Thoughts on the Ram Mandir temple

On August 6, the Prime Minister of India, Narender Modi, laid the foundation stones for a new temple called Ram Mandir in a city called Ajodhya in Utter Pradesh, India. In and of itself, this would not be noteworthy occurrence, except that the site of this future temple has been in contention between Hindus and Muslims since 1527, and maybe earlier  than that!  The Hindus believe that this site is the birthplace of god Rama (in Hindu mythology, he is the seventh avatar (incarnation) of Vishnu), and they base this claim on the anecdotal evidence of a Hindu temple previously stood on this spot (it is not known if it was to Ram or some other deity).

Temples stand on almost every corner in India, especially the city of Ajodhya!  That there was a temple on this spot can possibly be proven; that this was the exact spot of Rama’s birth, however (which according to the myth happened almost 90,000 years ago), is impossible to prove.

The pivotal role that the land of India has played in world history is not fully appreciated in the West, other than the occasional mention that the British Empire was there from 1757 to 1947 (perhaps this fact would be more exceptional had it not been for the history of a nation that achieved its independence from the same British Empire around the same time India was taken into the Commonwealth; the United States of America!)  India has existed from the dawn of civilization. Its history is part of the times of the Bible, and is even mentioned with the advent of the Persian Empire in the book of Esther. It was the eastern point of Alexander the Great’s conquests, and in later centuries, one of the greatest economic centers of the world. The initial reason for the Europeans’ westward exploration from the 1400s onward was to somehow to get to the East, to get to India.

It goes without saying that India has been a prime target of conquest all throughout time. One of the most significant and impressive conquerors were the Muslims, and their conquest began with the death of the Islamic prophet Muhammed in 632 A. D. Muhammad’s last words were a command for conquest to his followers in the Arabian Peninsula. North, South, East, and West: conquest was how Islam and its Empire spread for the next 700 years. They conquered North Africa and reached as far as Cordoba, Spain, on the doorstep of Europe.  The Byzantine Empire was defeated in stages until finally, the city of Constantinople fell to Mehmet II in 1453, in perhaps the most famous and consequential victory of the Islamic empire. But seldom does the world appreciate the conquest to the East. On several different levels, this was frightening because the East was not so easily conquered, particularly with the rise of Genghis Kahn in Mongolia. Genghis Kahn is part of this story in many ways because he came from the East, conquering all the way to the doorstep of Europe. The Mongol hordes were responsible for close to 40 million deaths in their conquest, but in time, they realized that their “fighting spirit” could be assured more by mingling with and co-opting the Islamic world. The centuries of wild bloodshed were bad even by today’s standards.

According to historical traditions, the Mughals, the Muslim conquerors of India, were a mix of the Mongols of Genghis Kahn and the Persian Muslim Empires of Central Asia (the modern-day countries of the “-istan” nations: Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, etc. ).

In the Eastern Hemisphere, “blood lore” carries a deep significance. It means that behavioral traits along with genetic traits are deeply connected to a group or person connected to that lineage, and this in turn could bode as either blessing or curse, fortune or misfortune, or good or evil for anyone who comes across said group of people. The Mughals boasted a history of infamous conquerors in their bloodline who committed genocide on a grand scale, and in fact they had two of the worst killers of all time in Genghis Kahn and Tamerlane.

Both of these conquerors approached conquest with fanatical religious fervor; the latter did it with the “sword of Islam,” a title and theme that several Mughal emperors and military leaders would take, and India was the proverbial “hen house” to the fox of the Islamic zealots of the Mughal Empire.

Hinduism (in whichever form it takes) predates Islam by 2,000 years in India, as does Buddhism. Temples, superstitions, and shrines abounded everywhere. Islam started in Saudi Arabia with Muhammed commanding the destruction of every single pagan image. What he did with regards to the Kaaba in Mecca would be the model to follow. India would have been their prime “mission field,” and the blood would flow from the foot of the Himalayas in the North, all the way to Kanyakumari in the South.

