Perspective: Ayodhya: “Beyond the Battle”
Having restored the glory of Lord Ram, now let us put our battles behind us.
In an ironic twist of history, Ayodhya, the place which literally means "beyond battle," has withstood a long-drawn battle in recent times. After a sustained struggle of nearly 500 years, sacrificing hundreds of human lives, traversing through a tough, jolted journey punctuated by periodic episodes of successes and failures, we have finally restored the glory of Shri Ram, our most beloved deity, by building a glorious temple on the site that is believed to be his birthplace.
[Left] Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, on the day of inauguration. (Photo: GODL-India)
We have, however, won only half the battle. The other half will consist of restoring peace and dignity to every citizen of India—which was the very crux of Rama Rajya.
An Exemplary Past
Throughout Bharatvarsha’s incredible journey of thousands of years, we kept reshaping ourselves while enduring violent attacks inflicted by a variety of outside invaders who threatened to distort and destroy our culture. We adapted to some of them but stayed adamant at the same time to preserve our heritage. Our knees bent under pressure, but our spines stayed upright.
Our sacred temples were ransacked and ruined but not even for a moment did we think of demolishing the Taj Mahal erected on the banks of our most venerated Yamuna river. On the contrary, we proudly claim the Taj Mahal as our own. We have unhesitatingly adopted Muslim music, architecture, and literature not only in our performing arts but also in our religious traditions. We have incorporated thousands of Arabic, English, French, and Portuguese words into our spoken and written language. Indeed, all our traditions have been greatly enriched by our ever-widening inclusivity—a most illustrious example of symbiotic existence. So why mess with it now? Why fracture our unity? Why lose our precious diversity?
The Present: A Thoughtful Approach
The exuberant celebration witnessed on the occasion of the consecration of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya needs to be punctuated by a cluster of cautionary comments. A unicentric push of Hinduism onto the nation generates distrust in our non-Hindu communities. Our Muslim counterparts harbor suppressed anger; the Christians feel their security is threatened; our Sikh community feels ruffled; and a general wave of tension and distrust is hovering around us. Can this divisive atmosphere be the way forward? Reputed for its assimilative diversity, India has lost a mark at the global level.
Our national insignia of the three lions carries an underlying affirmation: Truth alone is triumphant, not falsehood (Satyameva Jayate Nanrtam). The second important aphorism that won us universal acclaim states: Nonviolence is the supreme religion (Ahimsa Paramo Dharmah). Finally, we have always advocated that the whole world is a single family (Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam).
Have we kept the integrity of these three bedrock principles on which our culture is founded? Could there be a political manipulation lurking behind this effervescent Ramabhakti? Is witnessing the death of two to three thousand people in this conflict, and crushing minorities, an example of nonviolence? Is suppression of our own brethren an act of familial love and protection? The demolition of one religious edifice to build another one on the same site is a spiritual falsehood. Two wrongs don’t add up to one right.
Since we are blessed with insight, hindsight, and foresight, let us exercise our distinct faculties. Yesteryear’s “coolie” became the Prime Minister of the U.K., a woman of Indian origin is a credible contender for the position of the President of the U.S.A. even while another one is currently serving as the Vice President of the country. Let us also not be oblivious to the fact that a huge population of Hindus is comfortably living in countries like America, the U.K., UAE, and Australia where they are a remote minority. What if we ourselves become a target of religious zealotry? Let our spiritual vision recognize our parochial myopia.
Building Our Future
The global reputation that we are enjoying is not only because of our rising GDP or technological triumphs. We have maintained a high moral status by our principles of justice and liberty for all. When it comes to religion, we have maintained our unswerving policy of equal treatment of all religions (Sarva-Dharma Samabhava). We have peacefully accommodated a vast diversity of religions, cultures, and languages. We have unflinchingly rushed to help our non-Hindu neighbors in need, even when our resources were limited. Our presidency has been adorned by men and women of many faiths—Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs. I had never even given it a second thought when, in the 1960s, the dean of my medical school in India was Jewish, the chairman was a Muslim, and the director of nursing was a Christian lady!
In the Christian Monitor issue of January 24, 2024, there is an illustrious example of a Hindu priest, Gyan Das, who opened his Hanuman temple to a thousand Muslims for breaking their Ramadan fast, while his bosom friend Sadiq Ali provided food for all of them. Along the same lines, our Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore took a plunge in our holy river Ganga and led a parade to a mosque to tie rakhis on the Muslim devotees there. This is our way, and we want to stay steadfast on this way.
It is said that hell is a place where people feel disconnected. To be divided by religion will be detrimental, and even suicidal. We cannot afford to lose in one split second what has been achieved through centuries of wisdom and endurance. Discontent, fear, and agony in our community at large will ruin the very peace of our mind. This is fraught with an enormously heavy price.
It should also be noted that the entire globe is gravitating toward humanity as the most acceptable religion. All world religions may be strained through a single filter of preserving our planet and making all its inhabitants live equitably with peace and shared prosperity. India must strive to continue to be a leader in this metamorphosis.
Dr. Bhagirath Majmudar, an Emeritus Professor of Pathology and Obstetrics-Gynecology at Emory University, Atlanta, is also a Sanskrit Visharada and Jagannath scholar, the highest academic honor in Sanskrit. As a Hindu priest, he has conducted about 400 weddings, many of them interfaith. He is a poet, philosopher, Vedantist, actor, and playwright. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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