बरसों बाद अयोध्या में हलचल है। रामभक्तों की नजर सर्वोच्च न्यायालय और सरकार की ओर है। उन्हें उम्मीद है उनके आराध्य भगवान श्रीराम तंबू में अस्थायी मंदिर की बजाय जल्दी ही भव्य मंदिर में विराजेंगे। तथ्य स्पष्ट बता रहे हैं कि विवादित स्थल ही भगवान श्रीराम की जन्मभूमि है। जो लोग उन तथ्यों को नकारते हैं उनकी मंशा जगजाहिर है। इस आलेख में भगवान श्रीराम की ऐतिहासिकता प्रस्तुत की गई है। विभिन्न संदर्भ ग्रंथों से श्रीराम के संबंध में अनेक तथ्य समाहित किए गए हैं
Ayodhya: Continuing the Saga of Sri Rama
The Supreme Court of India has done well to postpone hearings regarding the title suit in the Rama Temple case at Ayodhya to January 2019, thereby allowing the anniversary of the demolition of the controversial structure – a non-mosque for the better part of its recorded history – to lapse in peace. That this also brings this contentious issue that has excited the Hindu imagination for over four centuries, closer to the national elections of 2019, is perhaps an unintended outcome. As the nation ponders over the fast-dissipating resistance to the grand temple in honour of Sri Rama, God and King exemplar of Hindu tradition, it may be instructive to examine the evidences adduced by devotees fighting the case, to get the largely satisfactory judgment from the Allahabad High Court (Lucknow Bench) in September 2010. It marked a huge step forward in the journey of Hindu self-affirmation and empowerment.
There is little doubt that the judgement by Justices Sudhir Agrawal, D.V. Sharma and S.U. Khan shocked Left academic circles, most notably Professors Romila Thapar, D.N. Jha, Shireen Moosvi, Irfan Habib, D. Mandal, Supriya Verma, Jaya Menon and Sita Ram Roy, who had all been hyper-active in defence of the Masjid. Shrugging aside the loud denunciations of the ‘Masjid’ historians, what is pertinent to the general reader is the fact that the Left academics failed abysmally to establish their claims regarding the temple-mosque before the High Court. Had the secular media done regular or fair reportage of the public hearings in Lucknow, the verdict would not have come as a shock or surprise.
The Left campaign against the Ramjanmabhumi began in 1989 under the lead of scholars from the Jawaharlal Nehru University. It quickly became an all-India campaign, which mainly stated that Rama was not a historical figure, that Ayodhya was a mythical city, that present day Ayodhya was originally known as Saketa and was a Buddhist stronghold, that Rama worship was an eighteenth-nineteenth century phenomena, that the Babri Masjid was built on vacant land, and that the Hindu-Muslim divide at Ayodhya was created by the British in colonial times.
Historian Dr Meenakshi Jain has collated all literary, sculptural and epigraphic evidence to debunk these claims in her book, Rama & Ayodhya (Aryan Books International, 2013), which clinically analyses the Allahabad High Court judgment. This article is based on this research.
Ramayana scholars agree that ancient ballads (akhyanas) disseminated the Rama Katha orally as early as the fifth century B.C., though Hermann Jacobi has suggested that the story could go back further to the eighth or sixth century B.C. Written versions of the Rama Katha probably appeared a century or two thereafter, with Valmiki composing his Ramayana in the fourth or third century B.C. Certainly, there is adequate literary, sculptural and epigraphic evidence to show that by the fourth-fifth century A.D., the worship of Rama was an all-India phenomenon.
Kalidas, scholar at the Gupta court in the fourth-fifth century A.D., and ranked next only to Valmiki as a great Ramayana poet, described Rama as Ramabhidhano Hari, Hari who is known as Rama, in Raghuvamsa. Prabhavati Gupta, Vakataka queen and daughter of Chandra Gupta II, was a Rama devotee. The two inscriptions she issued in the last quarter of the fourth century A.D. suggest that a sanctuary dedicated to Rama was situated on top of Ramagiri hill (modern Ramtek), probably enshrining his footprints (pada). Kalidas visited the Vakataka kingdom at the behest of his Gupta king and mentioned Ramagiri in Meghaduta. Prabhavati’s son, Pravarasena II, is believed to have written Setubandha, where Rama was regarded as identical with Vishnu and not merely his incarnation. Pravarasena II built a temple dedicated to Rama in his new capital, Pravarapura (probably modern Paunar, Wardha), where he shifted sometime between A.D. 431 and 439.