The first Mughal emperor was Babur and it was his mosque which previously stood on the site of the future Ram Mandir. In 1526, the Mughal Empire started its reign in India. The two most religiously significant cities in Hinduism are Varanasi and Ayodhya (both are in the state of Utter Pradesh); both came under the control of the Mughals.

Ayodhya is the purported site of “Ram Janmabhoomi,” the birthplace of Ram. Ram (or Rama) is considered an avatar or incarnation of the god Vishnu, one of the trimurti (the triumvirate of Hinduism’s most powerful and significant deities; in one sense, the 33 million gods and goddesses of Hinduism are considered some kind of incarnation of these three). The story of Rama is covered in the Ramayana, one of two significant sacred writings of Hinduism (the other being the Bhavadgita).

In the story, Ayodhya is the capital city in Ram’s kingdom and his birthplace but considering the fact that the Ramayana is a mythological epic, it is a fantasy at best with almost no historical evidence or relevance whatsoever. In the Western context, it would be similar to the Iliad and Odyssey, but at least Homer could say that Troy was a real city and point to its location. The same cannot be said of the modern day Ayodhya but this does not matter in the Hindu world of India. If educated intellects want to believe in flying monkeys (part of the story), then they will believe it because most of the masses believe it, not because it is true.

Ram is considered the paragon of male virtue, beauty, and strength in Hinduism, and his wife, Sita, would be considered the same for the females. She is one of the main characters of the story and an avatar of the goddess Lakshmi, Vishnu’s wife (I guess one can say they make the perfect ideal couple for the Hindu world!). The story revolves around Ram and his quest to save his wife, Sita, who was kidnapped by the demon king of Lanka (the Hindus believe this to be modern day Sri Lanka). Without going into the sordid details, this epic has so captured the imagination of so many of the Hindus of India that for over 500 years, their passions have been restless with regards to the Ram Janmabhoomi. Thus comes the crux of the problem today: whether right or wrong, proven or not, myth or fact, the birthplace of Ram in Ayodhya is asserted to be on the site previously covered by the Babri Masjid Islamic mosque.

According to the history, the Babri Masjid mosque was built shortly after Babur conquered northern India, and on his orders, on an area known as the “Rama Fort. ” The significance of the mosque can be summarized by two major reasons: first, its location, and second, it was the beginning of a 300-year period of Muslim rule in India: a period of time in which India became one of the wealthiest and most powerful nations in the world. But as said before, this was not a “politically correct” invasion. There was plenty of bloodshed and destruction which would affect the history of India throughout the centuries to this present day. There are many who blame the British for the partition of India and Pakistan after the Independence struggle in 1947. One thing is certain, there were more than enough grudges to cause the schism in the heart and soul of people long before it actually became legalized on official papers. Babri Masjid proves that beyond a shadow of doubt.

The animosity about the site entered the courts of British India during the 1800s but with no resolution. The argument from the Muslims was that the mosque was built on the site first while the Hindus claimed that a Ram temple was on the site originally. Increasingly, the Hindus became more fanatical and fantastical about the matter. Stories about how the site was the birthplace of Ram came up and became more elaborate until the advent of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) political party in the 1980s took the matter into a new level of craziness. In the second most populated country in the world, the BJP started with two members in Parliament, but it had some of the most cunning political movers and shakers who were more than ready to throw all caution to the wind to achieve political power. They found their disenfranchised community in Hindu fanatics and so they made the goal of their platform to remake India as a “Ramaraj” state. They would achieve this by destroying the Babri Masjid and building a “new temple” to Ram on its ruins. And so once again, India was plunged into a period of the worst communal violence since the partition with Pakistan.

It was not just the Babri Masjid that became a target; BJP politicians (particularly in the state of Utter Pradesh) openly talked about pushing the Muslim population out of India into Pakistan, and the Christian population out of India to the West. The Taj Mahal (India’s greatest national monument and most famous structure) was targeted for destruction as well. The Indian government surrounded Babri Masjid, the Taj Mahal, and other Mughal/Muslim structures all throughout India with large police detachments and other armed security forces to keep the proverbial “powder keg from exploding”  while unbelievable acts of communal violence took place all throughout India. Hindu paramilitary groups attacked the Muslim population, but the Muslims were prepared to retaliate with just as much violence. Rape, pillage, murder and plunder became commonplace.

