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Spirit of Lord Ram as envisaged by likes of Kabir and Gandhi 'different from Modi's'

By Ram Puniyani*  

This January 22, a massive spectacle was created when Prime Minister Narendra Modi consecrated the idol of Lord Ram in Ayodhya. Declarations were made that Ram is the soul of India and is the one who united India. Just before this ceremony, some Muslim leaders warned that Muslims should avoid travel on January 22 as there would be large scale movement of Kar Sevaks during the day. 
As saffron flags flew all over, including Ayodhya, as thousands of celebrities thronged Ayodhya, most of the Muslims remained indoors; they feared the repeat of the mayhem that followed the destruction of Babri Mosque by Hindu nationalist forces nearly three decades ago.
After the consecration ceremony, a bit later, a Muslim graveyard was dug up in Bihar, a Muslim was paraded naked in a town in South India, and a saffron flag was hoisted on a Church. In Mira Road near Mumbai, a Ram Mandir Pran Pratishtha procession was involved in an imbroglio in which a tempo driven by a Muslim and some Muslim shops were attacked. 
As the Prime Minister acted as the high priest of Hinduism, on one hand, there were massive displays of religiosity, people assembled to celebrate, but on the other there was a scare among Muslims.  
Meanwhile, Lord Ram appears to have assumed a new symbol, the one rhat intimidates religious minorities in India. The Lord, whose story was first written by poet sage Valmiki, had the distinction of Maryada Purushottam (Man with Dignity), who renounced his throne so that his father Dashrath could keep his promise given to his wife Kaikeyi. 
Many versions of Lord Ram's story are prevalent in South Asia. AK Ramanujan’s essay, "300 Ramayanas", is a classic piece telling us of diversity in various versions. In the Jatakas, there is Buddhist version of Ram and Sita, seen as brother and sister, apart from being husband and wife. The reason for this was to keep the purity of the clan. In the Jain version the Lord is a believer of non-violence and a propagator of Jain values. 
Popular and prevalent "Women's Ramayana Songs" of Telugu Brahmin Women, put together by Rangnayakamma, present Sita as victorious over Ram. In these, Surpanakha succeeds in taking revenge over Ram. In Thai Ramkirti, or Ramkin (Ram's story), there is a twist in the tale, and Shurpanakh's daughter decides to take revenge, attributing her mother’s mutilation primarily because of Sita. Here the focus is on Hanuman, who is neither a devout nor a celibate but a ladies’ man.
In India, the Lord Ram story was popularized by Goswami Tulsidas, as he wrote it in Awadhi, a Lok Bhasha (people’s language) and not in Sanskrit, which is a Devbhasha (language of Gods), in the 16th century. After this Ram became more popular, and many Ram temples sprung up in North India. 
Interestingly, Tulsidas, a devout Ram Bhakt, living in Ayodhya in the 16th Century, does not mention any demolition of Ram Temple by Babur. Also, when he was threatened by Brahmins for writing Ramcharimans in Lokbhasha (Awadhi), he merrily said that he can very well live in a mosque (from Kavitavali, his autobiography).
The bhakti poets presented Ram as an embodiment of universal spirit, a formless God. For Kabir, the foremost among them. Ram is evoked in the nirgun (formless) sense, which he uses to denote both Brahman (God), supreme consciousness, and its individual expression as atman (Soul). As per him Ram is the spark of consciousness within each of us. 
Gandhi considered Ram to be the ultimate source of morality and spirituality. His powerful concept of the Lord was inclusive and saw Ishwar (Hindu God) and Allah (Muslim God) being the same. This unique interpretation of Ram by Gandhi was the underlying factor for laying the basis of fraternity in the Indian context. This also laid the foundation of his unique respect for people of all religions. This was part of the moral and ethical ground which united India.
Bhakti poets presented Lord Ram as an embodiment of universal spirit, a formless God, expression of soul
Gandhi clarified his concept of Ram in an article in "Harijan" in  1946. He says, “My Ram, the Ram of our prayers, is not the historical Ram, the son of Dasharath, the King of Ayodhya. He is the eternal, the unborn, the one without a second.” 
The values of Gandhi symbolized India’s ‘making into a nation’, symbolized the anti-colonial struggle and emergence of the values which are the foundation of Indian Constitution. These are totally in contrast to what is being asserted by RSS-BJP as embodied in BJP-Modi’s politics. The Ram Temple was not in the scheme of things of RSS till 1980s. When the communal forces started getting steam, the issue of Ram Temple was taken up.
The seeds of doubts about Ram temple having been destroyed by Babur were sown by the British. AF Beeveridge, while translating "Baburnama", added a footnote that probably there was a temple underneath the mosque. Serious scholarship shows that her writing was in tune with the British policy of ‘Divide and Rule’. 
Beveridge produces no historical evidence to support her assertion that the mosque was built at the site of a temple. Indeed the general tenor of Babur's state policy towards places of worship of other religions hardly justifies Beveridge's inference. In Babar's reign there was a strong growth of syncretic traditions, even though he got the Jain temples of Gwalior demolished on the grounds of nude idols being there. 
Babar's will to Humanyun advises him to respect other religions, especially Hinduism, as his subjects are Hindus. Babur himself was no bigot and he gives a good account of his respect for other religions in his "Baburnama". The Supreme Court also did not support the thesis that there was a Ram Temple underneath Babri mosque.
As the agenda of RSS-BJP is to oppose the march towards social justice, it found it a very useful instrument to whip up popular hysteria around Ram Temple once the Mandal Commission was implemented. Kabir's and Gandhi’s Ram has been transformed and politics of polarization around the issue is peaking in the current scenario. 
With coming to power through this polarization process, RSS-BJP are putting in their full energy into promoting their image of the Lord into today’s political scenario. The occasion of consecration the Lord’s idol was heavily promoted all around in different institutions and social spaces. This is accompanied by the intimidation and political marginalization of the religious minorities.
Can we retrieve the spirit of Lord Ram as envisaged by the likes of Kabir and Gandhi? Can we promote the moral, ethical and spiritual aspects of the religion rather than the ritualistic aspects being promoted in the current scenario?
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*Well known political commentator. Also see YoutubeFacebook, InstagramTwitterPinterestWebsite,  App

Comments

Nimbus said…
You have great qualities of Ravanas...Ram Puniyani. Gandhi's Ram and Kabor'd Ram? My Ram , his Ram, Your wife's Ram, your dead father's Ram, your role model's Ram


Where does all this nonsense spring from?
Bottom Line...When calling a spade a spade, when all means have ended except for war, even Sri Ram did not hesitate to get his hands dirty and slaughter the fucking enemy.

Did I say you have the qualities of Ravana? You stupid low life characterless fuck.

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