The Ram temple issues are socio-political, not just religious

While the real issue of Ram temple is social, it is also a political play at its zenith. In a politically charged nation, what we see are distorted views of the developments in Ayodhya.

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Ram temple, Ayodhya (Photo: Twitter)

Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, a scholar, philosopher and former President of India, has this to say about Hinduism: "It is more a way of life than a form of thought…. The theist and the atheist, the sceptic and the agnostic may all be Hindus if they accept the Hindu system of culture and life. Hinduism insists not on religious conformity but on a spiritual and ethical outlook on life…Hinduism is not a sect but a fellowship of all who accept the law of right and earnestly seek for the truth."

Hinduism and religion

Religions and their concepts in India are imports from the West - that is west of the Indian subcontinent. The Indian subcontinent, over time, welcomed all religions with open arms and provided space for their gods and shrines alongside whatever the indigenous people worshipped wherever. In subsequent developments, those who were not part of or converted to any of these new imported religions were called Hindus by those practicing Abrahamic religions. Thus, was born a contrived “religion”. 

Hinduism, as it was known later, is not a religion by any definition or by any accepted standards. Hinduism, if at all, was a way of life practiced by the then natives of the subcontinent for millennia. What are randomly referred to as Hindu gods are deities (in reality, concepts) with divine powers given to them, manifesting extraterrestrial attributes and prowess, in a society that looks up to them and the stories built around them for solace and guidance.

The Ram temple conundrum

Traditionally, temples in India became important much after the Vedic period, only to serve as a sacred meeting place for the community to congregate and revitalize their spiritual energies. Large temples were usually built at picturesque places, especially on river banks, on top of hills, and the seashore. Unlike other organized religions, in Hinduism, it is not mandatory for a person to visit a temple. Large temples have always been about pilgrimage, a euphemism for tourism with a purpose, encouraging social intermixing and boosting the local economy. The local temples too served a similar purpose. Hence, the  Ram temple, besides recapturing the cultural imagination of the nation is also expected to boost the local economy.

Hinduism is considered by many as a human thought about God in continuous evolution. It is said that the Adi Shankara, normally thought to have lived in the fifth century BCE was instrumental in reviving Hindu philosophy in the wake of the rapidly spreading popularity of Jainism and Buddhism. According to tradition, Adi Sankara organised the Hindu monks of different sects or names under four mathas (monasteries), with the headquarters at Dwaraka in the West, Jagannath Puri in the East, Sringeri in the South and Badrikashrama in the North. Each matha was headed by one of his four main disciples, who each continued the Vedanta Sampradaya. In the past, each matha at several times has claimed to be the direct descendant of Adi Shankara. But each seat is revered equally by the followers of Hinduism. 

In the event, it is natural for these acharyas (seers) to miss the “Pran Pratishtha '' in the new Ram Mandir. If all of them attend, even the organizers will be at a loss to give the prominence of place to one of the four. The revered acharyas should keep away from the ceremonies on 22 January 2004. 

It is perceived that "In the history of the world, Hinduism is the only religion that exhibits a complete independence and freedom of the human mind, its full confidence in its own powers. Hinduism is freedom, especially the freedom to think about God."  Dissension is not a serious issue in the Hindu philosophy and is only to be expected as a matter of course.

The changing establishment

In India that is Bharat, we may not be recognizing the present establishment and the antiestablishment correctly. While the real issue of Ram temple is social, it is also a political play at its zenith. In a politically charged nation, what we see are distorted views of the developments in Ayodhya. In a vibrant democracy such as India, it is natural for politicians to exploit emotive issues, whatever they are. 

Considering this, the two basic divides in a democracy are pro and anti-establishment. Usually, the ruling dispensation is the establishment and the opposition is the anti-establishment. There was no convergence between the state and the nation when inevitably pluralist states became independent from the departing European power. Redrawing of boundaries of these new states usually did not pay sufficient attention to ethnicity, indigenous history and in many places even geography. The negativity in the pluralistic democracy, introduced by the Congress party then had basic continuity with the British style of governance with the same structure in police, paramilitary and other civil organizations. It is the first time that another party, the BJP, raised in the shadow of an RSS 'swadeshi' (homegrown) ideology, came to power on its own and has been governing India for a decade. Here one can discern a different facet of democracy than practiced by the Congress. Even though it is the government of the BJP it has been functioning as an anti-establishment organization while the Congress is perceived as the establishment.

The Ram temple issue, which has been brought to a conclusion following a democratic path after the demolition of the Babri mosque by a mob in 1992, may well reverse this phenomenon and help to protect the government of the day, which is not under the influence of the long-reigning Congress as the establishment. This reversal is essential for perpetuating democracy. It is precisely for this reason that the larger implication of the construction of the temple should not be viewed as only a religious one. It is politics at its zenith and the players are more than one political party.

Dr. Radhakrishnan also says “Hinduism is not bound up with a creed or a book, a prophet or a founder, but is a persistent search for truth based on a continuously renewed experience. Hinduism will adapt”. 

The panorama is larger than what is perceived.

(The author is an Indian Army veteran and a contemporary affairs commentator. The views are personal. He can be reached at  vishkl@gmail.com )

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