8.
(5) Pandey, 1989, p. 40.
(6) Thapar, 1968, p. 140.
(7) Sher Singh, "What History Says About Ayodhya," in Asghar Ali Engineer,
Babri-Masjid Ramjanambhoomi Controversy. Delhi: Ajanta Publications,
1990. pp. 79-80.
(8) Spotlight on Regional Affairs, July-August 1991, pp. 7-9.
(9) Jay Dubashi, The Road to Ayodhya. New Delhi: Voice of India, 1992.
(10) See "B. B. Lal's Report on Archaeology of Ramayana Sites Project," in
Asghar Ali Engineer, Politics of Confrontation: The Babri-Masjid
Ramjanmabhoomi Controversy Runs-Riot. Delhi: Ajanta, 1992. pp. 268-9.
(11) P. S. Sridhara Murthy, Rama, Ramayana and Babar. Bangalore: Dalit
Sahitya Akademy, 1988. p. 30.
(12) The excavated site has been filled in and a reexcavation of the same
site becomes very difficult as the filling has disturbed the sequential
layers. See "On Archaeological Evidence of Demolition of 'Mandir': Joint
Statement of Thapar, Gopal and Panikkar of JNU," in Engineer, 1992, pp.
273-4. See also "Romila Thapar on Archaeological Finding in Ayodhya," in
ibid., pp. 277-8.
(13) See Rajeev Saxena, "Tulsidas' Silence on Ram Mandir at Ayodhya,"
Mainstream, January 9, 1993. pp. 33-4.
(14) Sushil Srivastava, The Disputed Mosque: A Historical Inquiry. New
Delhi: Vistaar Publications, 1991. pp. 43-4.
(15) K. L. Chanchreek and Saroj Prasad, eds., Crisis in India. Delhi: H.
K. Publishers, 1993. p. 77.
(16) See Akbar, 1988, pp. 126-134.
(17) Harbans Mukhia, "Ayodhya Dispute: Historical Evidence and BJP's Aim,"
in Engineer, 1992, p. 19.
(18) Akbar, 1988, pp. 126-134.
(19) J. C. Aggarwal and N. K. Chowdhry, Ram Janmabhoomi Through the Ages:
Babri Masjid Controversy. New Delhi: S. Chand & Company Ltd., 1991. pp.
(20) Srivastava, 1991, p. 17.
(21) "Vishwa Hindu Parishad's Liberation Agitation," in Asghar Ali
Engineer, ed., Babri-Masjid Ramjanambhoomi Controversy. Delhi: Ajanta,
1990. pp. 228-30.
(22) When the Supreme Court ruled that the divorce of a Muslim lady, Shah
Bano, on the basis of Islamic custom was not valid, it gave rise to anger
and resentment among Muslim groups. In May 1986, Rajiv government
introduced the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Bill in
order to please and retain its Muslim vote bank.
(23) N. Ram, "The Great Catastrophe," Frontline, January 1, 1993. p. 23.
(24) "Events of February 1986--Seizure of Babri Masjid," in Engineer,
1990, pp. 201-4.
(25) Ram, 1993, p. 23.
(26) Spotlight on Regional Affairs, July-August 1991, pp. 82, 85-6.
(27) Ibid., pp. 86-8.
(28) The VHP gives its own account of the talks in History Versus
Casuistry: Evidence of the Ramajanmabhoomi Mandir Presented by the Vishva
Hindu Parishad to the Government of India in December-January 1990-91.
New Delhi: Voice of India, 1991. pp. i-iv. For the VHP's evidence, see
pp. 1-75. A member of the VHP team engaged in the dialogue with the
AIBMAC, Harsh Narain, has come up with more 'evidence' from Muslim
historical sources for the alleged 'existence and desecration' of the
Ramjanmabhumi temple and its replacement with the Babri mosque. See Harsh
Narain, The Ayodhya Temple-Mosque Dispute: Focus on Muslim Sources.
Delhi: Penman Publishers, 1993.
(29) N. Ram, "Hindutva's Challenge," Seminar 402 (February 1993). p. 25.
(30) Chanchreek and Prasad, 1993, p. 109.
(31) Ibid., p. 250. For the official stand of the BJP, see BJP's White
Paper on Ayodhya and the Rama Temple Movement. New Delhi: BJP, 1993.
(32) The Statesman had accused in its report on December 10, 1992 that the
demolition was part of the temple movement. On the BJP's reaction to the
report, the paper asserted its claim on December 12. See Ibid., pp.
(33) Dina Nath Mishra, RSS: Myth and Reality. New Delhi: Vikas, 1980, p.
(34) Quoted in T. C. A. Raghavan, Origins and Development of Hindu
Mahasabha Ideology: The Call of V D Savarkar and Bhai Parmanand, Economic
and Political Weekly 18/15 (April 9, 1983), p. 597.
(35) Iqbal Ansari, "Hindu-Muslim Conflict in India: Causes and Remedies,"
in Ansari, The Muslim Situation in India. New Delhi: Sterling, 1989. p.
(36) Philip Lutgendorf, The Life of a Text: Performing the Ramcaritmanas
of Tulsidas. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1991. pp. 23, 18, 33,
(37) Ibid., p. 413.
(38) Quoted in Tapan Basu, et. al., Khaki Shorts and Saffron Flags: A
Critique of the Hindu Right. New Delhi: Orient Longman, 1993. p. 9.
(39) See T. L. Vaswani, Sri Rama: The Beloved of Aryavarta. Poona, India:
Gita Publishing House, n.d. pp. 5, 7.
(40) Sita Ram Goel, "Rama--Man, or God?" Organiser, October 14, 1963. pp.
(41) See G. W. Trompf, Macrohistory and Acculturation: Between Myth and
History in Modern Melanesian Adjustments and Ancient Gnosticism,
Comparative Studies in Society and History 31/4 (October 1989). p. 625.
(42) Advani reiterates resolve to build Ram temple, The Hindu, February 7,
(43) J. P. Shukla, VHP plan for Ram temple at Ayodhya on schedule? The
Hindu, May 24, 1998.
(44) Opposition dissatisfied with Advanis statement, The Hindu, June 6,
(46) Vajpayee says Govt. will go by court order, The Hindu, June 8, 1998.
(47) Inder Malhotra, Mandir takes heat off n-issue, The Hindu, June 10,
(48) Murthy, 1988, pp. 9-13.
(49) Srivastava, 1991, p. 42.
(50) Murthy, 1988, pp. 9-13.
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