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Undoing 'past wrong' at Ayodhya: Will Modi govt hand over Puri temple to Buddhists?

By Shamsul Islam*
While laying the foundation of Ram Janmabhoomi Temple at Ayodhya on August 5, 2020, with the get-up of a prosperous Hindu sage, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared that wait of Hindus of the world for centuries was over, as Lord Ram’s birthplace has been finally liberated from numerous attempts to destroy it.
Modi claimed, by laying the foundation of the temple, a “glorious chapter” of Indian history has been written. He declared, "Today, the Ram Janmabhoomi [birth-place] has become free from the centuries-old chain of destruction and resurrection".
As it generally happens with our Prime Minister, he resorted to his usual falsehood regarding the destruction of Ram Temple to construct Babri mosque. According to his narrative, perhaps borrowed from an RSS shakha, Ayodhya possibly represented continuous war between Hindus and Muslims over the Ram Temple for almost last five centuries.
While boasting victory over the adversary (Muslims), he did not bother to look at the epic work of poetry in Avadhi penned by Goswami Tulsidas, “Ramcharitmanas”. This work has mesmerized India with the story of Lord Ram. It has made Lord Ram a household deity for every Hindu. Tulsidas penned “Ramcharitmanas” in 1575-76. 

Tuslidas and Ram Janmabhoomi

According to the Hindutva version, the Ram birth place temple was destroyed in 1538-39. “Ramcharitmanas” was written almost 37 years after the so-called destruction of the Ram birth place temple. Surely, it should have mentioned this destruction. But it did not.
Would Hindutva zealots say that the greatest story-teller and worshipper of Lord Ram, Tulsidas, did not speak truth in his historic work? Wouldn't it be an attempt to question Tuslidas' credibility? Would Hindutva zealots dare say that Tulsidas kept mum on the issue of the destruction of a temple at Ram's birthplace due to some ulterior motive?
In fact, the Prime Minister by claiming that the Ram Janmabhoomi "has become free from the centuries-old chain of destruction and resurrection" was openly contradicting the Supreme Court judgment on Ayodhya delivered on November 9, 2019 -- that the Babri Mosque was not built after demolishing any temple, that the appearance of idol of Ram Lalla on the intervening night of 22/23 December 1949 was illegal and that the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992 was an “egregious violation of the rule of law”.
Would Hindutva zealots say the greatest story-teller and worshipper of Lord Ram, Tulsidas, didn't speak truth in Ramcharitmanas?
The same judgment underlined that “Muslims have been wrongly deprived of a mosque which had been constructed well over 450 years ago”. In fact, the Prime Minister could be tried for contempt of court for his Ayodhya speech.
We saw above how Babri Mosque has been demolished and a grand Ram Temple is coming up on its place relying on a fake narrative. The Modi government claims to be committed to undo the wrong doings of the past.
However, the Indian past looked through the Hindu-Muslim binary has its serious limitations. One major problem is that, despite India being a 5,000-year-old civilization, only for approximately 700-800 years Muslim names ruled/attacked India, and only they are under scrutiny.

Golwalkar on Somnath

Let us get acquainted what the most important ideologue of the RSS, its second chief, MS Golwalkar, wrote about destruction of Somnath Temple in 1025-26 by Mahmud Ghazni. According to him:
“One thousand years back our people invited foreigners to invade us. A similar danger threatens us even today. How the glorious temple of Somnath was desecrated and devastated is a page of history. Mahmud Ghazi had heard of the wealth and splendour of Somnath. He crossed the Khyber Pass and set foot in Bharat to plunder the wealth of Somnath. He had to cross the great desert of Rajasthan.
“There was a time when he had no food, and no water for his army, and even for himself left to his fate, he would have perished, and the burning sands of Rajasthan would have consumed his bones. But no, Mahmud Ghazi made the local chieftains to believe that Saurashtra had expansionist designs against them. In their folly and pettiness they believed him. And they joined him.
“When Mahmud Ghazi launched his assault on the great temple, it was the Hindu, blood of our blood, flesh of our flesh, soul of our soul, who stood in the vanguard of his army. Somnath was desecrated with the active help of the Hindus. These are facts of history.”
(MS Golwalkar’s speech in Madurai cited in ‘Organiser’ dated January 4, 1950, pp. 12, 15.)

Vivekananda on Jagannath Temple

If the RSS-BJP government is really serious about executing its core issue of undoing religious injustice to India's past, it should start by handing over Jagannath Temple at Puri to Buddhists immediately. 
Swami Vivekananda, regarded as an icon by Hindutva politicians, was also a great narrator of ancient India. He unambiguously declared that Jagannath Temple was originally a Buddhist Temple. According to his admission:
“To any man who knows anything about Indian history…the temple of Jaganath [sic] is an old Buddhistic temple. We took this and others over and re-Hinduised them. We shall have to do many things like that yet. " (Swami Vivekananda, ‘The Sages of India’ in The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol. 3, Advaita Ashram, Calcutta, p. 264.)
It has been corroborated by another darling of the Hindutva camp -- Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. According to him Rath Yatra, an integral part of Jagganath Temple was a Buddhist ritual too.
Bankim Chandra Chatterjee wrote:
"I am aware that another, and a very reasonable, account of the origin of the festival of Rath (at Jagganath Temple) has been given by General Cunningham in his work on the Bhilsa Topes. He there traces it to a similar festival of the Buddhists, in which the three symbols of the Buddhist faith, Buddha, Dharmma, and Sangha, were drawn in a car in the same fashion, and I believe about the same season as the Rath.
“It is a fact greatly in support of the theory, that the images of Jagannath, Balaram, and Subhadra, which now figure in the Rath, are near copies of the representations of Buddha, Dharmma, and Sangha, and appear to have been modelled upon them."
(Chatterjee, Bankim Chandra, 'On the origin of Hindu festivals' in Essays & Letters, Rupa, Delhi, 2010, pp. 8-9.)
In fact, the Puri Temple was not the only one to be “Hinduised”. Founder of Arya Samaj, Swami Dayanand Saraswati, while describing the heroics of Shankaracharya in “Satyarth Prakash”, wrote:
"For ten years he toured all over the country, refuted Jainism and advocated the Vedic religion. All the broken images that are now-a-days dug out of the earth were broken in the time of Shankar, whilst those that are found whole here and there under the ground had been buried by the Jainis for fear of their being broken (by those who had renounced Jainism)." (Satyarth Praksh by Swami Dayanand Sarswati, chapter xi, p. 347.)
The Hindutva rulers who declare their love for indigenous religions like Buddhism and Jainism should begin to handover their usurped temples and vihars at the earliest to them.
---
*Formerly at Delhi University, click here for some of Prof Islam's writings and video interviews/debates. Twitter: @shamsforjustice. Blog: http://shamsforpeace.blogspot.com/

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