Sculpted panels found at Paunar around this period (mid-fifth century), rank among the oldest pieces of archaeological evidence regarding the iconographic representation of Rama. The Ramayana panels at the temple at Deogarh, Jhansi, come a little later. It is to be noted that this presentation of the Rama story in stone occurred side by side its popularity in contemporary literature.
The hero-god became the subject of several works in Sanskrit and Prakrit. He figured in Ramopahkyana (Mahabharata version of the Rama story), in Vishnu and Brahmanda Puranas, and Bhasa’s Pratima and Abhisheka Natakas. Notable Prakrit texts include Sanghadasa’s Vasudevahindi; Jain monk Vimal Suri’s Paumacariya (fourth century A.D.); and Bhatti’s Ravanavadha (probably sixth century A.D.). All this evidence suggests that Sri Rama had acquired a special status as an avatara of Vishnu by the fifth century A.D.
By the time of the Muslim invasions, the Ramayana was deeply ingrained in the popular mind. Two important Gurjara ruling houses that led the fight against the invaders claimed descent from Rama’s younger brother, Lakshmana. The Jodhpur inscription of Bauka (A.D. 837), which gave the family history of the Mandor line, stated that the dynasty was named after Lakshmana, who served as a Pratihara (door keeper) to his elder brother, Rama, and was duty bound to stop all intruders. The Gwalior prasasti of the Gurjara Pratihara king, Bhoja, also traced the origins of the family to Lakshmana, who “who served as the door-keeper (of Rama), owing to (his) commandment not to allow others to enter (pratiharana-vidher=yah pratihara asit)”.
The growing Rama sampradaya reached its second stage of evolution when Rama began to be depicted as a form of Vishnu, in his own right. The oldest sculptural examples of this development can be seen in the Jain temple of Parsvanath at Khajuraho (A.D. 950-970), which shows two murtis of Rama on its outer walls. The first depicts Rama holding the bow and arrow, the second shows him with four arms, holding the arrow in his upper right and lower left hand, his lower right hand blessing Hanuman and his upper left holding Sita.
There is a standing image of Rama and Sita portrayed as Lakshmi-Narayana in a niche on the wall of the Amba Mata temple at Osian, near Jodhpur (eleventh century A.D.) Rama holds the four emblems of Vishnu. What identifies him as Rama is the figure of Hanuman standing to the right.
By the eighth century itself, the concept of Rama as chief deity of the temple had come into vogue in the south. The earliest inscriptional evidence of a Rama temple dates to the seventh year of the reign of Parantaka I (907-955) and records the gift of land to the Lord of Ayodhya of the Kodandarama temple, in Chingleput district.
As Rama temples began to be built in many parts of the country, new formulae (mantras), prayers (stotras), meditation (dhyana) etc., were required and many texts were composed from the eleventh-twelfth centuries. The three oldest are the Ramapurvatapaniya Upanishad, the Ramaraksastotra of Budhakausika, and the Agastya Samhita, a twelfth century text dealing with Shiva’s conversion to Rama bhakti. It stated that Rama was not just as an incarnation of Vishnu, but the Supreme Reality itself.
Rama’s popularity rose during the political tumult of the medieval period. In the thirteenth century, Hemadri, a minister in the Yadava kingdom of Devagiri, wrote a dharmanibandha (law code) giving liturgical instructions for worshipping Rama as an incarnation. He described a ceremony connected with Rama’s birth and reproduced a part of the Agastya Samhita, the first work to discuss the important festival of Rama Navami. During the twelfth and fifteenth centuries, Rama’s story was retold in Kannada, Telugu, Malayalam, Gujarati, Bengali, Oriya and Marathi.
The Muslim invasions led to a “power-packed naming of the man-god Rama” in the Tamil region. The intelligentsia evoked the concept of Kodanda-Rama, Rama with the bow, when they “saw their countrymen and fellowmen and their culture being shattered and mangled” by the invaders. Aditya Chola had a temple consecrated to Kodanda-Ramesvarama, perhaps the earliest such portrayal of Rama, and took the title of Kodandarama, a hint at the “political instrumentation of the Ramayana”.
