AA Edit | Will new Ayodhya temple lead to national healing?

The Asian Age.

Opinion, Columnists

A Spiritual Milestone or Political Triumph? The Nation Reflects on the Aftermath

The idol of Ram Lalla after the 'Pran Pratishtha' ceremony of the Ram Mandir, in Ayodhya, Monday, Jan. 22, 2024. (PTI Photo/Vijay Verma)

As the nation and its people resident in many lands beyond it were transfixed by the spiritual experience of the divine consecration of a temple for one of the most revered gods of the Hindu pantheon, the long-awaited goal of building a permanent home in Ayodhya for one who had been reduced to residing in a tent, had been attained.
Only time will tell if this new beginning, to be described as the era ‘After Ram Mandir’, will take its place in time as a significant act of reconciliation — with the troubled past of the ‘Janmabhoomi’ of a cultural and religious icon — that will lead to a positive and more harmonious time for a nation politically polarised as never before.

As one of the architects of the movement to instal Lord Ram in his own grand abode, the Prime Minister may not have avoided the triumphalism of having piloted this achievement after centuries of “patience and sacrifice”. And yet he was being mostly positive, rather than political, in his Lord Ram-eulogising speech as he recalled the history while airing the belief the temple would become a symbol of national healing.

Members of the majority community may have seen this pursuit of a dream also as a closure of a historical event which had to be recognised and corrected. But then they had the carbon-dated historical artefacts, columns and formations from archaeological digs pointing to the pre-existence of a temple at the spot which faith had been pointing to as the place of birth of Lord Ram.

Any festival centred on a deity in the country celebrates the grandness of life itself, as seen in how the smallest village festival personifies the joy of its people as much as faith.

Of course, the Ayodhya consecration was on a far grander scale, with the super celebrities of the world of industry, films and sport being present as much as Hindu seers and sants, as well as the humble builders who made possible this symbol of a syncretic coming together of the nation in its art and architecture.

Those conspicuous in their absence as the Prime Minister, Governor and Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and the head of the RSS marked the religious event with their presence in the sanctum sanctorum were members of the opposition as well as some aligned with the ruling alliance who chose to skip the Pran Prathistha and seek the blessings of Lord Ram later.

The Opposition, in shunning the event, made a political call much more than a high moral one, because the same leaders who avoided the consecration may still go there if only to seek out the minds of the people who, after all, are the ones who vote them in. Even so, the event became so intertwined with politics that the divisions clearly showed as some events happened elsewhere.

If Rahul Gandhi railed at the denial of permissions to visit a temple in Assam at the time of the Ayodhya consecration and meet people in his yatra too, the devout and the faithful were outraged in Tamil Nadu, which tried to take unconstitutional measures to stop the live telecast of the event at public places like temples. The Supreme Court had to rap it on its knuckles while reminding the state of its constitutional obligations towards “liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship.”