Being fair to Rama – Bibek Debroy

Sri Rama

Bibek DebroyRama was wrong. Rama was unfair. These statements reflect incomplete comprehension of what our itihasa/purana texts propound. There is nothing ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ in absolute terms, in black and white. – Dr. Bibek Debroy

The word ‘Ramayana’ means Rama’s progress or movement. The Ramayana is Rama-centric. The other itihasa, the history of the lunar dynasty, the Mahabharata, has no such focus on one individual alone. Therefore, in the Mahabharata, we come across the views of multiple protagonists. In this respect, the Mahabharata is like a novel. The Ramayana is like a short story. We never get to know what Urmila, Lakshmana’s wife, thinks. For that matter, for the most part, we don’t get to know what Lakshmana thinks either. I have used the word ‘Ramayana’. Which Ramayana? There are non-Sanskrit versions of both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata and our views on individuals and incidents are often shaped on the basis of retellings in these. When we seek to ‘judge’ Rama, we typically depend on these. For Sanskrit retellings, there may be minor regional variations, but the Mahabharata is one unified whole. Indeed, there is now a critical edition of the Mahabharata, brought out by the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI). Even for Sanskrit retellings, there are five versions of the Ramayana story: Valmiki Ramayana, Adhyatma Ramayana, Yoga Vasishtha Ramayana, the Kalidasa version in Raghuvamsham and the Rama story in the Mahabharata. They differ. For Valmiki Ramayana, there is a critical edition brought out by the BORI and some bits are not part of the edition. An example is the position of nakshatras at the time of Rama’s birth. The Uttara Kanda, large chunks of which have been excised from the critical edition, is clearly a later interpolation. One is not being unnecessarily pedantic. Before ‘passing judgment’ on Rama, as people are often prone to do, one should ask, which Ramayana? If it is Valmiki Ramayana, is it the critical edition? Does one include Uttara Kanda? The differences can be significant.

Rama was wrong. Rama was unfair. These statements reflect incomplete comprehension of what our itihasa/purana texts propound. There is nothing ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ in absolute terms, in black and white. This was never a binary world; there were shades of grey. There is always a conflict between two or more pulls of dharma in different directions. There is no obvious optimum and, given trade-offs, an individual chooses and bears his/her consequent karmaKarma is the flip side of dharma—the two are linked. That’s the core problem. I am perfectly within my rights to say that given a specific situation Rama faced, I wouldn’t have behaved the way Rama did. In that conflict of dharma, I would have chosen differently. That is my right and had I behaved that way, there would have been my consequent karma. But a strong statement like Rama being ‘wrong’? The moment I do that, I am displaying arrogance about my knowing what is right and wrong. That’s compounded by my applying today’s value judgments (from Kali Yuga) to Treta Yuga. For instance, a person with very strong views recently told me, Rama was a bad husband. We certainly have a conception of husband and wife today, of conjugal married life. But the way a husband and wife were jointly required to undertake tasks of dharma then, was quite different. Rama was from Treta Yuga, the person with strong views is from Kali Yuga. Dharma progressively declines from Satya Yuga to Treta Yuga, declines further from Treta Yuga to Dvapara Yuga and declines most in Kali Yuga. To repeat the analogy used, dharma has four feet in Satya Yuga, three in Treta Yuga, two in Dvapara Yuga and one in Kali Yuga. But oddly, in Yali Yuga, we are more sure about what constitutes dharma than anyone in Satya Yuga ever was.

We should remember how Valmiki Ramayana starts. Valmiki asks Narada, “Right now, who in this world is valorous and possesses all the qualities? Who knows about dharma and about what has been done? Who is truthful in his words and firm in his vows? Who also possesses good conduct and is engaged in the welfare of all creatures?” (All quotes are from my translation of the Valmiki Ramayana, published by Penguin.) Who is truthful in his words and firm in his vows? If we understand this trait, we will begin to understand Rama’s behaviour.

As an example, take the incident of Vali being killed, often cited as an instance of Rama being unfair. We may think we are discovering something new. However, in Valmiki Ramayana, this is what Vali himself tells Rama: “What qualities have you achieved by slaying someone who was not facing you? … In my kingdom, or in my city, I have not committed a wicked act towards you. … My skin cannot be worn. The virtuous shun my body hair and bones. My flesh cannot be eaten by those like you who follow dharma.” Invoking dharma and artha, there is a strong indictment and I have only quoted a fragment. Rama has a point by point rebuttal, but the initial lines are, “Without knowing about dharmaartha, kama and the contracts that people follow, why are you now reprimanding me in this childish way? … I have a friendship with Sugriva and it is just like that with Lakshmana. I will give him his wife and kingdom and he will do what is best for me. In the presence of the apes, I gave him this pledge.” There is a lot more that Rama says, but this is the crux, not only for this incident, but Rama’s conduct in general. Rama and Sugriva had a pact of friendship and walked seven times around a fire as a pledge. (We think seven steps around a fire are only for a bride and a groom getting married. That ritual is observed for any pledge of friendship. Saptapadi isn’t only for man and wife, it is for all friends.) Sugriva pledged to do everything possible to get Sita back, Rama pledged to do everything possible to make Sugriva the king and get his kingdom back. He was honouring the contract and being true to his words, a defining trait for everything Rama did. Both in the Manusmriti and the Mahabharata (Shanti Parva), there is a listing of 17 most important types of civil cases a king must get tried in order of priority. On both the lists, right at the top, we have breach of contract.