In the meantime, the Christians were caught in the middle. In many cities and villages in North India, Hindu gangs turned churches into temples. If the BJP took control of any state, or became the majority in the federal parliament, they would certainly make laws to attack the Christians as well as the Muslims. This is not a simple matter regarding the Muslim population which is about 25% of India’s population; the Christians on the other hand still suffer terribly. I must also say that the BJP political party is not solely responsible for this mess. India’s Congress Party (the party of Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, Indira Gandhi, etc.) was also complicit with Hindu fanaticism and the violence that stemmed from it. One of the worst groups involved was the Congress Party’s own paramilitary organization, the RSS.

On December 6, 1992, the Hindu fanatics groups (all politically allied with the BJP) made their move against the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya; some estimates say it was around 200,000 people, others say as many as a million people came for the attack. From the accounts that I heard, the Prime Minister of India at the time (Narasimha Rao, a member of the Congress Party) actually ordered the police to move out of the way so that the mosque could be attacked. It is difficult to argue with this point; if the police were so intimidated (as the official story goes) then it does not explain them going on a baton charge on that same crowd, after the mosque was destroyed.

Death surrounded the whole ordeal. Just as with the coronavirus pandemic today, casualties reported from the other side of the world are highly suspect, but according to many sources, just in bringing down the structure, hundreds died. There were no safety considerations. Babri Masjid was a large structure with three domes that were held up by pillars which made the matter of bringing down the structure a fairly simple one conceptually. But as one person who witnessed the action told me, anyone who was inside that structure was certainly killed when the whole place collapsed. Many politicians were involved in the whole affair but all of them proclaimed their “innocence” or that they were “trying to stop the mob from the insane actions,”. But no; in all likelihood, they poured the proverbial gasoline on the fire. Riots and mayhem broke out all over the Indian subcontinent. Pakistan and Bangladesh both saw terrible violence perpetrated against Hindu communities in those countries as well as in India which has the largest Muslim population of all countries except for Indonesia.

The effects were dreadful, both in the short and long term. The BJP political party became a massive driving force in India at the same time as the world was convoluted by the War on Terror and such players and groups as Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaida, and ISIS. Pakistan became a nuclear power in the late 1990s, it and Bangladesh decided to demonstrate to the world their nuclear capabilities. The implications became frightening and India’s political leaders played on those fears to the maximum to somehow deflect from the episode that took place at Ayodhya with the Babri Masjid.

At the same time, Indian leaders made economic policy changes within their country while focusing on the Muslim instability and violence in Pakistan, while Christians and Muslims (to a certain extent) felt the oppression and persecution of Hindu fanatics in India. Churches were desecrated and turned into temples while government official either ignored  the cries of the Christians or played the game of telling them that “it is a legal matter, the courts will decide,”; the same court system that took 25 years (actually, make that a 150 years!), to make a decision about Babri Masjid!

Who can forget the violence that took place in the state of Orissa in 2007 and at regular intervals in Madhya Pradesh in the course of the last 20 years, or what happened within the last two years before the federal elections in India when entire villages were attacked and destroyed by Hindu gangs, under the observation of the local police?  Anti-conversion laws were passed in India to curtail revivals that were taking place among India’s outcast communities (because they could not possibly think for themselves!) and churches were ordered to keep baptismal registries for government oversight. When asked why this was happening in the world’s largest democracy with a purported “bill of rights” recognizing freedom of religion and thought, government and justice leaders just offered the proverbial dumb look and pleaded ignorance!  No one did anything to stop it.

