(Nidhi Samarpan Event – 7th Feb 2021 – Panel talk)
When I was first asked to speak as part of the panel and on behalf of the youth of India, I wasn’t quite sure about what to talk. So, I decided to give my friends a call and ask them what they think of Rama and the Ayodhya Ram mandir. They said he is a great king, one who chose his people over his family. And that the principles of Rama, honesty and self-discipline, are essential for life and success. On the other hand, the Ayodhya Ram Mandir was either an unknown concept or an unseen one between school, exams, assignments, family and friends and of course, who can forget, COVID. Of them all, one line that struck me as particularly odd was ‘how would I know about something I’ve never seen?’
In this global world, we do many things and hashtag and re-share many more while being on opposite ends of the globe. So maybe the reality is that we couldn’t care less. That it isn’t a priority. After all, why should we know of a place that doesn’t exist, hasn’t for a very long time? A place that we never heard of before, a place that we will probably never see unless we are dragged to. Because it is an integral part of our region, an integral part of the foundation of the society we live in. A piece of land with hundreds of millions of stories. A piece of land for which lakhs of people were gladly willing to give up their lives and so much more.
Why is Ayodhya so important? Yes, I have been told that Ayodhya is the birth-place of Rama, but so what? Does it truly deserve the hype? Or is it just another one of those over-done, over-stated things? I remember when for the first time after 18 years, I went to Seattle, the place where I was born. A place I have no memories of, I was only a few months-old baby when we moved to India. A place that I found out I was born in, only when I looked at my birth-certificate. But when I went there, I had a strange feeling. A feeling of… apnapan. A feeling I’ve had in every house I have ever lived in. A feeling I have when I visit the place of my parents’ birth and upbringing. A scratch on the wall, a crack on the floor, a half-broken glass pane, every nook and corner, everything seems to have a story hidden inside. An exciting adventure worth telling and re-telling. And just like it feels easier to breathe – the weight on your shoulders seems to have lifted as soon as you get home. That’s just the magic of home, isn’t it? The magic of birth-place or even of birth in general.
Another point that one of my friends raised is – everyone keeps telling us that we are fortunate. Our generation is privileged that such an important temple is being built in our lifetime. But what does that mean? Why are we privileged? I’m pretty sure every year – or maybe even every month – probably around 100 temples are built throughout the nation. I mean in such a big country for such an important God. So, what makes this one so special that we are fortunate? Why is this generation privileged? Why not people presently in their 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s. After all, isn’t a temple just a place of worship? And people of older age groups typically pray the most. So, shouldn’t they be the privileged ones? After all, they got a brand-new spot for prayer?
Uhh, kind of – not exactly. Like we’ve discussed before, this particular temple is extraordinary. Even more so, because 500 years ago, in a show of dominance, Babar- a famous king who invaded India, tore down the temple present in the premises and built a structure to commemorate their victory. In that sense, winning the court case and building the temple can be taken to say that the Indian ideology is not beneath any religion practiced in the world.
On 15th August 1947, India was officially declared azad from the clutches of the British. From 200 years of oppression. However, this winning of the court case and building of the Ayodhya Rama mandir is slowly but surely winning the round II of azadi from 492 years of struggle. From 1000 years of invasions. 25 whole generations, some more than others, fighting for a single cause. Azadi from the pacifist mentality we have adopted. This is us beginning to fight for what is ours. And just like the previous round, azadi brings benefits to all in the society, but the greatest are always reaped by the up-and-coming. After all, azadi is a time when the past and present are fighting for the future. And this azadi is worth a century of celebration.
Revamping of Kashi Vishwanath corridor or construction of Sri Rama’s temple at Ayodhya are in the focus today. However, a few centuries ago, not just these two temples but hundreds of other temples were renovated due to the single-handed devotion of one woman, Queen Rani Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore, while the regions in which these temples are situated were under the rule of Muslim kings. It also raises the question, why were temples destroyed in the first place?
In 1293CE, Allauddin Khalji/Khilji raided Bhilsa and looted temples and public wealth. Bhilsa had numerous rich temples with idols of gold, silver, diamonds and other precious stones. The residents of Bhilsa concealed idols in the riverbed of Betwa to prevent the loot but he hauled the idols from river. Khilji moved to South when he heard about the riches of Devgiri under the rule of Ramadeva. After a few battles Ramadeva had to surrender and Khilji took away:
2400 kilos of gold 4000 kilos of silver 28 kilos of pearls 8 kilos of precious stones
With the looted wealth, Allauddin Khilji built an army to conquer Malwa region in 1305CE. Until Marathas strengthened themselves and defeated them, the invaders continued looting temples and public wealth.
