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Building New India: From Ram Mandir To True Swaraj – IMPRI Impact And Policy Research Institute

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Building a India: From Ram Mandir to True Swaraj

Dr. Aditi Paswan

Consecration ceremony of Ram temple in Ayodhya, India can be seen as an affirmation of our faith and belief systems.

With the adhivas of the shyam rang Ramlalla idol carved in Krishna Shila stone, in the sanctum sanctorum of Ram Janmabhoomi temple at Ayodhya, a struggle that has gone on for decades will culminate in faith and conviction. It would be right to say that after Independence in 1947, January 22, 2024, will be marked as another day of liberation — this time of the mind and conscience from fear, prejudice and colonialism.

Relegating Ram to a mere religious figure would diminish the contribution of Bharat’s cultural history, just as it would be to relegate an ancient religion (Sanatan Dharma) to mere orthodox hegemonic practices. Ram’s all-embracing cultural significance goes beyond the dwellers of the Indo-Gangetic plain or the Indian Subcontinent. Ram surpasses a monolithic understanding of religion.

The belief and faith in Ram goes beyond the geographical boundaries of Bharat and is found in various places including Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Malaysia. The religious and cultural heritage of these countries celebrates Ram. In Thailand, his mention is in Ramakien, Serat Rama in Indonesia, Yama Zatdaw in Myanmar, Maharadia Lawana in the Philippines and Hikayat Seri Rama in Malaysia.

In India, various communities honour Ram in their own ways. One such community is the Ramnami community found in Chhattisgarh, known for their distinctive way of showing devotion to Lord Ram. They ink every part of their body with the word “ Ram”. This is more than just an act of devotion – it is also a tool of defiance against the deep-rooted caste system.

The consecration on January 22 can also be seen as revival and rebirth and an unequivocal reinstatement of our deeply ingrained faith and belief systems. This is not merely a political movement. The second struggle for independence from fears and prejudices paves the way for self-realisation.

From the restrictions around women and Dalits entering temples to a Dalit laying the foundation stone for the Ram temple (Kameshwar Chaupal in 1989), Bharat had to take a transformative journey before the homecoming of Lord Ram. Kameshwar Chaupal, who is currently the trustee of the Ram mandir Trust, contends that the Ram mandir stands as a potent agent for social integration. It is important to emphasise that during a period when Dalits were steeped in the shackles of casteism, the foundation stone for this edifice was laid by an individual belonging to the Dalit community.

The Ram mandir will also come with hope and anticipation for the arrival of Ram-Rajya. Ram has been associated with model governance, politics and statecraft built on ageless values and ethics. The current political dispensation and the Government of India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi have moved beyond rhetoric and acted to restore the site. The country will not be guided by a Darwinian “survival of the fittest” model but through internal and external cooperation rooted in the principles of harmony and non-violence.

Etymologically, “Ayodhya” is a city that cannot be defeated. This resonates with PM Modi’s clarion call that “this is not an era of war”. With the Ram mandir, divinity, unity and transcendence will lay the basis for fostering a united and harmonious society. The temple is emblematic of collaboration and interdependence — the very foundation of a society.

As India marches on to take up the role of vishwaguru with its young and thriving population and the scale and potential of its economy, the mandir in Ayodhya will symbolise the awakening of its spiritual and social consciousness. It will bolster the pillars of GYAN (knowledge) — garib, yuva, annadata and nari shakti — an acronym coined by PM Modi.

Since the BJP-led government took office in 2014, it has worked hard to ensure schemes and policies focus on various marginalised communities to strengthen the aforementioned pillars for attaining GYAN. This is reflected in schemes such as the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Abhiyan, Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) Yojana, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana and Nari Arthik Sashaktikaran Yojana.

The Ram temple cannot be only understood in terms of its religiosity – it is a milestone in the spiritual journey that this nation is undertaking towards decolonisation and de-castification. Hopefully, with the great utsav and utsah (fervour and excitement) around Ram’s homecoming, the unmaad (conflict/confusion) created by a few will be put to an end. In terms of culture, religion and even infrastructure, this is a moment of awakening for the nation. It’s our liberation from domination, exploitation and oppression that colonialism imposed. As Hindus, we are seekers, not believers. So, we seek in the consecration of the Ram mandir the beginnings of a Bhartiya renaissance.

The temple is also the foundation of good governance, premised on justice and morality. As a daughter of Mithila, the land of Sita, I will light a diya on January 22. It will be a diya for an era of inclusive enlightenment and for Sita, as well – an epitome of resilience and women empowerment. I will light the diya for the dedication and devotion of Mata Sabri, for the intellect of Maharishi Valmiki and for the value of selflessness of Nishad Raaj.

The article was first published in The Indian Express as Ram temple and the new Independence day – freedom from colonial mindset for Bharat on January 18,2024.

Disclaimer: All views expressed in the article belong solely to the author and not necessarily to the organization.

Read more at IMPRI: Caste, Capital, and Contention: Unraveling the Layers of Reservation in India.

Acknowledgment: This article was posted by Nadiya Murshed, a research intern at IMPRI.

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IMPRI, a startup research think tank, is a platform for pro-active, independent, non-partisan and policy-based research. It contributes to debates and deliberations for action-based solutions to a host of strategic issues. IMPRI is committed to democracy, mobilization and community building.

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