Delhi Violence Shows BJP Likes Its Ram Mandir Without Ram Rajya
Planting of a ‘Jai Shri Ram’ flag on a vandalised mosque has done more harm to Ram than any external aggression.
Yes, the Ram Mandir dream has inched closer to realisation with PM Narendra Modi’s announcement of the Ram Mandir trust in the parliament. Predictably, this was followed by the loud chants of Jai Shri Ram by enthusiastic MPs of the ruling party.
What has our Ram—yes, he belongs to the collective imagination of this country— been reduced to! A slogan, a victory chant, or a divisive totem?
And after the North East Delhi violence, Ram’s name stands much maligned. Planting of a Jai Shri Ram bearing flag on a vandalised mosque and the viral videos of Hindu mobs indulging in violence and arson chanting the Lord’s name have done more harm to His divinity than any external aggression ever would.
No, I have nothing to say about the comparable acts and slogans of the ‘other’ side. Those who are born in Muslim families can comment on those, I’ll stick to the religion I was born into.
Ram’s Katha and Ram’s Rajya
The political Hindu imagination has always fallen back on the idea of ramrajya—an elusive utopia—to make a case for nativist revisionism in not just polity but also socio-cultural contracts between the citizens of this country.
Let’s fall back on the very Ramkatha to see how flawed the divisive ideas of the current government are.
The Ayodhyakand and the beginning of the Aranyakand specify the duties of a king: rajdharm or kshatradharm (since kshatriyas were the rulers).
The Ayodhyakand defines dharma of kshatriyas: violence is to be eschewed, unless absolutely necessary, in the domain of sociopolitical action. We do not really encounter any violence in the Ayodhyakand. The kshatriya dharm also binds the ruler to safeguard the brahmanical order—the order based on knowledge. Ram’s kingly duties involve providing protection, often jeopardising his own life, to the rishis engaged in various scholarly and spiritual pursuits.
Are scholars safe in this country today?
The beginning of the Aranyakand makes a case for the king’s primary role to be “guardian of righteousness and glorious refuge of his people,” and to be “the protector of his subjects”.
Can the BJP government righteously claim that they are the protectors of all their subjects after the chants of Desh Ke Gaddaron ko, Goli Maaro Saalon Ko?
What Kind of Men, According to Ramkatha, Are Governing India Today?
Through Ramkatha, a hierarchy of men is sought to be established. Ram is the perfect man as well as the perfect protagonist of this tale. The antagonist has to be equally worthy and thus appears Ravan, a scholar in his own right, the king who presided over a city of gold. Some of the most important kernels on niti or policy/conduct emerge via Ravan’s character and actions.
One such passage, relevant to the present times, appears in the Yuddhakand. Having witnessed Hanuman’s rampage in the Sundarkanda, Ravan—like a good statesman— takes a moment to assess his strengths and vulnerabilities. His speech invoking the counselors is worth quoting extensively:
‘‘There are three types of men in this world: the highest, the lowest, and those in between. I will now set forth the merits and demerits of each of them. The highest type of man, they say, is he who first takes counsel with those counselors intent upon his welfare and competent in counsel, with those friends who share his goals, or with those kinsmen who wish him well, and only then initiates undertakings such that his efforts are in harmony with the will of the gods.”
‘‘The man who stands in between, they say, is he who reflects upon a matter by himself, who by himself directs his thoughts to righteous action, and then carries through those actions by himself.”
“And the lowest type of man is he who, after saying, ‘I will do this,’ undertakes an action—regardless of its merits and demerits and without relying on the will of the gods—and then fails to carry it through.”
Now, who are we being governed by today? Men who seek sound counsel?
Even Ram Can Not Renounce Ethics
After Sita’s abduction by Ravan in the Aranyakand, the transformation in Ram’s character is almost dramatic. In his fit of grief driven madness, Ram dismantles every notion about himself that has been hitherto carefully crafted in Ramkatha. He not only rejects political ethics but also relinquishes the principal duty incumbent upon him as king: protection of his subjects. He threatens destruction of cosmic proportions:
“Watch now, Lakshaman, as I fill the sky with missiles and darts, leaving no space whatever for creatures that move about the three worlds. I will bring the host of planets to a standstill, darken the moon that brings the night, paralyze both fire and wind, blot out the light of the sun; I will grind the mountain peaks to dust, dry up every body of water, uproot every tree, vine, and shrub, annihilate the ocean.”
Fortunately, Lakshman is successful in calming him down and the two set out on a mission to find Sita. Each time Ram has let go of the principles he ought to abide by, there is a threat to the natural order of existence. One such incident, later, would be asking his wife to undertake agnipariksha. His act rent the earth asunder and he was to be a husband no more. A man who waged fierce battles to retrieve his wife had to lose her forever.
Curiously, it was the feared loss of the beloved consort that drove Ram, albeit momentarily, to think of unleashing violence and hate upon universe. What scares our government that rules in the name of Ram? What provocation is there to unleash chaos and cacophony?
In the end, let us not forget that Ram is antaryaami, sarvagya and sarvavyapt. Ravan also has a bit of Ram in him. Is it not an insult to him, then, to tie him not only to one physical site but also turn that very site into a metaphor of violence and disharmony?
Yes, there will be a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya soon. What good will it do to Ram who is yet to emerge from exile? There is a rajya awaiting Ram, still.
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