Let’s move on to the Shambuka incident, from Uttara Kanda. An aged Brahmana’s young son has died and he comes to the palace, lamenting and searching for justice. Rama summons Brahmanas (Markandeya, Moudgalya, Vamadeva, Kashyapa, Katyayana, Jabali, Goutama and Narada), ministers and traders to find out what has happened. Narada replies, “Listen to the reason why this child died before his appointed time. … Earlier, in Krita Yuga, only Brahmanas were ascetics. … In Treta Yuga, there were Brahmanas and Kshatriyas who tormented themselves through austerities. … When Dvapara approached, Vaishyas started to engage in austerities. … However, Shudras did not obtain the right to perform the fierce austerities of dharma. Those born in Shudra wombs will only obtain the right to perform austerities in Kali Yuga. … In Dvapara, a Shudra is performing a great act of adharma. … An evil-minded Shudra is performing austerities. That is the reason this child has died.” There can be a broader debate on rigidities of the varna system. So far as Rama is concerned, as a king, it is his dharma to protect his subjects and a Brahmana’s son has had an untimely death because the king has failed to protect the virtuous and punish the wicked. This is not Rama’s decision alone. It is also what the ministers and advisers tell him. Rama finds Shambuka and kills him. The Brahmana’s son comes back to life. Immediately thereafter, Rama visits the sage Agastya, who applauds his deed. As a king, Rama has pledged to protect his subjects, whatever the costs. That pledge overrides everything else. Indeed, true to that vow of kingship, King Harishchandra got into all his problems.

From Uttara Kanda we also have the story of Lakshmana being banished. Kala (Time) arrives and wants to meet Rama alone. The conversation must be private. Violators will be instantly killed. Therefore, guards are sent away and Lakshmana is stationed there instead, to prevent anyone from entering. Unfortunately, the angry sage Durvasa arrives at the time and demands that he be allowed to see Rama immediately. “Present me before Rama this very instant. Otherwise, I will curse the kingdom, the city, you and Raghava. I will not spare Bharata’s sons and yours.” Confronted with his own conflict of dharma, Lakshmana goes and interrupts the conversation between Kala and Rama. After Durvasa leaves, Lakshmana tells Rama, “You should not be tormented on my account. … Slay me without hesitation and fulfill your pledge. … Men who do not keep their promises go to hell.” Lakshmana understood Rama perfectly well. After consulting his ministers, Rama replies,

“I am casting you away. Virtuous ones have decreed that killing and abandoning are both regarded as the same.” Lakshmana, his companion of several years, was instantly exiled. We think of Sita being banished, we don’t normally think of Lakshmana being banished. Rama’s attitude was gender-neutral. We shouldn’t read a gender angle into Sita’s banishment.

The incident of Sita’s banishment occurs in Uttara Kanda. A report is brought to Rama: “Hear about the agreeable and disagreeable words citizens speak in the crossroads, the forests and the groves. … Raghava killed Ravana in the battle and got Sita back. … He finds pleasure and happiness with Sita. Though Ravana had forcibly abducted her earlier, he takes her up on his lap. … We will also have to tolerate this from our wives. Subjects follow whatever a king does.” Rama summons his brothers and tells them, “There is great and terrible condemnation among the residents of the city and the countryside. … In my inner soul, I know that the illustrious Sita is pure. … Scared and terrified of condemnation, I am prepared to give up my life and all of you, not to speak of Janaka’s daughter.” He exiles Sita, who eventually finds herself in Valmiki’s hermitage, where she delivers Lava and Kusha. Note that Rama never married again. Note also that husband and wife are required to jointly participate in sacrifices and rites. For every sacrifice that Rama undertook thereafter, a golden statue of Sita’s was kept, so as to comply with this requirement.

The ordeals by fire are what get Rama condemned most often. The first of these doesn’t even occur in Uttara Kanda, the segment with later interpolations. After Ravana has been killed, Sita has to be brought into Rama’s presence. When Rama instructs Vibhishana to bring Sita before him, Vibhishana tries to clear the place of the ordinary people. Rama’s response reveals quite a bit about his character. “Cease this attempt to disperse people. They are my own people….” The ordeal by fire occurs in public, not with a limited presence of close friends and companions. When Rama finally meets Sita, the words are quite harsh. This leads to the incident most people are familiar with, the first ordeal by fire. After Agni pronounces Sita to be pure, Rama says, “I know that Maithili, Janaka’s daughter, is single-mindedly devoted to me and that her mind is only on me. However, I am devoted to the truth. For the sake of persuading the three worlds, I ignored Vaidehi when she entered the fire.” It was about persuading the worlds, not Rama alone. That’s the reason the trial had to be in public.

As I said at the beginning, if it is the Valmiki Ramayana, Rama’s conduct is about being true to a pledge and not committing breach of contract, regardless of the consequences. That was his dharma and karma. Before we condemn his action, the least we can do is understand his reasons and that can only be done by reading the Valmiki Ramayana, or whatever Ramayana we choose as database for our case. – Open, 22 November 2019

Prof. Dr. Bibek Debroy is an Indian economist, author and  bureaucrat. He has made significant contributions to game theory, economic theory, income and social inequalities, poverty, law reforms, railway reforms and Indology. Currently Dr. Bibek Debroy is chairman of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council.

Rama & Shabari


ASI excavations prove temple existed beneath Babri Masjid – K.K. Muhammed

Destruction of Babri Masjid in January 1992

After a comprehensive analysis of the evidences that had surfaced during the excavation and the discovery of historical artifacts, the Archeological Survey Of India came to the conclusion that there existed a temple beneath the Babri Masjid. – K.K. Muhammed

It was in 1990 that the issue of Ayodhya became hot. Before that, in 1978 itself, as a student of archaeology, I had the opportunity to survey Ayodhya. As a student of School of Archaeology, Delhi, I was a member of the team headed by Prof B.B. Lal, which was carrying out an extensive survey at Ayodhya.

We found that there existed brick foundations, which supported the pillars of a pre-existed temple. No one had viewed such findings as controversial those days. We examined the facts with due sense of history as archaeological experts.

There were temple-pillars embedded on the walls of Babri Masjid. These pillars were made of a particular stone called black basalt. There were poorna kalasas engraved at the bottom of the pillars as was the practice in the 11th–12th centuries.

In temple art, poorna kalas is one among the eight auspicious symbols of prosperity. Not one or two, there were 14 such pillars before the mosque was demolished in 1992.

