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Religion 101: The Battle Of The Ancient Rama Temple in Ayodhya

Temple Hindu Hinduism India

The Rama Temple in Ayodhya holds immense religious and historical significance for millions of Hindus around the world. The temple is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Rama, a revered deity in Hinduism. However, the history of the Rama Temple has been marred by legal disputes and controversies that have spanned several decades. Image source: vatra voda on Unsplash

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Temple Rama Painting Ayodhya

A painting by the 17th-century painter, Sahib Din shows a point in Ramayana where Lord Rama, his wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana are exiled from the palace in Ayodhya for the next 14 years.  Image source: Wikipedia/British Library

Story of Ayodhya

Ayodhya is a sacred city in northern India that has a long and rich history. It is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Rama, the seventh avatar of Vishnu and the hero of the epic Ramayana. Ayodhya was also the capital of the ancient kingdom of Kosala, which was ruled by Rama’s father, King Dasharatha. Ayodhya is one of the seven holy cities of Hinduism and a major pilgrimage site for devotees of Rama.

The ancient kingdom of Kosala was one of the sixteen great realms of ancient India, located in the fertile Indo-Gangetic plains. It emerged as a small state during the late Vedic period and became one of the earliest states to transition from a lineage-based society to a monarchy.

Its capital was Ayodhya, the legendary city of Rama, the hero of the epic Ramayana. Kosala had close cultural and political ties with the neighbouring kingdom of Videha, where Rama’s wife Sita was born. Kosala was also the birthplace of Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, and the Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. Kosala reached its peak of power and prosperity in the 6th century BCE (around 2,526 years ago), when it was one of the four major kingdoms of northern India, along with Magadha, Vatsa, and Avanti.

However, it was gradually weakened by a series of wars with Magadha, which eventually annexed it in the 5th century BCE. After the collapse of the Mauryan Empire, Kosala regained its independence for a brief period under various local dynasties but was eventually absorbed into the Kushan Empire.

Ayodhya was also known as Saketa in ancient times and was a prominent centre of Buddhism and Jainism. According to Buddhist and Jain texts, both Gautama Buddha and Mahavira, the founders of these religions, visited and lived in Ayodhya. The city also has a connection with Jainism as the birthplace of five tirthankaras, or spiritual leaders, namely Rishabhanatha, Ajitanatha, Abhinandananatha, Sumatinatha and Anantanatha.

Ayodhya has witnessed many political and cultural changes over the centuries. It was part of various empires and kingdoms, such as the Mauryan, Gupta, Kanauj, Delhi Sultanate, Mughal, Awadh and British.

India Ayodhya Temple Court Case

The legal case timeline before the Indian Supreme Court made its decision in November 2019 which allowed the path for the construction of a Rama Temple at Ayodhya. The verdict was pronounced by a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, who was due to retire on 17 November 2019. Image source: Indian Express FB

Legal Court Cases

The legal battle over the ownership of the disputed site in Ayodhya dates back to the 19th century. In 1885, Mahant Raghubar Das filed a suit in the Faizabad District Court, seeking permission to construct a temple on the Rama Chabutra, a raised platform believed to be the birthplace of Lord Rama. The court, however, dismissed the suit, stating that the site was not exclusively owned by the Hindu community.

In 1949, a group of Hindu activists placed idols of Lord Rama inside the Babri Masjid, a mosque that stood on the disputed site. This led to the mosque’s closure, and the government declared the area as a disputed site. Subsequently, multiple legal cases were filed by both Hindu and Muslim groups, each claiming ownership of the land.

The most significant legal battle took place in 2010 when the Allahabad High Court delivered its verdict on the Ayodhya title suit. The court divided the disputed land into three equal parts, with one-third going to the Hindu parties, one-third to the Sunni Waqf Board, and the remaining third to the Nirmohi Akhara. This verdict was later challenged in the Supreme Court.

In November 2019, the Supreme Court of India delivered its historic judgment on the Ayodhya dispute. The court ruled in favour of the construction of a Rama Temple at the disputed site and directed the government to allocate an alternative plot of land measuring five acres to the Sunni Waqf Board for the construction of a mosque.

Rama Temple Reconstruction

Following the Supreme Court’s verdict, the Government of India, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, initiated the process of constructing the Rama Temple in Ayodhya. The government formed the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust, which is responsible for overseeing the construction of the temple.

The design for the Rama Temple is built using the Nagara style of architecture, which is characteristic of North Indian temples. It has a grand central dome, multiple mandaps, and intricate carvings depicting scenes from the Ramayana.

The government has also announced various development projects in Ayodhya to promote tourism and improve infrastructure in the region. These include the construction of a grand museum showcasing the rich cultural heritage of Ayodhya, the development of a railway station, and the establishment of a medical college and hospital.

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The temple was designed by the Sompura family of Ahmedabad, who have been involved in the construction of many temples across India and abroad. The temple follows the Nagar style of architecture, which is characterized by a square or rectangular plan, a central shikhara (spire), and multiple smaller towers called mukha mandapas. The temple has three stories, each 20 feet tall, and a total height of 161 feet. The temple has 392 pillars, 44 doors, and five domes. The temple is made of traditional materials such as pink sandstone, granite, marble, teakwood, and special bricks with “Shri Ram” inscribed on them.

The temple has many artistic and symbolic features that depict the life and teachings of Lord Rama. The temple has sculptures of various scenes from the Ramayana, such as the exile of Rama, the abduction of Sita, the battle with Ravana, and the return to Ayodhya. The temple also has statues of Lord Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Hanuman, and other deities associated with Lord Rama. The temple has a garbha-griha (sanctum-sanctorum) where the idol of Ram Lalla (infant Rama) is installed. The temple also has a Ramkatha Kunj (story hall), a Yagyashala (sacrificial hall), a Vaidik Pathshala (Vedic school), a library, a museum, and a gallery.

Prime Minister Modi has emphasized that the construction of the Ram Temple is not just about a physical structure but also about fulfilling the aspirations of millions of devotees. He called for a spirit of harmony and unity among all sections of society during the temple’s construction.

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Final Say

Although many consider it a political move by the Indian Prime Minister, Modi to gain more support from the Hindus, the fact is it is a dispute that has been ongoing since a mosque was built over a temple by Mughal commander Mir Baqi on the instruction of the first Mughal king, Babur in year 1528. It is not a big secret that many temples and palaces from ancient India were destroyed as part of the Mugal victory over the local rulers & population.

Going back to the time before such destruction now would be a very sensitive issue and may even lead to riots. However with the due process at the courts and the full backing of both state and central governments, according to some analysts, the Rama Mandir in Ayodhya has several benefits for India, both religious and economic.

On the religious front, the temple is seen as a symbol of Hindu faith and identity, as well as a tribute to Lord Rama, one of the most revered deities in Hinduism. The temple is also believed to be located at the site where Lord Rama was born, making it a sacred and powerful place for devotees. The consecration of the temple, which involves installing the idol of Lord Rama and invoking his presence, is considered a major milestone in Hindu history and culture.

On the economic front, the temple is expected to boost tourism, infrastructure, and development in Ayodhya and the surrounding regions. The temple has been built with donations from millions of people across India and abroad, reflecting the widespread support and enthusiasm for the project. The government has also planned to improve the facilities and amenities in Ayodhya, such as hotels, roads, railways, airports, and heritage sites, to attract more visitors and pilgrims. The temple economy is projected to generate employment, income, and growth for the local population and businesses.

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