Which brings us back to the now Ram Mandir groundbreaking that just took place. In 2010, a three-judge panel at the Allahabad High Court made the decision to divide the disputed land (2. 77 acres) between the Muslims and two Hindu groups. That decision was countermanded by the Supreme Court of India in 2019, which ruled that based on the fact that an archeological survey concluded that a Hindu temple had previously stood on this spot, they were giving the whole property to a Hindu trust to build a temple on the spot where previously stood the Babri Masjid. In the hopes of placating the Muslims, the court ordered the government of India to give five acres of land to the Utter Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board to build a new Babri Masjid. The move did not placate the Muslims at all, who have every reason not to trust BJP government. But the Hindus were ecstatic. It was like a new celebration of Independence!  Prime Minister Modi was further looking to strengthen his political base, and announced the construction of a new Temple to Ram, at the site of his “birthplace. ”

I watched the reaction of the Muslim community, and I was surprised that it was rather passive. I suppose that the younger generation of Muslims in India have had enough of this problem. It should be said that they are building newer mosques all throughout India; religious devotion is not necessarily the problem. But as they consider historical perspectives, they come face to face with the reality of how bloody the conquest was by the Islamic empires, and the reality that every Islamic structure and memorial will have an effusion of blood attached to it. Or maybe they just do not care anymore. It would surprise me if people decided that they had better things to do with their time and money than to get into a perennial fight in which the odds of winning were nonexistent.

For the Hindus, it is a different story. I watched the response of famous yogi/Hindu philosopher, Saduguru. This fellow has marketed himself well, wearing a turban and juba, and carrying himself as an enlightened and educated “wise man. ”  He is well-versed in English and has been invited to speak before the student bodies of such prestigious universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, and Harvard, as well as in several parliaments all around the world. The fellow could not hide his glee on the subject!  He said that any vestige of Baber must be totally “wiped out of India. ” He further pointed out that the casualty list of India’s Islamic conquest was in the tens of millions and that Rama was in essence the antithesis to Babur. He then said something that I found strange: while claiming his respect for the Muslim community of India today, saying that they are in no way “connected” to the actions of the past, he mentioned the “benefits” of Hinduism. He said that the Western world, and in particular, those who come from Judeo-Christian or Islamic thought cannot understand the nebulous nature of Hinduism. “We have no fundamentals or absolutes,” he said, when asked about why Hinduism has so many deities and even worshipped the living as gods. “We are not worshipping them per se, but the divine attributes in them. ” This he said also as the justification of building a new temple to Ram on the site of the demolished Babri Majid. With that mindset, it is no wonder to me that India is destined for disastrous times in the future.

The part that I find particularly interesting is the take of the international community on this matter. In a world where during the last 20 years during the War on Terror, the Islamic community was given some of the best PR coverage by the press and others, but on this particular issue everyone seems to be in a state of bewilderment. When Prime Minister Modi was laying the cornerstone to the new temple, in New York City, London, Paris, and other major cities all over the world, in their main public squares, enormous jumbotron screens covered the event and even showed pictures of Rama and Sita with great shouts of “Jai Rama!” and this was right in the face of large Muslim communities in those cities. I found no protests from anywhere, other than perhaps Pakistan and Bangladesh, but these were muted. I pondered: what if there were such a play in another part of the world, namely in Jerusalem at the place known as the Temple Mount? What would happen if Orthodox elements of Judaism decide one day to bring down the mosque and shrines on the Mount and clear the whole site to build a new Jewish temple?  Can the same result as what happened in Ajodhya be assumed?  Both are sites of horrible bloodshed. It can be assumed that “modern” or “secular” people do not want any such action to take place, just as was said in India. If that was true, I certainly did not see such people anywhere during the event in August. It seemed that the entirety of Hindu India was celebrating. Would the same be true in Israel?  One can never tell.

Unlike the Babri Masjid/Ram Mandir story, God does reveal in His Word that in the times of the end, there will be such an occurrence in Jerusalem. According to Revelation, a new temple will be present in the time called the Tribulation. For decades since 1947, such a thing was considered totally improbable, if not nearly impossible. I would say that things have changed; now, it is not only possible, it may even be probable, and perhaps even doable, in the eyes of the secular world. For the people of God, it will happen soon and the story of the Ram Mandir temple is just a sign of it.

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