I could see the pillars closely. The team headed by B.B. Lal included officials of the ASI and us 12 students from the School of Archaeology. We spent around two months at various explorations at Ayodhya. Mir Baqi, Babar’s army chief, constructed this mosque using remnants of a temple, which was either demolished by him or had been demolished by someone else.

While excavating on the back and sides of the mosque, we found brick platforms on which the black basalt pillars used to rest. It was based on these facts that I made a statement in 1990 that there existed a temple beneath the Babri Masjid. The moderates among Muslims had started to think that it is better to leave Ayodhya for Hindus and solve the dispute. Some Muslim leaders felt that leaving Ayodhya to Hindus would take the wind out of the sails of VHP. Had such voices got prominence, it would have been possible to diffuse the situation.

A few historians under the leadership of S. Gopal, Romila Thapar and Bipan Chandra started questioning the historicity of the Ramayana. They argued that there is no record of demolition of a temple before 19th century. They even declared Ayodhya to be a Buddhist–Jain centre and they took part in various official meetings as experts on the side of Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC).

Many BMAC meetings were conducted under the leadership of Dr Irfan Habib who was chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR). Though member secretary M.G.S. Narayanan of ICHR objected to the meetings of BMAC being conducted in ICHR, he was overruled by Irfan Habib.

The Leftist historians had tremendous influence in newspapers and periodicals, and articles published by them questioning the facts of Ayodhya created confusion in the minds of general public. They were responsible for the volte-face of even the moderates among the Muslims who had favoured a settlement.

Had only this compromise worked out, it would have been a major turning point in the history of Hindu-Muslim relations in our country. This would have resulted in the natural solution to other various contentious issues also.

This lost opportunity demonstrated that not just Hindu-Muslim fanaticism, but Communist fanaticism is equally dangerous to our nation.

My statement came out on December 15, 1990. By then, historians and archaeologists had started fierce arguments from both sides. I made it clear in my statement that I had seen remnants of a temple beneath the Masjid.

The most important artifact, which came out during demolition at Ayodhya, was the stone plaque called Vishnu Hari Shila. On the plaque it was inscribed in Nagari script of 11-12th Century in Sanskrit that this temple is dedicated to Vishnu (Rama is the avatar of Vishnu) who killed Bali and the 10- headed (Ravana).

In 1992, when Dr Y.D. Sharma and Dr K.M Srivastava studied the site they could find small statues of Vishnu’s avataras, Shiva, Parvati etc. made of clay.

These belonged to the Kusana period (100-300 AD). In 2003, when excavations were again conducted, as ordered by the Allahabad High Court, more than 50 brick foundations, which once supported the pillars of the temple were found.

The “amalaka, which is usually found on the top of the temple and makar pranali” through which the abhisheka water flows, were also excavated. Uttar Pradesh’s Archaeology director, Ragesh Tiwari, submitted a report that when the front yard of the Babri Masjid was leveled, 263 temple-related artifacts were found. After a comprehensive analysis of the evidences that had surfaced during the excavation and the discovery of historical artifacts, the Archeological Survey Of India came to the conclusion that there existed a temple beneath the Babri Masjid.

The Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court also reached the same conclusion. To make the excavation impartial, it was ensured that 52 Muslims were included in the team of 131 of excavators. Not just that, the excavation was conducted in the presence of the representatives and archaeological historians belonging to the BMAC group, Suraj Bhan, Mondal, Supriya Varma and Jaya Menon. The ASI had once again, proved its impartiality. – DNA, 6 November 2018

» K.K. Muhammed is an archaeologist who was the Regional Director (North) of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). He is currently serving as Project Archaeological Director in the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

Ayodhya Dispute Timeline


Ram Setu man-made, not a natural formation – Times Now

Rama, Lakshman and Hanuman

Chelsea Rose“The rocks on top of the sand actually pre-date the sand. So there is more to the story.” – Archaeologist Chelsea Rose

The Ram Setu Bridge, also called the Adam’s Bridge, between India and Sri Lanka, was not a natural formation as previously thought but man-made, a special show on a popular international channel has claimed citing American scientists. If true, this could be a ground-breaking discovery with far-reaching implications.

This finding, to be aired on a show called Ancient Land Bridge on the Discovery Communications-owned Science Channel in the US, gives credence to the age-old Hindu mythological text, Ramayana, which first mentions the construction of the Ram Setu Bridge, under the guidance of Lord Rama.

The show quotes a few American geologists, archaeologists and scientists as saying that the Ram Setu, which connects Pamban Island near Rameshwaram in India to Mannar Island off Sri Lanka, was actually man-made.

The show is scheduled to air at 7:30 am on Wednesday.

The promo of the show, tweeted by Science Channel’s official twitter handle, has already set social media abuzz, garnering more than 16,000 likes and 14,000 retweets in less than a day of it being posted. It has been viewed 1,90,000 times on Twitter till now.

The promo tweet reads, “Are the ancient Hindu myths of a land bridge connecting India and Sri Lanka true? Scientific analysis suggests they are.”

In fact, Union Minister Smriti Irani also retweeted the promo, along with the words “Jai Shree Ram”.

In the promo video, Chelsea Rose, an American archaeologist says, “The rocks on top of the sand actually pre-date the sand. So there is more to the story.”

In fact, according to the research by the American scientists quoted by the channel, the stones were dated to be nearly 7,000 years whereas the sand on which they are situated was only 4,000 years old.

These data suggest that the structure captured on the satellite image is not natural, the narrator of the show informs the audience.

It indicates that even though the sand bar was natural, the rocks were probably transferred on it from other place, the show’s narrator explains.

The purported findings have already sparked a political debate in the country with BJP leaders questioning the Congress previous stand where the party had told the Supreme Court that there was no historical proof that Lord Rama had existed.

The statements formed a part of the UPA government’s argument against the then opposition BJP’s demand for the scrapping of the Sethusamudram project on the grounds that it would destroy a part of the Ram Setu.