Rise of Holkars:
After Marathas conquered Malwa region, Malhar Rao Holkar was appointed as an officer under the ruler Shahu I. He helped Marathas spread their kingdom to Northern states and was granted the estate of Indore in 1733 by Peshwas. Peshwas (Brahmins) gifted the kingdom to Holkars who were Dhangars (occupation of raising cattle), contrary to the narrative that upper castes suppressed so-called lower castes.
Malhar Rao’s son, Khanderao died at a young age in 1754 during the war of Kumher. Malhar Rao ruled Malwa region with the support of strong cabinet of ministers till 1766, and during this period, Malhar Rao trained his daughter-in-law Ahilyabai in military affairs and state administration. After his death, his daughter-in-law Ahilyabai Holkar became the queen in 1767. Ahilyabai was born on 31st May1725CE in the village of Chaundi, Ahmednagar, Maharashtra. Her father, Mankoji Sindhia (Shinde) was the Patil of that Village. She was married to Khanderao Holkar in 1733.
Sir John Malcolm, the Scottish historian who seized the province from Ahilyabai’s successors in 1818, devoted 21 pages praising Ahilyabai’s reign in his book “Memoir of Central India”. While doing research he said that “The more enquiry is pursued, the more admiration is excited.” He also mentioned “In the most sober view that can be taken, she was one of the purest and most exemplary rulers that ever existed”.
Ahilyabai Holkar is always known and admired for her contribution in restoring the temples and monuments which were destroyed by invaders. Ahilyabai not only developed big cities, but also smaller villages and constructed wells, tanks, canals to support irrigation. Her efforts and grants to renovate the temples and dharmic places were not just restricted to her kingdom, but are visible Pan-India. It was in her reign that 4 Jyothirlingas were restored – Kashi Vishwanath of Varanasi, Vaidyanath of Parli, Somanath of Gujarat, Grishneshwar of Ellora, Maharashtra. She renovated dozens of old temples including Gaya, Ayodhya, Mathura, Haridwar, Kanchi, Avanti, Dwaraka, Badrinarayan, Rameshwar and Jagannath Puri. The Ramachandra temple in Puri, Hanuman temple in Rameshwaram, Vishnupad Temple in Gaya, Bihar and the Sarayu Ghat in Ayodhya were all built with her contribution. Most of the ghats on the banks of Ganga in Varanasi were constructed during her reign. She facilitated the water delivery to more than 30 temples in the south from river Ganga. Ahilyabai wrote letters to Kings of different regions, seeking permission for reconstructing the demolished temples.
Ahilyabai Holkar personally handled the state affairs and administration. She sat in durbar daily to pay attention to complains and issues of her subjects, she was always accessible to her people. During her reign, the crime rate greatly dropped as she vigorously encouraged trade and farming, supporting business and agriculture.
Ahilyabai moved her administrative capital to Maheshwar, while Indore was the business capital. During her reign, Maheshwar became a center for music, arts and literature. She focused on developing industries especially textile industries, Maheshwar is the home for the world-famous Maheshwari sarees. Ahilyabai was also successful in managing the local tribes in her kingdom, and employed tribes to protect the travelling merchants. She had got her daughter married to Yashwantrao, a poor but brave man, who defeated a dacoit.
Ahilyabai was known as the `Philosopher queen’. She was reluctant to impose the death penalty. She held that all mortals are works of the almighty and it was not in human authority to commit violence upon his creation. However at the same time she was firm and exercised a strong control over her kingdom. She had a reliable and trustworthy team of ministers and administrators throughout her reign. Ahilyabai Holkar died in the year 1795 at the age of 70.
American historian Stewart Gordon writes that a definite proof of her ability as a ruler was that her territories in Malwa were not engaged in local battles during her reign, though there were wars all around in the country. According to Gordon, “Ahilyabai had one of the most stable reigns of the 18th century.”
Joanna Baillie writes about the queen in 1849 as:
“For thirty years her reign of peace, The land in blessing did increase; And she was blessed by every tongue, By stern and gentle, old and young. Yea, even the children at their mothers feet Are taught such homely rhyming to repeat “In latter days from Brahma came, To rule our land, a noble Dame, Kind was her heart, and tright her frame, And Ahlya was her honoured name.”
