“Ram is within all, Ram is for all.” With this Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to have corrected a historical wrong in 2020, finally. Two decades after the Ayodhya incident and the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the Bhoomi Pujan was performed on August 5, with the country watching with a lot of hope. Modi, on the auspicious day, also said that the temple would prove to be a bridge among communities and connect the entire country as it also signifies truth and sacrifice. The prime minister emphasised that Lord Ram is the thread that will uphold India’s unity in diversity. But there has been a lot of criticism too about the timing of the temple’s Bhoomi Pujan — amid the pandemic — so the question remains, will Ayodhya’s Ram Mandir be able to unite India?
All hail Lord Ram
On the occasion of the Bhoomi Pujan, Modi termed the upcoming Ram Janmabhoomi temple as a “modern symbol of our culture, eternal faith, and national spirit”, and emphasized on the need of “sabka saath, sabka vishwa”.
“Whenever humanity believed and followed Ram’s path, there was progress. When there were diversions from the path, there was destruction. We have to bind the foundations of the Ram Mandir in the bond of mutual brotherhood. We must keep everyone’s feelings in mind, must ensure sabka saath, sabka vishwas,” he said, stressing that this was the means by which ‘sabka vikas’ or development for all will take place.
“I am deliberately using the word modern. This temple will be a symbol of our faith, our nationalism, and our collective resolve,” he said. The prime minister also added that the date of the puja should be considered equal to India’s Independence Day on August 15.
Explaining why the date of the Bhoomi Pujan of Ayodhya’s Ram Mandir should be considered at par with Independence Day, Modi said: “During our freedom struggle everyone sacrificed for our freedom. Just as 15 August symbolizes the end of our struggle for freedom, where the entire country played its part, for the Ram Mandir, people have made a number of sacrifices and struggled. And today symbolizes the culmination of the fight for a Ram Mandir for centuries.” The PM termed it a really emotional moment for the nation. “The entire country is excited and emotional today. The wait for centuries is ending today. Many are not even able to believe that they are witnessing this day.”
Adding those earlier efforts had been to erase the existence of Lord Ram, he said that the lord is known to reside in everyone’s hearts.
“We have looked towards Lord Ram whenever we have to do something. A lot of efforts were made to destroy Lord Ram’s identity, but he still reigns in our hearts,” Modi added. He also stated that the Ram Mandir will be a symbol of national sentiment and collective faith and will teach humanity love and dedication.
Everyone comes together
The longstanding Ayodhya dispute has been a major card that had to be played carefully for the Bharatiya Janata Party to attain the power at the Centre and keep rising. The party’s promise to build a temple on the disputed land has been the integral message of the BJP’s election agenda starting way back since the 1980s. With the one-of-a-kind ceremony on August 5, the prime minister finally delivered on one of its most important election promises to his Hindu nationalist following in the country. Not just the public in general, but the opposition leaders too seemed to unite and support the Ram Mandir idea. While some organized poojas at home, others remained a bit passive and just promoted Hindu-Muslim unity. “The message is a clear one: here is a day which should be celebrated as the day BJP fulfilled two of its core promises,” Sanjay Kumar, director of New Delhi based think-tank Center for the Study of Developing Societies told TIME magazine. “The fact that no opposition leaders have raised their voice against this event being held in the middle of a pandemic shows how powerful the BJP has become.” But will Ayodhya’s Ram Mandir unite India? Just like it did the opposition?
To the public and quite to the BJP’s surprise, almost 24 hours before the scheduled ceremony for the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, Congress’s general secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh Priyanka Gandhi Vadra issued a statement about the same. Her statement said that the Bhoomi Pujan should be seen as “a celebration of national unity, fraternity and cultural affinity”.
“Lord Ram symbolises sacrifice as also shelter. Ram belongs both to ‘Sabri’ as also to ‘Sugriv’. Ram belongs to ‘Valmiki’ as also to ‘Bhasa’. Ram belongs to ‘Kamban’ as also to ‘Ezhuthachan’. Ram belongs to ‘Kabir’, to ‘Tulsidas’ and to ‘Raidas’. Ram personifies each one of us. Mahatma Gandhi’s ‘Rahgupati Raghav Raja Ram’ bestows divine wisdom and equanimity. Waris Ali Shah says, ‘Rab is Ram’,” she said.
Numerous Bhoomi Pujan celebrations were also reported from West Bengal on August 5 despite COVID-19 restrictions that have been in place in the state as cases are on the rise. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wrote on Twitter, “Hindu Muslim Sikh Isaai. Aapas mein hain Bhai Bhai! Mera Bharat Mahaan, Mahaan Hamara Hindustan. Our country has always upheld the age-old legacy of unity in diversity, and we must preserve this to our last breath!”
Hindu Muslim Sikh Isaai
Aapas mein hain Bhai Bhai!
Mera Bharat Mahaan,
Mahaan Hamara Hindustan.
Our country has always upheld the age-old legacy of unity in diversity, and we must preserve this to our last breath! (1/2)
— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) August 5, 2020
Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav also came out in support saying that Ram will bring peace and harmony among people across the country.
जय महादेव जय सिया-राम
जय राधे-कृष्ण जय हनुमान
भगवान शिव के कल्याण, श्रीराम के अभयत्व व श्रीकृष्ण के उन्मुक्त भाव से सब परिपूर्ण रहें!
आशा है वर्तमान व भविष्य की पीढ़ियां भी मर्यादा पुरूषोत्तम के दिखाए मार्ग के अनुरूप सच्चे मन से सबकी भलाई व शांति के लिए मर्यादा का पालन करेंगी.
— Akhilesh Yadav (@yadavakhilesh) August 5, 2020
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal too extended his congratulations on the occasion of Bhoomi Pujan ceremony for Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. “Congratulations to the entire country on the occasion of Bhoomi Pujan. May the blessings of Lord Rama be with us. With his blessings, our country will get rid of hunger, illiteracy and poverty and make India the most powerful nation in the world. May India give direction to the world in times to come. Jai Shree Ram, Jai Bajrang Bali,” Kejriwal said in a tweet in Hindi.
भूमि पूजन के मौक़े पर पूरे देश को बधाई
भगवान राम का आशीर्वाद हम पर बना रहे। उनके आशीर्वाद से हमारे देश को भुखमरी, अशिक्षा और ग़रीबी से मुक्ति मिले और भारत दुनिया का सबसे शक्तिशाली राष्ट्र बने। आने वाले समय में भारत दुनिया को दिशा दे।
जय श्री राम! जय बजरंग बली!
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) August 5, 2020
Senior BJP leader and former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Uma Bharti, who had earlier stated she would avoid the Ram Temple Bhoomi Pujan in Ayodhya as a precaution against the Coronavirus, later also attended the event.
“I am bound by the dignity of Maryada Purshottam Lord Ram. I have been told by a senior Ram Janmabhoomi officer to remain present at the site of the groundbreaking ceremony… So, I will attend the event,” the 61-year-old veteran politician tweeted in Hindi, before reaching the temple site in Ayodhya.