In 2005, the UPA-1 government had proposed a shipping canal project that would have dredged the area and damaged the formation, referred to as the Ram Setu by Hindu organisations. The project was thus challenged by the BJP in the apex court. – Times Now Digital, 13 December 2017

Ram Setu: Indian side of the causeway to Sri Lanka

Ram Setu

Secularists seek to prolong Ayodhya case indefinitely – Balbir Punj

Rahul Gandhi Cartoon
Balbir PunjBoth the pro- and anti-Ram temple parties have failed to grasp the issue at stake. The fight has never been for a piece of land or against a mosque. … The Babri structure was brought down because a Ram temple could not be built at that very spot without doing so. What the agitated karsevaks demolished was not a mosque, but a symbol of humiliation forced by a ruthless foreign victor over the vanquished. – Babir Punj

While Congress President-designate Rahul Gandhi was making a desperate bid to pose as a practicing janeu-dhari Brahmin in the wake of elections to the Gujarat Assembly, another top leader of his party and noted lawyer Kapil Sibal was arguing against an early hearing of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case in the Supreme Court, a move clearly aimed at cultivating the Muslim vote bank. Running with the hare and hunting with the hounds?

Appearing for the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Wakf Board, Sibal asked the Supreme Court to postpone the hearing of the case to July 2019. An absurd request considering the fact that appeals against the Allahabad High Court verdict in the case have been pending for the last seven years!

In fact, litigation on the vexed Ayodhya issue is over a century old. On January 29 next, it will compete 133 years!  Still, Sibal questioned the court about the “hurry” to hear the matter now and pleaded for the hearing to be postponed to July 2019. This is ‘secularism’ in action. Keep such emotive issues alive to infinity and the communal cauldron boiling.

A flashback: On 29 January 1885, Raghubar Das, Mahant of the Janmasthan, filed a civil suit seeking permission to construct a temple over the Ram Chabutra spot. The Mahant’s plea was opposed by Mohammed Asghar, mutawalli (guardian) of the Babri Mosque.

The Faizabad sub judge dismissed the suit on 24 December 1885. On 23 December 1949, idols of Hindu Gods were installed in the “disputed structure” and puja was started. Meanwhile, the Faizabad civil judge, on 1 January 1950, passed an ad-interim injunction  restraining the removal of the idols. The puja continued. The public was allowed darshan from beyond the brick-grill wall.

In 1985 came the Shah Bano judgment and the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi gave in to the Muslim fundamentalist pressure, overruling a secular court’s decision that the divorced Bano was entitled to alimony from her ex-husband. Rajiv enacted a law abolishing the alimony provision in conformity with the sharia.

Within months, Rajiv tried to restore the balance. In 1986, the Faizabad district judge, on an appeal by advocate Umesh Pandey, allowed the public to have the darshan from inside and ordered the respondents to remove the locks on the brick-grill wall. Rajiv Gandhi’s hand was clearly seen behind the court order.

However, mere unlocking was not good enough for the Hindus, who have been aspiring and struggling for centuries to build a grand temple at the Janmabhoomi site, befitting the stature of Lord Rama in Hindu tradition. So the agitation for the temple continued.

On the fateful day of 6 December 1992, a frenzied mob tore down the Babri edifice and hurriedly put a temporary-tented structure on the demolition site under which an idol of Ramlalla sits till this day.

There are irrefutable historical records that the Hindus had repeatedly attempted to recover the Janmabhoomi—in 1735, 1751, 1756 and so on. In 1767, Austrian Jesuit traveller Joseph Tiefenthaler noted that in spite of the Mughal king’s efforts to prevent them, the Hindus were worshipping and celebrating Rama Navami under the Babri structure.

Why has the issue remained unresolved for so long, even after the departure of the British? One, the “secularists” of various hues, who have been in power for most of the time in post-independent India, have a vested interest in keeping the dispute alive. And both, the pro- and anti-Ram temple parties, too have failed to grasp the issue at stake. The fight has never been for a piece of land or against a mosque. Twenty-five years ago, on December 6, the mob which demolished Babri, did not touch any other mosque either in Ayodhya or neighbouring Faizabad.

The Babri structure was brought down because a Ram temple could not be built at that very spot without doing so. What the agitated karsevaks demolished was not a mosque, but a symbol of humiliation forced by a ruthless foreign victor over the vanquished.

Demolishing a temple, highly revered by the locals and replacing it with a mosque on that very site was a political statement by the barbarous invader. The response to this historical injustice too should have been political and not legal—a la reconstruction of the Somnath temple, undertaken at the initiative of Sardar Patel after Independence.

Courts are a poor mechanism to deal with issues which carry long-standing historical baggage concerning faith and have political underpinnings. Reservations for Scheduled Castes and Tribes, and later for OBCs, was a political decision to undo the injustice of the past. Can you expect a court to decide whether reservations are needed or not?

The pre-Independence leadership gave into the Muslim League’s blackmailing and agreed for the partition of the country. Did any court decide if Muslims needed a separate country to feel safe?

In January 2015, Shireen Dalvi, editor of Awadhnama, was arrested for reprinting a controversial cartoon of Prophet Mohammed. The works of noted authors such as Taslima Nasreen and Salman Rushdie were banned in India, even before anyone in India had even read them. Non-Muslims, who constitute roughly 85 per cent of the population, were denied their right to read these works in deference to the sensitivities of Muslims.

In none of these cases, the executive or the affected parties waited for a judicial intervention or sought the opinion of the courts. In the Ramjanmabhoomi case, the legislature and executive should have taken the call. But with the likes of Kapil Sibal deeply embedded in the system, obviously it is not that easy. – The New Indian Express, 9 December 2017

» Balbir Punj is a former Rajya Sabha member and Delhi-based commentator on social and political issues.

