Executive Director, C Voter Foundation
It was indeed a strange moment for me; someone who is a practising Hindu but not overtly religious. Every year during Durga Puja, my late father would fast for nine days and recite the Tulsidas Ramcharitmanas. There would be some years we would be irritated by his steadfast devotion and adhere to this ritual. Today, as the resplendent images of Ram Lalla unfolded before the world in a majestic display of renaissance, I realised the value, importance and power of what my father used to follow year after year. I realised how deeply spiritual India always has been. I realised a society can never prosper unless it is properly rooted in its beliefs even as it strives for a better future. My father had a post doctoral degree in chemistry from Imperial College, London. I realised science and spirituality need not be in conflict; each has its own space in the cosmic scheme of things. I realised why Bharat and Hinduism are eternal.
Something else has also engaged my mind over the last few weeks as India has geared up to celebrate the return of Bhagwan Ram to his birthplace; this time not after 14 years of voluntary exile but after 496 years of forced exodus. If you have followed world history in your school and college days with some diligence, it won't be difficult to understand the enduring power of Bharat as a pagan civilisation. In simple terms, a pagan civilisation is one that worships nature and believes divinity is expressed through idols and monuments. So once upon a time, the Mayans, the Incas and the Aztecs once had magnificent civilisations in modern day Latin America. Then the Spanish and the Portuguese came with the Cross and the Gospel, and all the three civilisations permanently disappeared. Once upon a time, the Egyptians had the Pharaohs who worshipped the Sun God and many other deities & built the incredible pyramids. Then the Arabs came with the Quran ad the teachings of the Prophet and that pagan civilisation vanished completely.
The same happened with the Mesopotamian, Sumerian and Assyrian civilisations in West Asia. Some argue that the seeds of western civilisation were sown in Greece. The Greeks gave brilliant literature, philosophy ad monuments to the world. The Romans outdid the Greeks by creating a “global” Empire. Both were unabashedly pagan. But the Cross and the Gospel ensured both the Greek & Roman civilisations vanished forever. Now compare that with another pagan civilisation that resides in modern day Bharat, though it stretched well beyond these geographical boundaries once upon a time. For close to two thousand years, the Bible and the Quran have flourished in India, attracting tens of millions of ardent and devoted followers. Yet, either have ever succeeded in doing what they did with other pagan civilisations: completely erase them from the face of the planet.
That is the power of Lord Ram and the pagan civilisation rooted in Hinduism. It is not as if followers of Islam and Christianity have not made determined efforts to make Indians renounce and abandon their pagan roots. Even today, the more prejudiced followers of the two Abrahamic religions look down upon Hindus as infidels, heathens and kafirs. Since about 1400 years ago, over zealous invaders invoking Islam have taken pleasure in destroying temples as idol worship offends followers of Islam. The first Mughal Emperor won the First Battle of Panipat in 1526. Two years later, one of his Generals Mir Baki destroyed a temple dedicated to Bhagwan Ram at Ayodhya and built the Babri Masjid on its ruins. This was both a elisions and political statement. Hundreds of years before this happened, another zealous invader Mohamed Ghazni made it a habit to keep destroying the Somnath Temple in western India. Many Muslim rulers kept destroying that temple every time stubborn Hindus kept rebuilding it. It was finally rebuilt and consecrated in 1951 because Mahatma Gandhi dreamt about it and Sardar Patel initiated efforts to create another beautiful monument dedicated to Lord Shiva. Today, the wheels have come full circle with Ram Lalla going back to his rightful place in Ayodhya. Some critics have slammed these celebrations as an ugly display of majoritarianism that negates the “secular” character of India. I personally think that more than religious majoritarian, the return of Ram symbolises the rebirth of Hindu civilisation. It is a cultural and national renaissance.
That brings us to the last point. Soon after independence, the Somnath Temple was rebuilt and consecrated. Why did it then take more than 75 years for the Ram Temple to come back in all its glory? The fact is, great leader though Jawaharlal Nehru was, he was publicly agnostic and was wary of “Hindu Revivalism”. His towering personality and charisma eclipsed all else. Besides, the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi by a “Hindutva” votary Nathuram Godse had seriously damaged the “Hindu” cause in the eyes of ordinary Hindus who were devout but where appalled by that crime. It took decades for the stigma to fade away. Ironically, it was the “secular” deeds of Nehru’s grandson Rajiv Gandhi that gave a fillip to the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. There has been no looking back since then.
Look at it this way. My grandfather was a freedom fighter. My father was a committed Congress voter. But after the Rajiv Gandhi regime overturned the Supreme Court verdict on Shah Bano in 1986, he renounced his support for the Congress. Weeks before he passed away, he voted for the BJP in the historic 2014 elections.
Were he alive, I am sure he would have fasted and read the Ramcharitmanas before this consecration ceremony.
This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write-up have nothing to do with www.prameyanews.com.