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Will Hindutva rulers return 'usurped' Buddhist, Jain temples, redress 'historic wrongs'?

By Shamsul Islam* 

The RSS-BJP government of India led by a seasoned RSS whole-timer has miserably failed in providing basic amenities, employment, education, security and peace to 138 crores of Indians (out of which approximately 80% are Hindus) but on August 5, 2020, he had a joyous news to share with the people of the country.
While laying the foundation of Ram Temple at Ayodhya on August 5, 2020, with the get-up of a prosperous Hindu sage, Prime Minister declared that wait of Hindus of the world for centuries was over as Lord Ram’s birthplace was finally liberated from numerous attempts to destroy it.
According to him India with his laying down the foundation of the Temple was writing a “glorious chapter” and declared that "Today, the Ram Janmabhoomi [birth-place] has become free from the centuries-old chain of destruction and resurrection".
It is interesting to note that Indian Head of the State, President Ram Nath Kovind was not invited, perhaps for the reason that his being Sudra would have been a bad omen for this Brahmanical ritual.

Goswami Tulsidas put in bad light?

As generally happens with our PM, he resorted to lies regarding the destruction of Ram birth-place temple for building Babri Mosque too. According to his narrative, borrowed from the RSS shakhas, Ayodhya represented a continuous war between Hindus and Muslims over the Ram Temple for almost last five centuries.
While boasting of victory over the adversary (Muslims) he did not bother to look at the epic work of poetry in Avadhi language penned by Goswami Tulsidas, namely, Ramcharitmanas. This was the work which mesmerized India with the story of Lord Ram and the latter became house-hold deity of every Hindu home, specially, in North India.
He penned his above mentioned work during 1575-76. According to the Hindutva version Ram birth-place temple was destroyed during 1538-1539. Thus Ramcharitmanas written almost 37 years after the so-called destruction of Ram birth-place temple should have mentioned this destruction. But it did not.
Are Hindutva zealots trying to say that the greatest story-teller and worshipper of Ram and his Court (Darbar), Tulsidas did not speak truth in his historic work? Is not it an attempt to question the credibility of Goswami Tulsidas? Are the Hindutva zealots trying to say that Goswami Tulsidas kept mum on the issue of the destruction of a temple at Ram's birth-place due to some ulterior motives?

Contempt of the Supreme Court judgment

PM by claiming that the Ram Janmabhoomi [birth-place] "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 Babri Mosque was not built after demolishing any temple, the appearance of idol of Ram Lalla on the intervening night of 22/23 December 1949 was illegal and the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992 was an “egregious violation of the rule of law”.
The same judgment underlined the fact that “Muslims have been wrongly deprived of a mosque which had been constructed well over 450 years ago”. In fact, PM should have been tried for contempt of the Court for his Ayodhya speech.
It is a different matter that despite all these findings the highest court of justice of India allowed construction of Ram Temple at the site of Babri Mosque. The more shameless was allowing Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a pocket organization of RSS which demolished the Mosque on December 6, 1992 to build the Temple!

Selective redressal of wrongs of history

The demolition of Babri Mosque and building of a grand Ram Temple at Ayodhya has been justified by the Hindutva flag-bearers claiming that justice was being done to the wrongs of history. However, the Indian past looked through the Hindu Muslim binary has its serious limitations.
One major problem is that despite India being a five-thousand-year-old civilization,  it is only the period 0f approximately 700-800 years in which people with the Muslim names ruled/attacked India is under scrutiny.
Let us get acquainted what the most important ideologue of the RSS-Hindutva and the second chief of it, 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.]
Swami Vivekananda, regarded as icon of Hindutva politics, unambiguously declared that Jagannath Temple was originally a Buddhist temple
If RSS-BJP government is really serious about executing its core issue of undoing religious injustice in India's past then they should start working to hand over Jagannath Temple at Puri to Buddhists immediately. 
Swami Vivekananda who is regarded as an icon of the Hindutva politics and resurgent Hindu India by RSS, and who was also the greatest narrator of ancient India's past, 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 Chndra Chatterjee. According to him Rath Yatra, an integral part of Jagannath Temple was a Buddhist ritual too. According to Bankim:
"I am aware that another, and a very reasonable, account of the origin of the festival of Rath [at the 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, Puri Temple was not the only one Hinduised. Founder of Arya Samaj, Swami Dayanand Saraswati while describing the heroics of Shankaracharya in "Satyarth Prakash":
"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 with Delhi University, click here for Prof Islam’s writings and video interviews/debates. Facebook: shamsul. X: @shamsforjustice. Blog:



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