Indeed, throughout the medieval era, Hindu kings on the path of Muslim armies styled themselves Rama incarnates, who had returned to complete his struggle against evil forces. The Chalukya/Solanki king, Jayasimha Siddharaja of Gujarat was identified as an incarnation of Ramachandra, as was Prithviraja III of Ajmer, ramavatarasyaiva Prthvirajasya, who vowed to exterminate demon-men, ‘nararksasam’ mlecchanam.
Hindu rulers pledged to save the holy places of North India from devastation and plunder by Muslim invaders. There exist to this day a large number of vandalized sites where Hindus still perform puja on specially sanctified occasions. William Finch, an English traveller who visited India between A.D. 1608 and 1611, some eighty years after Babar, noted Hindu devotion to the city of Rama’s birth. He observed Brahmins in the ruins of Rama’s castle, who recorded the names of those who ritually bathed in the Saryu. Austrian Jesuit, Joseph Tieffenthaler, toured Awadh between 1766 and 1771 and noted Hindus worshiping a religious structure in the form of a vedi (cradle) inside the temple, along with large gatherings of Hindus on the occasion of Rama Navami.
The Allahabad High Court looked into the vedi (Rama Chabutra) and Sita ki Rasoi structures within the premises of Babri Masjid. Clearly, they were built at a time when the Masjid was largely desolate, and represent the heroic efforts of Hindus to reclaim a bit of the demolished temple and worship Rama in His birthplace.
Interestingly, revenue records of the Nawabi and British periods and list waqf properties published in the U.P. Gazette of 26 February 1944, show that Emperor Babur did not create any waqf for upkeep of the Babri Masjid. Possibly, he did not stay in the area long enough, but this lacuna is the basis of the controversy among Sunnis and Shias regarding the denominational status of the mosque. In Islam, every mosque must have a denominational status – Sunni, Shia, Ahmadi, and so on.
Further, Hindu legal and sacred texts are emphatic that temple property cannot be lost under any circumstances. Katyayana states that temple property is never lost, even if enjoyed by strangers for hundreds of years. On this basis, in the 19th century, the British courts in India established the concept of a Hindu idol/deity as a juridical entity. The Supreme Court of India upheld this in Ram Jankijee Deities vs. State of Bihar, observing, “Hindu Law recognizes a Hindu idol as a juridical subject being capable in law of holding property by reason of the Hindu Shastras following the status of a legal person in the same way as that of a natural person. It is not a particular image which is a juridical person but it is a particular bent of mind which consecrates the image …”
In the Allahabad High Court, counsels for the Muslim parties accepted that a Hindu idol is a legal person, but objected to the concept of juristic personality being extended to a place, Sthan. But the Allahabad High Court held that the divinity of a place made it a Swayambhu deity, capable of worship. A place, if identified by a name given to the deity by its worshippers and if shown to be related to a divine or otherwise important phenomena associated with religious affairs, could be regarded as a ‘deity,’ and a ‘juridical person.’ Hindus who worshipped the ‘Asthan Sri Rama Janam Bhumi, Ayodhya,’ identified the place by the name of Sri Rama’s birthplace.
Records of litigation between the Mutawalli Babri Masjid and Mahants of Janma Asthan from 1858 onwards, show that the Muslim presence there was hotly contested and not continuous; there does not seem to have been any namaz at the site after the riots of 1934. This could explain why the Sunni Central Waqf Board did not file a suit for possession, but asked for a declaration on the status of the disputed premises. The Board joined the litigation only 18 December1961, just five days before the twelfth anniversary of the arrival of the murti of Ram Lalla under the central dome of the Masjid, 23 December 1949, on which date any claim would be time-barred.
The belated move to contest a possession that could have been graciously allowed to the Hindu community must have been a political decision, though we do not know the actors behind that move. The obduracy of those who have challenged Hindu claims to the site ever since the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court began day-to-day hearings leading to the majority verdict in favour of the Hindu community in September 2010, is clearly political and ideological. Their anger has intensified as growing voices within the Muslim community favour a graceful exit in favour of the Hindu community, and given their reach within all institutions of power, we would do well to remain on guard.
- Based on Rama & Ayodhya, Meenakshi Jain, Aryan Books International, 2013.
Panchjanya, 26 November 2018