Kapil & Promila Sibal

Fundamentals of the Sri Ram Temple in Ayodhya – Subramanian Swamy

Sri Ram Lalla Temple, Ayodhya

The Sri Ram Lalla Temple on Ramjanmabhoomi has a superior claim to the site than any mosque. This is the fundamental truth in the Ayodhya dispute. … Therefore under law the Union Government can acquire the Babri Masjid site by a public notification, and urge the Muslim community to agree to shift the building of a new masjid to some other site well beyond and across the Saryu River. – Dr Subramanian Swamy

True and devout Hindus believe that Bhagvan Sri Rama was born in Ayodhya, the then capital of a flourishing kingdom of the Suryavansha dynasty. Rama is venerated as Maryada Purushottam, and worshipped by Hindus of the north. As an avatar of Vishnu, while it was first propagated by the Tamil saints known as Nayanmars and Alwars who composed many hymns and songs dedicated to his divinity, the North which later came to accept Rama as one, especially thanks to the saint Tulsidas, the fervour for Rama worship is much more. In that sense, Sri Rama was the first truly national king of India, supra region, supra varna or jati. That is why poet Iqbal called him “Imam-e-Hind”.

The exact spot of the palace where Rama was born has been and remains firmly identified in the Hindu mind and is held as sacred. This is the very area where stood from 1528 till December 6, 1992, a structure that came to be known as Babri Masjid, put up in 1528 by foreign invader Babar’s commander, Mir Baqi.

In fact, Baqi was a Shia Muslim, and hence he intended it to be a place for Shias to read namaz. Today, interestingly, it is the Sunni Wakf Board, which entered the legal dispute as late as 1961. It has been litigating in the Supreme Court claiming the title to the land on which the structure once stood. At the Allahabad High Court level, Sunni Wakf Board claim to the title of the land was rejected. No Muslim party today claims the Babri Masjid must be rebuilt on where it once stood because a masjid can be demolished under Islamic law.

I call it a “structure” since it cannot be strictly called a mosque by Sunni edicts—because it did not have the mandatory minarets and wazu [water pool]. That a Ram temple existed and or that there is a sacred spot known as Ramjanmabhoomi is attested by many ancient sources and by modern scientific methods.

In Skanda Purana [Chapter X, Vaishnav Khand] the site is vividly described. Valmiki Ramayana also describes it beautifully. Less than two decades before Mir Baqi carried out the horrible demolition of the Ram temple, Guru Nanak had visited the Ramjanmabhoomi and had darshan of Ramlalla in the mandir at the spot.

There are many commentaries on this visit which are a part of the Sikh scriptures. Guru Nanak himself records the barbarity of Babar’s invasions [in Guru Granth Sahib at p. 418]. In Akbar’s time, Abul Fazal wrote the Ain-i-Akbari in which he describes Ayodhya fame as the place of “Ram Chandra’s residence which in Treta age combined spiritual supremacy and kingship.” [Translated by Col. H. S. Jarrett and published in Kolkata in 1891]

In Chapter X of the Report of the Archeological Survey of India, NW and Oudh (1889), it is mentioned (p. 67) that Babri Mosque “was built in AD 1528 by Mir Khan on the very spot where the old temple of Janmasthan of Ram Chandra was standing.”

Hindus throughout foreign occupation of India have deeply held as sacred that exact spot where the Babri Masjid once stood, as is recorded in many official and judicial proceedings. In 1885, for example, Mahant Raghubar Das in a Suit No 61/280 of 1885 filed in the Court of the Faizabad Sub-Judge against the Secretary of State for India (who was based in London), prayed for permission to build a temple on the chabutra outside the mosque. His suit was dismissed on March 18, 1886.

However, in his order the Sub-Judge, an Englishman, stated thus: “It is most unfortunate that a Masjid should have been built on land specially held sacred by the Hindus. But as the event occurred 358 years ago, it is too late now to remedy the grievance.” Since the English as policy never sought to disturb the social status quo in India as evidenced, for example, on the sati question, the Judge took the easy way out and dismissed the suit.

It is now well established by GPRS-directed excavations done under the Allahabad High Court monitoring and verification in 2002-03, that a large temple did exist below where that Babri Masjid structure once stood. Inscriptions found during excavations describe it as a temple of Vishnu Hari who had killed the demon king Dasanan [Ravana].

The Sunni Wakf Board does not accept these findings as of any meaning or of any consequences. It does not, however, matter if all this was indeed so or not, since under Section 295 of the Indian Penal Code it is prescribed that “Whoever destroys, damages or defiles any place of worship, or any object held sacred by any class of personswith the intention of thereby insulting the religion of any class of persons or with the knowledge that any class of persons is likely to consider such destruction, damage or defilement as an insult to their religion, shall be punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”

That is, an offence under criminal law is committed if a body of persons hold something as sacred. It does not matter if the majority does or does not hold so. Nor can a court decide what is sacred and what is not. Only a body of persons can identify what is sacred. The offence under Section 295 IPC is cognisable and non-bailable, as well as non-compoundable.

The fundamental question before us is thus this: Can a temple and a masjid be considered on par as far as sacredness is concerned ? Relying on two important court judgements that hold the field today, the answer is: No!  A masjid is not an essential part of Islam, according to a majority judgement of a Constitution Bench of India’s Supreme Court.

In the famous Ismail Farooqui vs Union of India case [reported in (1994) 6 SCC 376], the Supreme Court observed: “It has been contended that a mosque enjoys a particular position in Muslim law and once a mosque is established and prayers are offered in such a mosque, the same remains for all time to come a property of Allah … and any person professing Islamic faith can offer prayer in such a mosque, and even if the structure is demolished, the place remains the same where namaz can be offered.” [Para 80]

The Constitution Bench rebutted this contention stating: “The correct position may be summarised thus: Under Mohammedian law applicable in India, the title to a mosque can be lost by adverse possession…. A mosque is not an essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam and namaz (prayer) can be offered anywhere, even in the open. Accordingly, its acquisition is not prohibited by the provisions in the Constitution of India.” [Para 82]

Thus, any Government depriving the Muslims of the Babri Masjid by an order of acquisition is within law, if the government decides to do so in the interest of public order, public health and morality [Article 25 of the Constitution]. The position in Islamic law is even more clear: in Saudi Arabia the authorities demolish mosques to lay roads and build apartment buildings. Even the mosque where Islam’s Prophet Mohammed used to pray was demolished!

