Can a new multi-faith Ayodhya be made? - Hindustan Times
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Can a new multi-faith Ayodhya be made?

Jan 22, 2024 04:21 PM IST

Ayodhya is fundamentally different from the Vatican. In a few years, Ayodhya will see temples and mosques standing together.

On the intervening night of December 22 and 23, 1949, a “miracle” happened in Ayodhya. Havaldar Abdul Barkat, a guard on duty at the disputed site, saw a golden light within the structure around 2 am. In his witness account of the incident before the district magistrate of the time, Barkat said he saw a godlike child of four or five years appear from the divine golden light that had grown brighter. An overwhelmed Barkat soon passed out. When he revived, he said, he saw the lock of the main door had been broken in and a large crowd of Hindus had entered the building and was performing aarti of an idol installed there chanting Bhay prakat kripala, deen dayala.

A general view of the audience during the opening of Ram Remple in Ayodhya.(AP) PREMIUM
A general view of the audience during the opening of Ram Remple in Ayodhya.(AP)

This was a significant milestone in the struggle to reclaim Ram Janmabhoomi, which started in some form in the 16th century. But the structure was soon closed for worship.

Thirty-seven years later, at 4.20pm on February 1, 1986, the then district judge of Faizabad (now Ayodhya) ordered the reopening of this site for worship by Hindus. Within 40 minutes of the order being issued, the structure that was 10km away was reopened. Thousands again cheered for Ram Lalla. This was the second critical moment of the struggle.

Today, a few hours from now, Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat will take part in Ram Lalla’s consecration at a magnificent event. The wheel of time has come full circle. About 8,000 very important guests from India and abroad will witness the historical event. The construction of the temple is still incomplete, but it is widely acknowledged that the consecration of the idol is adequate for worship. In Indian culture, devotion is seen as the result of people’s sentiments. For ages, this location has been considered a temple.

The most notable feature of this temple is that it is being constructed with the approval and endorsement of the Supreme Court (SC). Between 1949 and 2024, we Indians mastered various manners and methods. I am not disputing the “miracle theory” of 1949, but to attain our goal, we must work within the present system rather than rely on any miracle. This Ram Lalla temple represents a fresh but very healthy tradition. The reason? The government led by PM Narendra Modi did not act hastily as in 1986. It took recourse to the law. And the temple is currently taking shape in accordance with the religious traditions and legislation of India. That is why there has been no voice from the Opposition against the construction of this edifice.

Furthermore, Iqbal Ansari, a long-time litigant and champion for the Babri Masjid, has agreed to attend the consecration. It is vital to mention Zia ul Haq, a prisoner held in Fatehpur Prison. He has worked for the last two months in accordance with jail rules, and his wages in total are 100. He wishes to offer this amount to Ram Lalla. Those who polarised Hindus and Muslims on every issue can learn from this. Ram was and will continue to belong to everyone. His city, Ayodhya, has traditionally insulated itself from communal sentiments, and it has proudly continued this practice this time around.

This temple may take three more years to finish. The Yogi Adityanath government of Uttar Pradesh intends to establish Ayodhya as a religious city. It is a coincidence that this temple complex is being built over approximately 108 acres, an area almost equivalent to the Vatican, the sacred city of Roman Catholic Christians. The Vatican is spread over 108.7 acres.

I want to mention one more point here. When considering the temple, the mosque is sometimes overlooked. The SC also ordered that land be allotted for the mosque. The effort to build a mosque on land allocated by the government has also begun. It is said that this noble activity will formally begin during the holy month of Ramzan. It would be better if the temple and mosque were completed at the same time. This completion should include not only buildings but also feelings behind faiths. A construction without feeling lacks importance.

This is why I think Ayodhya is fundamentally different from the Vatican. The latter, undoubtedly, sees a huge concentration of Catholic Christians, but in a few years, Ayodhya will see temples and mosques standing together, sharing a similar ethos. Why don’t Sikhs, Christians, Jains, and Buddhists build their own places of worship there?

Will religious leaders from all faiths and sects agree to this?

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. The views expressed are personal

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