Let us all remember Veer Shambhudhan his valor and courage and pay homage on the 138th Martyrdom Day of the great freedom fighter Veer Shambhudhan Fungalo. Veer Shambudhan was born in 1750 in a Dimasa tribal family. The tribe is inhabited in the Assam and Nagaland states. He fought against British colonial rule along with his guerilla fighters. The then British Deputy Commissioner of NC hills Major Boyd came to arrest him along with 11 other policemen all of them were slaughtered by the army of Shambudhan in Mambang. In reaction he was surrounded by and murdered at Khaspur at the young age of 33 years.He was martyred on 12 February 1873. Let’s salute our hero Veer Shmbudhan.
Shri Ram is the embodiment of Dharma. He is the soul of Bharat. A grand temple on the Shri Rama Janma Bhumi site at Ayodhya is the perpetual inspiration to all Bharateeyas and devotees of Shri Ram have been fighting for this ceaselessly for the last 492 years. In 76 battles of the past, more than four lakh devotees of Shri Ram have sacrificed their lives. The result of a series of movements over the last 36 years has been that people have risen above identities of gender, caste, class, language, sect, region and have emerged as one society with the thought of building the grand temple for Shri Ram. The outcome of their unparalleled sacrifices has been that on Nov 9th, 1989, a Shilanyas Puja was conducted at the Sri Rama Janma Bhumi site by a member of the Scheduled Caste, Shri Kameshwar Chaupal, in the presence of Sants.
This matter of faith got entangled in the long processes of courts (from the Sessions Court to the Supreme Court). Based on Puranic evidence, archaeological excavations, ground penetrating radar pictures and historical evidence, a five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court on Nov 9th , 2019, delivered an unanimous verdict and said that ‘the 14,000 square feet of land belonged to Ram Lalla.’ Truth has been established. Devotion, faith, and belief have won along with evidence and facts.
On February 5th , 2020, Government of Bharat has formed the Sri Ram Janmabhumi Teertha Kshetra Trust and handed over the 70 acres of acquired land to the Trust. After that, on March 25th, 2020, Sri Ram Lalla has been moved from a temple of tarpaulin to be reinstalled in His temporary new wooden temple.
A dream and resolve of centuries came to be fulfilled at a divine moment on August 5th , 2020 when in the auspicious presence of respected Mahant Shri Nrutya Gopaldas ji , Sants and Acharyas representing various spiritual institutions from across the nation and the Sarsanghchalak of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Dr Mohan ji Bhagwat, our beloved and honourable Prime Minister of the nation Shri Narendra Modi ji performed the Bhumi Puja for the Ram Mandir. On this occasion, water from more than 3000 rivers and teerthas across Bharat, soil brought from holy institutions of various castes, communities and the homes of the martyred Karsevaks was used in the Bhumi Puja, spiritually bringing all Bharatiyas to the divine site.
Venerated Saints have exhorted people to establish Shri Ram and the values of His life in their hearts along with the construction of the grand temple at Sri Ram Janma Bhumi. Shri Ram had roamed barefoot through jungles for 14 years. He reached every section of society. He affectionately embraced those people who were deprived and neglected, gave them a sense of belonging and became a friend of everyone. He respected Jataayu as his father. He restored a position of dignity for women. He destroyed demons and eliminated their terrorism. Ram Rajya, the rule of Rama, was abound with mutual love and goodwill, friendship, compassion and empathy, affection, unity and kinship, health and lives filled with prosperity. All of us need to summon the same steely resolve and collective will and effort to make Bharat like that once again.
Call for Dedication
Charity and donation have been essential traits of Bharat since ancient times. It has been the eternal and essential nature of the affluent people to give means of sustenance to students, retired people, mendicants and bhikshus. Donating to build Dharmshalas for use by devotees at temples and other places, extending other kinds of assistance has also been considered as a social responsibility. It is in this spirit that the Shri Ram Janma Bhumi Teertha Kshetra Trust seeks donations and assistance from the entire society. The way a humble squirrel helped Shri Ram to build a Setu ( bridge) across the sea, it is requested to donate and become a part of this sacred project.
Ram Mandir lay-out details
Total Area: 2.7 acres
Total Area of Construction: 57,400 sq feet.
Total Length: 360 feet
Total Breadth: 235 feet
Total Height (Till Shikhar): 161 feet
Number of Mandaps: 5
Total Number of floors: 3
Height of each level: 20 feet
Bank account details
Bank Name : State Bank of India ( SBI ) ; Branch : Ayodhya ;
Saving Account : 39161495808; Current Account : 39161495809