But then what of a temple? Is it in the same category as the mosque in our jurisprudence?  When I was Union Law and Justice Minister in 1990-91, this question of the status of a temple—even if in ruins or without worship—had come up before me in a case of a smuggled-out bronze Nataraja statue which was up for auction in London.

Earlier the Government of India, when Rajiv Gandhi was PM, had decided to file a case in the London trial court in 1986 for recovery. The Nataraja statue had by then been traced to a temple in ruins in Pathur, in Thanjavur district. A farmer named Ramamoorthi had in 1976 had accidentally unearthed it while digging mud with a spade near his hut.

When the news spread, touts of an antique dealer by the name Ahmed Hussein reached him and paid a small sum and smuggled it out to London, where in 1982 they sold it to Bumper Development Corporation Private Limited. In turn, the said Corporation sent it to the British Museum for appraisal and possible purchase. By then the Government of India was onto it and asked the UK Government to take action.

The Nataraja idol was seized by London Metropolitan Police, and thus the Bumper Development Corporation sued the Police in court for recovery but lost the case. An appeal was filed in the Queens Bench [i.e., our High Court level] which was dismissed on April, 17 1989. So, the Bumper Corporation went to the House of Lords [our Supreme Court level]. On February 13, 1991 when I was Law Minister, the judgement came, which is truly landmark, dismissing Bumper’s final appeal [see (1991) 4 All ER 638].

The House of Lords upheld the Indian government’s position that because of the prana prathista puja, a temple is owned by the deity, in this case Lord Shiva, and any Hindu can litigate on behalf of the deity as a de facto trustee. The Bench consisting of Justices Purchas, Nourse and Leggatt concluded: “We therefore hold that the temple is acceptable as party to these proceedings and that it is as such entitled to sue for the recovery of the Nataraja.” [Page 648 para g]

Thus, even if a temple is in ruins as the ASI had found the Thanjavur temple or destroyed, as Ram temple was in the Babri Masjid area, any Hindu can sue on behalf of Lord Rama in court for recovery! No such ruling exists for a mosque for the simple reason that a mosque is just a facilitation centre for reading namaz, and has no essentiality for Islamic religion. It can be demolished and/or shifted as any building can and are being so today in Arab countries and Pakistan.

That is, the Ram temple on Ramjanmabhoomi has a superior claim to the site than any mosque. This is the fundamental truth in the Ayodhya dispute. This truth will apply, for example, to Kashi Vishvanath and Mathura temple sites as well.

Therefore under law the Union Government can acquire the Babri Masjid site by a public notification, and urge the Muslim community to agree to shift the building of a new masjid to some other site well beyond and across the Saryu River.

It is important to note here that as of now there are eight mosques in Ayodhya area which the ASI has taken over since these had no one coming to read namaz. Hence what use will another mosque be?

Hence the national response to the judgement of Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court allotting one-third of the Ramjanmabhoomi to the Sunni Wakf Board to build a mosque in the area near the Ramlala temple should be a resounding “No”! A temple cannot be equated to a mosque in either its immutability or its divinity. The masjid in Islamic law is just a building to facilitate reading of namaz, which anyway can be read anywhere.

Nor can we Hindus by the back door allow aggression and atrocity of demolishing temples be rewarded in any manner. Therefore, as with the Shah Bano case precedent, Government should bring an amendment to the Acquisition of Certain Areas Act of 1993 to bar constructing any structure other than those connected with a temple for Sri Rama.

That will be the fit atonement of the so-called secular people of our nation for tacitly tolerating for so long the demolition of Ram temple on the orders of Babar of Afghanistan. Babri, after whom the mosque is named, was a 9 year boy in Kabul who was a “special” intimate of Babar, with whom he was infatuated.

If such an amendment is not brought forth, Hindus should wage a fierce democratic struggle for the next 3½ years to force the government to do so or weld a solid Hindu Front supported by the Hindu Dharmacharyas, VHP and RSS can obtain an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha in the future.

From February 8, 2018, the Supreme Court will hear all the civil appeals plus my writ petition seeking enforcement of my fundamental right under Article 25 of the Constitution to worship at the spot where Hindus have faith Lord Ram was born. Since the Sunni Wakf Board is basing its argument of its rights to property, which is an ordinary right and not a fundamental right, hence under law my right is superior and overrides the Sunni Wakf Board claim of its ordinary right to property. –PGurus, 6 December 2017

» Dr Subramanian Swamy is a BJP National Executive member and Raja Sabha MP.

Ramlalla Temple on the Babri Masjid site after the demolition.

When will Sri Rama return to Ayodhya? – David Frawley

Rama, Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman return to Ayodhya

David FrawleyIndia’s independence did not bring about the long sought for return of Rama Rajya and the light of dharma that the independence movement aspired to. The continuation of the darkness of adharma shifted from colonial rule to a new self-imposed and self-perpetuated colonial type exploitation by an arrogant socialist elite who had little understanding or appreciation of their own culture. – Dr David Frawley

Diwali celebrates the return of Sri Rama to Ayodhya after fourteen years of exile. This follows immediately after Rama’s great victory over Ravana and his recovery of his beloved wife Sita. As such, Rama’s return indicates the triumph of light over darkness and dharma over adharma. It marks the establishment of Rama Rajya, the rule of dharma that allows the flowering of our highest human and spiritual potentials.

Yet, metaphorically speaking, Ram’s exile from India, we could say, has lasted for centuries—including the first seventy years of India’s independence—though the wish for Rama’s return has remained. India’s independence did not bring about the long sought for return of Rama Rajya and the light of dharma that the independence movement aspired to. The continuation of the darkness of adharma shifted from colonial rule to a new self-imposed and self-perpetuated colonial type exploitation by an arrogant Delhi and socialist elite who had little understanding or appreciation of their own culture.

The aspiration for Rama Rajya that inspired the independence movement was derided and rejected by post-independence intellectuals and leaders who preferred to put their own images upon the country over that of Rama and teach their own opinions over the wisdom of the great seers and yogis. They covered the saffron of traditional India with the red of Marxism, sometimes painted by the blood of Hindus.

Today, both in India as a whole and in Uttar Pradesh, where Ayodhya is located—under the guidance of Narendra Modi at a national level and Yogi Adityanath at a state level—there is a new movement towards Rama Rajya, the rule of dharma and the honouring of Yoga. The aspiration to Rama Rajya may yet be fulfilled in coming years, though much work and struggle is required to assure it.

Certainly, the decisive turn towards Rama Rajya has been made and there can be no going back. Yet, the battle is far from over and there can be no relaxing of efforts or reduction in determination or resolve until all negative forces are entirely removed. Forces of cultural subversion, foreign attack and terrorism remain lingering in the shadows, hoping to continue their insidious assaults from behind the scenes.

This return of Rama Rajya is not the imposition of some out-of-date rigid Hindu law or Sharia on a helpless population as its opponents would bleakly portray. It is not politically regressive but spiritually progressive, advancing the cause of higher consciousness and oneness in the world. Such a new dharmic focus is desperately needed at a time in which humanity overall is confused about its true purpose and place in the cosmos, caught in social division and false beliefs, alienated from the greater universe.

This return of Rama promises a renaissance of India’s dharmic civilisation and yogic way of life. It sets the stage for a return of Lakshmi as prosperity for all, and a protection of the Earth, with a renewal of India’s magnificent sacred sites like Ayodhya and Varanasi. It is not some mere nostalgic dream from bygone eras but a future global vision of a higher humanity and a more kind and sacred way of life, where our inner consciousness can unfold. Rama Rajya as the rule of dharma is not the imposition of rigid codes or social engineering but an awakening of our inner connection to the cosmic reality both within and around us.

In this battle between light and darkness, we must awaken Hanuman within us, the inner magic of a higher motivation, a new energy, zeal and seeking of transcendence, as it necessitates that we leap beyond our boundaries born of ignorance and fear. We may physically reside in restricted time and space locations but our inner being stands far beyond them and need not be circumscribed by their boundaries. We can awaken an inner transformative power if our dedication is to the highest excellence.

Rama Rajya is the universal order of cosmic intelligence that we can enter into whenever we look beyond our personal limitations to the light of consciousness that is the basis of all existence. Diwali sustains the promise of an enlightened humanity, which we should dedicate our lives to help manifest. This is not a matter of mere material prosperity, science and technology, but an understanding of our true nature as cosmic beings, centers of boundless light and awareness. Jai Sri Ram! Jai Sita-Ram! – Swarajya, 19 October 2014

» Dr David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri) is the director of the American Institute of Vedic Studies and the author of more than 30 books on yoga and vedic traditions. He tweets @davidfrawleyved.

Ramlalla Temple on site after the Babri Masjid demolition

The Sugriva Syndrome – Bharavi

Narendra Modi

Man Sitting Under Tree IconOne may rightfully ask what the BJP has done so far … in terms of providing long-denied and unexceptionable rights to Hindu citizens of a purportedly democratic and egalitarian modern nation. – Bharavi

During the recently concluded elections in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh (UP), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was found to be appealing to the electorate to end their ‘vanavas’ (forest exile) of 14 years.[1]  The ‘exile of  14 years’ is, obviously, a reference to Rama’s exile at the insistence of his step-mother Kaikeyi, at the end of which he made a triumphant return to Ayodhya with his wife and brother. Now that the BJP is safely in power in India’s most populous state as well as at the national level, the Hindu constituency that made this possible should make sure that this ‘return of the exiles’ does not end up resembling the results of another vanavas, also in the Ramayana.    

Rama, exiled in the forest and his wife abducted, was moving southward with his brother Lakshmana to recover her. He met Hanuman, who led him to Sugriva—brother and inveterate enemy of Vali, king of the Vanaras of Kishkindha. Owing to an unfortunate misunderstanding between the brothers, Vali had driven away Sugriva into the forests, and had also taken Sugriva’s wife Ruma for himself. Long story short, Rama and Sugriva had a quid pro quo.  Rama was to kill Vali and restore Sugriva to his kingdom. In return, Sugriva would help him, as King of the Vanaras of Kishkindha, to recover Sita.  

Rama carried out his part of the bargain, risking his reputation as a fair and just kshatriya, and Sugriva was crowned king. Soon after Sugriva’s coronation, he gave himself up to sensual pleasures, understandable in one who had been in exile as a fugitive from the royal palace for years. At this stage, Hanuman presciently warned Sugriva that he should consider making good his promise to Rama. His remarks are most noteworthy and relevant to the current situation:  “One must be punctual in achieving the objectives of one’s close friends. If Rama were to eventually prod you to action consider it a lapse on your part regardless of what you do thereafter.”   

To his credit, Sugriva summoned his Vanara warriors from near and far, under pain of death for delay. However, as luck would have it, the monsoons began soon after, rendering all tracks impassable and army movements impossible. There was nothing to do but wait. But then, even after the rainy season ended, Sugriva wasn’t showing any signs of movement on Rama’s case.  It took an irate Lakshmana to storm his castle when Sugriva was in the midst of revelry in the depths of his harem to remind him of his unfulfilled promise. Of course, things started moving after that and Rama did recover Sita with Sugriva’s help.

In its earlier avatars, the BJP kept pointing to the Common Minimum Program and similar compulsions of coalition ‘dharma.’ This was taken to mean that the party would not be able to back any initiatives regarding ‘contentious  issues’ such as the full integration or Jammu and Kashmir state with the Indian republic by the abolition of Article 370, the building of the temple of Rama at Ayodhya or legislating a uniform civil code.  Three years ago, on May 26, 2014 Narendra Modi assumed office as the Prime Minister of India, with the BJP achieving a simple majority of its own, though still as part of the National Democratic Alliance. Not unexpectedly, the insistent demand from the party’s core supporters is to pay attention to those contentious issues that couldn’t be touched earlier.   

Before asking for the moon, as it were, these supporters should first examine what the BJP has done about consequential, but non-contentious issues. The clear front-runner among such issues is the historical problem of the misapplication of Article 30 of the Indian Constitution that guarantees religious and linguistic minorities the right to autonomously manage their own educational and religious institutions.  There is nothing wrong with this. However, there is no explicit statement providing similar rights to the majority Hindus. This has provided a legal loophole that has made Hindu religious establishments, temples, educational institutions, trusts etc. the target of state governments and politicians avid for easy money and a penchant for generously distributing temple collections and assets among their special interest groups. Hindu religious institutions have thus been subjected to asymmetric and chronic adverse discrimination ever since independence under a ‘native’ dispensation. The state of temples in Tamil Nadu and the siphoning off of their assets and lands is but one symptom of an all-India epidemic, whose end result can only be the death of temples and Hindu institutions by a thousand cuts.[2]

More recently, Hindus have been understandably riled by the effects of the Right to Education Act (2009) on Hindu schools and educational institutions.[3] The ‘minorities’ on the other hand, simply threw the constitution on the government’s face, specifically the provisions of this act citing Art. 30, and claimed exemption.[4] No such courtesy was available to the Hindus whose schools were sitting ducks, resulting in the closure of many ‘non-minority’ schools all over the country. Thus, the effective denial of the right to administer their own educational and religious institutions amounts to a chronic systemic bias against Hindus in India, and will continue to have adverse effects for a long time to come, regardless of the party in power at the centre.  

And, pray (pardon the pun), what has the BJP done about this terrible injustice? Specifically, nothing, nada, zilch.  Leave alone do anything about it, it does not even talk about it. Allowing Hindus the same rights as minorities, we might naïvely think, would be a much easier thing for a government to do, compared with the backlash that is feared upon say, the abolition of Article 370 that gives a separate status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. An interesting case is that of the Congress government in the state of Himachal Pradesh that is trying to ‘monetize’ gold deposited in the state’s temples by devotees over ages, by the simple expedient of melting it to make medallions for sale. Predictably, the idea of using these funds for ‘public welfare,’ an obscene euphemism in this age of kleptocratic democracies, is also found keeping obligatory company with this charade.[5] But BJP supporters eager to blame the Congress, please cease and desist. The Congress state government is merely implementing national policy mooted by the BJP-anointed prime minister Narendra Modi.[6] Again predictably, there is no similar suggestion to  ‘remonetize’ vast swathes of real estate ‘lying idle’ in the possession of say, the Indian Catholic Church,[7] by selling those to housing developers or mall-builders.  Better still, these parcels of land could be freely distributed among the ‘poor and needy‘ that are the stated recipients of the munificent Church’s solicitude as an integral part of its apostolic mission. Of course, that was merely a rhetorical suggestion, for we know from their actual record that the Churches’ ‘vow of poverty’ holds as much (holy) water as their ‘vow of celibacy.’[8]         

In this context, one may rightfully ask what the BJP has done so far, not in terms of withdrawing minority privileges (like ending the Haj subsidy or legislating a Uniform Civil Code), but in terms of providing long-denied and unexceptionable rights to Hindu citizens of a purportedly democratic and egalitarian modern nation, allegedly fast transforming into a ‘developed’ nation, all thanks to the Midas touch of its mercantile administrators.     

So, while Sugriva’s lapse was a sin of omission, for which he made up later, the BJP seems determined to indulge in sins of both omission and commission that portend grave long-term consequences for dharmic society. Winning elections has apparently become a full-time job for the BJP.  

In an instance of poetic irony, Sugriva advised Rama against accepting Vibhishana (Ravana’s estranged brother) as a supplicant and an ally, as the Rakshasas are intrinsically undependable. Of course, the Vanara king was spectacularly wrong about that, as Vibhishana was able to provide crucial advice and aid during critical stages of the war with Ravana. Sugriva would have had better luck had he advised Rama against favoring the Jai-Shree-Ram-chanting BJP. Where is that Sugriva when you really need him?   

We may therefore conclude that Rama’s run of bad luck hasn’t ended. He and his much-derided and electorally exploited followers are still waiting for signs of commitment to some relatively innocuous dharmic cause from those they propelled to the portals of power nearly three decades ago. That’s partly Rama’s own fault—he was always such a sentimental sucker for sob-stories peddled by people in physical or political wilderness. Ms. Sushma Swaraj would doubtless agree, for she presciently (but honestly) termed him a ‘cashed cheque’ for her party way back in 1996,[9] and was more recently (2016) spotted in dutiful attendance as a representative of the ostensibly ‘right-wing Hindu nationalist government’ holding court at the Vatican, on the momentous occasion of the canonization of Teresa of Albania.

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj & Pope Francis (Sept. 2016)

  1. See:
  2. See, for example:
  3. See:
  4. In 2014, the Supreme Court of India ruled that “…the 2009 Act insofar as it applies to minority schools, aided or unaided, covered under clause (1) of Article 30 of the Constitution A is ultra vires the Constitution.”  Plain English:  If you apply the RTE act of 2009 to minority schools, it is a violation of Article 30 clause (1). 
  5. See:
  6. See:
  7. See:
  8. For example, it took a Karnataka High Court order to restrain the holy greed for land displayed by the Church of South India, worthy successor to the Church of England, of East India Company fame.  See:  Since there is also much wheeling and real-estate dealing within the holy precincts, Mr. Philip Matthew, a Bengaluru-based journalist issued a clarion call for a law to protect the assets of the church (See:  Unsurprisingly, he couldn’t resist proclaiming in passing that:  “The Church properties and assets belong to a wider Christian community in the country and not to a handful of present-day selfish leaders and profiteers in the churches.” Intolerant and unwashed Hindus may please note: Churches are the fixed deposits of the Christian community alone, but Hindu temples are emphatically and irrevocably joint expense accounts for all human beings, regardless of ‘caste, creed, color, sex or religion.’  Public welfare!  
  9. See: